Wednesday, February 28, 2001


Re-packing; planning; writing notes so the kids can leave school early; checking e-mail for any further instructions from UNICEF or Children's Express; leaving a message with the pediatrician about alternatives to Cipro (sp?); Deciding who will pick up Rulizow at school and who will take David's luggage downtown to the Bureau; compiling a list of the three levels of diarrhea and what to do for each level; laying out clothes for tomorrow.

Dear Reader, it has been a busy night.

Tuesday, February 27, 2001


The briefing went a long way towards allaying the lingering anxieties Baslow and Mrs. Baslow were feeling about sending their thirteen-year-old son off to India. The UNICEF representatives provided us with many details and answered all our questions. They clearly have this stuff down to a science.

David and his Children's Express cohorts will depart Thursday night. The departure was moved ahead a bit to allow some rest time after the exhausting flight. There will be a stopover in Amsterdam. They will arrive in Mumbai late on Friday. They will be met at the airport by UNICEF staff in a UNICEF vehicle.

On Saturday, they will be briefed by Bombay staff (and by a senior communication person from Delhi). They will then travel on to Bhuj, which was close to the epicenter of the quake.

Much hard work has been done in Bhuj since the quake. David will not see scenes of devastation nearly so jarring as those he would have seen a few days after the disaster. He will see rubble, certainly. What will be most evident will be, not immediate hazards, but the long-term effects and challenges of such a large-scale disaster. Poverty (of a sort and to a degree David has not encountered) will be apparent. As apparent, however, will be the strong family and community structures with which the poverty is met.

UNICEF will accompany the Children's Express contingent wherever they go. They will always have sattelite communication and global cellphone facilities.

They will spend about two-and-a-half days in Bhuj. They will then make their way back to Mumbai and, from there, home. Psychological counselling will be available to help David deal with the more troubling aspects of what he will have seen.

David and his parents are excited. The adventure is about to begin.


Baslow had expected that David's interview with WABC-TV would be recorded. It was not. It was a getting-to-know-you meeting with producers and reporters. WABC-TV will be along on the press tour. Besides covering the tour itself and the aftermath of the earthquake they will be covering the two Children's Express reporters, viewing the experiences of the tour through their eyes. They've asked to interview Baslow and Mrs. Baslow at the airport.

David made his way from his Middle School crosstown to the WABC studios by himself. He met the newly-appointed New York Bureau Chief of Children's Express on Columbus Avenue and together they talked to the WABC people. David reports that he was taken aback by the makeup onscreen personalities have to wear. He chatted with producers, with an anchorperson, and with a reporter. They asked David a few questions about himself and about what he expected to find in India.

It didn't last very long; David and the Bureau Chief had to make their ways downtown for the UNICEF briefing.

Monday, February 26, 2001


1) Details of the briefing by UNICEF;
2) The story of David's interview at WABC-TV;
3) An account of the search for a place to get passport pictures for the visa;
4) The tale of dinner on the uptown 1 train;
5) An explanation of why David will be leaving Thursday night rather than Friday;
6) Probably other stories, as well...

Sunday, February 25, 2001


Rulizow gave her last performance as Philostrate, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, this evening. There was a cast party afterward. She is very tired but very happy. She had nothing but good reports about the way things went. The audiences were uniformly enthusiastic. Things went as smoothly as any production she has been in. We think it likely that Rulizow will be in other productions in the future.

On another front, Rulizow has decided to discontinue her weblog. Baslow suspects that she was not receiving enough feedback to carry her along. He hopes she tries again, someday.


We will be briefed by UNICEF tomorrow. In the meantime, they have sent us these preliminary notes:

"Carry as little as possible. This can't be overemphasized. Take few articles of clothing, and expect them to receive rough treatment. "

"You can check the weather at Right now, the current conditions are highs in the 90's during the day and lows in the 60's in the evening."

"The following is a list of items that we suggest you bring on your trip to India:

sleeping bag
pillow case
camera, with ample roll of films
sneakers or hiking boots
socks and underwear
cotton trousers
light colored shirts and T-shirts (cotton)
anti-bacterial hand wipes
medicine for diarrhea (Imodium)
shampoo and conditioner
lip balm
flashlight and batteries
tissues and a roll of toilet paper
pain relievers (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, etc)
prescription medications
contact lenses and cleaning solutions
sunscreen, at least SPF 15
a key lock or combination lock"

This whole trip is beginning to seem real to us...

Saturday, February 24, 2001


1/26/01 -- India Earthquake NPR's Michael Sullivan reports that a powerful earthquake has killed more than two thousand people in India, and the death toll is expected to rise. The epicenter was in the city of Bhuj in the western state of Gujarat, close to India's border with Pakistan. Hospitals in Gujarat have been flooded with injured people. Rescue workers are using chain saws and their bare hands, as they to reach people believed to be trapped in rubble. (3:00)

1/26/01 -- Earthquake in India NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from India on the earthquake that shook the region early this morning. The earthquake is the worst in 50 years. 140 people are feared dead. (3:18)

1/26/01 -- Earthquake Robert talks with Star News correspondent Harsha Kumarisingh, who is at the site of the earthquake in India. Thousands of people are now counted dead, and workers are combing the rubble of collapsed buildings in hope of finding survivors. (4:30)

1/27/01 -- India - Earthquake NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from Ahmedabad, India where the death toll from Friday's earthquake is expected to rise to 13, 000. The quake, which registered 7. 9 in magnitude, devastated cities in the western state of Gujarat and has left tens of thousands of people homeless. (5:15)

