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Odyssey (November 2021)
by Kevin Mercurio

Welcome to my monthly blog series. As a way to catalogue the happenings of the world, this blog will serve as a memento for its state at the time of publication. What I hope is that by clearly writing out top personal, local and global news, along with resources that can help us to develop skills, we can sift through the noise together. Let’s grow into our greatest potential.

Top Personal News

November, cold-vember. The drastic temperature change has me shivering at home, at work, outside, at the pubs, everywhere. I constantly need to be either standing next to a radiator or hoping my cat will decide to sleep in my lap. Anyway, we’ve all made it to the end of a wonderful month. I suppose the biggest thing that happened (alluded to in my previous month’s blog) was the visit from the big bruh! Crazy road trip starting in Galway and hugging the coastline southward to Mizen Head. We had pints and tequila, fish and chips (literally each of the five days for me), so many cliffs that one could get sick of seeing them, and some car trouble that led to a pickup truck. Everything you need for a proper road trip I'd say! Likely one of the coolest endeavours I've done, and I couldn’t have went with anyone better (and financially stacked!). Mila was a bit grumpy upon return but huge thanks to Sarah for looking after her during our absence, even while you were sick (there will be more soup to repay you back!). In other work-related news, submitted a review to MDPI Cells about microRNA impact on gut permeability (crossing fingers to be published before the Christmas Holidays), attended my first in-person conference at Trinity College Dublin, and started to collect some decent results for the PhD (woohoo, data!). For extracurriculars, I started my role as Public Relations Officer for the DU Microbiological Society (working on a potential sponsorship from an industry partner), and most importantly, began my teaching as part of Scholars Ireland. This program provides underrepresented high school students the opportunity to experience university-style lectures, and hopefully advocate for an attempt at further education after their current studies (or help them find career opportunities in whatever sectors interest them). I’m mainly surprised I can be somewhat engaging for about an hour about microbiology. Metaphorigins also just completed the first half of Season 4. More to come, but with things starting to pick up in every aspect of my life, I will likely need to schedule episodes biweekly instead of weekly. Onwards to the end of 2021 (a grizzly year for all!).

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Cliffs of Moher, ye!

Top Local News

In local news, this announcement by the Taoiseich on November 17th announcing new COVID-19 restrictions due to the massive uprise in cases as establishments began opening up. I mean, this makes sense, seeing as that week alone led to as many hospitalizations as all of 2021… Booster shots are being dispatched to citizens 60 years and older, as well as immunocompromised and healthcare workers. Nightlife places are now closing at midnight. Close contacts are required to limit their movements for five days and await results from a PCR test. Sure, we’re not exactly out of the clear yet, and if there’s one thing everyone has gained throughout the last two years, it's resilience.

Obtained from RTE News.

Top Global News

There were a few stories I had noted throughout the month that I believe topped the rest of them. I’ll go from fucked up to completely fucked up. Let’s start with the AstroWorld disaster. It already has it’s own Wikipedia page. It’s talked about so much in the music world that people have been attributing conspiracies to it, like links to the King of Evil himself, with one internet commenter saying “This ain’t a festival, it’s a sacrifice”. For those of you who might not care about mainstream hip-hop, you may be wondering what AstroWorld even is and what disaster could have happened there. AstroWorld is (or maybe now was?) a music festival that started in 2018 and featured rapper Travis Scott along with various notable rappers in the industry, in promotion of the album with the same name and other new singles. On November 5th, an event called a crowd crush, in which the density of the crowd of people reached a certain dangerous threshold per square meter, occurred during the first night of the festival in Houston, Texas. This led to deaths of 10 people. Around 25 others were hospitalized and over 300 were treated for injuries. There is an ongoing debate about the negligence of not just festival staff but Travis Scott himself, who reportedly continued performing for 37 minutes despite clear signs to shut down the festival. Next up is the Rittenhouse Verdict. Back in 2020, peaceful protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin over racism and the BLM movement turned violent with protesters, armed civilians and police officers clashing together during the darkness of night. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year old who was carrying a semi-automatic gun, was there to uphold order and protect a business. Last week a jury acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges which included double homicide. This is truly heartbreaking. Not just for future similar events like this, but actually also for Rittenhouse himself. I do not condone his actions. He was technically (and in the US is literally) still a minor, potentially not even fully understanding the gravity of his actions. We can blame guns, violent protesting, the white patriarchy, racism, self-defence, whatever you want to blame. Every outcome of this trial was going to be disgusting. The best thing we can all hope for is some goodness, some learning and connection between one life (Rittenhouse) and the many lives that were impacted by his actions. Now finally, the most fucked up news story this month, the (end of October) announcement of this so called Metaverse. This video from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Also this video from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in July 2021. Essentially, the Metaverse is the future, the next level of connection, which we all knew was going to be more virtual or augmented. The pandemic just accelerated technological advancements in this regard. I don’t yet know what to think of this, but it has YA novel Pendragon: The Reality Bug from my childhood years written all over it. In fact, many authors and artists have warned of this coming phenomenon. What are you going to to about it when it arrives (because it will arrive one day)?

