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Sunday surprise: sending the body to a watery grave

Monday, February 16th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — I suppose this could be seen as my version of “kids these days just have no clue..” ]
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Since I mistakenly posted this week’s intended Sunday surprise, Afterlife this side of everlasting, on Saturday, I’m continuing my depthful exploration of the burial practices of warlords, gangsters and the like with this post.

SPEC DQ Kagemusha Magic City

When the daimyo Takeda Shingen dies in Kurosawa‘s great movie, Kagemusha, his followers are obliged to keep his death a secret for three years, to ensure clan Takeda’s continuing security. Their daimyo has, however, also instructed them that he wishes to be buried in full armor in Lake Suwa, and his corpse is therefore placed in a large urn covered in rich cloth, and taken out by boat into the mist that hovers over the lake (upper image, above).. the boat then returning to shore minus its precious cargo. The explanation is given that a offering of sake has been made to the god of the lake, and the kagemusha or daimyo’s double continues the pretence that his lord is still alive…

In the TV series Magic City, by contrast, the body of a minor gangster is first cut in pieces, then stuffed in an empty and rusty oil barrel which is welded shut, then dumped unceremoniously at sea (lower image); the oil drum is then shot repeatedly so it will sink, and left to do so — no offering to the gods, no requiem, and no luck, as the corpse and its barrel later turn up inauspiciously somewhere along Miami Beach.

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If we are to endure mobsters and warlords, need I say how much I would prefer them to work within the classical Japanese esthetic?

Not Paris, much nearer home

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — religious satire USA, plus two Charlie Hebdo resources ]
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Jesus dinosaur detail 602

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I hadn’t realized that comic book satire had entered the religion vs science debate — foolish of me, it’s an obvious medium for the task:

jesus-and-darwin 602

And here for total impact is the full page of Jesus riding the dinosaur (detail above), text included:

jesusdinosaur large

I have to say, neither these nor the Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten cartoons disturb me personally — but in our discussions of free speech and blasphemy, I think the voices of those who may be offended deserve a hearing.

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Sources and Resources:

  • Popperfont, Did Jesus ride on a dinosaur?
  • Beliefnet, Jesus and Darwin fight
  • Daily Beast, 16 most ‘shocking’ Charlie Hebdo covers
  • Understanding Charlie Hebdo, Charlie Hebdo’s satire
  • In Praise of Don Vandergriff for the “Next Yoda” at ONA

    Saturday, January 17th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    Don Vandergriff

    Friend of ZP blog and expert on adaptive leadership training Don Vandergriff has thrown his hat into the ring to replace the much admired, should not have been retired, Andrew Marshall,  the long time (appointed originally by Richard Nixon) head of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, affectionately known in DC circles as “Yoda”. Given the military’s badly broken personnel system and dire problem with “toxic leaders” and Vandergriff’s adamant philosophical emphasis upon ethical integrity, strategic thinking and honest intellectual inquiry, he would be a breath of fresh air and catalyst for change.

    James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly gave Don a ringing endorsement:

    Want to signal a change? My candidate, until someone has a better idea, is Donald Vandergriff, who has in fact applied for the job.

    Vandergriff spent 24 years on active duty an enlisted member of the Marine Corps and an Army officer. When he retired ten years ago as a major, a relatively junior rank, he exemplified the tensions between an independent-thinking, irrepressible, let’s-rock-the-boat reformer and the “don’t make waves” normal promotion machine.

    Because of his writings and advocacy, near the end of his active-duty tenure Vandergriff was described as “the most influential major in the U.S. Army.” I did an Atlantic-online discussion with him and Robert Coram, author of a popular biography of the late Air Force colonel John Boyd, a dozen years ago. He has written many well-received books about working fundamental change in the training and promotion of officers, including The Path to Victory; Spirit, Blood, and Treasure; and Raising the Bar. If you want an illustration of someone willing to take (and suffer) career risks in the cause of telling unpleasant but important organizational truths, he would be your man.

    Yes he would.

    Fabius Maximus blog weighs in as well:

    ….Donald Vandergriff (one of the authors on the FM website) has identified a powerful point of leverage to change our massive and dysfunctional military apparatus:  its personnel system, the process by which the Army recruits, trains, and promotes its officers. Change this and the effects ripple outward through the entire organization over time as the nature and behavior of its leaders evolve. The Army has begun the long slow evolution of its personnel policies, responding to the ideas of Vandergriff and others.

    This success puts Vandergriff on the cutting edge of America’s sword. He, and others like him, are crafting a solution of the third kind (about people) to defeat our foes at 4GW.  We can win at 4GW. We must learn to do so, or the 21st century will be a harsh time for America.

