business news in context, analysis with attitude

On first reading, I looked at this story and thought, how great is this.

The New York Times reports that a California company believes it has perfected the technology that will allow it to clone dogs, which apparently is fairly difficult because dogs have an “unusual reproductive biology.”

And so, the company plans to auction off the cloning of five dogs, with the winners of the auctions able to have their own dogs cloned in a project that has been dubbed “Best Friends Again.” Bidding is expected to start at $100,000. Per dog.

However, before you look at your aging puppy and decide that a Xerox copy would be a nice thing to have, consider that the Times also reports that one of the principals of the company, BioArts International, is a South Korean guy named Hwang Woo Suk, who led a team in 2004 that claimed “it had made cloned human embryos and stem cells. But those claims were found to be fraudulent.”

In addition, the Times quotes experts as saying that while a cloned dog might be a physical replica, it won’t have any of the memories of the original version…which means you’ll have to teach it to go to the bathroom outside all over again. And, in fact, since the new version won’t know you, it could end up coming back to bite you in the…hand.

Buyer beware.

Still, here is the sentence from the Times story that I found to be really interesting…and a little frightening:

“Scientists consider dogs among the most difficult animals to clone because they have an unusual reproductive biology, more so than humans.”

That’s right.

Dogs – those same animals that eat shoes, drink out of the toilet and chase trucks down the road – are tougher to clone than humans.

Scary, huh?

While on the subject of animals, I’d like to elaborate on something I wrote yesterday. In a passing comment about appropriate promotions, I mentioned that if a store sent me information about cat food it would irritate me, because, as I put it: “I hate cats.”

Which led one MNB user to write:

“I hate cats” ? You could have left that immature statement out and made your point well enough. Living down here in the land of Michael Vick, the last thing we need is anyone of your intellect espousing a hatred for any animal. Very poor judgment, but perhaps you are gratified by the attention. Hope not. I kind of like you.

I like you, too.

But I think that there is an enormous distance between hating cats and being deliberately cruel to them.

I hate snakes, too, by the way.

And speaking of hating snakes…

Yesterday afternoon I took a couple of hours off and went to see “Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” a movie I’ve pretty much been looking forward to since “Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade” came out in 1989.

And I am happy to say that I had a very good time. It is great to see Harrison Ford back in the leather jacket and fedora, carrying that bullwhip – the hair may be almost white, but he still carries himself with a kind of intellectual and physical panache rare among today’s movie stars. (In fact, he seems very much of a previous era…which is sort of sad for those of us who grew up with him in “American Graffiti,” the “Star Wars” films, “Blade Runner,” “Witness,” etc… But that is sort of the subtext to “Crystal Skull,” which doesn’t hide the fact that Indiana Jones is in his sixties…)

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the new Indiana Jones movie is a great one. It isn’t. There are periods that lag, especially when devoted to exposition that seems to have leapt directly from the mind of executive producer George Lucas, who should be barred from screenwriting forever. (It is said that he came up with the basic story, which isn’t that great.) But there are some wonderful action pieces from director Steven Spielberg that just crackle.

Two other revelations. One is Shia LaBeouf, who plays a young hoodlum who joins Jones on this adventure. LaBeouf apparently is some sort of teen star, and I was fully prepared to hate him for taking attention away from the estimable Dr. Jones, but he’s terrific – if this is what young movie stars are made of, we could do a lot worse. And it was wonderful to see Karen Allen back onscreen in the role she first played in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (still the best of the series). She’s sexy and vulnerable and tough and she brings a light into Indiana Jones’s eyes; just watch the smile on his face when he first sees her in the movie.

So, see it and enjoy it for what it is. It might have been a better movie if they’d tried to shine a fresh light on Indiana Jones’s character, but the old light, though sepia-toned, still offers plenty of old-fashioned entertainment.

Wine recommendations of the week:

• The Girls in the Vineyard 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, from California.

• Cyan 12 Meses 2003 red wine from Spain, which is 100 percent Tinta de Toro.

• Bottega Vinala 2002 Trentino Lagrien, from Italy, for which I thank my friends at Wegmans’ excellent wine operation for making the recommendation.

Each of these is great with whatever grilled meats you may be enjoying this holiday weekend – burgers, steaks, sausages, whatever. Enjoy!

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