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From the Bunker

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]
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Friend of ZP,  Dr. Robert Bunker had a few new publications lately with other Friend of ZP co-authors and I thought I would begin my return to semi-regular (or at least occasional) blogging by giving them a nod here. The first was run a few weeks ago at Small Wars Journal: 

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations

by Robert Bunker and John Sullivan

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a well-known and extremely violent street, and in Central America, prison gang with an estimated transnational membership of 50,000 to 70,000 individuals.[1] Essentially a transnational gang network, MS-13 maintains a relatively robust media presence due to its ongoing criminal activities within the United States, many of which have resulted in homicides and even torture killings, as the gang continues to expand into new communities in Texas and the East Coast of the United States. The gang is organized on a networked, i.e. biological (and/or software program) based model with open architecture ‘plug ins’ that utilize a cellular synapse/and open coding-like strategy that facilitates network linkages and alliances, i.e., interfaces with violent non-state actors (VNSAs). Such network interfaces and organizational schemes go by a number of terms including netwar (John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt) and open-source warfare (John Robb).[2] This note specifically looks at the C2 geographic variations of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) network in the United States, Mexico, and Central America (primarily El Salvador) and MS-13s interface with more powerful violent non-state actors (VNSAs) which result in localized hierarchical organizational expressions.

Read the rest here.

The second is a monograph at The Strategic Studies Institute:

Contemporary Chemical Weapons ... Cover Image

Contemporary Chemical Weapons Use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad Regime and the Islamic State 

This monograph focuses on an understudied, but yet a critically important and timely component of land warfare, related to the battlefield use of chemical weapons by contemporary threat forces. It will do so by focusing on two case studies related to chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Initially, the monograph provides an overview of the chemical warfare capabilities of these two entities; discusses selected incidents of chemical weapons use each has perpetrated; provides analysis and lessons learned concerning these chemical weapons incidents, their programs, and the capabilities of the Assad regime and the Islamic State; and then presents U.S. Army policy and planning considerations on this topical areas of focus. Ultimately, such considerations must be considered vis-à-vis U.S. Army support of Joint Force implementation of National Command Authority guidance.

And finally, heading back to SWJ, a book – with Dave Dilegge, John Sullivan and Alma Keshavarz  :

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Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities

Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This Small Wars Journal (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict. In addition to essays originally published at SWJ it adds new content including an introduction by the editors, a preface on “Blood and Concrete” by David Kilcullen, a foreword “Urban Warfare Studies” by John Spencer, a postscript “Cities in the Crossfire: The Rise of Urban Violence” by Margarita Konaev, and an afterword “Urban Operations: Meeting Challenges, Seizing Opportunities, Improving the Approach” by Russell W. Glenn. These essays frame the discussion found in the collection’s remaining 49 chapters. Blood and Concrete continues the legacy of Small Was Journal’s coverage of urban operations, conflict and combat.

Probably not this kind of megacity…..

See the source image

 

Jackass and catfish, catfish and gourd

Friday, February 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — an almost-Darwin-Award-worthy foolishness, coupled with a masterpiece of Zen art — just the sort of post I’d love to post, for my own sake, even if no-one else is listening ]
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Unbelievable!

That’s a serious journal article about a seriously un-serious drunking game.. And if you can’t read the fine print, not to worry — the two top articles below will brief you nicely..

Readings:

  • Atlantic, This Is What Happens When You Drunkenly Swallow a Live Catfish
  • LiveScience, A Drunk Man Swallowed a Live, Venomous, Spiny Catfish.

  • Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports, A Jackass and a Catfish
  • **

    By way of contrast:

    Here’s what the book’s about:

    Zen art poses a conundrum. On the one hand, Zen Buddhism emphasizes the concept of emptiness, which among other things asserts that form is empty, that all phenomena in the world are illusory. On the other hand, a prodigious amount of artwork has been created in association with Zen thought and practice. A wide range of media, genres, expressive modes, and strategies of representation have been embraced to convey the idea of emptiness. Form has been used to express the essence of formlessness, and in Japan, this gave rise to a remarkable, highly diverse array of artworks and a tradition of self-negating art.

    In this volume, Yukio Lippit explores the painting The Gourd and the Catfish (ca. 1413), widely considered one of the most iconic works of Japanese Zen art today. Its subject matter appears straightforward enough: a man standing on a bank holds a gourd in both hands, attempting to capture or pin down the catfish swimming in the stream below. This is an impossible task, a nonsensical act underscored by the awkwardness with which the figure struggles even to hold his gourd. But this impossibility is precisely the point.

    Read or view:

  • Getty Research, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • Getty YouTube lecture, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • **

    On the zen of swallowing, or not:

    In Zen work, an existential contradiction, Mumon’s “red hot coal,” sticks in the student’s throat; the inability “to swallow it or spit it out” precipitates a crisis to be resolved through an insight that is simultaneously an existential gesture. “If I am whole and complete as I am, why do I feel ignorant and incomplete?” might be one formulation of the conundrum, though encoded in a ritual question like “What is the sound of one hand?” The greater the contradiction, the greater the tension — ”doubt mass” — and the greater the breakthrough, according to Zen tradition.

