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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..

    **

    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)…

    **

    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.

    **

    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..

    **

    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
  • Remembering mathematician and Glass Bead Gamer Bob de Marrais

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — this is strictly for the record — you don’t need to read it unless — like Bob — you’re a poly-mathematician, para-biologist, meta-psychiatrist or native-born glass bead gamer ]
    .

    1984. Illustrating for Bob de Marrais‘ article on Computer Graphics,
    published in Digital Deli: The Comprehensive, User-Lovable Menu
    of Computer Lore, Culture, Lifestyles and Fancy
    , ed. Steve Ditlea.

    **

    My late friend Bob de Marrais wrote a five-part short-book-length essay, Catastrophes, Kaleidoscopes, String Quartets: Deploying the Glass Bead Game, which is so wide-ranging in its scholarship that no single journal had peers sufficient to review it, so witty, subtle, enchanting, and generally impossible that its continued existence on the web and in the time-worn hard drives of a scattering of computers has made of it a sort of samizdat — a secret publication passsed from hand to hand, or in this case memory to memory, and in this post I wish to memorialize both the essay and Bob himself.

    Here are five sips, to give you a sense of the work.

    **

    Catastrophes, Kaleidoscopes, String Quartets:

    Part I: Ministrations Concerning Silliness, or: Is “Interdisciplinary Thought” an Oxymoron?

    We seek deep concepts by silly means. Think of this, for openers at least, as a cerebral equivalent of a well-known Monty Python skit: welcome to the Ministry of Silly Thoughts. [ … ]

    Essential to easy generation of the “silliness effect” – as in the frivolous juxtaposing of Kings Arthur and Elvis in the last paragraph – is production of collisions between disparate things, which context makes us associate unexpectedly. No one not on drugs or writing late-night standup material would be likely to seek a link between the latest news from robotic interplanetary exploratory vehicles and political upheaval in the Hispanic community in the general vicinity of Miami. But when Elian Gonzales’ mom fled Castro’s regime on a flimsy makeshift boat and died at sea while getting her son to (what she thought would be his) freedom, Jay Leno noted how scientists had just discovered water on the Red Planet, “and in an unrelated story, a boat of Cuban refugees washed up on Mars this morning.”

    Aside from late-night comedic unwinding from the day’s events, there is only one other area where such juxtapositions are hunted down and put to use. (No, not dreams: that’s involuntary; and besides, many people today no longer have any.) This area is largely deemed, regardless of lip services paid, “absurd; trifling; frivolous” in academia – when not, that is, subjected to sober attempts at its production which typically display all these three aspects in spite of themselves. This is the domain of what often passes for an oxymoron in our supremely specialized research establishment: interdisciplinary thought. And this, of course, is what we’re here to talk about.

    Compare “the silliness effect .. is production of collisions between disparate things, which context makes us associate unexpectedly” with, from this morning’s diggings:

    Brecht:

    He [Darko Suvin] cites Brecht as follows: “A representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time make it seem unfamiliar.” This permits a new cognition of the now and creates a moment which is potentially liberating. Placing familiar objects (or subjects) in unfamiliar settings allows us to see differently. Our old and tired perceptions can thus be revitalized and transformed. — Lucy Sargisson, Fool’s Gold?: Utopianism in the Twenty-First Century

    Boulez:

    For Boulez, the challenge was to present the borrowed ideas in a new light that could lead to results far removed from the original, which had provided only a single solution. — The Gramophone

    Both quotes via JustKnecht, another Glass Bead Game-player of note, discussing his Rattlesnake Games.

    **

    Part II: Canonical Collage-oscopes, or: Claude in Jacques’ Trap? Not What It Sounds Like!

    For this section of Bob’s work, I’ll just post a snippet referencing the Catastrophe Theory of René Thom:

    Of the many, many ways to frame the two-control Cusp, the most interesting for us is the predator-prey chain, due to Thom himself. Let us frame it mythically: in the Vedic lore of pre-Hindu India, the great god Indra – the Zeus of the Aryan invaders – had (or was trapped in) a magical net. Depending on the story told, and teller’s point of view, Indra is the hunter and the hunted too. According to the mathematics of Catastrophe Theory, this is fundamental, not unusual. The theory’s creator typically focuses on the single Cusp as the basis of all richer models .. Its stable “splits and mergers” mode of yoyo-ing between the Two and the One, he tells us, is “the most fundamental regulatory process” in non­linear dynamics: not only in the abstract, but, under the guise of the “predation loop,” in the ultimate concreteness of animal feeding. At least since the emerging of the amoeba, this is, sim­ply, merging: “fundamentally, engulfing a prey into the organism” … and herein resides an enigma.

