April 06, 2021 Episode Transcript
The AIH Transcript for April 06, 2020
[host]Hosts: Carol Off and Chris Howden[/host]
CAROL OFF: Hello. I'm Carol Off.
CHRIS HOWDEN: Good evening. I'm Chris Howden. This is "As It Happens".
CO: Different conclusions about the same tragic ending. Ontario's police watchdog says officers acted appropriately when they shot and killed a man during a mental health check - but the victim's nephew says that's proof the system is broken.
CH: Hardened variety. BC now has the largest outbreak of one COVID-19 variant outside Brazil - so we'll ask the province's Health Minister how he's planning to fight the new enemy.
CO: It's not an exact seance. But researchers have managed to reanimate a bunch of frog cells into a kind of living robot that can be programmed to do stuff.
CH: A mint plumber knight's dream. A buyer jumps at the chance to spend a record sum on an original Super Mario Brothers video game that was left unopened in a drawer for decades.
CO: The anger, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Residents of a Brooklyn neighbourhood are not feeling at all breezy about a new condo building that issues a piercing shriek every time it gets gusty.
CH: And …sweet tooth. After getting some incisor information, we'll get hold of a nine-year-old Ontario boy who set a Guinness record for longest baby tooth - which gave him a lot to chew on. And with.
As It Happens, the Tuesday edition. Radio that believes he's on the biscupid of greatness.
Part 1: SIU Choudry Case, BC P1 Variant, Longest Baby Tooth
SIU Choudry case
Guest: Hassan Choudhary
CH: Ontario's police watchdog says Ejaz Choudry's death was a "tragic loss of life". But the province's Special Investigations Unit said today it won't lay charges against the police officer who fatally shot him. Last June, Mr. Choudry's family in Mississauga called the non-emergency police line for help after he began to suffer a mental health crisis. Eventually, Peel police were called. Officers burst through his balcony door as Mr. Choudry was brandishing a knife. The 62-year-old man was shot and killed. His death sparked protests and urgent calls for changes in the way police respond to mental health crises. Hassan Choudhary is Ejaz Choudry's nephew. We reached him in Toronto.
CO: Hassan, what does today's news that there will be no charges in your uncle's death? What does it mean to your family?
HASSAN CHOUDHARY: For our family, it's... it's not surprising. It is disappointing because we see, again, in multiple cases where the SIU hasn't provided any accountability. Until there is accountability, we will not be able to prevent this from happening again.
CO: The Special Investigations Unit that did the review that has concluded that there will not be charges. That report said that the bullets that killed your Uncle Ejaz were, quote, proportional to the threat posed by Mr. Choudhary. What do you make of that statement?
HC: My answer to that question is, how do you have a 62-year-old man who's elderly with physical illnesses in his own home on his own? How do you pose him as a threat? There's no answer to that question.
CO: And the motivation for going in was because they considered him a threat to himself or that they were looking to help him. So how does that square with the decision finally to shoot him?
HC: Just like you said, how the SIU were saying they were trying to help him. My uncle is not here today to answer that question. And I feel that's a pretty powerful statement on its own. That if truly the intent was to help, he would be here today.
CO: Can we just go back to that day in June 2020? Your family made a call for help, a non-emergency call. What was your family... what...what were they hoping was going to happen when help arrived?
HC: At the end of the day, when you make a call for help, regardless of who is to, either be to your family member, to a public servant or anyone in a support organization, you expect to be listened to, and you expect to be in a better situation than you are at that point. And clearly, regardless of which line the number was called or who came to help, there was no help. And my uncle was murdered. And that's the main thing, is there's no answer to it.
CO: Your uncle was in his apartment, in his home. He was... he was alone. And your family was worried about what was happening with him.
HC: They were worried about not taking medication. They called because they wanted help in providing the medication.
CO: From what you have learned, how did that escalate to the point where they shot him?
HC: Well, Carol, that's... that's our question is how do you go from helping a man who's not a criminal, who hasn't been taking his medication, physically ill in his own home? How do you go from providing help and escalating to killing them? As a family, we did not... we didn't do that. It was the PRP. And it was their task force.
CO: When we talked to one of your cousins just after this happened, he said that the family was explained to the police that your uncle didn't understand English. What role did... did the lack of English play in what happened?
HC: Well, I feel that regardless of what the situation is if you're someone who can 100 per cent understand another person on the other side of the conversation, how well would it go for you? How would you go about understanding that person or coming to a point where you feel that this person is explaining things to you?
CO: At some point, a Punjabi-speaking officer did arrive. He didn't... he didn't trust the Punjabi-speaking officer. Speaking the language meant they were police, and he was afraid.
HC: He was a police officer, at the end of the day.
CO: They went into the apartment, knew he had a knife, should they have withdrawn at that point? Is that... is that your sense of what should have happened with the police?
HC: I'm not even getting to the point where you enter the apartment. I'm getting to the point where you're outside the apartment. Like, that's... that's what it comes down to. It's about understanding the situation and not going to the point where if you know that there's someone on the other side who's afraid of you, why enter in and then shoot him eight seconds later?
CO: The other issue that comes up in this SIU report is that your family had told police that your uncle was frail, he suffered from diabetes, he had a history of heart problems, and he had just recently undergone lung surgery. The report says the officer in charge was advised that Mr. Choudhry could barely walk or breathe. What's your sense of why that wasn't an issue for the police, that they felt that he was still a threat?
HC: We explained, we're saying he's not a threat to you. He's not a threat to anyone. Because of this, we were excluded from the scene. And we were told that, hey, we're going to handle it our own way. They were given information that was very valuable information, because then you understand the person themselves.
CO: The officer who actually fired the gun and killed your uncle, he would not agree to be interviewed. He would not submit his notes. What do you make of that?
HC: Well, it's devastating. If you have the right to pull a trigger and kill someone, you got to man up and speak up as well and explain why you did it. If you're --
CO: I'm sorry.
HC: If you're silent, there's reasoning behind it as well. If you can conclude an investigation without the person who did the shooting, how is that justice? How is that accountability?
CO: You have as many questions, more questions than I have. And so are you going to... is there... what might happen for you to get any answers to the questions you have?
HC: Well, the only way to properly fight this is it's through the legal system. And you can see the legal system is so, so ruined in terms of fighting against this. Like whatever the next step is, our... our... our lawyers and our legal team is going to pursue in whichever way ends up being the most beneficial for us and my uncle. That's the only way to go. We've protested and done quite a few demonstrations. And what difference did it make?
CO: Well, it's made a difference in that this has gone beyond your family, that there are people in Toronto, people everywhere want the answers because it's a larger issue than just your uncle. Is that your sense that answers that you want or what answers many people want?
HC: Of course, because we're all, at the end of the day, we're all... we're all humans that are trying to find a answer to, listen, if I have a loved one who is in a similar situation, is this what's going to happen? Should I even call for help?
CO: And how is... he has four kids and a wife? How are they doing?
