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Borders, limina and unity

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — bulldozers and trains, more ]
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Watersheds are natural divisions of landmasses, long predating human presence upon the earth. Borders by contrast are a human invention — a fact that is nowhere more evident than in the borders known as the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of influence. Durand, Sykes and Picot were respectively British, British and French gentlemen. In fact, make that a DoubleQuote (mini):

And while Pakistan recognizes the Durand line as an international border, Afghanistan does not. ISIS, disliked the Sykes-Picot line dividing Iraq and Syria enough to bulldoze it (upper panel, below)..

And then there’s the Haskell Free Library and Opera House (lower panel, above)..

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The Haskell Library straddles the US-Canadian border, and has served as a meeting place for Iranians in the US and their relatives, hoping to visit them from the Canadian side..

The library is a relic of a time when Americans and Canadians, residents say, could cross the border with simply a nod and a wave at border agents. It was the gift of a local family in the early 1900s to serve the nearby Canadian and American communities.

“What we are so proud of is that we do have a library that is accessed by one single door,” said Susan Granfors, a former library board member. “You don’t need your passport. You park on your side, I’ll park on my side, but we’re all going to walk in the same door.”

But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the northern border hardened, and the law enforcement presence in the area is immediately visible. And in September, a Canadian man was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling more than 100 guns into Canada, some of them through the Haskell library.

Still, inside the building itself — decorated with wood paneling, stained-glass windows and, on the Canadian side, a moose head — the old ways mostly prevail. Patrons and staff freely cross the international boundary, marked with a thin, flaking black line extending across the brightly decorated children’s reading room and the main hallway.

The Library — and Opera House!! — then, erases a border more or less, in a friendly manner, while ISIS erasesd another with force. In bith cases, we can sense a distrust of or distaste for artificial separations.

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Those who are willing to make creative leaps from political geography to the wisdom of the far Orient will recognize the imagery of Pu, the Uncarved Block in Lao Tze‘s Tao Te Ching — representing wood in its natural, uncarved state, end thus the whole, of which all entities are seeming parts, separated only by naming.

G Spencer Brown addresses the same distinction in his book, The Laws of Form — described appropriately enough by Wikipedia as “straddles the boundary between mathematics and philosophy” — between what Brown terms the Unmarked state, “which is simply nothing, the void, or the un-expressable infinite represented by a blank space.. No distinction has been made”, and the Marked State, in which one or more distinctions (Marks) have been made:

In Spencer-Brown’s inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a “this” from “everything else but this.”

Spencer Brown notes that a Mark denotes the drawing of a “distinction”, and can be thought of as signifying the following, all at once:

  • The act of drawing a boundary around something, thus separating it from everything else;
  • That which becomes distinct from everything by drawing the boundary;
  • Crossing from one side of the boundary to the other.
  • .
    All three ways imply an action on the part of the cognitive entity (e.g., person) making the distinction.

    Brown notes, wryly perhaps

    As LoF puts it:

    “The first command:

  • Draw a distinction
  • can well be expressed in such ways as:

  • Let there be a distinction,
  • Find a distinction,See a distinction,
  • Describe a distinction,
  • Define a distinction,<
  • Or:

  • Let a distinction be drawn.”
  • **

    My own DoubleQuotes format both draws distinctions (being binary) and erases them by asserting parallelisms between them (unifying or uncarving, unmarking them).

    All Spencer Brown quotes above are via Wikipedia.

    **

    Okay, now there’s news of another diplomatically significant border crossing:

    That’s good — and it gives us yet another DQ:

    Connecting a prosperous free South with a totalitarian North across a border is a liminal matter, and thus inherently sacred — see my post, Liminality II: the serious part

    As we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, it is possible and maybe Trump and Pompeo — with a little help from Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in? — can pull it off.

    Or maybe, Dennis Rodman?

    **

    Sources, some of ’em:

  • The Guardian, Railway diplomacy
  • PRI, For some Iranian families separated by the travel ban
  • NYRB, The Map ISIS Hates — hey, this by Malise Ruthven
  • Asia Times, Afghanistan takes center stage
  • **

    Oh, ah, another couple of parallelisms, btw:

    **

    What’s the cyber border between the US and Russia?
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    Reciprocal: a term for form, symmetry, balance — and beyond

    Monday, August 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — weaving a web of mirrors, echos, neurons and mimetics ]
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    Magic: the Gathering — the game designers know this pattern well!

