Who is this man, and what does this painting mean?

I don’t remember how I found this site, I’m not sure what it really is… But I know I’m hooked on the mystery… Who is Benjamin Stove? And why did his grandmother paint this in 1913…


… or did she? Is this some form of interactive blog fiction? Why are the forums this active? Is this a Voynich Manuscript for a new era?


Click “read more” to know the truth…

According to a Daily Kos story linked to by Media Frenzy:

A whois (domain name ownership record query) gives this result:

GMD Studios
7057 University Blvd
Winter Park, FL 32792


GMD Studios, according to their website, is an ad agency specializing in cutting edge, experimental methods of advertising. I wonder now what is the purpose of the site. Perhaps it is a way for the agency to get attention and real customers. Perhaps they will have an actual product to sell people. Perhaps they are just getting people’s email addresses for a UFO-products spam list. Whatever the purpose, they have been spending money on liberal blogs, so they can’t be all bad.

"Extraordinary Minds" by Howard Gardner: Notes for Chapters 1-3

Below the fold are notes from the first three chapters of Extraordinary Minds by Howard Gardner.


This professor who leads this seminar also taught Human Cognition & Instruction, so I am looking forward to his insights.

4 Varieties of Extraordinary Minds (xi-xii)
1. Master – over existing domains – Mozart (11)
2. Maker – over new domains – Freud (12)
3. Introspector – over self – Woolf (12)
4. Influencer – over others (12)

1. Other types of extraordinary minds exist, in ch 8 (12)
2. Some are extraordinary over one thing, (12-13)
3. other classification schemes exist


pathographies — negatively revisionist biographies (3)

“… within cognitive science — the field of study that focuses particularly on the mind — there has been a strong bias toward assuming that all individual make use of the same basic mental process” (3-4)

Structure of the book (5-6)
1. Explain individuals who are truly exceptional
2. Search for factors that relate the ordinary to the extraordinary
3. Look at lives of extraordinary individuals for specific insights of how others may be more productive and satisfied

Another way of looking at it (14-15)
1. Look at children
1.a ordinary children in ch2
1.b extradinary development in ch3
2. case studies of Mozart, Freud, Woolf, Gandhi, etc (ch 4-7)
— but are these cases politically correct? reasonable/
3. other forms of extraordinariness (ch 8)
4. look for lessons (conclusion)
4.1 “extraordinary individuals stand out in the context to which they reflect… on the events of their lives”
4.2 raw powers less impressive than ability to identify own strengths
4.3 failure is often and dramatic, but convert defeats into victories

The Bases of the Science of the Extraordinary
1. Careful study of extraordinary individuals
2. Case studies across domains (6-7)

According to Csikszentmihalyi‘s “system view” of extra-ordinariness… it is misleading to ask whether specific individuals are creative or extraordinary…. rather…. look to
1. the individual himself
2. the domain or discipline
3. the field – those who judge the individual in the domain (6-7)
(a trinary relationship — similar to viewer-medium-art trifecta)

idiographic: the study of the individual, specific, instantiated
nomothetic: general scientific laws, general, abstracted (7)

“students of extraordinaries lack strong models that can be crisply tested” (8)

3 Building Blocks and 1 Set of Processes
1. persons – “entities that exist in the natural world”
2. non-human physical objects
3. symbolic entities – words, gestures, pictures, numbers, associated with domains
4. development processes -“constant and dynamic interaction between an organism, with its internal programs, and the environment” (9-10)
is the entity-process distinction meaningful?


Three Types of Relations
1. Person-Domains
2. Person-Self
3. Person-Others

why not person-process?

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development does not account for single-domain prodigies (15), so calls his entire system into question

a five year old is a fully symbol-using creature (22)

cognitive milestones (23)

  • 18 months – capable of pretense
  • 2-3 y: empathy
  • 4 representational – understand that minds can hold a false belief
  • 5 yo mind complex (25-26)
    • well developed capacity for symbolic manipulation
    • “the symbolic products created by young children are typically more flavorful, suggestive, and original than those fashioned by children just a few years older”
    • “Much of education consists of efforts to deconstruct these erroneous conceptions; cognitive scientists have shown how difficult it is to “school” the “unschooled mind.”

apprenticeships are the most widespread learning arrangements (26-27)
– can be self-apprenticed (Woolf, Mozart)

“Acquisition of Expertise” includes (27)
1. skills
2. beliefs
3. practices
– why so many trifectas?