1/27/01 -- Seismologist Perspective Seismologists who have been studying tectonic plates beneath India were surprised by the location of the earthquake, because it happened in an area where fault lines had not been detected. As a result of the earthquake, the new seismographic information could have both scientific and political consequences. Host Lisa Simeone speaks with Jeffrey Park, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University. (3:00)

1/28/01 -- India Quake Liane talks with NPR's Michael Sullivan who's in Bhuj, India, near the epicenter of Friday's earthquake. Damage there is extensive. Government officials say the quake has claimed more than 6000 lives, with the death toll expected to rise. (4:00)

1/28/01 -- Epicenter Host Lisa Simeone talks with NPR's Michael Sullivan who's currently in the city of Bhuj, India, considered the worst hit area of last Friday's earthquake (5:30)

1/29/01 -- India Earthquake NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from India on the continuing rescue efforts following Friday's earthquake. The quake had a magnitude of 7.9 and at least 15,000 people are reported dead.

1/29/01 -- India Quake Robert talks to Harsha Kumarisingh, a correspondent for Star News, about the aftermath of last week's 7.9 magnitude earthquake in India. An estimated 20,000 people were killed. And the Indian government now estimates monetary losses of the quake at 5.5 billion dollars. Officials are now concentrating on restoring services to the Indian state of Gujarat. (4:30)

1/30/01 -- Earthquake Aftermath Host Bob Edwards speaks with NPR's Eric Weiner about last week's earthquake in India. Rescue efforts are becoming recovery efforts as the hope of finding survivors fades. (4:31)

1/30/01 - India Update NPR's Eric Weiner reports that rescuers, looking for survivors of Friday's massive earthquake in western India, managed to find a few more people still alive today. They had almost given up hope for finding more survivors. Indian officials now estimate that at least 20-thousand people were killed in the disaster. This would make it the worst earthquake to strike India in a half-century. (4:00)

1/31/01 - Earthquake Recovery NPR's Eric Weiner reports from Bhuj, India, with the latest on the earthquake recovery effort. (4:19)

1/31/01 -- India Quake Noah talks with NPR's Michael Sullivan about the recovery efforts from the earthquake in India. Relief workers have more work than they can handle. There has been outcry against the government for the slow response. And the number of dead is still rising. Government officials say the body count is now 12-thousand, and they estimate the total death toll will reach 25-thousand. (3:30)

2/1/01 -- India Recovery NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from India with the latest on the earthquake recovery. (4:02)

2/1/01 -- India's Public NPR's Eric Weiner reports from the western Indian city of Bhuj on relief operations by international aid agencies and private volunteers who have responded to last Friday's earthquake more quickly than the Indian government. (4:00)

2/2/01 -- India Earthquake Survivor A young man in college in the U.S. went home to India recently for a family reunion-- and was the only member of his family to survive the earthquake. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports. (3:39)

2/2/01 Talk of the Nation: Earthquake Update

Mary Lou Zoback
Chief Scientist
Earthquake Hazards Program
United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California

Michel Bruneau
Deputy Director
Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research
State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York

Craig Weaver
Pacific Northwest Coordinator, USGS Earthquake Program
United States Geological Survey, Seattle, Washington

Recent earthquakes in India and El Salvador have killed thousands of people and left many wondering how we might better prepare for earthquakes. In this hour, we'll hear about the 'quake in India and find out what scientists know about the seismic activity in the area. We'll also hear about new earthquake research taking place in the Pacific northwest--what's under Seattle might surprise you.

2/3/01 -- Indian Earthquake Cleanup Scott speaks with NPR's Eric Weiner about the clean-up effort in western India following last week's devastating earthquake, which left more than 10,000 dead. (6:00)

2/4/01 - Quake NPR's Eric Weiner reports from Ahmedabad, India, that officials have begun the enormous task of calculating the human and economic cost of the earthquake. The government of India is asking The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for some $1.5 billion to help rebuild Gujarat, the industrial center hit hardest by the earthquake. (5:00)

2/5/01 -- Earthquake Building Codes In the week since the devastating earthquake in India, many have asked a familiar question: Why doesn't the government enforce earthquake building codes? Martha Ann Overland looks at corruption in the Indian construction industry. (4:23)

2/7/01 -- India Relief , Host Bob Edwards talks with Daniel Wordsworth leader of the Christian Children's Fund relief team in India. The group is trying to provide help for children who were victims of the recent earthquake. (4:38)

2/11/01 -- Earthquake Revisited Two weeks after a 7-point-7 magnitude earthquake hit India, some villages are just beginning to receive tents to temporarily replace their damaged homes. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from Varsamadhi. (6:00)

2/12/01 -- India Recovery NPR's Michael Sullivan reports from India, 17 days after that nation's worst earthquake in 50 years. With aftershocks still shaking the ground and anywhere from 600,000 to one million left homeless, the challenge is now feeding, caring and housing the victims. (5:42)

2/18/01 -- Caste In India Essayist Ellis Cose just visited the Indian state of Gujurat. The recent Indian earthquake highlighted for Cose the persistent discrimination against the lowest level in the Indian caste system, the Dalit, or untouchables. (3:35)


The past, comrades, is fluid. Only the future is certain. El Omnipotente sat down to catch up on his father's dispatches after a long period of ignoring them. He was shocked to find himself referred to, still, as "El Omnipotente". The joke, he felt, had been stretched WAY too thin.

