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On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a long, lazy Sunday post, packed with quirky interest and neat maps ]
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Ten? What’s so special about ten, hunh? Just because you have ten fingers, you suppose that makes ten special?

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One:

As simple as a map can get:

worry-line
Simon Kirby, The Worry Line

Two:

As complex as one can get:

most-complex-ny
Eric Jaffe, The World’s 15 Most Complex Subway Maps

And I mean complex, cognitively complex:

When it comes to information processing, an average person’s “cognitive threshold” is about 250 connections, or the equivalent of roughly eight bits of data, according to the researchers. New York’s system neared that limit, with 161 total connections, and the most complicated two-transfer trip a person could make on the subway exceeded it—clocking in at 8.1 bits. Maps for the Paris Metro (with 78 total connections), Tokyo Metro (56), and London Tube (48) clustered around six bits of information.

Three:

Naked:

naked-map
Nick van Mead, Can you identify the world cities from their ‘naked’ metro maps?

The Guardian wanted to know if you could recognize various cities if shown their metro maps without the stations markings.. and i could manage Chicago (above).

Four:

Coffee:

coffee-shop-mapo
Chris Ward, Coffee Stops

Sadly, the map is not the territory, or I could get my Java from South Ken while sitting at my desk just outside Sacramento.

The London Coffee Map, “Coffee Stops,” was designed by Chris Ward, who calls himself “the boss who works from coffee shops.” He recently published Out of Office: Work Where You Like and Achieve More, a best-selling guide to leading a successful working life outside an office building. Apparently, being properly caffeinated is one of his biggest tips. Now you can grab your joe at local London cafes with quaint names like Scooter and Electric Elephant.

Five:

Mug:

I could then quaff it from an appropriately poetical Map Mug:

50112-greater-shakespeare-map-mug-normal
Royal Shakespeare Company, Greater Shakespeare Map Mug

The map here representing affinities between characters in the Bard’s various plays:

greater-shakespeare-map-rsc

**

Interlude:

— and we’re half way to ten, let’s imagine ourselves at Shakespeare and Co‘s bookstore and cafe in Paris

shakespeare-co

**

Six:

Calvino

While we’re on a literary streak, here’s a thumbnail of one of artist Rod McLaren‘s illuminations of Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities:

italo-calvino-mapped
Rod McLaren, Invisible Cities Illustrated #2: Trude/Ersilia

The detail here is fantastic, as befits Calvino’s work:

The diagram, a network of curved lines connecting to every other node on a 6 x 5 grid, has two configurations: if the picture is hung one way up, it shows the “Ersilia configuration” (where the lines are like the threads strung between the buildings of Ersilia); if hung the other way up, it shows that of Trude (where the lines are like a complicated airline route map).

Ersilia (Trading Cities 4, p78):

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, or authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain. From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.

Thus, when travelling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

Trude (Continuous Cities 2, p128):

If on arriving at Trude I had not read the city’s name written in big letters, I would have thought I was landing at the same airport from which I had taken off. The suburbs they drove me through were no different from the others, with the same greenish and yellowish houses. Following the same signs we swung around the same flower beds in the same squares. The downtown streets displayed goods, packages,signs that had not changed at all. This was the first time I had come to Trude, but I already knew the hotel where I happened to be lodged; I had already heard andspoken my dialogues with the buyers and sellers of hardware; I had ended other days identically,looking through the same goblets at the same swaying navels.

Why come to Trude? I asked myself. And I already wanted to leave.

“You can resume your flight whenever you like,” they said to me, “but you will arrive at another Trude, absolutely the same, detail by detail. The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end. Only the name of the airport changes.”

All of which reminds me of nothing so much as Antonio Gaudi‘s model — made of hanging chains — catenaries —

inverted-model-barcelona

which when turned upside down provide the structure for his Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona:

sagrada-familia

Seven:

Ghost:

Meanwhile, back in London, we have maps of the ghost (ie abandoned) London tube stops:

ghost-stations
Dylan Maryk, Ghost Stations On The London Underground

Eight:

That’s one way to de-clutter the Tube map — show what ain’t there any more.

Here’s another —

declutteredtubemap
Matt Thomason, 150 years of The London Underground

Don’t ask me what it means — seeing as Hugh Grant gets a station, it’s either gentlemanly or ungentlemanly, I’m not sure which.

Nine:

Music:

I simply didn’t know you’d have to travel this far to get from Dylan to the Beatles:

london_music_genres_detail
Dorian Lynskey, in Tufte, Response to London Underground maps

I mean —

bob-dylan-john-lennon
Michelle Geslani, The Beatles and Bob Dylan met 50 years ago today

Ten:

I’ve kept this one for last because in some ways it’s the subtlest:

exhibition-in-borders-we-trust

It’s the work of architect Jug Cerovic., and on his page In Borders We Trust he offers this conceptual comment:

Borders are primarily a mental construct.

