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.. and including any and all interesting game language & stories ..

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a 75-year old poker club in DC, more ]
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It seems I’m moving from collecting only sport and game metaphors for politics, via sport and game metaphors more generally to sport and game language and stories — whatever catches my fancy. The paragraphs from William Finnegan, Off Diamond Head which I quoted in Storm special, surf’s up would have fit here nicely, and were my first signal, or perhaps one of my first, that my search interests might be widening.

Lets start with A club of their own: The story of a secret poker society started by pioneering African Americans. It’s a great story of a poker club that’s been going 76 years now:

In 1942, a group of university professors, doctors, lawyers and other black professionals in Washington wanted to get together on weekends and play poker. But they had a problem. Not only did segregation in the District bar them from joining country clubs or other social organizations where men could gather, but the president of Howard University, where many of them taught, was a religious man who did not approve of card-playing.

So they started a monthly gathering in their homes and came up with a name to mask its true nature — the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club.

The founding members of the club included a College president and consultant on Brown v. Board of Education, and the first black chief judge of DC’s federal court, and one of the the oldest current members at 96 — none of the founders are still with us — was a Tuskegee Airman. Over the last seventy-five years, these men have seen, and shaped, history. Their club is named the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club as code rather than abstract camouflage — “literary” because they’ve always discussed the topics of the day, from WWII via the Civil Rights movement to the present, and “hunting” because players are always hunting for a good hand when playing cards..

Play..

There were two tables — the big table, where hundreds of dollars exchanged hands over five-card stud, and the little table, whose participants played for coins or dollar bills and peppered the games with wild cards. Men would start at the little table and sometimes move up to the big one. As they got older and went on fixed incomes, some would move back to the little table.

And the spirit of play:

We’ve had great games and there’s never anybody who ran out of money, because somebody says: ‘Here, take some more. Just take it. Give it to me when you can,’

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And it looks as though I can’t evade the sports and social parallelism business either. How can I resist What Serena Williams’s defeat tells us about the criminal-justice system? And how better to get at its essential than via another of today’s WaPo pieces, Yes, get consent. But be human, too.?

After describing the two opinion camps around the kerfuffle between Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, the WaPo opinion writer Marc Howard, a professor of government and law at Georgetown, indicates the closeness of the parallel between tennis and social justice:

This disagreement is about more than tennis, or even sports. It connects with a much deeper American divide about policing and criminal justice, with strong undertones connecting to race and racism.

and later:

Just like the criminal-justice system, tennis and many other sports depend on the subjective discretion of neutral arbiters to apply a set of supposedly objective “rules.”

Ramos did indeed follow the code, and each of the three sanctions had some justification, thus satisfying the “rules” camp. But for two of the three violations (the racket smashing was unambiguous), he used his discretion to punish Williams for acts — coaching and heated exchanges with an umpire — that occur routinely in tennis but are seldom punished.

So one “deeper .. divide” is about “policing and criminal justice” — but another deep divide exists between “rules” and what I’ll call “fairness” camps, following this paragraph:

In all of these instances, one can always say, “Well, this person didn’t follow the rules,” and on an individual basis that may seem sufficient to justify the consequences. What gets lost, however, is that rules are rarely applied regularly, consistently or fairly..

You’ll have to read the whole article to get many of the details, but the analogy between a sport and the judicial and penal systems is clear.

How does this relate to the WaPo piece on consent in potential sexual aggression situations?

The question there is whether, in the pithy words of a feminist writer quoted by WaPo:

consent is just a hurdle you have to clear in order to Get The Sex

Consent is the rulebook, and the missing ingredient when consent is the only consideration, is the human context, in the words of the same writer, the need to see our sexual partners:

not simply as instrumental to our own pleasure but as co-equal collaborators, equally human and important, equally harmable, equally free and equally sovereign.

I’m not sure that even that doesn’t smack a bit of the “rules” camp, but it’s certainly a strong step beyond the bare=bones “consent” rule towards an understanding of human circumstances. But the parallelism between that and the Serena Williams piece wouldn’t have struck me so forcefully without this exchange:

“Yeah,” one, a junior, agreed. “The logic is sort of Cartesian.” (Oh, college!) “Do this, not that. Don’t break the rules ..

That really nails it — as Lao Tzu would say:

The rules can be codified in a rulebook aren’t the subtle rules of wisdom.

That’s my Tao Te Ching translation #207 I know, but I think it’s apt for this occasion.

Comments?