"I didn't know you were still calling me THAT!".

"Well, what do you want to be called?".

El Omnipotente gave it some thought. He cast his mind back to a time, many years ago, in the fourth grade, when he came home and announced to his parents that he was to be known, henceforth, as "David". It didn't last long, at the time, but it seems to have lingered with him.

El Omnipotente chooses to be known as "David". Baslow will go back and edit some of the more recent blogs invoking his name to reflect this change.

The moving finger writes and, having writ, goes back and revises the damned thing...


You'd be sore, too, if you had recieved four inoculations the day before. Two in one arm, one in the other arm, and one in his -- as the nurse initially referred to it -- "rumpelstiltskin".

No kidding.

"Okay", said the nurse. "Now I need to give you a shot in your rumpelstiltskin!".

David reports that he had a hard time suppressing laughter. The effort caused him to pause, leading the nurse to think he hadn't understood her. She leaned over to him and whispered, conspiratorially, "Your BUTT! I need to give you a shot in your BUTT!"

David was nearly overcome by hilarity but he bit his lip and soldiered on.

When they emerged from the room the nurse announced to Mrs. Baslow that he "took it like a man."


Last night, in the Baslow living room, Rulizow performed her new lounge act, singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" much the way Bill Murray took on "Star Wars". She sort of oozed around the song, caressing an imaginary microphone, adopting precocious poses, slinking here and there. We stood and watched, dumbfounded. "It's a JOKE!" she informed us, "Isn't it FUNNY?".

Well, yes, funny, certainly. Very amusing.

Frightening as all hell, too.


News in Brain and Behavioral Sciences - Human Nature News - Ian Pitchford, Editor

Ian Pitchford has initiated "Human Nature Daily". In "Arts-and-Letters-Daily" style it posts squibs-and-links in four columns: "New Books", "News and Views", "Papers and Commentary", and "Reviews and Discussion". It focuses on neurosciences, psychology, education, history, biology, and linguistics. The articles are well-chosen and wide-ranging. A weekly email newsletter is also available.

Friday, February 23, 2001


This picture shows Rulizow on the far left, in her role as Philostrate, secretary to Duke Theseus, the only cast member standing. Here are a bunch of pictures from the Pied Piper production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.


Things have been hopping here at the Baslow household over the last 35 hours or so. This is unexpected. Both Rulizow and David attend New York City public schools and have had the week off. They were supposed to be spending the end of the week, since their return Wednesday from a brief vacation in Frost Valley, quietly.

Midday, yesterday, David headed downtown to the Children's Express New York Bureau office to work on his weekly New York Post Online story (an interview with Seamus Farrow about a trip to Nigeria to immunize children against polio). When he arrived he learned that UNICEF had contacted Children's Express to inquire if they could quickly find a reporter, an editor, and an adult supervisor to be part of a press tour they were organizing. They intended to take a group of reporters to Bhuj, in the state of Gujarat, India, to report on the aftermath of the earthquake there. They would depart for India on March 2nd, in one week!

David made it known that he has a valid passport. He then phoned Baslow at work to ask if he would be allowed to make the trip. Baslow expressed some trepidation and said he would have to call back. He contacted Mrs. Baslow, however, and after a brief conference they decided to give their permission. David was notified immediately. He then conducted his interview with Farrow.

Things went quickly, after that. There were very few kids with valid passports and parental permission who could be contacted in the short time frame required by UNICEF. David was selected. It remained only to find out if Children's Express could, on such short notice, raise the money they would need to contribute towards the trip.

We could not, however, wait for the answer. We had to begin making arrangements. David was immediately scheduled to receive all the necessary shots the next day, at a midtown center for travel medicine. We researched Bhuj and Gujarat and the earthquage on the Web. We contemplated the gravity of the mission on which our son was being sent.

Today, David worked on his homework and walked his sister to a friend's house for a playdate. He then headed downtown to the travel medicine center where he met his mother. He got his four shots, received his malaria pills, and was extensively instructed about how to deal with food, water, and animals while on his trip. He learned from a CE staff member that he will stay in shelters and, perhaps, in a tent while on the trip. He will be working in Gujarat for four days. Mrs. Baslow was informed that a psychologist will counsel the kids both before they leave and after they return. When they got home, they began the phone calls to relatives, friends, and neighbors. Some were born in India and others have visited. Much advice was passed on.

On Monday, David will be briefed by UNICEF.

We are excited about this trip. We are also...sober about it..just a little worried. This isn't going to be a fun-filled tour to see the colorful sights. David will talk to people with harrowing stories. He will likely see disturbing sights.. We didn't do anything nearly this serious when we were his age.

Thursday, February 22, 2001


How Do We Communicate?, is an article by Dan Sperber first printed in How Things Are : A Science Tool-Kit for the Mind edited by John Brockman and Katinka Matson. In it, Sperber takes issue with the (now commonplace) model which holds that we can communicate with each other because we share a common language. Human communication, he says, involves more than simply encoding a message in a common language so that someone else may decode it to retrieve the message. Prior to, and necessary for, any human communication is the human ability to deal with "metarepresentations", which confer on us the basis for reasoning about what is in someone else's mind.

The common-language model tends to rely on a truth-functional semantics. The assumption is that literal truth is fundamental to human communication and that other forms (e.g. humor, poetry, irony, flirtation) derive their impacts from the ways in which they deviate from literalness. The recipient of such messages is assumed to evaluate them, first, for their literal correspondence to states of the world and then derive non-literal meanings from when literalness fails.

