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Con fuego — mini-essays, chyrons, metaphors, 24

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — decapitation, in this case of the british iceberg, and the Hiwatari festival fire-walking of the Japanese mountain monks ]
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Hey!

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Athletes & Elites:

ONLY THE SUCKERS GO THROUGH THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE

Outright fraud, lying, faking test results is horrible and should be severely prosecuted — that appears to be at the heart of the scandal. No tolerance for that — period. Using contacts, donating money, hiring tutors, putting your kids in the best college feeder schools, taking advantage of legacy status, arranging résumé-building internships — those are the consequences of inequality compounding and amplifying over time, from one generation to another. Does it dilute the pure concept of meritocracy, the level playing field where everyone has an equal shot? Of course.

So why go via the bribery route?

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“LIKE DECAPITATING AN ICEBERG”: BRITAIN IS SCREWED

There is no perfect analogy for Brexit, the surreal, game-theoretical political divorce that was slated to conclude on March 29 at 11 P.M. London time.

Well if “there is no perfect analogy for Brexit”, perhaps “decapitating an iceberg” doesn’t really work either?

Then there’s The Magical Thinking Around Brexit:

The lexicon of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s buffoonishly mismanaged effort to leave the European Union, includes technical terms such as “backstop” and “customs union,” as well as a fanciful but revealing one: “unicorn.” It has come to be a scornful shorthand for all that the Brexiteers promised voters in the June, 2016, referendum and cannot, now or ever, deliver.

Magical Thinking ? Unicorn?

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Numbers count:

the whole of New Zealand, a remote island nation of about 4.9 million people that had only thirty-five murders in all of 2017, was in a state of deep shock

That’s from It’s Time to Confront the Threat of Right-Wing Terrorism

The Christchurch mosque shooter killed 50, more than the New Zealand murder total for 2017, and wounded 50.

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Significant interests of mine:

  • Poetry: The Final Prophecy of W. S. Merwin
  • Games: The Division 2 and the Severing of Politics from Video Games
  • **

    Just look at this:

    Religious supporters walk across the embers of a large fire at the Mount Takao Hiwatari fire-walking festival. Mount Takao is close to Tokyo, and this well-known festival attracts a large crowd of worshippers and tourists. A large pyre is built on the grounds of Yuki-ji Temple, and after it has been burned, Yamabushi (mountain monks) and practitioners of the Shugendo sect of the Buddhist religion walk over the still-smoldering embers in a purifying ritual

    The caption reads:

    Religious supporters walk across the embers of a large fire at the Mount Takao Hiwatari fire-walking festival. Mount Takao is close to Tokyo, and this well-known festival attracts a large crowd of worshippers and tourists. A large pyre is built on the grounds of Yuki-ji Temple, and after it has been burned, Yamabushi (mountain monks) and practitioners of the Shugendo sect of the Buddhist religion walk over the still-smoldering embers in a purifying ritual

    I was here myself in 1972, and the most impressive part of the ritual was the distribution to all comers of little slips of wood — the kind on which you write the name of the plants in a garden row or a pot — on which we were invited to write our sins of the past year, and which were then tossed by monks into the fire path —

    — so that the monks can tread the embers of our sins beneath their feet —

    — in robes comparable to the ceremonial robes of Catholic or Tibetan Buddhist monks:

    It’s snowing metaphoric chyrons, ignore unless interested 5

    Monday, February 18th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quiet weekend with no chyrons, but yasukuni, heavy metal, and three stunning headers on faith, forgiveness, and guns ]
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    Kamikaze, yay! As war-relate epithets go, it’s among the very finest — strongest, most halo’d with associations — from my POV as mythographer and poet:

    As myth and legend, dream and imagination have it in some circles in Japan, kamikaze is spirit wind, downward-rushing, warships targeted, headlong warplanes in full nose-dive, martyrdom almost — tinged with cherry blossom and droplets of blood, patriotism, self-sacrifice ..

