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Thucydides Roundtable, Book I: reflections in a beginner’s mind

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron ]
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I’m entirely new to Thucydides, having received my copy of the book only on Friday, so I’ll keep this brief. I hope to have caught up a bit more by this time next week.

Meanwhile, my mind works associatively, so..

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rich-vs-poor-in-rio
Riches and poverty in Rio

The goodness of the land favored the enrichment of particular individuals, and thus created faction which proved a fertile source of ruin. It also invited invasion.

trump-border-wall
Donald Trump

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In Spencer-Brown’s inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a “this” from “everything else but this.”

He does not even use the term barbarian, probably because the Hellenes had not yet been marked off from the rest of the world by one distinctive name.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech after a suicide bomb explosion in Istanbul on January 12, 2016, said: “Pick a side. You are either on the side of the Turkish government, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.”

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The iconic 'Rumble in the Jungle' belt of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali is displayed for auction at Heritage Auctions house in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The iconic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ belt of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali is displayed for auction at Heritage Auctions house in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

To this day among some of the barbarians, especially in Asia, where prizes for boxing and wrestling are offered, belts are worn by the contestants..

Koki Kameda of Japan, center, donning the newly-captured champion belt, green, in addition to the two he already has, poses with his younger brothers Daiki, left, and Kazuki after Koki's victory over Alexander Munoz of Venezuela in their 12-round WBA bantamweight world title boxing bout in Saitama, Japan, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010. Koki Kameda won a unanimous decision over Munoz to take the vacant title. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Koki Kameda of Japan, center, donning the newly-captured champion belt, green, in addition to the two he already has, poses with his younger brothers Daiki, left, and Kazuki after Koki’s victory over Alexander Munoz of Venezuela in their 12-round WBA bantamweight world title boxing bout in Saitama, Japan, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010. Koki Kameda won a unanimous decision over Munoz to take the vacant title. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — besides horror at the beheading, there’s an analytic note that needs to be heard ]
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abdullah issa 600
Abdullah Issa fighting, and wounded — soon to be savagely beheaded

The ferocity of the beheading has been blurred out in most versions of the video, though ZeroCensorship is still showing it, and YouTube has a version that stops short of the beheading but appears to record Abdullah’s final wish — to be shot, not slaughtered.

That devastating final wish goes way beyond Shakespeare‘s “to be or not to be, that is the question” — it may well be the most terrfying depiction of a choice made at death-point that I have ever heard.

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I commented recently to a post by Ehsani2 titled The Boy Beheaded by Zinki Fighters, Abdullah Tayseer, Who Was He? on Dr. Joshus LandisSyria Comment blog, noting that the piece used the names Zanki and Zinki without commenting on the difference between them, and asking for clarification. I’d like to thank Dr Landis for a graciously email in response, and am happy to note today that my concern regarding the discrepant names used in the article is not without cause — as Kyle Orton just made clear in his own post on his Syrian Intifada blog, A Rebel Crime and Western Lessons in Syria:

One of the first complications with al-Zengi is the sheer variety of ways to transliterate the group’s name. Nooradeen can be Nooridin, Noorideen, and Noor/Nur al-Din/Deen; Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others. Harakat means “movement,” though sometimes the organization is referred to as kataib (brigade) instead. Nooradeen refers to the twelfth-century Seljuk atabeg of the Zengid dynasty, whose life’s project was the reunification of the Islamic community.

No wonder I was confused.

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My point, as so often, cuts against the grain of the conversation on Ehsani2’s post, which is largely about the horrible event itself and the group that performed it, one time support from the US included, and not the ways in which lack of languahger skills can cause confusion where clarity would be preferable — and that’s fair enough. My point, hiwever, is the linguistic one, and I think it’s important in a way that’s perhaps better suited to discussion here than on Dr Landis’ blog.

My plea is for analysts with special knowledge of places, groups or languages to bear in mind when writing, that there will be some in their interested audiences who may not share those specialities but are still worth reaching — and in particular that non-specialists, while inherently weak in local detail, may nevertheless contribute significant insights from outside linguistic or area-specialist silos, precisely by virtue of not being in the echo-chambers that such forms of specialism themselves tend to erect.

