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Sunday surprise — mourning, a global view

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — starts with an anthro DoubleQuote inspired by this morning’s readings & a Steve Martin tweet — though in sensitive times it might be best not to chuckle, let alone guffaw, at strangers’ strange ways ]
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One: The tearless eye of a NASA camera on the occasion of the Challenger blow-up:

One of our reporters, who happened to be at a distant nasa base at the time, tells us that afterward a television monitor for nasa’s own internal satellite service kept on its screen a view from a camera on the beach at Cape Canaveral which had been following the spacecraft’s ascent. Now that camera simply stared searchingly out over the blue-gray sea to where it met the blue-gray sky, like a sailor’s widow gazing endlessly at the horizon. Twenty-eight years into the space age, the sea is as much a symbol of eternity as the sky. Both have swallowed up the Challenger and its crew, leaving behind a double emptiness of sea and space.

Two: The professional Ghanaian substitute for tearless eyes:

Here’s an account in the news:

Ami Dokli is the leader of one of the several groups of professional mourners in Ghana. In a recent interview with BBC Africa, she said that some people cannot cry at their relatives’ funerals, so they rely on her and her team to do the wailing. Dokli and the other women in her team are all widows who, after their husbands died, decided to come together to help others give their loved-ones a proper send-off to the afterlife. But crying for strangers is not the easiest thing in the world, so professional mourners charge a fee for their services, the size of which is in direct relation to the size of the funeral. If it’s a big funeral, their tears cost more.

And here’s an American FB version of the ad Steve Martin’s tweet captured:

Do you want to boost your funeral? Hire me….the professional mourner to come and cry at the funeral. Below are the “Summer Special” prices:
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1. Normal crying $50,
2. Bahamian hollering $100,
3. Crying and rolling on the ground $150,
4. Crying and threatening to jump into the grave $200,
5. Crying and actually jumping in the grave $1000

That’s my DoubleQuote for the day.

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A clutch of videos:

Ghanaian Professional Wailing mourners:

Promotional — funerala with a white lady mourner, extra:

Ghanaian troupe of Dancing Pallbarers:

Chinese professional mourning performer:

N’Orleans Second Line:

Sunday surprise, the wind bloweth

Monday, September 17th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — when inspiration is in the air — Sister Rosetta and Kathleen Raine ]
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Two very different artworks, each beginning with an attempt to express where inspiration comes from.

My friend and sometime mentor Kathleen Raine‘s great poem, Invocation:

Invocation:

There is a poem on the way,
There is a poem all round me,
The poem is in the near future,
The poem is in the upper air
Above the foggy atmosphere
It hovers, a spirit
That I would make incarnate.
Let my body sweat
Let snakes torment my breast
My eyes be blind, ears deaf, hands distraught
Mouth parched, uterus cut out,
Belly slashed, back lashed,
Tongue slivered into thongs of leather
Rain stones inserted in my breasts,
Head severed,

If only the lips may speak,
If only the god will come.

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Compare the early gospeller Sister Rosetta Tharpe‘s Music in the air:

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Sister Rosetta sings, Up above my head / music in the air, and Kathleen Raine elaborates, “There is a poem all round me, / The poem is in the near future, / The poem is in the upper air”.. I could go on to describe how Kathleen’s prayer then builds, in rhythm, rhyme, and agony, her description of what she would offer in sacrifice if the divine wind should answer her prayer with a poem — the poem we are in fact reading — and there’s surely no need for me to express further the joy that Sister Rosetta’s song itself invokes and embodies

But I would like to note that commonality between them — of the inspiration waiting, for Kathleen “in the upper air”, for Rosetta, “above my head” — and to say that “upper” and “above” here indicate a metaphorical rather than a physical dimension..

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And “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

In this verse, the word for wind and spirit, pneuma, is also the word for breath — wind outside as part of the weather, inner wind as breath, and inspiration (literally, in-breathing) as what the inner wind carries with it — while the verb form, blow, is also related.

Thus we may read the verse as meaning “wind blows where it wants, and nobody can tell where it comes from, or where it will go next” — or “breath breathes of its own accord, and no-one knows where it comes from or when it will cease” — or “inspiration cannot be forced, it touches down and takes off at its own pleasure, not at our command”..

Like grace, it floats in possibility space, alighting at will, ever spontaneous, unmerited, never to be predicted.. Fortunate Sister Rosetta, fortunate Kathleen to have been visited.

