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Better bring a sword to a love fight?

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — or, a samurai’s weapon glistens more brightly than an assault rifle ]



And in case your object that the proposed assault weapon ban (upper image above) is stereotypically associated wwith active shooters in schools, not issues of love and romance, take this, from Does anyone have the right to sex? in the LRB:

On 23 May 2014, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old college dropout, became the world’s most famous ‘incel’ – involuntary celibate. The term can, in theory, be applied to both men and women, but in practice it picks out not sexless men in general, but a certain kind of sexless man: the kind who is convinced he is owed sex, and is enraged by the women who deprive him of it. Rodger stabbed to death his two housemates, Weihan Wang and Cheng Hong, and a friend, George Chen, as they entered his apartment on Seville Road in Isla Vista, California. Three hours later he drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. He shot three women on the lawn, killing two of them, Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss. Rodger then went on a drive-by shooting spree through Isla Vista, killing Christopher Michaels-Martinez, also a student at UCSB, with a single bullet to the chest inside a Deli Mart, and wounding 14 others. He eventually crashed his BMW coupé at an intersection. He was found dead by the police, having shot himself in the head.

It just didn’t have a headline tht would have made any sense in the DoubleQuote!


Okay, gunds and swords.

There’s also the question of whether the pen is mightier than the sword, of course — even the samurain sword? — or to coin a phrase:

Don’t bring ink to a blood fight

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a smattering of thoughts about the most recent shooting ]

Wednesday, 14 February, 2018:

It was Valentine’s Day, among the family members grieving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, in Broward County, Florida (upper panel, below):

— and it was Ash Wednesday, when ashes from palm crosses representing Christ’s hosannah-filled entrance into Jerusalem are smeared on the foreheads of believers (lower panel, above)..


  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 2
  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 1
  • A day set apart for love, a day for mourning. And each in turn could provide a potential shooter with an added impulse to act on this particular day.


    Control is the issue:

    But where? Should we be figuring out how to control youthful impulses, somewhere in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala (upper panel, below) —

    — or how to control the access to semi-automatic weapons of people who are slipping dangerously into forms of mental distress, while respecting both the right to privacy and the right to bear arms (lower panel, above).


  • Daily News, Florida gunman accused of killing 17 in high school massacre
  • Daily News, These are the victims of the Florida high school shooting
  • Impulse control, or gun control?


    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is too much of a mouthful: Parkland will be the name etched in memory, alongside Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. Such names are invoked, not spoken.


    Is there perhaps a connection between the school shooter issue and the national conversation on sexual harassment, such that a major shift in attitudes towards sexual harassment would naturally translate to, or facilitate, a similar shift regarding gun control?

    Are these in fact two conversations — waves on the same wave-front — “whose time (for change) has come”?

    Would each benefit from their being discussed together?

    Kayfabe is an analog for war and love maybe, not a model

    Sunday, February 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — hat-tip to Ferdinando Buscema, magician and therefore cognitive science specialist extraordinaire ]


    Occasionally one reads a truly stunning article — stunning, I mean stunnng.

    Eric R. Weinstein‘s 2011 Edge answer, WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT? is one such article, and as such I have retained the full caps in its title.

    The theoretical background is :

    Evolutionary biologists Richard Alexander and Robert Trivers have recently emphasized that it is deception rather than information that often plays the decisive role in systems of selective pressures. Yet most of our thinking continues to treat deception as something of a perturbation on the exchange of pure information, leaving us unprepared to contemplate a world in which fakery may reliably crowd out the genuine. In particular, humanity’s future selective pressures appear likely to remain tied to economic theory which currently uses as its central construct a market model based on assumptions of perfect information.

    If we are to take selection more seriously within humans, we may fairly ask what rigorous system would be capable of tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears. Such a system, in continuous development for more than a century, is known to exist and now supports an intricate multi-billion dollar business empire of pure hokum. It is known to wrestling’s insiders as “Kayfabe”.

    Evolutionary biology, okay — I have other preferences for go-to model theory, but this one seems popular among non-magical realists on the cutting edge.. and the analog proposed in this article is kayfabe.


    Which is?

    What can be seen as “tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears”? What, in other words, can model all these altered realities? And kayfabe cannot be the answer, since it is one of those altered realities itself. No — for sure, it may provide a superb analog for professional wrestling and those others — “war, finance, love, politics and science” — mentioned later in the piece:

    Kayfabrication (the process of transition from reality towards Kayfabe) arises out of attempts to deliver a dependably engaging product for a mass audience while removing the unpredictable upheavals that imperil participants. As such Kayfabrication is a dependable feature of many of our most important systems which share the above two characteristics such as war, finance, love, politics and science.

    — but it cannot model them.


    Let’s take a closer look at the analogy, though:

    What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.

