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Donald Trump and his Trumpalike, The Denald

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — reality imitates parody, a subset of life imitates art ]
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The Denald Trump account posted this fake trumpery as satire:

This tweet was quickly followed by an all-too-similar one from the real Donald:

— the only problem here being that the Scots voted to stay..

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And now the coup de grace — Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau‘s eye catches the match between parody and reality in these two quotes — and tweets them in juxtaposition, DoubleTweet-style:

— with the added bonus of a playful sideswipe at the Bostrom / Musk simulation idea..

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It seems there really were Scots shouting at Trump to leave — he’s not well-liked over there — so was he the one who was being ultimately playful and ironic — deliberately misunderstanding them for the purpose of his tweet?

FYI: Mike Sellers, game designer extraordinaire

Monday, December 14th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — game design, systems thinking, education ]
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An old and valued friend just popped up in my feed:

Enjoy!

Ideal as cause, real as effect

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a pretty intense little cognitive romp, b’day surprise #2 ]
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nefertiti saccade cc version
mapping object seen to eye movement, Yarbus via MIT

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Today I was reading James Harkin, How the Islamic State Was Won, in Harper’s from November last year, and this sentence struck me:

The aim was to wipe out the regime’s armed opponents, but the result was to destroy the country’s social fabric and displace whole communities — leaving millions of Syrians with little to lose. Groups like the Nusra Front took control of towns across the north, and foreign jihadis flooded into Syria to join the fight.

Here’s the thought it prompted:

The aim, purpose, or target of an action will often represent some sort of ideal, and that ideal becomes the cause of the action in question. Like all ideals, it represents a trajectory in a model space, that of the imagination, which like all models, lacks some of the details of the reality it purports to represent. Not only is the map not the territory, it will in all cases not envisioned by Jorge Luis Borges be smaller and less informed than the reality.

The result of that action, its effect, takes place in reality, even thought we then cognize it in a mental comparison with its aim or cause.

Unintended consequences, then, are quasi-mappable as arising in precisely those areas of the real which the ideal fails to map.

Mapping the distinctions between reality and unconscious perception, conscious perception, neural activity, and verbal, visual and matghematical models in mind, brain, and on a napkin or computer is, accordingly, one of the great tasks of the age.

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duchamp cc versionDuchamp (image) and Ithkuil (verbal description) via John Quijada, see Birthday surprise

Mosul Museum: “between the real and its representation”

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — last of three posts — the media studies / pomo side of the IS Mosul Museum rampage ]
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Simulacra Baudrillard

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It’s the sort of thing Bryan Alexander so often features in his Infocult blog — an instance of cyberfear. Writing of “Jihadi John” aka Mohammed Emwazi in the NYRB, Malise Ruthven says:

The casual brutalism of his online videos — he decapitated five Western and two Japanese hostages as well as numerous Syrian soldiers, and posed with the severed heads — suggests the insidious way that a generation brought up in cyberspace may have lost the connection between the real and its representation.

We’re in Baudrillard territory here, Simulacra and Simulation — even though it was written before digital / virtual “space” was much of an issue — is the relevant text here:

Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory..

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This also bears relation to the bad news / good news, perhaps, of the IS video of iconoclasm in the Mosul museum:

The third greatest story ever told

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Colleen McCullough is dead (props Razib Khan).

It’s a sign of George Lucas’ complete incompetence as a storyteller that he found the third greatest story ever told and left it an abomination. It is a sign of McCullough’s greatness as a storyteller that she took the third greatest story ever told and lifted it far enough to almost glimpse the second greatest story ever told. When I see the fall of the Roman Republic, I see it through McCullough’s eyes.

McCullough wrote seven books in her Masters of Rome series:

  1. The First Man in Rome
  2. The Grass Crown
  3. Fortune’s Favorites
  4. Caesar’s Women
  5. Caesar: Let the Dice Fly 
  6. The October Horse
  7. Antony and Cleopatra

I’ve read the first six.

McCullough is given one of the greatest cast of characters in history and brings them to life:

Lesser-known characters given their due:

One aspect of history that McCullough’s novelizations allow her to highlight how interconnected these characters were, especially by blood ties. Genealogy helped and hindered the lives of prominent Romans in ways history books sometimes fail to capture. Servilia Caepionis, for example, was Caepio’s daughter, Drusus’ niece, Cato’s half-sister, Brutus’ mother, and Cassius and Lepidus‘ mother-in-law as well as Caesar’s long-time mistress.

McCullough uses fictional but plausible plot devices, arrived at through meticulous research, to plug gaps in the historical record. She marries Sulla to an invented short lived younger sister of Julia Caeseris, making Sulla Marius’ brother-in-law and providing a rationale for why Sulla was on Marius’ staff in Numidia. She explains Caesar Octavianus’ chronic absence from the field of battle by making him asthmatic.

Vivid scenes I recall:

  • Marius, deep in Asia Minor, unarmed and alone, giving Mithridates and his army the stare down and forcing Mithridates to retreat (“O King, either strive to be stronger than Rome, or do her bidding without a word.”, according to Plutarch).
  • The pompous young Pompeius, looking forward to meeting the great general Sulla on his return from the east, is shocked when the formerly handsome Sulla, disfigured by a disease (of McCullough’s invention), having lost his hair and teeth, wearing a ridiculous Raggedy Andy wig, drunkenly greets him like an sentimental old fool.
  • Sulla, wandering in this ridiculous over the top getup through the streets of Rome later, then he promptly proscribes the enemies he has been sniffing out as an innocuous circus act.

McCullough’s star though out is clearly Caesar, growing from a young boy learning at the knee of Uncle Marius, to the devoted husband of the daughter of one of Sulla’s archenemies who refuses to divorce her despite Sulla going into full beast mode to the rising politician to conquering general to assassinated dictator.

Sulla, however, is her most unforgettable character. A Cornelii, one of the great patrician families of Rome, but born into a branch fallen on hard times, Sulla hangs out with the low life hipsters of Rome, uses his good looks and charm to first win the love of two rich women (who he promptly murders), and then climbs his way to the leadership of Rome’s conservative aristocratic oligarchy. He is first friends and then deadly enemies of Marius. He ruthlessly culls Rome of his enemies only to give up power and go back to his partying ways. Her Sulla makes Caesar and Octavianus look like helpless babes.

Come for Caesar, Pompeius, Cleopatra, Octavianus, or Antonius. Stay for Sulla and Marius, men overshadowed by the prima donnas they made possible. McCullough can rest in peace knowing she brought one of the primal stories of Western civilization alive for anyone who reads her books.

George Lucas can toss and turn.


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