Monday, December 27, 2021

Ruminations 100(2) (The Year of Olokun; the Body as Thing and Idea and as Body): Looking Back on 2021 in Epigrams and Aphorisms


Pix Credit; Mr. Putin HERE; Mr. Obama HERE


Eyo Olokun masquerades at the Eyo Festival in Lagos, Nigeria

 For the last several years, and with no particular purpose other than a desire to meander through reflection, I have taken the period between Christmas and New Years Eve to produce a s summary of the slice of the year to which I paid attention through epigrams and aphorisms.  It follows an end of year  tradition I started in 2016 (for those see here), 2017 (for these see here), 2018 (for those see here), 2019 (for those see here); and 2020 (for those see here).   

At the start of this year I noted, in passing on the Annual Oracle of the Ifa practitioners of Cuba, that this was to be the year of Olokun (The Orishas Speak: The 2021 Letter of the Yoruba Association of Cuba (Letra del Año para el 2021 de la Asociación Yoruba de Cuba) and My Preliminary Interpretation).

Olokun is effectively ungendered, or multi-gendered--Olokun is male or female or male-female, or not male or female or male-female. Olokun "is." He can be revered as the head of all of the manifestations of divinity connected with water and is thought to guard vast wealth at the bottom of the seas where Olokun takes residence. But that is the essence of Olokun--dark, submerged, the holder of treasure, androgynous or gender multiple.  The Patakis speak to Olukun's sense of mutual respect but also of his temper in the face of affront.

"Awa ntoro ilosiwaju lowo Olokun" (We seek prosperity from Olokun); and this year it is not coming. 

And, indeed, the year proved to be just that, a year of longing for things that could not be, of of rage for the things that had befallen. This was a year of submerged and violent temper, of the breaking of things, and people, and of the fluidity of people, places, things, and events. That rage proceeded from the top as well as form the bottom. It was a year of confinement--and of passion. It is the spirit of the oceans and the subconscious--and also the year that plague became institutionalized and its practices deeply embedded in the consciousness and practices of social ordering. That that produced rage--submerged for the most part, but rage all the same --chained and unchained, and of storms and tempests.  But it was also a year of binding. Populations confined, economies bound, and for those willing to bear its chains, the great wealth of the oceans, expressed not just in the fabulously expensive boats of those who managed to profit through global confinement, but those as well who forge and maintain the chains that now bind those who produce their wealth (material wealth, as well as the wealth flowing to those weave the narratives that bind collectives). And around all of it--rage. 

And it is in that spirit, the spirits of 2021, that the epigrams and aphorisms that follow are offered. In this part 2 we look to the bodies filled with rage or causing it. We consider 2021 through the lens of bodies abstract and incarnate. This year was one in which the collective body was made more solid by AI, and in which ideas and principles became more likely to be buried in the bodies of those who used them; it was a year in which one continued to see abstractions made flesh and flesh made abstract. It was also a year of the body as ventriloquist dummy, and of the dummy as the fetish through which rage could be channeled, or life distilled. Lastly, it is the body as decorative object surrounded by ideas as enhancing decor and death and memory as itself decorative as well.

1. Abstraction must be made flesh; humans have made this a principle they follow religiously; humans comprehend truth only when imprinted on or displayed as the bodies of those put forward for those ends.

Jeff Bezos showed off his ripped torso during a yachting break in St Barts where he was spotted smooching his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.  The Amazon founder, 57, proved he's been putting in time in the gym as he relaxed in the hot sun on the boat with friends to celebrate the holiday season during their Caribbean trip on Friday. It seems Bezos, 57, who purchased a $78million estate in Hawaii in November, has settled into his new aloha lifestyle, as he boarded the boat in a pink and red bathing suit covered in Hawaiian flowers. He accessorized with shades and a white feather necklace. . . Bezos, who is estimated to be worth $210billion, is the second richest man in the world after Tesla owner Elon Musk, who recently knocked him off the top spot with a fortune of $276.2billion, according to Forbes. Bezos has made several highly-publicized donations since stepping down as CEO of Amazon in July, including to the Obama Foundation and Baby2Baby. (Alyssa Guzman, "EXCLUSIVE: Buff billionaire! Jeff Bezos, 57, shows off his VERY muscular physique in pink Hawaiian shorts as he packs on the PDA with Lauren Sanchez on a yacht in St. Barts," Daily Mail (25 December 2021)).

