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Илья Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Илья" journal:

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December 24th, 2016
10:05 am

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Административное
Я присутствую на Фейсбуке и в Гудридз под собственным именем, а также на dreamwidth.org и reddit.com как ygam.

Товарищ майор, если вы это читаете: ваш национальный лидер - хуйло.

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December 23rd, 2016
12:00 pm

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Юбилей Юлия Кима


Я в сентябре сходил на его концерт; когда он вышел в фойе, я подошел к нему, приложил руку к сердцу, и сказал: "Юлий Черсанович, я вырос на ваших песнях; спасибо вам большое".

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December 21st, 2016
12:54 pm

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Frans de Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (2016). In a science fiction story by Ursula Le Guin, an intelligent laboratory mouse is put into a maze by a human scientist. The mouse thinks, "We are both intelligent creatures, we are both maze-builders: surely it would be quite easy to learn to talk together"; however, the mouse communicates by dance and the human by speech; the human doesn't recognize the mouse's intelligence, and the mouse chooses to die rather than be treated as an unintelligent animal. Unsurprisingly, real-life biologists studying animal cognition made the same mistake: they treated nonhuman animals on human terms instead of on their own terms. For example, when investigating whether chimpanzees can recognize faces, researchers gave them pictures of human faces, which chimpanzees found as hard to tell apart as humans find chimpanzee faces. When other researchers gave chimpanzees pictures of chimpanzee faces, they told them apart easily, and even pointed out which female was the mother of which infant. Investigations of whether chimpanzees have a theory of mind first tried to find out whether chimpanzees know whether a human knows something; later experiments switched to finding out whether chimpanzees know whether another chimpanzee knows something. Unlike chimpanzees, humans have language; a human who learns something can tell it to another human, a process chimpanzees don't comprehend, so from the point of view of chimpanzees, humans are omniscient beings.

Chimpanzees, whom de Waal spent his career studying, are the living animals most closely related to humans. They recognize individuals among themselves, know what the others know and feel, can plan for the future (for example, can gather straw indoors and carry it outside to build a warm nest if they expect the day to be cold), can perform a multi-step task (for example, take a large stone and carry it to another faraway stone, picking up nuts on the way, and then crack the nuts between the two stones). A group of chimpanzees in a Dutch zoo once picked up a tree trunk, far too heavy for any single ape, and used it as a ladder to escape from their enclosure and raid the zoo restaurant. Two chimpanzee mothers once saw their children fighting; each was afraid to break up the fight because she thought the other would rush to her child's defense; finally, one mother awakened an elderly alpha female, who grunted at the children, and they stopped fighting. Elephants are less closely related to humans, and they are intelligent in their own way. There are two African tribes living near a herd of elephants; one hunts elephants and the other doesn't; elephants from the herd can tell their languages apart, and also tell voices of men, who hunt the animals, from those of women and boys, who don't.

Throughout history, humans have been trying to define, what distinguishes them from the rest of the animal kingdom. Do only humans make tools? No, chimpanzees do, too, and so do birds of the crow family. Do only humans have a theory of mind? No, chimpanzees do, too. Chimpanzees can't understand human language, but can understand human body language very well. The thing is, the human mind was shaped by the same forces from the same raw material as the nonhuman animal mind, and so is the same kind of entity, and any attempt to study nonhuman animal cognition should start out with this fact.

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December 14th, 2016
01:26 pm

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Ах, Мікіта, Мікіта
Вчера вечером гулял по ЮТюбу, и обнаружил вот какую потрясающую запись. Я сначала не понял многих слов, но yuzhanin расшифровал большую часть, и я по смыслу восстановил оставшиеся:



...Collapse )

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December 12th, 2016
09:22 pm

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Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971). An otherwise perfectly ordinary man has a supernatural power: his dreams come true. He is compelled to undergo psychiatric treatment for drug abuse, and when his psychiatrist learns of the man's ability, he decides to use it together with hypnotic suggestion to make the world a better place. However, the man's dream-materializing unconscious fulfills the suggestions literally, like the monkey paw from the famous story; the world may become a better place in the suggested aspect but horrible otherwise. So the psychiatrist needs to suggest a new fix to the dreamer, which the dreamer's unconscious implements, which has more unintended consequences, and so on; the world quickly degenerates into a nightmare. In the hands of a certain drug-addled visionary this novel would be unreadable, but Le Guin is so skilled in prose writing and characterization that it reads beautifully.

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December 8th, 2016
01:59 pm

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William Golding, The Inheritors (1955, re-reading). In Northern Eurasia during the Upper Paleolithic, a band of eight Neandertals (two young men, two young women, and old man, an old woman, a little girl and an infant) think that they are the only humans (using the word to mean all animals of the genus Homo) in the world. They are omnivorous scavengers (modern paleoanthropologists think that the historic Neandertals were actually skilled hunters, though I don't know whether this was known in 1955), do not possess specialized weapons or wear clothing (both things are untrue of the historic Neandertals), live in peace and worship Mother Earth. Instead of complicated language and thought they have telepathy. The band encounters an expedition of about a half dozen behaviorally modern humans (a few young men, an old man, a young woman and a little girl), who travel in dugout canoes with sails, hunt with bows and arrows, make pottery, wear clothing, create art, drink mead, and have a religious ceremony that was apparently inspired by the deer-man painting at the Trois Frères cave in southwestern France. Unlike the Neandertals, modern humans are capable of murder and genocide, intrigue, and passionate sex. All this fascinates but confuses the Neandertals who observe it. Modern humans kill most of the "forest devils" and kidnap the infant on the request of one of them, a nursing mother whose own infant has died. Presumably, after the events of the novel the infant grew up among modern humans, and became as much an ancestor of the later humanity as they.

