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Here is a word, maybe even a sentence, in the language of menace

Monday, May 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — behold Abraham Lincoln of the USN sending a signal to Iran, the IRGC, and various Shia militias of dubious reliability ]
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Here is a word, maybe even a sentence, in the language of menace:

It looks even more menacing in the full-sized image as I found it, thanks to Julian West, in the Guardian. – hit the link to see it, it’s too large for the Zenpundit format!

Now imagine how menacing that word or sentence becomes when it’s not a photo but a carrier strike group sailing your way..

And now think how menacing that carrier group becomes when John Bolton‘s the one who may be — pardon the pun — calling the shots

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Let’s go back to the image up above for a moment, and pray there are no unfortunate accidents, and that the carrier strike group seen here as a sentence in the language of menace doesn’t become anyone’s death sentence..

The magic of miniatures

Monday, May 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I wasn’t intending this to be my next post in the commercials and magic series, but here it is, with miniatures and matryoshkas all in a row — and Churchill! ]
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Who knows when it started — Egyptian shabtis were small figurines inscribed with the names of the deceased and buried with them, answering for them during judgment in the Hall of Truth where, for the best afterlife, one’s heart should weigh lighter than a feather on the scales —

Myself, buried with my mini-me.

Especially if I am a pharaoh, or person of note:

(From left) Painted shabti of Ramesses IV. 20th Dynasty; decorated shabti of the Lady of the House, Sati – reportedly from Saqqara. 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III; and, a double shabti of Huy and Ipuy, a father and son pair. 18th Dynasty. Louvre Museum, Brooklyn Museum and Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy. (Photos: Heidi Kontkanen and Margaret Patterson)

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A jar fit for a giant to drink from, one of thousands in the Laotian Plain of Jars:

I was reminded of Egyptian shabtis by an article I saw today about thousand-year-old burial practices in Laos, where the vast Plain of Jars is dotted with thousands of large “jars” so called — some have thought of them as chalices from which giants would drink — used in funerary rites, and the article contained this para:

We’d love to know why these people represented the same jars in which they placed their dead, in miniature to be buried with their dead.

Miniatures!

I suppose we all play with miniatures as children — toy guns, toy sheriff’s badges, dolls and dolls houses — all parents need to ensure their children grow up prepared for adult life! — but after-life may have come first where miniatures are concerned.

In any case, there’s an enormous, likely archetypal pull associated with the large and its small analogs.

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Look at this Myself and Mini-me commercial from National:

The large and the small together are somehow more attractive than just the large alone.

And let’s take this a step further into the realm of magic, as understood by the great anthropologist Sir JG Frazer:

Sympathetic magic, anthropologically speaking, is magic in which you enact in miniature what you want the gods to perform on a larger scale. You urinate — or as Shakespeare more delicately puts it, go to look upon a bush — so the gods will pour down their rain upon you.

That kind of magical thinking — sympathetic magical thinking — is what the boy is instinctively doing in this Farmers rooftop parking commercial, while the Farmers rep thinks it’s gravity that throws a large car way up in the air..

To be honest, my money’s with magic and the boy.

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Farther yet, and we come to the Matryoshka principle, in which Russian dolls are contained (‘nested”) within dolls within dolls:

And now consider this commercial featuring vans nested within vans:

Sir Winston Churchill was playing a brilliant variant on this Matrioshka principle when during a BBC broadcast in October 1939, he said:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.

DoubleVision: two troubles with religions

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — religious violence and sexual abuse scandals from a perspective grounded in comparative religion ]
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Two images from my feed a couple of days ago, similar enough that they make a (visual) DoubleQuote:


The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood


WaPo, Sri Lankan government blocks social media and imposes curfew following deadly blasts

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The first image above comes from an article in the Atlantic about child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic priesthood and accompanying cover-ups by the church hierarchy.

  • The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood
  • The abuses are horrific.They are horrific, horrific.

    My grouse here is that articles such as this focus on the Catholic Church, although Billy Graham’s grandson claims the situation is similar if not worse among Protestants; sexual abuse of spiritual authority and cover-ups are also found in so-called “sects” such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in other religions altogether:

  • Vice, Billy Graham’s Grandson Says Protestants Abuse Kids Just Like Catholics
  • The Atlantic, A Secret Database of Child Abuse
  • Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine, Sex in the Sangha … Again
  • And if that’s not enough — consider this list of non-religiously specific sources of sexual abuse the Feeney Law Firm, LLC encounters in its practice:

  • Feeny Law Firm, Sexual Abuse and Assault Lawsuits
  • **

    The second image above is from a Washington Post piece of April 22nd, about “the aftermath of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of people” in churches and hotels across the island. The coordinated attacks were claimed by ISIS, but appear to have been locally planned and executed.

    Executed: what a word!

    My plea here is simple: that extremists should cease targeting followers of other religions in the names of their own various religions.

    As I’ve noted before, attacks here in the US and abroad have included:

  • The Gurdwara (Sikh temple), Oak Creek, WI, 2012
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC, 2015
  • The Tree of Life and New Light synagogues in Pittsburgh, PA, 2018
  • The Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, NZ, 2019
  • and violent extremists can be found claiming affiliation to these religions:

  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • **

    Violence in the name of religion — whether personal violence as in sexual abuse or political violence as in the case of terrorism — is both human and deeply abhorrent. Understanding how widespread the human urge to violence in fact is will tend to put our recriminations against any particular religion into a clearer perspective. Religions, too, can benefit greatly from acknowledging, and not hiding, the shameful skeletons in their various closets.

    As David Ronfeldt would say: Onwards!