    The controversies swirling around the Yasukuni Shrine and its inclusion of war criminals as patriotic heroes is something we’ve addressed in Zenpundit before — for both the controversy and the mythopoetics, see these excerpts:

  • Zenpundit, Why is the Yasukuni Shrine so controversial?
  • Zenpundit, Japanese self-sacrifice with intent to kill Americans
  • **

    Saturday wasn’t a chyron-collecting day for me — I had the distinct pleasure of a visit from Omar Ali, and live conversation trumps Trump every time — so I don’t have many items to display here… but this one caught my eye today, Sunday, as much for the color of the header as for its provocative content:

    Heavy Metal Confronts Its Nazi Problem

    Among bands that are said today to fall into the category of N.S.B.M., as it is often called, are ?8?8??, from Russia, whose fans have given Nazi salutes during performances; a Finnish band, Goatmoon, which has performed in front of a backdrop resembling a Nazi flag; and Der Stürmer, from Greece, which shares a name with an anti-Semitic German newspaper whose editor, Julius Streicher, was convicted during the Nuremberg trials and then executed. Those bands and others, including Stahlfront, Sunwheel, Absurd, and Dark Fury, performed in December at the Asgardsrei festival, in Kiev, where Nazi-style displays abounded.

    Asgard, hoke of the Æsir in Norse mythology — sacred to some though not all Asatru in a way reminiscent of Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine..

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    Okay, moving along, here’s a football ref, buried in the text of Uranium One informant makes Clinton allegations to Congress:

    An FBI informant connected to the Uranium One controversy told three congressional committees in a written statement that Moscow routed millions of dollars to America with the expectation it would be used to benefit Bill Clinton’s charitable efforts while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quarterbacked a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations.

    Don’t you just love quarterbacked? Like wingman and running point, it comes up all the time, but that was a stellar quarterback example in terms of paragraph content, ***** in my book.

    Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve captured one of this week’s favorites yet — making an end run around Congress:

    Finally, I ran across three headers with religion-connected content today (Sunday at time of writing)…

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    A Senator praying his party would avoid a second shutdown may well be no more than a figure of speech:

    Republican Chuck Grassley was on the Senate floor, asking the entire chamber to join in seeking divine intervention with Trump. “Let’s all pray that the President will have the wisdom to sign the bill, so that the government doesn’t shut down,” he said, as Washington waited, once again, on its capricious President.

    Susan Glasser, the New Yorker writer, seems to take it a bit more seriously..

    So it’s finally come to this: only God can stop Trump, as members of his own party are admitting that they’ve basically given up trying.

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    The story here is best told in this image, the work of the artist Wendy MacNaughton recording the words of a National Portrait Gallery guard, Rhonda:

    Falling on one’s knees in prayer is definitely a mark of religion, even though Obama isn’t generally considered an object of religious devotion..

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    And this may be the most remarkable of the three. In the guns as religion article, it’s the mother of a teen-aged son who was shot and killed — a mother who is now a US Representative, Lucy McBath — who ssuggestd gun culture is an American quasi-religion — but she’s the one described in the article as deeply religious in her opposition to gun violence, refusing the request the death penalty for the killer of her son:

    We never considered pushing for the death penalty because I firmly believe that I am not the one to choose who lives and who dies. Morally and ethically, I believe that decision is left to God. We suffered so much pain and so much anguish, and I actually did not want to be the one to inflict that upon his family, and I didn’t want to be rooted in those kinds of decisions, because I truly believed that would be the noose around my neck and I would not be able to move forward to actively champion for safer gun laws and a safer gun culture, because that’s what I believed that I was given to do, and I couldn’t do that without forgiveness, and I couldn’t do that without releasing myself.

    That’s a stunning level of faith and forgiveness.

    Remember?

  • Zenpundit, From the Forgiveness Chronicles: Rwanda
  • Zenpundit, Of martyrdom and forgiveness
  • Zenpundit, More from the Forgiveness Chronicles
  • **

    Sources:

  • New Yorker, The New Republican Strategy for Dealing with the Emergency That Is Trump
  • Atlantic, The Obama Portraits Have Had a Pilgrimage Effect
  • New Yorker, Lucy McBath on the “Religion” of Guns in America
  • Jackass and catfish, catfish and gourd

    Friday, February 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — an almost-Darwin-Award-worthy foolishness, coupled with a masterpiece of Zen art — just the sort of post I’d love to post, for my own sake, even if no-one else is listening ]
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    Unbelievable!