HC: Yes, well, they're devastated, too. You're missing someone, a part of your whole main routine. You're missing a main pillar of your family. How do you go about moving on in life when there's no accountability?
CO: Hassan, I appreciate speaking with you. Thank you.
HC: No problem. Thank you, Carol. Take care.
CH: Hassan Choudhary is Ejaz Choudry's nephew. We reached him in Toronto.
BC P1 Variant
Guest: Adrian Dix
CH: British Columbia's fight against COVID-19 is now a tag team event. Just when the province hoped it was reaching the end of its pandemic restrictions, infections have once again increased, thanks to the arrival of new coronavirus variants. They include the P1 variant which spread quickly in Brazil, and hospitalizes younger people than the earlier generation of virus. There's also some evidence it's proving better able to infect people who've already had COVID - or a vaccination. The provincial government has responded with a return to what it's calling a circuit-breaker lockdown. Adrian Dix is British Columbia's Minister of Health. We reached him in Vancouver
CO: Mr. Dix, what makes you think the same lockdown measures are going to work against these new variants of the virus in British Columbia?
ADRIAN DIX: Well, the same things we need to do to fight COVID-19 are the same things we need to do to stop the variants, which is limit indoor contact, so only to our household. These are the rules that have been in place for a while, and these are the rules that have to continue to be in place. We've done more whole-genome sequencing in BC than I think anywhere else. And so we have a sense that the variants are there and they're significant. That the P1 variant, which is the less important variant in BC but still important, is affecting young people more. The... the what's called the U.K. variant is also very present, especially in the Fraser Health Authority. But the way to deal with it is the way we've learned to deal with COVID-19, which is limiting social contact.
CO: Right. But these variants, in particular, the one... the Brazil variant or the P1, it's very aggressive, isn't it? And going after young people, more infectious, you're getting young people in hospital in... in bad states. So is it really just the same lockdown, or do you have to do something different? Do you have to identify where the problems are for the people who are being infected by it?
AD: What we're doing here is what we've been doing all along, but even more aggressively, contact tracing, testing and support for people who are linked to people with variants and so on. I would say this, that approximately five per cent of variant cases have ever been hospitalized in BC, which is about the same for COVID-19. What we are seeing right now is an increase in the severity. So not an increase in the rate of hospitalization, but the subset of people who are hospitalized who require critical care is somewhat higher. But many of the same things that have always been treatable, COVID-19 and the other variants, still are true. It still affects obviously our elders more than it affects everybody.
CO: The cases were already surging before the Easter weekend, and... and yet, in British Columbia, you know better than I, large numbers of people were on the move. And you'll probably see the results of all that nonessential travel at some point later. Was there more you could have done to have made it clear to people not to go visiting at Easter?
AD: I think most people are following the rules. And that often those that don't, especially when it happens outside and it's visible that has an impact. But I think that the steps that have been taken in BC are pretty strong. The ones that have been in place since November, meaning that you cannot socialize, and this is a public health order. It's the law. You cannot socialize indoors with people outside of your immediate household. Those are strong rules. In addition, last week, we added an additional circuit breaker ending in-person dining or inside dining in restaurants. We made some changes to fitness classes and to the fitness industry as well and continued not having church services. So these are significant steps. And really, it's us and the vaccines against COVID-19. And it's very challenging, I think. It's been going on for a year to feel like you're taking a step back. But really, we have a month here where all of us have to do a little bit more, follow public health orders a little bit more. And... and I'm hopeful that people will respond to that.
CO: And other parts of Canada, And I wonder if this is the same in BC? The questions are being asked as to when you shut down restaurants and you limit that activity, Is that... is that what your data says is the source of these infections?
AD: Well, it's a source of some of them. But really what we're saying is the things that were possible in February or in October or in August are not possible now with this level of transmission. So we're adding new layers of protection. We're saying that the problem is inside, not outside, and that we want to limit social activity inside.
CO: But again, focussing on the social activity as being the source of infection. Premier Horgen was pointing the finger at partiers, telling them don't blow it. You said the restaurants. And yet, in BC, as in Ontario, is it not a higher source of infection in food plants and shipping companies? Is that... do you have data that actually shows it's the social activities and not the work activities that might be the source of your infections?
AD: It's both indoor social activities, so most frequently in households themselves, if someone gets sick, the people in their households are, of course, quite vulnerable to get sick.
CO: So, but then what are you doing about the food plants?
AD: And so what are we doing about that? To say what we're doing about that is we say you can only socialize with people in your household, which limits transmission. On the food plants, we focussed vaccination on those industries, on food production and food processing in the last number of weeks. Now, it's 21 days before a vaccine takes effect, but that's... we've targeted because we have vulnerable workers, and those workplaces have been a significant source of transmission. So to the extent that we can, because our main vaccination program is age-based because that's where the vulnerability is, we've used the vaccine to address some of those specific areas. Of course, we only have the vaccine that we have, but we've used the vaccine that we have quite efficiently to try and address some of these problems.
CO: The opposition health clinic in British Columbia, Renee Merrifield, has accused you of hiding the facts about where these outbreaks are taking place, saying this is a quote, we need to know where this is happening. We need to know why this is happening. It helps us govern our behaviours. Why not share more of the data?
AD: We have. We've shared an enormous amount of data in BC. It's not a la carte, but it's a significant amount of data. We do... we've done significant whole-genome sequencing. Of course, we do the testing. We do regular briefings — we regular briefings for the opposition in advance of any action. And we're going to continue to do that. If people want more data, then that's useful, too. But what I'm saying to everybody is it's indoors, and now is the time not to travel unless it's essential, and now is the time only to socialize with those in your household. It's been the time for some time, but this is a time we have to recommit ourselves in these coming weeks to do those things. And that's very straightforward. Don't socialize outside your household. Be careful. Wear masks. Wash your hands. These are the techniques that will be effective against the variants, just as are effective against COVID-19.
CO: Minister Dix, will leave it there. And I appreciate having some time with you. Thank you.
AD: Hey, any time. Take care.
CH: Adrian Dix is British Columbia's Health Minister. We reached him in Vancouver.
[Music: Glassy guitar]
Longest Baby Tooth
Guests: Luke Boulton, Alanna Boulton
CH: Despite the fact that some of us save them - and the fact that some weird magical flying stranger actually grabs them from under our kids' pillows and leaves money for them - there is something a little unsettling about even an average baby tooth that's no longer in its owner's mouth. But there's something more unsettling about the baby tooth one Ontario family recently ended up with. Because it's not remotely babyish. It was extracted back in 2019. And it just netted the Boulton family a Guinness World Record. It came from the mouth of then eight-year-old Luke Boulton. We reached him and his mother, Alanna, in Peterborough.
CO: Hello, Luke.
LUKE BOULTON: Hi.
CO: Hi, Alanna.
ALANNA BOULTON: Hi, how are you?
CO: I want to start with you, Alanna. I want to ask you [chuckle] if you could just describe this massive tooth to us?
