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For the lore, lure, and love of language

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — this is / was all written on 29th (“today”), but has been tidied up before posting late today, really a rich day! ]
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Today has been a rich day for me for language, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve found. I’ll use a series of my own tweets for this purpose, since the tweets include both the particular phrases or sentences that caught my eye, and links and images I’d otherwise have to fish for, giving you an idea of the articles themselves in which I found the items of interest..

This one’s pretty fabulous, with plants living inside animals — I suppose we are fauna with flora inside us too, though, but the coral instance really hit home:

That was the first one that really delighted me, this one cinched (clenched?) the deal:

The bird snaking (its neck), which caught my eye as a companion to the coral (animal) planting (inside its cells), I noted in the tweet, making these two taken together a DoubleTweet. What I didn’t mention was the positively Homeric echo in “reshuffles her storm-cloud-gray wings”..

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which leads me inevitably to my other Homeric finds today, with both the Odyssey:

and Zeus..

And that’s enough for now!

Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, the equation

Monday, April 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a question of value ]
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Footprints: Saving artefacts in Afghanistan

The Buddha rests quietly in a corner of the National Museum of Afghanistan.

While a group of Afghan restorers — with more than four decades of experience between them — work to restore similar artefacts, the Buddha, dating back to at least the second century BC, sits cross-legged, arms folded, awaiting its public debut in the city.

The statue, set to be unveiled to the public in the coming weeks, is a testament to the rich history of a nation that has seen various empires and conquerors pass through its land.

“There are artefacts in every corner of this country,” said Fahim Rahimi, the director of the National Museum of Afghanistan. However, even the layers of sand, silt and time have not been able to keep these artefacts safe from the forces of conflict and capitalism.

[ .. ]

The Buddha itself, discovered near the nation’s largest copper mine, is an embodiment of the duelling threats facing the physical remnants of Afghanistan’s cultural history. The statue, sitting in a reconstructed stupa, was found in 2012 in the Mes Aynak area of the eastern province of Logar. Mes Aynak, meaning literally “the little copper source,” is home to a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city filled with ancient statues, manuscripts, frescoes, shrines and stupas. It is also at the centre of a $3billion Chinese mining contract signed in 2007.

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William Bruce My NameSake and presumed Clansman Cameron wrote “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Equation implies equals. Here we have a tug of cash-and-peace.

6,000 years and still together

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — from a burial to Buddhism, just a skip and a jump away ]
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A sweet visual DoubleQuote I ran across today —

— shows on the right, the Lovers of Valdaro — a matched pair of skeletons of which Time wrote in 2011:

For 6,000 years, two young lovers have been locked in an eternal embrace, hidden from the eyes of the world. This past weekend, the Lovers of Valdaro — named for the little village near Mantua, in northern Italy, where they were first discovered — were seen by the public for the first time.

On the left, you have an artist’s representation of how they might have been embraced in death.

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All of which reminds me of Buddhist meditation on death, and of the dancing skeleton couple known collectively as Citipati:

By Wonderlane – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/3172647615/in/photostream/, CC BY 2.0, Link

Wiki tells us:

Citipati is a protector deity or supernatural being in Tibetan Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism of India. It is formed of two skeletal deities, one male and the other female, both dancing wildly with their limbs intertwined inside a halo of flames representing change. The Citipati is said to be one of the seventy-five forms of Mahakala. Their symbol is meant to represent both the eternal dance of death as well as perfect awareness. They are invoked as ‘wrathful deities’, benevolent protectors or fierce beings of demonic appearance. The dance of the Citipati is commemorated twice annually in Tibet.

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Considering two together as one is a recurring interest of mine, see also my posts on duel and duet — themselves a great pairing or dual — in Duel in slow time and more prosaically, Numbers by the numbers: two.

Also: Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality.

Heart Line — a response to Bill Benzon

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — design fascination — including a Mimbres rabbit with a supernova at its feet ]
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Bill Benzon has been blogging a remarkable series of posts on Jamie Bérubé‘s drawings as recorded in the online illustrations to Michael Bérubé‘s book, Life As Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up.

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I wanted to respond to Bill’s latest, Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology, which included this illustration:

berube-benzon-5-biomorphs

and these comments, which I’ve edited lightly for clarity and simplicity:

I emailed Mark Changizi, a theoretical neuroscientist who has done work on letterforms. He has been making a general argument that culture re-purposes, harnesses (his term), perceptual capacities our ancestors developed for living in the natural world. One of his arguments is that the forms used in writing systems, whether Latinate or Chinese (for example), are those that happened to be useful in perceiving creatures in the natural world, such as plant and animal forms. I told him that Jamie’s forms looked like “tree branches and such.” He replied that they looked like people. His wife, an artist, thought so as well, and also: “This is like early human art.”

You’ll see why that-all interests me — letters and life forms — below.

And then:

Yes, each is a convex polygon; each has several ‘limbs’. And each has a single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side. The line never goes outside the polygon .. Why those lines? I don’t know what’s on Jamie’s mind as he draws those lines, but I’m guessing that he’s interested in the fact that, given the relative complexity of these figures and the variety among them, in every case he can draw such a line.

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Two thoughts cross my mind.

The first is that one of these forms, Benzon’s Biomorphic Objects 6a, bears a striking resemblance to the letter aleph, with which the Hebrew alphabet — or better, alephbeth — begins:

berube-benzon-5-biomorph-6a-aleph

There may be some connection there, I’m not sure — though Jamie also has a keen interest in alphabetic forms, as illustrated here:

berube-benzon-5-letterforms

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But it’s my second point that interests me more.

