zenpundit.com » humor

Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

A SITREP in four DoubleQuotes, holding the fifth for now

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — our substitute fifth today being a fine quote from a review of two books about analyzing humor, coming to us from down under ]
.

The purpose of this post it to present four facets of the present moment so as to leave a fifth perspective uncluttered for a later post..:

**

DQ #1: Complexity squared:

Presenting two papers which sum up the huge diversity of definitions which complexity and terrorism respectively are prone to:

It’s hard to say, exactly what terrorism is, but it’s no easier to define complexity- and when you think of the pair of them intersecting, the result is along the lines of complexity squared..

Sources:

:

  • Seth Lloyd, Measures of Complexity: a non–exhaustive list
  • Alex Schmid, The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism
  • Further, here’s a striking quote here from Alex Schmid:

    A description how [the Academic Consensus Definition] was arrived at can be found on pp. 39 – 98 of Alex P. Schmid (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. The same volume also contains 260 other definitions compiled by Joseph J. Easson and Alex P. Schmid on pp. 99 – 200.

    and a complexity analogy with electromagnetism from Seth Lloyd:

    An historical analog to the problem of measuring complexity is the problem of describing electromagnetism before Maxwell’s equations. In the case of electromagnetism, quantities such as electric and magnetic forces that arose in different experimental contexts were originally regarded as fundamentally different. Eventually it became clear that electricity and magnetism were in fact closely related aspects of the same fundamental quantity, the electromagnetic field. Similarly, contemporary researchers in architecture, biology, computer science, dynamical systems, engineering, finance, game theory, etc., have defined different measures of complexity for each field. Because these researchers were asking the same questions about the complexity of their different subjects of research, however, the answers that they came up with for how to measure complexity bear a considerable similarity to each other.

    Complexity, illustrated:

    Nothing in that image of waves lapping and overlapping on a shoreline could not in theory be explained in terms of von Kármán‘s equation for the “shedding” of vortices in a vortex street — but the breaking of waves across the coast of California –mathematicians can name the laws involved, but accurately describe the details over the last four decades from an Diego to Eureka? Waves bouncing off a fractal coastline?

    Ahem, it’s complex. Though I suppose Ali Minai might inform me it’s not so much complex as complicated.

    Consider, then, the complexity, complicated nature, or wickedness of the problem of definition in our two cases..

    **

    DQ #2: Yet another Uncertainty Principle:

    I’d been thinking about the timeline of black swan takeoffs, thinking we might know roughly what the next five years could bring, but far out, farther out.. who knows? With this President, however, I’m forced to say Peter Baker is closer to the mark here than I’ve been thus far.

    Time to adjust to the flappings of black wings…

    Sources & quotes..

    Both are quotes I overheard on MSNBC a couple of days ago, but didn’t have anything to hand with which to note program or time.

    **

    Dq #3: Cap’n’caps:

    To cap it off, you have to admit the feeling is clear..

    Here we see two kinds of explosive — the cap represents an explosive attitude, the caps the explosive power of 9mm rounds.

    Let me put it this way: the sense of the two ads is twofold — security and threat, and the threat may make some of us insecure.

    **

    And to end on a lighter note, laughing at the way one bureaucracy can disagree with another..
    DQ #4: Nature rejects, Nobel awards:

    It is with intense satisfaction that observers note the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine this year was awarded to Sir Peter Ratcliffe, for work that Nature, arguably the world’s top science journal, had earlier rejected.

    Note also that HM the Queen was ahead of the Nobrl committee, having given Peter Ratcliffe a knighthood in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

    But then Nobel Prizes are belated recognitions of what has long been obvious..

    **

    Okay, I’m holding the fifth DQ for its own post — but here to compensate is another entry in our budding encyclopedia of ouroboroi, this one from Ben Juers at the Sydney Review of Books, Stepping on Rakes:Terry Eagleton’s Humourand Peter Timms’ Silliness:

    ‘If you want to raise a laugh it is unwise to joke and dissect your joke at the same time’, Eagleton writes in the introduction, ‘but there are not many comedians who come up with a theoretical inquiry into their wisecracks at the very moment they are delivering them.’ No sooner had I scrawled ‘um, Stewart Lee?!’ unreadably in the margins than Eagleton butted in: ‘There are, to be sure, exceptions, such as the brilliantly original comedian Stewart Lee, who deconstructs his own comedy as he goes along and analyses the audience’s response to it.’

    Talk about self-referential! Let me count the ways..

    Clearly I need to watch me some Stewart Lee.

