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Morning News

Reading The New York Times this morning was very strange. The paper is now a column narrower than it was yesterday (and forever before). The Times says that it's a purely pragmatic move that will have no effect upon content, but that's manifestly impossible. The paper certainly isn't going to reduce its ad space. I'm not really complaining, though. The Times has lost so much of my respect in the past seven years that I consider dropping it at least once a week. "The paper of record" - hah!

There's an interesting editorial about language: is it a uniquely human thing, or can animals talk, too? All right, what's interesting is that the Times is editorializing about it. It seems to me to be a totally religious issue, where "religious" means "believing that human beings are not animals."

In a new book called “The First Word,” Christine Kenneally catalogs the complex debate over language and includes one particularly revealing experiment in which scientists put two male apes who knew sign language together. One might have expected these guys to start grousing about their keepers, to wonder at beings that are all thumbs and actually seem to enjoy giving away bananas. But, no, they started madly signing at each other, a manual shouting match, and in the end, neither appeared to actually listen to the other.

So, are two creatures actually conversing if they’re both talking and nobody is listening? Where does talking-without-listening put one in the animal brain chain?

Let’s see, talking without listening. Many wives can think of someone who might qualify. Teenagers do, easily. And parents of teenagers. Also, a lot of successful politicians and talk show hosts.

Whoever wrote the editorial left out Woody Allen's movies. Have you ever noticed how rarely his characters listen to one another?

The narrower broadsheets are really unsettling.


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