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Raza Rumi: lines drawn & boundaries transcended

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an assassination attempt, a book review -- and a counterpoint of musicians ]
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I have mentioned Raza Rumi only once before on Zenpundit, in Darfur question… and wider Sufi ripples two years ago. This week, however, there was an attempt on his life, and on the 29th, Rumi posted about it on his Jahane Rumi blog:

Finally, I countenanced what I had been dreading for quite some time. Journalists and media houses being under threat is a well-known story in conflict-ridden Pakistan. I had also heard about my name being on a few hit-lists but I thought these were tactics to scare dissenters and independent voices. But this was obviously an incorrect assessment of the situation.

On Friday night, when I had planned to visit Data Darbar after my television show, my car was attacked by “unknown” (a euphemism for lethal terror outfits) assailants. The minute I heard the first bullet, the Darwinian instinct made me duck under and I chose to lie on the back of the car.

This near death experience with bullets flying over me and shattered window glass falling over me reminded me of the way my own country was turning into a laboratory of violence. Worse, that when I saved myself, it was not without a price. A young man, who had been working as my driver for sometime, was almost dead. I stood on a busy road asking for help and not a single car stopped…

As I tweeted when I heard about the attempt, I was distressed to hear of the attack, and wish him well — and Pakistan, too.

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I’ve been a quiet admirer and occasional reader of Rumi’s blog for quite a while now, and am looking forward to reading his book, Delhi By Heart.

The first and final paragraphs from Venki Vembu‘s review of the book confirm me in my wish to do so. They also — and here’s what this post is really all about — show us both the deeply etched lines of division –

In his novel The Shadow Lines, Amitav Ghosh writes of the imagined cartographic lines that divide people in the Indian subcontinent and cleave their souls. Many of these “shadow lines” are etched in bitter, hand-me-down memories and imaginations, and for that reason are rather more indelible than lines on a map, which can perhaps be redrawn over time.

— and the possibility that such lines and boundaries can be overcome, erased, transcended —

Rumi offers this fascinating narrative as a “faint voice that wants to transcend boundaries and borders and reject the ills of jingoism spun by nation-state narratives.” In form and spirit, this unusual travelogue is like a jugal bandhi: songs of bhakti tradition fuse seamlessly with qawwali strains from the Nizamuddin dargah. It is an enchanting illustration of how the divisive shadow lines of history can be erased when hearts and minds are opened to new experiences.

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Finally, for your listening pleasure: an intricate jugalbandhi or musical dialogue between Zakir Hussain on tabla and Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri flute…

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Delicious Tweets, just two of them

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- further musings on form in 140 characters or less ]
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Either my appetite for serpents biting their tails and the like has diminished, or they are all in hibernation. Since I last posted, I’ve only found two that I’d care to show you…

This:

and this:

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Hiber-nation: Scotland, without the appendages?

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Go or No Go?

Friday, March 14th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- from the Crimea to jihad, via "perhaps the most famous move in the history of go" ]
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As usual, my interest here is not in the geo-polemics of the affair, which I leave to others, but in the formal properties of the presentation. In this case, the form in question is a type of map I’m inclined to call a surround, threat or seige map depending on circumstances. Here, juxtaposed as is my style, are two versions:

Zen posted the upper image on this blog earlier today, and I saw it around the same time I found the lower image in my Twitterfeed.

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What each of these maps shows is an area x surrounded by the forces of y, with different emphases in the two cases — and note the ironic caption of the second!

What they remind me of is a Go board, in which each side is, so to speak, surrounding, threatening or besieging the other, simultaneously.

In 1846 in what I gather is one of the classic games of Go, a youngster named Shusaku played against a renowned master, Gennan Inseki, st one point in the game making a single move — which gave its name to the game as a whole — known as the ear-reddening move:

marked black stone is the famous ear-reddening move, perhaps the most famous move in the history of go

Note how distant that move is from other pockets of play, and how central to the game as a whole.

As Arno Hollosi and Morten Pahle at Sensei’s Library describe the Ear Reddening Game

This move is called the ear-reddening move. Gennan’s disciples were watching the game and not one of them doubted that Gennan would win. But a doctor, who also had been watching the game, thought that Gennan would lose. When pressed for an answer he replied: I don’t know much about the game, but when Shusaku played B1 [ie: the marked move] Gennan’s ears flushed red. This is a sign that he had been upset.