Just like a deity, they exist only insofar as People believe in them. Question is however how necessary our belief in their existence is and when exactly does that belief start harming us?

At which point do borders cease to be a convenient orientation marker, a helpful tool for the comprehension of the land we inhabit, a common identifier for the construction of a shared identity? At which point do borders become a dogmatic limitation to imagination, a terrifying prison for the body and mind, a symbol and support of hatred?

Borders do not possess an inherent bad or good character, on the contrary they are a malleable concept subject to appropriation and interpretation.

“In borders we trust” examines the perception, physical manifestation and enforcement of the couple formed by People and Borders focusing on three key areas of the contemporary migration routes:

  • Gibraltar
  • Serbia
  • Levant
  • For this purpose the peculiar relationship between Borders and People is illustrated with a sequence of three distinct maps:

  • Borders without People
  • Borders with People
  • People without Borders
  • This novel perspective of a seemingly familiar representation, with each component of the couple shown separately and juxtaposed to their combined illustration, questions the articulation and pertinence of our present predicament.

    Happily, this is an area that I’ve delved into at some length myself in my earlier post, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream? — with specific reference to ISIS’ bulldozing of the border between Iraq and Syria, and the Basque country, Euskadi, saddling the French / Spanish border.

    Cerovic has achieved an eminently practical limited version of one of my own grandiose castle-in-air schemes — building a universal graphical mapping system. Cerovic’s version offers us a universal graphical underground / tube / metro mapping system, in the form of his book One Metro World — you still have a couple of weeks to support it on Kickstarter!

    map-app

    **

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • And hey, and we’re back at maps — where we started in

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • Cartels & ISIS, Mexico & France

    Friday, October 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — terror and anti-clericalism — a double parallel? ]
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    Imagine how Catholic Mexico feels at the murder of Fr. Jose Lopez Guillen, a priest, if even secular France is shocked by the killing of another priest, Fr Jacques Hamel.

    tablet-dq-600-mexico-france-priests-killed

    **

    From the RNS report:

    Lopez was kidnapped on Sept. 19, the same day authorities discovered the bodies of two slain priests in the eastern state of Veracruz; that makes at least 15 priests slain over the past four years. [ .. ]

    Mexico is the country with the second-largest Catholic population in the world, with nearly 100 million people, or more than 80 percent of the population, identifying as Catholic. But the country has a long history of anti-clericalism and in the past century the government officially and often violently suppressed the church. [ .. ]

    Motives have not been established for the latest killings, but the Catholic Multimedia Center notes that violence against the clergy occurs disproportionately in states with high levels of organized crime, such as Veracruz and Michoacan.

    The organization records 31 killings of priests in Mexico since 2006, the year then-President Felipe Calderon deployed troops to Michoacan in an effort to stamp out the drug cartels.

    A decade on, the war across Mexico has claimed more than 150,000 lives, while Michoacan remains a hotbed of crime and civil unrest.

    Note that France, like Mexico, has a history of anti-clericalism — dating back in the French case to the time of the French Revolution — see my LapidoMedia post, When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité

    When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité

    Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameronlaïcité meets the banlieue, and ISIS takes note ]
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    french-laicite
    France: blind to religions. Graphic: Nouvel Obs

    **

    My latest piece is up at LapidoMedia, addressing the impact of the French doctrine of blinding secularism on French Muslims — and ISIS targeting of France:

    ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité

    FRANCE and ISIS have a special enmity, and it is compounded by the French form of secularism, known as laïcité.

    France’s colonial history and policy of state-reinforced religion blindness adds special intensity to the confrontation.

    It is important to understand how particularly powerful the animosity is.

    France’s contribution to the coalition attacks on ISIS in Iraq and Syria is second only to that of the United States.

    While France had a thousand troops in theatre in March 2016, the UK by comparison had only 275, with Germany at 150, and Belgium at 35.

    Meanwhile, close to two thousand fighters of French origin are reported to have joined ISIS forces – more than any other western European country.

    Jihadist attacks in France have included the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, the November attack at the Bataclan concert hall later that year, this year’s Bastille Day attack in Nice, and the gruesome killing of Fr Jacques Hamel in Normandy, also in July.

    An ISIS video released in mid-August encouraged further Nice-like attacks on France.

    You can read the whole piece on the Lapido site: ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité.

    Burqa Burqa Jihad

    Sunday, September 11th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — how ISIS imitates the French state ]
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    Laïcité! Jahiliyyah!

    tablet-dq-600-burqa

    Once again, the jihadists are borrowing our western ideas, only to turn them against us — this time, after a lapse of fours years.

