Breaking the Ice

No etiquette about dancing at the Wulfshead, I noticed. And it's probably best that way. I think dancing should be left to the discretion of the patrons, don't you think? As a general rule, as most gals already know, accepting a drink from an unfamiliar guy is debatable because, well, it sometimes might give the guy unwarranted expectations, if you know what I mean. But then again, as both my good friends jazzolog and quinty will tell you, I have never been one to refuse a drink, now and then. And, hey, if a guy buys me a drink, I might occasionally feel like I owe him a dance. I don't mind. It depends mostly on the circumstances, and on the guy, obviously, and the music that is playing on the dance floor. Mr. Valenkine is so right about that: real men dance! And so, if Ben Trovato is buying a drink, here (or was it butter?), it would be lacking in grace not to respond in kind to such a gentlemanly invitation, wouldn't you agree? Besides, the man is dashing.

It's true, there are things which need no translation, even if Men are from Mars.

And, uh… Oops, wrong link!

Oh, well, never mind then. Anyway, one would have to be from another planet not to know the basic premise of the book. It goes something like this: Many years ago, Men used to live on Mars and women on Venus. They met, and fell in love and actually did enjoy and respect their differences, until they moved to Earth and forgot their divergent origins. And ever since, men mistakenly expect women to think and communicate and react the way men do, and women expect men to think and communicate and react the way women do.

As Yoda would put it, "Mm…a source of much frustration and suffering, those un
realistic expectations are." But then again what does Yoda know about women.

I don’t know, I try not to be rude and all that, but I think I’d tend to be partial to Susan Hamson’s Rebuttal from Uranus about the book on this one:
Despite its promotional hype, at its very core it is a sexist, patronizing, male-centered invective which does little more than perpetuate long-held negative gender stereotypes.
Still, the premise is a catchy one. I mean, what about this take on the topic by Simon Maxwell, If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, are the British from Mercury and the Japanese from Saturn?

The author’s got a point: Saturn and Mercury are on course, not for a collision, but for more closely synchronized orbits.

And the point is: diversity is a good thing.

But, diversity still needs to be managed: we all live on our own little individual island-planets, yet, no man is an island. Ay, there’s the rub. Bob Leckridge, here (Human Not Zombies: What Planet do you live on?), reflects on how Saint-Exupery, in The Little Prince, "has this theme running right through his brilliant, thought-provoking little story":
The philosopher, Ravoux, says that the main theme of "Le Petit Prince" is the difficulty we find in making connections. We all experience the world from the first person perspective, and we have no way of experiencing the world from another person’s perspective. Not wholly. Not fully. We use language and fashion stories to try to convey our views and our experiences to others. We use imagination and empathy to try and put ourselves in others’ shoes, but it’s not easy.
A tribute to The Little Prince by theOutcast
for the Amazing Astronomy contest.

Returning to Ben Trovato’s comment, the problem with Machine Translation (MT) has always been that in order to decode the meaning of a text in its entirety, the translator must interpret and analyze all the features of the text, a process that requires not only an in-depth knowledge of the grammar, semantics, syntax, idioms, etc., of the source language, but also a comprehension of the culture of its speakers. The translator needs the same in-depth knowledge to re-encode the meaning in the target language.

Just stating the obvious: it doesn’t seem like it is exclusively a MT issue. Nor can it solely be reduced to a language to language issue, either. A same word within a same language does not mean the same thing to us all. Nor does a same word necessarily mean the same thing to a same person from day to day.

xy (x=y ↔ (ϕx ↔ ϕy) and all that. Mathematics's a bitch.

As my good friend Heraclitus used to say, "you cannot go into the same water twice." (The man hated the work of Homer---what can I say, nobody’s perfect. The way I look at it, you've got to put that in perspective, you know: after all, didn't Heraclitus also think of Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hekataios as idiots?)

Reflecting upon this, I am reminded of how long mankind has been around and of how pretty much everything has already been said, in one form or another, and forever, it seems.

The language of mathematics, they say, is the only language shared by all human beings regardless of culture.

Insofar as this universe is concerned, "2 + 2 = 4" might possibly be truly universal. And so might prime numbers. I don't know.

But other fundamental forces (evolutionary forces) are at play. Certainly, Happiness is up there as a drive that seems pretty much universal on Earth amongst complex life forms. And so, is sadness, too. And possibly gratefulness, to a lesser extent. Kindness---and hatred, too. And fellowship (hopefully, for the sake of mankind).

And what of greed? Greed is good, they say - it is the motor that drives economic growth and human progress. Or is it, now?

The fact of the matter, is that, unlike mathematics, Kindness, Fellowship, or the pursuit of Happiness are elusive things to work with when in search of specific grounds of common understanding.

Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man) stated first what is now commonplace: evolution has progressed beyond the realm of mere genetic alteration. It has never, perhaps, been so obviously evident as it is nowadays with the advent of the internet and new forms of communication: Man has become largely epigenic, meaning that through its ability to store and recover information as images and written records, the human animal has created an environment as much conditioned by symbols and languages as by biological and environmental factors. I dance the body electric and, as that clip from the Wonder Years do remind us of so well, still the body thinks. Body jargon and hormone squirts, these begin to get at communication.*

It is an old saying: all the wisdom of the universe cannot match the alert willingness to dodge a violent blow*:


  1. Hmmm, I was going to ask Ms. Nausicaa for a dance...but I see she has a partner already. Ah well, I wonder if Quinty's in here yet. You know, I've known him for over 50 years and never have seen him dance. He prefers to be contemplative I guess.

  2. Well, theres dancing and there's dancing. I've always found that too much math gets in the way of both.

  3. Too much math? Is that a way of saying Monda thinks beyond 50 is too old to hit the dance floor? OK, let's have a jump tune and do our stuff!

  4. I assure that I'm over fifty, and I dance.

  5. But aren't those work boots you have on? I'm just in slippers.