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A READER'S JOURNAL
The SPIZZNET File
An Adventure in Interspecies Communication
Published by Xlibris/NY in 2000
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2009
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First things first: why is this man reviewing his own novel? And why did he take so long, some nine years to get around to it? As the author, let me say that after having read and re-read my novel for some 17 times back in the year 2000,I couldn't bear to read it again for a long time. As the reviewer, if I haven't read a book in that long a time, I need to re-read it in order to review it the way I like to review books, which is to study it in detail and share with my readers my understanding of what the author is saying, quoting examples from the text which illustrate his points and my points best. George Bernard Shaw famously said, "I often quote myself; it adds sparkle to my conversation." Who best to copy than GBS?
The author seems to tell stories from his own life, such as the story of how he bought his MG-TD. I've seen photos of that tiny blue sports car which he first called "Blue Baby." He said that as soon as he recalled the episode of the baby hamster his stepson had named Samson who later pushed apart the columns of his cage to escape, he thought better about unleashing a metaphor of weakness upon his new acquisition and settled rather on the California License plate name TUFF-TD, and when the TD survived a 3,000 mile trek from Anaheim, California to Foxborough, Massachusetts, he was glad he had chosen the new name. Here he is remembering the night he and his wife drove into the Hollywood Hills to buy the TD.
[page 12] They had been poring over newspaper ads for weeks and decided to look at cars finally. Earlier that day they had seen an average looking TD for sale for $1000. That night they met an unemployed social worker who was living in a groundskeeper's cottage on an estate overlooking Griffith Park. He was baking organic bread to eke out a living and had spent the past eight years restoring his TD to mint condition. It had nine coats of a deep blue Chinese lacquer that you could get lost in if you stared at it, Pirelli radials, overhauled engine, re-chromed accessories, and new calfskin upholstery. It was picture perfect.
As they walked behind the owner returning from the garage, she watched Robert remove two hundred dollar bills and a fifty and place them in his front jeans pocket. That left only $1400 of the asking price of $1650. Later around the table, the car owner said he had someone coming to pay $1650 on Monday. Robert told him we wanted the car and opened his wallet wide so all could see its contents, removed all the bills from it and proceeded to count them out on the table, one at a time, allowing the starving bread baker's eyes to follow each bill in its trajectory to the top of the pile of bills. ". . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . fourteen. There! That's all I have." Time stood still. Nobody spoke. The car owner hung suspended in time and space, balancing TD and fourteen one hundred dollar bills. Slowly he moved his hand across the table and retrieved the bills and the sale was done.
The second story that I recall the author telling me about is the one involving his 29th birthday on July 20, 1969. He grew up noting how there were no important dates on the calendar on his birthday, no presidents born, no great generals born, no religious holidays, no Pearl Harbor day, no famous events of any kind commemorated, only a normal, uneventful day a couple of weeks after Independence Day in sultry New Orleans. Some names have changed but the events remain the same.
[page 16] It was his birthday and Robert and Edith had come over to watch the first man set foot on the moon with her and Paul. She chuckled as she recalled her cosmic joke: the green cheese ball with craters and a small American flag on a toothpick stuck into the top of the miniature moon. "When we started eating the cheese ball, we didn't know for sure if the moon was really made of green cheese, but before we had finished eating it, we knew for sure it wasn't.
Recently a woman asked him what his relationship with books was, and I heard him reply, "I like to roll around the floor with them." This was in fact how he began reading books. A neighbor lady whose father owned the Auto Repair place across the street gave him a box of Children's Classics and he read them on the floor of the bedroom each afternoon while his three younger brothers with whom he shared the bedroom were outside playing. As soon as the first library in Westwego opened, he became its most frequent borrower, always taking out the maximum of five books at one time. The librarian never refused him a book, except one time she came close, but relented after he answered her questions.
