Apes Are Getting Closer to Speaking


“Koko the gorilla is best known for a lifelong study to teach her a silent form of communication, American Sign Language. But some of the simple sounds she has learned may change the perception that humans are the only primates with the capacity for speech.”

Source: UW-Madison

Olivier Roy on Laicite as Ideology

“Today there is a laic intolerance. From the principle of the separation of state and religion, we have moved to the idea that everyone must share the ideals of the Republic but which are in fact very recent values and which are a consequence of profound social changes since the 1960s. Laicite no longer accepts diversity.”

Read the full interview on: jadaliyya.com

Umberto Eco Regretfully Returns Your Book

Umberto Eco

Anonymous, The Bible
I must say that the first few hundred pages of this manuscript really hooked me. Action-packed, they have everything today’s reader wants in a good story Sex. (lots of it, including adultery, sodomy, incest) also murder, war, massacres, and so on (…) In other words, a real blockbuster, very well structured, with plenty of twists, full of invention, with just the right amount of piety, and never lapsing into tragedy.

But as I kept on reading, I realized that this is actually an anthology, involving several writers(…) It seems to have something for everybody, but ends up appealing to nobody and acquiring the rights from all these different authors will mean big headaches, unless the editor take cares of that himself. The editor’s name, by the way, doesn’t appear anywhere on the manuscript, not even in the table of contents. Is there some reason for keeping his identity a secret ?

Marcel Proust , A la recherche du temps perdu
This is undoubtedly a serious work, perhaps too long, but as a paperback series it could sell. But it won’t do as is. It needs serious editing. (…) With plenty of good in-house work, reducing each sentence to a maximum of two or three lines, breaking up paragraphs, indenting more often, the book would be enormously improved. If the author doesn’t agree, then forget it. As it stands, the book is too -what’s the word? -asthmatic

Franz Kafka , The Trial
Nice little book. A thriller with some Hitchcock touches. The final murder, for example. It could have an audience.
But apparently the author wrote under a regime with heavy censorship. Otherwise, why all these vague references, this trick of not giving names to people or places? And why is the protagonist being put on trial? If we clarify these points and make the setting more concrete (facts are needed: facts, facts, facts), then the action will be easier to follow and suspense is assured.

James Joyce , Finnegans Wake
Please, tell the office manager to be more careful when he sends books out to be read. I’m the English-language reader, and you’ve sent me a book written in some other, godforsaken language. I’m returning it under separate cover.

Texts taken from Umberto Eco‘s satirical book Misreadings.

Keith Jarrett on Solo Improvisation


“There were at least three people involved at a solo concert (which was always improvised form scratch), the improviser, the spontaneous composer, and the listener at the keyboard. The improviser is the easiest to explain (though no one in their right mind would try to). He sits there, confident in his ability to find some musical way from A to B (although he has no idea what B is). The spontaneous composer is a little harder to explain, though his position is slightly above the improviser. He “sends down” material (sorry, it’s the only way i know to say it) on the spur of the moment whenever the improviser calls for it. He might have to create B out of thin air. His job is harder because he has to supply substantial “content” on the spur of the moment, in case the improviser gets stuck or lost or just plain loses his connection to “the zone”. The composer eggs on the improviser (and vice versa), while the man at the keyboard – monitoring the proceedings and trying not to judge too quickly or intervene, even when he disapproves – attempts to pay attention to it all, simultaneously (all this is simultaneous) checking his vital functions for any abnormalities, making sure he has no finger or body cramps and that he has drawn a breath recently, etc.”

Extrait taken from a must-read article “Inside Out: Thoughts on Free Playing” by Keith Jarrett published on “Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM

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Noisy Silence: John Cage’s 4′33″

For Any Instrument or Combination of Instruments

For Any Instrument or Combination of Instruments:
Ink on paper. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

John Cage (1912-1992) is known principally as an experimental composer, but was also a writer and visual artist. Cage’s famous three-movement composition, 4’33” (1952) instructs the performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) for a duration of 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

In this piece, which is essentially one long rest or silence and which excludes notes from the score, the spectators are given the opportunity to concentrate and listen to the sounds around them. They have the chance to hear noises, vibrations, and/or resonances that they might not normally pay attention to. Thus Cage creates an experimental situation where they are encouraged to be more aware of the sounds that surround them, sounds that are usually regarded as silences in a concert setting. [1]

Hugely inspired by Dadaist Marcel Duchamp‘s artistic ideas John Cage studied both silence and noise with the same passion. He explains:
“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments. [2]
“One may give up the desire to control sound, clear his mind of music, and set about discovering means to let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expressions of human sentiments.” [3]

He taught us to consider all noise, all sound, even the pulsation of the blood, as “music”. Rather than be annoyed by certain noises, we should take time to listen to them, analyze them, and savor them.

