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Metaphors, more ii

Monday, June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing from Metaphors, more — which has become seriously overloaded and is listing to port ]
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This one’s from Cass R. Sunstein, It Can Happen Here, in the LRB:

What matters are “we anonymous others” who are not just “pawns in the chess game,” because the “most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

That’s worth reading and (critically) pondering in its entirety — partly because Sunsttein’s a writer worth pondering (I was particularluy taken with his exploration of Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures), but also because the comparison of developments leading up to Nazi Germany and events here in Trumpian USA is both a significant topic and one that is all too easily and often marred by hyperbole, and therefore demands deliberative elucidation in long form, rather than brash assertiveness or denial in short.

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Okay, now here’s a doozy.

I’m more used to questioning “prophetic” explanations of earthquakes and the like as literal acts of God, but some seismologists in Mexico have an altogether more engaging explanation:

Did Mexico’s Revelry in World Cup Win Over Germany Cause an Earthquake?

Late Sunday morning, seismic sensors in Mexico City detected what was reported to be a small earthquake. But it was triggered in an “artificial manner,” according to the group monitoring the gauges.

“Possibly because of mass jumping,” said the group, the Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations in Mexico, which said that at least two of its sensors picked up the activity.

The cause of that mass jumping? Moments before, the Mexican men’s national soccer team had scored a goal against powerhouse Germany in their group-stage match in the World Cup in Moscow.

I’ve heard of the idea that soldiers marching across a bridge might cause it to collapse — but an entire earthquake? I stand impressed..

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Ourob, New Yorker:

The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation

Bell Pottinger’s work in South Africa included the covert dissemination of articles, cartoons, blog posts, and tweets implying that the Guptas’ opponents were upholding a racist system. As the brothers’ influence over Zuma’s government fell under increasing scrutiny, Bell Pottinger’s tactics were exposed. More details of the Oakbay account became public, including revelations about the inflammatory economic-emancipation campaign. Soon, one of the world’s savviest reputation-management companies became embroiled in a reputational scandal. Bell Pottinger could not contain the uproar, and, in September, 2017, it collapsed.

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Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan:

[Coming 8/31] When CIA analyst Jack Ryan stumbles upon a suspicious series of bank transfers his search for answers pulls him from the safety of his desk job and catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse throughout Europe and the Middle East, with a rising terrorist figurehead preparing for a massive attack against the US and her allies.

Ah, yes, “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.

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I’ll add more good or odd ones as they occur..

Unintended consequences, the collection

Monday, June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — what you don’t see can blindside you ]
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Unintended consequences are the clearest indicators we have of just how much more complex the world is than we imagine it to be. They are therefore of great interest.

A short while back, WaPo had a piece that overtly referenced unintended consequences: Unintended consequences: Inside the fallout of America’s crackdown on opioids.

I’m going to take that as the starting point for another of my collections. When I find a clear case of an unintended cnsequence, I’ll add it to this post or in the comments session..

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One major group of unintended consequences news items clusttered around the revision of redistricting rules in an attempt (at least purportedly) to curb the abuse of partisan power in gerrymandering, an ancient American political tradition practiced by both (all?) partties —

Overby & Cosgrove‘s 1996 Unintended Consequences? Racial Redistricting and the Representation of Minority Interests would appear to be a much quoted starting point, followed by Rose Institute’s 2008 Unintended Consequences of Texas Gerrymandering.

But the general principle is evident: course corrections don’t always set you back on track — or as the Taoist fellow might say, any map you can draw is liable to lead you astray — maps are fallible wrt terrain, wrt reality!

Case in point: The meandering path of the Mississippi, now here, now there — with oxbows!

Travelers, mappers and modelers, beware!

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Oh, and BTW, I woke from the anaesthetic that accompanied my triple heart bypass to find.. Trump was president. That consequence was unintended by me at least, no matter hwat Mr Putin may have decided.

Prophecy revisited — any good?

Monday, June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — prophecy, prediction, and the news cycle ]
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Prophecies can be news — in this case, the almost-prediction is in a piece by religion-savvy reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey in WaPo:

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Nope.

Okay, we guess wrong — and sometimes when we guess wrong, we do CYA maneuvers to avoid admitting it. Hal Lindsey has been updating his 1970 bestseller The Late, Great Planet Earth, with its nudge in the direction of a 1980s rapture for some time — with royalties increasing every time the likely (but no man knoweth) date of Armageddon is delayed, ca-ching!