[page 21] Once she almost did, asking him questions about why he wanted this book. "It's just about the adventures of this little guy named Spiro," he said. The drawings of Spiro's journey from the surface of the skin, through the blood stream, into the eyeballs and all over the body fascinated him, and he read it repeatedly. Only years later did he discover that it was the story of the progress of a syphilis infection in the human body. At the age of fifty he met his librarian at a new library dedication. She still remembered him. "I always wondered if you really read all those books or just left them up on the icebox," she told him.
This librarian was Edith Lawson, whose name now graces the large modern library located only a half block from his long-time childhood home in Westwego. Thanks to her indulgence, he had been able to read all of the Doctor Doolittle books, over thirty of them, in the small town library as a boy. He wondered a lot about how man might communicate with animals over the years. While he was at Louisiana State University, he encountered the story of "Clever John", the German horse who had become an international celebrity, until that fateful day on which an even smarter doctor had discovered the trick.
[page 22, 23] The story of Kluge Hans (Clever John) taught him the difficulty and the pitfalls of inter-species communication. A horse trainer had discovered a horse that could answer questions by tapping out the answers with his hoof. Hans could not only add and multiply numbers with ease, but he could also tell people about their personal lives, such as how many children they had. Answers such as these seemed to place the horse in the category of mind reader and a scientific team arrived to investigate.
The first thing they did was to remove the trainer from the room. This did not reduce Hans's ability to answer questions with accuracy, but it did convince the team that it was not signals from the trainer that cued Hans as to the answer. They became increasingly perplexed. It began to appear to them that they had discovered the first example of inter-species communication, and it was definitely two-way communication. They had become convinced that, given vocal cords, Hans would be quite a conversationalist, a veritable Francis the Talking Mule or a Mr. Ed the Talking Horse.
One scientist had an idea. He removed from the examination room all of the people who knew the answer to the next set of questions, and Hans was not able to answer a single question correctly. Unbeknownst to the trainer and scientists, Hans had been picking up subliminal cues to stop tapping from whichever person knew the answer to a question. He had learned to generalize from his trainer's signals to other people's signals, signals they themselves were not aware of giving. Hans was a smart horse all right, but no paragon of inter-species communication, no Francis or Mr. Ed, just a clever circus act. Talking with the animals like Doctor Doolittle would remain a dream for now because that essence of communication — understanding — was missing.
This next story apparently came from the author's second wife, as I've heard him tell it a few times. Over the years of inflation since the telling of the story, the price of the expensive cheese should be increased to $60 a pound for it to make sense. When someone looks down on you as if you were unable to afford some luxury, this story may provide you with one way of defusing their scorn.
[page 33] She told him the story about her grandmother who had gone to the butcher's to buy some Roquefort cheese. It was a very expensive cheese, but as a luxury her grandmother allowed herself to buy a couple of ounces from time to time. There was a new butcher that day and, when she asked if he had any Roquefort cheese, the butcher looked at her in disdain and said, loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear, "Yes, it's six dollars a pound!" Her grandmother girded up her loins, and without missing a beat and told him, equally loud, "I'll have six pounds!"
This next metaphor came originally from Immanuel Velikovsky who suggested in his 1952 "Worlds in Collision" bestseller that Venus during a close approach to Earth appeared a shiny pearl in a dragon's mouth to the peoples of Earth. In ancient Chinese vases, the dragon chasing the pearl or having it in its mouth are ubiquitous images. The difference in the position of the pearl indicates that the dragon was really a flowing of black smoke which triggered archaic memories of a much earlier period in Earth's evolution in which dragon-like beings lived in the upper atmosphere.
[page 45] One day a long, black, sinuous cloud appeared coming out of the star, which now resembled a huge shiny pearl the size of the moon in the sky. We felt deep rumbling in the sea. The crash and crackle of gigantic lightning bolts told us the crisis was near. The surface of the sea became inhospitable, filled with huge waves tossed about by high winds, and even the lowest depths of the sea vibrated with loud booming sounds.
