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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 —


    On the shadows of camels, and the camels that throw them

    Monday, August 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — in lieu of a belated Sunday Surprise, and slightly more serious ]

    Camels throw shadows — a fact brilliantly exploited by George Steinmetz in a rightly celebrated photo, to be found lower in this post — but first, a taste of Steinmetz’ methodology:


    It is, I suppose, possible to argue that it is the shadows that throw the camels — but I suggest that only by way of saying that when I post here, fresh angles, not particular statements of opinion, are mostly what I am after.

    Steinmetz’ photo illustrates my point nicely:


    As you may know — and Snopes confirms — this image is an overhead view of shadows cast by camels in the desert. What’s not immediately obvious is that the black shapes are the shadows, while the camels themselves are the thin strips of white that accompany them.

    As Steinmetz’ website explains:

    His latest passion is photographing the world’s deserts while piloting a motorized paraglider. This experimental aircraft provides him with a unique physical perspective over remote places that are inaccessible by conventional aircraft.

    The unexpected, perhaps even unique, perspective then is what I’m chasing — an “angle” that encourages a frehs view of the matter at hand.


    It’s intriguing to note the consonance between Steinmetz’ comment:

    I always want to go to the blank spots on a map, or go just a little bit farther. Reality is always more interesting than imagination.

    and a comment I quoted with a quick tsk, tsk from David Hume thw other day:

    It were better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world.

    I feel a DoubleQuote coming on..

    On the Shoulders of Giants — Merton’s OTSOG illustrated?

    Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — I first saw the fish on @arlogilbert’s Twitter page, and I think I saw the turtle on someone’s FB? ]

    The Turtle has gotta be a giant if it’s to carry elephants and a world on its back..

    SPEC turtle fish

    and moving from macro to micro, the Fish had best be sizeable if it’s to carry an island and village.


    There are those who delight in the Turtle Hypothesis, but throw in a tiger atop the elephants, then extend the concept to encompass turtle upon turtle, Mr Justice Scalia (in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 [2006]. footnote 14) for instance:

    In our favored version, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle. When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies “Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

    Likewise, there are those who reject it, as for example David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

    How can we satisfy ourselves without going on in infinitum? And, after all, what satisfaction is there in that infinite progression? Let us remember the story of the Indian philosopher and his elephant. It was never more applicable than to the present subject. If the material world rests upon a similar ideal world, this ideal world must rest upon some other; and so on, without end. It were better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world.

    Never to look beyond the present material world?

    Tsk, that’s a bit short-sighted, isn’t it?


    Which brings me to Robert K. Merton‘s brilliant book familiarly known as OTSOG, which I’ve read, and Tristram Shandy, which I haven;t but would presumably like.

    As the saying goes, Odd Moves in a Mysterious Way.

    I’m also reminded of the Hendrix Hedge, but that’s another story..



  • World on a tutle, The Science Behind Discworld’s Flat Earth on the Back of a Turtle
  • Island on a fish, Voted most likely to find a loophole
  • A difficulty with DoubleQuotes 2: Benzon

    Sunday, August 9th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — following on from the AI dog / ostrich, this ]

    No sooner had I posted my piece on the similarities and diffrerences between two humanly similar images — one of them identified as a dog by a neural net, the other as an ostrich — that I came across my friend Bill Benzon‘s piece, also posted today, Visual Resonance, in which he plays with Photoshop filters and a couple of his own images.

    Synchronicity? Zeitgeist? GMTA?


    Here is one of Bill’s photos, which he claims “no sensible photographer would shoot”..

    Benzon 1

    As Bill says:

    The setting sun is low in the sky and reflecting strongly off a glass encased building, so strongly that the camera really can’t deal with it. Also, I’m shooting through the branches of a small tree or bush nearby and they show up as a mis-shaped dark area in the left half of the shot. I like to take such shots to see what I can pull out of them.

    Here’s a second version, this one tweaked with a filter..

    Benzon 2


    I think there’s a fairly peasily perceptible family resemblance there, no?


    But then we come to this one..

    Benzon 3

    in which a different filter has been applied to the same image..

    To my eye. this is very different from the original — almost pure jazz in fact, and yes, Billplays jazz trumpet — though the palette “seems the same”..

    And then there’s this..

    Benzon 4

    .. which seems to me discernibly similar to both the previous and the original images, and in fact consists, if I’m reading Bill right, of an overlay of the two of them.


    All this leads me to tentatively revise my formulation that “likeness and unlikeness appear to me to find themselves on a spectrum which approximates closely to identity at one end .. and absolute distinction at the other“, renaming my spectrum “same-same, same-diff, diff-same, diff-diff“.


    Sameness and Difference, One and Two, Three in One and One in Three — as the writer I referenced anonymously towards the end of my previous post said:

    Even angels and the spirits of men were matter by Greek thinking. In a sense, there are only two substances in the universe. One is God — whatever the substance is that constitutes God — and the other is matter. Athenagoras, a Christian apologist writing in A.D. 168, tells us:

    We employ language that makes a distinction between God and matter and the natures of both.

    The question being asked at the Council of Nicea was …

  • Is Christ of the substance of God, or
  • is he made of matter like us and the angels?
  • Sameness and Difference, One and Two — we’re back in the heart of the Presocratics, of Pythagorean mathematics, of the Tao — the One and the Many.

    One Another.

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