Monthly Archives: April 2021

A childish mind turn into noble ambition: The cruelest, not saddest, story no one noticed

The Ocarina of Time Masterclass in subtext, by GoodBlood, is a brilliant exercise of media review that brings together widely diverse topics including storytelling, Japanese folklore, environmentalism, and even psychology of childhood trauma and adulthood, to analyse the themes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, one of the most influential pieces in the medium of video games. This language and these aspects blend together harmoniously to deliver a central message that the game is probably the saddest entry of the Zelda franchise; precisely because of how short we fall to notice, as it is laid out deep within the subtext layers of the writing. The presentation and quality of the theorisation is gorgeous, including the sad notes on shintoism and how its world resonates with the history of Japanese people and their culture. But it is the character analysis, the loss of the hero’s childhood, what makes it a completely unique piece of media analysis -at least for me.

I already “wrote” something about this videoanalysis two years ago – I acknowledged it existence, at least. When I watched it for the first time, it seeded emotions, feelings and ideas that are still very present in me. I recently revisited it and it’s been one of those few times that you relive it almost as if it was the first time. I recommend watching it, even if you are not familiar with the Zelda franchise, for a great example of conveying sub-plots in the context of storytelling. Or you can read it here, as the author made it available in text.

The ramifications of the sadness expand beyond this game into other titles of the franchise. And beyond other topics that could easily fit in another video of this kind. For me, this has ultimately rendered Ocarina of Time unplayable as a mere instance of the Myth of the Hero’s journey. I am not exaggerating if I say that it has completely changed my view of this game and left me in a contemplation of the different depth levels the story speaks to me.

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The last common ancestor of animals: a focus on genes, development and ecology (III)

3. The animal LCA likely possessed many different cell types

AI-color-filtered picture of Nematostella vectensis, halftone-filtered in Glimpse and ran through a dotted filter on elektrobild.

A major feature of animals is the spatial distribution of labour between coexisting cells within a single multicellular entity. The building blocks of multicellular bodies are different kinds of cell types, each specialized in different roles within the whole organism. Cell types have their own sets of expressed genes used in different processes (e.g., contraction, secretion, signaling and reception), that are normally regulated by well-defined genetic programs (a set of TFs and other specific regulatory mechanisms). This implies that some genes are expressed by certain cell types but not others – in other words, each cell type expresses a limited number of genes encoded in the genome. On the other hand, the totality of genes in the genome of a unicellular organism may be used by a single cell throughout its life. The genome partitioning into functional modules accessed by different cell types reflects an increase in regulatory mechanisms to determine diverse cell fate genetic programs (Arendt et al., 2019). Understanding the origin of animals, therefore, requires asking questions about the evolutionary origins of cell types, and their mechanisms of differentiation.

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The last common ancestor of animals: a focus on genes, development and ecology (II)

AI-processed picture of the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Source: Wildlife Archives

In the previous entry we learned a bit about the “historical” context of the origin of animals, both in the evolutionary and the chronological meaning of the word. We saw how the fossil record was the first resource explored to unraveling the origin of animals, and how it helped to pinpoint the geological period when this lineage emerged. We also learned that comparing the genomes of different animal species has become a new paradigm of research, as it helps to clarify the phylogenetic relationships of animals, as well as it allows to infer the what genetic information needed to build animal bodies was present in the ancestor.

In this entry, we will explore what was the gene content like in the animal LCA in two ways: firstly, by broadly looking at the changes occurred in the genomes of animals during their evolutionary history; secondly, by looking at the genes found scattered across the early branching animals, which together are like pieces of the puzzle that is the animal LCA.

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The last common ancestor of animals: a focus on genes, development and ecology (I)

From Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980).

In my most recent publication, together with some formidable colleagues from my previous lab, we describe the origins of animals by compiling the state-of-the-art of current knowledge and methods. What is special about our work is that we do so by reconstructing two ancestors key to understand this evolutionary transition: the last unicellular ancestor of animals and the last common ancestor of all animals. In this entry, I have compiled some notes and paragraphs that were left out or simplified, but that were very informative and illustrative for me during the reading process of describing the last common ancestor of animals (animal LCA). They have been cohesively edited together adding some notions of evolutionary biology and ecology to provide a solid piece of read. Some parts are somewhat similar to what was published, in the end, this is a sub-field of what we did. I did my best to reflow and change those parts to avoid redundancy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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