How could two people be in love with each other for years and not know it? How could they dream of each other at night and remain only friends during the day? Perhaps the world has "leaky margins" as Jean Houston said in a workshop I attended once. What Robert Mornay was feeling for Ingrid had, unknown to him, been reciprocated by her. He had always been in control before, but not now, something new and exciting was happening. The quotation in the next passage is from a speech on second order cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster. From Chapter 4, The Quake:
[page 52] Now he experienced being out of control, and yet deep down he felt the possibility that this was indeed but a new form of control, new certainly to him. Perhaps this is what freedom, real freedom, feels like. He remembered a quotation from Jose Ortega y Gasset: Note: "Man does not have a nature, but a history. Man is no thing, but a drama. His life is something that has to be chosen, made up as he goes along, and a human consists in that choice and invention. Each human being is the novelist of himself, and though he may choose between being an original writer and a plagiarist, he cannot escape choosing. . . . He is condemned to be free." As he was pondering these things, his eyes caught sight of a dolphin swimming past the marina.
Are you the novelist of your own life or is someone in your past or present writing the script for you, up until now? Is it scary to take up the pen yourself, right now, and change your dress, your address, your work, your life? Let that scare be recognized as excitement and use that energy to move you in the direction of your new script, one written by your self, for yourself. Shed the past as a blue crab does its cramped shell, and move out into the water as a soft-shell crab, finding shelter in underwater vegetation while your new shell hardens into shape. This is what Mornay did on the marina that day.
[page 52] He had not dreamt of dolphins at all since he had met Ingrid and now they had entered his waking dreams. His journey into the realm of feelings with Ingrid was akin to his becoming a dolphin and diving into the ocean. So long in the dry air of thought, where subject-object science exists, he had finally plunged into the warm fluidity of the watery kingdom of feelings. And there, he was discovering, was where the dolphins live. His first discovery of feelings with Ingrid had surfaced into his consciousness, but the other developing feeling relationship with dolphins would not surface for several years yet.
Did you know that dolphins are polite? It was one of the things the author discovered as he read through dolphin lore in his research for this novel. When asked why spizualization (dolphin speak/see) will be harder to accomplish by humans than phizualization (dolphin hear/see) Mornay explains how the so-called politeness of dolphins is really a necessary process for their communication with each other.
[page 81] "You seem to be saying spizualization would be much harder. Why is that?"
"The primary reason is because you will have to create mini-movies to communicate with dolphins because that's how they communicate with each other. They store memories of the component parts of their environment and experience and then parse them into a coherent story that they spizz to one another. That's why dolphins are thought to be so polite — it's not politeness that prompts only one dolphin to speak at a time, so much as the nature of dolphin communication that requires one dolphin to finish showing his mini-movie before the next dolphin begins his. In fact, dolphins see underwater only when they're phonating. If they stop phonating, it will be as though they're in a dark movie theater where all they can see is the movie screen on which other dolphins are spizualizing."
My favorite story in the book is the one about Alfie the dog who is bitten by a snake and dies, and then later appears in Mornay's dream to teach him how the processes of phobic response and grief are inversions of each other (Chapter 5, The Discovery, Pages 82 to 85). If you use the grief process to deal with a phobia, the phobia goes away; if you use the phobia process to deal with grief, the grief goes away. This was an insight that the author received from the NLP pioneers Richard Bandler and John Grinder when they were first getting started in their ground-breaking field of psychotherapy. To grieve, one must image the loved one in a scene with oneself as if it were projected on a movie screen, that is, in a completely dissociated state. No matter how good the scene you're replaying, you will feel bad about not being with the loved one. To have a phobic response, one must image the fearful scene as if you are playing a role in the movie, in a completely associated state. If you remember the fearful scene like a grieving person does, in a dissociated state, the phobic response will not arise. Police who say to rape victims, "Tell us what happened to you." will likely cause them to recall the event in an associated state and be terrified. People who learn how to recall a loved one in an associated state will be comforted by feeling the loved one next to them again and the grief response will go away.
