Better in Wales than India

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"One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. ⁣⁣ To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle (Photo 1)."⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Not many know that this castle located in Wales houses the largest private collection of Indian artefacts in the UK. It "is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century. There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi." The stolen riches include a pair of slippers belonging to Tipu that is made from red velvet and leather embroidered with gold thread, and large curved toes (photo 2) and Tipu’s magnificent state tent (photo 3)⁣⁣ ⁣ Source: The Guardian" The East India Company: The original corporate raiders" by William Dalrymple ⁣

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I’m in High Tory mode these days but I find it absurd to ask for the recovery of Mughal artifacts when both India & Pakistan disrespect that historical period.

When Pakistanis can speak decent Dari and Babri Masjid is rebuilt then we can discuss the colonial encounter and its aftermath. Until then there are much better things to complain about.

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By request — the ouroboros game

Callum Flack saw my recent post here and wanted to see examples of the Ouroboros board in use — so this post is for him, and Ali Minai too if self-reference interests him — I’m guessing it does, unless computer science has moved so far ahead since Hofstadter wrote Godel Escher Bach that it no longer applies..

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How to explain the ouroboros? It’s the ancient and ubiquitous symbol, found earliest, perhaps, in Pharaonic Egypt, of a serpent biting its own tail:

More recently, it’s a popular image in alchemy

Self bites itself. And that’s a pattern worth watching.

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Wikipedia tells us, quoting a Harvard study by Michael Witzel:

in the Aitareya Brahmana, a Vedic text of the early 1st millennium BCE, the nature of the Vedic rituals is compared to “a snake biting its own tail.”

Then there’s this example from a medieval Indian scripture, the Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad:

The divine power, Kundalini, shines like the stem of a young lotus; like a snake, coiled round upon herself she holds her tail in her mouth and lies resting half asleep as the base of the body

That’s ouroboros.

There’s a marvelous moment in the film Silence of the Lambs when the young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, asks the psychiatrist and serial killed Hannibal Lecter:

You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you – why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.

That’s ouroboros.

The paradox of Epimenideas, the Cretan philosopher who declared “all Cretans are always liars” which St Paul mentions in his Epistle to Titus, is ouroboric.

Artists, too, can take an interest in such things as hands that are drawing hands drawing hands — a double ouroboros (MC Escher)..

or pipes that are not pipes (Magritte):

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Anyway, here for any who are interested, are some instances of the one-move self-referential Ouroboros board in use:

I think you’ll see why this New Yorker title jumped out of the page at me:

Writers like ’em!

I really liked these two examples, carried by political activists — the first on a back-pack:

and the second on a placard — totally surreal, bearing no relation to the political event which was being protested:

That, too, is an ouroboros.

Nancy Pelosi used a weird ouroboros the other day, saying:

The logo of 8chan, home of the image-board where the extremists of the alt-right meet and plot away from prying eyes is another double ouroboros:

Here’s one from Hofstadter’s book, Godel Escher Bach:

And finally, here are five instances collected by the writer William Safire:

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I hope you like these, and find your own — here, again, is the empty Ouroboros game board in case you wish to drop your own examples into it!

Enjoy!

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Modi has failed us but at least he put the Muslims in their place

Indian elections are a marvel to behold. The rules stipulate that no citizen should have to travel more than 2km to vote. So the state goes to the voters. Carrying oxygen tanks, election officials scaled the Himalayas to erect a voting booth in a village in Ladakh, 4,500 metres above sea level. In western India, a polling station was set up for the lone human inhabitant of a wildlife sanctuary. In eastern India, officials trekked for an entire day to reach the sole registered voter, an elderly woman, in a remote village. By the time voting closed on Sunday, some 600 million people had cast their ballots, 10 million of them for the first time.

In 2019, the world’s biggest election was much more than a ritual of democracy. It was the most consequential vote in the lifetime of a majority of Indians alive today. India under Narendra Modi has undergone the most total transformation since 1991. This election has, in effect, been a referendum on whether the republic retains its founding ideals or, if Modi wins another term – and exit polls released on Sunday show him winning with a comfortable majority – it leaps to a place of sectarianism from which return may be close to impossible.

Five more years of Narendra Modi will take India to a dark place

Is this election where the angry Bharat finally dispatches his ailing Mother India?

Continue reading “Modi has failed us but at least he put the Muslims in their place”

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Analysing The Election Podcast –

I woke up this morning to commentary on Episode 38:

We had a bit of a twitter exchange though I find it odd that Aashish zeroed in on V by claiming that she was misinformed.