Storm special, surf’s up

Friday, September 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Jimmy Buffet, also complexity and ecstasy in words]
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Given the horrific storm now — and with effects lasting a week or so before the worst is really over, depending on where you live — I’d like to introduce the appropriate musical backdrop, Jimmy Buffet‘s Surfing in a Hurricane, and point you to a New Yorker article, a brilliant long read for those hunkered down by the fire with their laptops at the ready..

First, the Buffet:

In passing, let me note the authenticity of the lyric, which no landlocked poet could possibly capture. And yes, Buffet surfed the advance of Florence — Jimmy Buffett Goes Surfing in Hurricane-Fueled Waves: ‘I Ain’t Afraid of Dying’

What a life!

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Then, William Finnegan, Off Diamond Head.

I’ll just give you a couple of tastes, the whole thing is a marvel of fine writing. The first paragraph I’ve chosen because it culminates in a description of complexity, which the arts reach from a different angle than complexity theory in math, and the second para continues that evocation. Finnegan is describing the area known as Cliffs:

It was an unusually consistent spot, in the sense that there were nearly always waves to ride, even in what I came to understand was the off season for Oahu’s South Shore. The reefs off Diamond Head are at the southern extremity of the island, and thus pick up every scrap of passing swell. But they also catch a lot of wind, including local williwaws off the slopes of the crater, and the wind, along with the vast jigsaw expanse of the reef and the swells arriving from many different points of the compass, combined to produce constantly changing conditions that, in a paradox I didn’t appreciate at the time, amounted to a rowdy, hourly refutation of the notion of consistency. Cliffs possessed a moody complexity beyond anything I had known. [ .. ]

And yet the place had a growling durability that left it ridable even in those battered conditions. Almost no one else surfed it in the early morning, which made it a good time to explore the main takeoff area. I began to learn the tricky, fast, shallow sections, and the soft spots where a quick cutback was needed to keep a ride going. Even on a waist-high, blown-out day, it was possible to milk certain waves for long, improvised, thoroughly satisfying rides. The reef had a thousand quirks, which changed quickly with the tide. And when the inshore channel began to turn a milky turquoise—a color not unlike some of the Hawaiian fantasy waves in the mags—it meant, I came to know, that the sun had risen to the point where I should head in for breakfast.

Ah, and then as the coup de grace, this:

Leslie Wong caught and pulled into the wave of the day, his back slightly arched, his arms relaxed, making the extremely difficult—no, come on, the ecstatic—look easy.

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Over here in California, our concern this year was flame, not wave. Just how you surf a wildfire escapes me.

Sunday surprise, Handel’s Messiah and laughter

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — short, sweet, sacred, and a sheer delight ]
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Hat tip to Bill Benzon:

Jeanine De Bique in rehearsal having fun …

It’s very short — 1.17 — stay for the end! That’s it.

Journal — Illuminatus! trilogy, QAnon!! and more..

Monday, August 20th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a dayalong cabinet of curiosities, really — the essence of creativity, paradox, and America, via conspiracies this way and that, contrasts between clearances, and key Rwanda para from the NYorker ]
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Here’s a Diary — a miscellaneous catch-all for today :

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Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus saga stumbles along:

Wilson and Shea derived much of the odder material from letters sent to Playboy magazine while they worked as the editors of its Forum.[19] The books mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called “guerrilla ontology”, which he apparently referred to as “Operation Mindfuck” in Illuminatus!

Wilson and Shea mashed up the ten thousand conspiracies and facts of their times to create one fact-spattered fiction, the Illuminatus! trilogy — one from many, e pluribus unum ahem! — whereas in our own day the inventors of QAnon invoked a massive outpouring of different conspiracies within conspiracies:

In November 2017, a small-time YouTube video creator and two moderators of the 4chan website, one of the most extreme message boards on the internet, banded together and plucked out of obscurity an anonymous and cryptic post from the many conspiracy theories that populated the website’s message board.

Over the next several months, they would create videos, a Reddit community, a business and an entire mythology based off the 4chan posts of “Q,” the pseudonym of a person claiming to be a high-ranking military officer. The theory they espoused would become Qanon, and it would eventually make its way from those message boards to national media stories and the rallies of President Donald Trump.