    It’s a rich broth, you see — connecting perhaps to Ali Minai‘s comment tweeted today:

    Polyphony, in an abstract sense, applies not just to human complex systems but to all complex systems. .. One of the most unappreciated facts about natural complexity is that it emerges from interaction of simpler processes, and not from some prior complexity.

    **

    Part III: Grooving on the Sly with Klein Groups

    No one knows that this tale is a part of an immense poem: myths communicate with each other by means of men and without men knowing it. … The situation which Le Cru et le cuit describes is analogous to that of musicians per­form­ing a symphony while kept incommunicado and separated from each other in time and space: each one would play his fragment as if it were the complete work. No one among them would be able to hear the concert because in order to hear it one must be outside the circle, far from the orchestra. In the case of American mythology, that concert began millennia ago, and today some few scattered and moribund communities are running through the last chords.

    That’s Octavio Paz writing on Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Bob uses it as the epigraph to section III. Just today I was writing of the various friends of mind who are making profound contributions as islands in an archipelago — and how I long for the richness that will emerge when the connections between them are strong, the transmission of ideas between them fluid..

    Further, from section III:

    Somebody calls you, you answer: “In theory, a twirl of kaleidoscopes” – why?

    If you were called to provide a summary of the first two installments preceding this, to someone who’s only just joined us, the perpetual revolution of Sir David Brewster’s famous tube should certainly be the very first image to pop from that jack-in-the-box you keep in your head. For Jacques Derrida, as we saw, lopped off this capstone of Lévi-Strauss’s extended metaphor of how the mythic mind operates: the workings of “bricolage” were like those of a kaleidoscope, as the anthropologist summed it up; but Derri­da’s demolition job didn’t so much as footnote, much less explicitly point to, this motif. [ … ]

    … Beat­les’ paean to “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” …

    Leary and Ralph Metzner meanwhile wrote about, and advocated, the use of low-tech kaleidoscopes, imported from the East, for inner exploration as well: I refer, of course, to mandalas. Mixing scientific and New Age styles, they managed to synthesize, in brief compass and without the “depth psychology,” the gist of what Jung’s approach toward such sacred objects (about which, more in the next installment) is taken to be by those who’d worn bell-bottoms and “love beads” while reading such things:

    [As] the mandala is a depiction of the structure of the eye, the center of the man­dala corresponds to the foveal “blind spot.” Since the “blind spot” is the exit from the eye to the visual system of the brain, by going “out” through the center, you are going in to the brain. The Yogin finds the mandala in his own body. The mandala is an instrument for transcending the world of visually perceived phenomena by first centering them and turning them inward.

    Note that Leary’s reading of the foveal blind spot is markedly at odds with Derrida’s

    **

    Part IV: Claude’s Kaleidoscope . . . and Carl’s

    As before, note that the epigraps to this section contain doors intonwhat is within:

    All the creative power that modern man pours into science and technics the man of antiquity devoted to his myths. This creative urge explains the bewildering confusion, the kaleidoscopic changes and syncretistic regroupings, the continual rejuvenation, of myths in Greek culture.

    That’s Carl Jung, in Symbols of Transformation

    Here he goes:

    For those who’ve tuned in late to this mini-series, the first episode performed a sort of sitcom set­up of the main conundrum: Derrida’s deconstruction launched itself using Lévi-Strauss’ structuralism – as epitomized in his Mr. Fixit figure of the “bricoleur” – as thrust-block . . . the irony being that the latter “failed” analytics of myth proved a harbinger of advanced mathematical toolkits whose utility in linguistic and cultural studies has been burgeoning, while the former “success story” has shown itself to be ever more hollow – intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

    In Part Deux, we blowfished the argument, treating the core event – the 1966 Johns Hopkins con­ference where Derrida struck his “deal with the Devil” – as itself a sort of myth requiring structural analy­sis, inspecting it through the lens of Derrida’s 1987 reminiscences about the postmodernist “quotation market” and his own role in fomenting it . . . and then beefed up our discussion of Lévi-Strauss’ own “canonical law of myths” with Catastrophe Theory mathematics and the tasteful injection of celebrity quotes, movie reviews, and porno­graphic movie ads to, um, “flesh out” the argument.

