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The Wearing Thin of the Nation State

Monday, September 16th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — following on from Climate change & its impacts, rippling out across all our futures, 2 on national sovereignty and climate migration — with Hakim Bey’s TAZ and more ]
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Three books by Peter Lamborn Wilson

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Two instances of our theme — The Wearing Thin of the Nation State — crossed my bows in utterly unrelated posts via Academia today, and they make a fine DoubleQuote:

From John Sullivan‘s Criminal Enclaves: When Gangs, Cartels or Kingpins Try to Take Control:

Criminal enclaves are areas where lawbreakers (gangs, cartels, criminal warlords) exert political and social control. Essentially these areas are “other governed spaces.” The state may or may not be absent — although its hold is certainly challenged — but other informal governance structures, such as gangs, wield substantial political influence or control. These other governed spaces can range in size from neighborhoods, barrios or favelas (i.e., failed communities) to failed or feral cities — such as Brazil’s notorious City of God favela or Ciudad Juárez during the height of cartel control or Veracruz and Acapulco — to failed states or regions, such as an entire nation — extremely rare — or a substate region such as Mexico’s Tamaulipas. These enclaves are essentially incubators of state change or transition as described by Charles Tilly in his essay “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime.” This process of criminal challenges to states can be described as criminal insurgency, where bands of outlaws erode sovereignty while potentially altering the nature of states. In addition to geographic scope, criminal enclaves can vary in their degree of control over governance. They can exist as parallel states, exerting control over some functions (i.e., taxation, monopoly of violence and justice, and the provision of social goods), while the state still retains control over others.These enclaves could also fully supplant the state when it is absent or lacks solvency, which I define as the sum of legitimacy and capacity. They could also form a hybrid where criminal networks and corrupt politicians cooperate to extract wealth and wield power (as is the case in narco-cities or mafia states).

I’d like to offer, by way of comparative, this excerpt from Abbe Mowshowitz as quoted in Bill Benzon‘s and his
Virtual Feudalism in the Twenty-First Century:

Absent a sense of loyalty to persons or places, virtual organizations distance themselves—both geographically and psychologically—from the regions and countries in which they operate. This process is undermining the nation-state, which cannot continue indefinitely to control virtual organizations. A new feudal system is in the making, in which power and authority are vested in private hands but which is based on globally distributed resources rather than on possession of land. The evolution of this new political economy will determine how we do business in the future.

That’s my DoubleQuote.

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That’s interesting, I think — but what’s even more so is the quote that initially caught my eye in Bill B‘s paper:

In 2017, Denmark became the first nation to formally create a diplomatic post to represent its interests beforecompanies such as Facebook and Google. After Denmark determined that tech behemoths now have as much power as many governments — if not more — Mr. Klynge was sent to Silicon Valley.“What has the biggest impact on daily society? A country in southern Europe, or in Southeast Asia, or Latin America, or would it be the big technology platforms?” Mr. Klynge said in an interview last month at a cafe in central Copenhagen during an annual meeting of Denmark’s diplomatic corps. “Our values, our institutions, democracy, human rights, in my view, are being challenged right now because of the emergence of new technologies.” He added, “These companies have moved from being companies with commercial interests to actually becoming de facto foreign policy actors.”

That’s quoted from Adam Satariano, The World’s First Ambassador to the Tech Industry.

Ambassador to the Tech Industry? Ambassador to the Tech Industry, okay. The ground is shifting under our feet.

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Detail from Ceasefire’s account of the Temporary Autonomous Zone

Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey, with his interest in the Barbary Corsairs, must have been one of the earlier writers to discuss what he termed Temporary Autonomous ZonesTAZ for short — and its no surprise he’s an eccentric scholar of Islamic Heresy and the Margins of Islam! And what a life he’s led — studying tantra with Ganesh Baba in India, in Pakistan “mixing with princes, Sufis, and gutter dwellers”, an associate in Iran of Henry Corbin, editor of the journal Sophia Perennis under the guidance of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, house-mate in NYC with William Burroughs — though let’s not forget some far darker stuff [cf “Bey’s endorsement of adults having sex with children”, Wikipedia].

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Narcos in Mexico to Bill Burroughs in Tangiers and NYC isn’t too great a hop: life on the margins is liminal by definition, disruptive — and disruption is what all of our examples above have in common.

Bey on the TAZ:

Getting the TAZ started may involve tactics of violence and defense, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility–the State cannot recognize it because History has no definition of it. As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else, once again invisible because undefinable in terms of the Spectacle. The TAZ is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies.

How will the nation state respond, adapt?

Sunday surprise 2, for Sally B, poetic afflatus

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a romantic attribute of poets, close to the holy spirit ]
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Poetic afflatus is the term for a private wind of inspiration which follows a poet around — on fortunate days. That photo of Donald Hall which Sally Benzon so much admired, I believe illustrates the afflatus — Hall has allowed his hair to stray wherever the whim of wind may take it, while the urbane Obama has curated his to stay close to the skull in all weathers — a remarkable juncture of opposites.