[1]Silence in John Cage and Samuel Beckett: 4′ 33″ and “Waiting for Godot”
Author(s): Deborah Weagel and John Cage Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’hui, Vol. 12 (2002)
[2] The future of music: Credo by John Cage (1937)
[3] Silence: Lectures and Writings John Cage Wesleyan (1961)

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2053 by Isao Hashimoto

“This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many (Nuclear) experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.”

If curious, “Effects of nuclear explosions”

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Wim Wenders’ Strange and Quiet Places


Born in Düsseldorf in 1945, Wim Wenders is a globally acclaimed movie director, photographer & author. His latest book, “Places, Strange and Quiet” gathers photographs from 1983 to 2013 presenting a full panorama of Wenders’ photography.

These strange and quiet color photographs, also accompanied by his poetical writings, might make you feel a little uncomfortable. But it’d be right to see Wender’s minimal tendencies not as a simple aestethic approach, rather as his reflection of the world. These fragile & disquieting photographs, created while location-scouting for films, reflects one of Wender’s major concerns: Physical & psychological dislocation.

“When you travel a lot, and when you love to just wander around and get lost, you can end up in the strangest spots,” Wenders says. “It must be some sort of built-in radar that often directs me to places that are strangely quiet, or quietly strange.” “For me, it’s a matter of seeing these places and trying to read their story. You have this one moment and it tells you something about the past – very often a lot about the past, the people who passed through, who lived there, who dreamed there.”

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The Humanities in Crisis

It’s a known fact since the mid 80s “The Humanities” which generally include academic disciplines like languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion are in decline. Two recent reports from Harvard University and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, reveals a further escalation in the crisis affecting the humanities in USA. [1]

In the 60s, early 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were earned in the humanities. The proportion had fallen to less than 8 percent by 2010. [5] When we use the late 1960s as a benchmark, the percentage of undergraduates majoring in fields like English or philosophy has fallen by more than half since 1970. Even Harvard University is failing to attract students to its humanities courses seemingly on the grounds that there are no jobs for graduates. [2]

This new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. The Association of American Colleges and Universities issued a report in 2009 arguing the humanities should abandon the “old Ivory Tower view of liberal education” and instead emphasize its practical and economic value. [3] Others argue that all the humanities need to do is assert themselves in a similar way, or, the humanities need to become more scientific. Many in the humanities, particularly post-modernists, have contributed to this isolation by completely disengaging from science and mathematics. This dominant ideology, driven by the market, has slowed the development of the imagination and empathy.[2] As David Brooks wrote in The Times, “The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender.” [6]

Some scholars claim that trying to justify the humanities of utilitarian grounds is a losing cause. In his blog article written in 2008 well known American literary theorist, legal scholar, and public intellectual Stanley Fish replies the question of “What use are the humanities?”, saying “None. “It is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good.” In another words “the subject of these studies are not to be used as tools to achieve something else . . . they are the achievement.” [4] So as a result “The essence of a humanities education — reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming “to grips with the question of what living is for” — may become “a great luxury that many cannot afford.” [3]

[1] The Humanities in Crisis? Not at Most Schools: Saul, Scott. New York Times The Opinion Pages 3 July 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/opinion/the-humanities-in-crisis-not-at-most-schools.html

[2] Why the humanities are in crisis?: McLaren, Glenn

[3] In Tough Times, Humanities Must Justify Their Worth: [The Arts/Cultural Desk]
Cohen, Patricia. New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) [New York, N.Y] 25 Feb 2009: C.1.

[4] Stanley Fish “Will the Humanities Save Us?”  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/will-the-humanities-save-us/

[5] Humanities Scholars See Declining Prestige, Not a Lack of Interest
Wilson, Robin. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Jul 15, 2013): n/a.

[6] The Humanist Vocation: Brooks, David June 20, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/opinion/brooks-the-humanist-vocation.html