It is my understanding that Golding's novel was not meant to be paleoanthropologically accurate; he wanted to illustrate the concept of the Fall of Man from Christian theology: it is the capacity for thought of modern humans that makes them capable of doing good and evil. The problem is that the Neandertals are a poor model of the prelapsarian humanity. They were a sister species to modern humans, like coyotes are to wolves and polar bears are to grizzly bears, adapted to life in a different environment but fundamentally the same kind of creature with the same nature. At the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq there is a buried Neandertal man; according to the Smithsonian Institution's paleoanthropology site, he "most likely died from a stab wound to his chest"; another Neandertal man buried in the same cave "experienced a crushing blow to his head" and a fractured bone in his foot, but both injuries healed and he lived for many years after them; the Smithsonian site says that "he would probably not have been able to survive without the care of his social group". It looks like there was no Fall of Man because early humans were just as capable of doing good and evil as modern humans.

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December 3rd, 2016
12:06 pm

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Ursula K. Le Guin, Rocannon's World (1966). Earth now supports two species of orangutans, two species of gorillas. two species of chimpanzees, but only one species of humans. However, 100,000 years ago in addition to modern humans there were also the Neandertals, the Denisovans, the Flores hominin, and perhaps more species of archaic humans. Imagine a fantasy novel set on a planet that, likewise, supports several species of humanoids, some of them telepathic, like the Neandertals in William Golding's The Inheritors. The novel is embedded in the larger science-fictional Hainish universe of Le Guin, which thrusts the planet into an interstellar war between civilizations far more technologically advanced than those of the native humanoids, like neolithic New Guinea was thrust into the Pacific War between Japan and the Allies. Some of Le Guin's worldbuilding makes no sense, but the writing is so beautiful it makes up for this flaw (I wonder whether "ovipoid" mammals is a typo for oviparous, or an unexplained science-fictional concept).

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November 28th, 2016
02:14 pm

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Joan Slonczewski, The Children Star (1999). Over the last few weeks I read or re-read three novels and about 50 short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, which made a great positive impression upon me. The only other woman science fiction writer I've read in the last few years was Lois McMaster Bujold. I knew that Slonczewski is also a woman science fiction writer, so I checked out this book. However, the quality of writing is so poor, the characters so flat and the plot so illogical that I stopped reading after the first few chapters and skimmed the rest.

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November 27th, 2016
12:30 am

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Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969, re-reading). Since reading The Inland Whale by Le Guin's mother Theodora Kroeber, a retelling of nine California Indian legends, I came to perceive much of Le Guin's science fiction as fan fiction based on her mother's book: she describes humanoids slightly biologically different from Earth humans, and imagines their social organization, religion, legends. In this novel, the humanoids are neither inherently male nor female: they are sexless three weeks of the month, and can be either male or female during the remaining week (improbably, the year, day and month on their single-moon home planet are almost of the same length as on Earth); a pregnant or lactating humanoid stays female, but after the child is weaned, goes back to sexlessness. The genetics of it are never explained, nor is the lack of prohibition of incest except when conceiving children. It is hinted that the native humanoid protagonist broke the taboo when he/she had a child with his/her brother/sister, which caused the brother/sister to commit suicide; when the Earth human protagonist teaches him/her telepathy, the voice in his/her head is the dead brother/sister's.

Other than this concept, this novel is mostly an Arctic adventure story and a boring tale of political intrigue involving two governments, a medieval one (a sentence having to do with it made it to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: "The king was pregnant") and a cartoonishly totalitarian one. The writing is beautiful, though.

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November 24th, 2016
03:11 pm

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Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real (2012). According to the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Ursula Le Guin has written over 150 pieces of short prose fiction. This 2-volume anthology has 38 pieces that she herself chose as her best, the first volume more realistic ones, and the second volume more in line with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy. I read her collection The Compass Rose a week ago, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea some 20 years ago, so many of the stories were already familiar to me. One story in the Hainish cycle describes a race of humanoids where sixteen girls are born to each boy; in their society, men are little more than sex objects and inseminators, denied education and normal jobs. When interstellar masculinist imperialists demand that men be given equal rights, cultural tensions result. This story made me look up Fisher's principle from evolutionary biology: a mutation that brings the ratio of the sexes closer to 1 to 1 will spread through the population like wildfire; perhaps in the imaginary biology of the humanoids all such mutations are lethal. Another story looks at a mouse in a maze from the point of view of an intelligent mouse. The mouse refers to the human researcher as an alien, although mice have been pests of humans for 10,000 years; surely, they must have gotten used to us. There is a dark ghost story involving slavery, rape and murder set in a Bronze Age caste society. There is a story gradually revealed to be about a wolf who is a were-human. There is a story about feathered humanoids, among whom one person in a thousand grows wings during puberty and can fly. I cannot say that all or even most stories touched me emotionally, but a few did very much so.

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