Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Ambiguous Categorically Not

It is time yet again for another round of a long series of salon-based/salon-style talks at the Santa Monica Art Studios (a.k.a. "The Hangar"). This month's Categorically Not entitled "Ambiguity" features two USC faculty members: Bark Kosko (Electrical Engineering Department) who will be talking about how fuzzy mathematics is used in building logic for electronic chips, and Doe Mayer, professor at the Cinema School who will talk about communication in cultures of Zimbabwe and Fiji. The event ends with Australian singer/song-writer Libby Lavella.

Categorically Not was started by K.C. Cole who has this incredible knack for picking up topics and then bringing people from disparate fields to give their opinion which sometimes leads to interesting connections. I have been going to these talks for a more than a year now and I have always found them intellectually delicious; a raspberry-filled English tart for the mind.

The talks are scheduled for June 8th at The Santa Monica Art Studios which is located at 3026 Airport Ave, in the city of Santa Monica. You can help yourself to some refreshments starting at 6:00 pm. The talks start at 6:30 pm and there's a donation of $5.00 at the front door. So if you are not particularly busy on Sunday evening and just sitting at home and wasting away your precious neurons on television sit-coms, I'd say give yourself a treat by going to these talks on Sunday. Below is an excerpt from the Categorically Not website:


Nature loves ambiguity, even if human nature doesn’t. What exactly is a species? Where exactly is that subatomic particle? When did life begin? How do genes influence behavior? Why does music move us? What does that poem mean? What color is white? Is that guy flirting with me, or not? The answers are often far more indeterminate than we’d like to think. Heck, we still don’t know why the chicken crossed the road. Or what the meaning of is is.

Bart Kosko, USC Professor of Engineering, attorney and author of best-selling books
Fuzzy Thinking, Noise, and Heaven in a Chip will tell us how fuzzy math helps make things run smoothly. There is a lot more to "fuzzy math" than a put down. It involves thinking and reasoning in shades of gray--and getting computers to do so as well. Fuzz differs from randomness, chaos, and ambiguity although all four types of uncertainty interrelate. Much of intelligence involves navigating these interrelationships.

From another world(s) entirely, Doe Mayer, an official USC “remarkable woman faculty member” and holder of the Mary Pickford Chair at the Cinema school (and a joint appointment with the Annenberg School), will explain how ambiguous communication is essential for bringing critical health messages to cultures from Zimbabwe to Fiji. In her documentaries and other work in dozens of countries, Doe wrestles with such fuzzy issues as imposing values, learning to listen, measuring the effect of intercultural work.

For an artistic perspective, Australian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Libby Lavella will talk about how ambiguities make music interesting and sometimes frustrating. Once described by the LA Times as "Pop-Soul Fusion", a recent review said “Lavella is a delightfully uncategorizable artist,” which makes her a Categorically Not! natural. Libby has worked with Smash Mouth, Frank Gambale, Rain Phoenix, Michael Sembello, Kate Ceberano, Big Syke, Seal, BT, Ricky Martin and Robi Rosa.