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Face to Face, Google-style reSemblance

January 16th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl.net ]
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Google, apparently, has an app that some people, apparently, believe responds to a selfie with a same-looking portrait from one of the world’s great museum collections. It is, in short, a Sembl-like app for faces. Uh-oh.

The Washington Post titled their piece on the topic Somewhere in the world, there’s a painting that looks like you. And Google will find it.

Though the Google Arts & Culture app has been available since 2016, the find-your-art-lookalike feature was released with its latest update in mid-December. …

“We’re always trying to figure out cool and interesting ways to get people talking about art, and this was one of them,” Lenihan said.

In recent days, scores of people — including plenty of celebrities — have shared their often hilarious results on social media, helping Google Arts & Culture climb the App Store’s charts to become the most downloaded free app.

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I thought most of the examples shown disproved the assertion in the WP post’s title. TThe museum items Google suggested didn’t look anytthing like the selfies people had submitted. My apologies. Until I saw Sarah Lyn Rogers‘s tweeted example:

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Sembl! That really does strike me as a fine case of resemblance!

Hanuman’s ID — and a Landsat view of Sita’s Bridge

January 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — how do you check the biomeetric data for a god? ]
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India’s ID system, run by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), issues ID cards linked to biometric data, and containing in each case a twelve-digit Aadhaar number that uniquely identifies the individual in question. More than 1.19 billion Indians have registered for Aadhaar numbers, over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. That’s pretty impressive.

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Even more impressive — the god Hanuman was issued an Aadhaar number, and the card itself records Hanuman’s number as 209470519541 and his date of birth, improbably, as January 1st, 1959.

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Hanuman is no ordinary Indian. He is the monkey god who met lord Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, and became his best friend and faithful ddevotee:


Lord Rama is always held close in Hanuman’s heart
and the constant focus of his meditation.

When Rama’s beloved wife, Sita, was abducted by the demon (rakshasa) king Ravana and taken by him to his palace in Sri Lanka, Hanuman crossed the strait between India and Sri Lanka to rescue her.

Secularists doubted this story was history, until a Landsat-5 photo of the straits revealed a series of now-sunken mini-islands passing from India to Sri Lanka, the stepping-stones of Hanuman:

It is almost impossible for secularists to deny the reality of Hanuman’s epic crossing in light of this satellite evidence, surely?

Surely.

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Methinks I do protest too much.

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Bob McKerrow, wayfarer, wrote:

“Imagine being on one of those legendary islands of ‘Adam’s Bridge’ or ‘Rama Setu’ of the Ramayana fame! Many centuries ago, this 30 km stretch was a natural bridge connecting Sri Lanka to the southern tip of India; now, the ocean has reclaimed its own, leaving only a chain of sprinkled islands. On December 9, 2011, I was standing on the second island of the chain of limestone shoals between the Rameshwaran Island, off the south-eastern coast of India’s Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed, this ‘bridge’ is a critical part of the Sri Lanka’s past.

His map shows how the “bridge” — known recently as Adam’s Bridge, but traditionally as Sita’s Bridge, for obvious reasons — bridges the India-Sri Lankan gap:

“If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed..” the wayfarer writes.

If indeed. And with an ID card and Aadhaar number to match, maybe?

Poet to painter, my twin: Jan Valentin Saether

January 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Jan Valentin Saether, requiescat in pacem ]
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Jan Valentin Saether, priest and painter extraordinaire

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Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland wrote, bless her:

I am devastated! On the 11th of January at 11:45 pm my beautiful partner-in-insanity, Jan Valentin Saether, left this planet. Safe journey back to the Andromeda Galaxy, my sweet, precious, wonderful husband. I love you so much

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Jan Valentin Saether was — it is hard to claim such kinship in the midst of so many others with their own griefs — my twin, poet to painter. We both regarded our respective arts as gifts to be given onwards, and emphasized creative innovation within continuing tradition.

I am so sad.

This runs deep — and meanwhile I am doing fine, writing other unrelated things and allowing my grief to well up from time to time, between paragraphs, between breaths.

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Such lovely artwork — two pieces here featuring the vesica piscis, among the most elegant of mathematical and significant of archetypal forms. My first example comes from his book, The Viloshin Letters, which I helped him with in the early days. Here the vesica shows the bursting forth of the radiance into ordinary life — key to all of Jan’s work:

The second, perhaps subtler work, was indeed first called Vesica and now Epiphany. Here the breakthrough is shown in shadow-and-light — chiaroscuro — of which Jan was such a master:

The actual work is wall-sized — depending on your wall.

I am in awe of this painting.

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Today another dear friend, Mitch Ditkoff, beauttifully and powerfully told the story of his father’s death on FB, and wrote in conclusion:

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that someone close to you has died: your mother, father, grandparents, child, or best friend. And there’s also a good chance you have witnessed something profound in their passing, whether you were physically with them at the time or not. Be willing to share that story with others! It is not ego to tell this story. On the contrary, it’s the dissolution of ego – your opportunity to remind another person, without preaching, just how sacred each and every breath is.

I would like to tell my story of Jan Valentin Saether, to say how much I loved him, learned from him, and felt when I heard of his passing. And to mention the sacredness of breath.

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I must have met Jan sometime in the earlyn 1980s. He was teaching in Malibu, I was living in Malibu in a friend’s house, and saw some paintings of his in a folio, one of a naked woman reaching towards the viewer — and I thought he was a rock-n-roll-star type, not only not interesting but downright unpleasant.

