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Vog and laze, MARFORPAC, Leilani Estates, and above all, Pele

Monday, May 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — language at the heart of worship where the earth erupts in Hawai’i ]
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Lava burns across a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision as an unidentified person takes pictures of the flow, Saturday, May 5, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Offerings of Hawaiian ti leaves, rocks and cans to the fire goddess Pele lie in the street in front of the lava. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

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Language! New words! Fresh realities!

Vog and laze are the first words to catch my eye:

Through the laze and vog, Kilauea is giving up some of its secrets.

Then there’s USPACOM and MARFORPAC:

The additional helicopter support from USPACOM and MARFORPAC provides the County of Hawaii and Hawaii’s Joint Task Force-50 tremendous capability

There’s a quiet, professional language of scientists and land management experts once we escape the immediacy of vog and laze — and which blends in easily with the alluring speech of realtors:

At present, Hawaii County Civil Defence officials say the “middle portion of the fissure system” in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens is the most active.

Leilani Estates — no doubt the brochures for the subdivision refer to homes there as desirable — and desirable, no doubt, they are..

And then there is Pele.

**

Pele goddess of fire is the restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands. The restless ever-presence of volcanism on the Hawaiian islands is Pele goddess of fire.

Say it how you will, scientific realities meet the goddess on the road. Madame Pele, beloved and feared, spits fiery plumes five miles high, speaks lightning, opens mouths in the earth, belches gases:

Laze contains tiny shards of volcanic glass and killed two people in Hawaii in 2000 after they ventured too close to the boiling acidic cloud.

The flickering tongues of Madame Pele lick out as she pleases:

Flying lava shattered a man’s leg while he was on the third-floor balcony of his home on rural Noni Farms Road.

There is no arguing.

And yet many living in Kilauea’s shadow welcome the eruption, express reverence for Pele and thank her — even when the lava destroys their home.

**

Pele:

Fire like snow in a high wind in the Himalayas..

Fire like a river, singing and swinging its way home..

Pele like an artist’s flaming trail of paint between the trees..

The slightest touch of Pele — who dares forge a sword in such a furnace?

Pele.

**

Great she is, or to put that another way, the volcanic activity we are now witnessing has a long history and immense potential for destruction — and creation:

The devastation is poised to continue, and experts have little clue as to when, and where, the current flood of lava will cease to flow. But the belief that Pele is both a destroyer and a creator has offered many locals some consolation. They see the goddess’s unpredictability as a fact of life that they not only accept and prepare for but also internalize and revere. The goddess of fire alone decides when she’ll morph from ka wahine ‘ai honua — the woman who devours the earth — into the shaper of sacred land. The myriad ho’okupu (offerings) found all over the Big Island, from Halema’uma’u crater to black-sand beaches to paved highway roads, attest to her grip on its residents.

And Madame Pele has grace in plenty to bestow when she so chooses:

Pele has given us the grace of quiet for today, but we don’t know what tomorrow may bring,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said at a community meeting Monday night..

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Giver of islands..

“My house was an offering for Pele,” said Monica Devlin, 71, a retired schoolteacher whose home was destroyed by a lava flow. “I’ve been in her backyard for 30 years,” she reflected, doing the math on when she moved here from Northern California. “In that time I learned that Pele created this island in all its stunning beauty. It’s an awe-inspiring process of destruction and creation and I was lucky to glimpse it.”

I offer flowers here in my written thoughts, considering her.

**

Sources:

Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — sudden reversal in Korea, synchronicity in Israel ]
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Whiplash alert

Whiplash alert is a sharp, neat way to announce a sudden and powerful instance of boustrophedon — taking hairpin bends at racing speeds. Anna Fyfield nails it.,

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The swuitchback whiplash is between a Triumphalist Trump suggesting that North Korea is both willing and implicitly eager to come to the table to discuss the total abandonment of its entire nuclear program, and an adamant, almost adamantine N Korean regime response that such total abandonment is not even on the table.

In terms of goal posts:

Various Trump aides, including Bolton and Pompeo, have repeatedly said that that what they want from the summit is “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Of course, Pyongyang would love it if they could move the goal posts before the meeting, making the U.S. back off on this demand.

then this:

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting that the North “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The problem is:

Denuclearization’ may be the goal of U.S.-North Korean summit, but each side defines it differently

But the diplomatic buzzword can mean different things to different players on the world stage. The success of Trump’s gambit probably hangs on whether he and Kim can agree on what it means for them and whether it’s worthwhile to keep fudging the details of a term that U.S. and Asian diplomats have been fudging for years.