AB: [chuckling] He had his front tooth, and he had it, and it was getting pretty big and pretty crooked. And it was affecting his speech a little bit. And so once he got a bit older, the dentist said, yeah, we took x-rays. And he's like, yeah, looks like there's an adult tooth behind it. We'll just get it pulled. And so that was his first time having like, needles and stuff in the mouth. [CO makes a sound of awkwardness] And he was a champ, total champ. Yeah, so when we... I took them, and I'm very squeamish. I looked out the window and held his hand while he was getting it done. [CO and AB laugh] And then I hear the dentist, Dr. Chris McArthur, he said, oh, well, that's a first. And I was like, oh no, what's a first? [chuckling] Because Luke has had a lot of first. [chuckle] And he was like, that's the longest root of a tooth I've ever seen. And so we took a bunch of pictures, and he was pretty excited as a dentist. He's like in 20-so-odd years, he's like, I've never had one that long. And so it was pretty neat.
CO: Luke, what did you think when you saw this giant tooth come out of your mouth?
LB: I was amazed and also confused, like, how did it stick into my gums like that? [CO chuckles]
CO: But they're not supposed to be that big when they're your baby tooth.
LB: I know!!! It's just my baby tooth.
CO: I've seen that picture. [laughing] I have never seen a baby that size!
AB: Yeah, pretty... pretty amazing.
CO: OK, you measured it. How long does it come in at?
LB: Two-point-six centimetres.
CO: [laughing] Really?
LB: Yeah, almost the size of a loonie.
CO: [chuckling] And so when you saw that come out of your mouth, what was your first reaction, Luke?
LB: I said, oh my gosh!
CO: And the dentist was shocked, too, right?
LB: Yeah, he was so shocked.
CO: Now, how did you find out that this might be a world-record-breaking baby tooth?
LB: So when we first brought it home, we... we looked on the Internet pictures of the world's longest tooth, and it showed that it was two-point-four centimetres. And then we checked my tooth, and it was two-point-six centimetres. And so we started doing, like, we started taking pictures of it. We did some applications. And then, we found out last week that I had the longest baby tooth in the world.
CO: [laughing] And when you say you did some applications, what were those about?
AB: So it was his older sister that had thought about the Guinness Book because we usually get that at Christmas time and buy them. So we applied online to the Guinness Book of World Records. And then once they accept your application for that category, then they actually give you a formal application. And then it's a process that goes it's pretty much every three months. So you submit more information, and then they get back to you a couple of months later, then they ask you more questions. So it was over a year. Basically, we applied in September of 2019 and found out just this past week, so.
CO: It's been confirmed. Luke, what... what was your reaction when it was confirmed that you had the biggest baby tooth in the world?
LB: Amazing. Shocked. Like, I never thought it was the biggest tooth. I thought it was just like a two-point-six centimetre tooth; just that wouldn't be in the world record book. I thought it was just a tooth. [CO chuckles] But then, I realized that it was the longest. That was so amazing! And it was... it felt really good. And I told everybody at my school.
CO: OK, what do the kids at school say about this?
LB: They didn't think that I had the world's longest tooth, actually. They didn't believe me. I told them.
CO: You took the tooth in and showed it to them, right?
LB: Yeah, when I first got it out, I did. I showed it to them in grade two. But when I showed everybody else in my class in grade three, they never believed me at all.
CO: But the kids... since it's been in the news now, the kids now believe that you have the longest tooth?
LB: If they're listening, then yes, they believe.
CO: [chuckling] Well, if they listen to "As It Happens", they'll for sure know, right?
CO: OK, here's a more important question. When you got the tooth out, did you leave it for the tooth fairy to take?
LB: So, yes, I did. But I wrote a note that's saying, can you not take it? And she didn't take it, and she wrote back, OK, Luke. That's what she wrote back.
CO: [chuckle] But did you get any money?
LB: I got ten dollars.
CO: Wow! That's amazing. Well, it was worth it, right? That tooth was a ten-dollar tooth if I ever saw one.
LB: I had to have needles in my gums to get it out.
CO: [laughing] Now, so you get the Guinness Book of Records every year at Christmas, is that right?
CO: Does this mean when you get the book at Christmas this year, you're going to see your name in it?
LB: Yeah, I hope so.
CO: Wow! What do you think of that?
LB: Amazing. I'm going to sign it. Like, if people have the Guinness World Record Book and they see me, and they ask me to sign it, I'll sign it.
CO: You'll give them an autograph, right?
LB: Yes. A lot of people have asked.
CO: [chuckling] What are you going to do with the tooth? What have you done with the tooth?
LB: We put it in a little container, put it on my refrigerator. And we just left it there until we knew that we had world's longest tooth. And then we're going to frame, hang it up on my wall. Yeah.
CO: So cool! Well, Luke, congratulations.
LB: Thank you so much.
CO: [chuckling] And thank you. And thank you, Alanna.
AB: Thank you very much.
CO: [chuckling] Bye.
AB: [chuckling] Bye.
CH: Nine-year-old Luke Boulton is the proud owner of the world's longest baby tooth. Alanna Boulton is his mom. We reached them both in Peterborough, Ontario. And you can see photos of Luke's tooth on our website at: www.cbc.ca/aih.
[Music: Hip-hop beat]
Brooklyn Condo Noise
[an eerie whistling sound]
CH: "A lot of people use arborio for risotto, but the rice I used tonight was carnaroli. It's - no, 'carnaroli'. Yes, it is interesting! oh, you said it's not interesting. Well, what? The noise? Yeah, all the time. I said all the time." [clears throat] Dinner conversation in the Cobble Hill neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York right now is no picnic. Also there are probably no literal picnics. Because of one whiny new building. The 15-storey condo building called "5 River Park" costs one-point-three million for a one-bedroom. But it's costing everyone who lives nearby a good night's sleep. For months now, whenever it's windy, the building whistles some variation on this haunting tune.
[an eerie whistling sound and lots of wind]
CH: After neighbours screamed about the screaming, the developers determined it was caused by the design of the building's balconies. So, as a temporary solution, they zip-tied boards to all the balcony railings. Which the wind mockingly tore off that same night - adding some unwelcome percussion to the screech as they clattered to the ground. The builders swear they're working on a permanent solution. But nearby residents are going to have a lot of sleepless nights before the problem comes to a screeching halt.
Part 2: Frog Skin Cells, Unopened Super Mario Bros.
Frog Skin Cells
Guest: Doug Blackiston
CH: It is generally accepted that if something is a robot it is - by definition - not alive. It's just a machine, programmed to complete a task. And - if we go by the example of Hollywood movies that task is usually either to make your life easier ... or to end it. But researchers in the U.S. says that definition needs revisiting. And they've got the xenobots to prove it. Doug Blackiston is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Biology at Tufts University, and the lead author of a new paper looking at how skin cells extracted from frog embryos can be programmed to move, and complete tasks. We reached him in Boston.
CO: Doug, what made you decide to create blobs of skin cells from frog embryos?