The Temple to Apollo is located at Delphi which is named after the dolphins whose species name is Delphinoidea. The author gives us an imaginative explanation of the connection between Apollo (aka Phoebus), Pythia, and a dolphin named Alexikakos when the Dolphin People speak at the end of Chapter 6, pages 92 to 94. Here is the last two paragraphs:
[page 94] Pythia was the most famous of the Delphic mediums and held her position well into her later years. Here are some views of Pythia taking questions from a petitioner, receiving answers from Alexikakos, and relaying the answers from the oracle. Through her accurate predictions, the fame of the Delphi Oracle spread throughout the Hellenic region and smaller oracles were established on some of the smaller islands.
The name Phoebus meant "bright" and "pure" in ancient Greek. The legend of Apollo grew and he soon became deified as a sun god. The many myths centering on Apollo can be understood today as an attempt by early man to explain in metaphor the quantum leap of consciousness that carried the Human People into discovering the existence and usefulness of feelings.
In this next passage, written in the 1990s, the author gives us a view that some parents are already seeing through the newest ultrasound imaging equipment which wasn't even on the drawing boards ten years ago. Several months ago I received an email from my grand-daughter contained an ultrasonic photo of her son-to-be Preston that had been made just the previous day or so. Not in color, but much clearer than any I had seen of our previous grand-children when they were born. The scene is a kindergarten classroom to which Dr. Mornay is talking.
[page 97] "Do dolphins see in black and white?" asked a small towheaded boy who was holding the sonogram.
"Good question. No, they see in full color just like we do with our eyes. They also see much clearer pictures than the sonogram you're holding." I pulled out several full color photos of the same six-month fetus I had brought with me. These pictures were made with ISC's special phizualization equipment used for dolphin communication.
The children ooohed and aaahed when I showed them the full color pictures of the same fetus. In these pictures the detail was very sharp, the skin was pink flesh colored (although transparent), the eyes were blue in the frontal shots, and except for the transparency of its skin, looked as though the photos had been taken of the baby in its bassinet.
"Wow, look at that! You can even see it's fingernails," a little boy in the front row blurted out.
"This photo was made with our new dolphin eyes machine," I said. "With it we can take pictures like this of the inside of humans and animals in more detail than ever before. This picture was made with the equipment that will allow us to talk with the dolphins."
When this novel was written the idea of moving logos was far-fetched, but that technology is here thanks to broad-band connections. The author imagined the dolphins as identifying themselves to each other by speaking moving images which represented their identity.
[page 102] Suddenly Charlie squealed with delight as on the video monitor Nimrod disappeared and was replaced by the image of a human hunter with a bow and arrow. It seemed quite strange to Margaret, but not to Charlie.
"Here Nimrod introduces himself to us as the 'Hunter,' which is what 'Nimrod' means in Hebrew. It is a very old name, first encountered in the bible as the name of Noah's grandson. Now watch as Demeter introduces herself."
The smaller of the two dolphins swam over and magically transformed herself into a beautiful woman walking through a field of waving, golden wheat.
"Demeter was the Greek goddess of grain, of cereals. Dolphins use pictorial names, somewhat like our American Indians with names like Dancing Bear, or Flying Eagle, except dolphins can speak the moving pictures that are their given names. They also have a remarkable knowledge of Greek mythology for some reason we have yet to discover. Nimrod was named after the grandson of Noah of the Bible, and he has already told us some stories that date from biblical times. His name means Great Hunter and he seems to be one, from the stories of his exploits we have seen so far."
Singers learn songs by listening to them and repeating the sounds they hear. Dolphins learn to speak the same way by mimicking the sounds they hear and repeating them, only the sounds they hear contain pictures. The author imagined Robert and Ingrid in a romantic setting alongside the Grand Canyon at night as they together discovered how dolphins see by repeating the sounds they hear.