These “biomorphic objects” with “single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side” remind me of nothing so much as the Native American style of representing animals with a “heart line” — best illustrated, perhaps, by this Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Olla with Heartline Deer:

The image comment notes:

One generally associates the use of heartline deer with pottery from Zuni Pueblo and that is most likely the origin. The fact that it appears on Acoma Pueblo pottery has been explained in a number of fashions by a number of contemporary Acoma potters. Deer designs have been documented on Acoma pottery as early as 1880, but those deer do not feature heartline elements. Some potters at Acoma have indicated that Lucy Lewis was the first Acoma potter to produce heartline deer on Acoma pottery. She did this around 1950 at the encouragement of Gallup, New Mexico Indian art dealer Katie Noe. Lewis did not use it until gaining permission from Zuni to do so. Other potters at Acoma have stated that the heartline deer is a traditional Acoma design; however, there is no documented example to prove this. Even if the heartline deer motif is not of Acoma origin, potters at Acoma have expressed that it does have meaning for them. It is said to represent life and it has a spiritual connection to deer and going hunting for deer.

Here’s a “heartline bear” from David and Jean Villasenor‘s book, Indian Designs:

bear-heartline

And here’s an equivalent Mimbres design for a rabbit with heartline, in which the line passes completely through the body from one side to the other, as in Jamie’s biomorphs:

mimbres-rabbit

Again, the comment is interesting — it cites a 1990 New York Times article, Star Explosion of 1054 Is Seen in Indian Bowl:

When the prehistoric Mimbres Indians of New Mexico looked at the moon, they saw in its surface shading not the “man in the moon” but a “rabbit in the moon.” For them, as for other early Meso-American people, the rabbit came to symbolize the moon in their religion and art.

On the morning of July 5, 1054, the Mimbres Indians arose to find a bright new object shining in the Eastern sky, close to the crescent moon. The object remained visible in daylight for many days. One observer recorded the strange apparition with a black and white painting of a rabbit curled into a crescent shape with a small sunburst at the tip of one foot.

And so the Indians of the Southwestern United States left what archeologists and astronomers call the most unambiguous evidence ever found that people in the Western Hemisphere observed with awe and some sophistication the exploding star, or supernova, that created the Crab nebula.

That would be the sunburst right at the rabbit’s feet!

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Posts in Bill’s series thus far:

  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 1: Emergence
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 2: On Discovering Jamie’s Principle
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 3: Towers of Color
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 4: Concentrics, Letters, and the Problem of Composition
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology
  • My previous comment on #1 in the series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • Rant day at 15 years, 2 days

    Sunday, September 11th, 2016

    [set in stone by Lynn C. Rees]

    The Internet told me Ahmed Shah Masood was dead.

    I was annoyed.

    I hated the Taliban. They were the enemy of all mankind. My hate didn’t single them out just for Third World thuggishness, seventh century fanboy oppression, or giving aid and comfort to a declared enemy of my country. No, my hate singled them out for blowing up some 1,500 year old pieces of rock.

    For 1,000 of those 1,500 years, Islam lived alongside the twin Buddhas of Bamiyan. A millennium of entropy, nature, and sporadic fits of vandalism had ravaged the two Buddhas. But there they stood, as they’d stood for a millennium and a half.

    History is fragile: we inherit only suggestive rubble from the past. From that rubble, we summon imagined pasts without number and without foundation. A particularly insistent ghost of conjured history drove Taliban iconoclasm: the shadow of the umma, the idolized but idol-free community of believers supposedly created by Muhammad before his death c. AD 632. From its antiseptic remove, far from the compromised Islam of March 2001, this stern shade loomed down from the heights of 15 centuries and commanded the Taliban to erase those two idolatrous Buddhas of Bamiyan from history. The phantom of the umma promised that, piece by piece of shattered idol, the sanctified community of the Prophet would draw nearer and nearer. The ends of March 622 came calling, now armed with the means of March 2001. Dynamite, artillery, and rocketry let the Taliban do in three weeks what history failed to do in fifteen centuries. And so the Buddhas of Bamiyan fell.

    Meddling in what survives and what doesn’t is unnecessary. History eats itself: time, accident, and negligence will devour more history than intention ever aspire to. The Taliban insisted on moving history along. Moreover, they thought they could not only speed it up but make it flip 180 degrees and run backwards. And so the Taliban declared war on history.

    To me, this made the Taliban barbarians. To me, they too deserved to be erased from history. The only man who seemed to be actively helping the Taliban exit history was Massood. Massood created an island of sanity in a dark hole of crazy. And now Massood was gone, sped to Allah by those same barbarians.

    Downstairs I went. I ranted about the shame of Ahmed Shah Massood’s death to my Mom. She had no idea who Ahmed Shah Massood was. She didn’t know where Afghanistan was. To her, it was a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom she knew nothing. The Massood in Afghanistan might as well have been the Massood in the Moon, fighting to keep one small grubby corner of the lunar surface Taliban-free.

    Mom patiently listened as dinner was set. She’d grown used to my ranting on and on and on and on and on and on and on about this or that distant obscurity. She knew I’d fulminate my way out of my idée fixe of the moment, then return to quietly tending my trivia. The world would go on. Normalcy would again flow unvexed into the future.

    She was right. Rant mode ran out of steam. I ate dinner. I went back to my lair, where my books and my computers would protect me. I went to sleep. And so the clock set on September 9th, 2001.

    With murder in its heart, unseen in the gathering night, history, thought dead since 1989, was creeping up the East Coast to be reborn. And twin towering Buddhas and the Lion of Panjshir were but the first to fall.

    A rock feels no pain.
    And an island never cries.


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