zenpundit.com » memory

Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

Through a glass, darkly

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

[ by Emlyn Cameron — On North Korea: a retrospective as preemptive strike ]
.

Charles Cameron’s introduction: Regular readers may know my son Emlyn from previous contributions on Zenpundit [1, 2]. Here he wages a war of miniturization on the Korean fiefdom of Kim Jong-Un.

***


Snow falls on Kim Jong-Il‘s funeral cortege

Reflecting on the Nuclear staring contest now ongoing between the United States and North Korea, I confront mixed feelings: Obviously one must consider different strategies and engage in a pragmatic calculus; One must consider the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and the numerous lives which might be ended or fail ever to be lived as a consequence of any policy. It is, I need not say, a very complex issue. Worse still, it is an issue of severe import to many whose lives hang in the balance.

But I find myself grappling with a less practical question and coming away irresolute: If North Korea’s brand of surreal statism could be overthrown without bloodshed or tragedy, how would I feel? Would I be proud? Pleased? Grateful? Somehow, I can’t convince myself that I would be entirely satisfied. I feel certain that any pride, pleasure, or gratitude would be alloyed with something else. And this in spite of my knowledge that such a coup would be, well, a coup, and of the welcome it would justifiably receive.

“The bloodless anticlimax to an Orwellian police state?” I hear the likely refrain, “Terrific!”

“A peaceful end to a regime which embraced not only Stalinist propagandism, but De Facto Monarchy? Still better!” The voices continue.

“And a conclusion to tantrums and ICBM rattle throwing? Who could hope for more?” Comes the triumphal call.

And yet, I am unconvinced in the recesses of my heart. That might be strange to many people, even a tad immoral, but it’s how things stand.

In order that such a stance might make more sense, I’ll admit that I have a strange affection for the turbulent little state and its Emperor’s New Jumpsuits. This probably extends from more general conflicted feelings about overt dictatorships: I am someone who deeply loves enlightenment philosophy, and cherishes my personal freedoms. I am, all the same, a morbid person, prone to fatalism, and I harbor dark anticipations about the future of humanity. Somewhere in the middle I developed a great relish for bleak wit. For these reasons, it should come as no shock that I am a great admirer of George Orwell and a fan of his writings. Perhaps like others who count themselves among his readers, I find myself emotionally torn while reading Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm; The dystopias he presents disturb me, and yet, (in spite of my philosophical leanings) a small part of me is always tugged at by a desire to relinquish the struggle of self determination, and to escape the paradox of choice by giving in to such an oppression. The terrible certainties, even of state assigned conclusions and death, speak to some tired part in me, which recognizes strain from the ongoing alertness required of anyone who wants to be the arbiter of their own affairs.

North Korea, likewise, is a natural antagonist to the individualism I hold dear, but, perhaps because of its total conviction and flagrance in opposing my worldview, I am captivated by its iconography and insular existence. I have always been fascinated by the ludicrous spectacle, the stark imagery, and the total devotion of totalitarian nations, though I revile their premises. Having one around, therefore, leaves me in rather a strange position: I desire the grip of the North Korean state on its people broken as a matter of principle, while simultaneously fearing the death of a kind of dangerous endangered species; I am struck by the feeling that the end of the North Korean state would be a victory for my values, and the loss of one of the world’s great curiosities.

A friend recently called North Korea “an Eighth Wonder of the World”, and I agree. It is a tragic wonder, dangerous rather than glorious, but a wonder none the less.

My grandfather, a conservative philosopher, referred to himself as a “sentimental monarchist”. If a peaceful end came to the militaristic regime in North Korea, my relief would be tinged with a similar kind of sentimental loss; Something interesting would be gone, and I would feel a nostalgic pang for the missing strangeness. I fancy that I would rather keep the aggressive little power, not on a map, but on a shelf. I should like to keep it in a snow globe, I think (the state already more or less frozen as it is).

