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A Feast of Form II

[ by Charles Cameron — exploring recursive form as a mode of pattern recognition ]

In this post, I’ll continue my collection of interesting examples of snake bites tail self-references in tweets and elsewhere, begun in A feast of form in my twitter-stream today.

Does this tweet — today’s offering — qualify, for instance?

As I compile more and more items that match my sense of what belongs in this category, I’m also becoming aware that it’s a very fuzzy and subjective category indeed — closer to Wittgenstein’s “family resemblance” than to a logically exact and exacting definitional set.

40 Responses to “A Feast of Form II”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    This is interesting to me on so many fronts:

    1. Mr X, I do believe?
    2. He makes an apocalyptic appeal.
    3. It’s about the contemporary NSA debate, in which @20committee is a knowledgeable participant.
    4. Self-referential “favoriting”.
    5. Between the two of you, a brilliant short illustration of the clash between secular and sacred worldviews… reminiscent of John Donne:

    At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
    Your trumpets, angels…



    Senor Equis
    20 Committee

    Edited to add:
    In fact, @20committee has now informed me he is an Orthodox Christian, so the contrast isn’t in fact between “secular” and “sacred” worldviews, but between two interpretations of the NSA business within Christianity, one linking it with apocalyptic “signs of the times”, and one seeing it without such associations.
    I hope I’ve got that right now…

  3. Mr. X Says:


    Thank you for this post and respectful attitudes to both sides. A few points:

    1) I only made this appeal to our mutual faith after my account had been repeatedly suspended by Twitter, even by people whom I have blocked and ceased communicating with such as @RobertCaruso who used c-s-er and other obscenities. The whole sad exchange with Mr. Caruso started when I asked him why as a Navy veteran he had no interest in joining the group Oathkeepers, whom he immediately denounced as ‘anarchists’ and proceeded to trash all oponents of the NSA spying as ‘traitors’ ‘enemies’, to which I responded with questions about foreign (possibly GCC) sources of funding for he and his tweeps, particularly the University of Maryland Arabist Phillip Smyth, whom I reminded had next to zero profile for a real person online prior to 2011 (suggesting his persona was partially invented, as everyone knows I use a pseudonym and don’t pretend to be an expert on the BBC or Al-Jazeera).

    2) Given the virulence of Mr. Caruso and Mr. Smyth’s replies, and their familiarity with many ‘conspiracy’ concepts, I rather suspect that they’ve been briefed or certain emails and memos have gone out even to lower level contractors like Caruso making Oathkeepers anathema. Certainly the hostility to ‘Paulbots’ in the ranks and viewing them basically in the same way Communists were in the 1950s has only increased since Snowden’s actions. I also know this from offline conversations.

    3) As to the nature of the Twitter ‘Beast’, it might as well be NSA occupied territory, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s very easy to get snatched up while invading it.

    Libertarian and conservative activists seem to function there at the sufferance of the Establishment voices, and not a second longer should the discussion turn heated or the activist present evidence the trendies cannot refute, like the affidavit of Doug Hagmann or Russ Tice’s claims about the NSA spying on Barack Obama for political reasons in 2004. And this tendency is not explained simply by tenure or lack thereof. Even Establishment types with fewer followers than me almost never go down, according to Twitter’s ‘logic’. I suppose if one were Justin Bieber or Kanye it would be impossible to ever get suspended for aggressive following, unless one made death threats. But even death threats or ‘I’m gonna riooooooot in this mo…’ don’t result in suspensions, as seen prior to the 2012 presidential election and Trayvon Martin verdict.

    It seems even when I block them before they can block me, no one ever gets suspended due to me blocking them. And one block from them is all it takes to get my account insta-suspended, and it looks like this time for longer than usual. I can assure you @20Committee sent out far more tweets referring to my account than vice versa, whereas I preferred to engage those whom he engaged. In fact the person I believe reported me in this instance was FOLLOWING my account at the time and didn’t bother unfollowing before trying to get me banned.
    Many times I have simply elected to throw in the towel, as unlike many of the folks I engage with, I’m 100% certain I’m not being paid by the tweet. I have gone for long periods without tweeting and would probably prefer to do so again. But something in my faith compels me to confront these two avowed Orthodox believers publically and remind them that there are spiritual implications to this ‘scandal’ they view as simply a deluded narcissist defecting to Putin’s Russia.

