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DoubleQuote: Genocide Memorial Church before and after

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick note on the DQ format used to illustrate church “before and after” attack, montage in Pudovkin / Eisenstein, and cognition ]
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Pondering these images, I see that while they do clearly represent “before and after” when juxtaposed, they do not represent “cause and effect” as such. The cause of the visible changes is not itself present, although implied. Even so, the viewer is liable to jump from a non-causal double image via the implied causal connection to an emotional response — “the bastards!” or something of that sort.

I’ve been interested in the intellectual and emotional responses generated by juxtapositions at least since I first read about montage, Pudovkin and Eisenstein in a class on film directing at UCLA some decades back. It is one of the great issues in film — Eisenstein wrote:

to determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema

It’s more than that, though — it’s one of the great issues in cognition and metacognition.

We’d do well to put some bright minds on the task of understanding it.

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Happy New “Creative Leap” Year

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering whether a von Kármán vortex street might be a good place to take a Paul Lévy walk one of these days — when I’m out and about, foraging for new ideas ]
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"Named after French mathematician Paul Lévy, a Lévy walk is characterized by many small moves combined with a few longer trajectories."

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M’friend Bill Benzon of the New Savanna blog posted two paras out of an NYT blog piece, Navigating Our World Like Birds and Bees, today:

What they have found is that when moving with a purpose such as foraging for food, many creatures follow a particular and shared pattern. They walk (or wing or lope) for a short time in one direction, scouring the ground for edibles, then turn and start moving in another direction for a short while, before turning and strolling or flying in another direction yet again. This is a useful strategy for finding tubers and such, but if maintained indefinitely brings creatures back to the same starting point over and over; they essentially move in circles.

So most foragers and predators occasionally throw in a longer-distance walk (or flight), which researchers refer to as a “long step,” bringing them into new territory, where they then return to short walks and frequent turns as they explore the new place.

I can’t help but think that this may give us a closer approximation to the way minds can think than our usual terms, linear and lateral, or on a wider scale, disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking, with the short walks involving thoughts that require investigation but not analogy, and the long steps being leaps by analogy into new territory — the familiar hop, skip and jumps we also call creative leaps.

From my POV, seeing both linear and leaping thoughts this way allows for the fact that what we’ve been calling linear thoughts aren’t so much linear as local, while analogical thoughts by their very nature take us from one thought domain to another — via parallelism or opposition — leaping conceptual distances.

Which is why I can wish you a Happy New “Creative Leap” Year! — even though 2014 isn’t divisible by 4 and there will still only be 28 days this February.

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Bashar the Vampire-Slayer

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — pop messianism, Syria, 2013 ]
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The caption for the Bashar al-Assad image reads:

Bashar the Wahhabi Slayer [ image ] Has killed more than 40,000 Wahhabi terrorists who came from all over the world to destroy Syria

and Phillip Smyth, who tweeted it, commented:

This photo has been uploaded onto many pro-#Assad & pro-Shia (in #Syria) militia pages. Note how dead are characterized

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How the dead are characterized?

Why, as Wahhabi terrorists, explicitly — and implicitly as vampires.

FWIW, I’d argue (broad strokes) that “Wahhabi terrorists” is directed at the conscious mind, and “vampires” at the emotions.

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Egypt and the spider’s web

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a short course in my own ignorance, plain, simple — and having to do with Egypt ]
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Nathan Brown writes with humility (“I do not know what Egyptians should do”), and a lucidity that Lewis Carroll himself might admire in What’s Next in Egypt? A roadmap for backseat drivers:

Egyptian legal disputes could only have been diagrammed by M.C. Escher

And that, I’d say, is just the beginning of a very tangled web.

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Spiders and dewdrops

Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in this node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.

spider_web.jpg

When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web — and the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on swing down and around until a new equilibrium is reached…

That’s something I wrote a while back, as you can see — but drop in a few different names and places, and it’s still good to go today.

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I mean — can you imagine? Let’s use me for a guinea pig — or you can try it for yourself.

Mentally assign as many factors in the present situation as you can find to the various dewdrops on the spiders web — in such a way that cutting a given thread would nudge and budge, tear relationships apart and form new partnerships, until the whole thing settles into that new equilibrium — or even skip the Egyptian part, just imagine one of those threads snapping in the spider’s web itself, or a gust of wind shaking it, and the systemic shifts that would result…

Here, in full, are my own lab notes from that experiment:

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Well, how about those better informed than I?

Morsi was living in Egypt, I’m not. Morsi speaks Arabic, I don’t. In addition to what anyone on the Cairene street might know, Morsi had access to whatever secrets could be derived from the Brotherhood apparatus, and from the Mukhabarat and sister services. He had a powerful position as President, and presumably preferred to keep it rather than going back to his old professorship at Cal State Northridge or languishing in Mubarak-like confinement.

He made his decisions with a view to aligning events in his favor. And voilà, he got what he not wanted.

I, of course, was not blinded by his particular lust for power, nor endowed with the perspective that researching and writing a dissertation on High-Temperature Electrical Conductivity and Defect Structure of Donor-Doped Al2O3 would give one… I just got dizzy at some point, wandered off and listened to Grimaud play Bach instead — but surely Morsi should have been able to figure out the future of Egypt, eh? Or Mubarak, perhaps? You’d have thought Mubarak at least must have had his finger on the pulse..

And Hilary Clinton? What with NSA hoovering, or better, dysoning up all the world’s communications, secret and otherwise, she must have seen both Mubarak’s fall and Morsi’s a mile off, eh? — and switched out Anne Patterson months ago, right? So we’d be well-placed for the turmoil that now ensues?

