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Archive for January 18th, 2013

WYSIWYG

Friday, January 18th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- what you see is what you get: WYSIWYG -- and possibly also TEOTWAWKI ]
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See buildings, walls, handrails, reflections, rows of windows, and people he’s walking past vanish and reappear as a man dressed for mountain climbing sets out into a blizzard of snow, video snow and special effects…

Hat-tip — Shlok Vaidya.

**

We knew that Iran could photoshop extra rockets into a widely distributed news image –

and that Russian dissidents could makeover Kirill as his friend Putin

But the video above, with it’s vanishing and reappearing everythings? Simple — it’s a stunning portrayal of just what patience and skill can manage with video tampering using Photoshop CS5 or the like. Hence — this may also be the time to announce TEOTWAWKI. The end of the world as we know it. As we believe we know it.

You only need one of those effects, remember, to fake out a geopolitical tipping point…

Watcher, beware.

**

But then there’s my friend Howard Rheingold, who points out that our whole world is a constructed reality:

We habitually think of the world we see as “out there,” but what we are seeing is really a mental model, a perceptual simulation that exists only in our brains. …

Cognitive simulation — mental model-making — is what humans do best. We do it so well that we tend to become locked into our own models of the world by a seamless web of unconscious beliefs and subtly molded perceptions. And computers are model-making tools par excellence, although they are only beginning to approach the point where people might confuse simulations with reality.

That’s a quote from his piece in Brenda Laurel‘s 1990 classic Art of Human-Computer Interface Design — and it seems to grow more prescient by the day!

**

Three topics, at least somewhat related, we can maybe talk about later:

  • Who it was that spread the word about the Innocence of Muslims trainer.
  • The disputed Muhammad al-Durrah incident at the Netzarim junction. And
  • Zero Dark Thirty.

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    Unequal equations

    Friday, January 18th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- math, modeling and mapping, in that strange zone where beauty meets understanding ]
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    The upper equation — Euler‘s — gets as tight and definitional as one can get, yet is profound in the way the greatest haiku are… while the metaphorical “equation” mentioned in the lower panel is a very rough model indeed of the intricate and constantly shifting forces at work in and on Pakistan.

    **

    I’m interested in mapping these sorts of influences at a level of detail that the human mind can assimilate and comprehend — and the graphical news-map in the video below will give you an idea of what one approach to such a mapping would look like.

    This particular example is drawn from a mapping of web-based news items related to President Obama over the course of 2009, but it should give you some idea of the constant flux of tensions and motion of “nodes” involved in tracking political issues, at home or abroad — the beginning is a bit slow, but from about the 23 second mark on is just amazing:

    Now is that art, or technology — or a beginning of something fascinating that by its very nature melds both?

    **

    Sources:

  • FB Ali, Interesting times in Pakistan on Sic Semper Tyrannis
  • Recorded Future Index video

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    Mourning the loss of Monte Cassino

    Friday, January 18th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- destruction of sacred spaces ]
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    Do we grieve the destruction of the Abbey of Monte Cassino as we grieve the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas?

    **

    With playful and appropriate scholarly tongue-in-cheek, Umberto Eco describes the importance of monasteries — and of the Benedictine Order specifically — in preserving culture, literacy, the arts and sciences through dark ages in his novel, The Name of the Rose:

    “Monasterium sine libris,” the abbot recited, pensively, “est sicut civitas sine opibus, castrum sine numeris, coquina sine suppellectili, mensa sine cibis, hortus sine herbis, pratum sine floribus, arbor sine foliis. … And our order, growing up under the double command of work and prayer, was light to the whole known world, depository of knowledge, salvation of an ancient learning that threatened to disappear in fires, sacks, earthquakes, forge of new writing and increase of the ancient. … Mundus senescit. If God has now given our order a mission, it is to oppose this race to the abyss, by preserving, repeating, and defending the treasure of wisdom our fathers entrusted to us.

    Monte Cassino is the spiritual home of the Benedictine monastic order. It was here that Saint Benedict of Subiaco built a retreat in 529 CE, here that he wrote his Regula Monachorum or monastic Rule, the central text of western monasticism, and though the monastery had been previously sacked by the Lombards in 585, the Saracens in 884, and the Normans in 1046, it was devastated anew during the Battle of Monte Cassino 1944, an American artillery commander telling his men:

    I don’t give a damn about the monastery. I have Catholic gunners in this battery and they’ve already asked me for permission to fire on it…

    Harold Bond, in his book Return to Cassino A Memoir of the Fight for Rome, describes the scene as 256 American heavy bombers began dropping 576 tons of munitions on the abbey in waves, in words echoes by the video below:

    There was no anti-aircraft fire from the Germans, either, just the drone of the big planes. They were very close now, and the first formation flew in over the abbey, releasing the bombs. We could see them fall, looking at this distance like little black stones, and then the ground all around us shook with gigantic shocks as they exploded. Another formation flew in, and then another, each followed by thunderous detonations. Now where the abbey had been there was only a huge cloud of smoke and dust which concealed the entire hilltop.

    **

    The bombing appears to have been authorized on the basis of a mistranslation. An intelligence intercept of the question “Ist Abt in Kloster?” — “is the Abbot in the Monastery” — was translated by the US as though Abt was short for Abteil, “Is the HQ in the Abbey?” The recorder answer “Ja” then led to the bombing.

    Three days after the bombing, the Abbot was interviewed in person by the commander of XIV Panzer Corps, himself a lay brother of the Benedictine order, and reported:

    Until the moment of the destruction of the Monte Cassino abbey there was within the area … neither a German soldier, nor any German weapon, nor any German military installation.

    Thankfully, the abbey was restored and reconsecrated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI and remains to this day the mother house of the Order of St. Benedict.

    **

    I hope to review relevant portions of Peter Caddick-AdamsMonte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell, available in the UK and due to be released in the US in April 2013, later this year. A review copy has been my source for details of the Battle of Monte Cassino described above.

    Image sources, upper pair:

    Destruction of the taller Bamiyan Buddha, CNN via Wikipedia
    Montecassion destroyed, from Monte Cassino Tour

    Image sources, lower pair:

    Bamiyan Buddhas, from Random Walks
    Monte Cassino by John `Warwick’ Smith, from the Tate

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