Sunday, November 28, 2010

Warrior's Way: Sword to a Gunfight WTH...? Part 2

Movie magic stretched waaay too far:

Warrior's Way: Sword to a Gunfight WTH...?

Even movie magic can be stretched too far:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Study Aid: The Star of the Wise

This is sized for 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I've left plenty of room for notes and scribbling. Permission is given to distribute freely; just credit the source, thank you. I've kept the details to a minimum: that is for the student to fill in as needed. (Note: Copyright refers to the layout and design of the illustration only. I'd be worse than a fool if I tried to "copyright" the basics of Wicca. Indeed, the arrangement of the planets here is adapted from Ptolemy.)
This was created in Open Office Draw vector editor.

Study Aid: The Wheel of the Year

This is sized for 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I've left plenty of room for notes and scribbling. Permission is given to distribute freely; just credit the source, thank you. I've kept the details to a minimum: that is for the student to fill in as needed.
This was created in Open Office Draw vector editor.

Study Aid: The Circle of Craft

This is sized for 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I've left plenty of room for notes and scribbling. Permission is given to distribute freely; just credit the source, thank you. I've kept the details to a minimum: that is for the student to fill in as needed.
This was created in Open Office Draw vector editor.

Study Aid: The Pentagram of Art

This is sized for 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I've left plenty of room for notes and scribbling. Permission is given to distribute freely; just credit the source, thank you. I've kept the details to a minimum: that is for the student to fill in as needed.
This was created in Open Office Draw vector editor.

Steven Pinker on language and thought 03

Part Three
  • Now, many events can be subject to either construal, kind of like the classic figure-ground reversal illusions, in which you can either pay attention to a particular object, in which case the space around it recedes from attention, or you can see the faces in the empty space, in which case the object recedes out of consciousness.
    • How are these construals reflected in language?
    • Well, in both cases, the thing that is construed as being affected is expressed as the direct object: 
      • the noun after the verb.
    • So when you think of the event as causing the muffin to go somewhere—
      • where you're doing something to the muffin—
        • you say, "Give the muffin to the mouse."
    • When you construe it as, "cause the mouse to have something," 
      • you're doing something to the mouse, 
        • and therefore, you express it as "Give the mouse the muffin."
  • So which verbs go in which construction—the original problem with which I began—depends on whether the verb specifies a kind of motion or a kind of possession change.
    • To give something involves both causing something to go and causing someone to have.
    • To drive the car only causes something to go, 
      • because Chicago's not the kind of thing that can possess something.
    • Only humans can possess things.
    • And to give someone a headache causes them to have the headache, 
      • but it's not as if you're taking the headache out of your head and causing it to go to the other person, 
        • and then plan to get it in their head.
    • You may just be loud or obnoxious, or in some other way causing them to have the headache.
    • So, that's an example of the kind of thing that I do in my day job.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story 03

Part Three
  • I must say that before I went to the U.S. 
    • I didn't consciously identify as African. 
    • But in the U.S. whenever Africa came up people turned to me. 
      • Never mind that I knew nothing about places like Namibia. 
    • But I did come to embrace this new identity. 
      • And in many ways I think of myself now as African. 
    • Although I still get quite irritable when Africa is referred to as a country. 
      • The most recent example being my otherwise wonderful flight from Lagos two days ago, in which there was an announcement on the Virgin flight about the charity work in "India, Africa and other countries."
  • So after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate's response to me. 
    • If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of 
      • beautiful landscapes, 
      • beautiful animals, 
      • and incomprehensible people, 
        • fighting senseless wars, 
        • dying of poverty and AIDS, 
        • unable to speak for themselves, 
        • and waiting to be saved, by a kind, white foreigner. 
    • I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide's family.
  • This single story of Africa ultimately comes, I think, from Western literature. 
    • Now, here is a quote from the writing of a London merchant called John Locke, who sailed to west Africa in 1561, and kept a fascinating account of his voyage. 
    • After referring to the black Africans as "beasts who have no houses," he writes, 
      • "They are also people without heads, having their mouth and eyes in their breasts."
  • Now, I've laughed every time I've read this. 
    • And one must admire the imagination of John Locke. 
    • But what is important about his writing is that it represents the beginning of a tradition of telling African stories in the West. 
    • A tradition of Sub-Saharan Africa as a place 
      • of negatives, 
      • of difference, 
      • of darkness, 
      • of people who, in the words of the wonderful poet, Rudyard Kipling, 
        • are "half devil, half child."
  • And so I began to realize that my American roommate must have, throughout her life, seen and heard different versions of this single story, 
    • as had a professor, who once told me that my novel was not "authentically African." 
    • Now, I was quite willing to contend that there were a number of things wrong with the novel, that it had failed in a number of places. 
    • But I had not quite imagined that it had failed at achieving something called African authenticity. 
    • In fact I did not know what African authenticity was. 
    • The professor told me that my characters were too much like him, an educated and middle-class man. 
      • My characters drove cars. 
      • They were not starving. 
      • Therefore they were not authentically African.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Steven Pinker On Language and Thought

