January 2008 Archives

The first secretary

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"to better capsulate syllables and inflection, however, Tiro supplemented these latin scrawls with Greek shorthand"

pg. 7-8 His Master's Voice, Di Renzo


Incredbly frustrating it would be for me to have someone doing all my work for me. Cicero was lost while tiro was sick. What would he have done if Tiro had died? Scribes, or secretaries to the modern world, were highly valued back then. I bet that if you went to your 10 year high school reunion and told your ex-classmates that you were a secretary, no one would be impressed. Being able to write was highly valued because many people could not. In today's sense, buisnessmen who speak fluent chinese are highly valued because many cannot. And shorthand is not "the lowest form" of writing. I've seen shorthand and I cannot decipher it. Writing in shorthand is a special skill. To invent symbols that capture inflection as well as represent the word is amazing. Modern writing cannot do that, aside from line directions in a play. We have all read MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, but to hear the man speak it himslef is an entirely different experience. Tiro was a genius.


So it's not their fault they're dumb

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"the term 'illiterate' suggest that persons belonging to the class it designates are deviants, defined by something they lack....without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does"

pg 316, Ong, Writing Material

This first page gave me a lot to think about. For some reason, this passge reminded me of a certain group of people in my high school. There are a lot of poor, illiterate people in my hometown. The kids who couldn't read were stuck in Special Ed alongside the kids who had to wear helmets, ate their own boogers, and flashed other students in the hallways. Yet many of these illiterates seemed normal. In fact, I ate lunch for weeks and had normal teenage conversations with this girl Nicole before I even found out she couldn't read. I was baffled; she was as normal as you or me, but she was stuck in special ed and treated as some kind of fdumb freak by a lot of people because she couldn't read. Yes, Nicole's grades were not good at all, but that was not because she was "dumb". For many, dumb means you are born stupid. Humans are not born stupid. We begin life with our mind as a blank slate, a dry sponge if you will. As life progresses, we learn by observing what those around us do. Then, at about age 4 or 5, we are sent off to school to learn by a different method-reading. Reading means the accumulation of knowledge. So illiterates are not "stupid". Their minds just are still somewhat blank.

So Nicole appeared dumb because she hadn't learned to read. In reality, she appeared dumb because she didn't read. If Nicole someday learned how to, she would catch up to the rest of us.

what a pina it must have been to take notes

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"music is a language in its own right"

This book contained a lot of what I expected: a big focus on egyptian, greek, and chinese characters. What was interesting was finding out all about the forms of writing that weren't lettered. Think how long it woul have taken to take notes in school way back when, especially when observing the intricate detail of the picto/ideaograms. It's true that writing is an art, but it was really an art back in ancient times. Maybe someday, when our script has evolved into something farther, my notes from english class will be hanging up in a museum somewhere.....

and yay for the book calling music a language.

Absolute Chair-ness

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" writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence." Plato pg 362 Phaedrus

This thought ties right into another work of Plato's that I read last semester in Form and Analysis 1.I believe the story went as such:

you have a chair. but is there a concrete definition of a chair? we have folding chairs, arm chairs, director's chairs, etc. If there is one concrete "absolute chairness", then all others participate in chairness, but not absolute.

meaning that the absolute chairness are the words spoken from the author's mouth, the concrete truth. The other variations of chairs are imitations, and an imitation is a step away from truth, absolute chairness.

so if rhetoric is absolute chairness, then the written word may be an armchair. And now we have yet another technological breakthrough that some may believe threatens the written word medium: the electronic world. So now we are two steps away from the truth?

But at the same time, speech takes away from the truth. We all have played that whisper down the lane game when we were children. The phrase uttered at the beginning of the game was never the same at the end. Spoken stories step away from truth as well. In the whisper-down-the-lane case, moreso than does the written word.

We can never be sure of absolute chairness. God is the only one who knows all the truths of the universe.

anyone else think that Plato contradicted himself?