    Strike three, though, was where the ubiquitous form-language of the so-called “A,D,E Problem” and its lowly instancing as a new sort of Timaeus-style creation myth – based on kaleido­scopes instead of an odd lot of triangles and things whose names rhyme with Tipi Hedron[1] but don’t look half as fetching – was taken much too seriously, with the limitations in Husserl’s phenomeno­logy shame­lessly con­trasted (unfa­v­or­ably) with the concentric run-out groove at the end of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. The point being, natural­ly, that the Madhyamika Buddhism of Nagarjuna’s “full void” was allowed to under­write the super­po­si­­tion principal of quantum mechanics in spite of its looking like something Derrida liked to mutter about, while all the while all of this was subsumed in some mare’s nest of compari­sons between the struc­tures of mythical argument, their “reincarnation” in the forms of classical music, and the Glass Beads that Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi was known to like to play with when he thought no one was watching.

    Of course, if we’re going to keep a load like that down without providing our readers free Pepto-Bismol, it would behoove us to make the people reading this think the linchpins of the argument were some­­how intrinsic. Put another way (which is our specialty here), we could say that it’s all very nice that this “A,D,E Problem” gives us kaleidoscopes as the Meaning of Life and like that there, but wouldn’t it be so much better if we got the same basic mishmash without all the abstraction – if the kaleidoscope could legi­timately be seen as some kind of “archetype” in its own right, which “just happened” to bring in Catas­trophe-type “shock waves” into the argument without all the hand-waving … and all without losing all the rest of our baggage, once the argument has landed?

    **

    Part V: Spelling the Tree, from Aleph to Tav (While Not Forgetting to Shin)

    I didn’t even know there was a fifth part — quint-esseence? — until a couple of days ago, and am very grateful to Steven H. Cullinane for conserving all five for us.

    One of the epigraphs for this fifth section comes from Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind:

    “The heart has its reasons which the reason does not at all perceive.” Among Anglo-Saxons, it is rather usual to think of the “reasons” of the heart or of the unconscious as the inchoate forces or pushes or heavings – what Freud called Trieben. To Pascal, a Frenchman, the matter was rather different, and he no doubt thought of the reasons of the heart as a body of logic or computation as precise and complex as the reasons of consciousness. (I have noticed that Anglo-Saxon anthro­po­logists sometimes misunderstand the writings of Claude Lévi-Strauss for precisely this reason. They say he emphasizes too much the intellect and ignores the “feelings.” The truth is that he assumes that the heart has precise algorithms.)

    WHat can I tell you? We haven’t delved in any detail into Bob’s mathematical work, but this section contains a footnote — a quotation that delights us with the concept of a perfectly square ship with vertical sides, and offers enough catastrophe-cusp based math to illustrate that central aspect of the whole work:

    Tim Poston and Ian Stewart, Catastrophe Theory and its Applications (Boston, London, Melbourne: Pit­man, 1978): “The commonest kind of water-going vessel which is actually built with vertical sides all the way round is a floating oil-platform. These are normally fixed to the ocean floor when on site, but they float during transport. Often they are built square. This symmetry goes through to the buoyancy locus… and the buoyancy locus is a circularly symmetric paraboloid of revolution. The metacentric locus may therefore, apparently, be found by spinning the two-dimensional case, so that the geometry of the perfectly square, vertical-sided ship is remarkably simple. From a catastrophe theory viewpoint this simplicity is thoroughly deceptive, the energy function takes the form (x2 + y2)2. This is not finitely determined … and so has infinite codimension…. Physically, this means that the apparently simple geometry of the ‘ideal’ vessel .. is violently unstable.”

    **

    Bobert de Marrais was born Nov. 30, 1948, and died April 4, 2011 in Boston, MA. His obit notes he “had a lifelong interest in history, his French heritage, music, history of science, and multidimensional algebras.” He was a remarkable polymath, profoundly loved and deeply admired by the fortunate few who knew him.

    Samson’s dreads and the dread Delilah

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — or the curious relevance of the tanakh or old testament today ]
    .

    I’m half-serious, and that’s an approximation, but not an understatement:

    Samson , upper panel above, was a rough-hewn fellow — my own name, Charles Cameron, means Rough-fellow Broken-nose, so I’m not putting him down — who slew a lion and returned later to take honey from the bees that had gathered in the carcass. He was hirsute to say the least, but the lovely Delilah got a fellow to snip his locks and his masculine rough-hewn ferocity fell away.. warrior no more.

    Same thing, approximately, with Andrew Johnson, lower panel, a dreaded — in both senses — high school wrestler from New Jersey. I don’t think the image in the lower panel is entirely fair to the young woman doing the snipping, because she probably wasn’t the one giving the order — but then Delilah in the upper panel gave the order, but wasn’t the one with the razor — he would come later once Samson has fallen further for her charms and wiles. Which were considerable.