    Long after Snowden has disappeared from the headlines and only this bunch is still slighting over him, others step forward with incontrovertible documentary evidence that NSA or elements of it have been spying on Americans for political purposes. (Until then, of course, the NSA worshippers can content themselves with driving Snowden into Putin’s arms and making a horrible example of Bradley Manning while Hagmann and Tice avoid arrest only because they do not have said documents to back up their sworn testimony — talk about a Catch 22!).
    It should be needless to say that I have never threatened anyone with anything beyond public shaming, and @CatFitz claims that I have threatened to shoot anyone are malicious lies. I did post comments at Joshua Foust’s and other blogs based on Bob Owens and Matthew Brackens scenarios for how a Second American Civil War would be fought, and have reminded many an NSA apologist that we live in a nation with 150 million rifles of battlefield utility and 2 billion rounds in private hands. While the 4th Amendment may be almost dead, the 2nd Amendment is quite alive and healthy, and hence surveillance state fanatics should carefully weight their position and not behave like Fugitive Slave Act proponents in the 1850s, driving the country over the edge. This has been interpreted as a threat to ‘shoot people’ by hysterics and fanatics posing as reasonable persons.

  4. Mr. X Says:

    I wouldn’t dispute that Prof. Schindler is a knowledgeable participant in the debate.

    But I do dispute his good faith when he cannot back up his statement that Russ Tice is a liar, nor explain away a private citizen and licensed investigator’s sworn affidavit that the NSA has spied on him in connection with anti-Obama journalism:

    …and immediately proceeds to the standard litany of ‘you’re tin foil hat, you’re crazy’. Given the swarming/herd nature of Twitter (or the Fusion Centers sending out their merry orders) others join in.

    Why not just show a little humility and say ‘I’m not familiar with the Hagmann case, and I’m going to write an article soon explaining why you can’t believe Russ Tice/Binney’s claims of political NSA spying either’.

    Hey Schindler, we both have the same Book and both claim to believe it. What does it say at the end of time will be the case? One world under Antichrist. That’s what the Book says, and even if Revelations is not read at the Liturgy because it was added to the Canon relatively late it is in the Canon. What better way to hasten the arrival of AntiChrist/pave the way for him than to create a system that can literally spy on every human being on the planet, at least if they have a cell phone (as nearly half the world’s 7 billion people now do)?

    Revelation 13:16-17
    King James Version (KJV)

    16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
    17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

    quite simply there is no way without total surveillance over this planet for this prophecy to ever be fulfilled. None. People would simply use the black market and avoid the AntiChrist/Beast system.

    2,000 years ago I’m certain the Apostle John couldn’t comprehend how it was possible. But as the activist Mary Katherine Albrecht says, it now is theoretically possible…if people can be lulled into it by saying it’s for their safety.

    Expanding on my comment above about how the country is cracking up and we have propaganda on both sides programming Americans to fight each other:

    notorious ‘armed insurrection’ survey

    similar proportion of Democrats surveyed say tea party is the top terrorist threat to U.S., more than Al-Qaeda
    Throwing in the thought that every single indiscretion or politician or judge’s mistakes could be used to blackmail them only turns Americans away from the ballot box toward the temptation of the ammo box. And Satan is always happy with bloodshed. 

  5. Mr. X Says:

    Sorry forgot the link and the text of the affidavit. Please note also the second link to the NSA’s bland reply to the FOIA request insisting no American is permitted to see their ‘Gauck file’ (in Stasi slang, any record of when or how a FISA warrant was issued to spy on them, even domestically and in an apparent non-terrorism case since Mr. Hagmann is not a terrorist or terror suspect to the best of everyone’s knowledge). Which means in practice of course in our alleged system of checks and balances as with the No Fly Lists it is IMPOSSIBLE for any individual to challenge the legal basis for spying on them, and to obtain the proof that any court will demand as legal standing to sue the government (which is why I expect many of the suits over the Verizon revelations to fail, or at least be struck down).

