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Serpent logic and related

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — where paradox begets form in phrasing, redux ]
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Here for your entertainment and entrainment are some further instances where the tweet doubles back on itself, bites its tail, or otherwise embodies some form of “form” that’s noteworthy in its own right, and possibly indicative of the heart of a problem — think of these tweets as eddies in the flow of things, knots in the wood…

Two arms crossed as in that MC Escher hand-draws-hand piece:

And a net version of the same, aka “tit for tat”:

Speaking of economics, here’s a bit of spiral logic — the economics of spiralling out of control?

And here’s an example of “endless” recursion, as featured in two tweets about “end” times from Barth’s Notes:

and its 2013 equivalent:

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Okay, here are some simple sample opposites. First, the weather forecast for Syria:

— spelled our explicitly by Andrew Stroehlein, who tweeted “Sunny with a chance of cluster bombs…” in response.

That one seems fairly fair, but click on the links yourself to see the nuances in King‘s actual statements.

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Now for some regular serpents’ tails, from the reasonably light-hearted to the heavier end of the scales:

Okay, here are two from Mikko Hypponen, the first of which is frankly outdated, but still fun:

Angela Watercutter caught the tide at just the right moment with her Wired piece, Skynet Becomes Self-Aware: How to Welcome Our AI Overlords:

The time has come. According to the Terminator clock, at 8:11 p.m. Tuesday, Skynet will become self-aware. And humanity will be screwed. Going by canon set out in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, Judgment Day should hit Thursday.

Never mind Mikko, this one’s funny too — if and only if one’s also familiar with Wikipedia, which seems plausible in all cases for those who follow twitter — it wins double-honors in fact, hitting it out of the self-reference ball-park and into parallelism as satire:

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Namarupa, or “name and form”, has to do with parallelisms between a name and its referent — or what zen might call the “finger pointing” and the moon — always fun:

The next one depends on your knowing that the Greek mythological creature known as a Naiad refers to “any of the nymphs in classical mythology living in and giving life to lakes, rivers, springs, and fountains”:

— aptly named indeed.

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We’re almost done — here’s one with a built in time-factor:

It it still there? Aha!

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Finally, this isn’t a serpent eating its tail by itself:

— but it becomes one, I’d suggest, when Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011, retweets it!

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Until next time…

Big Pharaoh: Levels of complexity in presentation

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — Syria, yes, but with a focus on networks, tensions, mapping, and understanding ]
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Binary logic is a poor basis for foreign policy, as Tukhachevskii said on Small Wars Council’s Syria under Bashir Assad: crumbling now? thread, pointing us to the work of The Big Pharaoh. Here are two of the Big Pharaoh’s recent (before Obama‘s “undecided” speech) tweets:

Each of those tweets is non-linear in its own way, but via its implications — we “complete the loop” by knowing that the “mass murderer” is the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad and the “cannibal” is the Syrian rebel, Abu Sakkar, and that Al-Qaeda typically cries “allahu Akbar” after killing Americans, while Americans typically rejoice after killing Al-Qaeda operatives. So these two tweets are already non-linear, but not as complex as what comes next>

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The Big Pharaoh also put this diagram on his blog, and Max Fisher picked it up and blogged it at the Washington Post as The Middle East, explained in one (sort of terrifying) chart:

I’d have some questions here, of course — one about the directionality of the arrows, which only seem to go in one direction — okay for the “supports” and “has nu clue” arrows, perhaps, but surely the “haters” would mostly be two-way, with AQ hating US as well as US hating AQ? There’s no mention of Jordan, I might ask about that… And there are no arrows at all between Lebanese Shias and Lebanese Sunnis — hunh?

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What really intrigues me here, though, is that while this chart with fifteen “nodes” or players captures many more “edges” or connections between them than either or even both of the two tweets above, the tweets evoke a more richly human “feel” for the connections they reference, by drawing on human memories of the various parties and their actions.

Thus on the face of it, the diagram is the more complex representation, but when taken into human perception and understanding, the tweets offer a more immediuate and visceral sense of their respective situations.

And scaled down and in broad strokes, that’s the difference between “big data” analytic tools on the one hand, and HipBone-Sembl approach to mapping on the other. A HipBone-Sembl board may offer you two, or six, ten, maybe even a dozen nodes, but it fills them with rich anecdotal associations, both intellectual and emotional — a very different approach from — and one that I feel is complementary to — a big data search for a needle in a global needlestack…

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But I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point you to Kerwin Datu‘s A network analysis approach to the Syrian dilemma on the Global Urbanist blog. He begins:

A chart by The Big Pharaoh doing the rounds of social media shows just how much of a tangled mess the Middle East is. But if we tease it apart, we see that the region is fairly neatly divided into two camps; it’s just that one of those camps is divided amongst itself. Deciding which of these internal divisions are fundamental to the peace and which are distractions in the short term may make the diplomatic options very clear.

and goes on from there, offering a series of network graphs of which is the fourth:

from which he draws the following observation:

What can we do from this position? If the US decides to pursue a purely military route to remove Assad from power, it will incur the ire of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Shias, but it can do so with a broad base of support including the Syrian rebels themselves, Israel, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanese Sunnis, and even Al Qaeda. However if it chooses a diplomatic route to curry support to remove Assad it must isolate him in the above graph by making an ally out of Russia and/or Iran (assuming that making an ally out of Lebanese Shias would have little impact). Russia doesn’t hate the US but it does hate the Syrian rebels, making it an unpromising ally against Assad. Iran hates the Syrian rebels and the US hates Iran, but the Al Qaeda is a thorn in both their sides, making it a potential though unlikely source of cooperation.