    That’s a serious journal article about a seriously un-serious drunking game.. And if you can’t read the fine print, not to worry — the two top articles below will brief you nicely..

    Readings:

  • Atlantic, This Is What Happens When You Drunkenly Swallow a Live Catfish
  • LiveScience, A Drunk Man Swallowed a Live, Venomous, Spiny Catfish.

  • Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports, A Jackass and a Catfish
  • **

    By way of contrast:

    Here’s what the book’s about:

    Zen art poses a conundrum. On the one hand, Zen Buddhism emphasizes the concept of emptiness, which among other things asserts that form is empty, that all phenomena in the world are illusory. On the other hand, a prodigious amount of artwork has been created in association with Zen thought and practice. A wide range of media, genres, expressive modes, and strategies of representation have been embraced to convey the idea of emptiness. Form has been used to express the essence of formlessness, and in Japan, this gave rise to a remarkable, highly diverse array of artworks and a tradition of self-negating art.

    In this volume, Yukio Lippit explores the painting The Gourd and the Catfish (ca. 1413), widely considered one of the most iconic works of Japanese Zen art today. Its subject matter appears straightforward enough: a man standing on a bank holds a gourd in both hands, attempting to capture or pin down the catfish swimming in the stream below. This is an impossible task, a nonsensical act underscored by the awkwardness with which the figure struggles even to hold his gourd. But this impossibility is precisely the point.

    Read or view:

  • Getty Research, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • Getty YouTube lecture, Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting
  • **

    On the zen of swallowing, or not:

    In Zen work, an existential contradiction, Mumon’s “red hot coal,” sticks in the student’s throat; the inability “to swallow it or spit it out” precipitates a crisis to be resolved through an insight that is simultaneously an existential gesture. “If I am whole and complete as I am, why do I feel ignorant and incomplete?” might be one formulation of the conundrum, though encoded in a ritual question like “What is the sound of one hand?” The greater the contradiction, the greater the tension — ”doubt mass” — and the greater the breakthrough, according to Zen tradition.

    Source:

  • Tricycle, Fruitful Contradictions: The Zen of mathematics
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: thirteen

    Friday, December 21st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — the Trinity and National Security, Game Boards and Mathematics, Japanese wave patterns, Maestro Harding on the interconnectedness of “all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music” — plus Blues Clues at the tail end ]
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    Not only have the last couple of days been riotous in Washington, with more news to track than I have eyes to see, but today, still reeling under the weight of Mattis‘ resignation, McConnell‘s statement in support and other matters, I found myself with a richesse of board-game and graph-related delights.

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    Trinitarian NatSec:

    Followers of this searies will be familiar with the Trinitarian diagram juxtaposed here with its equivalents from classical Kabballah and Oronce Fine:

    That little triptych is from my religion and games avenues of interest, but of course I’m also interested in matters of national security, as befits Zenpundit, the strategy & creativity blog. You can imagine my surprise and delight, then, in coming across a natsec version of the trinity diagram, in a tweet from Jon Askonas.

    Here’s my comparison:

    My own attention was first drawn to the Trinitarian diagram as a result of reading Margaret Masterman‘s brilliant cross-disciplinary work, “Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis”, which ran in four parts in a somewhat obscure and difficult to find journal, Theoria to Theory, Vol 1, 1-4, 1966-67.

    See:

  • Margaret Masterman, George Boole and the Holy Trinity
  • Margaret Masterman’s “Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis”
  • **

    Game Boards and Mathematics:

    I could hardly fail to be intrigued by Calli Wright‘s piece titled The Big List of Board Games that Inspire Mathematical Thinking, eh? And look, the first game they show is a graph-based board game, Achi:

    Dara also looks somewhat relevant.

