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Shorts 04: Books, and a personal pic

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick treasury of treasures, what else? ]

Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A Companion

Abbasid Baghdad did produce its own semi- legendary criminals. Many tales were told of the ingenious exploits of the ninth-century master-thief, al-Uqab (‘the Eagle’), among them the story of a bet he had with a certain doctor that within a set period of time alUqab could steal something from the doctor’s house. Although the house was closely guarded, alUqab drugged the guards. Then, posing as an apparition of Jesus and making use of hypnotism, he succeeded in stealing off with the dcotor himself.

Robert Irwin was an Oxford contemporary & fellow-traveller.


Kim Wagner, The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857

In 1963, a human skull was discovered in a pub in south-east England. The handwritten note found inside revealed it to be that of Alum Bheg, an Indian soldier in British service who had been blown from a cannon for his role in the 1857 Uprising, his head brought back as a grisly war-trophy by an Irish officer present at his execution. The skull is a troublesome relic of both anti-colonial violence and the brutality and spectacle of British retribution.

Ooh, grue! Cf. the food of that served in the Arkansas penal system.


Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an introduction

We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.

Hat-tip: Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland


Rennie Davis, The New Humanity: A Movement to Change the World (Volume 1 of 3)

This first book returns to ‘Our Roots’ with a behind-the-scenes look straight from the eye of the social-change hurricane that swept North America during the turbulent times of the 1960s. Rennie Davis was the coordinator of the largest coalition of anti-war and civil rights organizations during that era. Now in vivid detail, he explains how the Sixties movement ignited and expanded, growing in strength and staying power. A compelling, riveting story, it was written to inspire today’s generation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and arise again to change the world. Like a snowball tumbling down the mountain to become an avalanche that takes out the concrete wall of fear and divide, today’s movement will not be ignored or stopped.

This book is today’s must-read gift to yourself and your friends to uplift humanity and change the world.

Rennie is an old friend, story for another day. Hat-tip: Rennie Davis.


This just in:

Bernard Faure, The Fluid Pantheon: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1

Written by one of the leading scholars of Japanese religion, The Fluid Pantheon is the first installment of a multivolume project that promises to be a milestone in our understanding of the mythico-ritual system of esoteric Buddhism—specifically the nature and roles of deities in the religious world of medieval Japan and beyond. Bernard Faure introduces readers to medieval Japanese religiosity and shows the centrality of the gods in religious discourse and ritual; in doing so he moves away from the usual textual, historical, and sociological approaches that constitute the “method” of current religious studies. The approach considers the gods (including buddhas and demons) as meaningful and powerful interlocutors and not merely as cyphers for social groups or projections of the human mind. Throughout he engages insights drawn from structuralism, post-structuralism, and Actor-network theory to retrieve the “implicit pantheon” (as opposed to the “explicit orthodox pantheon”) of esoteric Japanese Buddhism (Mikky?).

Hat-tip: just in from friend Gilles Poitras.


Enough of books — heres a personal photo — friend Neil Ayer with a Rothka at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

Au ‘voir!

Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an olla podrida or highly spiced Spanish-style stew ]

Holi Festival:

Today is Holi Festival for those who celebrate it, the day on which we color each other in dyes in honor of Prahlad, a child devotee of the Supreme Beloved:

Accordingly, I wish that all may be drenched in the colors of devotion this Holi, most joyful of festivals!



For a taste of something very different — there has been considerable discussion recently of Paul Manafort‘s seemingly obstinate refusal to plead to Mueller’s charges and save (salvage) at least some of his skin by becoming a cooperating witness rather than an overwhelmingly indicted criminal in the Russian influence affair.

What I haven’t seen suggested is that the man may be following a code: specifically omerta:

a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.

Particularly if his Mafia bosses happen to be rough and Russian.


Hope Hicks:

There’s an intense Vox piece on the sexism to be found in a plethora of press reports on Hope Hicks. The provocative title: When does Hope Hicks get to be a “wunderkind” instead of a “former model”? And the provocative fact:

None of this coverage mentioned the salient fact that Hicks’s modeling career spanned ages 10 to 16. She landed the Ralph Lauren deal at age 11. By 16 she had quit her part-time modeling job to focus on her true passion, lacrosse.

I nwon’t get into the sexism issue, but that “salient fact” does seem to put much of the “former model” language in its place.

Hick is, however, still model-style gorgeous at 29 — as seen in this photo in which she’s on her way to testify to the House Intelligence Committee:

Given Donald Trump‘s known eye for beautiful women, isn’t Hope Hicks‘ beauty too a “salient fact”?


Language lesson

Under the title McMaster Gives a Belated Russian Lesson, Foreign Policy introduces us to the words maskirovka — military arts by deception — and vranyo. The latter is best explained by the verbal spiral I commented on yesterday:

A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.’


Bluff or threat?

That’s the question Putin’s recent claims sets before us, and an item in Australian BC’s Is Vladimir Putin bluffing or should we be worried about his new ‘miracle weapons’? caught my eye — a quote from our own Nuclear Posture Review:

its [Russia’s] “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine implies it might respond with nuclear weapons in any conventional war.

You know my preoccupation with pattern? Okay, “escalate to de-escalate” has ann exact opposite in French:

Now almost as familiar in English as in French, “reculer pour mieux sauter” — which I imagine is originally an equestrian show-jumping expression — means to step backwards, the better to leap (forwards).

A Pattern Language for Strategy, check!


Trump, Guns, and Golf

The entire text of Kevin Drum‘s Mother Jones article under that title reads:

Hey, did Donald Trump ever sign that executive order allowing guns at all his golf resorts, like he promised to do? Just wondering.