DOUG BLACKISTON: Our main goal was to try to figure out a way to build a robot out of living cells, living tissues, and make a living robot. There's a lot of things that a living robot would be good at that would be tough for a traditional robot. So a robot made out of cells can biodegrade if you put it in the water or you use it for biomedicine. The cells break apart, and you don't leave behind any waste. And biological tissues can heal really well, which traditional robots can't.
CO: And were you more successful than you thought you would be with this? I mean, you were surprised at what you actually... actually developed, weren't you?
DB: Extremely surprised. Very satisfied. And... and it's wonderful when you get a result where you now have a thousand more questions than you had answers. This started with a group in Vermont who does computer simulations of robots, and they were building with artificial little cubes in a in a virtual world that represented plastics and artificial systems. And it started almost as a bet where when I saw these, and they were moving and walking, I said, well, I'm a developmental biologist. I bet I could build these out of cells. And there were some jokes, and ha ha, yeah, that doesn't exist. And so two weeks later, I posted on our... our group email the first picture of one of these that I built that looked exactly like their model, and that's when it went wild. And so I think the surprising thing isn't that it can be done, but that roboticists and biologists have never really had a good reason to talk. We think they work with artificial components. Roboticists think we biologists work with natural things. And the idea of putting them together was very novel. And now I think we've created something special that has a lot of really cool applications that we can use.
CO: You spoke with our colleagues at "Quirks and Quarks" last year, I believe, just after you first created these little xenobots, as you call them. What have you observed them doing since?
DB: So the original work that we did was just showing that this is possible that we can build with these tissues. And our newest paper that just came out shows sort of four main pieces of progress. Our first living robots that we built walked with this muscle tissue. So they sort of move like an inchworm. So here we show they can be built to swim. They use these little hairs and motors on their outside, and we're learning how to control that movement. We've shown that they can repair very well. So we quantified how they repair the speed, how much damage they can sustain. We give them a very simple memory so they can sense things in their environment. Right now, we're using lights. And then last, we're looking at the types of applications these could be useful for. So we've shown in the past that these are very good at collecting really small particles the size of the types of microplastics that pollute a lot of our waterways, for example. And we've been creating shapes and swimming forms that are much better at collecting those types of particles.
CO: So you got them to behave in ways that you want to. [chuckling] are they in any way, taken on a my mind of their own? Is their behaviour sometimes not what you programmed them to do?
DB: There is a lot of debate about that. So, yes, sometimes the biology does things that are unanticipated. and a lot of what they do that's unanticipated comes from the fact that we use a computer simulation to try to understand what might happen. So sometimes the simulator is a bit lost in its assumptions. But on the other hand, I think the fact that we can predict and can build these is very powerful. It shows that we can control the system. And so a lot of this work is trying to understand what parts of the biology we control and what parts might be useful.
CO: And so do you think that they can actually have application? They can actually do things?
DB: For sure. So I think, you know, we talk about collecting microparticles or plastics from the environment. Also just biosensing. You imagine releasing these into a stream. They have sensors for different pollutants. They can record if the water has these pollutants or maybe even metabolize the compounds. On the other hand, there's a lot of medical technology we're trying to build out of this. So everything I've built has been made out of frog cells. But this technology is being used in the lab by others now with different cell types. And we're hoping that eventually these can be made out of human cells. You could use them in the biomedical context, so you could build these sort of mobile living robots out of human cells and say go to a site of damage or injury or spinal cord injury. And once you're there, release some sort of drug that's pro-regenerative to help in the repair process. That's certainly much further off. But that type of application is possible with the technology.
CO: Any concerns, any ethical or... or biological concerns you have about these creations?
DB [understanding chuckle] Yes, so that comes up. I think there's something inherently creepy about these microscopic living robots sort of crawling around in the water or getting on you. The two answers I have are from... from a strictly legal standpoint. This is a community-wide decision to do any of this research. So everything that I do with living cells, if it's making even just these small robots, this has to be approved by the university, our state level and the federal government oversight committees. And so everybody has to sign off that this is OK ethically. And on our local, even in our school, our committee that oversees my work is not just scientists, it's ethicists, it's veterinarians, and it's also members of the community that have no scientific background. And they all have to vote that this is OK. And this technology is... is quite mundane compared to a lot of the work done in genetically modified bacteria to eat petroleum, right? These things can reproduce. And the good news is, is the regulation and oversight and ethics of those systems has been so worked out that there's sort of a framework for how to do this. I will say nothing that we do can be used in the environment or in a patient, nor do we plan to do that without going through these legal hurdles that must be accomplished to prove that this is fine. On the other side, I will say from a philosophically ethical standpoint, frogs shed their skin all the time as they grow and the cells that come off in their shed skin are still alive are the same types of cells we used to build these robots. There's no ability to reproduce in this system. There's no, you know, sperm or egg or any way for these to break apart and form new organisms. They all fall apart naturally at the end of their lifespan.
CO: OK, well, we'll leave it there, Doc. [laughing] And we'll follow developments in this. Thank you.
DB: Thank you.
CH: Doug Blackiston is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. We reached him in Boston.
New Zealand Quarantine-Free Travel
CH: At times, it's been hard not to look at Australia and New Zealand with envy during this pandemic. Both countries have been successful at controlling the virus. And now, there will be quarantine-free travel between the two countries. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters that later this month Australians visiting her country would not have to isolate. Travellers must provide contact information, wear a mask on their flight, and go through special "green zone" sections of the airport -- so they don't interact with travellers from other countries. And they'll have to be prepared for disruptions, if there are outbreaks. Here's more of what Prime Minister Ardern had to say.
JACINDA ARDERN: This is an exciting day. The Trans-Tasman Bubble represents the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard for. And it makes New Zealand and Australia relatively unique. I know families, friends, and significant parts of our economy will welcome it, as I know. I certainly do. I'm happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Most people who find themselves stranded because of an outbreak have they any support from the government at all?
JA: Look, no, we know we're essentially telling people to prepare. Of course, while both Australia and New Zealand work very, very hard to prevent any outbreaks on either side. We are asking travellers to just simply prepare in case there is an outbreak that may cause a pause or a suspension in travel.
REPORTER: and what about that buble? The government has been talking about this for a year. Could you have done this any sooner?
JA: You know, when we reflect on the fact that I cannot see or point to any countries in the world that are maintaining a strategy of keeping their countries completely COVID-free whilst opening up to international travel between each other, that means that in a way, you know, we are world-leading. That's something that both countries, I think, should be proud of. And I think we're doing it at exactly the right time.
REPORTER: Why has it taken so long.
JA: As you can hear from, you know, the preparation, the experience that a traveller will have coming into New Zealand, the work of airports and airlines, but also us learning more about COVID and how to successfully manage it? I think we're opening at exactly the right time. We believe it is safe. We believe we can maintain an open and free flow between states and New Zealand, and it means that ultimately people can be reunited.
CH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing quarantine-free travel between her country and Australia.
[Music: Indie rock]
Unopened Super Mario Bros.