I do not understand a community where the daughter is called Asifa Bano and the father Muhammad Yusuf are *not* Muslim. People who pray to Sai Baba retain Hindu nomenclature and would be understood to be Hindus.

To somehow *disregard* Asifa’s Muslim identity in an increasingly religiously identified India is irresponsible to say the least and to somehow only raise an ethnic angle is only part of the story.

Continue reading “Analysing The Election Podcast –”

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Why I find it difficult to debate Hinditvas + liberal Zionists

It gets tiring that I have to constantly abuse Islam & Pakistan simply to avoid the allegation that I’m a double agent. Kabir actually makes a valid point; if India and Indians want to crow about their secular liberal democracy then they have to live up to those values.

Pakistan is not a secular liberal democracy nor is Iran. They are both Islamic Republics, which to varying degrees, reject the values of the Enlightenment. Now I may disagree with that and may want otherwise but this is the constitutional fiber of both countries therefore judging them on a different set of liberal Western values is not even wrong.

Before discussing Shariah or liberal democracies in the case of Irano-Pak; we would have discuss the type of government that they have chosen to have. Britain is technically a theocratic monarchy with an aristocratic upper house so it’s not necessarily that such types of government are incompatible with liberalism or democracy for that matter.

Continue reading “Why I find it difficult to debate Hinditvas + liberal Zionists”

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Magic and advertising

This is to alert BrownPundit readers to a series I’ve begun on Zenpundit, my other punditry-posting place. It’s about Ioan Couliano’s argument in his book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance that the Renaissance art of Magic was essentially a matter of conjuring desire in the recipient by means of visual imagery, and that the Art has been revived with great success in the present day, in the form of commercial advertising.

Roughly speaking, then, Magic is the defendant, modernity-secularity-technology is the prosecution team — who don’t bother to call witnesses because, m’lord, it’s plain obvious that magical thinking is superstitious nonsense — and a bucket-load of TV commercials form the evidence presented by the defense.

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But wait a minute — here’s magic:

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Whether you’re secular or a devotee, that photographic image is magical in that a simple hand-gesture conjures up a flute. The flute isn’t there, objectively speaking — and yet there’s a flute, Krishna is quite obviously playing it, and indeed its mellifluous power of enchantment has drawn the lovely Radha to his side.

About Krishna’s flute — you may know far more than I, but at least I can point to Denise Levertov and Edward C Dimmock’s poem in Songs in Praise of Krishna — from the Bengali:
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Radha is terrified on her way to the forest

O Madhava, how shall I tell you of my terror?
I could not describe my coming here
if I had a million tongues.
When I left my room and saw the darkness
I trembled:
I could not see the path,
there were snakes that writhed round my ankles!

I was alone, a woman; the night was so dark,
the forest so dense and gloomy,
and I had so far to go.
The rain was pouring down —
which path should I take?
My feet were muddy
and burning where thorns had scratched them.
But I had the hope of seeing you, none of it mattered,
and now my terror seems far away. . . .
When the sound of your flute reaches my ears
it compels me to leave my home, my friends,
it draws me into the dark toward you.

I no longer count the pain of coming here,
says Govinda-dasa

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And what does all this have to do with advertising?

My response is that the Krishna and Radha in this photo were captured, and Krishna’s flute conjured, by the eye of a pro commercial guy:

JEREMY HUNTER began his career in advertising – as a television creative, working for Young and Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and Bates, along the way winning a number of international awards in Cannes, Venice, New York and Los Angeles. During this time he worked with some of Britain’s most iconic film directors – John Schlesinger, Ken Russell, Tony Scott, Dick Lester, Nic Roeg, Richard Loncraine as well as Oscar-winning Editor Jim Clark and photographer Terence Donovan.

That’s the resume of a contemporary magician.

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In case you’re interested, the posts in my Magic and Commercials series on Zenpundit to date are:

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 — but more and more evidence keeps turning up in favor of the defense.

Magic, court observers seem to think, is likely to be vindicated.

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Browncast episode 37: Arabian Linguistics, pre-Islamic Arabia

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…).

Picture for al-jallad.1In this episode we talk to Dr Ahmed Al Jallad, Sofia Chair of Arabic Studies at Ohio State University. Dr Jallad is an expert on the languages and scripts of pre-Islamic Arabia. We talk about the origins of Arabic (most likely in the Northwest of the peninsula and not in the South as previously believed), the development of the Arabic script (most likely from Nabatean Arabic) and the inscriptions of the region (In the 6th Century CE the ones that do reference a religion mostly reference Christianity, not the pagan gods of pre-Islamic Arabia that dominate our vision of the “era of Jahiliya”..