    **

    Sources:

  • Wikipedia, Samson,
  • Guardian, US high school wrestler made to cut dreadlocks or face forfeit
  • **

    That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.

    Judges 16, King James Version

    **

    Just in jest, more or less. More more than less, though…

    It does help to know the myths and scriptures of divers cultures, IMO..

    King Canute, Imperial Beach, CA, and rising tides

    Monday, October 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a coastal California town has learned the lesson King Canute either taught his nobles or learned the hard way himself — but what can anyone do about it? ]
    .

    **

    Okay, here’s the first para of Can a California town move back from the sea? Imperial Beach considers the unthinkable: a retreat from nature:

    At the start of each year, Southern California gets a glimpse into a future of rising seas, through an annual event called the king tide. On that day, the sun, moon and Earth align to create a heavy gravitational pull, leading to the highest tides of the year. If “king tide” sounds ominous, that’s because it is, particularly for a city like Imperial Beach, a small coastal town near the Mexican border surrounded by water on three sides: San Diego Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Tijuana River Delta to the south.

    It doesn’t hurt that there’s a king reference there either, from my POV — because?

    **

    Because King Canute.

    As a Brit, I was introduced to King Canute at an early age, along with every last one of the other Kings and Queens of England — and their dates — memorize them! Americans, however, have shaken off the dust of kings and queens, and may not know the tale of King Canute and the waves. Was he, as my gold-embossed, colour-plated richly patriotic children’s book had it, an imperious royal who set his chair in the sand before the incoming tide, and not about to lose one inch of English sovereign soil to the waves, dared the Atlantic to encroach on his royal prerogative?

    Or was he, as Henry of Huntingdon, the original chronicler of the tale has it, a humble and wise, one might say ecologically sound king, who set his chair in the sand to demonstrate to his fawning and flattering courtiers that look, not even my royal command can overrule the laws of God — or Nature?

    **

    So, back to the humbling question — rising tides?

    Currently an anomaly, the king tide is a portent of things to come. Researchers warn that, due to myriad factors including the Earth’s rotation, California will deal with even higher sea-level rise than other locations, as the atmosphere and oceans warm. The oceans are now rising at a faster rate than any time since the last Ice Age, about half an inch or more per decade. While much of this is understood by researchers and informed readers, very little has been done by coastal cities to confront this slow-moving catastrophe.

    And Imperial Beach in particular?

    That is what makes Imperial Beach so interesting. Here, at the southernmost beach town in California, in an obscure corner of the United States, one small city is asking: What if we just got out of nature’s way?

    **

    Sources and readings:

  • High Country News, Can a California town move back from the sea?
  • The Sun, You Canute be Serious

  • Wikipedia, King Canute and the tide
  • New York Times, Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040
  • ipcc, Global Warming of 1.5°C
  • The Trojan War, revisited

    Saturday, June 30th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a feminist reading — The Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi ]
    .

    Rebecca Solnit is an acute, insightful writer, who first noted the genre of unlistening overtalk that came to be known as mansplaining — her example being men who praise and explain the brilliance of a book for fifteen or twenty minutes, based on having read a review, without pausing to find out they are addressing the author in question.

    During my research for incels (for an Incels & Rajneeshis post that I still hope to complete one of these days), I ran across her Guardian post, A broken idea of sex is flourishing. Blame capitalism.

    Her key expositional para, IMO, is this one:

    Feminism and capitalism are at odds, if under the one women are people and under the other they are property. Despite half a century of feminist reform and revolution, sex is still often understood through the models capitalism provides. Sex is a transaction; men’s status is enhanced by racking up transactions, as though they were poker chips.

    s

    That struck me, besides its meaning, for its poker chip metaphor. But it was the para immediately precesing it that I wanted to bring here to ZP, since it described the Trojan War in a way I had not seen before:

    The Trojan war begins when Trojan Paris kidnaps Helen and keeps her as a sex slave. During the war to get Helen back, Achilles captures Queen Briseis and keeps her as a sex slave after slaying her husband and brothers (and slaying someone’s whole family is generally pretty anti-aphrodisiac). His comrade in arms Agamemnon has some sex slaves of his own, including the prophetess Cassandra, cursed by Apollo for refusing to have sex with him. Read from the point of view of the women, the Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi.

    That really brings things classical and venerable home to us, occupied as we are with the contemporary and terrible:

    The Trojan wars resemble ISIS among the Yazidi.

    **

    This is one of those posts where I expose my own ignorance, and pray for a lively comments section.

    What say you? Is this a misreading? Truth, already widely known? Or an original and useful, perhaps provocative, insight?


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