Berber of Seville

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 10:24 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
The Berber of "Seville" is "ⵙⴻⵠⵉⵍ". Or, if you don't have a Tifinagh font,
ⵙⴻⵠⵉⵍ

It turns out I'm not the first person to think up the phrase Berber of Seville. Bombay Dub Orchestra has a groovy track of that name name.

Apologies to any Berber speakers if I've completely butchered my Neo-Tifinagh letter choices.
If you liked this pun, you might also enjoy The SHA of 'Iran'.
flwyd: (carmen sandiego)
What ISIS Wants, well-written piece by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic argues that, despite Obama's well-intentioned statement that the Islamic State is neither, ISIS/ISIL is quite Islamic in a very literalist way. Similarly, one wouldn't reasonably claim that the Spanish Inquisition was non-Christian, even though its doctrine was far from the present majority position.

Wood explains the Koranic ties to many of the group's actions and elements of propaganda and discusses how their total devotion to 7th Century practices and prophecies may be understood to help defeat them. One key prophecy is a battle at Dabiq (near the Syrian border with Turkey) against the "army of Rome." Wood says that Rome might be interpreted as the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople), which would mean a battle with Turkey. Rome could also easily be interpreted as the West in general, and an American ground presence might only make things worse by energizing the group. Wood mentions Persia only in passing, but it seems to me that if the Islamic State pushed far into Kurdistan and Shi'ite Iraq, Iran might get involved. A conflict in which Washington and Tehran (and perhaps Ankara) were united against a common enemy would be interesting to say the least.

Reading about the apocalyptic goals of the Islamic State, I'm glad that the apocalyptic neoconservative faction of the American right wing has fallen out of favor in the last eight years. What we really don't need is an American Armageddon movement with an an excuse to militarily engage a caliphate which (in this instance) is also eager for a world-ending battle which will bring forth the messiah and God's plan of resurrection.

I am reminded also of The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain. The Salafist focus on words brings with it a mindset of violence, exclusion, and other masculine traits and a repression of imagery, inclusion, and femininity. ISIS should serve as a warning and a reminder that adherence to the literal interpretation of a book which does not evolve and adapt is a dangerous practice in a dynamic world. Meanwhile, the majority of Muslims around the world, raised in a culture with access to TV, magazines, and an image-rich web, oppose the Islamic State as violent extremists, unbecoming of what most believers see as Islam.
flwyd: (fun characters)
In case you'd run out of weird facts about Mormons, here's one I didn't know: they invented Deseret, their own phonetic alphabet for English. The name Deseret comes from the word for "honeybee"[1] in the Book of Mormon and was the name of the proposed and de facto Mormon state that covers the present day locations of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City, and Grand Junction.

Anyway, here's an attempt at my name in Deseret. There's a good chance your browser won't display it properly[2], but the font is part of MacOS X's default set.
𐐓𐑉𐐯𐑂𐐬𐑉 𐐝𐐻𐐬𐑌

See also the Shavian alphabet (named for George Bernard Shaw), with long/short and voiced/unvoiced pairs as translations of a single glyph. My Shavian name is
·𐑑𐑮𐑧𐑝𐑹 ·𐑕𐑑𐑴𐑯


[1] In Mormonism, honeybees are used as a model of a proper society. Lots of people busy as a bee, all in service of the central hive. Not knowing this association, I was excited about the prospect of a vibrant local honey industry when I visited the beehive state a few years ago. It turns out that the state is not covered in apiaries.

[2] To test your browser's display of most Indo-European scripts, try this page. Deseret and Shavian are not included, but non-Latin scripts are organized into alphabets with some phonetic hints.
flwyd: (fun characters)
If I ever wonder why I don't get around to reading my books, it's because my nights go something like this:

"I should finish my tea and then read a book in my hammock."
"Huh, iTunes has the wrong art for Depeche Mode - 101."
"Wikipedia's article 101 is about the year, not a disambiguation."
"Wow, that's a lot of random facts about the number 101."
"What the hell is a strobogrammatic prime? Wow, who creates a word for a property of a number which depends on both base and script?"
"Ooh, what do Devanagari digits look like?"
"Huh. I guess I can't infer that the line at the top implies the language is Hindi. Distinguishing it from Nepali is like distinguishing English from Spanish."
"But I might be able to infer Gujarati by the lack of a line."
"There's a special writing system for indigenous Canadian languages? That's cool, the rotation of the consonant indicates the vowel."
"I didn't realize these weren't technically alphabets. All those crazy curly-cue languages are abugidas."
"... and Arabic, Hebrew, and other vowel-free writing systems are abjads (or perhaps "bjds" if you're using an abjad)."
"OMG. The list of writing systems has a map of scripts. Typogeography! Goetypography! I might cream my pants if I was wearing any."
"In the obscurity department, a script used only by women. With graphemes chosen so they'd work well in embroidery."
"Tengwar characters have phonetic features embedded, unlike most alphabets where there's no indication that 'f' and 'v' are pronounced similarly. It can therefore be used to write more than just imaginary languages. If you want a badge of obscurity and utter linguistic geekery, you can write Esperanto in Tengwar."
"[livejournal.com profile] kakos should make a shirt of Jabberwocky in Lojban."
"Let's not get into MovementWriting, but somehow I doubt DanceWriting can adequately transcribe the way I dance."
"Well, at least I have an adequate LJ icon to indicate how I spent my evening."
flwyd: (fun characters)
Smegging grrfurgenama. I just typed a long post and then, instead of hitting the Done button, remembered a note I was going to add to my previous post and selected it to edit, which replaced my text without asking me if I wanted to save. That is so not a feature. Let's see how much I can reproduce.