Zen has from the beginning of this blog stressed the mutual virtues of what he terms “horizontal” and “vertical” modes of knowledge — see his series:

  • Understanding Cognition: part I: Benefits of horizontal thinking
  • Understanding Cognition: part II: Benefits of vertical thinking to horizontal thinkers
  • Understanding Cognition: part III: Horizontal and vertical thinking and the origin of insight
  • I came to my own interest in that topic by being a primarily analogical and only secondarily linear thinker, by hearing Murray Gell-Mann at CalTech speak on the importance of generalist “bridge-makers” who perceive analogical links between otherwise unrelated disciplines, and by my twenty- to thirty-year effort to devised a playable form of the great analogical game loosely described in Hermann Hesse’s brillian (nobel-winning) novel, The Glass Bead Game.

    In prepping a proposal — as yet unfinished — for DARPA or IARPA last year, I formulate my basic message as a sort of motto, thus:

    Out of the box, out of the silo, out of the discipline, out of the agency, out of the explicit known into the “unknowing” — where the future takes shape…

    I could — and in the finished proposal will, God-willing — go far further on this topic, describing the ways in which complexity is far better modeled for us humans by analogical than by linear thinking, by cross-disciplinary than by silo’d thinking, by visual rather than verbal thinking, by human scale (7, plus or minus 2 datapoints) visualization than by big-data viz, and so forth. But let’s make it simple:

    Quirky thinking has a better chance at creative insight than routine thinking, individual contrarian passion than in-group agreement.

    Okay?

    **

    Thanks again to Dr Landis, and back to business..

    About those angels hiding in the wings & winds

    Saturday, July 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — John Donne, Kepler, and the transition from natural philosophy to science — & beyond ]
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    Here’s a DoubleQuote for you:

    Donne Keppler DQ

    This isn’t futuristic strategy, but it is futures thinking.

    There was an extraordinary transition that took place when natural philosophy morphed into science, and while I’ve quoted John Donne’s four amazing words “round earth’s imagin’d corners” [upper panel, above] often enough as illustrating both worldviews as though seen through a conceptual equivalent of binocular vision, it was only recently via 3QD that I came across Kepler’s illustration of the elliptical orbit of Mars with its remarkable combination of angels and geometrical precision.

    I would argue that we are at the beginning of another such trasformation, in which the “horizontal” imaginative (imaginal, image-making, magical), intuitive (irrational), creative (leaping, analogical, cross-disciplinary) mode of perception will again be integrated in some new and transformative manner with the “vertical” linear, numeric-verbal, logical (rational) mode that at present so fascinates our culture — the conscious mode of thinking through with the unconscious mode of revelatory insight.

    If it is indeed the case — as suggested by the failure of Aristotelian either-or logic to support the niceties of the world seen from a quantum mechanical perspective — that we are entering a transition to a stereoscopic worldview that finally harmonizes the sciences with the arts and humanities, then a clear understanding of the earlier transition represented above in the two panels, one from Donne’s poems, one from Kepler’s treatise, will be an invaluable guide to what lies ahead.

    **

    Sources:

  • John Donne, At the round earth’s imagin’d corners
  • James Blachowicz, There Is No Scientific Method
  • **

    Edited to add:

    For an in-depth account of salient aspects of that first transformation, see Ioan Couliano‘s great book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.

    Doing it right, doing it wrong, & it could be your Sunday surprise

    Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick note about putting the mind through hoops, aka connecting dots ]
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    For the record, the mind is not a phalanx but a swarm — IOW it gets creative when the links are leaps, not serried ranks.

    So when your evidence board, memory jolt, graphical display looks like this (and it’s not the unavoidable dimness of the screen-grab I’m talking about):

    wrong way to stir memories The Killing s3 e8 around 39 mins 2

    the mind won’t see as many possibilities as when it’s more like this:

    **

    Randomize. Create uneven spaces between items. Shift items around. The idea here is to create fresh possibilities, not to look tidy.

