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Archive for June, 2013

More Books and Bookshelf Musings

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

   

Mussolini’s Italy:Life under the Fascist Dictatorship by by R. J. B. Bosworth 

Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott

Been busy writing a book review and a long and serious post, so here is something more lighthearted and tangible in the meantime.

Having recently purchased the Bosworth bio of Mussolini, I went back and bought his history of Italian Fascism. While doing that, I came across Scott’s Seeing Like a State, which had either been highly recommended in a discussion over at Chicago Boyz blog or perhaps in an email by one of the Chicago Boyz themselves ( maybe Lex will help me out here).

However, a long discussion by my amigo Adam Elkus on Facebook about his emerging organizational system for his books coupled with an hour long search to try and find a book I needed to cite in the review I was writing have made me realize something: I no longer have any organization to my books.

Sure, there’s still a semblance of a core – a Soviet/Russian bookcase, an antique/antiquarian bookcase for collectible editions 80-130+ years old, three shelves of strategy and war, two and half on Nazi Germany, two on Richard Nixon, an “Ummah” shelf on Islam, al Qaida, Central Asia and the Mideast but after that it starts getting messy. Once methodically organized, diplomatic history and diplo memoirs are spread across two rooms, four bookcases and three packing boxes in the garage; the Vietnam War is on two shelves in two different bookcases plus a half dozen or books so shelved at work; ancient history and classical philosophy have metastasized to occupy parts of three shelves in two different rooms; American history, European history, Japan and China,  sociology, general science, politics, biographies, neuroscience, intelligence community, economics are everywhere and anywhere. Your guess is probably almost as good as mine.

And then there are book piles randomly stacked horizontally on top of shelved books and bookcases or stacked by my computer desk or on/under/next to my nightstand. I no longer recall what books I have loaned out or to whom vice given away as gifts.

Bibliomania….A Gentle Madness …..

 

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Pie Jesus, dona eis requiem

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — of Ozymandias, as Shelley’s story-teller friend reminds us, all that remains are “vast and trunkless legs of stone” ]
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I am very fond of the long view, in which each of us becomes (physical) dust and enters (mental) oblivion — not necessarily in that order — see Shelley, Osymandias, best read by the wonderful Eleanor Bron

I take the video below, with its scenes both of a young girl playing a tribute of flowers to the fallen of 9/11 and of Osama bin Laden, set to Fauré‘s plangent and beautiful Pie Jesus, dona eis requiemBlessed Jesus, grant them peace — as truly comprehensible only in that long view, where oblivion meets forgiveness…
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The notes accompanying the video tell us:

Uploaded on May 4, 2011
Pie Jesu (from Requiem by Gabriel Fauré)

Words : Tommaso da Celano (1200 – 1265)
Music : Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924)

Conductor : Michel Corboz
Soprano : Alain Clement
Organ: Philippe Corboz
Berne Symphony Orchestra

Recording on May 1972, in Casino de Berne, Switzerland

Verse :

Pie Jesu Domine (Merciful Jesus) ,
dona eis requiem (grant them rest) ,
sempiternam requiem (grant them everlasting rest) .

Notes:

1) The War in Afghanistan (1979 – 1989)

was a conflict involving the Soviet Union and her puppet against the indigenous Afghan Mujahideen and foreign “Arab–Afghan” volunteers. The mujahideen found military and financial support from a variety of sources particularly Saudi Arabia and the United States.

2) September 11 Attack

The September 11 attacks were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda led by “Osama bin Laden” upon the United States on September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 victims include 343 firefighters and 60 police officers died in the attacks.

The United States responded to the attacks, invaded Afghanistan. This war is not over yet.

3) Osama bin Laden (1957 – 2011)

Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. On 1979 he joined the Afghan Mujahideen as a volunteer. After withdrawn USSR, he founded “al-Qaeda” in the war-devastated land and took the decisive action on September 11 2001. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he had been killed by US armed forces on May 2 2011.

Fauré’s Requiem is one of the classic works of sacred choral music, and Michel Corboz deservedly one of the pre-eminent conductors of that repertoire.

This video, as you may have guessed, comes from the same source as the other examples of strange pairings of music and visuals which I discussed recently in Taylor Swift, Sara Mingardo, JS Bach and a quiet WTF, and I hope brings closure to that piece.

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I tracked down the picture of the young girl. it is titled:

Cazzandra Peterson leaves flowers at Ground Zero in memory of father William Peterson during the 7th annual 9/11 memorial ceremony September 11, 2008 in New York City.