B1 is a profound move having influence in all four directions. It expands black’s moyo at the top, it helps the four black stones below, it reduces the influence of white’s strong position to the right, and it also has an eye on white’s moyo on the left side. In short B1 is the central point for attack and defence.

Eventually Shusaku won this game by 2 points after 325 moves.

Gennan’s disciples read, or attempt to read, the board: the doctor reads the mind in a rush of blood to the ears.

That too is an interesting move — in another game entirely.

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In an article in tomorrow’s The Economist subtitled To understand war, American officials are playing board games, brought to my attention today by PaxSims, we find this comment –

Board games can also illuminate the most complex conflicts. Volko Ruhnke, a CIA analyst, has designed a series of games about counterinsurgency. For example, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-? (sold by GMT Games of California) models “parallel wars of bombs and ideas”, as one reviewer puts it, on a board depicting much of Eurasia and Africa.

— fascinating to me because “wars of bombs and ideas” are what we have, and while a whole lot of effort goes into modeling “wars of bombs” it’s my impression that “wars of ideas” get far less attention.

Something I hope, in my own small way, to rectify.

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But to get back to borders and surroundings?

The issue is a perennial one. Only today I was reading David Cook’s Understanding Jihad, on page 29 of which we find that the concept of the jihadist martyr as occupying the uppermost layers of paraise in the afterlife was extended, as time and events progressed, to include those who merely lived in (dangerous) border territory:

Cities are also associated with privileges of this nature — for the most part, cities in dangerous locations, such as those close to the Byzantine border, along the Mediterranean Sea (subject to regular Byzantine raids), in northern Persia facing the mountainous and unconquered area of Tabaristan, and in Central Asia. In all cases, those Muslims who guard the frontiers are assured either the rank of martyrs or the privileges of intercession after their deaths. It seems clear that the issue of intercession was a very powerful incentive for people to live in what would otherwise be undesirable locations.

Plus ça change…

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An iconic photo?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- iconic, ironic, either way it's interesting, instructive ]
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The White House, Games, and HipBone/Sembl — today

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a project of keen interest to me, and a request for your support ]
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Something is going on in one corner of the White House that has me agog in a pleasant way.


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Mark DeLoura, Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the WH Office of Science and Technology Policy is soliciting ideas about Games that Can Change the World. I’ve jumped in, and so have some old friends, one auld acquaintance and one new…

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The home page for this project is hosted on its own Games for Impact site, and I’d invite you to take a look, and note in particular…

  • Games where ideas collide (& create new ideas)
  • This is my own page, for the HipBone / Sembl games and DoubleQuotes — and if you have found my style of analysis valuable, you may want to go there, (take the trouble to) log in, and upvote my idea — making a comment too, should you so wish.

  • Positive Impact and Game Evangelism
  • Similarly, you can log in and upvote the whole idea by supporting this proposal, the current “leading” concept…

    Part of what makes this entry so interesting is the fact that Chris Crawford, game designer and thinker non pareil, is discussing his own long-hoped-for paradigm shift in game design in this thread. Chris is the “auld acquaintance” I mentioned, and I met him via the good services of my old friend Mike Sellers late in the last century. It is good to read him again in the new millennium.

  • Games to increase understanding about emergent social systems
  • Mike’s own offering is this one, which I also highly recommend. Mike is one of the founding fathers of multiplayer games with graphical architecture, and has more recently been working to bring human psychology into gameplay with increasing subtlety. By all means give him a vote up if that sounds good.

  • Knecht/Connect – a playable version of the Glass Bead Game
  • As you know, my own games attempt to bring the game concept embedded in Hermann Hesse’s great novel, The Glass Bead Game / Magister Ludi into playable form, and my friend Paul Pilkington has been doing the same in a series of books [1, 2, 3] and a Twitter stream. Let’s help him get some recognition, too…

  • Try the Poietic Generator
  • This one’s a game concept I like, too — it’s based on Conway‘s Game of Life… and brings it alive!

    It was submitted by Olivier Auber, whom I hadn’t previously met — so he’s my new acquaintance, and I’m hoping his game ideas will flourish and that acquaintance will grow into friendship in as things unfold…

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    So that’s the overall project, along with a sampling of specific ideas that I admire and would invite you to support. I hope you’ll find (and support) some other game concepts of interest, too.

    In a follow up post honoring Chris Crawford — which may still take a while to write and post — I’ll be looking at some of the historical background of “serious games” — and of the HipBone / Sembl style of thinking in particular.

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