    Chuang-tzu or Zhuangzi, it’s a laughing matter [review]

    Sunday, July 28th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted at BrownPundits — Zhuangzi, a light-hearted philosopher dancing to his own laughter, illuminated by CC Tsai ]
    .

    Zhuangzi: The Way of Nature
    translated by Brian Bruya, illustrated by CC Tsai
    Princeton University Press, 2019
    US $ 22.95

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    You may be acquainted with the yin-yang symbol — or as it’s more properly called, the Tai-chih or Taiji — but here’s CC Tsai‘s version, with dragon:

    That’s the style of CC Tsai‘s illustrations, which — rather than Brian Bruya‘s translations — are the featured aspect of this version of the Zhuangzi: it also encapsulates the essence of Zhuangzi‘s thought.

    Here’s the comic book version of a very comic work of profound, non-invasive philosophy.

    **

    Zhuangzi is a Taoist, one who would allow the arising and fading away of things in their natural order, with as little thought-commentyary, let alone intervention, as piossible — given the human tendency to go round and round in circles even while sitting still — Laozi‘s Tao Te Ching is the simple and direct exposition of this way of approaching and appreciating life, while Zhuangzi presents the same appreciation in the formm of quizzical tales and (naturally, absent) morals..

    Ah. Thus the seagull, Laozi tells Confucius, who came to discuss benevolence and righteousness, doesn’t get white by soaping yup and washing itself, nor does the crow get black by dipping itself in ink: benevolence, similarly, is not a matter of soap and water — it simply arises where it arises.

    You get the feeling Laozi wouldn’t mind having left it at the seagulls doing what they do, and likewise with the crows — but Confucius dropped by and asked about benevolence and righteousness, and Laozi responded as was only benevolent and polite..

    **

    My favorite story in all of Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi is the story of Lord Wen-hui’s cook Ting, who taught him the natural way of things while cutting up an ox. In Burton Watson‘s translation:

    Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

    “Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

    Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

    “A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

    “However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until – flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

    “Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

    **

    That’s a long-ish quote, but its rollicking good humor will have carried you through it, and I wanted to give you a sense of the Zhuangzi as I have known and loved it — to taste it in comparison with CC Tsai‘s vision / version of the same tale, as represented in a couple of frames from his telling:

    **

    So now we have Burton Watson‘s “the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room” and Brian Bruya‘s “my knife glides in and out between the bone joints, moving as it pleases: the cow suffers no pain and, in the end, doesn’t even know it’s dead.”

    Pretty remarkable, either way — but that’s in English, and who knows what contortions a translator must make to move from Chinese into English? Watson‘s Chuang-tsu is closer to Lao-tsu, if you compare the statement of principle to its embodiment in an anecdote:

    Ursula Le Guin‘s translation of the Tao Te Ching is even more succinct:

    The immaterial enters the impenetrable..

    No wonder cook Ting’s vorpal blade went snicker-snack, to borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll‘s poem, Jabberwocky. And come to think of it, Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the Christ Church, Oxford logician, may indeed be the English language’s native equivalent of the Chinese Zhuangzi.

    **

    As I hope I have indicated, Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi, even in translation, is a writer of enormous charm and insight, and CC Tsai‘s presentation marries the conventions of the comic book with classical Chinese artistry to provide an exemplary introduction to one of the world’s great philosopher-humorists.

    Delightful. Warmly recommended.

    A Sporting Sunday Surprise

    Sunday, July 14th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Triptych, DoubleQuote and Single in sports, with a sermon you should really click through and hear, delivered by the inimitable Alan Bannett of Beyond the fringe ]
    .

    The London Review of Books sends me a weekly email, and this week it offered sporting articles that might be of interest. I can’t access all the articles in question, not being a subscriber, but the sort versions offered in the email provide me with this triptych of sporting paragraphs.. on the theme of suffering..

    **

    A Broad Grin and a Handstand
    by E.S. Turner, 2004

    The Paris-Madrid road race of 1903 was a wonderfully disgraceful affair. Three hundred cars set out, conferring death and dismemberment along the dust-choked roads south. Six of the drivers were killed outright and nearly twice as many gravely injured. The hospitals were stuffed with mangled sightseers. By the time the surviving drivers reached Bordeaux the race was called off, and in Madrid the garlanded welcome arches were quietly dismantled. City-to-city road racing was now over. However, the dawn of motoring was still one of those dawns in which it was bliss to be alive.