Relevance : Communication and Cognition, by Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, elaborates the view that human beings evaluate communication centrally in terms of relevance, rather than literal truth. This provides us with a much richer basis for communication.

In "Culture, Cognition, and Evolution", an overview article for a section of The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, edited by Robert A. Wilson and Frank C. Keil, Sperber and Lawrence Hirschfeld survey current thinking about these topics. There is an extensive bibliography at the end of the article.

Sperber expounds his own approach in the essays in Explaining Culture : A Naturalistic Approach. Here is Sperber's extended description of the book..

Sperber has edited a book about metarepresentation, Metarepresentations : A Multidisciplinary Perspective. In this essay from that book he discusses the evolutionary significance of the development of a capacity for metarepresentation.

Sperber's work in this area has led him to believe that the study of culture is best thought of as an "epidemiology of representations". Here he records his objections to memetic approaches to culture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001


Wallace Stevens, confronted with poetry he'd written in his college years and asked to comment upon it, is said to have responded "Some of one's early stuff gives one the creeps." So much for the warm glow of nostalgia.

Monday, February 19, 2001


Baslow finally saw Rulizow perform her role of Philostrate, Master of the Revels in A Midsummer Night's Dream, yesterday. It is a small role but Baslow was, nevertheless, impressed. She spoke her lines clearly and with understanding. She negotiated the tight squeeze resulting from an unfortunate displacement of a prop with aplomb. Baslow is amazed at how poised his daughter has grown to be. He is beginning to see the woman she is becoming.


2/24/01 Baslow's son has requested that Baslow no longer refer to him as "El Omnipotente". He suggested the name as a joke and it has worn thin. Baslow has agreed to go back a few posts and change "El Omnipotente" to "David". Confused?

David has consented to allow Baslow to tell you, Dear Reader, about his reporting for Children's Express, a news organization which produces stories by young reporters and editors for distribution to adult print, broadcast and interactive media. He joined Children's Express a little more than three years ago. In that time he has worked on dozens of stories, on a wide range of subjects. He has spoken with government officials, businesspeople, artists, scientists, health professionals, activists and, of course, kids of all kinds. He has travelled to Los Angeles to be part of CE's coverage of the Democratic National Convention. He's learned to collect facts, ask questions, and skeptically examine the answers. When, later this year, he becomes an editor he will gain experience in gathering together the research, the questions, and the answers to write a story.

His involvement with CE has given Baslow's son a voice in the world. It has allowed him to turn his serious concerns about the world into action. It has equipped him to seek answers to complicated questions. The Baslow family is proud of what he has accomplished.

Here are some of the stories David has worked on:

Boys Feel Image Pressures, Too
Harlem Gets Its Groove Back, But At What Expense?
School Segregation Thrives, Group Says
A Vote for Hollywood (a transcript and RealAudio version of this story is available here--contrary to the caption, this story appeared as part of NPR's live coverage of the Democratic Convention, NOT on "All Things Considered")
Life After a Spinal Cord Injury
Monsters in the Closet - When Kids Can't Sleep
A Drunk Driver Killed Her Brother (his first story for CE)


Amy Wilensky is a writer.
Dandelion : Celebrating the Magical Blossom

Amy Wilensky thinks Fairway, in New York City, is the greatest grocery store in the United States

Amy Wilensky loves cheese. She loves the taste of cheese, the geometry of cheese, the appearance of cheese, the mysticism of cheese, the discussions which surround cheese commerce.

Amy Wilensky sought out Steve Jenkins, author of a Cheese Primer, who allowed one customer to hold his wedding in the cheese department of Fairway.

Amy Wilensky has obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette's syndrome. She wrote a book about it: Passing for Normal : A Memoir of Compulsion

Look out, World! Amy Wilensky is warming up to olives!

Sunday, February 18, 2001


It was a busy day yesterday, for most of the Baslow family. Rulizow (Baslow's daughter, briefly known in these pages as Pippi) made her debut as Philostrate, Master of the Revels, in the Pied Pipers production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. There were performances at 3 P.M. and again at 7 P.M. There were two casts (Alpha and Omega) to divide the burden of performances but Rulizow performed with both casts. Mrs. Baslow attended the 3 P.M. performance with El Omnipotente. She brought with her brownies and cookies she had baked, which were sold at intermission. She returned home after the first performance but El Omnipotente stayed on to watch the second cast perform; several of his friends were among the cast members. He slept over at the home of one of those friends last night. Rulizow had dinner at the church where the play was being performed, so she did not come home between performances. She was brought home by the mother of another cast member.

This meant that Baslow and Mrs. Baslow had some time alone together. They used the time to watch more of Ken Burns' Jazz, which they'd taped when it originally aired and which they only sporadically get a chance to watch. They had some popcorn and, later, had some dinner together. They talked and relaxed.

When Rulizow got home, a little after 9:30 P.M., she was tired and exhilirated. Both performances, she felt, had gone well. Ordinarily it would have been time for her to go to bed but she was too excited to do so straightaway. We allowed her to watch more of Haven ( the four-hour miniseries about Ruth Gruber's efforts on behalf of 982 European Jewish refugees allowed to stay in the United States, during World War II) which we'd taped earlier in the week. She got to bed at 10:30. Baslow and Mrs. Baslow went to bed a within the hour.


