10 April 2005

Books and things

I finished Jared Diamond's Collapse last week, and I found it extremely interesting. I'm a Cassandra from way back, and I didn't find his reasons for being 'cautiously optomistic' overly compelling. When I was reading the chapter on the Classic Maya I vaguely remembered something I'd seen in a doco about Mayan writing about how they constructed the word glyphs from syllable glyphs.

This reminded me of an argument I'd had on some mailing list with people who maintained that you could sensibly talk about pictorial language (i.e. semioticians who treat a painting as a text). I don't believe there's any such thing as pictorial grammar in any meaningful sense. But this vague memory of how Mayan glyphs are constructed seemed like it could be a counter-argument (e.g. the individual glyphs functioning as words and their poisition in relation to each other functioning as a kind of grammar and syntax). Then I found the site linked to above and realised I'd misremembered it.

So I went along to the local library and got out Breaking the Mayan Code by Michael Coe. This was also an extremely interesting book, if a little depressing. Basically it's all about how the decipherment was held up by academic egos and infighting, something that seems to be continuing to this day. Bloody academics have a lot to answer for.

I've borrowed an easel from some friends, which has made painting in my grotty room a whole lot easier. I'll try and stick the end of last week's efforts up tomorrow (I don't have the right bits to do so at the moment). Tomorrow I go back to work after what has been quite an extended break. I think it'll be a bit of a shock to the system.

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