    Source:

  • Tricycle, Fruitful Contradictions: The Zen of mathematics
  • 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.

    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!

    One of England’s Freedoms

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — an amused defense of sacred measures such as the foot, yard, and acre — against the atheistic and idolatrous metric system ]
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    **

    You can trudge uphill, you can run up hill and down dale as the saying goes, you may march from pillar to post, church spire to spire, you may follow ancient foot- or bridle-paths or ley lines — all these, if pursued on foot, are covered by the word rambling, and in England, if you follow well-trodden or half forgotten paths, it’s your right. It is one of England’s freedoms.

    **

    Sam Knight, in the New Yorker a couple of days ago, The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths:

    Nineteen years ago, the British government passed one of its periodic laws to manage how people move through the countryside. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales… [ .. ]

    Between them, England and Wales have around a hundred and forty thousand miles of footpaths, of which around ten per cent are impassable at any time, with another ten thousand miles that are thought to have dropped off maps or otherwise misplaced. Finding them all again is like reconstructing the roots of a tree.

    Now that’s all numbers, and numbers are, d’oh, quantitative. The thing is, walks in the English countryside are primarily qualitative affairs, with mud, styles to clamber across, flash thunderstorms and after-storm greenery, oaks with mistletoe or a thousand rooks high in their branches, willows, snails, birdsong, conversation with a friend or two.. Plato, Brahms, Ann Patchett, Feynmann, Hitchcock, .. with picnics and sandwiches along the way..

    Freedom!

    Qualitative beats quantitative all to smithereens.

    **

    If you look at the photo that accompanies Sam Knight‘s New Yorker piece [above], it belies the “unremarkable walk in the English countryside” mentioned in its caption — clear on the horizon is Glastonbury Tor, hardly an unremarkable location for English walkers.

    Ever since my friend the late British hedgerow philosopher John Michell [above] — hedgerow and British Museum Reading Room philosopher, that is — wrote his startling best-seller The View Over Atlantis [below] —

    — ever since that book appeared, new-agers and ramblers have rambled along ley lines and in search of standing stones — I was one such rambler, along with Michell himself and our mutual friend, the photographer Gabi Nasemann, though I fear I was the slowest and most complaining in our small party — where was I? — Glastonbury Tor has been a sort of seekers’ central for those whose imaginations project ley lines — equivalent to Chinese dragon-paths — across the actual lay of the land.

    Another friend, Lex Neale, penned this piece, Glastonbury: King Arthur’s Field, giving an overview of Glastonbury and the supposed zodiac spread out around it —

    for my then guru’s in-house magazine, lo these many years ago. By then I was in America. And we were young.

    **

    Why do I so love my memories of John Michell?

    He was a William Blake returned, wrong by the mechanical standards of the age, right in imaginative reach.

    It was in the Spring 1978 issue of CoEvolution Quarterly that I first read the text of John‘s A Defence of Sacred Measures. He’d published it as a pamphlet — the first in a series of “Radical Traditionalist Papers” to which our mutual friend the recently deceased Heathcote Willians also contributed — Heathcote {below] —

    do watch this clip, it’ll only take three minutes of your lifetime, and they’ll be three minutes well-spent! —

    — and Stewart Brand must have snagged it for CoEQ. Anyway, you can get the gist from the full title, in the format the pamphlet gave it, as you may have seen at the head of this post:

    I’m deeply grateful to Zenpundit friend Grurray for pointing me to that cover and the full text of John‘s essay, which my own web searching hadn’t turned up. Grurray took particular pleasure in this excerpt:

    the use of the foot locates the centre of the world within each individual, and encourages him to arrange his kingdom after the best possible model, the cosmic order. The ancient method of acquiring this model was not astronomy but initiation

    For myself, it’s John‘s description of the cubit and sundry other measures — and their rationale — that gets me:

    Cloth is sold by the cubit, the distance from elbow to finger tip, and other such units as the span and handbreadth were formerly used which have now generally become obsolete. Of course no two people have the same bodily dimensions, and the canonical man has never existed save as an idea or archetype. These traditional units are not, however, imprecise or inaccurate. Ancient societies regarded their standards of measure as their most sacred possessions and they have been preserved with extreme accuracy from the earliest times. A craftsman soon learns to what extent the parts of his own body deviate from the conventional standard and adjusts accordingly.

    **

    Oh, you may think this all a pretentious, anachronistic attempt to revive a moribund system. But consider this, from the LA Times in 1999:

    NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.

    A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the metric system of millimeters and meters in its calculations, while Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, which designed and built the spacecraft, provided crucial acceleration data in the English system of inches, feet and pounds.

    As a result, JPL engineers mistook acceleration readings measured in English units of pound-seconds for a metric measure of force called newton-seconds.

    In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

    The Times assumes the correct procedure would have been “to convert from English to metric measurements” — but who says? One might equally argue the translation should have gone from metric to English.. the mother tongue, so to speak.

    John Michell would lead us along that path..


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