Different interpretations of a word, differing perceptions — what seems at one moment to be a problem in foreign affairs seems on another to be a linguistic or even a perceptual— at the very least, an internal, not an external, issue.

Internal maybe, but external in it’s implications:

If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement published by the North’s state-run media.

Subtlety:

King Jung-Un may be under the imprression that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” involves, gasp, the withdrawal of the American nuclear air umbrella protecting the SOuth..

So: a sudden 180° change, the opposites here being presented as sequential.

And the Nobel Peace Prize which Republican governors had wishes for President Trumo, sadly recedes..

**

From my POV, the interesting difference here between the Korean situation and that in Israel is that the former is inherently sequential, while the latter is synchronic — the furious and grief-stricken rioting in Gaza happens as official Israel, with Trumpian support, joyously celebrates the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; the Isreli Independence Day is naturally considered the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians — and hey, to add to the tensions, Ramadan is about to begin, with its intensification of fasting and spiritual intensity.

Synchrony, verbally presented:

The fact that riots in Gaza and rejoicing in Israel happen simultaneously is so stark that while Israel — and Trump — might prefer triumphalist headlines, news souces have played up the double-edged nature of the situiation:

and visually:

This title is accompaniedd by a verbal explanation:

The scenes were barely 40 miles apart: in Gaza, a chaotic panorama of smoke, fleeing figures and tear gas on the deadliest day since mass protests at the border fence with Israel began; in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrating President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv.

and a visual double graphic (to see the images fully, click through to the original page):

Various TV stations offered similar double images — the effect is to undercut the apparent joyfulness of the Jerusalem celebrations with simultaneous disturbing images of the Gaza rioting.

If Trump, or Jared perhaps, or Ivanka, had made any slightest acknowledgement that the Palestinians, too, had hopes of an eventual capital of their own in the existing Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the celebrations might have been more widely shared and less easiky discounted.

**

If you come to your front door to conduct a press conference, it’s always wise to know what’s happening at the same time at the back door.

Oh, oh, but I have to leave for a medical proceduerre, and there is so much more to be said..

Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting a lessening of TV Trumpery and its critiques ]
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In a tweet earliee today, I suggested that the close reading of a text can be highly rewarding, a point I made most forcefully in Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns.

Key to a close reading is the “language” in which a given writer or speaker clothes their words.. “language” here being used both in the sense of their metaphors and forms (which is why I’ve been collecting sports and other metaphors, ouroboroi and other forms) and in the sense formulated by Witty Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations (PI).

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers us a list of regular language games as Wittgenstein uses the term in PI:

reporting an event, speculating about an event, forming and testing a hypothesis, making up a story, reading it, play-acting, singing catches, guessing riddles, making a joke, translating, asking, thanking

I want to suggest that we could usefully think of language games in terms of the philosophical, ideological, partisan, religious or psychological drivers that propel them.

Further, in the case of Trump, we might observe that the language game he is playing is not the one his critics on, say, MSNBC, are basing their own critiques on.

And here’s the great advantage: once we’ve analyzed the differences between Trump’s language game and aims and those of his critics, we could close shop. We wouldn’t need this constant barrage of Fox and MSNBC news on the topic — any new utterance of his or Giulianis of note could simply be indexed to the sub-para describing that particular disjunction in language game, and basta! — the rest of the news “oxygen” would be available for the discussion of other topics.

As a subset of that para — I don’t suppose Mueller xxwill want to take every piece of “off the cuff” Trumpery as intended as real “truth” — “all that is the case” –he’ll surely see it as entertainment and distraction — chuff and chaff — and zero in on the key statements of the President’s worldview, viewing them as exemplars not of “truth” but of a language game to be analyzed and evaluated as such. Having zeroed in on these relatively few key phrases, many of the many critiques offered by Trump’s accusers.

**

Wittgenstein asks what all that we consider to be games have in common, and decides they share a family resemblance but — in my words, here — the cousins on one side of the family have little (a polite word for “nothing”) in common with the cousins at the other end of thr spectrum.

If the Olympic Games included language games in their list of sports, Giuliani‘s reference to FBI agents as stormtroopers wight win long jump gold.

Here’s Jonathan Chait in Giuliani’s FBI ‘Stormtroopers’ Smear Is the Key to Trump’s Authoritarian Mind-set”>:

In 1995, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre signed his name to a fundraising letter referring to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents as “tjack-booted government thugs.” The implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascists provoked a furor. Former president George H. W. Bush publicly resigned his NRA membership in protest; LaPierre had to apologize.

Last night, in the midst of a long, deeply incriminating interview, Rudy Giuliani called FBI agents “stormtroopers.” Here was the president’s lawyer, not an outside lobbyist, comparing federal law enforcement to Nazis directly, rather than indirectly.