[page 106] "While driving Ingrid and the kids to Las Vegas, I was reading Paul Watzlawick's book How Real Is Real? I was taken aback by what he said about dolphin speech, 'To make them audible to the human ear, these signals would have to be brought down to a frequency within the human range.' Even if we did this, the slowdown in time would put the human observers hopelessly behind within seconds, making a conversation impossible. There had to be something intrinsically wrong with this approach."
"Sounds like time for a new paradigm."
"Exactly! But what new paradigm, I didn't know yet. One night as Ingrid and I sat by the side of the Grand Canyon, I explained to her how dolphins see their surroundings by creating pictures from the sounds reflected from them. She's an excellent singer, and, I suppose, that's what inspired her to make the suggestion that if dolphins can hear pictures, then maybe they can speak pictures."
"Astounding! Robert, that's the new paradigm! Right?" Richard was excited now. "Yes, yes, . . . dolphins communicate using pictures, pictures created by sounds, both input and output. That solves the slowdown problem you mentioned earlier. That opens the possibility of real-time conversations with dolphins if we can learn to speak and hear pictures in the same way they do."
"Right. I had realized that the attempts to slow down wide bandwidth dolphin audio to narrow bandwidth human audio were as foolish as for extra-terrestrial beings to attempt to make sense of our television signals by slowing them down into radio signals. What they would need to recognize is that the nature of television is visual pictures, not sounds, and then to create a device to make television signals intelligible in real time as pictures. Which is what we do every day using a television set."
If humans are able to communicate with dolphins, will the creatures become just another wild animal that we have domesticated? Mornay didn't think so.
[page 119] "I don't think of it that way. Man is the fiercest creature on the earth, responsible for more deaths of animals and men than any other species. To learn to cooperate as equals with a creature of the wild will be a humbling experience, and may lead to a world in which man makes peace with all God's creatures. When that day comes, man will have domesticated the wildest animal of all, man himself."
Recently the author told me he was taking a course from Professor Jeanette Norden of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and when taking about the eye she showed the image of a dog in front of an eye and the inverted dog back on the retina. This is kindergarten stuff compared to the author's analysis in Chapter 10 of what constitutes seeing after the upside-down image reaches the retina. He describes three essential processes necessary for seeing in the human and shows how those processes must be accomplished by computerized equipment to communicate with dolphins. There must be a process of construction of visual images in the brain, a training process, and a process of aligning images with the real world (mostly at under the age of one year old).
The author has done the world a big favor by delineating and describing these three otherwise unconscious processes involved with seeing. The process of construction of visual images in the brain which are projected outward on the world is rarely recognized, even by medical experts such as Norden. Without the training process which one must do in order to construct those visual images for projection, one can only see blotches of color as Virgil did when his sight was restored at age 40 in the Oliver Sacks' story "To See and Not See."(1) That training process is best done before the age of five while doylic memory is still being created so that the skills are stored as unconscious processes. Virgil's severe difficulties arose because he had to learn consciously how to train his eyes to see and this learning turned him from a functional blind man into a non-functional seeing man. And last, the alignment process must be done which requires that one have redundant signals about the position of objects in the world: being able to manipulate the objects, receiving and interpreting gravity signals with a working vestibular system, etc. In Chapter One of The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, he describes a woman who has lost 99% of her vestibular function and the world looks and feels like it's made of a vibrating jelly; it has no solidity to her. These are three vital aspects of the process of seeing which the author of the Spizznet File highlights in his book. This book is also about human seeing as well as dolphin seeing, rightly understood.