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    Japanese wave designs:

    Again, those familiar with my games will know of my juxtaposition of Von Kármán with Van Gogh as a DoubleQuote — but let me quote from an earlier post, Sunday’s second surprise — the Van Gogh DoubleQuote:

    Here’s the Von Kármán / Van Gogh DQ, which I value in light of Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as a clear bridge between one of the crucial dualities of recent centuries — the needless and fruitless schism between the arts and sciences, which has given rise not only the rantings of Christopher Hitchens and his less elegant disciple Bill Maher, but to such other matters as the Papal condemnation and “forgiveness” 359 years later of Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage‘s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Andrew White‘s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in ChristendomW, and CP Snow‘s The Two Cultures:

    karman gogh

    And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:

    SPEC-DQ-Hokusai-fractal v 2.0 minikozy92

    That brings me to the Met’s marvelous offering, to which J Scott Shipman graciously pointed me:

    Here’s where you get the collection:

  • You Can Now Download a Collection of Ancient Japanese Wave Illustrations for Free
  • Rich pickings!

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    Maestro Harding and the Glass Bead Game:

    Finally, I’ve been delighted today to run across a couple of vdeos of my nephew, Maestro Daniel Harding, conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra some years back in programs exploring the interplay of mathematics and other disciplines and music:

    and:

    Daniel is not working the graph-based angle that my games explore, but his thinking here is pleasantly congruous with my own. His work with the SRSO has, he says in the first video here, “to do with all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music — because everything is connected”.

    You can’t get much closer in spirit to Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game than that!

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    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
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve
  • **

    BTW:

    NatSec, yes, and a DoubleQUote. Too good to miss. Thanks again to John Askonas..

    Decapitation — Variations on a theme by Vollmann

    Monday, September 24th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — preliminary to a rave review, i suspect, with Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen thrown in ]
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    There’s an old English saying, presumably about the martyred King Charles I:

    The King walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off..

    Young boys, getting acquainted with rules and grammar, and somewhat literal minded as a result, find this statement a paradox, which, however, can easily be resolved by the addition of a comma or perhaps better, a semicolon:

    The King walked and talked; half an hour after his head was cut off..

    Older boys quickly learn the (semicolon) reason of the riddle, and eagerly apply the first version to younger boys, the better to perplex and torment them. And thus both versions, the beauty of the paradox, the ease of its resolution, and the cruelty thus made available are transmitted across the generations..

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    I have written this because the beheading of a king clearly marked my young soul, as I was yesterday reminded by three passages from an Atlantic review of Vollmann‘s latest Opus — Magnum III at least [I, II, and let us not forget, gods I would love to read this, Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater]..

    Summits chopped off:

  • In West Virginia, mountains do not have their summits chopped off but are granted “removal of overburden.”
  • Decapitation:

  • His insatiable appetite for detail yields both irrelevant trivia (“Embarking on the Super Limited Hitachi Express, which was also known as the Super Hitachi 23 Limited Express”) and magisterial portraits of landscapes befouled by poking and prodding and, in the case of West Virginia’s mountains, decapitating.
  • Headless:

  • Vollmann breathes a cool wind “whose degree of particulate contamination was of course unknown,” hears on a silent street at night the grunting of a radioactive wild boar, and walks on broken glass through an abandoned clothing store advertising a 50 percent–off sale and peopled by headless mannequins.
  • Headless mannequins and radioactive wild boars — vivid metaphors, no? — we the humans have been brain-dead, and in all likelihood will continue so.

    **

    We’re all too familiar with images of ISIS executioners with their orange jump-suited prisoners, just prior to and after solo and group beheadings — as a corrective to the “it’s all Islam” narrative, here’s a para from an article titled Inside the Minds of Cartel Hitmen: Hannibal Lecters for Hire (which includes an interview with Robert Bunker that I will be taking a more extended look at now my review of JM Berger‘s new book. Extremism, is in):

    And the tactics employed in all that killing have become more and more gruesome over time. Maybe the rush felt by some murderers is like a drug itself, and they are junkies needing ever greater doses to get the same high. But how is it that ordinary people get hooked on activities like beheading, acid baths, and cannibalism?

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    Quoth the Red Queen: Off with their heads!


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