    It is in effect a Kafkaesque system for which no appeal is possible, save to Congress that can be bribed (the ratio of defense contractor contributors on the House Amash amendment vote) or bullied and intimidated into perpetuating the machine. Our only hope to stop it appears to be the States nullifying and/or taking legal action against the individuals who run the system itself. Hence all the urban warfare drills and DHS/NorthCom rhetoric about suppressing ‘the Tea Party Insurrection of 2016’ and ‘neo-Confederates’.


    Date: 30 May 2013
    Douglas J. Hagmann, your affiant, makes the following free and voluntary statement to publicly memorialize an event that occurred at 1206 hours on Thursday, 30 May, 2013 relating to a domestic, interstate landline telephone conversation between [Name and telephone number REDACTED], and myself, (814)-[REDACTED]. I make this statement of my own free will without any threats or promises extended to me.
    The purpose of this written statement is to officially memorialize an event and make publicly known what appears to be either (1) an accidental exposure by an official agency of the United States government of active surveillance and data collection on two private U.S. citizens without the consent of either party; or (2) harassment by an official agency of the United States government of law-abiding citizen journalists, or (3) a combination thereof, or (4) purposes unknown.
    I fully understand that this statement is given concerning my knowledge of the following:

    A landline telephone conversation concerning your affiant’s sources within the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), following contact with other domestic and international intelligence agencies, and also multiple telephone communications with certain reporters from Fox News.

    At 1150 hours on Thursday, 30 May 2013, your affiant, a United States citizen having no prior criminal record history, received a telephone call (landline to landline) from [REDACTED], also a citizen of the United States. As documented by your affiant’s telephone system, this unscheduled conversation lasted exactly 16 minutes and 17 seconds, from 11:50:05 hours ET to 12:06:22 ET, and included but was not limited to information obtained from a high level source within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (hereafter referred to as DHS) known publicly under the pseudonym “Rosebud,” and another intelligence source with a separate intelligence agency. Both sources previously provided concise and accurate information about the inner workings of the DHS as well as the activities and agendas of various individuals in that agency. The intelligence source provided whistleblower information pertaining to the events in Benghazi on multiple occasions. It was during this conversation that your affiant shared specific information about the latest contacts with these sources that is in the process of being transcribed for future publication.
    It is important to note that the DHS source has expressed concern about the security and confidentiality of any telephone or e-mail communications, and previously requested your affiant to use alternate methods of contact. This source also stated that the DHS is actively and aggressively searching for “leaks” within the top levels of DHS, or those with access to certain inter-agency information. This source confirmed that certain individuals, under suspicion of talking to journalists, have been reassigned or otherwise cut-off from access to agency departments. This source also stated his belief that the landlines, cellular telephones, and all electronic communications of your affiant and contacts are being monitored by ‘several’ agencies within the U.S. government, including but not limited to the NSA, the FBI, and others for the purpose of identification of this source. Additionally, it is known to this source that your affiant, Douglas J. Hagmann, has been in contact with [REDACTED], a reported with Fox News by telephone concerning certain information that has yet to be made public.
    Subsequent to the telephone conversation that concluded at 12:06:17, your affiant replaced the receiver on the telephone. At that moment, the telephone emitted a short ring, perhaps best described as a muffled ring or a “chirp.“Initially, your affiant believed it to be a simple ring-back, much like those occasionally experienced during the course of otherwise normal telephone use. It is important to note, however, that the sound made by the telephone did not have that same characteristics as a ring back.
    Curious because of the ring tone, your affiant looked at the caller ID displayed and was startled to see the following on the telephone caller ID screen:“UT NSA DATA REC CTR.”Your affiant immediate muted the telephone and picked up the receiver, hearing the following message in a male voice:

    ”…your notification that the Utah NSA Data Recording Center successfully captured this landline communication under file # [I was unable to copy the numbers as they were spoken quickly]. Refer to senior duty officer for access code under file #[this appeared to be a different alpha-numeric sequence].”

