Thursday, August 20, 2009

Telling Stories Saves the Species?

"The evolutionary argument for Dr. Seuss" is a review by Laura Miller ( of Brian Boyd's new book "On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction." The title of Boyd's book is a serious one befitting a five hundred and sixty page academic work whose jacket cover boldly states:

"Now a distinguished scholar offers the first comprehensive account of the evolutionary origins of art and storytelling. Brian Boyd explains why we tell stories, how our minds are shaped to understand them, and what difference an evolutionary understanding of human nature makes to stories we love."
Turns out, according to Boyd, people love stories because it gives humans an evolutionary advantage. What advantage could that be? you may ask. Well, scientists believe humans are the most social of all animals on Earth and it is this social cohesion that forms societies and civilization, enabling humans to efficiently propagate their species. How efficiently? Two thousand years ago world population was about 255 million. Today there are over six billion humans on planet Earth, with population projections reaching nine billion by 2050. That's some advantage! So how does literature play into all this? Vicariously, it turns out. Humans enjoy stories because they identify with characters who remind them of their real life counterparts and thus foster a vital human trait: Empathy. Not being a psychologist, I'm not all that sure how Empathy and Anger are able to coexist so easily in humans; but I digress... Simply put, it is this EMPATHY that enables humans to - with apologies to Mark Twain - "get some civilizin'."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

1. I'm stuffed and that's fine with me.
2. I'm originally from England, the land of freezing-cold winters.
3. I'm an amateur sleuth living and "working" in sunny Carmel, California.
4. I have over three hundred friends - and most of them are stuffed too.
5. I have deep, deep brown glass eyes.
6. My uncle is Lord Henry Houndsworth.
7. I play on a beach badminton team.
8. I once solved a "missing-bear" case in a single day.
9. I drive a 1967 Austin-Healey convertible.
10. I like reading poetry.
11. My favorite poets are Keats, Shakespeare and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
12. I love children - including the grownup ones.
13. My favorite children's book is Charlotte's Web.
14. I've met Princess Madeleine of Sweden (nice girl).
15. I like flying kites on the beach listening to Vivaldi or Mozart.
16. I never, ever skip breakfast (tea with crumpets and blueberries).
17. My favorite movie is Holiday Inn (Fred Astaire...and 'Linda Mason').
18. I like reading literary fiction.
19. My favorite authors are Fitzgerald, Orwell and David Mitchell.
20. My favorite book is The Great Gatsby,
21. I love playing Scrabble.
22. Carrot cake is my favorite dessert (after chocolate mousse).
23. I also love truffle mousse.
24. My favorite wine is...whatever you are serving
25. I've been in outer space.