According to information-processing theorists, acquisition of expertise correlates to practice.

Cognitivists argue… only practice separates the ordinary from the extraordinary (28)

The main purpose of schools is to train individuals to employ the major symbolic notations of their culture (28)
.. it is “deliberately decontextualized” to further symbolic manipulation, while apprentices learn skills in which symbols are secondary

Hurdles serve as a proxy for achievement
19th century: two or more classical languages
20th century: higher math, modern foreign language, standardized test

In apprenticeships the main bond is with the master, while in school the main bond is with peers (30)

personal differences visible and important in preschool, if not earlier (32)


Gardner is the author of “multiple intelligences” theory, so spends some time criticizing single-intelligence thoughts (34-35)

His multiple intelligences, at the time of this writing, are (35-36)
1. linguistic
2. logical
3. spatial
4. musical
5. bodily kinesthetic
6. interpersonal
7. intrapersonal
8. naturalism

Typically Bright v. Exceptionally Bright

Typically bright included in Lewis Terman’s study of high-IQ California children
1. healthy
2. reasonably wealthy & accomplished
3. content (men more than women)
4. very few creative artists, writers, no Nobel winners, etc
(the most successful subjects are psychologists!)

Exceptional bright (IQs above 180) studied
1. unhappy, except with other exceptionally bright students (Hollingworth – 39)
2. “rage to learn” (Winner – 39)

intelligence seems be to controlled more strongly by genetics than environment

was “IQ test was perfected in France and Great Britain a century ago as a means of selecting individuals who could function as adequate mid-level bureaucrats dispatched to a remote colonial post”? (41)

General Intelligence v. Multiple Intelligences (41)
GI supported by omnibus / globally gifted individuals equally adept with ease at many things
MI supported by idiot savants, individuals with selective learning disorders

“blatant are the differences between the relatively chaotic Western nursery class and the extremely well regulated Asian counterpart” (43)
BUT: I remember watching a documentary showing a bedlam Japanese 1st grade classroom, which explained that discipline comes later (but stricter) in that country

Description of Suzuki violent method (43)
– form of apprenticeship that utilizes family and peers?

“I think, for example, of the many American youngsters who achieve virtually an expert’s knowledge of dinosaurs… wit little need of prompting or reward from adults” (44)

“in [many] domains… skilled practitioners differ from one another chiefly in the number of hours of “deliberate practice” in which they have repeatedly engaget… [but] .. skeptics… point out that only those with talent are likely to practice for thousands of hours… and that sheer practice is less likely to be effective in highly cognitive domains such as mathematics, chess, and musical competition” (44)
– music, etc is ultimately a technical, not creative, task so should be heavily influenced by vertical practice

Traditional Precocity Domains (with 5 yo domain experts) (45)
1. Chess
2. Musical Performance
3. Mathematics
– these domains “are relatively circumscribed, each with its own set of symbols and governing rules”

“most parents report that the child seem to be ‘possessed’ by his interest, so much so that he wants to spend hours each day involved with chess moves, multiplication problems, or practicing (often with variations) a particular song on his instrument” (45) .. yet heavily dependent on family support (46)

Interesting facts
– each require little existing knowledge, which is why few early experts of literature, politics, etc
– spatial reasoning in chess, abstract reasoning in math, physical reasoning in music

Open Question
How does this reading compare with this list of the educational background of great military leaders?

John Boyd —————————>Fighter pilot, engineer
Stonewall Jackson ——————>Physics, Artillery
Albert Wohlstetter——————>Mathematician
Napoleon Bonaparte—————->Artillery, mathematics
Peter the Great———————–> Artillery, shipbuilding,
Alexander the Great—————–>Philosophy, medicine, science
Herman Kahn————————->Physics and mathematics

Does the fact that these generally are precocious domains, that rely less on existing knowledge, give these leaders a creativity advantage when they horizontally apply their knowledge to the vertical domain of military arts?