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Two from my FB feed this morning

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — well, three — what I read on FB, and what Chinese AI can now deduce about me ]
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First:

Carla Cahill‘s catch, I think, speaks for itself — the super blood wolf moon caught at exactly the right moment:

Carla writes:

Okay, I saw this jet coming, so I acted fast and got it along with the Blood, Wolf, Blue, Eclipse Moon!

The photographer’s gift is eternal alertness.

**

Second:

This DoubleQuote response to the #tenyearchallrnge showing a dying coral reef, via John Kellden and March for Science:

Friend Marshall Massey contributed this example:

I somehow suspect the photographer of the coral reef — the Great Barrier Reef? — didn’t mark the exact few “leaves” of coral he photographed ten years earlier, and then returned to those exact few leaves ten years later — I imagine he may have returned to the same rough spot where he — or she, why do I suppose a he? — had taken her first shot, and found a similar spot to take the second.

Or were there in fact two photographers? The similarity of the two photos almost convinces me of a single photographer with his eye on the same exact sport for years — his or her wife, lover or friends bringing sandwiches every day for ten years, sleepless nights under a cold moon..

Except both photos were presumably taken by a diver or divers, underwater..

Ah, the human mind!

And the forest / mine pair — were they taken at the same spot, roughly the same spot — or close enough to make a point, maybe a few miles apart, with the second shot positioned to include the truck..?

**

Third:

This was too rich to omit. Ali Minai wrote:

I don’t read or speak Urdu, so knowing Ali is an AI expert, I asked for translations from two AIs. FB’s in-house translator gave me:

It’s very short of the dead country.
The ironic is the same, yooo change.

Google Translate gave me:

History is very short of my country
Satyam is the same, the stars keep changing

Okay, those two give me state of the art, readily available AI capabilities. I then asked Ali how he would translate the couplet into English.. and gave my own best guess, sticking my neck out and working from similarities between the two AI versions:

History short-changes my native land —
ah, but truth’s the same, as changeable as the stars.

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Here’s Ali’s very gracious response:

Aha! Sense at last — English sense, that is.

I think this entire episode is a living, breathing testament to the state of the art in intelligence — artificial and embodied. Way to go, Ali Minai

**

Chinese AI looking for vulnerabilities to exploit will now think I’m an Urdu speaker, because I commented on Ali Minai‘s Urdu post. And ZP’s version of WordPress couldn’t even render Ali’s couplet except as:

??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?????
??? ??? ??? ????? ????? ???? ???

— which captures my own sentiment when I first saw Ali‘s post exactly..

All in all, a rich morning’s education!

Remembering MLK Jr: Pence on Trump, Gene Sharp

Monday, January 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameronin memoriam, ad vitam ]
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… and Mike Pence on the eve of MLK Day compares President Trump to the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr!

Doofus.

**

Since so many media outlets have excellent MLK photos and fine tributes today — or are talking on and on about “not building bridges, building walls” or the reverse — let me just say that the best way to honor Dr King is to possess, purchase or borrow Gene Sharp‘s definitive trilogy

… to take the hint in Sharp‘s title, and put the ideal of nonviolence into practical, active living.

Teaching your Enemy to Win, Infinity Journal

Monday, January 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — self-defeating, as theme and variation ]
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A new issue of Infinity Journal is now out. One featured piece:

The whole setup is self-destructive, self-referential, self–eating — ouroboric, IMO.

**

Compare with this, from a Vanity Fair Hive article, and ask: Who’s the apparent, and who’s the real enemy here?

This is bullshit,” a senior State Department official messaged on Thursday, shortly after the Trump administration announced that all United States diplomats and department employees were to return to work next week, despite an ongoing government shutdown that has deprived some 800,000 federal employees of a regular paycheck. Earlier that afternoon, Bill Todd, the deputy undersecretary for management, had sent out an urgent memo elucidating the rationale. “As a national security agency,” he wrote, “it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission.”

For staffers who were already frustrated with their newish, Trump-loving boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, being forced to work without pay has felt like a last straw. “It just further destroys morale . . . It demonstrates a continued lack of respect, even apparent enmity, for people committed to the national security of the country, only in order to serve a political calculation,” one current State Department staffer said. “It’s like, we’re supposed to show up and pretend like everything is cool? Work as normal?” [ .. ]

Together with his unceasing praise of Donald Trump, Pompeo’s perceived cavalier attitude toward the shutdown has made some staffers feel like they have been taken for granted—or worse, been taken advantage of. “What is universal is a sense that they are pawns in a bigger political dynamic,” said Rob Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state still in touch with former colleagues…

Self-destruction within State? That too seems ouroboric to me.