    It should be noted that your affiant copied the wording of the verbal message by hand onto a stenographer’s notebook kept by the telephone. No mechanical recording devices were accessible at this time. After the final number was spoken, your affiant heard a distinct “click” on the line, followed by silence. Interestingly, the caller ID information completely disappeared from the telephone at the instant of the “click.” Accordingly, your affiant has no photographic documentation to illustrate or verify the information provided herein. Additionally, the re-dial capabilities of your affiant’s telephone were rendered non-functional following this event.
    I have read the statement consisting of one-(1) page and affirm that the facts contained herein are true and correct. 

    PDF of NSA response to Canada Free Press reporters Marinka Peschmann and Douglass J. Hagmann’s FOIA request 

  6. Mr. X Says:

    Last comment on this thread…I realize my comments were long and appreciate all ZP readers’ patience in this. I simply can’t restart my own blogging platform at this time. I also appreciate Zen for giving me the opportunity to alert his .mil readership to the Hagmann case (as the tip of a very nasty iceberg) and the arrogant response by NSA proponents to the evidence presented therein.

    To support my claim re: the country coming apart and even neocons and mainline Republicans (aka RINOs) turning in hatred against libertarians (and yes, there is plenty of hate from the libertarian side too) I present the top story on the Drudge Report, one of the nation’s most trafficked websites this evening:


  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    [ cross-posted with modifications ]
    Mr X:


    This post is about self-referential statements, a category of logical and thus analytic interest.  The materials you’ve posted here don’t relate to that topic, and are outside my range of interests as someone specializing in religious and apocalyptic drivers to violence.  I appreciated the page on Orthodox eschatology you pointed me to earlier today, but your recent flurry of posts here and on one other ZP post of mine interrupt the conversations I was hoping to have, and address matters I’m in no way competent to discuss.


    I prefer not to control comments on my posts here unless they’re clearly offensive, but five long off-topic comments in an hour or so is a bit much for my tastes.  Can we please reserve the comments section for conversations around the posts themselves?  Thanks.

  8. Mr. X Says:

    Politely requested, as always. No mas from me.

  9. Charles Cameron Says:


  10. Charles Cameron Says:

    Alison Good is a freelance journo covering affairs in the ME, and tweeted this early this morning:

    I’ve often enough felt that way myself, sitting pretty here in California — but the AMA Ethical Guidelines under the heading 8.19 Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members has this:

    Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for themselves or immediate family members.

    All of which goes to show, once again, that situations that include recursion tend to have significant implications that their non-recursive equivalents don’t.

  11. Charles Cameron Says:

    This one’s such a classic, I’m tossing it into the pot even though it’s from back in May:

  12. Charles Cameron Says:

    And this one?
    This one is probably pretty evanescent, documenting a moment in the news that will swiftly pass: as Isaiah tells us, “All flesh is grass” — more colloquially, Your ass is…
    Fox News recently ran a Lauren Green interview with Reza Aslan, historian of religions and recent author of the book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, in which she questioned the validity of his writing a book about Christ, given that he’s a Muslim.  You can view it here. Hilarity ensured when a whole slew of other people began peppering twitter with their own “parallel” questions, a sampling of which has been collected here — but the one that caught my eye as (possibly) containing a neat self reference was this one:

    Again, I’m not quite sure whether it fits the definition of recursion, but it certainly fits the intuition.
    And it has wit.

  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    This one’s more like the Maurits Escher pencil drawing the hand that draws the pencil holding the… or maybe a Moebius strip? Another interesting pattern to pursue, in this instance brimming with irony.



    If I find many more of these, I’ll start a new item.

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s a close relation to Epimenides paradox of self-reference, I think…

    The self-refuting email?

  15. Charles Cameron Says:

    I don’t know who deserves this one:


    The self-reference is implicit in the first, the implicit is recognized by Hayes Brown and made explicit in the second. Delicious either way — and “in real life” my best wishes for mother and child!

