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Sunday’s second surprise — the Van Gogh DoubleQuote

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Van Gogh, Rilke, El Greco, Von Kármán. Hokusai, Jakob — rich correspondences between singificant items in widely separate disciplines ]
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My friend Steve Engel suggested this variant on my personal favorite DoubleQuote — the one pairing Van Gogh with Von Kármán — and as a lover of Rainer Maria Rilke I very much appreciate his suggestion, which bridges painting and poetry as my original DQ brdges arts and sciences:

SPEC DQ Gogh Rilke Steve Engel

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I’ve also featured that particular van Gogh painting in another DQ, this one showing the sky as painted by El Greco and Van Gogh:

SPEC DQ greco gogh

El Greco was first among my loves in painting, and I’ve long thought that the differences between how El Greco sees the sky and how Van Gogh sees it could stand in for the differences between religions — you don’t see Van Gokkites attacking El Grekkites in museums on account of the different visions of their preferred painters, and if we could view religions as visionary rather than prescriptive, taking from them what a poetic, metaphoric, non-literal, non-fundamentalist, non-reductionist reading would approve, we might be a little farther on our way towards interfaith harmony, and away from religiously-sanctionable violence.

I’m thinking here of St Francis‘ meeting with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil, and more recently Thomas Merton‘s meetings with Buddhist contemplatives, Sufis and the like..

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Here’s the Von Kármán / Van Gogh DQ, which I value in light of Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as a clear bridge between one of the crucial dualities of recent centuries — the needless and fruitless schism between the arts and sciences, which has given rise not only the rantings of Christopher Hitchens and his less elegant disciple Bill Maher, but to such other matters as the Papal condemnation and “forgiveness” 359 years later of Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage‘s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Andrew White‘s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in ChristendomW, and CP Snow‘s The Two Cultures:

karman gogh

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And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:

SPEC-DQ-Hokusai-fractal v 2.0 minikozy92

Sunday surprise: Bach BWV 998

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — with a ramble via his peerless peer, Shakespeare ]
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What’s a piece of music worth, on paper?

BWV 998 MS image

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I had the good fortune some decades ago to be invited to attent Dr Homer Swander‘s seminar at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Dr Swander is notable among Shakespearean scholars for his insistence that the texts we have of the plays are not themselves works of art, but serve the same function with respect to actual performances that an anrchitect’s blueprints serve with respect to a house, or a musical score to the performance of a work of music. Dr Swander dedicated much of his life to Shakespeare‘s plays, so we should not imagine that he thought little of the First Folio — or indeed of the First Quarto of Hamlet with its truncated soliloqy beginning:

To be or not to be, ay there’s the point,
To die, to sleep, is that all? Ay all:

[for the original spelling, see this facsimile ©The British Library]

— it’s simply that he saw them as prelimiaries, not the thing itself. This in turn allowed him to “see” aspects of the plays from a director’s standpoint, with intriguing results:

Swander Caesar
Hugh Macrae Richmond, Shakespeare’s Theatre: A Dictionary of His Stage Context

You should have seen Dr Swander stab that point home!

But to return to Johann Sebastian Bach.. Similarly, we may ask ourselves, what’s the manuscript score of a great work of music worth?

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Christie’s auction house in London has one answer for us in ther case of Bach’s Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat major, BWV 998 — $3.3 million:

Valuable Bach manuscript goes under the hammer

The manuscript’s value was originally estimated at between 1.5 and 2.5 million pounds (between 2 and 3.3 million dollars). At the auction on Wednesday (13.07.2016) in London, the final bid came in at the high end of expectations.

Likely written between 1740 and 1745, the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-flat Major (BWV 998) is a favorite among both harpsichords and lutenists. Like many works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), it can be played on different instruments, which is expressly indicated on this score in the composer’s handwriting: “Prelude pour la Luth ò Cembal” (for lute or keyboard).

That’s its current cash value as judged by the market.

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But what’s it worth — to you, to me, to life?

Nicholas Harnoncourt
explains:

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I am grateful as always to my friend Michael Robinson of Ornamental Peasant for pointing me to the sale at Christie’s — and to this remarkable piece.

Should trees, parks, rivers, whales, corporations have standing?