    **

    Everybody gets popped
    by David Runciman, 2012

    For Tyler Hamilton, as for many of the other leading cyclists, doping did not constitute an unfair advantage. Instead, it was a way of sorting out who was really the toughest. In an extraordinary passage, Hamilton writes that EPO made the sport fairer, because it ‘granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you’d ever imagined, in both racing and training’.

    **

    Bantu in the Bathroom
    by Jacqueline Rose, 2015

    The full citation from Corinthians tattooed on Oscar Pistorius’s upper back reads:

    I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
    I do not fight like a man beating the air;
    I execute each stride with intent;
    I beat my body and make it my slave
    I bring it under my complete subjection
    To keep myself from being disqualified
    After having called others to the contest.

    The line about making my body my slave is not in most translations from Corinthians, nor is subjection described as ‘complete’. Pistorius was raising the stakes. He was also punishing, or even indicting, himself.

    **

    So much for the Triptych: now, still with sports in mind, for a Twitter DoubleQuote:

    **

    And finally, for a Single, this delightful sports metaphor in religion quote, also from the LRB offering this morning, and worthy of the Alan Bennett sermon (to die for):

    6/4 he won’t score 20
    by John Sturrock, 2000

    In prelapsarian times, it was only ever a short step from the batting crease to the pulpit, as generations of cricketing vicars used the game that they played heartily, if not usually very well, on Saturday afternoon for a neighbourly source of Sunday metaphors with which to earth a sermon and reassure the congregation that the rules by which a good Anglican was urged to live were really no more arduous than those framed by the MCC.

    Howzzat?

    :

    To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts

    Monday, May 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — if i may be a bit presumptuous, language is a topic for the wise — in this case, how language can be used as a knife ]
    .

    I was reading a Vice News piece, Leaked chats show white nationalist group’s plot to infiltrate Turning Point, and was struck by the phrase “weaponize metaphors” in the paragraph:

    Part of Identity Evropa’s strategy now relies on its ability to weaponize metaphors to make their white nationalism seem more acceptable, like referring to “European heritage” — which white nationalist often use as a euphemism to mean “white” — or seizing on mainstream conservative issues like immigration.

    I frankly don’t see”metaphor” and “euphemism” as equivalents, but at least we’re looking at the language used to convey a political stance, albeit an abhorrent one.

    **

    Semioticians won’t be surprised to see that clothes can also be a mode of signalling — of conveying meaning — every bit as much as verbal language. In fact, to paraphrase my title, we can see here that thoughts can be viewed as clothes, clothes as thoughts.. Indeed, in the paragraph immediately before the one I just quoted, we read:

    According to the leaked Slack chats, about 200 members were expected to attend a secret Identity Evropa conference in Kentucky last weekend. Consistent with their brand overall, the event had a fairly strict dress code: Attendees were urged to wear “dress slacks or chinos” — no jeans. Some attendees fretted about whether they had enough time to get their suits dry-cleaned.

    Clothes as thoughts, thoughts as clothes..

    **

    Speaking of semioticians — Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of semiotics, coined the phrase “the play of musement” which I’ve been toying with recently. Here’s a play, a musement of my own:

  • There’s the music of the spheres, around and within us.

  • Then there’s the boundary layer, the troposphere, the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere and so forth, space, deep space, and deep deep space —

  • or if you’ll believe the brilliant jazz comedian Lord Buckley riffing on Albert Einstein — we should also add “the zonesphere, and the vautisphere, and the routesphere, and the hippisphere, and the flippisphere, and the zippisphere, and the gonesphere, and the way-gonesphere” — hey, the “way-gonesphere” has a distinctly Prajnaparamita feel to it, no? —

  • or better yet, there’s the atmosphere, which includes equally both the sphere of weather out the window and the realm of emotional tensions within a room, group or event..

  • and what Dylan Thomas calls “the weather of the heart”..
  • **

    But really, listen to the whole Hip Einie thing, Buckley gets into the 1905 Annalen der Physik and more:

    And consider the profound beauties of the Heart Sutra with its mantra, and Dylan Thomas marvelous poem:

  • Prajñaparamita, Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
  • Dylan Thomas, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart
  • Amy Warren, Elizabeth Klobnachar?

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — surrealism in electoral candidates’ declarations ]
    .

    I’m glad I was up and alert at 4.30 am Pacific time today, and could catch these two screen-grabs of candidates for the Presidency in 2020 — a wonderful DoubleQuote in chyron confusion:

    **

    Who’s this?

    Okay, then who’s this?

    **

    Both screen-grabs are from Morning Joe on MSNBC.

    It may be hard for the electorate to tell some of the 2020 candidates apart.


    Switch to our mobile site