From many, one, and from one, many — Pythagorean sacred mathematics, America, expansive and synthetic thinkjing, the origins of paradox, essence of creativity — between one and many, it’s all there..

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Quick thought:’

We’ve seen Jared Kushner having his clearance restored, and John Brennan having his clearance withdrawn, but just fr the record, they bear considering in tandem, DoubleQuote style.. Right here I’m making the connection.

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Rwanda:

Key NYorker para on Rwandan warning to Kofi Annan, upon whom be the peace, requiescat in pace, a reminder:

Annan then wrote, “We do not recall any specific reports from Kigali to this effect.” A review of the peacekeeping files, he wrote, had turned up only four cables from Kigali in the months preceding the genocide that mentioned “ethnic tensions as being possibly related—or not related—to specific incidents of violence.”

But, in reality, one of the four cables Annan listed consisted of an alarmingly specific report of preparations for the genocide, sent by his force commander in Kigali, the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, in January of 1994. Dallaire had heard from a trusted informant on the payroll of Rwanda’s ruling party, who described plans to “provoke a civil war,” and to kill Belgian peacekeepers in order to scuttle the U.N. mission. The informant himself said he was involved in drawing up lists of Tutsis in Kigali, and Dallaire wrote, “He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in twenty minutes his personnel could kill up to a thousand Tutsis.” Dallaire asked for permission to act on this information by raiding and seizing illegal arms caches. Annan’s office replied at once, in a cable under his name, and signed by his deputy, telling Dallaire not to act but, rather, to follow diplomatic protocol and share his information with Rwanda’s President—the head of the party that Dallaire wanted to act against. Three months later, in April of 1994, everything that Dallaire described in his warning took place, and in the course of a hundred days around a million Tutsis were massacred.

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Ordinary:

Lovely prose, extraordinary normalcy in the New Yorker, Hearing Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” in the Soviet Union

I was gazing ahead, out the half-shaded window, sitting in the diffuse circle of warm light from a tall floor lamp to the left of me, with my elbows propped on the table and my head resting in the palms of my hands, in front of a half-empty bottle of an acrid, half-dry Bulgarian red called The Evening Bells and a white faience teacup with a chipped rim. In the boreal darkness outside, there was nothing for me to perceive but an irregular checkered pattern of blue- and yellow-lit windows in the apartment building across the way.

Beyond those windows, perfectly and naturally unaware of my existence, ordinary Soviet citizens like me silently lived their ordinary human lives: hugging or ignoring one another, standing still in their kitchens in tank tops and nightgowns and saying something silently to someone unseen, flinging angry words at one another, gesticulating broadly and opening and closing their mouths, drinking tea, eating something greasy from an aluminum pan on the stove, or just staring into the night’s emptiness with unseeing eyes, their foreheads pressed against the windowpane, a slow-burning cigarette squeezed between their pressed lips.

It is into such lives, among so many, that Aretha’s voice penetrates. Whenever we consider any of this world’s painful pasts, dire future threats, and potent presents, we should quickly run them up against all those audiences, normal and overwhelmingly influential, who may be affected.

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I’m reminded..

Okay, I saw that New Yorker piece today on the penetration of Aretha‘s voice into a bloc of Soviet flats in Leningrad, Hearing Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” in the Soviet Union, and reading it, I’m reminded of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo and its interest in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

You’ll remember they attained world notoriety after attacking the Tokyo subway system with sarin gas.. Specifically:

Aum dabbled in many different biological agents. They cultured and experimented with botulin toxin, anthrax, cholera, and Q fever. In 1993, Ashahara led a group of 16 cult doctors and nurses to Zaire, on a supposed medical mission. The actual purpose of the trip to Central Africa was to learn as much as possible about and, ideally, to bring back samples of Ebola virus. In early 1994, cult doctors were quoted on Russian radio as discussing the possibility of using Ebola as a biological weapon.

So, here’s my take:

Some journo sending an early report on the Ebola outbreak was read by someone involved in the Aum Shinrikyo chemical weapons team, who thereupon suggested a trip to Africa to Aum’s guru, Shoko Asahara. I’m sure the journo concerned wasn’t thinking that some member of a a relatively obscure Japanese cult would read their report! — but news ripples out to obscure corners of the world, Aretha‘s voice reaches Leningrad, news of an outbreak in Africa reaches Tokyo, more generally the world is porous, and these things have consequences…

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The world is porous, and there are causes and consequences…


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