    A running commentary on Thucydides

    Saturday, May 18th, 2019

    [ posted by Charles Cameron — originally posted on post-online by Katherine Long ]
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    Knowing the Zenpundit blog-circle’s interest in all things Thucydides, I’m delighted to be able to introduce Katherine Khashimova Long, guest-posting here with a piece she wrote on Athens and, well, running.

  • KKL’s original posting is here
  • Zenpundit’s Thucydides round-table is indexed here
  • _______________________________________________________________________________________

    notes from: athens: a running commentary on thucydides

    article by katherine long, originally pub’d september 2014, © 2019 Post-
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    For a city-state that invented the sport of distance running (cf. Battle of Marathon), Athens displays a surprising antipathy towards runners.

    It’s a summer evening—sun setting behind the Parthenon; al fresco hubbub in cafes; awestruck tourists; chattering cicadas; the whole nine yards—and we’re jazzed about doing a run so historic it would make any ivied Classics department proud: from the base of the Acropolis to the port of Piraeus, five miles southwest, along the route of the wall. This is THE wall: the Thucydidean wall—the one that was the spark for the whole shebang called the Peloponnesian War; the wall that will be discussed in every military strategy class until the end of time—but we have a problem! We don’t know what direction Piraeus is in.

    The next, wholly unanticipated problem: No one will tell us. “You’re running to Piraeus? ON FOOT?!” (Shock, awe, opprobrium, etc.). A man kindly directs us to the nearest bus stop, where we can catch the 40 to Piraeus because “please,” he chuckles, “my children, it is too far to walk, let alone run.”

    It is not. It is five miles.

    Eventually we find the way, navigating off a laconic gesture—“Piraeus? Over there.” The run, while not exactly scenic—the view is foreclosed apartment blocks and graffiti-ed benches—awakes within us the flame of history and for a few glorious miles we are running with the ancient Athenians, running to defend the city walls, to defend the spirit of democracy and the Periclean majesty of our Sacred Rock and to get those murderous Spartans until we are stopped dead in our tracks. A woman, taking issue with our running attire, specifically my shorts and Patrick’s bare chest, screams in Greek while trying to pull down my shorts to cover my lower thighs and gesticulating ferociously at Patrick. So we’re basically like “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya,” but she’s left us with a frightened, frenetic energy that becomes harder and harder to shake over the next two miles—a cloud of tradition and respect that dogs us through the city.

    We’re dashing along the sidewalk, dodging spindly little café tables, and Athenians walking their spindly little dogs, and glares from spindly little women, and it becomes harder and harder to think—no, harder and harder not to think, to disentangle thoughts from action and from one another. It’s overwhelming, this city, packed to the brim with the detritus of a few hundred centuries and the acquisitions of the present generation; this city that never throws anything away but keeps it embalmed and enshrined, a testament to the glory of its citizens—an antique shop or a rubbish heap, take your pick—tumbling gently towards the sea, prompted now and then by earthquakes and financial crises to slouch even further in its worn, comfortable chair.

    God! What we wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh air, an Alcibiadean vinegar to cut through the soup of stodgy self-indulgence.

    We keep running, and running, and running, and a week later we find ourselves running in the hills of the Mani Peninsula, a handful of miles away from the city formerly known as Sparta and now known as Sparti, though it’s really just two streets and a flat place in the road. We never go inside because, what’s the point? We’re here for the cliffs and the trails; the goat paths lined with cobblestones meandering between one-room churches and sandstone monasteries, recent relics, only a few centuries old; pirouetting around brooks; dodging olive trees; slip-sliding over a carpet of eucalyptus leaves; whispering through the tall grass; always with the sea, far below, lapping against the rocky coast, to guide us. No monuments, no walls, no half-standing temples to the gods’ munificence. Just our breathing—in, out—in, out—and the sound of pebbles skipping down the trail as we pass. We’re machines now, arms and legs working thoughtlessly.

    What do you think about when you run? That’s the wrong question. I run in a void; I run in order to acquire a void, Murakami said. What don’t you think about when you run?

    We come to a valley-in-miniature, a wide crevasse, an indentation between two spiraling cliffs filled with pine and cypress shrubs and laded with damp. It’s dark and quiet, except for the whooing of doves, and so still. Even the wind has stopped. Nobody but us. Us, and whoever came before us. They’re in the glade too— there, and there!—heroes or helots, hoplites or who knows—whoo-WHOO, who say the doves—all of us there, in halcyon days.

    Here’s magic!

    Friday, May 17th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Krishna’s flute, evoked by a commercials videographer’s eye — brilliant! ]
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    Let me remind you again: real magic is simplicity itself:

    Especially if you are a Hindu with strong devotion to Lord Krishna, but even so if you are secular, or the holder of some other faith or practice — there’s magic in this simple hand-gesture, conjuring the flute with which Krishna lures the lovely Radha to his side:

    Photo: Jeremy Hunter

    Simplicity is the essence of elegance!

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    And since this is a series on advertising and magic — what, you might wish to know, is the advertising connection here?

    Well, “to borrow a leaf from his bio, photographer JEREMY HUNTER began his career in advertising — as a television creative, working for Young and Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and Bates, and winning a number of international awards in Cannes, Venice, New York and Los Angeles along the way.

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    Earlier in this series:

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  • Advertising series 01: Music
  • Eros, the Renaissance and advertising
  • Authentic, spiritual magic!
  • The magic of advertising or the commercialization of magic?
  • I’ve got about a dozen more posts to go, and already this is shaping up to be a terrific series — keep your eyes out for further installments!


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