Until Mrs. Baslow returned in the afternoon, Baslow himself spent most of the day yesterday thinking. He listened to some music (Django Reinhardt), certainly. He posted some links to his weblog, yes. He did some laundry; took collected food waste out to the composter maintained by the co-op; loaded dishes into the dishwasher. What he was REALLY doing, however, all this time, was thinking.

He was thinking, for the most part about:

about representations;
about cultural transmission;
about metaphor, categorization, and conceptual blending;
about the epidemiology of representations;
about how notions of value might derive from the choices we all make, from moment to moment, about where to direct our attentions;
about the systems which exist in conversation to bid for and to negotiate the conversational focus of attention;
about the conversational methods which exist that tie current instances of talk to previous instances, both explicitly (in speech reports) and implicitly (in the invocation of folk formulations); and
about how our thought, our conversations, and our sense of self and of experience seem to depend on narrative structures, on stories.

Baslow long ago gave up any thought of contributing any original thought (let alone research) which would advance the world's knowledge of any of these topics. It has been his hope, from the inception of this blog, that he would develop a discipline of daily writing which would become so natural to him that he would feel comfortable writing about ideas like these. That project is proceeding slowly. Baslow senses that he must simply plunge in, begin to write about these things. This, he realizes, will make a weblog which is already of limited appeal even less attractive. So be it. Baslow needs to find out what he has to say on these matters.

Saturday, February 17, 2001


The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor by George Lakoff

"In classical theories of language, metaphor was seen as a matter of language not thought. Metaphorical expressions were assumed to be mutually exclusive with the realm of ordinary everyday language: everyday language had no metaphor, and metaphor used mechanisms outside the realm of everyday conventional language. The classical theory was taken so much for granted over the centuries that many people didn't realize that it was just a theory. The theory was not merely taken to be true, but came to be taken as definitional. The word metaphor was defined as a novel or poetic linguistic expression where one or more words for a concept are used outside of its normal conventional meaning to express a similar concept. But such issues are not matters for definitions; they are empirical questions. As a cognitive scientist and a linguist, one asks: What are the generalizations governing the linguistic expressions referred to classically as poetic metaphors? When this question is answered rigorously, the classical theory turns out to be false. The generalizations governing poetic metaphorical expressions are not in language, but in thought: They are general mappings across conceptual domains. Moreover, these general principles which take the form of conceptual mappings, apply not just to novel poetic expressions, but to much of ordinary everyday language. In short, the locus of metaphor is not in language at all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another. The general theory of metaphor is given by characterizing such cross-domain mappings. And in the process, everyday abstract concepts like time, states, change, causation, and purpose also turn out to be metaphorical. The result is that metaphor (that is, cross-domain mapping) is absolutely central to ordinary natural language semantics, and that the study of literary metaphor is an extension of the study of everyday metaphor."

Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust by George Lakoff

"We may not always know it, but we think in metaphor. A large proportion of our most commonplace thoughts make use of an extensive, but unconscious, system of metaphorical concepts, that is, concepts from a typically concrete realm of thought that are used to comprehend another, completely different domain. Such concepts are often reflected in everyday language, but their most dramatic effect comes in ordinary reasoning. Because so much of our social and political reasoning makes use of this system of metaphorical concepts, any adequate appreciation of even the most mundane social and political thought requires an understanding of this system. But unless one knows that the system exists, one may miss it altogether and be mystified by its effects.

For me, one of the most poignant effects of the ignorance of metaphorical thought is the mystification of liberals concerning the recent electoral successes of conservatives. Conservatives regularly chide liberals for not understanding them, and they are right. Liberals don't understand how anti-abortion "right-to-life" activists can favor the death penalty and oppose reducing infant morality through prenatal care programs. They don't understand why budget-cutting conservatives should spare no public expense to build prison after prison to house even non-violent offenders, or why they are willing to spend extra money to take children away from their mothers and put them in orphanages --- in the name of family values. They don't understand why conservatives attack violence in the media while promoting the right to own machine guns. Liberals tend not to understand the logic of conservatism; they don't understand what form of morality makes conservative positions moral or what conservative family values have to do with the rest of conservative politics. The reason at bottom is that liberals do not understand the form of metaphorical thought that unifies and makes sense of the full range of conservative values."

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things : What Categories Reveal About the Mind
Metaphors We Live by (with Mark Johnson)
Philosophy in the Flesh : The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (with Mark Johnson)
Moral Politics : What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't
Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being (with Rafael Nunez)

Friday, February 16, 2001


Soundprint is a long-running radio documentary series. Starting with their 1999 season, each half-hour episode has been archived on the Web. Here is an alphabetical list of all the archived programs.

And here is a selected list, to give you an idea of the sorts of programs they air:

"Today, researches are conducting serious studies of telepathy, flying saucers, crystal power, orgone energy, telekinesis -- but is this science? Our program looks at the standards of methodology and proof as science tries to explain the real world around us."

Voices From the Dustbowl
"Many of the Okies and Arkies who poured into California at the height of the Dust Bowl ended up in migrant camps set up by the federal government. Using Library of Congress recorded interviews with the 1935-40 farm worker emigrants, our program tells their stories - about why they left, conditions along the way, life in the camps, and what life was like for a rural farmer back home."

The Message Behind the Media
"In Ontario, Canada, a class of high school students are taught to apply the critical tools they use to study books, poetry and short stories, to analyze the popular culture of movies, music and television. The media literacy course is mandatory in the Ontario school system and is being studied by other schools as a model. Students are learning to dissect the message behind the media to come to an understanding of the values of a consumer culture."