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — and what about straw men & sovereign citizens? ]
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Tablet DQ Trees standing

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I have long appreciated Mr Justice Douglas‘ dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), and Christopher Stone‘s comment on the same, Should Trees Have Standing? — presented along with other essays in Stone’s book of the same name [upper panel, above].

That takes care of the trees in my title. Parks and rivers are covered by the New York Times piece today, In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking).

Whales and apes get added to our list, as you can see, in Brighter Green‘s Nature’s Rights: Rivers, Trees, Whales, and Apes — which mentions that under Ecuador’s constitution enshrining the legal rights of nature as a whole::

Ecuador stepped to the forefront of the nature’s rights movement when it became the first country to include the rights of Mother Earth (Pachamama) in its constitution, which was ratified in 2008. The document states, “Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution.” Nature is a “rights-bearing entity that should be treated with parity under the law.” Citizens are given the power to sue on behalf of nature, now a legal entity

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And corporations?

The irony here, of course, is that those who would like to see Nature get a word in edgewise in the courts as a legal Person, tend to be unhappy with corporations having the same rights as chimpanzees. Eric Posner in Slate, Stop Fussing Over Personhood, catches the irony nicely:

From a legal standpoint, there is nothing remarkable about a chimpanzee claiming to be a person. Indeed, there are a number of cases that have been brought by animals—including a palila, a marbled murrelet, and a spotted owl. All of these animals sought to enforce their rights under the Endangered Species Act, under a provision that gives “persons” the right to bring suit.

In none of these cases was a judge fooled into thinking that an animal possesses all the rights of human beings. The lawyers bringing them were simply ensuring that a judicial remedy was available to address the harm that Congress sought to fix. If the spotted owl had also asked for the right to vote, the request would have been denied. A judge wouldn’t give a hoot that an earlier court had deemed the owl a “person” under the Endangered Species Act. A person for one legal purpose is not necessarily a person for another.

The law also treats various nonhuman, nonsentient entities as “persons” for certain legal purposes. Corporations, estates, trusts, partnerships, and government entities are often defined this way. Walmart, Illinois, and the California Pension Fund can sue, for example, without anyone asking if they have a right to abortion.

The classic case here is the famous and infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention here also the curious notions of personhood invoked by members of the Sovereign Citizens movement. From JM Berger‘s recent report, Without Prejudice: What Sovereign Citizens Believe:

Fictitious Person

Because the UCC provides an interstate standard for things such as driver’s licenses, property ownership, and bank accounts, many sovereigns believe that these documents (and associated laws and financial obligations) do not apply to them, but instead to a fictitious person created by the illegitimate law, sometimes referred to as a “straw man.” Some believe a fictitious person is denoted in legal documents by listing his or her name in all capital letters. The fictitious person is a legal entity akin to a company with the same name as the citizen, sovereigns believe.

Some sovereigns create their own driver’s licenses and license plates because they believe the state-issued documents are inauthentic, as they refer to the fictitious person, and that using or signing these documents exposes them to vulnerabilities under the illegitimate and tyrannical commercial laws, including debt collection, arrest, and prosecution.

The correct use of certain phrases or legal citations can reduce or eliminate these vulnerabilities, however. For instance, some believe that documents used by the illegitimate system, such as contracts or court documents, can be signed safely if the citizen appends the phrase “Without Prejudice UCC 1-308” to the signature, which they believe preserves the sovereign citizen’s common law rights and privileges.

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Let’s return to sanity.

The final word in Sierra Club vs Morton is given to Mr Justice Douglas: in a footnote, he cites John Donne, poet — and thus according to Shelley, one of the “unacknowledged legislators of the world”:

“No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Devotions XVII.

And by way of comparison, here’s a Maori expression of the same sense of extended personhood, in context from the NYT article I cited above:

A former national park has been granted personhood, and a river system is expected to receive the same soon.

The unusual designations, something like the legal status that corporations possess, came out of agreements between New Zealand’s government and Maori groups. The two sides have argued for years over guardianship of the country’s natural features.

Chris Finlayson, New Zealand’s attorney general, said the issue was resolved by taking the Maori mind-set into account. “In their worldview, ‘I am the river and the river is me,’” he said. “Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are.”

Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Storm of Creativity2017

wright-brothers-biographyserendipities

Paradisejssundertow

white horsewashington

 

The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski

2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco

Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa

Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr

The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks

Washington The Indispensable Man, by John Thomas Flexner

This list starts the first week of May, so perhaps the title should be Spring/Summer. Most of these books are quick reads and all are recommended.