Here, then, for Sally B and all, is the only example I know of, presenting that private wind in a motion picture — here surrounding the person of Richard Burton, ruffling his hair and scarf while all else in the room is still — in an unforgettable clip from Christian Marquand‘s 1968 film Candy, itself a loose (not to say libertine) update of Candide:

Heart Line — a response to Bill Benzon

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — design fascination — including a Mimbres rabbit with a supernova at its feet ]
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Bill Benzon has been blogging a remarkable series of posts on Jamie Bérubé‘s drawings as recorded in the online illustrations to Michael Bérubé‘s book, Life As Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up.

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I wanted to respond to Bill’s latest, Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology, which included this illustration:

berube-benzon-5-biomorphs

and these comments, which I’ve edited lightly for clarity and simplicity:

I emailed Mark Changizi, a theoretical neuroscientist who has done work on letterforms. He has been making a general argument that culture re-purposes, harnesses (his term), perceptual capacities our ancestors developed for living in the natural world. One of his arguments is that the forms used in writing systems, whether Latinate or Chinese (for example), are those that happened to be useful in perceiving creatures in the natural world, such as plant and animal forms. I told him that Jamie’s forms looked like “tree branches and such.” He replied that they looked like people. His wife, an artist, thought so as well, and also: “This is like early human art.”

You’ll see why that-all interests me — letters and life forms — below.

And then:

Yes, each is a convex polygon; each has several ‘limbs’. And each has a single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side. The line never goes outside the polygon .. Why those lines? I don’t know what’s on Jamie’s mind as he draws those lines, but I’m guessing that he’s interested in the fact that, given the relative complexity of these figures and the variety among them, in every case he can draw such a line.

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Two thoughts cross my mind.

The first is that one of these forms, Benzon’s Biomorphic Objects 6a, bears a striking resemblance to the letter aleph, with which the Hebrew alphabet — or better, alephbeth — begins:

berube-benzon-5-biomorph-6a-aleph

There may be some connection there, I’m not sure — though Jamie also has a keen interest in alphabetic forms, as illustrated here:

berube-benzon-5-letterforms

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But it’s my second point that interests me more.

These “biomorphic objects” with “single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side” remind me of nothing so much as the Native American style of representing animals with a “heart line” — best illustrated, perhaps, by this Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Olla with Heartline Deer:

The image comment notes:

One generally associates the use of heartline deer with pottery from Zuni Pueblo and that is most likely the origin. The fact that it appears on Acoma Pueblo pottery has been explained in a number of fashions by a number of contemporary Acoma potters. Deer designs have been documented on Acoma pottery as early as 1880, but those deer do not feature heartline elements. Some potters at Acoma have indicated that Lucy Lewis was the first Acoma potter to produce heartline deer on Acoma pottery. She did this around 1950 at the encouragement of Gallup, New Mexico Indian art dealer Katie Noe. Lewis did not use it until gaining permission from Zuni to do so. Other potters at Acoma have stated that the heartline deer is a traditional Acoma design; however, there is no documented example to prove this. Even if the heartline deer motif is not of Acoma origin, potters at Acoma have expressed that it does have meaning for them. It is said to represent life and it has a spiritual connection to deer and going hunting for deer.

Here’s a “heartline bear” from David and Jean Villasenor‘s book, Indian Designs:

bear-heartline

And here’s an equivalent Mimbres design for a rabbit with heartline, in which the line passes completely through the body from one side to the other, as in Jamie’s biomorphs:

mimbres-rabbit

Again, the comment is interesting — it cites a 1990 New York Times article, Star Explosion of 1054 Is Seen in Indian Bowl:

When the prehistoric Mimbres Indians of New Mexico looked at the moon, they saw in its surface shading not the “man in the moon” but a “rabbit in the moon.” For them, as for other early Meso-American people, the rabbit came to symbolize the moon in their religion and art.

On the morning of July 5, 1054, the Mimbres Indians arose to find a bright new object shining in the Eastern sky, close to the crescent moon. The object remained visible in daylight for many days. One observer recorded the strange apparition with a black and white painting of a rabbit curled into a crescent shape with a small sunburst at the tip of one foot.

And so the Indians of the Southwestern United States left what archeologists and astronomers call the most unambiguous evidence ever found that people in the Western Hemisphere observed with awe and some sophistication the exploding star, or supernova, that created the Crab nebula.

That would be the sunburst right at the rabbit’s feet!

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Posts in Bill’s series thus far:

  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 1: Emergence
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 2: On Discovering Jamie’s Principle
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 3: Towers of Color
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 4: Concentrics, Letters, and the Problem of Composition
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology
  • My previous comment on #1 in the series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine

    Sunday, October 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — if the territory is graphical, so’s the map ]
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    Terrain, with its named places and transportation links between them, is graphical, as illustrated in this map:

    It makes me wonder how often graph theory (of the sort that gives us the Königsberg Bridge Problem, see the first post in this series) is applied to troop movements — as it often is to public transportation (see the upcoming tenth post).