The Truth Behind the Liar
"How good are you at detecting lies? Lying is pervasive in everyday life, and researchers are learning fascinating things about how and why humans practice deception, and why lies can be hard to detect. Producer Judith Kampfner takes us into the lab to learn about the scientific detection of lying, the psychological reasons why people lie, and why some people are afraid to lie."

The Fogo Island Accordion Girls
"A group of five teenage girls on Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland, are preserving traditional culture with their accordion playing. But that doesn't mean they don't like to listen to heavy metal. Listen to the half-hour radio documentary, produced by Heather Barrett of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation."

Speaking with One Heart: The Mayan Languages of Mexico
"The Spanish conquistadors banned Indian languages and their priests burned scrolls of Mayan writings, but the Mayan words could not be silenced. Producer Katie Davis visits Robert Laughlin, an anthropologist who has lived with and studied the evolving language of the Mayans of Chiapas since 1960. They travel through the villages, hamlets and homes of Chiapas to discover the power of language in culture."


Baslow would like to be as straightforward as possible about this: He has lifted this link directly from Bifurcated Rivets, Lindsay Marshall's Weblog. It is an "Interactive Visualisation of London's Bridges, presented by the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London in association with the Museum of London's 'Bridging History' exhibition." Many thanks, Lindsay Marshall!


Courtney Kealy
"Ansonia Design: Truman Capote -- a tribute in black + white"
Laura Holder

Thursday, February 15, 2001


Tom and Ed seem to be catching some flak for their reviews of weblogs on Blog You!**3. (See the January 13th entries at both Ed's and Tom's blogs.) You will find no complaints here. We at the Baslow household have taken great pride and much amusement in the review Baslow's Electric OmniumGatherum has received. We treasure the four-and-a-half Sutherlands the site has garnered (marked up from four!). The Baslow children have taken to referring to their old man as a "feces-flinging monkey" and making cage-rattling noises when he says things with which they disagree. Mrs. Baslow, for her part, cites Baslow's "fluid transition to sputtering senility" frequently, to her friends. Emboldened by the accolades he received, Baslow made his "secret identity" public at his workplace and was rewarded with no end of questions about Tom and Ed: "Who are these guys? Do they matter? Are you going to sue?". In response, Baslow just smiles. He advises everyone else to do the same.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Tuesday, February 13, 2001


Online Articles and Multimedia

Buster Keaton: The Damfinos Official Website
Buster Keaton: From Butcher Boy to Scribe
Publicity Stills
Quicktime clips from movies
Juha's Buster Keaton Page (links)
Generally Buster
Jim Emerson: The Beauty of Buster
Derek Malcolm's Century of films: Buster Keaton: The General
Gary Johnson, The Art of Buster Keaton
Grant Tracey, Reviews of DVD editions fo The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and Battling Butler


The General
Our Hospitality/Sherlock, Jr.
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The Navigator
College - also featuring Hard Luck
The Three Ages
Seven Chances
Battling Butler

Buster Keaton - A Hard Act to Follow Set

The General
Our Hospitality/Sherlock, Jr.
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The Navigator
The Three Ages
Seven Chances
The Cameraman

Walter Kerr's The Silent Clowns. Perhaps the best book about silent comedy ever written.


Baslow's Electric Omnimugatherum has been reviewed by the useful consumer guide to blogs: Blog You! Blog You! Blog You!. The OmniumGatherum has garnered two Sutherlands each from Tom and Ed. There are kudos buried in the review but the predominant opinion expressed is that there is much Room For Improvement. Baslow, of course, concurs. He is a mere beginner at this blogging stuff. There is much yet left to learn. He will work on it. He would like to note, however, since one of the reviews raises the question, that he disposes of all of his bodily waste in a socially acceptable manner.

Monday, February 12, 2001


Early on, Baslow learned that if he was to survive his tender youth he would have to endeavor often to be right or to be funny, sometimes both at the same time. Thus, he learned to marshall his facts and his gags at a moment's notice.

The ability to summon facts (or, in a pinch, to fabricate them) has served him in good stead all these years. He collects facts. He hoards them. He is forever producing them with an appropriate flourish at just the right moment in a conversation.

His early reliance on laughter, however, has incubated within him an alarming disorder which occasionally manifests itself in excrescences of the most embarrassing nature. It is as if he were possessed by an intellectual herpes: Periodically, little clusters of attempted humor burst forth upon his lips.

The World is, on these occasions, embarrassed for Baslow. It shows this in the way it starts to edge away from him, uncomfortably seeking some spot that can be considered out of his range. Baslow usually presses on, unmindful of the discomfiture that is coming to a boil all around him. He usually thinks, in these situations, the is "on a roll".

Oh Baslow, Baslow! Hear yourself as you are heard! Desist before it is too late! Turn back, back, I tell you, before someone finally says the words which will let you know, unmistakeably, how far you have strayed from your goal: "That was a joke, right?"

Sunday, February 11, 2001

Some Economists Call Behavior a Key

If behavioral economics can bring cognitive psychology to the table of economic theory the result could be a richer, more realistic model of how people make economic decisions. The above-mentioned article in the New York Times introduces the approach.

This article from the Times Magazine Section, "Exuberance Is Rational", details Lawrence Thaler's work.

