Ideal as cause, real as effect

November 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a pretty intense little cognitive romp, b’day surprise #2 ]

nefertiti saccade cc version
mapping object seen to eye movement, Yarbus via MIT


Today I was reading James Harkin, How the Islamic State Was Won, in Harper’s from November last year, and this sentence struck me:

The aim was to wipe out the regime’s armed opponents, but the result was to destroy the country’s social fabric and displace whole communities — leaving millions of Syrians with little to lose. Groups like the Nusra Front took control of towns across the north, and foreign jihadis flooded into Syria to join the fight.

Here’s the thought it prompted:

The aim, purpose, or target of an action will often represent some sort of ideal, and that ideal becomes the cause of the action in question. Like all ideals, it represents a trajectory in a model space, that of the imagination, which like all models, lacks some of the details of the reality it purports to represent. Not only is the map not the territory, it will in all cases not envisioned by Jorge Luis Borges be smaller and less informed than the reality.

The result of that action, its effect, takes place in reality, even thought we then cognize it in a mental comparison with its aim or cause.

Unintended consequences, then, are quasi-mappable as arising in precisely those areas of the real which the ideal fails to map.

Mapping the distinctions between reality and unconscious perception, conscious perception, neural activity, and verbal, visual and matghematical models in mind, brain, and on a napkin or computer is, accordingly, one of the great tasks of the age.


duchamp cc versionDuchamp (image) and Ithkuil (verbal description) via John Quijada, see Birthday surprise

Birthday surprise

November 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the bell just tolled 72 for me, so it’s no longer Thanksgiving, it’s Psalm 90, still early in the “labour and sorrow” zone ]

A propos, then, of nothing in particular — and because it is a glorious work of art, here in a tweet is Marcel Duchamp‘s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2:


And because it shows the paucity by comaparison, not just of language but of constructed languages — and also how finely tuned such languages can be, as in this extraordinary translation into the Ithkuil:


Now — how many words are worth a picture?

What the PK Dickens?

November 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — conceptual echoes in a PK Dick bio-flick ]

PKD covers 600


I have just been watching Mark Steensland’s movie, The Gospel According to PK Dick, and a couple of fine parallelisms – echoes, really – struck me.

I’m going to start with one quote from the Chuang Tzu which is so often quoted it has been dulled for me, like a few other very great very over-celebrated works, Beethoven’s Fifth, and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565, among them. Finding its echo in the words of Robert Anton Wilson in this film breathes new life into it, at least for me, for this moment.

Chuang Tzu, then, from The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu translated by Burton Watson:

Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

DoubleQuote that with Robert Anton Wilson in the movie:

In 1994, I think it was, somebody put up on internet a report of my death, and no matter how much I’ve denied it, it seems most people accept that I’m still alive, but there’s a die hard minority who insists I’m dead and the CIA has replaced me with an android. And I’d be much happier if I’d never read Philip Dick, because I would just think, “Well, I know I’m not an android,” but having read Philip Dick I realized if I was an android who’s properly constructed, I’d think I am Robert Anton Wilson. So that leaves me perpetually in a predicament of not being sure that I’m Robert Anton Wilson or an android programmed to think it’s Rob– to think, talk, and write like Robert Anton Wilson. I guess I’m really grateful to Phil for that, it gives me a certain agnostic detachment, which I think is necessary for mental health.


The echo of Chuang Tzu in the words of Robert Anton Wilson occurs towards the beginning of the movie. Towards the end of the movie, we have Paul Williams, the “father of rock criticism” also talking about his friend PK Dick, who was also the subject of his celebrated 1974 Rolling Stone article:

That particular, unique personality this is Philip K Dick arises, when you and I or the three of us, or any two or three readers of {Philip K Dick, or friends of his, or whatever, get together, then we have the opportunity, as in the ends of those stories, to actually experience his presence, and it’s uniquely him. And, uh, I appreciate that, and I appreciate that in that way, I still have him in my life. And that’s definitely quite a gift.

DoubleQuote those words of Williams with these, from Matthew 18.20:

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.


Gospel, indeed. and Tao, too.

Islamic State, Etat Chrétien

November 24th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — breaking news, and I hope it stays broken ]

Here’s the breaking news in French, followed by my comments, then back to the document in question:


There’s a symmetry to the names, Etat Chrétien and Islamic State — and a considerable asymmetry as to the size of the two groups — but here we have my (poor) translation of the Etat Chrétien’s message to a mosque in Molenbeek, Belgium — a Brussels municipality much in the news recently:

In the name of Christ our Lord!
Tremble, Muslim that you are!
The Christian State will avenge our brothers fallen in various attacks!
No mosque and no business of yours will be sheltered!
Your brothers will be slaughtered like pigs and crucified as our Lord was in order to convert their souls!

I’m not clear on whether the import of that last line is that the EC will slaughter and crucify Muslims to convert their souls, or that Christ was crucified to convert their souls. Either way, for those who claim to be Christians to crucify anyone under any circumstances seems a seriously aberrational act in light of what was done to Christ himself.

Crucifying others is not the Imitatio Christi.

It’s as if these people want to prove that the propaganda narrative of IS, AQ and the rest is right, and Christianity truly is at war with Islam — which in itself is a gift to IS propaganda and recruitment.

The asymmetry I mentioned, BTW, is pretty much evened out by the old saw phrased by the RAND corporation thus: Terrorists Have to Be Lucky Once; Targets, Every Time. In the present case, both sides are terrorists, and each only has to be lucky once.


I’m ashamed of my rusty French skills — in case yours are better, here’s the missive:


Two ways a resemblance can be unwelcome

November 23rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — NSFW, I repeat, NSFW , maybe ]

You can be photoshopped from Canada to France, Sikh to Muslim, &c —

The fake (on the left), photoshopped from the authentic selfie (on the right), was apparently created and posted because of the guy’s support of women in the games industry, cf Gamergate.


Alternatively, your name might sound suspiciously NSFW to non-Vietnamese=speaking ears:

Details at the link Cath at Sembl provides.

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