    I had a friend once who was an artist. His studio and his life were both disasters — and in his studio, in the middle of that life, he created dazzling, gorgeously colored and delicately graduated geometric patterns — as though he was a disorder organizer, and the more disorderly his input, the greater the precision of his output.

    Think about that.

    Here is what may be a diagrammatic version of what I’m saying, or maybe not, but which stirs my mind in any case, just thinking about it — from Ron Scroggin about a year ago, shared in John Kellden‘s Conversations on G+:

    projectmixtape RC

    **

    Sources:

  • Evidence board, The Killing, series 3 episode 8
  • Al Qaida board, Manhunter
  • On the various uses and modes of DoubleQuotes thinking

    Monday, August 10th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — working my way towards that ever-elusive Grand Theory of Linkage ]
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    Standard_legirons_taiwan01
    Ahem — not unlike my DoubleQuote format, these Taiwanese leg-irons offer another form of linkage

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    Here’s a cross-cultural DoubleQuote embedded in a Guardian paragraph — from Xiaolu Guo, writing on the Analects of Confucius in Ten Books that Changed the World:

    If you are Chinese, lines from the Bible such as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” can only bewilder you, as Confucius said nearly the opposite: “It is only the truly virtuous man who can love and hate others.” Hate is a necessary moral stance for a Chinese man.

    **

    More elaborately, Marcy Wheeler over at emptywheel has an entire post using what’s in effect a DoubleQuotes form of argument, comparing Buffalo’s ISIS Supporting Terrorist and Its Klan Supporting Terrorist as her title puts it, and including such quotes as these..

    Concerning Michael O’Neill:

    On January 21, 2015, the Niagara County Sheriff’s office responded to a report of an explosion at the house of Chair of the Niagara County Legislature, William Ross. They discovered that his stepson, former corrections officer Michael O’Neill, who lived with his mother and stepfather at the house, had blown off his leg while working with explosives in the garage. In addition to the one that exploded, there were 6 completed Improvised Explosive Devices in the garage, along with shrapnel, fireworks powder, and other explosives precursors.

    and..

    That evidence shows that the work bench at which Ross’ stepson was emptying fireworks for powder and adding nails to IEDs was decorated with a Stormtrooper poster, a picture of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate flag, and a poster advertising, “The KKK wants you.” O’Neill also appears to have had a sword (most visible in Exhibit 14) not mentioned in any legal document.

    Concerning Arafat Nagi:

    A week later, on July 29, also in the Buffalo area, FBI Agent Amanda Pike arrested US citizen Lackawanna resident Arafat Nagi on charges of attempting to materially support ISIS. The complaint laying out the case against Nagi relied on trips to Turkey and Yemen (Nagi has family in the latter), a slew of tweets supporting ISIS, and some 2012 and 2013 purchases of military equipment — including body armor and a machete — and Islamic flags from eBay. The complaint also included pictures Nagi had tweeted out depicting ISIS and extremist flags and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

    — and concluding:

    Still, these two extremists were working their way through the same court room at the same time. The contrast between the two cases is instructive.

    Read her entire piece for further elaboration.

    **

    A DoubleQuote in my DQ format is intended to work as a sort of haiku, or perhaps a stem christie, incorporating in miniature a change of direction or leap of insight — they come to much the same thing.

    A single, glorious gothic arch — you get the picture.

    It is becoming ioncreasingly obvious, though, that the DoubleQuote method of comparison and contrast has far wider application — and as my collection of DoubleQuotes in the Wild has hopefully shown, that the basic idea continues to strike artists, writers and analysts as a powerful means of corralling and communicating concept and meaning.

    It’s a naturally occurring form for thought, in other words, and at best my graphical DoubleQuotes format can bring a formal unity to many of its possible examples, and thus sharpen it — as a the general idea of a branch can be “formalized” into the concept of a fishing rod or baseball bat — into a tool.


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