    **

    The Far Right And Reciprocal Radicalisation

    Could fragmentation within the Far-Right contribute to increasingly extreme responses to Islamist terrorism? There is increasing evidence of instrumental responses from some of the most extreme groups, which seek to encourage the strategic use of violence.

    Reciprocal radicalisation, or cumulative extremism, is a concept that suggests extremist groups become more extreme in response to each other’s activity. This means a group may frame violence as justified or necessary because they perceive an opposing group as extreme. Identifying how to respond to such a dynamic has become increasingly important, as terrorist threats from both Far-Right and Islamist groups increase, alongside increased hate crime and group membership.

    The nature of siloing would encourage a focus on ISIS violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec foreign policy, or on alt-right violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec interior policy, thus remaining blind to the possibility that the two comprise a whole system, with systemic interactions between the two. The UK Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats report whose header and intro paragraph I’m quoting here is dealing with a pattern in that system, huzzah.

    Such patterns — true reciprocity, which is a form of mirroring, and the kind of escalating reciprocity described here, which is more like an echo chamber with built-in feedback loop, are significant both because they cross-pollinate silos, in a system-friendly way, but also because they offer hints of a pattern language of forms that can be watched for and cataloged.

    **

    Wilder speculation:

    Speaking of mirroring — other readings of mine recently have brought to my attention the intersection of two “hot” fields of study — mirror neurons as a biological substrate for much in human behavior, including our propensity of violence, and Rene Girard’s mimetics as a psychological substrate for much in human nature, including our propensity of violence..

    The conjunction of the two, which I intuited, is explored in Vittorio Gallese, The Two Sides of Mimesis: Girards Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification.

    Again, we have a creative leap, again we have silo-crossing, and again mirroring is the form that lies behind the analogical possibility that creates the possibility of the leap.

    Black Swan (bookstore) vs Red Hen (restaurant)

    Monday, July 9th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a parallelism post, more than one about free speech and civility ]
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    Lexington, VA, and Richmond, VA, the logos:

    **

    A neatly observed opposition, more or less a natural DoubleQUote, between the Black Swan incident where a fellow customer assaulted Steve Bannon verbally in a bookstore and the restaurant incident where the owner of the Red Hen restaurant ejected Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying her views did not conform to the ethic — or should that be ethos — of the restaurant:

    Now from a purely amateur natural history perspective, in a match between a black swan and a red hen, muy money is on the swan every time, as I trust Nassim Nicholas Taleb would agree. And Nabokov too, for that matter.

    From a popular consumer interest perspective, if the match is bookstore vs restaurant, restaurant wins hands down — but I’d go with bookstore, especially if it’s a used bookstore..

    **

    As to civility vs freedom of expression, thank God I’m not a cop or a judge — I require both. And that’s certainly a paradox, and probably a koan our society will have to face one of these days.

    Steve Bannon as a person I find intriguing to the point of sympathy, because he’s read many of the oddball authors I have, though my resulting observations come out of left field, and his out of right..

    **

    But none of that is what ultimately draws me to this post, it’s the delicious double parallelism of red vs black, swan vs hen.

    **

    I’ve been wondering, putting together this post, whether the bookstore is named for NN Taleb’s celebrated book, or for the wildly popular ballet film of thet name:

    Btw, Vogelgesang is birdsong: hen cluck, swan song.

    Ouroboroi, mirrors, macro-micros, paradoxes &c

    Monday, April 30th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — continuing my habit of collecting language, images included, which catch my attention — various forms of self-eating & other alchemyteries, mythematics and magics — mathemystics, Pythagoras for one, Ramanujan too ]
    .

    <, >Ouroboros or the Mechanical Extension of Mankind by Garet Garrett

    ries and

    **

    Here’s a nice, succinct Trumpian self-reference:

    I’d give myself an A+.

