She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

We Are All African

We are all Africans. We originated in Africa. That is proved by the continent’s rich genetic inheritance. Africans are more diverse than the rest of humanity put together, because they are drawn from the pool of humans who did not leave. As Wells points out, two Africans from the same village could be more divergent from each other than either is from a non-African. The question is whether this new understanding will reinforce prejudices against Africans, or help end them.

The story of humanity, written in the spiral pages of our DNA, from More Intelligent Life.

Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Digital Cuneiform

Language Hat‘s post about the utterly nifty Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire site, a site about

From the Central Palace in Nimrud and now in the British Museum, London. Circa 728 BC.

From Nimrud, circa 728 BCE

the Neo-Assyrian capital of Nineveh PGP in what today is northern Iraq, from the middle of the seventh century BCE. Nineveh and the royal court there is the earliest attested site of courtly scientific patronage in world history. The Website presents contemporary documents from the seventh century BCE that include letters, reports, and queries from scholars, along with pedagogical resources. In addition, the site includes court poetry, royal prophecies, memos, and letters from temple staff to the king. This is a very well-done site, aesthetically appealing, and easy to navigate, with pointers to other resources, on and off line. I favor Essentials as a good starting place. The Cuneiform Revealed section covers writing systems as well as language, and makes me think about the UCLA/Max Planck project, The Cuneiform Digital Library.

Pornography, Women, and Honesty

Stacia Kane in a thoughtful post about the book Porn for Women from the “Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative,” asks:

Isn’t it time we move past this shit? Past the idea that what women really want is hugs’n’chocolate, because sex is just something we do for him? Past the idea that men only do nice things in order to get sex? Can’t we agree now that women are adults, and diverse, and so are men, and that to put out a book this simple-minded and ridiculous and call it “porn for women” is shameful, and sexist, and just plain not fucking funny?

You can read the whole post here, and you really should, and no, it’s not about “that kind” of porn, though it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that pornography, or pornos graphos originally referred to the graphos, the writing (and images) used by prostitutes to establish their services and prices for customers.

Gollum: Schizophrenia or Multiple Personality Disorder?

…Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

More here and here.

Sucking the Quileute Dry

To millions of “Twilight” fans, the Quileute are Indians whose (fictional) ancient treaty transforms young males of the tribe into vampire-fighting wolves. To the nearly 700 remaining Quileute Indians, “Twilight” is the reason they are suddenly drawing extraordinary attention from the outside—while they themselves remain largely excluded from the vampire series’ vast commercial empire.

Op Ed piece from the New York Times.

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse 5 POW

In December of 1944 Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow POWs were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), beneath Dresden. The following February Vonnegut survived the allied bombing of Dresden and wrote a following letter in May of 1945 to his family from a repatriation camp. The letter is astonishing reading.