Well, did he?

World Health — disorder

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — withdraw preventive measures, then increase risk ]

These two, in tandem:

Oy: I saw these two in my twitter feed about two minutes apart.


Read this as the whiskey:

CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak

Four years after the United States pledged to help the world fight infectious-disease epidemics such as Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dramatically downsizing its epidemic prevention activities in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out, U.S. government officials said.

The CDC programs, part of a global health security initiative, train front-line workers in outbreak detection and work to strengthen laboratory and emergency response systems in countries where disease risks are greatest. The goal is to stop future outbreaks at their source. [..]

The CDC plans to narrow its focus to 10 “priority countries,” starting in October 2019, the official said. They are India, Thailand and Vietnam in Asia; Jordan in the Middle East; Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal in Africa; and Guatemala in Central America.

Countries where the CDC is planning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerging infectious disease, such as China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo. Last year, when Congo experienced a potentially deadly Ebola outbreak in a remote, forested area, CDC-trained disease detectives and rapid responders helped contain it quickly.


Here’s the chaser:

India’s farmed chickens dosed with world’s strongest antibiotics, study finds

Chickens raised in India for food have been dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine, in practices that could have repercussions throughout the world. [..]

A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that hundreds of tonnes of colistin, described as an antibiotic of last resort, have been shipped to India for the routine treatment of animals, chiefly chickens, on farms.

The finding is concerning because the use of such powerful drugs can lead to an increasing resistance among farm animals around the world. Colistin is regarded as one of the last lines of defence against serious diseases, including pneumonia, which cannot be treated by other medicines. Without these drugs, diseases that were commonly treatable in the last century will become deadly once again.

There is nothing to prevent Indian farmers, which include some of the world’s biggest food producers, from exporting their chickens and other related products overseas.

I suppose we should be grateful that India is high on the list of countries the CDC will still target, but..

Hanuman’s ID — and a Landsat view of Sita’s Bridge

Monday, January 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — how do you check the biomeetric data for a god? ]

India’s ID system, run by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), issues ID cards linked to biometric data, and containing in each case a twelve-digit Aadhaar number that uniquely identifies the individual in question. More than 1.19 billion Indians have registered for Aadhaar numbers, over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. That’s pretty impressive.


Even more impressive — the god Hanuman was issued an Aadhaar number, and the card itself records Hanuman’s number as 209470519541 and his date of birth, improbably, as January 1st, 1959.


Hanuman is no ordinary Indian. He is the monkey god who met lord Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, and became his best friend and faithful ddevotee:

Lord Rama is always held close in Hanuman’s heart
and the constant focus of his meditation.

When Rama’s beloved wife, Sita, was abducted by the demon (rakshasa) king Ravana and taken by him to his palace in Sri Lanka, Hanuman crossed the strait between India and Sri Lanka to rescue her.

Secularists doubted this story was history, until a Landsat-5 photo of the straits revealed a series of now-sunken mini-islands passing from India to Sri Lanka, the stepping-stones of Hanuman:

It is almost impossible for secularists to deny the reality of Hanuman’s epic crossing in light of this satellite evidence, surely?



Methinks I do protest too much.


Bob McKerrow, wayfarer, wrote:

“Imagine being on one of those legendary islands of ‘Adam’s Bridge’ or ‘Rama Setu’ of the Ramayana fame! Many centuries ago, this 30 km stretch was a natural bridge connecting Sri Lanka to the southern tip of India; now, the ocean has reclaimed its own, leaving only a chain of sprinkled islands. On December 9, 2011, I was standing on the second island of the chain of limestone shoals between the Rameshwaran Island, off the south-eastern coast of India’s Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed, this ‘bridge’ is a critical part of the Sri Lanka’s past.

His map shows how the “bridge” — known recently as Adam’s Bridge, but traditionally as Sita’s Bridge, for obvious reasons — bridges the India-Sri Lankan gap:

“If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed..” the wayfarer writes.

If indeed. And with an ID card and Aadhaar number to match, maybe?

Christ born again, wishing you each & every blessing this holy tide

Monday, December 25th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — wishing to avoid the excesses of piety and secularism, to get once more to the heart of the Christmas message, refreshed ]

How shall we get past the tired commerical imagery of 80% off, the pious religiosity of religious hucksters, and cleanse our image of the Christ-Mass to seee him afresh?

One way I have found is to travel abroad:

Mughal Madonna and child attributed to Manohar or Basawan

Seen with fresh eyes, the ancient image of the sacred, royal child and pure mother shines anew.

Or take this Ethiopic image of the flight into Egypt — unusual to our eyes, yet utterly appropriate for the flight to Egypt to be represented to us by a Ethiopic artist..

Ethiopic, flight into Egypt

And how gently, with a finger’s touch, this angel from Autun cathedral wakes the three wise men (magi), here shown as three kings:


Ah, music!

Perhaps JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 can carry conviction where a statement of faith, constructed entirely in words and lacking the flourishes of trumpets, must always fail to push past our secular sensibilities into glory:

Or a very different voice, declaring the humble birth in a stable outside an inn — yet with its own indubitable trumpets:



Hell — heaven! I personally wish all those who read this post on Zenpundit a happy / blessed Christmas..

I’m thinking of you Jim Gant, Tim Furnish, J Scott Shipman, Mark ZP, Grurray, PR Beckman, David Ronfeldt, Howard Rheingold, Mark Osiecki, Kate Gilpin, Anne and Tom Merino, David and Emlyn Cameron, Susan Uskudarli — so many of you..

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