    There are many strategic and operational issues that the U.S. military and NatSec community would prefer to ignore because they do not play to our areas of strength where the United States enjoys overwhelming dominance relative to the rest of the world. Well, these problem areas will only grow in scope and importance because they are the points where our adversaries see hope of gaining leverage and comparative advantage over us. I am almost tempted to say “Duh” here because enemies hitting your weak points instead of running headlong into our strong points and being killed en mass is strategy 101, but strategy is less popular in some quarters these days than it should be. Don Vandergriff is the sort of man to highlight deficiencies so they can be remediated and, eventually, become new strengths.

    Don Vandergriff….strongest recommendation.

    Sunday surprise: Pakistan vs Dr Bronner

    Sunday, December 21st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — ideology in two soaps ]
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    SPEC DQ Soaps

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    The 1971 Pakistani soap ad quotes Pakistan’s third President, GEN Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan:

    Remember the PROMISE OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH that, if you are steadfast in the path of Justice, He will bless you with final victory. Advance and strike at the enemy with the rallying call of Allah-o-Akbar. God is with us

    Dr Bronner, on the other hand, has been telling us much the same thing on his soap labels since 1948, to wit: :

    Absolute cleanliness is Godliness! Teach the Moral ABC that unites all mankind free, instantly 6 billion strong & we’re All-One. Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One! 1st: If I’m not for me, who am I? Nobody! 2nd: Yet, if I’m only for me, what am I? Nothing! 3rd: If not now, when? Once More: Unless constructive-selfish I work hard perfecting first me, absolute nothing can help me!

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    The 101 Transparent Soap ad from Pakistan claims that it:

    Contains no harsh ingredients and does no harm to hands and clothes.

    Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap:

    Super mild castile soap has outstanding water softening & cleansing powers. Preferable to harsh soap & defattening synthetics. It does not cut dirt, but dissolves it. It is the mildest, most pleasant soap you ever used or your money back!

    It appears we can at least agree on the idea that doing no harm is something to be lauded in the production of soap!

    Of the Omnipotence of the Americans and Russians

    Saturday, December 20th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — or it may be time treat the newfangled term “omnimpotence” as a valid theological descriptor for the hubris manifested by “great powers” ]
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    Management of Savagery cover 427

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    Abu Bakr Naji makes an interesting point about hubris in his jihadist dissertation, The Management of Savagery (cover image above), which I was thumbing through today:

    Therefore, the two superpowers must resort to using a deceptive media halo which portrays these powers as non-coercive and world-encompassing, able to reach into every earth and heaven as if they possess the power of the Creator of creation.

    But the interesting thing that happened is that these two superpowers believed, for a time, their media deception: that they are actually a power capable of completely controlling any place in the entire world, and that (this power) bears the characteristics of the power of the Creator.

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    You know Parkinson’s Law, that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. It’s one specific instance of the more general saying “Nature abhors a vacuum” — and as always, if there’s one instance of a more general rule, there are liabke to be others.

    I’d like to suggest that Abu Bakr Naji may be onto something: that when the idea of an omnipotent deity vanishes (“appears vacuous” or is no longer taken with any depth of seriousness), whatever power is sufficiently well-placed for that purpose is liable to fill the vacuum with its own sense of, well, omnipotence.

    This omnipotence of a superpower (or powers — Naji refers to two “poles” in his treatise, the US and Russia) may not be clothed in such a religious term as “omnipotence” — but it can still carry with it the idea of a quasi-divine aegis, as in the concept of American exceptionalism, the “shining light on a hill” able to illuminate the rest of the world.

    Thinking America is the sole remaining superpower, Russia having lost its claim to that status at the end of the Cold War, clearly has enough support in practical reality to make it very easy for us to blur the distinction between “omnipotence” and “superpower” — with much of the theological resonance of the former term remaining as a halo, to use Naji’s term, about the latter.

    From a psychiatric point of view, this is the very nature of hubris — an overweening or excessive confidence or pride — of the sort that Carl Jung, interestingly enough, would term “inflation” — a sense of power that puffs itself up beyond its realistic limits to fill the vacuum made available by the absence of a recognition of God as an authentically omnipotent higher power.

    And we know what happens to over-extended balloons, bubbles, and the like…

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    It is only too easy for us to be so “rational” that we overlook the “irrational” or frankly “magical” aspects of our thinking — but the gap between supposed “realism” and reality may be a crucial one, and one which Naji sees from a distance more clearly than do we who are within it.


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