Guest: Valarie McLeckie
CH: This story may give you a sudden urge to rummage through your junk drawer. An unopened Super Mario Bros. video game has just sold for a record-breaking price of 660-thousand dollars U.S.. The auction house that sold it on Friday says the game was first purchased in the mid '80s. But in the ensuing decades, it wasn't sealed in a protective bag in a safety deposit box: it was just sitting in a desk drawer. Valarie McLeckie is a video game specialist at Heritage Auctions. We reached her in Dallas.
CO: So, Valerie, I get that it's old and it's still sealed. But why would somebody be willing to pay more than half a million dollars U.S. for this?
VALARIE MCLECKIE: Well, this particular copy is part of the oldest variant that was ever sealed in plastic. It basically marks the start of a major change in Nintendo's packaging. And it was only produced for a very short period of time in late 1986. By early 1987, Nintendo had made another revision to the text on their box. So this particular copy is hard enough to come by as it is that's never been opened. But you tack on its elite level of preservation and that just makes it all the more special.
CO: So that if this was a used game of Super Mario Bros., what would it sell for?
VM: That's a good question. It depends on whether or not it has the box and manual. If you're simply talking about it from the perspective of a cartridge on its own, which is the majority of the sort of condition that games, you know, come in these days of that age, then, you know, it could be anywhere from five to 20 bucks for... for just the cartridge.
CO: Right. So that's… so the value of this, isn't that [laughing] it's a game of the Super Mario Bros. from 35 years ago. [VM laughs] It's... it's the package, right?
VM: Correct. It's the fact that it's never been opened, and its... and its level of condition.
CO: Wow! And so where has this... it's been in someone's drawer for all these years?
VM: [laughing] Believe it or not, yeah, that is the case. When the consigner reached out to me, they said that they had placed it in a drawer and just, you know, hadn't touched it since 1986.
CO: So this is... somebody apparently bought it as a Christmas gift in 1986. [both laughing] And somebody never got this for Christmas. It ended up in a drawer.
VM: Yeah, I think the specific story was that they had bought two copies for siblings, and didn't realize they only needed one. So they held onto the other one because they couldn't return it, so. [both laughing]
CO: So, wow! And so…. but this is the original. The person who actually bought it for somebody is the one who gets to profit from having had it in his or her desk for all these years.
VM: I'm happy to say that, yes, that is the case.
CO: [chuckling] OK, so just describe, I mean, what is special about the packaging? This is original letters. It's like it's shrink-wrapped or what? What is… [chuckle] describe what we're talking about here?
VM: Sure. Well, there's a pretty large number of variants for this particular game and other black box games we call them. This is basically a set of early production, first-party Nintendo titles. So they were all released, you know, in the first couple of years of the Nintendo Entertainment System's lifespan. You know, they were updating their trademarks and all that in the United States throughout that time. So there's a large number of variants for this title. This particular copy still has the cardboard hang tab, which was shortly removed from the box cutting die just a year after its production. And it is missing some of the codes that became standard after, you know, 1987 and beyond.
CO: So whoever bought this would want it as a collector's item not to put to play?
VM: I would hope so. [both laughing] My stance is that if it's, you know, been left untouched and sealed after all this time, it's probably best to just leave it as it is.
CO: But this is the... the highest price anyone's ever paid for the... for a Super Mario Bros. from this era, right?
VM: Correct. In fact, this is… this is officially the world record for the highest sold price for any video game at public auction.
CO: For people who I mean, just to remind people of this, because, of course, video games are so different now, they've evolved into these extraordinary things. But this was it's a very simple little story. This is these brothers, Mario and Luigi, in the Mushroom Kingdom, out to rescue the princess. It makes you nostalgic for that area of video games, doesn't it?
VM: Definitely. And, you know, the... the love for Mario just continues to permeate through our culture.
CO: And why do you think that is? What's the... the ongoing, the continued appeal of Mario Bros.?
VM: There's just as you as you put it so well, there's just something so charming in its simplicity. It appeals to anyone of any age. It's just, you know, a really fun game. And they continue to be creative with the ways that they adapt his character as time goes on.
CO: Now, you play video games, right?
VM: Oh, yeah. [laughing]
CO: And do you like Mario? Do you like the Mario Bros.?
VM: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. In fact, Super Mario Bros. was the first game I have memories of playing, so, you know, it's very special to me.
CO: And how does it feel as a... as a person who... who... who... who does this, who finds these and sells them? How does it feel to have this in your career?
VM: I can't even begin to describe how honoured I feel to have been able to bring this to market. And, you know, work with this person and help them, you know, maximize this game's potential. It's... it definitely is one of the moments I'll treasure most in my career looking back, I think.
CO: It's also a really fun story, isn't it?
VM: Yeah, it definitely is. [laughing]
CO: Thanks, Valerie.
VM: Thank you, Carol, for having me. Bye-bye.
CH: Valarie McLeckie is the consignment director and video game specialist at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. That's where we reached her. You can find photos of that coveted Super Mario Bros. game on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.
Bear Glitter Poop
CH: Polar bears at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo have been dropping some sparkly surprises in the name of science. It's part of a research project to test the animals' stress levels. And the way to do that is to feed the polar bears non-toxic glitter. Which apparently doesn't jack up their stress levels. Each bear gets its own specific colour - which then leaves researchers individualized piles of sparkly poop to test. The project was recently featured on an episode of CBC's "Arctic Vets". C-Jae Breiter is a Research Conservation Specialist with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. Here she is speaking to CBC Winnipeg about the project.
C-JAE BREITER: So if anyone had pets at home, they would know when they're picking up their maybe dog's poop from the yard. It basically has a little bit more of a sparkle to it. So the poop contains hormones like progesterone and testosterone. So that can tell us a lot about how the animal is maturing. We have young bears in our care, so as they're growing old, kind what milestones they're reaching. But we're also looking at cortisol, which is often linked to stress. So we're looking at different behaviours in our bears and seeing if we see that in their hormone profiles. And one of the projects that I've been working on over the last few years, and we're just kind of finishing up, is looking at those bears that were rescued that came into our care, how long it actually took them to kind of acclimatize to our new facility because they're coming from the wild. It's a stressful journey. And we just want to make sure that that transition happens really fast and as best as possible. Poop is just such a wealth of information without ever needing to have direct contact with the animals. So it's what we call non-invasive sampling, and it's just a great source of information for us.
CH: That's C-Jae Breiter speaking to Marcy Markusa on Winnipeg's "Information Radio" today.
Part 3: Netherlands Fish Doorbell, Windpipe Transplant, New Proust Text
Netherlands Fish Doorbell:
Guest: Mark Van Heikelum
SM: It's too obvious to call it a fish-eye lens. So I won't. The city of Utrecht in The Netherlands recently installed underwater cameras throughout its system of boat locks. The goal is to keep an eye on the fish that migrate through them - and to enlist the help of humans in Utrecht to help the fish get where they're going expeditiously. It's called the fish doorbell project, and Mark Van Heikelum is the mastermind behind it. He's a specialist in water ecology and fish migration. We reached him in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
CO: Mark, when and how did it occur to you that these fish needed a doorbell?
