One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Help the Honey Badgers in their fight for freedom of speech and thought!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quote of the Week

"A society that censors is a society that lies to itself
about its nature." -- McKenzie Wark, The Australian, 8 January 1997

Monday, April 21, 2014

Another Fairly Exciting Weekend

Saturday was busy. The Greens had our second door-to-door canvassing day, combined with petitioning, when someone answered the bell, to put Paul Glover on the ballot for Governor. (Paul and I had also gathered signatures at the $15-minimum-wage rally Friday.) We noted people's responses on a 1-5 scale for future reference.

That afternoon I attended a refresher election board training class. In addition to fulfilling a campaign promise (I'd said on my flyer that I'd do this if elected), showing the receipt will add a bonus to my pay after working on election day.

On the way to work this morning, I again saw a young woman visiting from Germany to do volunteer work this year. This time, after updating each other on recent activities I invited her to share her contact info. Just a few years ago I would not have had the nerve to do this; so, although in this case I didn't get it, the ask still gave me a feeling of accomplishment. And of course it did signal my interest,  which is important.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today's March for 15 Now to raise the minimum wage provided a good opportunity for petitioning, and I got a number of signatures toward the 16000@+ (!) needef to put Paul Glover on the ballot as the Green Party's candidate for governorv of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cass Sunstein Speaking at the Constitution Center

I found his book Nudge (co-authored with Richard Thaler) quite thought-provoking; likewise his paper "Conspiracy Theories."

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Recordings Are Now Online

I've finally created my musician account and uploaded two recordings: my reading of Chuck Stone's children's story Squizzy the Black Squirrel: A Fabulous Fable of Friendship, and my filk song "Trinity," based on Lois McMaster Bujold's novel The Curse of Chalion.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I swear!

After election to the position of Majority Inspector for my voting precinct (the first position to which any Green has been elected in Philadelphia), I wondered whether I might get any grief for my intention not to swear on the Bible, or any other religious book, when taking office. When I put this question to City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, some of whose classes for candidates for neighborhood office I'd attended, she said her understanding is that the law requires one to be sworn -- not merely affirmed, an option mentioned in the Constitution -- but doesn't specify on what.

I decided that I wish to be sworn in on Rights of Man, Thomas Paine's defense of the early events of the French Revolution, which lays out many revolutionary-democratic ideas still relevant today. I've just ordered a copy from the online store of Powell's books, the Oregon-based union bookseller, through their union's portal.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Been too long since you saw the Addams Family?

Here they are, posing in front of their namesake building (Penn's Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall) at 36th and Walnut Streets.

I can't stop thinking it's funny that there's a car called the MKZ...

That was the name of a disease in a story by Zenna Henderson.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Is Sasquatch a Relic of Bicamerality?

Yesterday I was recalling the fact that, purportedly, Native Americans had often spoken of Sasquatch (a.k.a. Bigfoot) in a very matter-of-fact way, much like any species of animal or tribe of people. This is cited as evidence that Sasquatch is real, notwithstanding the elusiveness of physical evidence. The way the argument goes is that an imaginary creature of legend would be spoken of differently, in tones of awe and mystery.

I was recalling this in the wake of being reminded about a book I heard of way back in college days but haven't gotten around to reading yet (though I intend to correct that soon now): Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. The essential idea is that in ancient times -- before about 1200-1000 B.C.E. in the Near East, and up to more recently in the New World -- people's subjective volitional selves were not integrated with their rational, analytic side, being in different hemispheres of the brain (hence the term "bicameral"). Consequently they lacked self-awareness, and most of the time acted out of pure relexive habit. When faced with a situation of crisis or high stress falling outside what their habits prepared them for, the rational mind would perform an analysis and then verbally instruct the volitional self on what to do. But, since these parts of the mind weren't integrated, this would be experienced not as personal decision-making, but as an auditory hallucination (perhaps sometimes embellished with other sensory modalities) from an invisible entity that would be interpreted as a god or ancestor in accordance with the individual's culture.

A chief piece of evidence cited by Jaynes is the Iliad: in its entire voluminous length, there's not a single description of any character's engaging in inward reflection. Instead, whenever they face a tough choice, a god appears and tells them what to do. Jaynes holds that Homer tells the story this way because that's exactly how people in those days experienced things.

Another story cited in support of this view concerns a man traveling to a Greek city-state who encounters the god Pan on the road and has a conversation with him. Upon arriving he promptly informs the city's senate of Pan's advice, which is heard with complete seriousness and not a hint of skepticism nor suggestion that the man is crazy. And, indeed, in a bicameral world such as Jaynes depicts, one would have had to be some kind of crazy not to believe in gods, when they were a regular part of everyone's personal experience.

I'm no expert on Sasquatch lore, but it seems to me that the casual tone of some accounts is very much like that story about Pan. This matter-of-fact quality could be totally consistent with the lack of evidence for Sasquatch as a physically distinct entity, if what it actually is (or was until some relatively recent past) is a cultural interpretation of a separate module in people's own heads.

Monday, April 07, 2014

RIP Chuck Stone

I heard this morning that Chuck Stone, longtime columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News and first president of the National Association of Black Journalists, has died.

On a personal note, a few years ago I recorded a children's book he wrote onto tape for a shelter run by Women Against Abuse. It's titled Squizzy the Black Squirrel: A Fabulous Fable of Friendship. I'll try to upload this shortly. (Thanks to Jim Tigar for copying the recording onto disk for me.)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Pixelated Bullseye

Here's a piece of math art I just completed (colored pencil on graph paper).