A few days ago I finished reading The Alphabet Versus The Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain. The book's thesis is that literacy, and especially alphabetic literacy, hypertrophies the left brain's masculine hunter-killer traits and values of abstract serial linear thought at the expense of the right brain's gatherer-nurturer traits and values of concrete holistic gestalt thought. As alphabetic literacy enters a culture, the society is rocked with violence, religious intolerance, destruction of images, suppression of women, and the overthrow of concrete polytheist goddesses with abstract monotheistic gods. This is seen in the Hebrews, Greeks at the time of Aristotle, Orthodox vs. Gnostic Christianity, the Reformation, the Marxist revolutions of Russia, China, and Southeast Asia, Sunni vs. Shi'ite Islam, and modern Islamic fundamentalism like the Taliban. On the flip side, in the agrarian period before the appearance of writing, most cultures' central deity was a powerful Earth mother, represented by copious images, whose lesser consort/child died and was reborn every year. Men and women both worshiped goddesses, and society was fairly egalitarian (this remains the case in many hunter/gatherer cultures today). Major thinkers who spoke rather than wrote (Laozi, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Mohamed) tended to have fairly tolerant and pro-female attitudes. And these values as well as images tended to appear in cultures where alphabetic literacy was not widespread (including those cultures who passed from literacy to illiteracy, those near to violent literate cultures, and those who have yet to attain literacy). Furthermore, as photography and electromagnetism (with all its feminine metaphors) appeared in the forms of photography, movies, television, and computers, the West's laws, attitudes, and culture has shifted from excessive yang to a fairly balanced state. In a nutshell, a culture's communication media, perhaps more so than its content, determines the values, actions, and trends of society. For some more data, see my CWA post (about two thirds of the way down).

The book is written for the general public, so it lacks the flurry of citations found in scholarly works. It is far from New Age pseudo science, though; Shlain's bibliography spans 9 pages and ranges from Augustine and Virgil to Will Durant and Bertrand Russell. His data is the "generally accepted" story; exploration of various views of, say, ancient archaeological data is not in his scope. The events Shlain describes are large-scale and very complex, and doubtless arise from many factors and can be explained in many ways (which he acknowledges); his goal is to provide a unifying theory linking the counterpunctual rise and fall of the written word, masculine values, images, and feminine values. As a brain surgeon, Shlain's division of traits, values, and modes of thought rests on sound neurological data (and he acknowledges that the hemispheric split is more metaphorically accurate than physically accurate).

The book is excellently written, using both left hemispheric literalism and right hemispheric metaphor. Shlain doesn't claim to have proved anything, but rather to have demonstrated a correlation, from which the reader is to draw conclusions. His argument is cogent and well-documented, unlike many writers on male/female cultural interplay. He only once "falls" into "rhetorical" "damning" "quotation" marks. His language flows well and is graced by many words he has selected in the hopes that they don't fall out of the lexicon. The paradigmatic and specific ideas expressed in the book lead me to recommend it to almost everyone, from literalistic Protestants to open-minded Pagans to feminists who rail against cultural images. I can't think of many of my friends who wouldn't enjoy the book, and even fewer who would not benefit from reading it. I have found its modern perspective on yin/yang quite helpful in examining my own tendencies, beliefs, and development. (In the past, I've been big on literal interpretation, against photography and GUIs, and down on lots of right-hemispheric modes of perception. In recent years, I haven't read as much, I've watched more movies, and have adopted a more benign view of many Christians.)

I think I'll be able to use a bunch of what I've learned from this book in my review of Origins of the Modern Mind. I'm impressed by my memory abilities in rewriting this entry after writing it once and not reading it.

Edit 2/15/2009: In the intervening years, I've become less enamored with Leonard Shlain's work. He tries a little too hard to cram the entirety of human history into some simple ideas of the brain. His books and presentations are very enjoyable and informative, but they need a heavy dose of salt. He points out a lot of connections between elements of the zeitgeist that are worth chewing on, but I think the story he tells about their unification is a little simplistic. I still think The Albphabet vs. the Goddess is a book worth reading, but readers interested in the subject should read widely; there are a lot of cognitive scientists with interesting theories who also write well "at the Scientific American level" as Prof. Paulson would say.
flwyd: (Default)

Last week (4/8-4/12) was my absolute favorite week of the year. I laughed much more than usual. My brain got stimulated in unusual directions. I got up before 9 am for five days straight. What provoked this? The 54th Annual Conference on World Affairs. This brain dump is somewhat after the fact, because I put off everything that could be put off last week, so had a major crunch the past four days. What follows is a collection of notes (some to myself), insights, humorous or thought-provoking one-liners, and stories from memory. As a reward for reading through the whole thing, you get to learn second-hand about lots of details in Mulholland Drive.

Separate for your convenience )

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