2. To predict is to govern; prediction requires only an abstracted aggregated body; the translation of predictive analytics onto the bodies of the modeled masses requires politics; it is the essence of the new form of imposing rules on the bodies of subjects within political communities

 Even at the outset of Covid-19, the unwisdom of lockdowns guided mainstream epidemiology. When the Wuhan region of China imposed harsh restrictions on Jan. 23, 2020, Anthony Fauci questioned the move. “That’s something that I don’t think we could possibly do in the United States, I can’t imagine shutting down New York or Los Angeles,” Dr. Fauci told CNN. He likely had the scientific literature in mind when he advised that “historically, when you shut things down, it doesn’t have a major effect.” What caused the scientific community to abandon its aversion to lockdowns? The empirical evidence didn’t change. Rather, the lockdown strategy originated from the same sources the WHO had heavily deprecated in its 2019 report: speculative and untested epidemiological models. The most influential model came from Imperial College London. . . So why did public-health authorities abandon their opposition to lockdowns? Why did they rush to embrace the untested claims of flawed epidemiological modeling? One answer appears in the Johns Hopkins study from 2019: “Some NPIs, such as travel restrictions and quarantine, might be pursued for social or political purposes by political leaders, rather than pursued because of public health evidence.” " Phillip W. Magness and Peter C. Earle, "The Fickle ‘Science’ of Lockdowns: Experts foresaw before Covid that the strategy would fail. The authorities embraced it anyway," The Wall Street Journal (19 December 20'21)). Of course when the Trump Administration evidenced misgivings they were mocked by the intelligentsia into compliance. (Discussion HERE: "Simulating Politics in the Shadow of COVID-19: " 'like the school nurse trying to tell the principal how to run the school'").

 3. Successful economic activity is increasingly a function of the personal celebrity of those who front the enterprise; it is not the value of the product or servuce offered but the celebrity of those who "vouch for" that product or service that adds value.

The Change Co. seemed like the perfect company for Colin Kaepernick’s SPAC to buy. The California lender focuses on minority borrowers underserved by traditional banks, a snug fit with the former National Football League star’s social-justice activism. . . But a deal ran aground last week over a peculiar issue: Mr. Kaepernick’s reluctance to stump for the merger on live television, people familiar with the matter said. . . Special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are blossoming. There are artificial-intelligence SPACs, green-energy SPACs and even at least two SPACs doing deals with
sellers of outdoor cooking equipment. Celebrity SPACs are especially fertile. Shaquille O’Neal, Sammy Hagar, Alex Rodriguez, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and former House Speaker Paul Ryan each has a SPAC. The pitch to investors is that their star power, social-media following and financial contacts will help the company succeed. The high-wattage fundraising is controversial; Securities and Exchange Commission chief Gary Gensler called out celebrity endorsements in a critique of SPAC marketing earlier this month and cautioned against “misleading hype.”. . .Such an appearance would have been out of character for Mr. Kaepernick, who has never spoken about the issue in such a forum and has granted few interviews. Instead, he has cultivated his image through his social-justice initiatives and scripted appearances, most notably an advertising campaign with Nike Inc. and a six-part documentary about his childhood that ran on Netflix Inc. this fall. (Liz Hoffman and Andrew Beaton, "Colin Kaepernick SPAC Deal Collapses, Testing Celebrity Halo: Former quarterback’s reluctance to stump for merger on live television proved stumbling block for deal" Wall Street Jurnal (24 December 2021)).

4. History appears to be built on the bodies of the willing, especially if they are dead--the ventriloquist's dummy of the present.