MARK VAN HEIKELUM: Well, actually, we did a small project last year where we put still fish silhouettes to the... to the back of the boat lock. And every time the water went down, when a boat went through, you could see the fish come up. So it was an awareness project. But when I was there with the boat lock manager, we were just drinking coffee and looking at the water. And all of a sudden, we saw all these fish waiting for the door. So that really struck us that these fish were waiting here. And that's when the whole project started rolling, actually.
CO: And when you say the door, this is a lock, right, between two rivers?
MVH: Exactly. So the city, Utrecht, it has two rivers, one coming into Utrecht and one flowing out of Utrecht. And Utrecht, the whole channel system of Utrecht, is right in between. So this boat lock is actually really a central door where fish have to pass to get to the other side.
CO: Are these fish needing to move because spawning? Is it a matter of kind of life and death to get through that door?
MVH: Yes, exactly. I mean, for some species, they will find some habitat elsewhere. But for many species, they really want to reach the upper reaches of the river where they can find spawning habitat. So more shallow water, more water plants and food. So it's really essential for them to... to pass boat lock.
CO: Now, so what have you devised? What is the fish doorbell project, and how does it work?
MVH: Well, it's actually really simple. The boat lock manager told me that he was willing to... to open the boat lock every now and then, especially for fish. But for him, it was really important to really know when those fish are there because it takes a lot of time. It's an old boat lock, and it's... it's done by hand to... to manage this boat lock. It started me thinking, well, we need to look on the water to see what's going on. So then we decided to place an underwater camera just at the end of the boat Lock where the fish gather. And now we have a livestream on a website where people can go and have a look. And if you see a fish, you can literally push the button, the online doorbell. And what it does is it takes a screenshot of the video. So we see what fish is waiting there, and we just collect all these screenshots, and then we know when it's time to open up the boat lock again. And at the same time, we get all this information on, well, how many fish are there, what type of species are there? So it's actually doing research and helping fish to get to the other side all at once.
CO: And so how does the manager how does he who has to open this manually? How does he know that there are enough fish that he needs to open the door?
MVH: At first, we wanted to send an email every time someone would push doorbell. That was when we still thought that there were only a few people willing to help. But since we started a week ago, 140-thousand people have already taken a look [CO chuckling] and pushed the button over 30-thousand times. So we quickly stopped the email approach. And now we just have a look at it together, and we decide together when it's time to open the boat lock again. We have a dashboard when we can have a look at all the photos. So this way we can decide together whether there are enough fish to open the boat lock again?
CO: How many people do you suspect are following the underwater camera looking at these fish?
MVH: Oh, it's so much more than we could have expected. I mean, we try to get some local engagement, and we even wrote some notes and went door by door saying to people, please have a look at the doorbell, and maybe you can help us out. But then it got the media attention. And I think it might be also due to the corona situation. I don't know how this is by you, but in the Netherlands, people are staying at home.
CO: Oh yeah! [chuckling]
MVH: It's also a welcoming change to have a look at this underwater world. And for me, it was especially important because part of the project, it's not just doing research and helping these fish, but it's also really about showing people what's living under the surface. It's such an unknown world for people. And that was also what we got in the responses that people were really amazed at just in the centre of this city all these different fish species are living there. So that was such... such a great thing that happened that people really got engaged and we reached so many people.
CO: So are they turning off Netflix and turning on the fish camera?
MVH: [chuckling] Exactly. We got some hilarious responses and really nice responses from people. Some even saying, like you just said, they said, well, I'm going to stop my Netflix account. I'm just going to watch these fish all day. So that was really wonderful to hear. And there were also a lot of teachers actually who used this livestream as a reward for the end of the hour that they would watch it with their students, so we got such great responses. And I was really amazed that it had such an effect on people.
CO: Isn't it possible just to do this without having... having people push the doorbell? I mean, isn't there some kind of software or automatic sensors you could put in place instead?
MVH: Oh, yes, we could, definitely. And, to be honest, I'm... I'm hoping we... we can still do it manually, actually. I mean, if you got 140-thousand people joining to watch fish, to me, a question occurs, why... why would we automate this? It's such a wonderful idea that we do this by hand and get people engaged. I think it's a wonderful way to really help people by hand. And at the same time, to get a view of this underwater world. And I think when you try to automate these type of processes, it also takes away the fun and all these interesting insights into this world. So I think as... as an ecologist, I will actually advise on keeping this fish doorbell for as long as possible, I think.
CO: And you won't mind if now Canadians join in [chuckling] and start watching and helping out?
MVH: Oh no, please do so. Please do so. And I actually hope maybe there is a Canadian who can install a fish doorbell somewhere in Canada because I will sure be watching that fish doorbell as well.
CO: And I'm sure there are places that need them. So that's... that's a great idea. Mark, thanks so much.
MVH: Well, thank you so much.
SM: Mark Van Heikelum is a specialist in water ecology and fish migration. We reached him in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
FOA: Nut Museum
CH: People in Seychelles are nuts about nuts. Well, one nut, in particular. The island nation's famous coco de mer. It's easy to see why. It is rare. And it is massive -- weighing between 15 and 30 kilograms on average. But it's the coco de mer's suggestive shape that has seen tourists and locals alike shell out big bucks to acquire them. The nut's backside really looks like...a backside. And its frontside has an uncanny resemblance to a woman's frontside. That phenomenon has made the seeds highly coveted, and left the trees that grow from them highly endangered. Now, the nonprofit Seychelles Islands Foundation has launched a scheme encouraging locals not to squirrel their nuts away, but to plant them. That's something the owner of the Old Lyme, Connecticut Nut Museum might have been tempted to consider, had she known about the coco de mer's plight. But when we first heard about her, she was dealing with a problem of her own - which a caller going by "Wheezy McTag" was kind enough to alert us to.
WHEEZY MCTAG: She had had from her museum 38 specimens stolen, and it was due to a squirrel [chuckling] and a chipmunk. Anyway, you might want to interview her because she sounds like a fascinating woman. Like who would have a museum for nuts? [laughing] OK. I love your program. Night.
CH: From 1989, that's "As It Happens" listener "Wheezy McTag," encouraging us to interview the founder of Old Lyme, Connecticut's Nut Museum - which, of course, we did. And as Elizabeth Tashjian told then-host Michael Enright, her collection did indeed include a coco de mer.
MICHAEL ENRIGHT: Why do you have a museum for nuts?
ELIZABETH TASHJIAN: Why not? I had collected nuts since a teenager, and saw the beauty of nuts. And I live in the Nutmeg State, so it was natural for me to provide establish nuts through art, music, history and lore. And we do bring in the double meaning of the word nut. And that happened when a man attempted to donate his wife for admission to the museum. The first three years, the admission was just one nut. And this middle-aged couple came, they didn't have a nut. So the man, in very good humour, pointed to his wife and said, here's mine! [ME laughs]. She was so offended that she slipped her arms through his and said, Dear, you should not have said that! And would not let him come in. That was my first que that the word nut has a good and bad connotation.