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My sources for the DoubleQuote:

  • Steven Metz
  • Leah Farrall
  • And here, finally, for your consideration, is another tweet I liked:

    G’day, all.

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    Manhunt: Radicalization, & comprehending the full impact of dreams

    Saturday, June 8th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — how do you intercept messages that come via dreams? I’m thinking of al-Balawi ]
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    My little graphic (below) may be kidding — but what of reality?

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    In the bin Laden documentary, Manhunt, which I mentioned before seeing it here, and discussed briefly here, another passage (at 1.22.31) that is missing from the CNN transcript concerns the dream which radicalized Humam al-Balawi, the Khost bomber. Balawi speaks, the subtitles translate for us:

    God blessed me to have this dream. I dreamed I saw Zarqawi. He was in my house. His face was like a full moon. He was busy. Preparing an attack. I wishes I could fight with him. Be killed with him. I am your humble brother from Jordan. I am 32 years old and a medical doctor.

    I’m not suggesting there was no prior fertilization of Balawi’s mind and heart, nor that he was influenced by no other drivers: I just wonder what the impact of such a dream would be, given that intense smuggling goes on between our waking and dream lives, of a kind that no intercepts can capture for analysis.

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    How powerful can influence can a dream exert?

    Consider this example, taken from Marie-Lousie von Franz, On Dreams & Death: A Jungian Interpretation, p. 64:

    She sees a candle lit on the window sill of the hospital room and finds that the candle suddenly goes out. Fear and anxiety ensue as the darkness envelops her. Fear and anxiety ensue as the darkness envelops her. Then, the candle re-lights on the other side of the window and she awakens. She died the same day.

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    If I may borrow a bit from some unpublished writings of mine…

    Dreams as early indicators:

    The western secular paradigm considers dreams to be of little or no significance, and it is therefore entirely possible that intelligence gleaned from the recounting of dreams will seem of little interest to western analysts. In the Islamic view, however, certain dreams are of considered to be of real significance, their importance being indicated by the hadith reported by Bukhari:

    Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said, “The worst lie is that a person claims to have seen a dream which he has not seen.”

    — Sahih Bukhari, book 87: Interpretation of Dreams, #167.

    One early indicator of a Mahdist tendency in a given population, therefore, would be the presence of dreams about the Mahdi in a given discourse — in jihadist chat rooms, for instance — while the frequency of such mentions would be a useful heuristic measure of the development of such a movement. Thus Yaroslav Trofimov reports [Siege of Mecca, hb. p.50.] that in the run-up to the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque and Ka’aba in Mecca, many followers of Juhayman al-Otaibi, the leader of the raid, dreamed dreams:

    Then, one after another, hundreds of Juhayman’s supporters experienced detailed, vivid dreams. Mohammed Abdullah’s sister appears to have been the first, quickly followed by others. In their sleep, they all had the same vision: Mohammed Abdullah standing by the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, accepting allegiance as the blessed Mahdi amid multitudes of believers. Militants from as far away as Lebanon who never encountered Mohammed Abdullah in person claimed to have had the same dream.

    It is worth noting here that while, as Trofimov suggests, much of the dreaming “must have been caused by self-suggestion” this in no way invalidates their significance as indicators. Indeed, Reuven Paz writes of the mediaeval scholar Ibn Sirrin‘s still-popular Interpretation of Dreams that “high selling rates of this book can provide us an indicator for rising apocalyptic notions”. Paz also notes a “sizable number” of jihadis publishing their dreams and visions on Jihadist forums on the web [p.4..

    Dream narration of this sort certainly corresponds to hikayat as discussed by Michael Vlahos in his essay Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam — still one of the most necessary pieces I have read on al-Qaeda..

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    Closer to home, in one sense, than the siege of the Grand Mosque, is the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon. This too had its dream precursors, as we can tell from the video transcript of bin Laden‘s taped meeting of mid-November 2001:

    UBL: He [Abu-Al-Hasan Al-Masri] told me a year ago: “I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they were all pilots!” He said: “So I wondered if that was a soccer game or a pilot game? Our players were pilots.” He didn’t know anything about the operation until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.

    Shaykh: May Allah be blessed.

    Unidentified Man: Abd Al Rahman Al-Ghamri said he saw a vision, before the operation, a plane crashed into a tall building. He knew nothing about it.

    Shaykh: May Allah be blessed!

    and notably:

    UBL: We were at a camp of one of the brother’s guards in Qandahar. This brother belonged to the majority of the group. He came close and told me that he saw, in a dream, a tall building in America, and in the same dream he saw Mukhtar teaching them how to play karate. At that point, I was worried that maybe the secret would be revealed if everyone starts seeing it in their dream. So I closed the subject. I told him if he sees another dream, not to tell anybody, because people will be upset with him.

    (Another person’s voice can be heard recounting his dream about two planes hitting a big building).

    For your in-depth reading pleasure, see Iain R. Edgar, The Inspirational Night Dream in the Motivation and Justification of Jihad if you can get past the paywall…

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    Vlahos quotes Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, on this point — I’ll present my own version of that quote here, because it describes a mindset that, mutatis mutandis, many of our opponents share to this day:

    It was commonly held, in all cultures before the modern age, that dreams and visions could open a door into a world other than that of senses. They might bring messages from God; they might disclose a hidden dimension of a person’s own soul; they might come from jinns or devils. The desire to unravel the meaning of dreams must have been widespread, and was generally regarded as legitimate; dreams told us something which it was important to know.

    Dreams are “outside the box” of waking reality — and we need to learn to appreciate the force of dream logic, if we want to think outside our own western prejudices, and inside our adversaries’ heads…

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