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Vlahos: violence is the magical substance of civil war

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Vlahos is a mighty analyst warrior poet –used to teach at the Naval War College and Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs, and I wouldn’t mind at all if the poet came towards the fore in some future works ]
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Here’s the key sentence from Michael Vlahos, Civil War Begins When the Constitutional Order Breaks Down — staggering title, that — published November 4 2019:

Violence is the magical substance of civil war.

You might think magic is nothing, a whisp of imagination good for fantasy novels with hair and silks trailing in the wind — but Ferdinando Buscema, the Institute for the Future‘s New Magician in Residence would disagree, the erudite >Erik Davis too, Hannibal Lecter, and Ioan Couliano, author of Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, as would Dumbledore, Gandalf and Merlin, and notably the poet and practicing magician WB Yeats, and before him Queen Elizabeth‘s Dr Dee — but that’s far enough back, King Arthur‘s Merlin and Queen Elizabeth‘s Dr Dee between them should give you pause for thought.

Magic is imagination. And imagination is power.

Shakespeare‘s Prospero:

It was mine Art..

**

Michael Vlahos is not unaware of the power of imagination, or morale as it is often, shape-shifting as is its wont, called on the field of battle. Indeed, Vlahos has written brilliantly about the magical properties of dreams, discussing UBL‘s dreams before 9/11 in Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam:

Usama bin Laden: “He told me a year ago: ‘I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, there were all pilots!’ He didn’t know anything about the operations until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.”

Shaykh: “May Allah be blessed!”

Usama bin Laden: “Abd Rahman al-Ghamri said he saw a vision, before the operation, a plane crashed into a tall building. He knew nothing about it.”

Shaykh: “May Allah be blessed!”

You remember those dreams? What’s stirring in the unconscious is always potent as motive.

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Vlahos, therefore, on violence as the necessary in civil war:

Violence is the magical substance of civil war. If, by definition, political groups in opposition have also abandoned the legitimacy of the old order, then a successor constitutional order with working politics cannot be birthed without violence. Hence violence is the only force that can bring about a new order. This is why all memorable civil wars, and all parties, enthusiastically embrace violence.

Think on that, in our present context, or read his whole article — and one that preceded it:

  • Michael Vlahos, Were Americans Made for Civil War?
  • I find JustKnecht’s Loom of Form and Meaning truly brilliant

    Friday, September 20th, 2019

    [ reposted from BrownPundits — by Charles Cameron — few things in life are as delightful as finding kinships of mind and heart ]
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    Brilliant, IMO — and hopefully of use to Ali Minai, Mike Sellers and others in the field of artificial intelligence — here the Loom is, as JustKnecht presents it on Medium:

    9 categories can be used to classify how forms, meanings and the connections between them change, develop and evolve in relation to each other. Put anything at the top left of this table, then:

  • re-express the idea of it in a different form (horizontal movement towards the right of the loom, e.g. from Mercury the Roman god to Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth), or else
  • reinterpret that particular form with a different idea (vertical movement towards the bottom of the loom, e.g. from Mercury as god to the metal or planet of exactly the same name), or
  • vary both the form and the meaning (with ideas and forms both contrasting towards the bottom right of the loom, e.g. follow Mercury into the domain of trees, according to standard tables of correspondence in European culture, to the fast-growing hazel — hazel groves often being associated with gateways to the underworld, and Mercury himself being a guide to the underworld).
  • **

    Further readings:

  • JustKnecht, The Loom of Form and Meaning
  • JustKnecht, The Loom of Verbal Reasoning
  • JustKnecht, Rattlesnake Games – Introduction and Example
  • JustKnecht, Connecting forms to contexts in Rattlesnake Games
  • **

    JustKnecht‘s Loom would be a powerful tool by which to analyze many uses of my DoubleQuotes format.

    My own HipBone Games, like JustKnecht‘s Rattlesnake Games, are inspired by Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as described in his novel of that name — and there’s enough kinship between them that Derek Robinson‘s comments on my own games and Ai may be of use, mutatis mutandis, in setting a context for Rattlesnake Games, too:

  • Derek Robinson, HipBone Games, AI and the rest
  • The music of snakes and computing machines

    Thursday, September 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — with enough joy here for all lovers of classical music, herpetology and the national pastime — but I’m stunned by one most curious herpetology-Bach crossover in particular — and more ]
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    Here’s a fine DoubleQuote:

    I gave you the snake first, in about as amusing a context as I could find: Now here’s the serpentine windings of a Bach melody, as tracked by musical-graphics maestro Stephen Malinowski::

    The music is Bach’s Cantata 140 (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme), performed by members of the Netherlands Bach Society (s part of their All of Bach project.

    **

    I think of the vaulted arches of Hermann Hesse’shundred gated cathedral of mind as places where science / technology and the arts / humanities map closely to one another — my locus classicus being the analogy between van Gogh‘s night sky and von Karman‘s vortex street, with which by now you are likely all familiar..

    Far more unexpected, yet incredibly rich, it seems to me, is this close correspondence between music and snake. Does this suggest any further explorations to anyone? Ali Minai, anything this suggests for AI? Anyone?

    Ada Lovelace‘s vision of the applicability of the Jacquard loom’s punched cards to Charles Babbage‘s engine is another instance, at the apex of an arch, I think — and it’s interesting to note that Lady Lovelace speculated that Babbage‘s machine

    might act upon other things besides number… the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent

    Howzzat? as we cry out in cricket.

