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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.

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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.

Eve of Destruction, eighteen years ago today

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron ]
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A quick reminder.

It’s the title of Barry McGuire’s song, not it’s Vietnam era, nuke, and Jordan River contents, that concerns us here, reminding us that eighteen years ago to the day was the Eve of Destruction of the Twin Towers in NYC — an infant born eighteen years ago tomorrow would tomorrow be eligible for military service without seeking parental consent.

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What a choice: to jump to one’s death, or burn alive in a kamikaze’d building.

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McGuire‘s song.

Usama bin Laden is long gone, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried, if he still lives, in 2021.

We remember the fallen, and honor our first responders and all who serve and save.

An observation for David Ronfeldt

Friday, August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

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We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

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I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

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In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

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Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Border crossing: Mexican folk religion, meet American pop culture

Monday, August 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — this should really be a Sunday Surprise, but you probably won’t see it till Monday, so why not wait and post it in the morning? ]
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A DoubleTweet killer: The Mexican cult of the skeletal sacred, Mictecacihuatl or Santa Muerte depending what century you’re looking at:

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Saint Death, to whom one might pray, or Holy Death, which one might pray for, with an implied positive afterlife — Santa Muerte can be translated, or understood, either way, or perhaps better, both.

The idea that that Titanic ending love-image can be translated into a muerte santa tableau illustrates the imaginative power of the santissima muerte tradition — liebestod, lovedeath, if you love Wagner — or in Hilaire Belloc‘s version of Tristan and Isolde:

My lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and of death, here is that of Tristan and Queen Iseult; how to their full joy, but to their sorrow also, they loved each other, and how at last they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.

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Wagner, Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, sung by the impressive Nina Stemme, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by (I believe) my nephew Daniel Harding:

Dancing in the rain, a second Sunday surprise

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — one concept, two versions — one sacred and one secular, one amateur and one professional, one demotic and one elite ]
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The sacred takes the form of praise dancing:

Note: there’s some loud glossolalia and English interjections which sound as though they come from close to the camera, so you’re advised to set your volume at 50%, even though the sound is initially very faint.

One definition of praise dancing:

Praise dancing is a liturgical or spiritual dance that incorporates music and movement as a form of worship rather than as an expression of art or as entertainment. Praise dancers use their bodies to express the word and spirit of God.

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The secular, by contrast, is indeed both entertainment and an expression of art:

The contrast here is between the amateur (from the Latin, amare, one who acts out of sheer love) and the professional (effectively, one who has acquired significant specific skills and is financially rewarded accordingly) — the demotic and the elite

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Your comments are most welcome.


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