Tuesday, September 29, 2009

William Safire Z'L

William Safire died on Sunday. (Z"L stands for zichrono l'vracha the Hebrew version of 'rest in peace' which literally means 'his memory for a blessing'. ) In his regular column for the New York Times, "On Language," Safire explored the latest fads and foibles in English usage. It was one of the main reasons I looked at the New York Times Magazine. He had an awareness of Korzybski's work and in his writing mentioned Korzybski and general semantics every so often. In one of his last columns entitled "bending the curve", he wrote:
Symbols are fine; we live by words, figures, pictures. But as Alfred Korzybski postulated seven decades ago, the symbol is not the thing itself: you cannot milk the word “cow,” and as he put it, “a map is not the territory.” Arthur Laffer’s famous curve drawn on a cocktail napkin offers some economists a nice shorthand guide to his supply-side idea, but it is not the theory itself. Today’s mind-bending surge toward the use of words about graphs and poll trends — even when presented in color on elaborate Power Point presentations — takes us steps away from reality. There must be a curve to illustrate that, and I say bend it way back.
William Safire. A wise voice now silenced. But we still have the writings he left behind.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Institute of General Semantics International Conference - An Initial Report

I returned home on Monday from NYC. I congratulate Lance Strate on a fantastic conference program at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. Since I came back, a lot has been going on which unfortunately has kept me from writing about the conference until now. I'll start off here with a few relevant links.

The Fordham student newspaper had a nice write-up on the web on Mary Catherine Bateson who gave the 57th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture. Here's the link: Anthropologist Asks 'Age Old' Question: Does Older Mean Wiser? The short answer—No, but it can if you lead a life of learning and don't stop. A larger question she was dealing with—how do we promote and develop a time-binding culture? Short answer—Start here and now and with yourself. I found it an interesting talk at the end a long and fruitful day.

On Sunday, Mike Schilling on his blog Basket Case, had a post providing the beginning-of-chapter non-aristotelian quotes that A.E. Van Vogt used in his science fiction fantasy novel The World of Null A 'Null A' was Van Vogt's term for what Korzybski referred to as 'non-aristotelian' which was not anti-aristotelian for Korzybski, despite the implications of Van Vogt's usage. Interesting quotes Thanks, Mike.

Finally, I looked at the Sunday New York Times Magazine after I got home (yes, we get the NY Times in Los Angeles), where William Safire made a nice reference to Korzybski in his column bending the curve

Quite a korzybskian weekend for me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Hidden Side of Babel: A Review

Laura Bertone, as I noted last week, will receive the Institute of General Semantics' Hayakawa Literary Award for her book, The Hidden Side of Babel this weekend at the Institute's Across the Generations: Legacies of Hope and Meaning conference in New York City. Congratulations again, Laura! She wrote a wonderful book, worthy of receiving the prestigious award. My wife, Susan Presby Kodish, reviewed the book in the General Semantics Bulletin a while ago. Here is her review: Susan Kodish Review of HSB

I'll be attending the conference, which starts on Friday. Between preparing for the trip and researching the final part of my book, I confess that I haven't paid a great deal of attention to blogging. As you can see from looking at the program and presenter biographies available at from the IGS website, the conference has a large number of very interesting speakers—beside Laura Bertone—lined up (including your humble servant). I hope to discuss here some of the riches I've gleaned at the conference after I return to Pasadena.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Quote of the Day - 'Knowledge'

"Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of knowledge."
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel (from Jewish World Review)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quote of the Day - 'People'

"I believe people are well-intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortion of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences."
—Michael Crichton, "Author's Message," in State of Fear, p. 571