Another serpent bites its tail / the dust

June 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — these people seem headed for Darwin prizes ]

You know I am always on the lookout for form — pattern, geometry, whatever you want to call it — in the news. Here, if the Daily Mail is to be believed, is a classic case:

Serpent bites tail transsexual to join IS

There’s that saying, form follows function. I’m not sure how universal a truth that is, but it is certainly a useful design heuristic, and what we appear to have here is an instance of the failure of function followed by an aberrant form: lack of knowledge leading to self-destruction. More succinctly: form also follows dysfunction.

In fact, it’s an OODA loop gone awry, with lack of Observation followed by Orientation, Decision and Action. Unless these poor people awaken from their delusion first, the Islamic State is unlikely to give them any further iterative chances to re-Observe and Orient.

I don’t much like the Darwin Prizes — there’s a bit of a gloating aura to them, although they’re also amusing in a way that sneaks around the inherent sadness and meanness.

Poor kids.


June 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Ali Soufan and Maajid Nawaz ]

Back to back in my Twitter feed early today — a DoubleTweet:

Squaring the circle, with a side of nostaligia?

June 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — CIA, Osama, gaming, and I ]

What I have in my collection, somewhere:


and what CIA has in theirs:



In search of our respective lost childhoods? À la recherche du temps perdu?

To be honest, I think the gameplay in mine’s a bit more visceral.

Terrorism, a ‘Pataphysical “definition”

June 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Escher, Mallarmé, Jarry, Macdonald, and Alex Schmid ]

SPEC DQ terrorism the 'pataphysical proof


  • Stuart Macdonald, entry in “Defining terrorism: an impossible puzzle” contest
  • Stéphane Mallarmé, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard

  • The DoubleQuote format is mine own
  • Further refs:

  • Alex Schmid, The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism
  • Alfred Jarry, Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll Pataphysician
  • Michael Cook Books — two for digestion and future review

    June 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — my mind is enriched by the mere possession of these two works ]

    There are other books on my desk which I should read before either of these, books I am committed to reviewing or simply wish to review, but I can’t help casting the odd sneaky glance at these two books by Michael Cook — works of vast and impressive scholarship, each of them:

    m cook


  • Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective. 568 pages.
    From the blurb:

    Michael Cook takes an in-depth, comparative look at political identity, social values, attitudes to warfare, views about the role of religion in various cultural domains, and conceptions of the polity. In all these fields he finds that the Islamic heritage offers richer resources for those engaged in current politics than either the Hindu or the Christian heritages. He uses this finding to explain the fact that, despite the existence of Hindu and Christian counterparts to some aspects of Islamism, the phenomenon as a whole is unique in the world today. The book also shows that fundamentalism–in the sense of a determination to return to the original sources of the religion–is politically more adaptive for Muslims than it is for Hindus or Christians.

    From Martin Marty‘s review:

    This is a work of enormous erudition and considerable subtlety. Cook’s learning is vast, his insight profound, his treatment of sources fair. Ancient Religions, Modern Politics is a most impressive achievement.

  • **

  • Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought. 724 pages.
    From the blurb:

    What kind of duty do we have to try to stop others doing wrong? The question is intelligible in almost any culture, but few seek to answer it in a rigorous fashion. The most striking exception is found in the Islamic tradition where ‘commanding right and forbidding wrong’ is a central moral tenet. Michael Cook’s comprehensive and compelling analysis represents the first sustained attempt to map the history of Islamic reflection on this obligation and to explain its relevance for politics and ideology in the contemporary Islamic world.

    From Robert Irwin‘s review:

    [Cook’s] account of how injustice and immorality have been confronted by Muslim thinkers provides an unusual and fascinating perspective on the social history of Islam. It also furnishes an essential basis for understanding the roots of modern Islamic rigorism. This is one of the most important scholarly works dealing with Islam to have been produced in the western world in the last one hundred years.

    At 200 pages, Cook’s Forbidding Wrong in Islam: An Introduction is the “short” version

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