Next thing, I was over at his place for an evening, and discovered a fellow artist, a fellow admirer of CG Jung and the mundus imaginalis, a fellow lover of the sacred in every moment. We were still talking when his then wife brought the pair of us breakfast.

Our parallel views on the sacred gifts of the arts, and the need to combine traditional and contemporary means of expression in service to the sacred — it forged a friendship, a kinship, a twinning between us.

Later, Jan asked me to take over his Sunday lecture series while he went to Oslo for a month or so. A few Sundays later, I was in mid sentence in a lecture on poetry when Jan came into the room. I got up out of the chair and offered it him, and he sat down and continued my own half-formed sentence seamlessly, turning the metaphor from sacred poetry to sacred art.

Later still, he invited me to teach creativity at Bruchion — the school of the sacred his studio in Culver City had become, named for the area in ancient Alexandria that housed its celebrated library. It was during one of my talks on creativity there that I began to play around — on the table-tennis table — with the elements that would decades later become my HipBone Games.

Jan Valentin Saether was the priest — of the Ecclesia Gnostica — who celebrated my marriage to Annie, mother of my sons.

Jan was my last and best fellow artist and friend — my twin.

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Years ago I wrote a paragraph about his paintings:

Jan Isak Saether’s work bears little resemblance to current fashions in the world of art. At first glance perhaps, it reminds us of the works of the old masters. But as we peer deeper, we sense a curious quality: Saether’s work does not bring us the easy, settled feel that we associate with the old, but a disturbing hint of drama, of the unexpected. It is as though one of the old masters had rejoined us in this latter part of the twentieth century, and after studying and absorbing all that the great moderns from Kandinsky to Francis Bacon had to offer, has turned his mind and heart to the stormy times in which we live, and out of that thunderous darkness has generated lightning. Recent currents and fashions in art have brought us visions of what it is to be human that are by turns bleak, comic, deranged, and superficial. In Saether’s work, by contrast, we find a portrayal of our humanity that contains both glory and shadow. Saether is no throwback to the past. He is a Velasquez who has learned from Bacon, a true student of both modern and ancient masters who now turns his hand to the great synthesis. It is often said that we can recognize the true artists because they give us new eyes with which to see the world, and create new worlds for us to see. Jan Saether’s work faces the future as only a work rooted in the past can, and we are the richer for his courage in bringing his deep dreams into our lives.

That captures my admiration, but not my love.

My love for Jan Valentin Saether can only be told by the loss, the grief I shall feel in my remaining days.

Each breath we have is sacred.

I shall miss him, in my quiet way, furiously.

Scripture in defense of a flat earth

January 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an antique KJV quote with modern relevance ]
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An assistant and friend in my recovery unit is a Flat Earther. I’m always eager to learn more about non-conventional worldviews, so I was glad when he offered me a video in proof of his worldview — and stunned when, a couple of minutes into the video, I found this verse from Timothy 6.20:

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

Scripture mocking science in service of the flat-earthers?

It’s a popular message, apparently, in some literalist circles, whereas others note that the word translates the Greek of Timothy’s original “gnosis” — elsewhere always rendered “knowledge”.

No matter, false is false, whether it be science or knowledge.

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If science is false — and we know that individual claims within scienve are falsifiable –the lunar and martian surfaces are probably in sound stages in Burbank, and Armstrong took only a very short walk for mankind.

For what it’s worth, the Hare Krishnas are sure about the moon landing being a hoax, too. But they say the moon is beyond the sun, so if the landing were real, it would probably have beeen on the Rahu planet, which most of us haven’t heard of, but which is responsible for eating the sun during eclipses:

In Hindu tradition, Rahu is the severed head of an asura called Svarbh?nu, that swallows the sun causing eclipses.

To my mind, that’s a more complex business than NASA’s explanation.

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But back to the flat-earth, non-Rahu idea, all I can say is:

http://theworldisflatcomics.com/

The Passion for Freedom Quartet

January 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — slyly smiling ]
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London had an exhibit titled Passion for Freedom:

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The idea was to support freedom of speech. But then some rabbit and squirrel toys from the blissful land of Sylvania were encroached upon by the ISIS-flag-waving MICE-IS terrorists, and the British police felt the tableaux showing them —

— might be problematic, so they intervened, freezing the free speech in its tracks:

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background. “Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquility. Until Now,” reads the catalogue note. “MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hardline version of sharia law.”

The decision to remove the work from Passion for Freedom came after the Mall Galleries consulted the police, who raised “a number of serious concerns regarding the potentially inflammatory content of Mimsy’s work”. The gallery cited a clause in the exhibition contract which allowed it the right to request removal of an artwork.

The Guardian, Artwork showing Sylvanian Families terrorised by Isis banned from free speech exhibition

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Of course, ISIS can’t afford to let a bunch of MICE-IS clowns represent them without some come-back, so today Jihadology, Aaron Zelin‘s brilliant counter-terrorism website, brought news of ISIS-in-India’s response: a thirteen-page theological wallop named, appropriately enough, Passion for Freedom

— In this ponderous tome, Muhammad Miqdaad asserts:

Passion for freedom is an innate nature of Human beings. There is a hunger for freedom inside us; no sane person will accept others’ slavery willingly. For freedom, we’ve fought wars in all ages; so this is the case today and will remain the same in the future.

The citizens of Sylvania would no doubt agree.

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And so their story, disallowed from featuring in a freedom of speech exhibit, has now been liberated, and may be purchased as a baby book:

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Let Freedom Ring!


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