"Finding Grace in the Concert Hall" by Linda K. Randall

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Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder’s rollin’ down this track
You don’t know where you’re goin’
But you know you won’t be back
Darlin’ if you’re weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry
And we’ll leave the rest.  — Bruce Springsteen, “Land of Hopes and Dreams”

I felt this man speaking to my heart, to my life’s wins and losses.  He identified with my struggles and frustrations, not waiting for me to identify with him, and perhaps that is his talent and genius.  Bruce places the onus of understanding on himself, and not on the listener; his job is to convince us that he knows what we know, to provide us with hope; and not to ask us to understand him.  Sitting there, I felt as surely as I knew my own name that this man needed me as much as I needed him. –Linda K. Randall

From the time the troubadours roamed Europe in the 11th century, serenading lovers but also conveying the day’s news, music has been a defining element in human lives, a major contributor to community cohesion.  We even speak of “the baroque age” or “the ragtime era”.  Today’s issues and feelings are powerfully expressed by Bruce Springsteen through his international concert tours, his many recordings and the devotion of fans, a devotion with many aspects of religious fervor.  Springsteen also attracts the attention of scholars who exhaustively analyze his appeal, delve into the roots of his creativity and seek understanding of our times in his songs.  The newest of these academic studies is “Finding Grace in the Concert Hall: Community and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans” by Linda K. Randall. Ms. Randall — an anthropologist from Oneonta, NY who has taught at SUNY-Oneonta and Empire State College — is an unabashed “Tramp”, as devotees of “The Boss” dub themselves.  She has attended about 70 Springsteen concerts in both North America and Europe and mingled with the fans who are the focus of her book.  She is a member of the International Springsteen Studies Association. Her research and experiences were gathered over a period of eleven years. Bruce Springsteen is not just a popular performer or even an avatar of rock ‘n’ roll.  His songs tell the story of his life, his difficult relationship with his father and even posit a moral and social lesson that is the same as the world’s great religions.  His work shows “a remarkable ability to understand whatever situation he is writing about, ” Randall states,”whether it is an illegal immigrant working in a methamphetamine lab or a Vietnam veteran seeking work.”

Dave Eggar

Dave Eggar’s mission to “not just cross over, but to cross through” multiple genres of music is apparent in his releases. Whether it’s classical, reggae, bluegrass, jazz, pop, or world music, Eggar finds a common voice within his musical vocabulary and introduces it with his own unique imaginative vision. Eggar’s body of work is consistently greeted with superlatives and rave reviews as he works in diverse genres and performs live in multiple musical categories, moving between each. His ability to blur the lines between any musical style is quite unique. Eggar’s “Itsbynne Reel” from Kingston Morning was nominated for 53rd GRAMMY Award “Best Instrumental Arrangement”.

"Spiral" by Paul McEuen

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Among Paul McEuen’s writings is, “Plasmon Resonance in Individual Nanogap Electrodes Studied Using Graphene Nanoconstrictions as Photodetectors.”  As Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell University and Director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science he is one of the leading scholars in a rapidly-expanding field dealing with matter at the molecular level.  He describes his research interests as, “anything, as long as it’s small.”  Sometimes the men and women at work in one specialized corner of nanoscience have to make a special effort to communicate with fellow-scientists in other corners.  When the most important action is taking place microscopically it’s not always easy to observe and share. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-976153.mp3

So when Dr. McEuen took off his lab coat (assuming he wears a white lab coat when sequencing DNA) and turned to the job of writing a thriller it would be different from working with material one atom thick.  “Spiral”, his first novel, is a fast-paced adventure with a rich cast of characters and chilling connections to the threat of terrorism in our time.  And on nearly every page there’s a necessary and convincing tie to McEuen’s workaday world of nanotechnology, plus knowledgable references to biology, cyber-warfare and national security issues. “Spiral” begins during the final days of World War II when Liam Connor, an Irish biologist serving in the British Army, is called upon to apply his knowledge of fungi to the biological warfare that the Japanese have developed at their infamous Unit 731.  The villains of the story are a failed (that is, surviving) kamakaze pilot, Hitoshi Kitano, and a deadly fungus called Uzumaki (Japanese for “spiral”).  American sailors already infected must be killed and buried at sea by their own forces.  Kitano lives but Liam doesn’t know if specimens of Uzumaki remain. The next chapter leaps forward to Ithaca, NY.  Connor is now a beloved Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, a Nobel laureate still working with one of the world’s great collections of fungi, which are now tended by a platoon of MicroCrawlers — tiny spider-like robotic creatures that exemplify applied nanotechnology, and one instance in the book where McEuen has allowed his imagination to run ahead of his real-world accomplishments.  Liam Connor dotes over his granddaughter Maggie and her son Dylan, both dear to him in Ithaca.  His close faculty colleague is Jake Sterling, a professor of physics and a father, so to speak, of the MicroCrawlers.  Like all the Cornell community, Jake is horrified when he learns that the pleasant and steady Liam has committed suicide by leaping into one of Ithaca’s gorges, and shocked to discover that he had been tortured, his assailant a madwoman called Orchid.  Someone is trying to locate a specimen of Uzumaki, and have programmed the Crawlers to do the dirty work. While the military saw the Crawlers as potential spies, Liam saw them as soldiers in a new revolution.  Liam believed that a second wave was coming — one even bigger than the information revolution.  When the technologies of the information age were applied to biology, life would become an engineering discipline.  Using tools such as microfluidic labs-on-a-chip, PCR machines, and assemblers such as the MicroCrawlers, you’d be able to make living cells the way you made computer chips, process DNA like so many ones and zeroes.  He was incredibly exceited.  He thought that in five years he’d be making fungi from scratch.  Design their genetic sequence on the computer, push a few buttons, and there they would be.  A genome as easy to write as a string of computer code.  A new fungus as simple to construct as an integrated circuit.  He maintained that the Crawlers would be the foot soldiers of the revolution.