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Moves in the Glass Bead Game

I came across two images recently which seemed closely parallel, and yet distinctly different.

When I saw this image:

it immediately reminded me of this one, which I’d seen a few hours earlier:

That’s the first clue as to how to play the Glass Bead Game: it’s as simple as this reminded me of that.

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The two images are very different, yet very similar.

Each is an image with a strong Catholic resonance — one image is of a statue of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, the other is an image of a chalice, the cup which Jesus passed to his followers on the night before his crucifixion, and which Christians to this day drink in their various communion services, remembering him.

And both images are very visibly shattered — the shattered statue representing the devastating impact of jihadist suicide-bomber attacks on churches across Sri Lanka, the shattered chalice representing the Catholic Church, “broken” by priestly sexual abuses, and in urgent need of reformation.

In playing Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, at least in the variants that I have devised and which I call the HipBone family of games, the move from one of those images to the other is a move. And the nature of the move is their resemblance across a cognitive distance.

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Hesse’s book was written in 1943, a time when elite thinkers — and Hesse was certainly elite — were more comfortable than we are today with sheer erudition — and he gives as an example of a move in the game, a player who had been studying —

…the rhythmic structure of Julius Caesar’s Latin and discovered the most striking congruences with the results of well-known studies of the intervals in Byzantine hymns…

— and here’s another move for you, one of my own. Little did Hesse know it, but I myself was studying up on Church music one day, and dis=covered a book by a nun, Jane-Marie Luecke OSB, entitled:

Measuring Old English Rhythm: an Application of the Principles of Gregorian Chant Rhythm to the Meter of Beowulf

Not only is Sister Jane-Marie’s book itself a monograph length move, buy my association of Hesse’s move in his book and the good Sister’s monograph — one reminded me of the other — is also a move, and a most fortuitous one, starting in the pages of the book I devoted ten or more years of my life to, and ending in a discovery in an area of my own scholarly interest — and now, in my proud ownership of Sister Jane-Marie’s slim blue volume.

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Remember, mnthe scope of the game allows moves to be made from the whole range of human intellectual production:

The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

If you can think it, imagine it, jot it down, sketch it, hum it, or represent it as an equation, you can make a move of it, linking it to some other move already in play, or proposing it for others to link to.

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Music is notated in a score, and in the music of ideas which Hesse’s game proposes and my HipBone Games attempt to make playable, my suggestion is to notate such moves as simple graphs — in the form of two named nodes with an edge connecting them.

Here’s a board I’ve devised to allow you to notate a move with two concepts and a linkage between them. I call it my DoubleQuotes Board, and it represents the smallest board on which a HipBone Game can be played — either solo or with a friend:

You can then assign your move to to a node in your game, and link it to another in a way that is rich in content at both ends, and which features rich connections between them, across some conceptual distance — perhaps across distinctly separate disciplines.

Here’s a DoubleQuote between Theodor von Kármán’s Vortex Street, and Van Gogh’s painting of the night sky:

From the dynamics of flow nto post-impressionist modern art — that’s quite a leap! And yet the two are so close, they might as well be twins!

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So — the challenge:

What memory-leap — what associative leap, what creative leap can you come up with that most neatly and beautifully links two conceptually distant but richly associated concepts? If you feel like it, you can identify them in the Comments section, or email me at my gmail address — my handle there is hipbonegamer.
You’ll be playing one of my playable variants of Hermann Hesse’s Nobel-winning Glass Bead Game. And if you have the skill-set to drop your move onto my DoubleQuote board and post it, so much the better.

Here’s that game board again:

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Oh, and for Ali Minai in particular, given that self-referential paradox must be an issue in AGI — here’s a board for the self-referential one-move game, with one of my poems in it:

Wanna try?

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Enough — until next time..

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Pakistan of the Provinces

We’re currently doing a podcast that is exploring Pakistan and China; I’m really shocked by what I’m hearing.

I predicted after last year’s Pakistan election that the Provincial Parties (which were dynastic) would set off against the military backed Imran Khan aegis (Madinat ethics).

I’m quite impressed by how Pakistan is transforming. I’m also a bit taken aback that it seems a Saffron wave is taking over India. Karan Johan is the last man standing for Islamicate culture in Hindustan.

Finally in Bilawal’s iftar; it’s interesting the Baloch and Pathan parties did not attend. Sindh & Punjab are vested in Pakistan but the periphery not so much (no word on MQM).

Bilawal also needs to lose 10-15kg if he wants to look Presidential whereas Maryam looks transluscent (she really lives up to the Kashmiri stereotype).

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