“A decisive Russian military victory here in 1709 allowed Moscow to dominate much of this country for nearly three centuries. If Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to pull it off again with the tens of thousands of troops he has amassed around Ukraine, he will have to reckon with people like 39-year-old archaeologist Anatoliy Khanko. . . Mr. Putin has described Ukraine as an artificial country glued together by Soviet leaders and named Poltava, some 100 miles from the modern border, among historical Russian lands that he says were wrongly cleaved from Moscow’s control. The city lies on the main highway westward from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, to Kyiv, the capital. But there are thousands of veterans in this region alone, and while the powerful Russian army would likely overrun Ukrainian forces, holding the territory would come at a huge cost, Mr. Khanko said. A recent national survey by a Kyiv pollster showed that one-third of Ukrainians are willing to take up arms if Russia launches an all-out war. “I know what I am fighting for, but how will Putin sell it to Russians when tens of thousands of graves appear across the country?” Mr. Khanko said. “For what?”. . . The information war started 300 years ago,” she said, citing the production of paintings, engravings and statues glorifying the Russian victory. The battle was a defeat for Ukraine, she said, but later generations continued the fight to this today. The museum last year opened an exhibit detailing what it calls Russian myths about the battle. “For Putin, the mythology of the Battle of Poltava is the foundation of the idea that we are one nation,” said Oleh Pustovgar, a Poltava historian. “It is important for Russia not to let Poltava out of the brotherly embrace.” After Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist last month said his country could send troops on a training mission to Ukraine, Russia’s embassy recalled the battle. “We would like to remind Mr. Hultqvist that he is not the first military leader in Sweden who is trying to intimidate Russia with the power of his heroic army by planning to send his military to Ukraine,” the embassy wrote on Facebook. Poltava, a quiet provincial capital of around 280,000 inhabitants, saw a surge of patriotic activism after 2014 that was sparked by a revolution that toppled a pro-Russian president and the subsequent war." (James Marson, "Where Russia Once Triumphed, Ukrainians Prepare to Resist Putin: Poltava is among the areas that Putin says were wrongly cleaved from Moscow’s control," Wall Street Journal (26 December 2021)).

5. Ideas do not die, but when they are reduced to no more than tattoos, art painted onto the bodies of those credited for them or those who embrace them, they become small indeed; if they die with the body can they be reborn on another or is their reproduction something else again? 

"Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was slammed on Twitter after she and her wife, Amy Eshleman, posted a video wishing a 'joyous Kwanzaa' to all who celebrate. 'Joyous Kwanzaa, Chicago!' Lightfoot said in a video shared online. 'The seven principles of Kwanzaa guide us to unity and cooperation as we work to uplift and protect our neighbors.' . . . She said the holiday's seven principles - self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith - serve as a reminder for how Chicagoans should treat each other and their community. . . . The pair, who also used the holiday video as an opportunity to promote
COVID-19 vaccinations, were criticized by Twitter users who cited the crime wave ravaging Chicago and Lightfoot's alleged failures as leader. . . Others criticized Lightfoot for promoting a holiday which was founded in 1966 by black nationalist Dr. Maulana Karenga, who was later convicted of torture and served four years in prison. . . . Karenga and two others were convicted in 1971 on charges of torturing and falsely imprisoning two black women. A report in the LA Times on the case said: 'Deborah Jones said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.' Although he denied the charges, Karenga served four years in prison.(Natasha Anderson, "'Is this an SNL skit?' Lori Lightfoot and her wife are ridiculed for wishing Chicago a 'joyous Kwanzaa' - the African-American celebration founded in 1966 by black nationalist who was convicted of torture," Daily Mail (27 December 2021))
6. And the people gathered together and said, "let us make a collective of ourselves in our image and after our likeness, but an image that is the ideal of our likeness and spirit made flesh; and let this ideal of ourselves, our collective selves, have dominion over us, that which we have made in the image of our ideal; and the people gathered did create the collective in their own image, in the image of the person they the collective; the people formed this collective person, its aggregated self, out of the silica of the land and breathed into its nostrils of the spirit of technology with the genius of analytics; and the collective person became a living soul.

"Researchers in China say they have achieved a world first by developing a machine that can charge people with crimes using artificial intelligence. The AI “prosecutor” can file a charge with more than 97 per cent accuracy based on a verbal description of the case, according to the researchers. The machine was built and tested by the Shanghai Pudong People’s Procuratorate, the country’s largest and busiest district prosecution office.(Stephen Chen, "Chinese scientists develop AI ‘prosecutor’ that can press its own charges: Machine is so far able to identify eight common crimes such as fraud, gambling, dangerous driving and ‘picking quarrels’, researchers say; Prosecutors in China already use an AI tool to evaluate evidence and assess how dangerous a suspect is to the public," South China Morning Post (26 December 2021)).