Sadhu and Southern Baptist, Sunday surprise

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — preferred place for prayer — and Gary Snyder’s disciples “will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” ]
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That sadhus like to meditate in cremation grounds was already known to me — they worship Lord Shiva, who likes to meditate there himself, not infrequently covers himself in ashes, and wears a necklace of skulls..

What surprised me though, was to find Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year, recommending so similar a practice..

**

Sources:

  • The Gospel Coalition, A Graveyard Is a Good Place to Make Big Decisions
  • TripAdvisor, Varanasi Photo: Sadhu meditation in smashan – where dead bodies burn
  • **

    And if the sadhu‘s practice seems more extreme — fiercer, spiritually? — than Dr Moore‘s quieter — dare I, should I really say, more contemplative? — approach, that only reminds me of Klaus Klostermaier‘s book, Hindu and Christian in Vrindaban, and this marvelous graph:

    Theology at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade seems after all, different from theology at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Theology accompanied by tough chapattis and smoky tea seems different from theology with roast chicken and a glass of wine. Now, what is different, theos or theologian? The theologian at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is in a good position presumes God to be happy and contended, well-fed and rested, without needs of any kind. The theologian at 120 degrees Fahrenheit tries to imagine a God who is hungry and thirsty, who suffers and is sad, who sheds perspiration and knows despair.

    Here’s Fr Klostermaier saying Mass in Vrindaban:

    First thing in the morning I celebrate the Mass. I wonder if any person responsible for prescribing the liturgical vestments in use today ever read mass at 113 degrees Fahrenheit, in a closed room without a fan? Clouds of flies swarm around the chalice and host. They settle on the hands, on the perspiring face. They cannot be driven away, but return for the tenth time to the place from which they have been chased away. The whole body burns and itches. The clothes are damp, even the vestments. They soon dry. If a priest does not wear them all, he commits – according to existing canon law – at least a dozen or so mortal sins all at once. And it seems impossible to survive, physically or spiritually, without the Mass.

    And Vrindaban?

    Edward C Dimock and Denise Levertov, begin their delicious, delirious volume, In Praise of Krishna: songs from the Bengali, thus:

    Above the highest heaven is the dwelling place of Krishna. It is a place of infinite idyllic peace, where the dark and gentle river Yamuna flows beside a flowered meadow, where cattle graze; on the river’s bank sweet-scented trees blossom and bend their branches to the earth, where peacocks dance and nightingales call softly. Here Krishna, ever-young, sits beneath the trees, the sound of his flute echoing the nightingales’ call. Sometimes he laughs and jokes and wrestles with his friends, sometimes he teases the cowherd-girls of the village, the Gopis, as they come to the river for water. And sometimes, in the dusk of days an eon long, his flute’s call summons the Gopis to his side. They leave their homes and families and husbands and honor — as it is called by men — and go to him. Their love for him is deeper than their fear of dishonor. He is the fulfillment of all desire…

    That, too, is Vrindaban!

    Don’t you mess with (2) the night sky, superb and sacred

    Saturday, January 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a disgusted follow-on to Don’t you mess with my mother the moon ]
    .

    Disgust:

    This Chinese City Wants to Launch an ‘Artificial Moon’ to Replace Street Lights

    The streets of Chengdu in western China could soon be lit up by an artificial satellite moon in the night-time, rather than the more conventional streetlights, if an ambitious plan by a private aerospace company gets the go-ahead.

    The thinking is to save a hefty sum in electricity costs, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., who is behind the scheme.

    Rather than using up energy here on Earth, the satellite would reflect the Sun’s rays from the other side of the planet back on to Chengdu. [ .. ]

    The illumination on the ground would be about eight times what you would expect from the actual Moon, Chunfeng says.

    Have they not read Li Po, Bo, or Bai‘s great poem, The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance, given here in the translation by Ezra Pound?

    The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
    It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
    And I let down the crystal curtain
    And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

    Were they not taken with the footnote?

    Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.

    Do they not watch the moon? Taste it?

    **

    Disgust:

    Russian Startup Wants to Put Ads in Low-Earth Orbit to Ruin The Sky For Everybody

    Advertising?

    Must I really quote this stuff?

    “We are ruled by brands and events,” project leader Vlad Sitnikov told Futurism.

    “The Super Bowl, Coca Cola, Brexit, the Olympics, Mercedes, FIFA, Supreme and the Mexican wall. The economy is the blood system of society. Entertainment and advertising are at its heart.

    “We will live in space, and humankind will start delivering its culture to space. The more professional and experienced pioneers will make it better for everyone.”

    Faugh! For shame!

    **

    Have I not whispered to another under the stars those words of William Butler Yeats:

    Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    I am heart-hurt.

    Rape the night sky, and what are lovers to wrap themselves in? poets to raise their cups to?


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