Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I always wonder about written language. Apart from manatees (Trichechus), humans (Homo sapiens) are the only creatures able to form rhyming couplets and compose poems of any substantial length. Although, and this surprises some people, manatees are offended by limericks.

So I think this book might be something that me and the manatees could enjoy, Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human (and Manatee) Invention, by Stanislis Dehaene (ISBN-13 978-0670021109). Hey, he has a Wikipedia entry so he must be good.

But yet, this is the same guy in this report:"Babies Can Communicate with Numbers Before Talking," io9. February 7, 2008.
"Behavioral experiments indicate that infants aged 4 months or older possess an early "number sense" that allows them to detect changes in the number of objects... very young infants are sensitive to both the number and identity of objects, and these pieces of information are processed by distinct neural pathways."
Yeah, tell that to my nephew. The kid is 14-months old and loses at blackjack every time. Sure, he understands that he has three cards in front of him by the way he smears each one with drool, but he doesn't know shit about when to stand on 20. Never mind when to split. The kid has two face card cards for chrissakes and wants more, so I give him another. And you're busted, you idiot. Look at that. You better get more money from your mommy's purse. I'm not giving you more cards until you pay up. Here, play with these scissors.

I've written about writing on my blog. Hey, that sounds funny: I've written about writing. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. (Catches breath.) Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

But this book sounds cool because I always wonder about written language, about how most cultures have one-to-many forms of it and no matter how the language evolves, we can still find consistent meaning that allows us to communicate.

There were stories this week about the difficulty autistic children have learning handwriting. And that made me laugh. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. What is wrong with me?

Do any kids even write anymore? Don't they do that thing with their thumbs where messages fly through the air from kid to kid and "brb" and "h8r" are meaningful substitutes for actual words?
But as modern librarian, I avoid paper books, with their germs and their bulk and their simple presence. I prefer ebooks which are so much easier to ignore since they reside out of sight. But yet, I can still tell everyone, "that's next on my reader," or "that's in the queue." But on my bookshelf, that book is just a slab of procrastination, a guilt brick. But on my reader, it's the promise of a new day. Ah, we modern librarians are more awesome than every other librarian put together. Okay, that's too many. But we're more awesome than 53 regular librarians.

So anyway, Reading in the Brain sounds like a book that I can't wait to consider reading, as long as it has lots of pictures, and doesn't use big words.

If you'd like to enter a drawing to win a free book which could be Dehaene's book, but I think it's random from a list of available books, visit Seed Magazine here.