Human beings also spizualize, but not as efficiently as our dolphin friends, because we must use artifacts in order create visual representations of our thoughts: photographs, drawings, models, prototypes, and hand gestures. During the process of talking, hand gestures and bodily motions are the typical methods employed by a human speaker. I've worked alongside people in a nuclear power plant and observed them describing to me the location to place a warning tag on a complex valve system that they are familiar with. By the time they finished talking, they had built by combinations words and hand gestures, a 3-D representation of the valve mechanism which existed in a radiation hazard area and showed me exactly where to place the tag on that complicated structure in as short a time as possible. Dolphins would have simply spizzed their recollection of that valve and pointed to the position; humans, unable to speak visual images, need to use other means to create that image. The ability to make 3-D walk-through's of proposed architectural renditions has arrived and these are examples of humans doing through artifacts (computers) what dolphins can do naturally.
It is well known that dolphins have a natural way of doing synchronized swimming, obviously helped in this by their ability to spizualize what they are planning to do next and the other dolphins can simply jump into the spizzed image as well as repeat it for the next dolphin in line. In Chapter 10, Dr. Mornay adds that dolphin choruses could sing ballet! Just as a human chorus consists of multiple voices singing different notes which harmonize, dolphins could spizz moving images whose motions harmonize with each. Dr. Kiley is describing the computerized spizznet interface to allow humans to create spontaneous questions of dolphins:
[page 139, 140] In the six to nine o'clock sector were the auditory icons. These were the dolphins' version of music, in other words, visual music, fluid visual sequences of images. Mornay had observed this occurring in dolphin spizualizations, and guessed it was a kind of music. He had noticed that whenever Nimrod created such a sequence, Demeter would add objects to the scene and the two objects seemed to dance with each other.
Dr. Mornay theorized that the two components of the scene added by the different dolphins were like the separate notes that when played simultaneously create a chord in human music. That led him to say that dolphins sing ballet; that is, when they harmonize their vocal output, they are spizualizing sequences of images that dance with each other's images.
When one dolphin starts a song, a single ballet dancer appears, then the second dolphin joins the music and a second ballet dancer appears and dances with the first dancer. Rich had suggested they create phizualization of whale songs using commercially available record albums, but Dr. Mornay explained that the frequency response of audio CD's was much too restricted to create any images in the phizualization apparatus. But one project we have scheduled is to record whale ballets live when the ICN broadcast is over.
Another favorite part for me was the answer the dolphins give for why they beach themselves to die. It has always puzzled me why dolphins and whales return to the beach after human volunteers have labored to move them safely out to the sea. Animals like to go off into hidden places when they are sick and dying. We saw that a year ago with Steiner our Schnauzer. The best thing to do is leave these animals alone, as they are healing their bodies. Three days or so later, Steiner returned to his normal sleeping spot in the utility room and his tail was wagging in joy once again. Perhaps this is also the best thing to do for dolphins who beach themselves. To help them back into the deep water is equivalent, in my mind, to projecting our human weaknesses upon the dolphins. Yes, humans might get into a tight bind and be unable to extract themselves without external help, but a dolphin get stuck in the shallows? That simply inane to presume that would happen. Plus, it happens with groups of dolphins and whales at the same time. Since they clearly communicate with each other, they would have already warned of the danger of shallow water to the others, so why would they approach and endanger themselves unless they wanted to do it? This will surely be one of the first questions when the technology for inter-species communication with the cetaceans is operational. The author simply gives us a look at his guess of what they might say.
This book is a spizualization of the author's imaginations about how the first and possibly only chance for inter-species communication will take place. Between the covers of this book, one can find the ideas and specifications for how one can go about building devices for seeing what dolphins speak to each other and then creating a way for speaking back to the dolphins. Let us say Hooray! to the author for dispelling the foolish notion that one must try to interpret the dolphins speaking of TV images by slowing them down into radio signals. If they speak TV, let us learn to receive those images and learn to speak their language back. In the ten years since this book was conceived and written, the technology for ultrasound image production has improved dramatically. Surely an innovative researcher can build off of the medical technology and design an interface to receive and convert the dolphins speech into images. When that day comes, a little boy in a small house in Westwego reading Dr. Doolittle will look up from the floor of his bedroom and give us a great big smile.
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