Really, you and I should read the whole piece, and draw our own conclusions.

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Or lack thereof. I’ll give the last tweet to Teju Cole, who articulates my own thoughts, too:

Emptiness and Hezbollah

Friday, July 26th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — food for thought, or empty calories? ]
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Sources:

  • Heart Sutra
  • Hezbollah
  • **

    Pondering.

    There’s definitely a form here, a commutative form, and the Buddhist part is interesting because it asserts some kind of commutation is possible between a datum and its own absence — as though the “created” world of Genesis could be viewed as exactly mirroring the “ex nihilo” from which it arises.

    But the Hezbollah identity? That should be of interest to the Europeans who just made a point of distinguishing between political and military versions of Hezbollah!

    Beyond that, pondering.

    Videos, the counter-nasheed and some dancing girls

    Sunday, June 30th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — further notes from the frayed edges of what’s significant ]
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    Okay, you all know I’m interested in the graphics of terrorism and their symbolism, and only a day or two ago I posted Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality on the two into one phenomenon — well, here’s an addendum:

    **

    The upper image, showing the Jabha al-Nusra logo — Sunni, left — alongside the Hezbollah insignia — Shi’a, right — morphs into the single image in the lower panel, thereby resolving the sectarian conflict in Syria by filmic means.

    The video from which these two shots were taken, alas, was the work product of the US Government, as part of an effort of outreach by the little-known Digital Outreach Team at the State Department, who at the time of writing appear to have 193 videos uploaded.

    The BBC notes:

    According to the Associated Press news agency, the 50-member Digital Outreach Team tweets, posts Facebook updates and uploads video to YouTube in Arabic, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu, in a bid to counter the radical jihadist message. It seems it’s even had exchanges with terror suspects such as US-born militant Omar Hammami, a former member of Somalia’s al-Shabab.

    The two images above were taken from a video titled Secret meeting between Hassan Nasrallah and al-Zawahiri, but the Beeb’s article focused on what it termed a “spoof Al-Qaeda video”, which I’ll call Pharaoh Ayman speaks to the dancing girls for want of a better name:

    The team’s al-Zawahiri spoof opens with a notice that “fizzy drinks should be consumed while watching this production” – a twist on the usual message at the beginning of al-Qaeda videos saying “it is not permitted to add music to this production … Taking the classic preaching-to-camera format, the three-minute clip features a voiceover in which the Egyptian-born militant repeatedly bungles his speech by saying things like: “The butchers, ahem, sorry, I mean the mujahideen”. In the video – issued by the US State Department’s Digital Outreach Team – al-Zawahiri is backed by punkah-wallahs. The clip then cuts to a shot, as though from behind the speaker, to reveal a troupe of dancers performing in front of him.”

    But see for yourselves, punkah-wallas and all:

    For your further Sundance consideration, and from the same studios, you might also like the lowest and slowest nasheed ever recorded.

    **

    Speaking of graphics — coming up on ZP when I have had a chance to read a little more of El Difraoui, reviews of:

  • Beifuss and Bellini, Branding Terror
  • Abdelasiem El Difraoui, Al-Qaida par l’image. La prophétie du martyre
  • Hezbollah and related graphics

    Sunday, May 26th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — insights into symbolism on both sides of the Syrian conflict, including Nasrallah as Dajjal and Pinocchio, Star Trek darkness, more ]
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    I thought it might be instructive to compare the Hezbollah flag:

    with a couple of variants seen recently:

    The version on the left is captioned Syrian opposition activists re-imagining Hezbollah’s logo after absorbing heavy losses in Qusayr. The one on the right is from another image mocking Hezbollah, this one picturing Nasrollah as the Dajjal.

    Note that in the second image, the gun is pointing down — in a sort of “shoot your own foot” gesture, perhaps?

    **

    That second image, with the gun reversed, comes from a portrayal of Nasrallah as the Dajjal (below, left) — the one-eyed figure in Muslim apocalyptic serving roughly the same function as the Antichrist in Christian eschatology (depicted in a popular book cover,found by J-P Filiu, below, right):

    Not also the tire substituting for Nasrallah’s black turban.

    This image of Nasrallah is itself a variant on this one, also portraying him as the Dajjal:

    but without the vampiric attributes and tire-turban of the other version.

    **

    These guys are quick, incidentally — see how fast Nasrallah appeared in StarTrek guise

    **

    Here are a couple more variants on the Hezbollah flag:

    I’m intrigued by the Pinocchio image, which — if I’m not mistaken — features the tire-turban once again:

    It was lying that made Pinocchio’s nose extend itself, and just as the Devil in Christianity is “the Father of Lies” (John 8.44), so in Islam the term al-Dajjal means “the Deceiver”. And see how the gun has turned into a Serpent, complete with forked tongue?

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    Finally, Phillip Smyth has been posting a series titled Hizballah Cavalcade at Aaron Zelin‘s Jihadology blog, and a couple of details caught my eye in what Smyth terms the “official Hizballah martyrdom posters” for Ashraf Hasan ‘Ayyad and Musen Samir Birro.

    As you can see, each of these posters features the Hezbollah emblem on dog-tags, a soldier’s helmet with poppies growing from it, the outline of a white dove, silhouette of a soldier with rifle raised, and the glint of the sun behind it.

    If anyone has a detailed exegesis of this cluster of images to offer, I’d be most interested.

    **

    Hat tips to Mr Orange for pointing me to the Nasrallah Dajjal graphics, and to Aaron Zelin for Jihadology…


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