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A Feast of Form III

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

I was explaining what this series of posts is about to a friend the other day. I said it’s a compilation of tweets that in some way reflect a “serpent bites its own tail” form, which some people seem to be particularly attuned to, and which almost always exposes some point of humor, irony, paradox or discovery that’s worth paying attention to. And then I read my friend fifteen or twenty examples from the last post in the series straight through — and taken neat, one right after another, they’re hilarious.

Here’s a sampler:

CONFIRMED: Nothing coming out of Syria is confirmed.
News photographer .. decided to put his camera aside and walk into the photo he would have clicked.
Please donate to my Kickstarter to help fund my search for a great idea for a Kickstarter.
Why coups beget coups By Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson | Foreign Policy
For $3,200 I can pay for open access to my 5,000 word essay on open data.
The Business of America is Spying on America
The conference call that wasn’t. How’s that for responsible reporting that isn’t?
Poitras also finds herself in a strange, looking-glass dynamic, because she cannot avoid being a character in her own film
This is what we’ve come to: I am ordering packing tape from Amazon so I can seal up a box I need to return to Amazon.
The BBC says anyone who accuses it of bias – is biased
Writing your name with a marker on your arm so that if you are killed your body can be identified.
Important personal details about Junipero Serra: he loved chocolate and self-flagellation.
Decapitated snake bites itself (warning: it’s kinda creepy)
The joke of the century: Al Jazeera accuses the Copts of burning their own churches! Talk about irresponsible reporting, unbelievable!
Whoops! Surf City Riot Suspect Arrested After “Liking” His Own Photo On Police Facebook Page
Scientists Unlock Self-Fertilizing Crops

There’s real tragedy there, and comedy aplenty — and also simplicity, beauty:


In one of my academic byways, I came across this parenthesis, which is now my favorite parenthesis of all time. It’s from a scholarly discussion of an early “magical” treatise, the Picatrix, which is of interest among other things because it contains the earliest known description of the experimental method in science:

(with the parenthesis that speech is a kind of magic)

That’s from a summary of the Gayat al-Hakim or Picatrix, from Martin Plessner’s introduction to “Picatrix” Das Ziel des Weisen von Pseudo-Magriti. And it’s almost a Matrioshka parenthesis…


I’ll be continuing to collect these serpent-eats-tail tweets in the comments section here, but will probably try to hold off on individual examples until I have a bunch to post at once, to avoid constantly occupying the list of recent comments when I run across these things quite regularly…

First cluster coming right up…

7 Responses to “A Feast of Form III”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Okay, here are four to be going on with…
    They range from the relatively innocuous:

    via the mildly troubling:

    to the passionate:

    and thence to the simply horrific:

  2. Mr. X Says:

    And if you believe The Interpeter mag’s Michael D. Weiss (who blocked me on Twitter after I jokingly asked him how as the Allawi lung served by his hosts, medium or rare?), the Syrian jihadists are too freaking stupid to make their own Sarin gas without poisoning themselves. Unlike say, the weird Japanese cult Shoko Asahara in 1995. Who cares if Syrian jihadis have millions upon millions from Qatar to spend on their own WMDs?

  3. Grurray Says:

    “via the mildly troubling”
    mildly interesting point about this comment is it is already underway:

  4. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    How 3-D Printing Body Parts Will Revolutionize Medicine http://t.co/gcqZnrIW0w

    An alternative to the dreaded Skynet future of 3D printing. However, I’m mildly disturbed by memories of Greg Bear’s “Blood Music”, which I read in the short story format, never having read the later book, when I think of the future implication of 3D cell printing….  

  5. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Love the parenthesis remark—I love parenthesis and while dusting off an old draft post I’ve included more than the normal. 

  6. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:


    (with the parenthesis that speech is a kind of magic)


    Glamour,  when the term meant a magical enchantment,  descends from grammar and thus the Latin grammatica:

    grammar (n.)early 14c., gramarye (late 12c. in surnames), from Old French gramaire “learning,” especially Latin and philology, “grammar, (magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo,” “irregular semi-popular adoption” [OED] of Latin grammatica, from Greek grammatike tekhne “art of letters,” with a sense of both philology and literature in the broadest sense, fem. adjective from gramma “letter,” from stem of graphein “to draw or write”

    Especially during the middle ages, Latin was seen as a mystical language, those speaking it as users of supernatural forces—abetted by the Catholic Church’s use and ownership of Latin.  Speech as magic.  See also:  hocus-pocus, abracadabra


  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    Indeed, Curtis:  and the Picatrix is a grimoire or spelling book — a book of spells, which in turn cast a glamour on their targets…

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