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Which best captures the fleeting present — past or future?

Monday, October 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — architectural history as a question in philosophy — Palmyra ]




I’ll admit my preference for “past” — but is it just “the patina of antiquity”I’m appreciating?

What building from the first decades of this millennium might people think worth preserving — or destroying — a thousand years hence?

And what if the present should arise and fade, unaided?

On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Hofstadter Langdon Kim — for Gabi Nasemann, & in recognition of Gödel Escher Bach ]

My friend the photographer Gabi Nasemann recently inquired whether I knew John Langdon‘s book, Wordplay, and I responded, DoubleQuote-style, with Scott Kim‘s Inversions:

SPEC kim langdon

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Kim lo these many years past at the Computer Game Developers Conference, and he was kind enough to say of my HipBone Games:

Your game does seem to really call to mind the Bead Game. Almost a divination system, much more metaphorical than most games.


Scott Kim and his friend Doug Hofstadter both have a keen interest in Bach, so I thought it might be neat to see Scott’s treatment of the name — an ambigram, lower panel below — and how John Langdon might treat it — upper panel:

SPEC bach

Langdon’s Bach I assembled from his own typeface, Biform, which apparently seeped from his grasp into the wider world under the entirely irrelevant name Lampoon.


Of all Langdon’s ambigrams, the one that’s no doubt best known — since Dan Brown used it in one of his execrable books — is his square of the four elements, upper panel, below:

SPEC langdon oronce

It was a nice touch, though, that Brown offered Langdon an hommage by naming his professor of symbiology after him. No doubt the fictional Robert Langdon would be familiar with the glorious diagram of the elements created by Oronce Fine, which he’d have run across in a 1549 Harvard Houghton Library volume, Le Sphere du Monde, and which I have elsewhere compared with Jewish and Christian diagrams:

Sembl and HipBone gameboards are in the same genre.. being games of linkage that you play with your mind:

games you play in your mind


Sources and further readings:

  • John Langdon, Ambigrams
  • Scott Kim, Ambigrams on Google Search

  • Scientific American, Remembering Martin Gardner, with Douglas Hofstadter
  • Slate, Can You Really Be a Professor of Symbology?
  • The New Yorker, Harvard_ No Symbology Here
  • Wikipedia, Robert Langdon
  • Random House, The Official Website of Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon

  • John Langdon, Biform
  • John Langdon, Lampoon

  • Triple Canopy, This is your brain on paper
  • Sunday surprise: kundalini’s rising and the jukebox blows a fuse

    Sunday, October 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — some examples of deep dreams, mechanical and spiritual ]

    In the upper panel, a claim made for the Deep Dream Generator:

    SPEC kundalini deep dream

    In the lower panel, an image of the chakras or lotuses in the subtle body, through which the kundalini serpent rises from deep sleep to full spiritual awakening.

    The “sixth level” in the chakra system would be the Ajna chakra:

    The Ajna chakra is positioned in the brain, directly behind the eyebrow center. Its activation site is at the eyebrow region, in the position of the ‘third eye.’


    Deep Dreams:

    Here’s what Google’s Deep Dream Generator comes up with:

    Deep Dream

    Here’s an early statue of Arya Lokeshvara from the Potala Palace, dating to the 7th century and described as the Potala’s most sacred statue:

    Bhairava thangka 600

    This is a detail from Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony:

    detail, the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516-1 bosch 600

    From one of the marvellous array of manuscripts of the Beatus commentary on Revelation:

    Beatus 600

    Here’s a deep dream in words, from Hermann Hesse..

    GBG as organ 600

    Another, from Shakespeare:

    shakespeare 600

    A secular deep dream..

    Alice red queen 600

    and a deep dream — as surreal as all the rest, yet capturing “no more than” simple reality — in a photo posted today by Bill Benzon:

    Benzon coke 600


    Roll over, Beethoven:

    EXTRA, EXTRA! See all about it!

    Sunday, October 11th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a second, off-the-cuff Sunday Surprise this week ]

    Here’s your basic DoubleQuotes-formatted pair of images — Rembrandt‘s Nightwatch which you’re probably familiar with in the top panel, and Bill Benzon‘s Night Light Standing Guard which I believe he only posted today:

    SPEC then and now


    Consider the differences.. then, and now.

    I wanted them in DoubleQuotes format to make the comparison clear — but here are larger versions of the two images, still in sizes this blog column can handle:

    Rembrandt Nightwatch 602


    Benzon Night Light Standing Guard


    But for a really detailed digital looksee, click on these two links, and then if you’d like, click again for maximum magnification, very possibly too large to fit a computer screen & requiring some scrolling to catch significant detail:

  • Rembrandt, The Night Watch
  • Benzon, Night Light Standing Guard
  • Even better, you could befriend and visit Benzon, and view the Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Either there, or by some other means, you and I and Benzon and Rembrandt should commune. As Emerson wrote:

    The world is young: the former great men call to us affectionately.

    Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists

    Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — what color does a chameleon turn in a hall of mirrors? ]



    There’s an interesting ascetic aesthetic in photography which prefers black and white to full spectrum color, but the black and white in question has a rich spectrum of its own, a continuum of shades of grey between black and white poles. Not so with black and white choices of the sort President Bush proposed when he said:

    Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.


    Some of the nuances to consider:

    David Kilcullen on this video at 48.55:

    A lot of families in Afghanistan have one son fighting with the government, and another son fighting with the Taliban. It’s a hedging strategy.


    In Syria, many families face a terrible dilemma

    In recent months I have noticed a trend of some families sending at least one of their children to join ISIL because that was the only way for them to generate an income in the family.


    And then this:

    U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Afghan Allies’ Abuse of Boys

    Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.



    Is the CIA undercounting civilian deaths from drone strikes?

    Determining the number of civilian casualties under such circumstances is a difficult task — even for the human rights groups that devote significant resources to doing so. If the CIA is simply counting zero civilians killed in operations where it can’t say for certain who the agency is even firing at, that doesn’t inspire much confidence in their numbers.
    assumed to be combatants.


    And then there’s the paradox, found even in scripture:

    The Synoptic Gospels attribute the following quote to Jesus of Nazareth: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30), as well as its contrapositive, “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50; The Synoptic Gospels attribute the following quote to Jesus of Nazareth: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30), as well as its contrapositive, “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50; Mark 9:40)


    As I said at the top of this post —


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