    **

    My title? How could you forget..

    Happiness in the proximity of faith and death

    Monday, August 1st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — the emotional impact of faith, from a nun present at the Normandy attack to a failed suicide bomber in Syria ]
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    According to this IB Times article, Tragic last words of Catholic priest killed by Isis terrorists revealed, Sister Helene Decaux, one of the nuns who was present at the killing of Fr Jacques Hamel, reported his last words thus:

    Jacques shouted at them, ‘Stop! What are you doing?’ It was then that one of them struck the first blow to his throat.

    What caught my attention more forcefully, however, was the following:

    Fearing for her life, she added: “Thinking I was going to die, I offered my life to God.” The nun then described how Petitjean and Kermiche had at first been aggressive, but quietened down after they had cut Jacques’ throat. Showing remarkable calm, Helene asked the two terrorists if she could sit down. “I asked for my cane, he gave it to me,” she said. One of the attackers asked: “Are you afraid to die?” To which the nun replied no. “I believe in God, and I know I will be happy,” Helene said. Sister Huguette Peron, who was also in the church, told Catholic newspaper La Vie: “I got a smile from the second (man). Not a smile of triumph, but a soft smile, that of someone who is happy.”

    Not only is Sister Helene happy in the face of death because she believes in death, but Sister Huguette reports that one of the attackers gave her a smile, “Not a smile of triumph, but a soft smile, that of someone who is happy.”

    **

    Compare those two descriptions of people who are happy with this, from Murtaza Hussain‘s Intercept piece, New Documentary Pierces the Psychology of Modern Suicide Bombers:

    In a scene from Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal’s new documentary Dugma: The Button, Abu Qaswara, a would-be suicide bomber, describes the sense of exhilaration he felt during an aborted suicide attack against a Syrian army checkpoint. “These were the happiest [moments] I’ve had in 32 years. If anyone had felt exactly what I felt at that moment, Muslims would want to go through the same feeling and non-Muslims would convert just to experience it,” he enthuses to the camera, visibly elated by his attempted self-immolation.

    Abu Qaswara’s attack failed after his vehicle was blocked by obstacles on the road placed by the Syrian military. But speaking shortly after he returned from his mission, it was clear that his brush with death had filled him with euphoria. “It was a feeling more than you can imagine,” he says. “Something I cannot describe, it cannot be described.”

    My primary purpose in recording these instances of happiness is to emphasize how strongly religious faith exerts what to the modern secular mind must be an unexpected and perhaps even unimaginable emotional impact on those who possess it. And even if the Normandy attacker’s ‘soft smile” had more to do with a blood lust slaked, the same cannot be said either for Sister Helene or for Abu Qaswara.

    If we are to understand the motivations of suicide bombers and other jihadists, comprehending not just intellectually but viscerally the emotions involved will be a task of some importance — and one for which many of our analysts will not be prepared.

    **

    There’s a second point to be made, however. Hussain goes on to write:

    Only the few Syrians who appear in the film speak at length about their grievances over the crimes of the Syrian government. In contrast, the foreign volunteers appear largely driven by personal motivations. Liberating the local people from oppression appears at best a secondary concern. Perishing in the conflict and reaping the existential rewards of such an end takes precedence. Both Abu Qaswara and Abu Basir gave up comfortable lives to come to Syria, knowing that certain death would be the outcome of that decision. But rather than deterring them, the prospect of a rewarding death was a primary factor motivating their decision to fight.

    That para sets the scene for the following one, in which Mustafa Hamid, as reported in his book with Leah Farrall, notes how contrary this motivation is to the practical pursuit of victory:

    This impulse toward self-destruction is actually seen as selfish by some fellow insurgents. In his co-authored 2014 memoir The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, Mustafa Hamid, a former high-ranking Egyptian volunteer with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, described his own frustration with many of the later waves of volunteers arriving to that conflict. “One of the negatives that emerged from the jihad, and which continues to have severe consequences today, was the tendency for the youth to focus not on success and achieving victory and liberating Afghanistan, but on their desire for martyrdom and to enter paradise,” Hamid wrote. This overriding preoccupation with becoming a martyr meant that participation in the conflict, “became individual instead of for the benefit of the group or the country where the fight for liberation is taking place.”

    That’s one of the more striking of Hamid’s observations in The Arabs at War in Afghanistan — itself an astonishing book, product of the collaboration between Hamid (aka Abu Walid al-Masri) the man who brought bin Laden‘s oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, and Farrall, a respected scholar-analyst who was the Australian Federal Police al-Qaida subject matter specialist at the time of the Bali bombings.

    It is an extraordinary book, and one I cannot recommend too highly.


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