"Researchers in China say they have achieved a world first by developing a machine that can charge people with crimes using artificial intelligence. The AI “prosecutor” can file a charge with more than 97 per cent accuracy based on a verbal description of the case, according to the researchers. The machine was built and tested by the Shanghai Pudong People’s Procuratorate, the country’s largest and busiest district prosecution office. . . Soon the AI prosecutor will be able to recognise more types of crime and file multiple charges against one suspect once it is upgraded. Shi said in a paper published in the Management Review journal: 'The system can replace prosecutors in the decision-making process to a certain extent.' Some AI technology already exists in law enforcement but this would be the first time it is involved in pressing charges. In Germany, image recognition and digital forensics are used to help with caseloads, while China uses a tool known as System 206 to evaluate evidence, a suspect's potential danger and the conditions for arrest.  But the system has no role in the decision-making process and does not suggest sentences. (Jack Newman,  "China develops AI 'prosecutor' that can identify 'dissent' and press charges for common crimes 'with 97% accuracy', Daily Mail (27 December 2021)).

7. History is sometimes written on the bodies of historians.  

"A Russian court on Monday added two more years to a 13-year jail sentence for historian Yuri Dmitriev, in a sex abuse case that his supporters say was trumped up to punish him for uncovering mass graves of Stalin's Gulags. . . Dmitriev was initially sentenced to 3-1/2 years and due to be freed in November 2020 because of time served. But weeks before his release the Petrozavodsk city court in Russia's northwestern Karelia region abruptly added a decade to his term. . . Dmitriev's supporters say his case is retribution for exposing Stalin's crimes, including the 1937-1938 Great Terror when officials estimate at least 700,000 people were executed. Dmitriev found a mass grave containing thousands of bodies of people held in the Gulags, the Soviet prison camp network. The Soviet state disavowed Stalin's repressions after the dictator's death in 1953, but some still revere him for leading the country during its World War Two victory. Rights campaigners accuse Russia's authorities of blocking efforts to account fully for Soviet repression. Memorial, a rights group founded by Soviet-era dissidents, has said the accusations against Dmitriev were groundless. Memorial itself faces the threat of being shut down at the behest of state prosecutors who accuse it of disobeying laws requiring groups to register as "foreign agents". The U.S. embassy last year condemned Dmitriev's long jail term, describing it as a setback for human rights and historical truth in Russia. The Kremlin has said it is not involved in his case." (Alexander Marrow and Anton Kolodyazhnyy, "Russian court extends jail term for Gulag historian to 15 years," Reuters (27 December 2021))
8. If people desire something with enough passion, a magical fulfillment is elusive; the sacrifice of people's bodies on the alters of their desires does, however, produce magic of sort, with a physical certainty.
Pix credit HERE

"Commercial airlines around the world canceled more than 4,500 flights over the Christmas weekend, as a mounting wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant created greater uncertainty and misery for holiday travelers.Airline carriers globally scrapped at least 2,401 flights on Friday, which fell on Christmas Eve and is typically a heavy day for air travel, according to a running tally on the flight-tracking website Nearly 10,000 more flights were delayed. Commercial air traffic within the United States and into or out of the country accounted for more than a quarter of all the canceled flights over the weekend, FlightAware data showed. . .Despite the uncertainties and grim news around the world, millions of Americans carried on with travel plans through a second pandemic-clouded holiday season. Moses Jimenez, an accountant from Long Beach, Mississippi, flew to New York with his wife and three children, even though the latest torrent of coronavirus cases dashed their hopes of catching a Broadway performance of "Hamilton" or visit some museums. "Hamilton" was one of a dozen productions to cancel shows this week as cast and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Museums were scratched from the family's itinerary because many now require proof of vaccination and the two younger children are ineligible for the shot. Instead, Jimenez, 33, said his brood will make the best of roaming the city's streets and parks, while also seeing relatives and friends. "We just wanted to get out of the house, really, get the kids out to the city for Christmas," Jimenez told Reuters on Thursday at New York's LaGuardia Airport." (Arriana McLymore,"Thousands of flights canceled globally as Omicron mars Christmas weekend," Reuters (25 December 2021).