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    My next example of the use of a node-and-edge graphical design both puzzles and intrigues me:

    It puzzles me, because I can’t quitec grasp what Raza Rumi — a very bright fellow — is up to in choosing this particular illustration. And it intrigues me, because once on a vision quest I glimpsed an outstretched eagle’s or hawk’s wing, with a similar graphical overlay of its structural essence. It’s a sight I’ve never forgotten, an exquisite linking of the real and abstract worlds, and one that I’m sadly ill-equipped to reproduce visually myself. Words don’t do it justice.

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    My third example, as you can see, is taken from a learned paper describing the use of graphs to illustrate musical compositions according to a strictly defined protocol:

    What interests me here — aside from the fact that any of these digrams could be used as a board in a sufficiently complex HipBone or Sembl game — is that I ran across this particular paper within 24 hours of reading m’friend Bill Benzon‘s account of his friend Michael Bérubé and his son Jamie, introduced in this tweet:

    Bill’s post Jamie’s Investigations, Part 1: Emergence to which his tweet refers us — is illustrated thus:

    benzon-jamie-berube-01

    Michael Bérubé, we read, has recently published a book about Jamie, who has Down’s, Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up, and it contains a series of Jamie’s drawings, of which this is one example.

    Bill, who is himself the author of Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture, notes “Jamie loves music, and his dad is a rock-and-roll drummer, so’s his older brother Nick, I believe.” And here’s the clincher — he then asks:

    In what way are these drawings like drum beats?

    So that’s two examples of novel visual representations of musical pattern in just two days, earlier this week.

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    Enough for now — onwards to On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten — a long, fascinating post IMO, long enough that I’m glad this is a Sunday.

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • Not up for debate: three candidates

    Thursday, September 29th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a light-hearted, part-musical, part-personal, part-putinesque — counterpoise to the present Presidential electoral season ]
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    You wanna make government a barrel of fun? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!
    Your Politics Oughtta Be A Groovier Thing? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!

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    Okay, we’ve had a day or two to recover from the first of this year’s Presidential debates, and I’d like to give you a break from the incessant Trump no Hillary no stay home or vote Stein or Johnson or write in or whatever shindig with three possible candidates not on most lists.

    One is anonymous. One is myself (ridiculous). And one — the best known of the three, but deceased, alas — plays trumpet, and ran in 1964.

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    No, as far as we know, Vladimir Putin has not expressed a wish for Donald Trump to be President of the US, despite some fraternal noises. Instead, he somewhat cannily answered an unnamed US journalist’s question by wishing she could hold that office (upper panel, below):

    Tablet DQ Putin & Abu Walid

    So:

    Putin’s candidate is, as far as I know, anonymous — though there’s a presumably a journalist somewhere who knows, since she was there at the time, and Putin was responding to her.

    **

    I probably wouldn’t have given this particular remark of Putin’s a second thought, had Abu Walid al-Masri not wished the same fate on me (lower panel, above).

    Here’s how that happened.

    I’d been in friendly contact with the noted Australian Federal Police counterterrorism analyst Leah Farrall for a while, when Leah struck up an email correspondence some years back with Abu Walid. The latter was among the first Arabs in Afghanistan, a journalist, a friend of Mullah Omar and bin Laden, and a fierce critic of 9/11. Both Leah and Abu Walid were bloggers, and both deeply interested in the early history and structure of Al-Qaida so, Leah thought, why not talk? And talk they did.

    At one point, Leah very kindly invited me to join their conversation. I’m a know your enemy type on my father‘s side (he was a naval warrior) and a love your enemy type on my mentor‘s (he was a monk, and quite the warrior in his own way) — so I wrote to Abu Walid, and he responded:

  • All Things CT, Charles Cameron to Abu Walid al Masri
  • Zenpundit, Abu Walid al Masri to Charles Cameron
  • I don’t see myself as US President any time soon — I’m a Brit born and bred, which would rule me out in any case, and a monarchist at that — but Putin’s comment to the journalist reminded me of my own equivalent in Abu Walid’s response to my letter, and gave me a quiet chuckle — hence this post.

    More significant than my cameo appearance.. Years later, Abu Walid was released from house arrest in Iran. He — now dropping his nom de guerre and going by his original name, Mustafa Hamid — met in person with Leah in Alexandria, amd after months of conversations they produced an unparalleled joint work, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan (Hurst, 2015).

    It is, as I said, without parallel — with a second volume to follow?

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    Okay, back to electoral candidates. How about Dizzy Gillespie? Here’s a belated tribute to the candidate who blue-notes outside the lines:

    As blog-friend and jazz-meister Bill Benzon noted recently, Dizzy Gillespie nominated himself. And how!

    When I am elected President of the United States, my first executive order will be to change the name of the White House! To the Blues House.

    Income tax must be abolished, and we plan to legalize ‘numbers’ – you know, the same way they brought jazz into the concert halls and made it respectable. We refuse to be influenced by the warnings of one NAACP official who claims that making this particular aspect of big business legal would upset the nation’s economy disastrously.

    One of the ways we can cut down governmental expenditures is to disband the FBI and have the Senate Internal Security Committee investigate everything under white sheets for un-American activities. Understand, we won’t take no ‘sheet’ off anybody!

    You wanna make government a barrel of fun? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!


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