Archive for February, 2010

Pagan Weddings Legal in Ireland

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2010 by Patrick

Pagan weddings have become legal in Ireland.

Following a five-year campaign the Irish state has now recognized the right of the Pagan Federation Ireland to perform weddings.

Makes me happy for those Irish pagans.  All the luck: they get to be Irish and pagan and now, married too!

Oh, I kid.  I like America; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  But it’s hard to imagine pagan weddings being recognized here.

ETA:  Well, I have been set straight, I surely have.  I stand corrected, and evidently the difficulty of imagining it in America is entirely on my part.  Thanks for letting me know.


Cave doodles may be earliest protowriting

Posted in Language, Speculation on February 23, 2010 by Patrick

Scientists studying cave doodles — outlines of hands, little patterns of dots, that sort of things — from prehistoric sites have concluded that these signs may have been a kind of protowriting.

“It was a way of communicating information in a concise way,” says Nowell. “For example, the mammoth tusks may have simply represented a mammoth, or a mammoth hunt, or something that has nothing to do with a literal interpretation of mammoths.” Other common forms of synecdoche include two concentric circles or triangles (used as eyes in horse and bison paintings), ibex horns and the hump of a mammoth. The claviform figure – which looks somewhat like a numeral 1 – may even be a stylised form of the female figure, she says.

Obviously, protowriting is one possible meaning.  I’ve often thought that an outline of a hand is an elegant signature.  But not all graphical organizations of information are writing.  Perhaps these signs had magical or spiritual import?  Could sigils predate writing?  Actually, I think they pretty obviously do: but whether these are sigils, protowriting, or — as we used to think — meaningless doodles is still an open question.


Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 by Patrick

Bach, why you gotta be that way?  I swear, I think I’m antilearning this song.  People around me who can play Bach are now discovering they no longer can, just because I’m studying it.  And it’s an easy, easy song and I can’t — get  — it.

What?  You wanted philosophy?  Bah.  Today you get ranting.

Curse you Bach, and your counterpoint too.

Air Force Pagans Get Worship Area

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2010 by Patrick

This isn’t entirely fresh news, but the Air Force Academy has constructed a Neopagan worship circle at the request of several cadets.

Good for them.

Of course, then someone left a large wooden cross there.

I wonder what the reaction would be if someone left a large wooden pentagram in front of a church.  I imagine someone would scurry to point out

“I’m not sure I would characterize that as a destructive act. A symbol put next to another symbol does not represent destructive behavior. It’s somewhat exaggerated — you have your symbol, we have our symbol.'”

Right, Fox News?  I bet “some” would say that, indeed.

Article for Ransom

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2010 by Patrick

I’m holding an article for ransom.  If you want to see it alive (and for free download under a creative commons copyright) please click on the “ransom this article” link on the right, under the “pages” heading.

Alternately, you can go directly to  Where you can see a regrettable video of me awkwardly and woodenly promoting this project, as well as a picture of me trying to eat a microphone at a poetry reading.

Bo Died

Posted in Language on February 4, 2010 by Patrick

Who’s Bo?  A language spoken on a small island off the coast of India, regarded as one of the very oldest languages in the world.  The last native speaker died today (or was it yesterday?)

Boa Sr died at the age of 85, the last native speaker of her language.  We know, now, that this language was doomed the moment the speaking population dipped below a certain critical mass.  In fact, it was doomed when it was no longer the first language taught to children.

Is this sad?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, it’s sad that we have lost the last source we had on this ancient and fascinating language, and what we have recorded now is all we’ll have, and all we’ll ever know.  It’s a bit of the beautiful diversity of language gone forever.

But it’s not sad, in that this process of language death is natural.  It has happened repeatedly throughout history.  The last speaker of whatever language was spoken in Europe before the Indo-European invasion eventually died, and no one spoke that language (or those languages) any more.  Yet Indo-European, which replaced it, split into hundreds of languages: Latin, Greek, the Slavic Languages, the Germanic and Celtic tongues.  Languages die, and languages are born.  As a linguist I know this.

But I’m still just a touch melancholy that part of the world’s diversity just faded away.  And the saddest thing, to me, perhaps, is that I only learned of the existence of Bo today.  On the day of its death.