Its title plays off the title of the most popular book-length exposition of behavioral economics recently, Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance


Pippi, no doubt inspired by her Aged Parent, has established her own weblog. In the process, she has changed the name by which she chooses to be known. Please be so kind as to visit Rulizow's Freaky Page for her perspective.

Saturday, February 10, 2001


When Mrs. Baslow put her coat on this morning she felt something in the sleeve, a small protruberance. Then she felt it move. She did a frantic, if fetching, little shimmy to quickly slough off the coat, which fell to the floor. Then she tore her sweater off. Her children, not knowing the cause of this little bit of choreography, were highly amused. Baslow, unsure as to the cause, mischievously suggested she take off her shirt. She thought this was a good idea and did...but put it back on again, much too soon for Baslow's taste. She then expressed her belief that there was a mouse in her coat. The coat was picked up off the floor, laid on a table, and prodded and flattened by several parties, until a fast, small, grey blur emerged, jumped to the floor in full sight of the two resident cats, and hid itself behind a breakfront. Pandemonium briefly ensued among the members of the family, although the cats (both of whom are far too fat) seemed to take it all in stride. Now, twelve hours later, the mouse seems to be ensconced among the hundred bric-a-brac atop the breakfront. The cats sit and stare up. The family has gone to bed or, in Baslow's case, is about to go to bed. We all hope for a resolution of this situation.


From the very beginning, Woody Allen's work has evinced an interest in the uses of silent cinema. Without bothering to refresh his memory, just sitting here, Baslow can think of sequences and montages in Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper, Stardust Memories, Zelig, and Shadows and Fog which indicate that Allen has spent a lot of time studying and thinking about wordless film. Baslow thinks it is high time that Allen undertook the challenge of making an entire film without spoken dialogue.

Thursday, February 08, 2001


Baslow went to school with Julie Halston. When he returned to New York, fresh from his graduate school debacle, he spent a few years palling around with Julie, before he (and then she) got married. She possesses an almost purely witty intelligence. She can wring laughter merely out of a reading of a society-page story in the New York Times.

Julie is quite well-known among theater people. She served a long, hilarious stretch in Charles Busch's Theater-in-Limbo company. She has come to be a mainstay of the New York cabaret scene. She has appeared on television, in several movies and in many plays. She is, quite simply, hilarious.

Here is a Playbill bio...the Internet Movie Database's list of her film and television roles...and an online interview video.

Here's a picture of Julie with Carol Channing at the Drama Desk Awards, a few years ago.
This is InStyle's coverage of a party at which Julie entertained.
Here is a quote from Julie about the craft of writing one-woman shows.
About pet peeves.
WOMEN IN HEAT, at Caroline's Comedy Club.
Understudying Jean Smart, in You Can't Take it With You
The Best of Julie Halston


A man goes to Boston on a business trip. He hopes that he will be able to discharge his business obligations in time to allow for a little sightseeing, a little restaurant-hopping.

As it happens, however, business concerns occupy him his entire trip. He is in meetings from early in the morning until late at night, every day. He barely has a chance to grab sandwiches and some fruit in between.

By the end of his stay he has been able to see none of Boston. In the cab to airport he watches as the sights whiz by. Thinking of all the things he'd hoped to do he leans forward and wistfully asks the cabby, "For future reference, where could I have gotten scrod?".

The cabby brings the car to an abrupt halt, looks back at the man, and says "Buddy, I've heard that question a million times but that's the first time I've heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive!"

Wednesday, February 07, 2001

an Anti-Poem

Because we must prepare some sort of clearing
Where the new numbers may safely disembark
We work all night, sometimes nervously peering
Up, into the indivisible dark.

The numbers, we are told, will not resemble
Ideas of sets of oranges or curves.
We must not stand too close when they assemble;
The merest whiff of us would bruise their nerves.

We cannot guess what systems of equations
Encompass them; we must not think we know.
We will be awed. We will have reservations.
The numbers, though, oblivious, will grow...

Grow more complex, more beautiful, each second--
Though, given what they are, this can't be reckoned.

Tuesday, February 06, 2001


Baslow has a little story (a VERY little story) for you, Dear Reader. It is about something someone said to him, just today. You may have said something similar, in recent memory, or may soon say something similar. If you have or if you do Baslow would like you to come right back here and tell all of us how it is that you said it.

Baslow was riding the elevator to the the twelfth floor, where he works. With him was a co-worker. They were conversing. The elevator stopped at the eleventh floor, whereupon the co-worker said to Baslow, "This is me"...and departed.

"This is me", Dear Reader? She was talking about the floor of a building! "This is me"?

Sunday, February 04, 2001


El Omnipotente has been listening to Rage Against the Machine. It has led him to the following question, which Baslow cannot answer: "Do people listen to punk music because they are angry or do people get angry because they listen to punk music?"


Saturday, February 03, 2001


It is Saturday morning (at least, as Baslow writes this, for another ten minutes). Baslow forgot to turn off the alarm clock and was, consequently, awakened from a not-so-deep sleep at 6:15 A.M. He decided to feed the cats who would otherwise grow obstreperous over the course of the next hour or so. He then went back to bed.

At 7:55 A.M. he arose again. Mrs. Baslow was still asleep, as was Baslow's boy. Baslow's girl was away, sleeping over at the house of her friend, E.

Here a real-time bulletin must intrude: Baslow's boy has just requested that he be referred to henceforth, in these chronicles, as El Omnipotente. Baslow's girl asks that she be referred to as Pippi (as in "Pippi Longstocking", a name she was called at school when she briefly wore braids; She deemed this to be a better name than "Philostrate, Master of the Revels"). Their wish is my command (in this case). We now return you to the main flow of the narrative.