  16. Charles Cameron Says:

    I don’t have a tweet for it unless I count my own… but I think this qualifies:

  17. Charles Cameron Says:

    Teju Cole:

  18. Charles Cameron Says:

  19. Charles Cameron Says:


  20. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    RE: Gina Neff’s essay on open data.  Amazing how $$$ opens up doors.  The whole world is open to those who can afford access.


    Related:  Rightist politicians’ arguments about Obamacare — they’re saving Americans’ access to quality healthcare by limiting access to healthcare, or would if voting percentages below 50% could be voting percentages over 50% in the way that minority voting blocks become majorities thanks to the need for supermajorities (in the Senate.)

  21. Charles Cameron Says:

  22. Charles Cameron Says:

    This one’s for me:

  23. Charles Cameron Says:

  24. Charles Cameron Says:

    One of mine, and a double whammy at that:

    Serpent bites it’s tail .. right off!

  25. Charles Cameron Says:

    There’s a fascinating post on the significance of recursion, Seeds of Recursion in the Child’s Mind, just up on Wm Benzon’s highly recommended New Savannah blog. Here’s a taste:

    Movies for the Baby Jesus, from Touchstones
    As a child, perhaps I was 7 or 8, I received a toy. The toy came in a box. And the box fascinated me. On the top of the box was a picture, and in the picture was a boy. In the boy’s hand was a box. And on the cover of that box was a picture. In that picture was a boy. And that boy was holding a box. And on that box was a picture. ETC. And that “ETC” is what recursion is about–a way to use a finite number of symbols to indicate an infinite process. I would stare at that box and think, and stare, and think. For I perceived that the pictures of boys holding boxes went on and on and on. Only most of them were too small for me to see. But, though I could not see them, I knew that they were there.
    At about the same time I had my first cosmological idea. It seemed to me that the entire world was but a motion picture which God projected onto a large screen for the pleasure of His Son, Jesus. Having figured that out, I was puzzled. If we were images on a motion picture screen, then how could we see one another, around one another? Motion picture screens were flat, and so were the images projected on them. But I was not flat. It was to be a long time before I became sophisticated enough to realize that three- dimensional objects are “flat” in a four-dimensional space, or, more generally, that N-dimensional objects are “flat” in an N-l–dimensional space,
    This example also embodies the notion of recursion, but I’m not sure how or where. The example is perhaps a deeper one. In either case you should note that the questions I am trying, as a man, to answer, are the questions which I, as a child, posed. The child is father to the man.

  26. Charles Cameron Says:

    Blowback, boomerang, self-reference… what’s good for the goose!

  27. Charles Cameron Says:

    Two or three from today;

    and, from my friend Guillermo:

    And while we’re on cinema… maybe this qualifies too? From the ever clever Seb Paquet:

    What do you think — is there an implicit self-reference there?

  28. Charles Cameron Says:

  29. Charles Cameron Says:


  30. Charles Cameron Says:

    The gift that keeps on giving:


    I tbhink Allan’s is one of the Escher hands drawing hands variety, see #13 above, while Damian’s is straight up self-referential.

  31. Charles Cameron Says:

    A stunner:

  32. Charles Cameron Says:


  33. Charles Cameron Says:


    and here’s the video:

  34. Charles Cameron Says:

    From Teju Cole, whose knack for these things is obvious:

  35. Charles Cameron Says:

    I guess what I’m getting at with this one is that hypocrisy is inherently self-biting:

  36. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s a great one, widely retweeted:

    And it’s even better when embedded in the middle of Osteen’s great theological debate with Martin Luther.
    TheRealMartinLuther‘s twitter feed is non existent at the time of writing:

    Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!
    Thanks for noticing—we’re going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon.

    — presumably because of all those nasty ad hominem tweets. It’s my understanding, however, that every last one of them is drawn from the recorded words and works of Martin Luther — although Joel Osteen was not their original target.
    For a decent listing of Lutheran insults, see this List of Luther’s Insults.

  37. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s a dark one, from today’s feed:

  38. Charles Cameron Says:

    This one is plain crazed, SoCal style:

  39. Charles Cameron Says:

  40. Charles Cameron Says:

    Time to retire this item and start a new one, I think.

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