 9. Before it begins and after it ends, a human life exists outside of itself--the significance of which is encoded in memory, longing, and expectation of others--even the forgotten in the forgetting become powerful symbols of the space that memory avoids; that which is remebered and forgotten is always outside the self.

"Kathy Ryan, director of photography: "For 'The Lives they Lived Issue, we assigned the artist Abelardo Morell to photograph the shoes of some of the significant cultural figures who died this year. Morell was known early in his career for his beautiful and pristine photographs  that left you with an eerie sense of presence, as if someone had just left the room, He went on to known for his work with camera obscura, and in some ways this project takes him back to the kinds of pictures he was making early in his career. 'No ideas but in things,' as William Carlos Williams wrote." ("2021: The Lives They Lived Issue: Remembering Some of the People We Lost this Year," New York Times Magazine(26 December 2021); quote at p. 8 ("DMX; "his music seethed with aggression and the kind of pain Black men rarely get to air in public." Ismail Muhammad (ibid., p. 14): Rosalind Cartwright,"She wanted to understand the dreams of divorsing women," Kim Tingley (ibid., p. 17); Beverly Cleary, "She was a troublemaker as a child and created Ramona Quimby for other mischievous kids," Sam Anderson (ibid., p. 20); Rennie Davis, "He was one of the Chicago Seven, he traded activism for enlightenment," Benoit Denizet-Lewis (ibid., p. 18); Larry King, "He didn't want to die, but he did want to talk about death," Jazmine Hughes (ibid., p. 23); Brigitte Gerney, "New York knew her as the 'Crane Lady' but she never let herself be defined by the accident that gave her the nickname," Irina Aleksander (ibid., p. 24); Janet Malcolm, "Sher could be harsh in her judgments but wrote with a deep understanding of human frailty," Sasha Weiss (ibid., p. 26); Mudcat Grant, "He sang out against racism in the field," Rowab Ricardo Philips (ibid., p. 29); Ndakasi, "A life in three viral photographs," Michael Paterniti (ibid., p. 34); Colin Powell, "He was a lifelong fixer of problems, but George W. Bush was the one he couldn't solve," Robert Draper (ibid., p. 38); Sally Miller Gearhart, "A radical lesbian feminist, she helped build a haven without men in the California redwoods," Maggie Jones (ibid., 36); and then "The Shoes they Filled" section (ibid., pp. 40 set seq.)).

10. Books, like the people who collect them, tend to find their highest value as decorative objects.

At the turn of the millennium, Reid Byers, a computer systems architect, set out to build a private library at his home in Princeton, N.J. Finding few books on library architecture that were not centuries old and in a dead or mildewed language, he took the advice of a neighbor across the street, the novelist Toni Morrison. Ms. Morrison “once famously said if there is a book you want to read and it doesn’t exist, then you must write it,” recalled Mr. Byers, 74, in a video chat from his current home, in Portland, Maine.The project stretched over a generation and culminated this year in a profusely illustrated, detail-crammed, Latin-strewn and yet remarkably unstuffy book . . .  Mr. Byers coined a term — “book-wrapt” — to describe the exhilarating comfort of a well-stocked library. The fusty spelling is no affectation, but an efficient packing of meaning into a tight space (which, when you think of it, also describes many libraries). To be surrounded by books is to be held rapt in an enchanted circle and to experience the rapture of being transported to other worlds. So how many books does it take to feel book-wrapt? Mr. Byers cited a common belief that 1,000 is the minimum in any self-respecting home library. Then he quickly divided that number in half. Five hundred books ensure that a room “will begin to feel like a library,” he said. And even that number is negotiable. The library he kept at the end of his bunk on an aircraft carrier in Vietnam, he said, was “very highly valued, though it probably didn’t have 30 books in it.” (Julie Lasky, "How Many Books Does It Take to Make a Place Feel Like Home?: There’s a reason that some people won’t let go of their physical books — and a new term for it: ‘book-wrapt.’" (New York Times (24 December 2021); in print under the title "The Shelf Life of Home Libraries," NYT Sunday Business Section p. 10  (26 December 2021))




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