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Nadworny: The Mel Gene

http://www.vpr.net/audio/programs/56/2013/01/nadworny-0130.mp3

(Host)Commentator and digital strategist Rich Nadworny is aware that teaching your children is never easy, but lately he's been wondering what makes us do or teach our kids certain things.

(Nadworny) A recent study at Harvard uncovered some exciting news: they found DNA that controlled behavior in mice. In the experiments, scientists looked at several kinds of burrowing mice, including one species that always created an escape route when digging a nest. They interbred different species and were then able to isolate the DNA that corresponded with the escape hatch diggers, identifying for the first time a direct link between genes and behavior.

They've only done this in mice, mind you. We're still pretty far from human studies that show how genes may control our behavior. In the mean time, we parents are left with indoctrinating our kids the old fashioned way. My latest project involves making sure that my kids appreciate Mel Brooks as much as I do.

I started by showing them Young Frankenstein. They seemed to like that a lot, so I picked up the pace. In short order I made them watch the Broadway version of The Producers, Blazing Saddles and old episodes of Get Smart.

The experiment worked so well that my youngest went around belting out Springtime for Hitler for two solid weeks. We had to remind him not to sing it in school, since it might cause trouble. But when my kids started randomly throwing out quotes like Mongo just pawn in game of life my chest swelled with pride.

To be honest, I grew up this way. My dad loved the old TV program My Show of Shows so we grew up watching The Dick van Dyke show by Carl Reiner, Get Smart and we listened to all of the 2000-Year-Old Man records with Brooks ad-libbing with Reiner. I remember going to Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles with my dad, sitting next to him as he laughed and laughed. On the way home he'd explain all the old movie references. His indoctrination worked; my siblings and I grew up loving Mel Brooks.

Yet as I'm explaining this, I'm starting to realize that maybe I didn't really have a choice, introducing this to my kids. Could it be that I simply have the Mel Gene? Maybe I do it not because I love it, but because my DNA is forcing me to do it? If so, it's conceivable that my family inherited this Mel Gene from my dad. I'm not sure if this would count as a new mutation or some older one, maybe some odd humor gene passed on for thousands of years to laugh in the face of human tragedy.

I think those researchers in Harvard need to get to the bottom of this fast. I'm sure this is information people would want onMatch.com and for genetic birth choices. In the meantime, we'll be watching Silent Movie soon, either because we want to - or have to.

Rich Nadworny is a designer who resides in Burlington and Stockholm.
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