I’d like a little magnified globe, not unlike the coral paperweight in Orwell’s book, in which would be held the repressive slice of 1950’s authoritarianism: Marches and missiles behind safety glass. Occasionally, on a quiet night, I might chance to hear a soft, televised threat to my safety, or a report on bountiful rations; If I felt a stab of longing for the atmosphere of suspended aggression from my parents and grand parents age, I could go to the mantle and wind the little state up by hand (rather than by tweet) and hear a tinkling anthem that takes me back; I’d like to visit the trinket now and again and watch snow fallout from a nuclear winter after I shake it, or watch tiny jackboots and smiling, slightly condescending diplomats go about their days work. Maybe the mandatorily grateful workers would even build a cardboard city for my benefit, to give an impression of plenty. And once I had seen the last settling flakes fall, I would place it back above the fire place with a feeling of having harmlessly revisited my childhood, glad of a souvenir to solidify the bittersweet memory. After all, a snow globe can cast nothing else from the mantle to the floor, nor launch beyond its translucent border.

Then again, just because I’d have the terror held safely under glass, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t continue in earnest within.

HipBone implications of the second shoe dropping for intel analysis

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also, the role of the True Name in intel analysis & Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea ]
.

You may know that I value the documentary film Manhunt for its lucid presentation of the process by which the finest intelligence analysts “leap” to their quarry — in which Cindy Storer notes, “not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic”.

In my post The process of associative memory I decribe this process, which I consider the root process of true creativity:

There’s the present moment .. And there’s the memory it elicits.

Compare Michael Hayden in Manhunt, at 1.19.18:

The way it works is, information come in, you catalog it, your organize it – that little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that’s suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time. That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for Osama bin Laden by trying to track his courier.

By way of confirmation, here is Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

And here’s Jeff Jones on piecing together puzzles —

Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

**

My point here is that the board in my “game” of DoubleQuotes provides a matrix for eliciting and annotating such leaps between fact and memory — that’s its purpose, and that’s why I believe the practice and “playing” of DoubleQuotes is, in itself, an ideal training for the analytic mind in that otherwise elusive aptitude which Ms Storer says seenms like magic to those who do not possess it..

I believe my DoubleQuotes would be an invaluable tool for analysts in training.

**

Note, however, that Jose Rodriguez, speaking immediately after Michael Hayden at 1.19.55, adds a reference to the “True Name” — accompanying screencaps included — something to which as a theologian I am naturally drawn:

It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That’s why we were in the business the of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won’t give you the information that you really need. A true name.

And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever. Arabic name, you know. But the true name – we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.

That too elicits memories, though in this case providing cultural context rather than actionable intelligence. It’s interesting to compare Rodriguez’ quote with the passages in which Ursula Le Guin describes the nature of magic in her book, Wizard of Earthsea:

He who would be Seamaster must know the true name of every drop of water in the sea.

and:

He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

**

See also:

  • Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B
  • Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles
  • FWIW, there’s an appendix on the central spiritual significance of remembrance of the True Name in Judaism (HaShem), Christianity (Jesus Prayer), Islam (dhikr), Hinduism (nama-rupa), Buddhism (nembutsu) etc at the back of Frithjof Schuon‘s little book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions.

    On which frankly mystical note, here’s a third para from Le Guin to carry you towards Lao Tzu‘s observation that “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name” —

    It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    If your memory serves you well..

    Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Muslim travel ban DoubleQuoted with Japanese internment camps, history rhyming, Ginsberg on Dylan’s national rhyme ]
    .

    Anna O Law (The Immigration Battle in American Courts, Cambridge, 2014) made the connection:

    **

    What kind of rhyme is that anyway, Mister History?

    Is it one like:

    Idiot wind, blowing everytime you move your jaw,
    From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras.

    — the first version the current Nobel Laureate in Literature tried out — or this, definitive one? —

    Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
    From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.