    Trump — King or Queen? A Biblical DoubleQuote

    Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a gender-bender for our times, and a caution against messianic projections on all too fallible humans }
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    Either way, Donald Trump:

    **

    To be frank, I don’t think Trump is either one — but Biblical excuses made by or on behalf of those Evangelicals who favor Trump‘s policies, and particularly his choices for the bench, are worth considering on their own merits.

    King David notoriously slept with Bathsheba after sending his friend, her husband, off to die on the front lines, and yet G*d seems to have favored and used him. Similarly, Cyrus wasn’t even one of the Chosen People, yet he seems to have been one of the people chosen.

    An aside — while I’m not sure if he originated the idea, it’s interesting that David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, named himself “Koresh” — “Cyrus” in Hebrew — and gave himself the title “sinful Messiah” because he felt both convinced / convicted of his sinfulness and called to a salvific, nay messianic, purpose. Esther? She was Jewish herself and beautiful, and protected the Jews from a holocaust back in the day.

    David exemplifies the leader with a shady, nay adulterous and murderous, past.

    Cyrus is the unbeliever in a G*d who uses him for his own purposes. And Esther is a ruler who preserves the Jewish people in a time of trouble.

    Each analogy in turn has its merits — yet as regular readers here know, while I’m an enthusiast for thinking via analogies, I’m also concerned to bring critical appraisal to them. I have to admit I don’t see a Cyrus, David, or Esther here, and tend to think the long history of messianic projections by enthusiastic crowds, and messianic pretenders who came and went, should be a caution for us.

    Trump looks to me like a man, is all. I wouldn’t trust him, and I don’t even trust myself.

    **

    Sources:

  • CBN (2016), Chaos Candidate: Is Trump a Modern-Day King Cyrus?
  • WaPo (2019), Holy Moses. Mike Pompeo thinks Trump is Queen Esther
  • The Magic in Advertising series — rhyming, twinning, pattern recognition

    Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the ability to recognize similarities across wide conceptual or memory distances is what Cindy Storer calls “magic” in analytic practice — here we examine it in terms of advertising ]
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    You could almost learn how to write poetry by watching the commercials on TV — or learn a bit more about how the ads themselves work.. come have some fun.

    Consider rhyme for a moment. There’s a rhyme between the car that’s too small for comfort and the shoe that’s too tight to fit in this ad, and there’s an analogy between the larger, more comfortable — luxurious, even — car and the wide and comfortable — “like a luxury ride for my feet” — Skechers wide fit shoes that the ad is all about:

    The rhyme here between today’s American fisherman and his Irish fisherman ancestor is stunning — and plausible. This, after all, is genetics, which is often said to rhyme from one generation to another:

    And even when the analogy between an image and the product it’s supposed to resemble (“rhyme with”) is weak, making a successful rhyme between two such images is a delight in itself, and makes the weak rhyme seem plausible. Here, a two-thirds shaved dog rhymes with a two-thirds mowed lawn:

    Allstate piles the rhymes on — drawing on powerful similarities between widely different parts of the country — in its brilliant Park Road / Street / Avenue commercial:

    Here’s a beautiful rhyme between cement and sand — it’s not so great to find you’ve stepped unexpectedly in wet cement — but what a delight to feel sand on the beach between your toes!

    Look, Exxon wants to make it’s industrial plants more closely resemble living, breathing, green plants: it’s not a bad idea, laudable really — but the rhyme is a bit of a stretch, eh?

    **

    One form of rhyme that’s worth noting falls under the heading of Opposites:

    In this case, the equation would be something like blue plus red equals unbiased. I haven’t checked the product, but the math is clean, and the divide the ad bridges is very real and quite perilous for democracy:

    So opposites can be powerful. But it’s worth considering, too, the mind-numbing effect of seeing opposing commercials:

    That’s not the kind of opposition you want if you’re Roundup, but exactly the kind of opposition you seek if you’re the legal opposition!

    **

    Rhyming — twinning — as it’s dreamed up in the creative agencies of Madison Avenue, and no doubt Madison Wisconsin too, requires horizontal, associative thinking — thinking based on pattern recognition, thinking that makes creative leaps where similarities can be found in the midst of difference. Metaphors and analogies are woven of the same kind of thinking, rhyme in poetry, graphic match or match cut in enema, canon and fugue in music — and it’s the type of thinking my HipBone Games are designed to teach and practice, until they’re strong reflexes in your intellectual arsenal.

    When readers or movie-goers, or just people watching commercials on TV, recognize patterns or rhymes — shaving a dog, then mowing a lawn, okay — it may elicit a chuckle the first time you see the ad, but you’re not sitting there to learn about dogs or lawns, or even Flonase unless you happen to need that kind of medicine. No, you’re there to see the next installment of the movie you’re watching, the next entertainment — which was almost certainly put together with less cash and care per minute or per frame than the commercials that slip into your mind almost subcutaneously.

    And analogy — this type of analogical thinking — works. Analogy is the very heart of magic:

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    Do you have time for another example?

    Here we have analogy across time, as we did in the case of the Donegal fisherman, but this time woven into the telling of a very simple short story: he wants a Heineken, looks in the fridge, no luck, goes out onto the street, flags down a cab, takes a short ride, steps down from his Hackney Carriage about a century earlier, and gets the Heineken he was looking for. Plus ça change!

    The Heineken’s the same — the six-pack at the end is the essence of difference!

    **

    Previous episodes in the same series:

    Advertising series 01: Music
    Eros, the Renaissance and advertising
    Authentic, spiritual magic!
    The magic of advertising or the commercialization of magic?
    Here’s magic!
    The magic of miniatures

    I imagine there will eventually be about twenty posts in the series..


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