    That’s skirting the “model” concept again, but:

    While most modern sports enthusiasts are aware of wrestling’s status as a pseudo sport, what few alive today remember is that it evolved out of a failed real sport (known as “catch” wrestling) which held its last honest title match early in the 20th century. Typical matches could last hours with no satisfying action, or end suddenly with crippling injuries to a promising athlete in whom much had been invested.


    The idea was to avoid two “paradoxical risks”:

    • Occasional but Extreme Peril for the participants
    • General: Monotony for both audience and participants
    • Think about that in the context of war — extensive boredom punctuated by episodes of extreme risk? Try these descriptions from WWI:

      Since then we have been doing infantry work in the trenches. We have been out of work on our trenches; only shrapnel and snipers. Some one described this war as “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” It is sad that it is such a bad country for cavalry.


      “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” : such is a description of life in the Navy which a naval lieutenant quotes as exactly fitting the facts.

      That covers army and navy, both from Where does the phrase of “boredom punctuated by moments of terror” come from? — but what about the air? It’s not from WWI, but anyway:

      In Barry Lopez’s essay “Flight” (published in About This Life and originally in Harper’s October 1995) he quotes pilots describing flying as “hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of terror.

      And what of love — after, as they say, the honeymoon is over?


      For that matter, and at an entirely different scale, what about the heartbeat?

      That’s “boredome punctuated by excitement” in a nutshell, iterated, and becoming a (mostly) relable rhythm..

      Iterated. Rhythm.


      I’m unconvinced that the heartbeat is an example of “the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery”.. And that’s a crucial element of the general process, eh? It has to do with the way in which “important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.”

      I’d read that as potentially covering the transition from failed Mueller to successful Fox, if things go that way. YMMV:

      But “general process” — again, what’s the mnodel? And more preciseluy, what would the model look like in “stocks and flows” system dynamic form, say in STELLA? See Donella Meadows, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System?


      Or HipBone?

      I’m not convinced Mueller / Fox is a “boredom then excitement” example, much less that Mueller and Fox are allied in producing their result, whatever this may turn out to be — but Democrat and Republican, perhaps..

      And my search for the abstraction, the underlying model of the general process proposed continues..


      KAYFABE in Professional Wrestling tells us more:

      To lift the veil on the world of professional wrestling, we need to take a look at the term ‘kayfabe‘. Kayfabe is a wrestling word coming from the early carnival days of wrestling for the word “keep”, originally used as “keep quiet”, or “keep secret”. Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of the business, such as feuds, angles and wrestling gimmicks (or in layman terms, a wrestler’s on-screen persona from their personality down to their attire). In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.

      In the past, it was common for wrestlers to adhere to maintaining kayfabe in public, even when outside the ring and off-camera, in order to preserve the illusion that the competition in pro wrestling was not staged.

      Kayfabe breaking as analogous to “an actor breaking character on camera”? And kayfabe transitioning from “virtual” to “real” — another of our favorite themes? Here we are again, from our first source:

      Importantly, Kayfabe also seems to have discovered the limits of how much disbelief the human mind is capable of successfully suspending before fantasy and reality become fully conflated. Wrestling’s system of lies has recently become so intricate that wrestlers have occasionally found themselves engaging in real life adultery following exactly behind the introduction of a fictitious adulterous plot twist in a Kayfabe back-story.

      So “wrestlers have occasionally found themselves” — wrestlers, plural, found themselves engaging, plural — in adultery? Our model needs to accomodatee this plurality along with all the rest.


    An eerie foreshadowing of Comey-Trump in the Gospel

    Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the distinction between philo and agapo in Greek, loyalty and honesty in public service ]

    If you are familiar with the Gospel of John, you may recall the passage in which Christ questions Peter (upper panel below) which is often rendered in English “Do you love me?” “You know that I love you” (thrice — but which is subtler in the Greek, since Christ twice asks Peter if he loves him (unselfishly, most deeply), to which Peter responds that he likes him (feels affectionate or friendy love for him) — and on the third occasion, Christ uses Peter’s choice of verb, “Do you feel friendoy towards me?” and Peter answers, “Yes, you know I do.”

    There’s an eerie echo of that conversation in Jim Comey‘s prepared remarks for his tesimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tomorrow (lower panel, above).

    Comey twice avoids giving his verbal assent to loyalty, which Trump each time asks for, ansd on the third occasion goes part way to meet him with an assurance of “honest loyalty.”

    Comey goes on to testify:

    As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

    Both Christ and Comey strike me as attempting twice to hold their interlocutor to a higher standard than that which he proposes, while tactfully making a verbal concession on the third attempt…

    More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

    Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]

    Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

    Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)


    It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

    It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

    Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

    Angaelos’ response:

    As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.


    And here is Angaelos again:

    Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
    By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

    Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

    I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

    This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

    You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

    You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

    Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

    This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

    [ .. ]

    What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.


    I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

    Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.


    To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

    A Message to Those Who Kill Us

    What will we say to them?


    The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

    You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

    You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

    We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

    We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.

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