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Welcome to the facelifted Meming of Life!

In addition to several minor tweaks (font color, title style, no more mysterious pseudo-Masonic MW&R logo, author mug, etc), I wanted a banner.
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I’ve had a thaaang for Canadian artist Glendon Mellow’s beautiful blog The Flying Trilobite since I discovered it last summer. It’s awash with examples of its subtitle—Art in Awe of Science—which is why, when I wanted a banner for The Meming of Life, I turned immediately to Mr. Mellow.

As you can see from the incredible oil painting at the top, Glendon did NOT disappoint.

Glendon has posted a piece about the evolution of the banner on The Flying Trilobite, complete with early sketches, so I won’t go into that side of things too much. Suffice it to say that I gave poor Glendon almost no guidance whatsoever. And thank Thor for that! He immediately came up with four great ideas, two of which ended up combined in this rich and complex image.

I am deeply smitten with images that have multiple meanings. My publisher, for example, could not have pleased me more with the cover design for Parenting Beyond Belief (see sidebar). I’ll try to describe the layers of significance the banner has for me.

The basic narrative is this: A Neolithic parent’s careful painting of an aurochs is echoed in the child’s imitation. Satisfied with their work, parent and child walked off together across the beach.

Ahh, but then there are the layers of meaning for me:

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    > ANTHROPOLOGY and CULTURE

    As an anthro major at UC Berkeley, I was gobsmacked by the opportunity to connect with individual human beings across 16,000 years through the paintings at Lascaux. The paintings represent one of oldest surviving expressions of human experience captured in a meme, or unit of culture—and is therefore an early example of the “meming” of life.

    > PHILOSOPHY

    Evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which raises questions about reality, illusion, and the human willingness to be deceived.

    > MY OWN IRRATIONALITY

    I am terrified of cows. You herd me. I think Glendon knew this, somehow, and felt I should see one every time I went to my own damn blog.

    The Laetoli prints
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    > FOOTPRINTS

    In addition to the parenting metaphor, two sets of footprints side by side are a simultaneous allusion to (1) the incredible 3.7 million year old hominid footprints at Laetoli in East Africa, which were excavated in part by my first anthropology professor, Tim White; AND (2) the sappy glurge “Footprints” ( “It was then that I carried you” ) which in turn never fails to remind me of the chokingly hilarious point-counterpoint version in The Onion.

    > HUMOR

    In addition to the hidden Onion reminder, the child’s Far-Side-like cow completely cracks me up.

    > THE OCEAN

    I’ve always loved this ocean metaphor of Isaac Newton’s–a nice metaphor for the humility of science properly conceived:

    I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

    The ocean also represents the POO (point of origin) for all life, including the aurochs/cow, the humans, the moss dangling at the entrance.

    > PARENTING

    Older than science, religion, art and culture.

I could go on. I’m just thrilled with it. Undying thanks to Glendon. Now go see his blog. Just remember to come back.

[HEY! If you haven’t read Becca’s second post, scroll down. It was bumped after a day and a half by the facelift, but it’s a must-read.]

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.