Family and friends of the victims, heads of government and others gathered at the annual ceremony to remember the attacks that killed more than 2,700 people with the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

(September 10, 2008 – Source: PETER FOLEY/Getty Images North America)

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Pie Jesus, dona eis requiem.

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Videos, the counter-nasheed and some dancing girls

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — further notes from the frayed edges of what’s significant ]
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Okay, you all know I’m interested in the graphics of terrorism and their symbolism, and only a day or two ago I posted Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality on the two into one phenomenon — well, here’s an addendum:

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The upper image, showing the Jabha al-Nusra logo — Sunni, left — alongside the Hezbollah insignia — Shi’a, right — morphs into the single image in the lower panel, thereby resolving the sectarian conflict in Syria by filmic means.

The video from which these two shots were taken, alas, was the work product of the US Government, as part of an effort of outreach by the little-known Digital Outreach Team at the State Department, who at the time of writing appear to have 193 videos uploaded.

The BBC notes:

According to the Associated Press news agency, the 50-member Digital Outreach Team tweets, posts Facebook updates and uploads video to YouTube in Arabic, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu, in a bid to counter the radical jihadist message. It seems it’s even had exchanges with terror suspects such as US-born militant Omar Hammami, a former member of Somalia’s al-Shabab.

The two images above were taken from a video titled Secret meeting between Hassan Nasrallah and al-Zawahiri, but the Beeb’s article focused on what it termed a “spoof Al-Qaeda video”, which I’ll call Pharaoh Ayman speaks to the dancing girls for want of a better name:

The team’s al-Zawahiri spoof opens with a notice that “fizzy drinks should be consumed while watching this production” – a twist on the usual message at the beginning of al-Qaeda videos saying “it is not permitted to add music to this production … Taking the classic preaching-to-camera format, the three-minute clip features a voiceover in which the Egyptian-born militant repeatedly bungles his speech by saying things like: “The butchers, ahem, sorry, I mean the mujahideen”. In the video – issued by the US State Department’s Digital Outreach Team – al-Zawahiri is backed by punkah-wallahs. The clip then cuts to a shot, as though from behind the speaker, to reveal a troupe of dancers performing in front of him.”

But see for yourselves, punkah-wallas and all:

For your further Sundance consideration, and from the same studios, you might also like the lowest and slowest nasheed ever recorded.

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Speaking of graphics — coming up on ZP when I have had a chance to read a little more of El Difraoui, reviews of:

  • Beifuss and Bellini, Branding Terror
  • Abdelasiem El Difraoui, Al-Qaida par l’image. La prophétie du martyre
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    Heavy breathing on the line: Uniform disbelief

    Saturday, June 29th, 2013

    [dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

    Sigh

    Sigh

    What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

    Once upon a time

    During my first year’s encampment General Scott visited West Point, and reviewed the cadets. With his commanding figure, his quite colossal size and showy uniform, I thought him the finest specimen of manhood my eyes had ever beheld, and the most to be envied.

    General Winfield Scott

    I could never resemble him in appearance, but I believe I did have a presentiment for a moment that some day I should occupy his place on review—although I had no intention then of remaining in the army. My experience in a horse-trade ten years before, and the ridicule it caused me, were too fresh in my mind for me to communicate this presentiment to even my most intimate chum.

    Flashback.

    There was a Mr. Ralston living within a few miles of the village, who owned a colt which I very much wanted. My father had offered twenty dollars for it, but Ralston wanted twenty-five. I was so anxious to have the colt, that after the owner left, I begged to be allowed to take him at the price demanded. My father yielded, but said twenty dollars was all the horse was worth, and told me to offer that price; if it was not accepted I was to offer twenty-two and a half, and if that would not get him, to give the twenty-five.

    I at once mounted a horse and went for the colt. When I got to Mr. Ralston’s house, I said to him: “Papa says I may offer you twenty dollars for the colt, but if you won’t take that, I am to offer twenty-two and a half, and if you won’t take that, to give you twenty-five.” 

    It would not require a Connecticut man to guess the price finally agreed upon…

    I could not have been over eight years old at the time. This transaction caused me great heart-burning. The story got out among the boys of the village, and it was a long time before I heard the last of it.

