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Another Sunday Surprise: Gould and Turner

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- this one's for the creative cognition folks out there in Zenland ]
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Damn’d hard to read, I know, but worth it if you care about artistic creation & performance:

SPEC gould turner

The top quote is Glenn Gould, speaking in the documentary Glenn Gould, Hereafter, the second from the erudite and delightful poet, distinguished professor and friend, Frederick Turner‘s blog.

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DoubleQuoting hashtags on Gaza

Friday, August 15th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- don't be fooled by the pretty colors, what you see is just a mass of data points artfully displayed ]
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Here’s a fascinating graphic from the quantitative mode of analysis:

I really don’t have much to say about this, except that if a prayer is fired off each time the hashtags #prayforgaza and #prayforisrael are posted, the divine listening apparatus must be a stereo system.

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Source:

  • Gilad Lotan, Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda
  • Lotan’s article is worth reading. Here’s the point that interested me most:

    Haaretz accommodates the most connections on both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides of the graph, having the highest betweenness centrality. Compared to all other nodes in the graph, Haaretz is most likely to spread throughout the wider network. It has the most potential for bridging across biases and political barriers.

    Lotan closes with a plea for us all to “be more thoughtful about adding and maintaining bridges across information silos online”. May it be so.

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    Form is Insight: painter’s eye, cinematographer’s segue

    Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a follow-up to Form is Insight: parliamentarian scuffle, photographer’s eye -- Breugel's Fight between Carnival and Lent comes to a movie house near you ]
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    Jem Cohen‘s film, Museum Hours, is set largely in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, with a particular focus on Pieter Breughel the Elder. Less than 10 minutes into the film, this shot, showing a detail of one of his paintings:

    is followed seamlessly — as though nothing had happened — by this one, a “detail” one might say, of the Vienna street, perhaps indeed as the viewer steps into it right outside the museum:

    Between the two shots — in the cut — we move from the sixteenth to the twentyfirst century, and from curated museum to careless street. The painter’s eye is echoed by the cinematographer’s segue: litter remains litter.

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    The first image is a seemingly insignificant detail taken from the area of Breughel’s painting containing the “figure of Carnival”:

    which you can easily spot, low down and slightly left of center, in the painting as a whole, here:

    The painting itself, which goes by the title The Fight between Carnival and Lent, presents Breughel’s juxtaposition of festive and fasting seasons which follow one another seamlessly in the calendar of the church, while their respective impulses wrestle constantly for dominance in the hearts of humankind…

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    Drew Martin at The Museum of Peripheral Art blog notices the successive “litter” shots from inside and outside the museum in Cohen’s film, too, and writes:

    The most brilliant thing about this movie is the use of segue. In one scene, a series of shots focus on details of a Bruegel painting with the guide’s voice listing the objects “.. discarded playing cards, a bone, a broken egg ..”, and then the images switch to nondescript ground shots in Vienna, as he continues “.. a cigarette butt, a folded note, a lost glove, a beer can.”

    When I write of the power of juxtapositions and of the eye that perceives pattern, then, I am not speaking of something that is entirely subjective and personal, but of a faculty native to the human, yet woefully under-practiced, under-explored. My intention is to suggest that this faculty is not merely of use to the artist or art-historian, but basic to a rich and full cognizance of the world around us. It is one techne of reading the world, one of many.

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    How’s this for another juxtaposition from the same film?

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    Gaza symmetries and asymmetries

    Sunday, July 20th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- "hatred of the other" viewed as a cognitive matter, and Richard Landes on the capacity for self-criticism ]
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    Credit: Amir Schiby

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    Nicholas Kristof has a post today for the NYT Sunday Review, Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East? — in which he explores the symmetries and asymmetries playing out in Gaza. He concludes with the following paragraph:

    Here we have a conflict between right and right that has been hijacked by hard-liners on each side who feed each other. It’s not that they are the same, and what I see isn’t equivalence. Yet there is, in some ways, a painful symmetry — and one element is that each side vigorously denies that there is any symmetry at all.

    Let that stand as the epigraph of this post, while we turn to EO Wilson for a theoretical basis:

    Reification is the quick and easy mental algorithm that creates order in a world otherwise overwhelming in flux and detail. One of its manifestations is the dyadic instinct, the proneness to set up two part classifications in treating socially important arrays. Societies everywhere break people into in-group versus out-group, child versus adult, kin versus non kin, married versus single, and activities into sacred and profane, good and evil. They fortify the boundaries of each division with taboo and ritual. To change from one division to the other requires initiation ceremonies, weddings, blessings, ordinations and other rites of passage that mark every culture.

    Rush Dozier in Why We Hate picks up the thread:

    Us-them stereotyping emerges directly from the primitive neural system’s basic survival response. It is a form of categorical thinking in which the categories are mutually exclusive. To the primitive areas of the brain, one is either “us” or “them.One cannot be both.

    Jesus is reported as saying both “he that is not against us is for us” [Mark 9.40] and “He that is not with me is against me” [Luke 11.23], whereas GW Bush offers less ambiguity: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

    Dozier again:

    It appears that this kind of either-or analysis results from the pre-conscious alerting system’s need for extremely rapid processing, which requires that phenomena be simplified as much as possible and placed in unambiguous categories.