Part Two
  • Let me start with a technical problem in language that I've worried about for quite some time—and hope you'll indulge me in my passion for verbs and how they're used.
    • The problem is, which verbs go in which constructions?
    • The verb is the chassis of the sentence. 
      • It's the framework onto which the other parts are bolted.
  • Let me give you a quick reminder of something that you've long forgotten.
    • An intransitive verb, such as "dine," for example, can't take a direct object.
      • You have to say, "Sam dined," not "Sam dined the pizza."
    • A transitive verb mandates that there has to be an object there: 
      • "Sam devoured the pizza." 
      • You can't just say, "Sam devoured."
    • There are dozens or scores of verbs of this type, each of which shapes its sentence.
    • So, a problem in explaining how children learn language, a problem in teaching language to adults so that they don't make grammatical errors and a problem in programming computers to use language is—which verbs go in which constructions?
  • For example, the dative construction in English—you can say, "Give a muffin to a mouse," the prepositional dative, or "Give a mouse a muffin," the double-object dative, "Promise anything to her," "Promise her anything" and so on.
    • Hundreds of verbs can go both ways.
    • A tempting generalization for a child, for an adult or for a computer is that any verb that can appear in the construction, "subject-verb-thing-to a recipient" can also be expressed as "subject-verb-recipient-thing."
    • It's a handy thing to have, because language is infinite, and you can't just parrot back the sentences that you've heard.
    • You've got to extract generalizations so you can produce and understand new sentences.
      • This would be an example of how to do that.
  • Unfortunately, there appear to be idiosyncratic exceptions.
    • You can say, "Biff drove the car to Chicago," but not, "Biff drove Chicago the car."
    • You can say, "Sal gave Jason a headache," but it's a bit odd to say, "Sal gave a headache to Jason."
    • The solution is that these constructions, despite initial appearance, are not synonymous.
      • That when you crank up the microscope on human cognition, you see that there's a subtle difference in meaning between them.
    • So, "Give the X to the Y"—that construction corresponds to the thought, "Cause X to go to Y."
    • Whereas, "Give the Y the X" corresponds to the thought, "cause Y to have X."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story 02

Part Two
  • I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. 
    • My father was a professor. 
    • My mother was an administrator. 
    • And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural villages. 
    • So the year I turned eight we got a new house boy. 
      • His name was Fide. 
    • The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. 
    • My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his family. 
    • And when I didn't finish my dinner my mother would say, 
      • "Finish your food! Don't you know? 
      • People like Fide's family have nothing." 
    • So I felt enormous pity for Fide's family.
  • Then one Saturday we went to his village to visit. 
    • And his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket, made of dyed raffia, that his brother had made. 
      • I was startled. 
    • It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. 
    • All I had heard about them is how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. 
      • Their poverty was my single story of them.
  • Years later, I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. 
    • I was 19. 
    • My American roommate was shocked by me. 
      • She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. 
      • She asked if she could listen to what she called my "tribal music," and was consequently very dissapointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. 
      • She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.
  • What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. 
    • Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. 
    • My roommate had a single story of Africa. 
      • A single story of catastrophe. 
    • In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her, in any way. 
      • No possibility of feelings more complex than pity. 
      • No possibility of a connection as human equals.

Steven Pinker on language and thought

Part One
  • This is a picture of Maurice Druon, the Honorary Perpetual Secretary of L'Academie francaise—the French Academy. 
    • He is splendidly attired in his 68,000-dollar uniform, befitting the role of the French Academy as legislating the correct usage in French and perpetuating the language. 
    • The French Academy has two main tasks: it compiles a dictionary of official French—
      • they're now working on their ninth edition, which they began in 1930, and they've reached the letter "P." 
    • They also legislate on correct usage, such as the proper term for what the French call "email," which ought to be courriel
      • The World Wide Web, the French are told, ought to be referred to as la toile d'araignee mondiale—the Global Spider Web—recommendations that the French gaily ignore.
  • Now, this is one model of how language comes to be: namely, that it's legislated by an academy. 
    • But anyone who looks at language realizes that this is a rather silly conceit, that language, rather, emerges from human minds interacting from one another. 
    • And this is visible in the unstoppable change in language—
      • in the fact that by the time the Academy finishes their dictionary, it will already be well out of date.
  • We see it in the constant appearance of slang and jargon, in the historical change in languages, in the divergence of dialects and in the formation of new languages. 
    • So language is not so much a creator or shaper of human nature so much as a window into human nature. 
    • In a book that I'm currently working on, I hope to use language to shed light on a number of aspects of human nature, including the cognitive machinery with which humans conceptualize the world and the relationship types that govern human interaction. 
    • And I'm going to say a few words about each one this morning.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Part One
  • I'm a storyteller. 
    • And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call "the danger of the single story." 
    • I grew up on a university campus in eastern Nigeria. 
    • My mother says that I started reading at the age of two, although I think four is probably close to the truth. 
    • So I was an early reader. 
    • And what I read were British and American children's books.
  • I was also an early writer. 
    • And when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. 
      • All my characters were white and blue-eyed. 
      • They played in the snow. 
      • They ate apples. 
      • And they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. 
    • Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. 
      • I had never been outside Nigeria. 
      • We didn't have snow. 
      • We ate mangoes. 
      • And we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.
  • My characters also drank a lot of ginger beer because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer. 
    • Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was. 
      • And for many years afterwards, I would have a desperate desire to taste ginger beer. 
        • But that is another story.
  • What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. 
    • Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books, by their very nature, had to have foreigners in them, and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify. 
    • Now, things changed when I discovered African books. 
    • There weren't many of them available. 
    • And they weren't quite as easy to find as the foreign books.
  • But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. 
    • I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. 
    • I started to write about things I recognized.
  • Now, I loved those American and British books I read. 
    • They stirred my imagination. 
    • They opened up new worlds for me. 
    • But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. 
    • So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: 
      • It saved me from having a single story of what books are.