    This one’s a particularly apt example of the ouroboros, as the phrase “comes back to bite him” is clearly derived from the verbal formulation “serpent bites tail”:

    Trump’s ‘Fox & Friends’ Interview Is Already Coming Back To Bite Him In Court

    Kanye, an admirer of Trump’s way fo doing things, Ari Melber, Fallback Friday, The Beat, 04/28/2018:

    Kanye West doesn’t really believe in anything except Kanya West

    ***

    That first allegation, btw, is either true of untrue, which is why it’s called an allegation, eh? Same with the second, butt it’s the first that’s orouboric.

    >>>

    The Fifth Amendment protects persons from self-incrimination in these words::

    nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself..

    Aha, further to this matter:

    The right against self-incrimination is rooted in the Puritans’ refusal to cooperate with interrogators in 17th century England. They often were coerced or tortured into confessing their religious affiliation and were considered guilty if they remained silent. English law granted its citizens the right against self-incrimination in the mid-1600s, when a revolution established greater parliamentary power.

    Puritans who fled religious persecution brought this idea with them to America

    That’s the Puritan side of the matter, but they were of the opposite mind when interrogating Cavalier children:, inquiring (name of painting)

    And When Did You Last See Your Father?

    Do you suppose the Puritans would have let that young man plead the Fifth?

    ***

    A headline from War on the Rocks, Monday 30 April 2018:

    CHINA’S BALLISTIC MISSILES THREATEN AUSTRALIA’S SELF-RELIANCE

    ***

    Continuing right here. Every ten additional examples or so, I’ll post & tweet a reminder.

    **

    Fox News’s Sean Hannity busted again by Fox News

    Were the Erik Wemple Blog anointed the chief scheduler for U.S. Journalism, we’d direct that all major scoops regarding President Trump hit the Internet between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on weeknights. Why? The better to uproot Sean Hannity’s nightly program, of course.

    Because when news intrudes, the Fox News host exudes irritation. “I am told by my sources tonight that the New York Times is full of crap, that those are not — a lot of those questions are not the questions that the special counsel is asking,” said Hannity on Monday night after the newspaper published its scoop of 49 questions that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has formulated for Trump.

    People might just remember another moment this past when Hannity dissed a breaking scoop from the New York Times, this time about how Trump in June 2017 had ordered Mueller’s firing. “At this hour, the New York Times is trying to distract you. They have a story that Trump wanted Mueller fired sometime last June, and our sources, and I’ve checked in with many of them, they’re not confirming that tonight.”

    Later that night, Hannity was forced to confirm the news. “All right, so we have sources tonight just confirming to Ed Henry that, yeah, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for conflict,” said the host on his Jan. 25 show. “Does he not have the right to raise those questions? You know, we’ll deal with this tomorrow night.”

    [Sean Hannity cannot tweet his way out of journalistic corruption]

    Well. At noon on Tuesday, Fox News host Melissa Francis told viewers of the show “Outnumbered,” “President Trump is reacting to the leak of dozens of questions special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly wants to ask him. Fox News has now obtained those questions after the New York Times first reported on them. … The questions were reportedly read to the president’s lawyer by Mueller’s team in March,” said Francis.

    So: That makes two instances in which Hannity relied on his own sources to debunk the reporting of the New York Times, only to watch as his colleagues confirmed the paper’s findings. One more and we have a full-blown trend.

    **

    Boustrophedon reference, plus Orpheus

    Friday, September 1st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — party time! — i have a strange sense of party, oxen invited ]
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    I’m delighted to note a Boustrophedon reference. first by a poet, naturally, Ange Mlinko, in her poem:

    A levitating anvil. Omen of seagull
    Blown inland. Ranch gate said riverstyx,
    but it was the woodland that looked lethal:

    no place to put down your foot. Bucolics
    demand boustrophedon.

    — then in the New Yorker cmmentary by Dan Chiasson:

    Art imitates life imitating art: “boustrophedon” describes the path that a plow takes as it moves back and forth in a field, the same serpentine path followed by rivers and by classical manuscripts that alternate between left-right and right-left lines of text. Soon, our contemporary Eurydice in the wrong footwear makes the momentous decision to “shed her red wedge / with its Mary Jane band.” Orpheus, who knows how the story ends, steps in to mansplain her error.

    Boustrophedon — plus Orpheus!

    **

    You remember how obsessed I am with boustrophedon?

    **

    Yes indeed, something to watch out for.


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