Irene Pepperberg on “that damn bird” and the question of whether animals might be able to share a language with humans: “Researchers such as Pinker and I get along well because I never claim that Alex has full-blown language; I never would. I’m not going to be able to put Alex on a “T” stand and have you interview him the way you interview me. But Alex has basic building blocks that are language-like behaviors — and also elements of phenomena like consciousness and awareness. Is Alex conscious? Personally, I believe so. Can I prove it? No. Does he have perceptual awareness? That I can definitely prove.”

The Babu’s been wondering for a while whether we’ve ever conducted experiments that work the other way round: are there human scientists around who can speak fluent dolphin, complete with clicks, for instance, or who can separate the many different layers that go into the mew of a cat, depending on whether it’s talking to its kittens, a predator, a pigeon that might be potential prey, or a possible partner? Inputs welcome.

Everyone can use a friendly review. Even if the friend in question is Fidel Castro.

Even when it comes to humans, the way we see language can change–drastically. The Daily Telegraph has a lovely piece by Julie Myerson on the phenomenon of synaesthesia.

“The word “synaesthesia” literally means “joined sensation”. It seems that in any normal person there’s a division in the brain between the bit that perceives words and the bit that perceives colours. But in a synaesthete that division is missing. Hence an electric mauve “August” or a shimmering green “Wednesday”. Even more unnervingly, other sensations can get joined up too. Some synaesthetes get tastes and shapes or even, occasionally, smells or textures when they hear music or see words.”

Very few Booker Prize winners appear to react with apposite one-liners (“It is a far, far, better thing that I do now…”). Arundhati Roy’s immediate reaction was: “Gosh!” (If you’re reading this across the Atlantic, be aware that most Indian writers working in the English language are imprinted at birth with Enid Blyton and Billy Bunter catchphrases, which will then surface at the most inappropriate moments.) DBC Pierre was somewhat pithier: “What the fuck have I gone and done now?”

If you’re intending to NaNoWriMo, your 50,000 words starts now, and you have about a month-and-a-half in which to make deadline. Stop wasting your time reading blogs!

“1. Borges (Jorge Luis). The entire collection as described in the following 238 lots, comprising: 18 autograph manuscripts, including lot 6, Joyce y los neologismos; lot 8, Two English poems and lot 10, El ?ltimo viaje de Ulises, 121 first editions, many with corrections and notes in Borges’ hand, including lot 20, Fervor de Buenos Aires; lot 33, Discusion, with numerous annotations and corrections in Borges’ hand, and lot 50, Ficciones one of the most important works of fiction of the 20th Century; periodicals, including a complete run of lot 165, Sur; lot 167, Anales de Buenos Aires; lot 168, Proa, and lot 166, S?ntesis, 114 books with prefaces, or contributions by Borges, 35 books from Borges’ library, 20 from the family library, all with annotations and inscriptions, and other related items, e.g., statues, CDs, records, stamps, medallions (238).

£400000 – 450000″

There’s a Jorges Luis Borges auction on. The Babu worked out that if he sells his partner, his grandmother, and his obsolete record collection, he might make enough to buy the five hundred pound Borges business card. (Deep, heartfelt sigh). (Link via Complete Review.)


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