    **

    The question interests me because there’s a back-level where the rhyme is in the concept, not the sound of the words as pronounced by poet or listener, reader — as with the rhyme womb / tomb, where before-birth and after-death meet both soncally and conceptually, making life freshly worthwhile as only the mechanics of poetry can.

    Ginsberg explains:

    Christopher Ricks, who has also penned books about T. S. Eliot and John Keats, argues that Dylan’s lyrics not only qualify as poetry, but that Dylan is among the finest poets of all time, on the same level as Milton, Keats, and Tennyson. He points to Dylan’s mastery of rhymes that are often startling and perfectly judged. For example, this pairing from “Idiot Wind,” released in 1975:

    Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
    From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol

    The metaphorical relation between the head and the head of state, both of them two big domes, and the “idiot wind” blowing out of Washington, D.C., from the mouths of politicians, made this particular lyric the “great disillusioned national rhyme,” according to Allen Ginsberg.

    Ginsberg’s formidable liking for this rhyme is part of what got him invited to Dylan’s Rolling thunder Review:

    Ginsberg’s tribute to that rhyme is one of the reasons he is here with Bob and Joan and the rest of the merry motley. It was, says Allen, “one of the little sparks of intelligence that passed between Bob and me and that led him to invite me on the tour.”

    **

    I caught the rolling thunder in Fort Collins:

    **

    Ah yes.

    And If your memory serves you well is, as I recall via Google, Dylan’s top of the hat to Rimbaud‘s A Season in Hell, which opens with the words:

    Jadis, si je me souviens bien, ma vie était un festin où s’ouvraient tous les cœurs, où tous les vins coulaient.

    This Wheel’s On Fire, lyrics by that Nobel fellow, Rick Danko and the Band:

    **

    Memory, pattern, association, analogy, history, learning.

    And Dylan on how literature works on you a similar wonder — in his recently released Nobel speech:

    Music to my ears.

    McCants explains the Saudis, Quantico rebukes them

    Friday, August 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Saudi-sourced jihadism, the FBI, Baader-Meinhof — hey, it’s all about terrosism ]
    .

    Will McCants explains [upper panel, below] how the Saudis are and are not promoting terrorism —

    Tablet DQ 600 arsonist

    — while a screen-cap from episode 9 in the first season of Quantico explains just why such an approach is logically bound to be defective.

    **

    Oh well, not to worry. It’s just another example of the illusion colloquially known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. I wouldn’t want to go all irrational on you, so I’ll let RationalWiki explain:

    The frequency illusion (also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) is the phenomenon in which people who just learn or notice something start seeing it everywhere.

    Except that — well, there it is again — Baader-Meinhof — it’s all terrorism!

    Van Riper and the HipBone mechanism

    Friday, August 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — part ii of van Riper’s cognitive process is what we train ]
    .

    Van Riper, as quoted in Maj. Joe Byerly‘s article, Use ‘Mental Models’ to Outthink the Enemy, writes that both study of the past allows “practitioners of war to see familiar patterns of activity and to develop more quickly potential solutions to tactical and operational problems.”

    Okay.

    **

    There are two parts to that.

  • One is the seeding of the mind with a multitude of thoughts, concepts, tactics, strategies, events, skirmishes, battles, wars, moments and flows in time.
  • And the other is the present moment riggering a past, suitably analogous, situation from out of all that multitude.
  • I cannot easily persuade or inspire others to seed the mind with a wide and various range of experiences and readings. But I can train the abulity to pluck apt analogies out of the dim recesses of memory, to scrape them off the back wall of the skull if necessary, to find those patterns, and providee those dots with which the presnt moment may fruitfully connect.

    **

    board inside skull

    That’s what the HipBone Games in general teach, that’s what each move in a HipBone or Sembl Game is about, that’s precisely and exactly what the DoubleQuotes method is all about, that in a nutshell is the heart of what I call HipBone Analytics.

    Maj. Byerly makes the case for wide and reading very clearly. It’s getting up to speed on part two that interests me here.


    Switch to our mobile site