    The alert with its binaries, and the analytic, with (hopefully) its nuance — which would we be better advised to entrust with such major matters as war and peace?

    Jesus again, overriding the binary opposition [Luke 6.27-28]:

    I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

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    Let’s move to one specific distinction — one that provide us with a binary, while arguably transcending binary thinking.

    Richard Landes makes a strong point in his post titled Self-criticism and cultural development, when he asserts:

    Self-criticism stands at the heart of any experiment in civil society.

    He continues:

    Only when we can acknowledge errors and commit to avoiding making them again, can we have a learning curve. Only when scholars can express their criticism of academic colleagues, and those criticized are able to acknowledge error, can scientific and social thinking develop. Only when religious believers can entertain the possibility that they may not have a monopoly on truth (no matter how convinced they might be of their “Truth”), can various religions live in peace and express their beliefs without fear of violence. Only when political elites are willing to accept negative feedback from people who do not have their power, only when the press can oppose those who control public decision-making, can a government reasonably claim to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

    The distinction, the asymmetry I’m interested in exploring today is that between those who self-criticize and can accept criticism, and those who neither self-criticize nor accept criticism.

    In my reading of the two quotes from Netanyahu and Diskin that I paired at the tail end of my post Israel / Palestine: some delicate balancing acts, Netanyahu seems to me averse to Israeli self-criticism, while Diskin clearly welcomes and practices it.

    Here’s an individual, unofficial example. In an “eyewitness account of how the synagogue of Rue de la Roquette [in Paris] was attacked by a mob, and fought back” titled ‘Yesterday, a Part of My Love for France Left Me’, Aurélie A. wrote:

    I can already see myself jumping at the throat of one of the keffiyeh wearers shouting “Death to the Yids!” He wants to kill Jews???!!! I want to leave him for dead! I do not recognize my own hatred!

    There’s the binary at work, generating hatred to meet hatred — and the reflective mind that sees the binary as simplistic, and moves self-critically beyond it.

    Landes again:

    Nothing contrasts more with Israel’s culture of self-criticism than its belligerent neighbors, especially the Palestinians. Here we find one of the most aggressive zero-sum political cultures on record. They accept no responsibility for the war they wage, and justify all their behavior — including how they treat their own people — as a response to the Zionists. They demonize the Zionists with conspiracy theories and blood libels drawn from the most delirious of European anti-Semitic fears to inspire their victimized people to take arms against this malevolent enemy. Who could self-criticize when being assaulted by such merciless and powerful forces? Self-criticism under such conditions is unthinkable, and dissent is treachery. The exceptional number of Palestinians killed by Palestinians suggests a culture in which intimidating dissenters and eliminating traitors is the norm.

    Those who say all who criticize Israeli actions are “Anti-Semitic” are overreaching: there is certainly a strong current of anti-Semitism alive and at large in the world, but the capacities to self-criticize and to accept criticism imply that one may critique what one loves as an expression of that love.

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    The image of the four Bakr boys no longer playing soccer on the beach which heads this post is the work of the Israeli artist Amir Schiby. You can read it as a pro-Palestinian work of propaganda — or as an artistic criticism by an Israeli of the current Israeli operation in Gaza. You can also read it as a simple, beautiful expression of grief.

    Its beauty argues for one of the latter two interpretations, and Schiby’s own statement on his FaceBook page that he intended it “as a tribute to all children living in war zones” clearly suggests the third.

    Not a binary, partisan statement, then, and not even the raising of a “provocative question” — but an arrow to the heart, a wordless pang of grief.

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    Three DoubleQuotes via Paradoxes of War MOOC

    Sunday, June 29th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- there's actionable intel, and then there's the chewable kind -- guess where my own interest is focused ]
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    There’s a cognitive style that’s embedded in the concept of actionable intelligence, and in the software and trainings that serve it, Palantir being among the most notable. And there’s a cognitive style that’s embedded in the concept of “inactionable” intelligence, and in any software and trainings that serve it, the HipBone/Sembl/DoubleQuotes combo fitting into the way of things under that “uncomfortable” rubric.

    So let’s give those cognitive modes other names, and call them, for simplicity: act-on mode and chew-on mode. Some people need to act on the intelligence they receive, some need to chew on it.

    The three DoubleQuotes that follow are the byproduct of today’s discussions on Princeton’s Paradoxes of War MOOC, and to mmy mind they’re worth chewing on.

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    Brilliant! These two quotes are juxtaposed as epigraphs to James Der Derian‘s paper, War as Game. Given my interest in both war and games, that was a natural DoubleQuote to borrow..

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    The thing about Thomas Friedman‘s quote — which became a semi-tongue-in-cheek theory after he wove it into his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, under the name “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” — is that it traces back so directly to Immanuel Kant, thus demonstrating the theorem, applicable to both waterways and spiritual utterances, that matters whose beginnings are pure tend to accrue contaminants as they move away from source — an effect for whose religious variant Max Weber coined the phrase, “the routinization of charisma”.

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    Lastly, here’s one for the Zenmaster, knowing his appreciation both for ancient history as it relates to military matters, and for the art and science of education:

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    Sources:

  • Der Derian, Epigraphs from War as Game

  • Friedman, Big Mac
  • Kant, Perpetual Peace

  • Mead, Military Recruiters
  • Deligiannis, The Spartan ‘Agoge’
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