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Hipbone’s Believe it or Not

Friday, January 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — how quickly language changes — with a Swiftian nibble chaser]
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From the story update to a 2013 CSM piece, upper panel — oh! how true of so much in the modern mainstream media — with my more succinct 2016 phrasing below:

SPEC DQ clickbait

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It’s good to know the editors at CSM are protecting their readers from a too-literal — perhaps one might say, fundamentalist — reading of their text.

The headline of the story in question reads:

Why do people want to eat babies? Scientists explain.

The subhead:

Admit it: When presented with a baby, you’ve experienced a fleeting desire to eat it. Now science has an explanation.

And better yet, the lead — some would say, lede:

If you’re like most normal people, you’ve briefly considered eating a baby or two.

**

Jonathan Swift might have thought the editors too politcally correct for the necessities of the day, noting —

A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.

Poetry is dead vs the death penalty for poetry?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — current affairs, target practice, and incarnation ]
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Ah.

Palestinian poet and painter Ahraf Fayadh is currently under a death sentence in Saudi Arabia.

It appears important to recognize the full human significance of one’s target

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Flaubert apparently pronounced poetry dead in his posthumous opus, Bouvard et Pécuchet, 1881, and even Newsweek had noted the fact — “filed under: News” — by 2003. Neither Flaubert nor Newsweek, however, was reckoning on the long-standing Arab enthusiasm for poetry, nicely illustrated to this day by the seriousness with which the authorities treat their poets.

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Oh..

and while we’re on the subject of targeting..

it may also be wise to recognize the full divine significance of one’s target.

Red mercury as scam and symbol

Friday, November 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — CJ Chivers, nuclear nonsense, faux chemistry, and the alchemical imagination, with hat-tip to Cheryl Rofer ]
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CJ Chivers, conflict journalist extraordinaire and author of a book about the Kalashnikov assault rifle, The Gun, today posted a remarkable account of what he terms The Doomsday Scam, with the subtitle “For decades, aspiring bomb makers — including ISIS — have desperately tried to get their hands on a lethal substance called red mercury. There’s a reason that they never have.”

A taste:

The Islamic State, he said, was shopping for red mercury.

Abu Omar knew what this meant. Red mercury — precious and rare, exceptionally dangerous and exorbitantly expensive, its properties unmatched by any compound known to science — was the stuff of doomsday daydreams. According to well-traveled tales of its potency, when detonated in combination with conventional high explosives, red mercury could create the city-flattening blast of a nuclear bomb. In another application, a famous nuclear scientist once suggested it could be used as a component in a neutron bomb small enough to fit in a sandwich-size paper bag.

and:

To approach the subject of red mercury is to journey into a comic-book universe, a zone where the stubborn facts of science give way to unverifiable claims, fantasy and outright magic, and where villains pursuing the dark promise of a mysterious weapon could be rushing headlong to the end of the world. This is all the more remarkable given the broad agreement among nonproliferation specialists that red mercury, at least as a chemical compound with explosive pop, does not exist.

Indeed, there’s a sidebar in Chivers’ post which sums the topic up nicely:

The shadowy weaponeer’s little helper, red mercury was the unobtainium of the post-Soviet world.

There’s much more, of course — with red mercury rumored to be found in old Singer sewing machines, which briefly raised the price of such machines in Saudi Arabia a thousandfold to $50,000 — and the whole extraordinary piece is more than worthy of your attention. It is also about a concrete, if counter-factual, reading of the term “red mercury.”

Cinnabar, aka mercury sulphide, anyone?

**

A centuries-old debate concerning alchemy has concerned the literal and metaphorical interpretations of alchemical texts.

Scholars up to and including Isaac Newton theorized about and practiced alchemy in their aptly named lab-oratories, at a time when literal and metaphorical “readings” were much less easily considered separately than is the case today. Alchemy was then for a while widely ridiculed as proto- and indeed pseudo-science — a tendency still prevalent in many circles today. And more recently, alchemy has been explored by Carl Jung and followers (and his predecessor, Silberer) as a field of imaginative, metaphorical inquiry illuminating spirituality, psychology and literature.

  • BJT Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy
  • BJT Dobbs, The Janus Faces of Genius
  • Herbert Silberer, Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism
  • CG Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
  • CG Jung, Alchemical Studies
  • CG Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis
  • Marie-Louise von Franz, Aurora Consurgens
  • Titus Burckhardt, Alchemy
  • Jung’s reading of alchemical texts is a symbolic reading — in accordance with the principle “the stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone” (Psalm 118.22, cf Acts 411), he has taken precisely those materials in the alchemical tradition which modern chemistry rejected as ridiculous, and reclaimed them as symbolic, richly metaphorical expressions of psychological truth.

    **

    It is in that spirit that I turned from Chivers’ fascinating treatment of “red mercury” as an allegedly physical, albeit spurious, substance, with its intriguing narratives of scams from the Cold War to the present day and IS, to take a look at what I might find via a brief search in the Jungian literature. I say “quick” because I have neither the appropriate library nor the time for a more intensive search, but here’s what little I found:

    There’s a “red mercury” reference in Stanton Marlan, The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness, on p. 22:

    The idea is that the raw solar energy must darken and undergo a mortificatio process that reduces it to its prime matter. Only then can the creative energies produce a purified product. In this image the sperm of gold refers not to the ordinary seminal fluid of man but rather to “a semi-material principle,” or aura seminales, the fertile potentiality that prepares the Sun for the sacred marriage with his counterpart, darkness, which is thought to produce a philosophical child or stone and is nourished by the mercurial blood that flows from the wounding encounter of the Lion and the Sun. The blood — called red mercury — is considered a great solvent.

    Marlan then gives us what is effectively a translation of the paragraph above into contemporary therapeutic language:

    Psychologically, there is nourishment in wounding. When psychological blood flows, it can dissolve hardened defenses. This then can be the beginning of true productivity. In dreams the imagery of blood often connotes moments when real feeling and change are possible. The theme of the wound can also suggest a hidden innocence, which is also a subject of mortification. The green color of the lion, which is referred to as “green gold,” suggests something that is immature, unripe, or innocent, as well as growth and fertility. The alchemist imagined this innocence, sometimes called virgin’s milk, as a primary condition, something without Earth and not yet blackened. Typical virgin-milk fantasies are often maintained emotionally in otherwise intellectually sophisticated and developed people.

    **

    And then there’s what Jung would term synchronicity..

  • CG Jung & Wolfgang Pauli, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche
  • In my twitter stream within 3 minutes of my posting my first tweet re Chivers’ piece, & before I’d tweeted my follow up, I ran across this tweet containing the phrase “Drawing Blood will eat the sun”:

    Drawing Blood will eat the sun — just how synchronistically alchemical can Molly Crabapple and Twitter get?

    Now you see it, now you don’t

    Monday, November 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — NYT re Paris — curious minds wonder why ]
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    In sequence:

    SPEC DQ NYT

    Sources:

  • The Paris attackers communicated with ISIS, officials say
  • Page Not Found
  • Ceylan Ozbudak notes a discrepancy from PKK [updated]

    Thursday, September 10th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — just another entry in the DoubleQuotes log ]
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    Another “DoubleQuote in the Wild” demonstrating re-use of materials from one, older context to make a point in another, current one:

    **

    Edited to add:

    Hm, make that a DoubleTweet of DoubleQuotesCeylan pointed me to this one, too:


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