Baslow made himself a breakfast of toaster waffles, topped with strawberries, blueberries, banana, apple, and dried apricots accompanied by a cup of "Blue Ridge Blend" coffee provided by his niece, who works in a coffee shop in Virginia (thank you, Niece!).

While Baslow was finishing breakfast Mrs. Baslow came out into the kitchen. They went back to bed to spend a little time together. This is an important time of the week for the two of them. It is usually their most reliable and extensive opportunity to express affection (in numerous ways), discuss the state of their lives, talk about the kids, and contemplate the future. While they were thus engaged they heard El Omnipotente make his way to the shower.

They emerged after a while and Mrs. Baslow had breakfast while they sat and listened to Saturday Weekend Edition on the radio. Baslow had a second cup of coffee, this time a cup of "Cafe Verona" from Starbuck's, a gift from Pippi (thanks, Pippi!). He shared with Mrs. Baslow a sticky bun she had purchased at the Columbus Bakery the day before (thanks, Mrs. Baslow!).

They were joined by El Omipotente, who had finished his shower. For about ten minutes they talked with him about life, the universe, and everything. They checked on what homework he had for the weekend and when he planned to do it. They asked if he had any other plans. He reminded them that he was due, in a few minutes, to have his hair cut at a salon on Broadway.

Baslow began assembling his laundry, to take down to the laundry room. El Omnipotente departed. Pippi arrived home from her sleepover. Mrs. Baslow called C. and arranged for the two of them to see the 2:00 P.M. showing of Chocolat at the Sony Lincoln Plaza Theater. Baslow purchased the tickets online for them, to be collected at an ATM at the theater. Pippi did her reading homework. Baslow did his laundry. Mrs. Baslow took a shower.

Baslow returned from the laundry room to find El Omnipotente back, as well...shorn. There was a bit of a surprise, here. Since August, El Omnipotente has sported bleached blonde hair. He returned, however, with all of the bleached hair cropped away. He has returned to his natural dark brown color. Baslow's reaction was subdued, much to the disappointment of El Omnipotente. Pippi's reaction was a facial expression impossible to describe and somewhat annoying to her brother. Mrs. Baslow's reaction a few minutes later, emerging from the bathroom after her shower, was more dramatic and therefore more gratifying.

And so the day goes at the Baslow household. There is nothing extraordinary about any of it. Baslow will take Pippi and two of her friends to their rehearsal of Midsummer's Night's Dream. El Omnipotente will do some homework and then spend some time playing Final Fantasy IX. Mrs. Baslow will see her movie and pick up the girls.

There is just this: Thirty years ago Baslow would not have believed that any of this was remotely possible. Although, even then, he wanted this sort of domesticity for himself it would have been impossible to convince him that he could have a family such as he has, would end up spending a morning such as this morning. He is barely in touch, anymore, with the confused and pessimistic youth he was thirty years ago...just enough in touch to appreciate how far he has come.

Thursday, February 01, 2001


Baslow attended a Jewish religious elementary school (a cheder). Religious subjects and Hebrew were taught before lunch. Secular subjects were taught after lunch.

The education did not include much theology, per se. There wasn't much discussion of the purpose of prayer, the nature of god, or of Jewish metaphysics. Baslow was taught ancient Hebrew texts and their interpretations; Baslow was taught laws and how to argue about them; Baslow was taught elaborate ritual practices covering many aspects of life.

Since almost all of these were transmitted, more or less intact, over hundreds and thousands of years Baslow learned things whose pertinence to his life were difficult to fathom. He learned, for example, the design of the altar upon which animals were sacrificed many hundreds of years previously. He learned about the methods of ritual animal slaughter (although there were no labs, no demonstrations to enliven the proceedings). As an adult, Baslow would think that one could almost smell the camels in his education.

Baslow remembers these years as having been uniformly grey and almost Dickensian, in a Yiddish kind of way. When he left the cheder each evening and returned to his suburban home, grey in its own way, he nevertheless traveled between worlds, across light years.

At home there was, for example, television, a window onto entirely different ways of regarding one's life. There was, to be more specific, "Rocky and Bullwinkle".

Baslow loved "Rocky and Bullwinkle". He loved the puns, the irreverence, the goofy voices, and the accessible satire. He loved humor as a way of addressing a complicated modern life. "Rocky and Bullwinkle" grew to have an importance to him beyond that of a mere "TV show".

Theology was scarce at school but it wasn't entirely absent. Simply studying the texts one had to come to grips with many beliefs. The day came when it was necessary to talk about the M'shiach. You, Dear Reader, may be more familiar with this concept by another name, "Messiah".

The M'shiach, let us be clear, had not yet (and has not to this day) arrived. The M'shiach was a PROSPECT. There was evident discomfort on the rebbe's part when he began to talk about life after the arrival of the M'shiach. This was a topic whose varying interpretations had brought much grief to the Jewish community over many generations. He spoke about it only because he had to.

He related to the class some of the speculations about how human life would differ after the M'shiach. Baslow remembers, now, none of it. Baslow had only one question: "Rebbe, will there be television after the M'shiach is here?"

"Television?" said the Rebbe, startled. He seemed to think the question was some sort of trap. He spent a little time considering. "Will there be television after the M'shiach arrives? I would say yes, there will be television...but only educational."