ME: Indeed. How many different kinds of nuts do you have in the museum?
ET: Well, I might say that the museum primarily considers nuts as works of art. We have original paintings, sculptures, but we do have a collection of nuts and nutcrackers. And one of the most exotic is a 35-pound double coconut, which took ten years to grow.
ME: A double coconut?
ET: Yes, a coco de mer, and it looks very much like the human anatomy. And they grow on palm trees that shoot up 100 feet tall and grow only in one locality in Thailand, in the Indian Ocean.
ME: Now, the squirrels... the squirrels were obviously... were interested in the nuts. How did they get in the museum?
ET: Well, if the doors are not shut tightly, those chipmunks are very faint and small. So they're starting a nuit museum of their own.
ME: [laughing] And is there any way you can protect them? Can you?
ET: Oh, you mean the nuts?
ME: Could you put the nuts under glass, for example?
ET: That's what I have now done.
CH: Nut Museum founder Elizabeth Tashjian spoke with Michael Enright on "As It Happens" in 1989. Ms. Tashjian died in 2007. Today, the Seychelles Islands Foundation is urging residents with a coco de mer on their hands to put it not under glass - but underground.
[Music: Indie rock]
Guests: Sonia Sein, Eric Genden
CH: Every gasp of air Sonia Sein takes is a gift. For years Ms. Sein had breathing problems. Multiple asthmatic attacks severely damaged her windpipe. The only way she could breathe was through a tube doctors inserted in her throat. But after years of living uncomfortably with that tube protruding from her neck, she can breathe easier - after surgeons in New York City performed what they call the world's first successful complete surgical transplant of a windpipe. We reached Sonia Sein - and her surgeon, Dr. Eric Genden - in New York City.
CO: Sonia, I know this is difficult to speak, but can you tell us how you're feeling now?
SONIA SEIN: I'm feeling good. I feel 100 per cent better than I was.
CO: This was something that you spent a long time trying to get done for yourself, right? How did it feel when they told you they were finally going to give you this transplant?
SS: Oh, I didn't know what.... I was happy. I was sad. I was crying. Finally, my dreams are coming true.
CO: Eric, how does it feel for you to hear your patient breathing and just surviving this? It must be... must be gratifying for you?
ERIC GENDEN: Well, you know, this has been a problem in medicine and surgery for well over half a century. And there's a lot of patients that, you know, unfortunately, have succumbed because we've never really had a good way to reconstruct long segment tracheal defects. And so Sonia was one of those people that was really on kind of death's doorstep. She was getting progressively worse. And it was very opportune that that we had, you know, kind of come to the conclusion of our research and were able to provide her with an opportunity. So I think that, you know, it's provided her with a better life. And certainly we're delighted because, you know, in the end, we want to positively impact our patients and all those in the future that have this problem.
CO: Sonia, you were... you had severe asthma, is that right?
SS: Yes, I have severe asthma.
CO: And that damaged your windpipe?
SS: Yes, the intubation.
CO: the intubation from when they... from that damage. And so I don't want to strain you too much, but how are things different? How... how do you feel now that I know you're recovering, but how is your breathing now compared to then?
SS: I could breathe better. I'm able to breathe better. I'm able to talk a little much better than before.
CO: Dr. Genden, how different will her life be as she recovers from this surgery?
EG: So her... her tracheal disease spanned from the very top of her voice box all the way down to where the lungs meet. And, you know, she was wearing a long segment stent. So it's a plastic stent. And the problem with those is that they can clot off at any moment and it can leave a patient, you know, with suffocation. So the whole segment of tracheal reconstruction now is going to provide her with a new airway. And the next order of business is we're going to work on her voice, which was also damaged, the voice box. And I think she's going to have a much better long term outlook.
CO: And so what does this mean for the possibility of this surgery in the future? Because this is… it took a long time before anyone believed that this could happen, right?
EG: Yeah. I mean, this has been, you know, a challenge for... for many of us. And there's been some terrific work that's been done by the group in Belgium and other groups around the country. But for the select group of patients that really have very extensive life threatening disease, you know, hopefully this is going to offer them a new opportunity. And I think that's really... that's really important because up to this point, those patients, you know, there was... those defects were not compatible with life. And they universally passed away.
CO: Sonia, I was hearing you and Dr. Genden, you were talking before we started the interview. He was asking you about eating peanut butter.
SS: Yes. I'm not supposed to have the peanut butter cookies.
EG: [CO chuckles] Sonia has a sweet tooth. And so she's also got some diabetes. So we're trying to control her blood sugars. But she... she, like all of us, enjoys peanut butter and cookies. [everyone chuckles] Which is… which is fine by me. Now, at least you can walk to the store and go get them. Before, she couldn't do that.
SS: No, no, I couldn't.
CO: And so, Eric, when you... when you visit your patient, when you see Sonia, what does it mean for you?
EG: Well, you know, I think that we for so long saw these patients do poorly and pass away. And so now to walk in and see Sonia doing well and have her visiting, you know, for check-ups every two weeks, you really get a sense that you've made an impact on her life that's been positive. And I think the most important thing is when I see her with her granddaughter, you realize that this is really a fantastic opportunity.
CO: And Sonia, it's not just that you are... that you're thriving or you're going to get better. It's that you change the thinking of the medical profession that you've actually changed you're part of a new history, aren't you?
SS: That's what Dr. Genden says. thanks. That I'll be enjoying my granddaughter. That's all I wanted.
CO: Well, you've also led to a groundbreaking change in medicine. So congratulations to Dr. Genden and then to you, Sonia, for your strength. And it's good to talk to both of you. Thank you.
EG: Thank you.
SS: Thank you.
CH: We reached Sonia Sein and Dr. Eric Genden in New York City. Ms. Sein has just received what doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital say is the world's first complete surgical transplant of a windpipe.
[Music: Spanish guitar]
CH: On "Ideas" tonight, the Haitian Revolution of 1791 gave birth to ideas about Black liberation and the common good that went on to inform black freedom struggles for hundreds of years, including today's Black Lives Matter movement.
GREGORY PIERROT: There is something about, you know, the... the effort, a collective organization, the effort of making the world around us. Think about what it means to be Black. What it means to be black and hegemonic white countries. What it means to see year after year people get executed by police and see, you know, absolutely no consequences. And the effort to organize politically in response to this. That to me evokes the Haitian Revolution because I consider it the moment when Blackness became political. And, you know, of course, like all timelines, you can always find earlier instances or you can always go back from there. But to me, the effort of the... the... the Haitian Revolution that I find echoed in Black Lives Matter is very much this. I mean, the slogan itself, again, rings in most Black movements around the Black Atlantic for, you know, for centuries. And the idea is, no, you know, we are human.
CH: That was Gregory Pierrot, assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut, Stanford. That's from tonight's episode of "Ideas" with Nahlah Ayed, after "As It Happens".