I picked up Ms. Leski’s book at an MIT bookshop on a business trip in early May and read on the train ride home. Books on creativity are ubiquitous, but Ms. Leski takes an interesting approach by describing the creative process using the metaphor of a storm. Several ZP readers will find of interest.

2017 was recommended by a friend. The author was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the book focuses on a Europe/NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Written in a Tom Clancy-like style, the plot is fast-paced even though the good general provides sometimes provides detailed insights into the inner workings of NATA and the North Atlantic Council (this is one of the values of the book—bureaucracy writ-large).

David McCullough’s Wright Brothers delivers an approachable and human accounting of the first men of powered flight. Some reviews on Amazon complain McCullough lifts and uses too many quotes to tell the story. At times the quotes were distracting, but not enough to prevent the enjoyment of the story of two brothers who changed the world. This book was a gift otherwise I probably would not have read.

Serendipities is a short book, but was a long read for me. Eco explains how language and the pursuit of the perfect language has confounded thinkers since time immemorial. He refers to Marco Polo’s unicorn (also used in his Kant and the Platypus which is excellent) explaining how language is often twisted to meet a preconceived notion or idea. The first couple of chapters were quite good, chapters three and four did not hold my interest or were over my head. The closing chapter was good enough to convince me I’ll need to read this little book again. (My Eco anti-library has been growing of late.)

Eco’s book led me to reread Musa’s excellent translation of Paradise. My son gave me the deluxe edition with parallel Italian and English, plus commentary. Eco referenced Canto 26 and 27, and I enjoyed the break so much I read the whole thing!

Undertow is my good friend Stan Coerr’s second book of poetry.  His first book Rubicon was a moving collection of poetry of men at war. Undertow deals more with the heart and is quite good, too. You won’t be disappointed.

White Horse is also a book by an old friend, Rich Parks (we’ve known each other since the mid-80’s). White Horse is self-published and in places it shows, but the overall story is quite good for a first book (I’ve already told him his book would make an excellent screenplay.). The plot is quick and entertaining even if a bit unbelievable, but the story is fiction. Rich is following up with a sequel in August in 2016 and I’ll be reading it, too.

Mr. Flexner’s Washington was a gift, too. In this quick biography Washington is made approachable and human. And when I say “quick,” I mean quick…Trenton and Princeton took one chapter compared to David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing which took up a standalone book. If someone were looking for a first Washington biography, this would be a good place to start.

This isn’t the conclusion of my summer reading, but a pretty good start.What are  you reading this summer?

About those angels hiding in the wings & winds

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — John Donne, Kepler, and the transition from natural philosophy to science — & beyond ]
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Here’s a DoubleQuote for you:

Donne Keppler DQ

This isn’t futuristic strategy, but it is futures thinking.

There was an extraordinary transition that took place when natural philosophy morphed into science, and while I’ve quoted John Donne’s four amazing words “round earth’s imagin’d corners” [upper panel, above] often enough as illustrating both worldviews as though seen through a conceptual equivalent of binocular vision, it was only recently via 3QD that I came across Kepler’s illustration of the elliptical orbit of Mars with its remarkable combination of angels and geometrical precision.

I would argue that we are at the beginning of another such trasformation, in which the “horizontal” imaginative (imaginal, image-making, magical), intuitive (irrational), creative (leaping, analogical, cross-disciplinary) mode of perception will again be integrated in some new and transformative manner with the “vertical” linear, numeric-verbal, logical (rational) mode that at present so fascinates our culture — the conscious mode of thinking through with the unconscious mode of revelatory insight.

If it is indeed the case — as suggested by the failure of Aristotelian either-or logic to support the niceties of the world seen from a quantum mechanical perspective — that we are entering a transition to a stereoscopic worldview that finally harmonizes the sciences with the arts and humanities, then a clear understanding of the earlier transition represented above in the two panels, one from Donne’s poems, one from Kepler’s treatise, will be an invaluable guide to what lies ahead.

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Sources:

  • John Donne, At the round earth’s imagin’d corners
  • James Blachowicz, There Is No Scientific Method
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    Edited to add:

    For an in-depth account of salient aspects of that first transformation, see Ioan Couliano‘s great book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.


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