Stormtrooper vs jack-booted government thugs is an interesting comparison (& makes a fine DoubleQuote), and Chait’s “implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascist” in hth cases exemplify just the kind of language extremism we should be avoiding in our policy debates.

Chait’s continuing half-paragraph illminates the arcane workings of the media machine in processing such things:

The Washington Post’s account of Giuliani’s interview noted the remark in a single sentence, in the 30th paragraph of its story. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Politico accounts of Giuliani’s interview did not even mention the stormtrooper remark at all.

There are times I wish for sanity.

**

Okay, that was third and last in this series.. Previously:

  • On negative space in the painting..
  • On negative space, private morality in the public square
  • This:

  • Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere
  • Silence as protest and gift

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the frayed edges of music ]
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    Silence is the exception rather than the rule — so much so that it’s notable.

    **

    The bells of York Minster were silenced for a year in protest at the sacking of, as the Guardian eruditely puts it, “30 campanologists”. Bell-ringing is an ancient craft in the UK, mathematical in its combinatoric precision, glorious in its language and literature. Spanning the arts and sciences, it is thus a bridge between the two sides of that academic and popular schism or chasm which CP Snow famously described in his book, The Two Cultures.

    **

    Mathematics and combinatorics:

    The ringing of a peal or complete sequence of bells is a highly mathematized form of music, and the order in which the bells are to be rung — the method — can therefore be transcribed in graphical form:

    Oh, the beauty in so musical a score.

    I dare not show you a full extent — we might run out of pixels!

    **

    Language and literature:

    Truth (and the detested false), Grandsires, Triple Bob Major, oh, and Spitalfields Festival Treble Bob, and how could one forget Affpuddle Treble Bob Major..

    Dorothy Sayers‘ novel The Nine Tailors has nothing to do with bespoke and everything to do with murder most fouldeath and detection:

    In some parishes in England the centuries-old tradition of announcing a death on a church bell is upheld. In a small village most people would be aware of who was ill, and so broadcasting the age and sex of the deceased would identify them. To this end the death was announced by telling (i.e. single blows with the bell down) the sex and then striking off the years. Three blows meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man”.

    The bell used in the novel for the announcement is the largest (tenor) bell, which is dedicated to St. Paul. Hence “teller Paul” or in dialect “tailor Paul”. Sayers is here acknowledging the assistance of Paul Taylor of Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough, England who provided her with detailed information on all aspects of change-ringing.

    Scientific American adds other details, describing:

    another time-honored tradition of bells, which frequently have nicknames and inscriptions, as if they were, indeed, alive.

    For instance, in Sayers’ novel, the oldest bell is dubbed Batty Thomas, cast in 1380, and bears the inscription “Abbat Thomas sett mee heare + and bad mee ringe both loud and cleer.” (The oldest bell hung for change ringing that is still in use was cast in 1325; it is the fifth bell at St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury, Kent.)

    **

    Argh, the lockout:

    Enough of the beauty of the English bells. From the Guardian piece referenced in the upper panel, above:

    But simmering tensions between the minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, and the ringers came to a head last October when the band was summarily dismissed and locked out of the 15th-century cathedral’s bell tower.

    The silencing of the York Minster peal is thus a case of a sacred sound being stilled by a secular — or at least unionized — silence.

    **

    How opposite, and apposite, then, is the ringing silence offered by the youthful Quakers as a podcast in the second Guardian piece referenced (lower panel, above):

    It’s not the most obvious subject for a podcast, but a group of young Quakers in Nottingham have recorded their 30-minute silent meeting so as to share their “oasis of calm” with the world.

    In an episode of the monthly Young Quaker Podcast, called the Silence Special, you can hear a clock ticking, pages being turned and the rain falling, as the group meets and sits in silence at the Friend’s Meeting House in Nottingham. [ .. ]

    The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

    Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

    Jessica Hubbard-Bailey, 25, from the Nottingham Young Quakers, who recorded the podcast, said they had jumped at the opportunity to broadcast something “immersive and unusual”. She added: “We have very different ways of worship to most people of faith and we thought this was a really unique opportunity to give people a little slice of what the Quakers do. Also, we are really good at being quiet because we’ve made a practice of it and I think that is of value. These days everyone is so busy, everyone is working all the time, so it’s really valuable to have the opportunity to sit down once a week and just be quiet and listen.”

    Listen? Listen to the birds, to the chattering monks — or to the still, small voice?

    **

    Listen, in any case, to the sound of silence:

    Just listen!

    Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

    Friday, March 2nd, 2018

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

    **

    Omertà:

    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?


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