New Proust Text
Guest: Nathalie Mauriac Dyer
CH: Marcel Proust's enormous literary achievement is notoriously enormous. A seven-volume work totalling more than four thousand pages. But that hasn't stopped the most ardent admirers of "In Search of Lost Time" from searching for more. For decades there were rumours of a lost Proust text - say that five times fast - early sketches that were bound to unlock long-held secrets. But as the years passed, it started to seem doubtful they'd ever been found - or that they'd ever existed. Which made it all the more exciting when they were found, and, as of a few days ago, published. "The Seventy-Five Pages" is edited by Proust scholar Nathalie Mauriac Dyer. We reached her at home in Paris.
CO: Natalie, what have these past few days been like as you put this new Marcel Proust out into the world?
NATHALIE MAURIAC DYER: It's been a bit of a dazzling experience for me because there was a lot of interviews and curiosity and excitement.
CO: And where have these papers been, "The Seventy-Five Pages", as is the title being published, where have they been?
NMD: They have been at Bernard de Fallios' home, actually. He had mentioned those pages back in 1954 in his preface to his edition of "Contre Saint-Beuve", which is an unfinished work to proust he put together. And he had mentioned the sheets in the preface. And ever since, no one had seen them.
CO: And Bernard de Fallios was his publisher, right? Who's passed away now?
NMD: He was not exactly his publisher, but he was at the time a young student who was introduced, allowed to look into Proust's archive. And he found an unpublished novel, which he published under the title "Saint-Beuve". But he wasn't exactly a publisher. He was more like an editor.
CO: Now, the working title or the title is "The Seventy-Five Pages". But, I mean, when you look at "In Search of Lost Time" or "A Remembrance of Things Past", as some people might know, that opus of Marcel Proust, they might know it by that name, what does this contribute? [laughing] Seventy-five pages compared to the thousands?
NMD: It... it sounds like a very short amount of pages compared to the three-thousand pages of the finished work. Yeah, it's actually the start of the work. You know, the basis. These sheets are really the key to the genesis of the text.
CO: Now, "Remembrance of Things Past", this is just an epic of going from starting in childhood, a narrator grows up, he learns about art, he falls in love. All these things happen slowly through time and mostly through just involuntary memories, memories of things coming to him. And so in these 75 pages, you say it's the key. So are these that the characters? Are these sketches of what he would then develop in the later work?
NMD: Yes, they're key characters who are there already, the mother. The father, of course, but the grandmother. And there's also a key character who is the uncle. And thIS uncle, who is a very vain and sort of amusing character and is also a womanizer. And what we discover in those pages is that the portrait of this womanizer, which is quite lengthy and quite quite funny, is in fact the direct source for what will be the portrait of Swan.
CO: Charles Swan, "Swan's Way", which is the first volume in this.
NMD: Exactly. And Swan is the hero... one of the heroes of Proust's novel. And, actually, we... we realize that it's been drawn after the maternal uncle of Marcel Proust, which is something very interesting and we didn't know at all about because Proust has never mentioned it.
CO: Now for you, you're a Proust scholar, so, of course, it's very exciting that this should... you should have this in your hands, but you're also a descendant of Marcel Proust. And so what does this... what does this tell you about him and his life? What other interests do you have in learning about Marcel Proust at this time?
NMD: Yeah, I was very touched and moved when I first read these pages because on page one, Proust gives his grandmother, I mean, the character's grandmother, the name of his own grandmother, Adele. And then a few pages later, there appear the first name of his own mother, Jeanne, you know, Jeanne Proust. There, you see life and writing merging.
CO: And these are your relations, ao it must be even more effective for you?
NMD: Yeah, it's true. It was... it was moving to me. And I showed the transcription of the pages to my own mother first because I wanted her to see that and to be moved by, you know, seeing her own grandmother and great grandmother in there and all that. And I'm sure my late grandmother would have been touched by it, too. So it's true. It's... it's... it adds a layer of emotion to the intellectual emotion I've had, you know? And I've spent 20 years on Proust's manuscripts. And it's really sort of a moment when I I said, I understand why I spent all this time [both laughing] on this guy's manuscript, because now I, you know, I have some possibility to understand what he's up to, you know, where it's going. I can feel the beauty of it, you know? And it's wonderful to have the first strokes of the brush when... when, you know, he doesn't really know what he's painting yet, you know? He doesn't know that this is going to become a masterpiece, you know? He's not sure. He has failed many things before. Many, many publishing houses will just refuse his manuscript. And he will have to... to pay for the first book himself.
CO: Right. And do these 75 pages give any insight into what he was like, anything more about his own... how he was living at that time?
NMD: Well, there are three aspects of these pages that are omnipresent in the work. And one is the aesthetic side of life. You know, the sort of pain of the process of being a human being. Something about the poetry, just the love for... for nature, for flowers, for trees, for clouds, just the love of, you know, the poetry of life. And the third thing is the comic because these pages are really full of comic moments. You know, the dialogues between the grandmother and the uncle when they... when they fight. And the moment when he's trying to seduce girls and he's making a fool of himself because he wants to look good. And... and this is certainly a self-portrait, you know? You know, you want to seduce other people and you just make a fool of yourself. And you can see that he's just laughing at himself. And there's this dimension of self-parody, which is, in fact, very touching.
CO: Well, it sounds lovely, Natalie. And it must have been quite something for you to work on this. I appreciate hearing about it. Thank you.
NMD: Thank you, Carol.
CH: "The Seventy-Five Pages" - Marcel Proust's notes for "In Search of Lost Time" - is out now in France. No word yet on an English translation. Proust scholar - and Proust descendant - Nathalie Mauriac Dyer was in Paris.
[Music: Indie rock]
SOD: Lockdown Rap:
CH: Cadence Weapon has a new album set for release at the end of this month. But the date his adopted home of Toronto will be released from lockdown - or shutdown, or "emergency brake" - is significantly less clear. And the Edmonton-born hip hop artist is not impressed with that lack of clarity - or with the Ontario government's ever-changing, colour-coded response to the pandemic. From a tweet he sent out yesterday, this is our Sound of the Day.
CADENCE WEAPON: [rapping] Yeah, this is a note from lockdown, shut down. I don't know what now. Feeling blue. Colour-coded. Tell me the zone now. I'm in the zone now. I'm at home now. Emergency breakdown. Nothing closed down. Rollercoaster. Watch it go up, down. Going in circles. Merry go round. Watch how it go round. Watch how it go round. Ford is for big business. Ford don't want to listen. The kid was right when he said Ford is a Timbit doing PR for Tim Hortons, um-hm. He'll do anything if it's corporate, um-hm. Loan it all out of proportion. Essential workers, need to support them, yeah. Feeling malaise. Everything feels strange. Hoping that things change. We need paid sick days and their rent paid. Leaders go on getaways, they need to get away. Need to get a clue. Geared to income rental rooms, yeah. Get a grip.
CH: That's from a video released yesterday on Twitter by Cadence Weapon. The Toronto-based hip hop artist's new album, "Parallel World", is set for release on April 30th.