Obtained from Meta.

Most Interesting Article of the Month

“Lab-grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The science tells a different story” published in the Counter by John Fassler. Sure, this was published in September, but did you really expect a true November article (well did yah?!). I’ve always been on board with phoney meat in order to “trick” people into having something that they think they want. Let me ask you a question (potentially echoing the small, independent podcaster known as Joe Rogan), if you knew that lab grown meat had everything that regular meat had, along with the taste, look and texture, would you make the switch? Of course, anyone reasonable would. Why wouldn’t you choose an option that decreased the amount of unnecessary killing of life? And yet, like most things in life, issues are just never that black and white. The article does a great job introducing other aspects of the problem; physical space, economics of scaling, cell biology limits, investment parading, etc. The motivation to find new alternatives to the meat industry known for cruel treatment of animals and contributions to global warming (among many other problems) is there, but realistically the technology may not be yet. Read the full article here.

Most Interesting Video of the Month

Including this here because I wouldn’t consider it a movie or show, but “The Closer” by Dave Chappelle. Being his last special (every artist says that) on Netflix, the Closer supposedly concludes his storyline with other comedy specials featured on the platform. I’m including this here because of the controversial nature of the topics he discusses (ie. jokes about) and the backlash that ensued (leading to protests at Netflix, the firing of an employee, and CEO hate mail). You want my personal opinion? In all honesty, who gives a flying fuck, on either side. I don’t believe that Dave Chappelle is transphobic (obtaining this conclusion after watching his special in full seems rather absurd). But I also don’t think that people who arrived at this conclusion (particularly those in the transgender community) are wrong either. Chappelle’s tenacity not to back down from comedy and a community that has received criticism/harassment for years is a battle between the two, but for all those outside, move on with your lives. You can watch the trailer for it here.

Monthly Book Club

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney. Written from the fairly accurate perspective of two youths leaving high school and heading into college, Normal People is best summed up as sensually depressing. You have two characters, clearly linked via some universal tether, that gets cut multiple times due to misunderstandings and sewn back together because of, well, necessity. The book is captivating in the sense that you are struggling for the narrative to be carried to a certain place and yet Rooney either goes in the opposite direction or just stops the moment entirely. One thing I found peculiar was the choice of no quotation marks, as mentioned in a Medium article book review, “is an expression of intimacy and trust with the reader”. The blandness of Connell and Marianne on the outside juxtaposed with the complexity of their inner selves is not only beautifully captured, but surprisingly normal. You can read the book online here.

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Movie/TV Show of the Month

I have been seriously busy this month and had little time to watch anything that wasn’t YouTube (although, funny enough, if you add all the time spent on that platform, it would be much more than a movie). But I suppose I could still say for this section The Problem with Jon Stewart. He’s back! Though not in the sense that you may be used to. Similar format as most comedy-centred news shows like his previously hosted The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (hmm, there seems to be a pattern), this show has a more serious tone. In his own words, it’s more “complete”. Here’s the video which got me chuckling and hooked.

Podcast Highlight

This month, I’m highlighting a podcast that goes into the depths of the gaming world: Gameplay. Nominated for Best Gaming Coverage and hosted by acclaimed Gaming Journalist James Parkinson, the podcast discusses various aspects of gaming technology, culture and storylines. Immersive and very documentary-esque, for someone who has really only plays a single video game over the last two years (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate), it still excites me to learn about the dedication and love that goes into these interactive media. Do check it out!

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Obtained from Podtail.

Monthly Earworm

“Smokin' Out The Window” by Silk Sonic. See the official music video here.

Quote of the Month

“(Inhales) Yeh yeh yeh”

- Blindboy, from the podcast episode about Irish phone etiquette.