    It was a setup.
    (more…)

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    Geometry aka logic as an analytic tool

    Friday, June 28th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — reflections on cognitive empowerment by selective noticing ]
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    I just realized that I take notice of details at the level of “geometry aka logic” which I would miss if I were more focused on content. In effect, I treat idiosyncracies and hiccups of expression — such as paradoxes — as indicative of condensed or distilled meaning.

    What triggered this realization was the way my interest was aroused by this phrase:

    The parallel universes may soon become perpendicular.

    I found that today in an FP piece, Will June 30 be midnight for Morsi’s Cinderella story?

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    Paradox? Geometry? Contradiction? Figure of speech?

    It’s the irregularity in the pattern used to describe the events in question that catches my eye here, however you care to name it. And something very similar is going on when I flag the weird juxtapositions of imagery and music in Taylor Swift, Sara Mingardo, JS Bach and a quiet WTF, or the koan-like tensions and reconciliations inherent in such inseparable pairs as war-and-peace in Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality.

    Here’s the full paragraph, discussing the increasing polarization of the Egyptian public, and some ways in which “the current situation differs more in degree than in kind from the recent past”:

    Second, violence is on the table. The parallel universes may soon become perpendicular. Of course, Egyptian politics has had its victims over the past two and a half years, but violence has seemed episodic and almost self-limiting since those who have deployed it have paid a heavy political price. Nobody advocates violence now, but many expect it and it is not uncommon to hear from both sides that they will not shrink from self-defense. And the line between self-defense and offensive action can become thin for each camp for opposite reasons. The opposition is hardly centrally controlled and rogue elements have already been involved in attacks on Brotherhood offices as well as those of its political party. For the Brotherhood, its discipline has led it to prepare for what it sees as defensive action in a manner that understandably appears threatening to outsiders (especially after the events of December 2012 when Brotherhood cadres constituted themselves as a vigilante force to confront those demonstrating at the presidential palace).

    Okay, so I’m already reading the article, ergo I must already have been interested enough in what’s going on in Egypt to click through to it. So why the fuss about paradox and geometry in what is, after all, only one turn of phrase in a piece whpose subject already interests me?

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    I’m still feeling my way towards and understanding of how my mind works, how I pick up on things, how I populate my mind with rich and interesting memories, how I make my small and large creative “leaps” — my means of collecting and connecting dots, if you will. Because there’s a cognitive skill there that I haven’t seen taught, and I believe it offers an “outside the box” alternative mode of monitoring topics of interest.

    You know, of course, that most every time you read the words you know, of course, that it’s a dead giveaway that the speaker or writer is skimming quickly past a cherished assumption that he or she wouldn’t want you to examine too carefully? Of course you do. It’s one of those psychological “tells” that should alert you, like a facial tick, a hesitation, or that curious (and paradoxical) tight grip on one arm of the chair with one hand while the other rests almost disdainfully relaxed and gracious on the other, in El Greco’s masterful portrait of a Cardinal, now in the Metropolitan in New York:

    How very telling that sort of detail can be!

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    And intersections.

    I talk quite a bit about juxtapositions and parallelisms, because they’re the elements of “creative leaps” (and Sembl / Hipbone moves) and I “practice” noting them for my DoubleQuotes. But one way to clear the xlutter from mind is to concentrate on places where two fields intersect. I’m interested in apocalyptic, for instance, so I take particular note when someone from a Christian apocalyptic POV (Joel Richardson, Joel Rosenberg, eg) writes about Islamic eschatology, or when someone from an Islamic apocalyptic POV (Sh. Safar al-Hawali, eg) writes about Christian eschatology. Reading wherever I notice this kind of overlap means that I learn in two contexts — effectively doubling my knowledge value — where most reading that’s not “targeted” this way only allows me to learn in one…

    Again: parallelisms, overlaps, paradoxes, perpendiculars, contradictions — these are all “formal properties” of a given text rather than “contents” — that’s the level of abstraction at which you can make the details sing.

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    Hey, I’m not alone. As I was cleaning this post up, Adam Elkus tweeted a link to a post about the CTO of Intel, Intel Labs: Assuring Corporate Immortality by Rob Enderle, which contains this phrase:

    This is very orthogonal thinking

    There we go! The word orthogonal is so important to me, and is so often on the tip of my tongue but out of reach of immediate memory, that I have a file on my computer consisting solely of the words “opposite oblique orthogonal congruent incongruous antithetical obtuse parallel asymptotic perpendicular right angles” — so if I can remember any one of them, I can easily find “orthogonal”.

    Very orthogonal thinking — terrific!

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