The Passion for Freedom Quartet

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — slyly smiling ]
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London had an exhibit titled Passion for Freedom:

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The idea was to support freedom of speech. But then some rabbit and squirrel toys from the blissful land of Sylvania were encroached upon by the ISIS-flag-waving MICE-IS terrorists, and the British police felt the tableaux showing them —

— might be problematic, so they intervened, freezing the free speech in its tracks:

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background. “Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquility. Until Now,” reads the catalogue note. “MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hardline version of sharia law.”

The decision to remove the work from Passion for Freedom came after the Mall Galleries consulted the police, who raised “a number of serious concerns regarding the potentially inflammatory content of Mimsy’s work”. The gallery cited a clause in the exhibition contract which allowed it the right to request removal of an artwork.

The Guardian, Artwork showing Sylvanian Families terrorised by Isis banned from free speech exhibition

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Of course, ISIS can’t afford to let a bunch of MICE-IS clowns represent them without some come-back, so today Jihadology, Aaron Zelin‘s brilliant counter-terrorism website, brought news of ISIS-in-India’s response: a thirteen-page theological wallop named, appropriately enough, Passion for Freedom

— In this ponderous tome, Muhammad Miqdaad asserts:

Passion for freedom is an innate nature of Human beings. There is a hunger for freedom inside us; no sane person will accept others’ slavery willingly. For freedom, we’ve fought wars in all ages; so this is the case today and will remain the same in the future.

The citizens of Sylvania would no doubt agree.

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And so their story, disallowed from featuring in a freedom of speech exhibit, has now been liberated, and may be purchased as a baby book:

**

Let Freedom Ring!

Pistol, crucifix, condom

Friday, May 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — covering all bases? — an astonishing display of symbols ]
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Lists of three — sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for example, or wine, women and song, as we used to say — sex, lies and videotape — can usefully itemize / totemize the whole of life as it is lived — a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me — at the individual, general, universal or transcendent level — when two or three are gathered in my name

But this image, from a Ukrainian law enforcement advisor’s Instagram account beats all!

Hat tip: Christopher Miller

Pistol, crucifix, condom
— I was wondering whether one could play scissors, paper, rock with those symbols, but..

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Coleridge characterizes symbols thus:

A symbol is characterized… above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it Renders Intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is representative.

At night, to be honest, a pistol, a condom an a crucifix might each be placed on the bedside table of someone in law enforcement as a matter of convenience, with no great symbolic import attached. But they are each nonetheless highly symbolic items. And the greater the degree to which these three items, when considered as symbols, are “translucent” to the individual resder here, the more astonishing their juztaposition in this image will appear.

Venn diagram, Trumpian firings

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Sally Yates, Preet Bharara, James Comey ]
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I like it when other people do my work for me.

This diagram is a splendid double (ppl imvestigating Trump; ppl Trump has fired) and triple (Sally Yates; Preet Bharara; James Comey) bead game, a Venn diagram with perfect and complete overlap. Bravo.

Trolleys come to Terror

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a western koan makes it onto German TV? ]
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What Hala Jaber calls a supermarket trolley in this tweet is not what this post is about — but it sure does connect trolley and terror!

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Here’s the terror side of things, in a tweet from John Horgan:

The BBC halls it an “interactive courtroom drama interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror” and notes:

The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.

Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.

Here’s the setup:

In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.

“If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.

The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.

So, is the pilot guilty, or not guilty?

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At the very least, he has our sympathy — but how does that play out in legal proceedings?

What’s so fascinating here is the pilot’s dilemma, which resembles nothing so much as a zen koan.

Except for the Trolley Problem:

trolley_problem
Image from Wikimedia by McGeddon under license CC-BY-SA-4.0

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Substitute an Airbus for the trolley, 164 people for the lone individual on the trolley line, and 70,000 people for the cluster of five — and the pilot for the guy who can make a decision and switch the tracks.

There you have it: terror plot and trolley problem running in parallel.

To be honest, I think the full hour-plus movie is far more immersive, to use a term from game design, than the Trolley Problem stated verbally as a problem in logic — meaning that the viewer is in some sense projected, catapulted into the fighter-pilot’s hot seat — in his cockpit, facing a high speed, high risk emergency, and in court, on trial for murder.

It’s my guess that more people would vote for the deaths of 164 under this scenario than for the death of one in the case of the trolley — but that’s a guess.

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The German film scenario — adapted from a play by Ferdinand von Schirach — is indeed a courtroom drama, a “case” in the sense of “case law”. And it’s suggestive that koans, too, are considered “cases” in a similar vein. Here, for instance, is a classic definition of koans :

Kung-an may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Kung, or “public”, is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or “records”, are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles [..]

This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like a poisoned drum that kills all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. [..]

The so-called venerable masters of Zen are the chief officials of the public law courts of the monastic community, as it were, and their collections of sayings are the case records of points that have been vigorously advocated.

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Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye

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