Lindsey also predicted that the European Economic Community, which preceded the European Union, was destined (according to Biblical prophecy) to become a “United States of Europe”, which in turn he says is destined to become a “Revived Roman Empire” ruled by the Antichrist. Lindsey wrote that he had concluded, since there was no apparent mention of America in the books of Daniel or Revelation, that America would not be a major geopolitical power by the time the tribulations of the end times arrived..

so this is just a brief reminder that prophecies, predictions &c can easily make news when they are made, but fail to make the news when things don’t work out as expected (see our unintended consequences pages for related materials).

Well, is Kim Jong-Un still among the living? Has Trump exercised restraint with all those hellfire missiles at his disposal — and a notoriously fractious temperament?

Thank God, I suppose.

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I’ll collect further examples of failed prophecies and predictiosn here.

If our toes were our fingers, if Pyongyang was Tehran

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — metaphors, mathematics, and a question for you all ]
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There’s a toe ointment ad for Kerasil that begins:

If our toes were our fingers, everyone would instantly notice the difference..

— accompanied by various shortt clips of feet serving various functions of hands, see above.

I’ll talk about fingers and toes, okay, if you’ll tell me about Pyongyang and Tehran, deal?

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This is the first ad — or for that matter, mass media mention — I’ve seen of the hands / feet comparison, and that’s significant in itself because, along with day / night, sun / moon, fingers / toes must be one of the earlier comparisons on which we base all future comparisons / parallelisms / oppositions, and thus analogies, and by extension, metaphors.

Fingers and toes, then, are an early matrix for us, but that matrix gets abstracted into the decimal counting system, no small matter in our culture and many others. And from decimals we can go to the Dewey Decimal System used in, Wiki informs us, 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries — and that’s just one of the branches of the tree whose roots are in fingers and toes — our fingers and toes, not the toes of a three-toed sloth or woodpecker…

And of course, the day / night, sun / moon and other dual contrasts arguably derive some of their power from the duality hands / feet, which also gives us left / right, sinister / right, right / wrong and the entire range of moral judgments, based on the two sides of the body and extrapolated from there. We seldom think of these things, unless perhaps in early education, but as Jung and others have noted, they hold great significance for psychology and cultural anthropology.


image: the Nassau County Mathletes

Using decimals, we can represent irrational numbers — impossible to represent as fractions, pi and the square root of minus one foremost among them — a notion so disturbing tto the purist Pythagoreans that Tobias Dantzig, in Number: the Language of Science, quotes Proclus as saying:

It is told that those who first brought out the irrationals from concealment into the open perished in shipwreck, to a man. For the unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed. And those who uncovered and touched this image of life were instantly destroyed and shall remain forever exposed to the play of the eternal waves.

Irrational, or just plain crazy? And those waves — a metaphor for randomness, chaos, or for the universality (via Fourier transforms) of the sine wave?

Oh. And when a zen master wants to set a student a problem that cannot be solved by our binarily inclined minds, he gives them the koan “what’s the sound of one hand clapping?”

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Okay, that’s enough about about hands / feet — now let’s hear about the Pyongyang summit and the Iranian nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. I’m sure you have plenty of thoughts on the matter — your turn, please..

Red Bull joins the wise

Monday, June 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — red bull expands on pascal, takes us deeper into instinctive / archetypal thought ]
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I came across a powerful paragraph in Beyond a joke, a piece witth the enticing subtitle, “The brain holds many secrets that admen would love to learn – not least, how to change behaviour. Rory Sutherland explores how comedy rouses the grey matter.” Powerful, in that it connects, at least for me, with at least three major quotes from “wise men of old” from here and beyond:

The reason for this glaring discrepancy is that the part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink. The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.

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You remember my old DoubleQuotes format?

I used it to make various kinds of connections beyween two quotes? Well, I’ve come to feel its clumsy visually, takes up too much space — breaks the train of thought it’s embedded in rather than illuminating it? But the concept, the holding together of two ideas in close juxtaposition, still seems extraordinarily useful to me.

So here are elements of that para, juxtaposed with sayings from Blaise Pascal, Christ, and the Tao Te Ching — quite a variety of “wise” sources:

  • The heart has its reasons reason knows not of.
  • The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • The way that can be named is not the true way.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
  • Christ, Lao Tze, and Pascal! If the correlations are as powerful as I take them to be, and even if you omit the “many mansions” one which is I’ll admit bit of a stretch, that’s a power packed para.

    And the “many mansions”? It may be a bit of a stretch, but I think it adds a certain audacity to the whole — jazzes up what’s alreadt strong with an intriguing elan — what do you think?

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    The Bollingen classic:

    Jolande Jacobi, Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C. G. Jung

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    I mean, please comment, eh?


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