Monthly Archives: August 2016

Persuasion, What Me Worry?

MAD-Magazine-Trump

Mad Magazine – used without permission

Trumpbert

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert cartoons, has been blogging about Donald Trump’s persuasion abilities for nine months. Adams styles himself as an expert on persuasion too, so it is no accident that he highlights Trump because he has his own books about persuasion to sell.

Adams is bold in his estimation of Trump’s abilities, believing, or having come to be persuaded, that Trump is one of the greatest of all persuaders, and, the proof of this will be articulated by a landslide election victory over Hillary Clinton. The gist of Adam’s theory of persuasion is drawn from his thin but supple comprehension of decision-making theory in cognitive and social psychology. Supple is a key qualifier because for Adams persuasion at its highest Trumpian levels is an all-purpose explanatory theory, even when it topples into tautology; ‘one is persuaded because one is persuaded, after all, every preference is produced by persuasion of some sort.’

There is a lot of research about the element of emotion and identification to be found in preference-making, decisions, and choice-making. Additionally, with the popularization of Kahnemann, Haidt, and Tsversky, and with other treatments of cognition “in practice,” and with prolix internet venues for virtual argumentation, more than ever more, people are aware of various cognitive biases, the fallacies of informal logic, and, other tactical means for making one’s own point.

Adams makes the distinction between 2D and 3D persuasion, with the latter being the realm where masters, such as Trump, practice the jedi arts of persuasion. Apparently, these advanced capabilities can arise naturally or be taught. Presumably, the capabilities operationalize a model concerned with emotional construction, but Adams is silent about specifics while he traffics in the broad brush provided by Trump’s ongoing demonstrations of efficacy.

Suckerbert

Adams is crafty! He knows that the psychology of preference-making, etc. will survive the falsification of his own folk-psychological prediction. He is one of the most successful cartoonists in all of human history. His prediction’s failure won’t change that fact. And, he knows should Trump win by landslide or squeaker, the hundreds of acolytes he has persuaded to praise his theory, will claim for Adams, victory.

(Note too: a theory of persuasion is only robust of it also can account for a person not being persuaded. Adams does not, wisely, go “there.”)

There are three aspects, among many, worth highlighting. First, the Dilbert blog has brought together over the last six months a commentariat that mostly consists of Trump fanboys. Adams was compelled to ban overt racists and Nazi sympathizers. Nevertheless, his blog collects together all the unusual suspects of the largely pro-authoritarian alt-right. The blog’s sociological mix is fascinating, and, at the same time it horrifies by showcasing the animosity and triteness of white male victimhood. Trump is their guy!

Second, the blog catalogues all the comeback lines of argument used to beat back opinions/facts contra-Trump. Many of Trump’s advocates on the Dilbert Blog style themselves to be hyper-rational, even objective, and so, for such advocates, support of Trump is a no-brainer. But the actual arguments, albeit repetitive over months, are unintentionally hilarious.

Lobotomybert

Third. Following from this no-brainer advocacy, irony rules the day on the Dilbert blog. Very early on it became obvious that many of the Trump supporters on the Dilbert blog ‘think’ alike on a single matter: ‘we have thoughtfully reached our conclusion, whereas everyone else will be subject, or prey, to Trump’s 3D powers of persuasion.

Reason for me, persuasion for you!

This makes the blog immensely more amusing–well, for me at least. All the dodgy and immature and even shocking commentary brought to bear on behalf of, and take your pick, white supremacy, men’s rights, red pill culture, biodiversity, anti-liberalism, anti-social justice, sovereign segregation, neo-monarchism, anti-feminism, sexism, Nrx, neo-traditionalism, racial segregation, anti-collectivism, (on and on might the litany go,) are each presented as being the product of objective reason rather than each position being the result of the bearer having been at some point suckered into their abject belief by a master of 3D persuasion.

Adams deploys a 3D hedge, but it doesn’t help the Trump supporters in the commentariat because these same supporters are so enthusiastic about the amazing (!) match between their prior support of Trump, and, Adams’s vaunting of their man’s abilities. The hedge is: as far as elections go, 3D persuasion only has to be effective with a portion of the electorate. This clearly doesn’t account for his theory’s lack of explanatory power, but it does open things up for pro-Trump commenters.

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Not Close to the Beginning

artiststephencalhoun.com

This small acrylic painting took me six years to complete.

My project for the near future is to move my artist’s web site to a new hoster and a new domain artiststephencalhoun.com.

Eventually all my various web sites attached to squareone-learning.com will be united at inmotion hosting.

This means I have to decide what to do with the legacy art works. Most of these are not based in mirror symmetries, yet, one of these pieces provoked Deba Gray to begin to fashion my becoming a public, rather than an attic, artist.

Short term, my favorite older pieces will be posted here under the new category, art – legacy works.

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Artist’s Statement, Part II. & III.

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Secondary and Tertiary Contexts and Multiplicities

ARTIST’S STATEMENT (middle section)

II.

I came to this as a matter of my lifelong drive to satisfy my curiosity. This mission demands that I wander, experience, explore, do experiments.

III.

To steep ourselves in a subject-matter we have first to plunge into it.— John Dewey

If you have not experienced a thing, it is not true!— Kabir

The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience.
— Joseph Campbell

Follow the perfume, not the tracks.— Shams of Tabriz

Commentary: My art isn’t post-modern. This doesn’t mean that a post-modern trip is impossible. All trips may be possible. From my personal outlook, there is a cybernetic reaction possible and so I’m doing the only thing I know how to do. What gets read into this counter-normativity my work supposes? Whatever it is, it is tertiary. It would interest me. There are some bridges which could be fashioned. These would join the secondary to the tertiary!

What’s the best explanation of what you are seeing? This is a very hard question.

I’m working a cybernetic formula too. It has three constituents. It would shock and delight me were anyone to figure this formula out from the reflection on experience, or, (easier,) from the background.

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Free Play At Bat

Actions have consequences. Skilful actions have beneficial consequences. Patient, enduring effort in skilfulness of body, speech and mind brings about spiritual progress. Patient, persistent effort in ethics, meditation and study brings about spiritual growth. Patience is a Perfection (paramita) because it is an aspect of Reality, an aspect of Wisdom. The Wisdom of Enlightenment is expressed in the concept of the law of conditionality. The law of conditionality states that everything arises in dependence on conditions. Spiritual progress too arises in dependence on conditions, and in the absence of those conditions it does not arise. We need to patiently and persistently create and put in place the conditions for spiritual growth to arise. This is in accordance with the law of conditionality. – Ratnaghosa

Free Play 8-21_0099

After seven weeks that saw seven games decided by seven runs, the regression shifted. A rout was evoked. This is in accordance with the law of conditionality.

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Zeitgeist, Summer 2016

four-horsemen_zeitgeist

Buddha&Cat

The risk of inner experience, the adventure of the spirit, is in any case alien to most human beings. ~Carl Jung; Memories, Dreams and Reflections

trumpwich

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Artist’s Statement, Part I.

FB-Landing Cage 36x27-Stephen Calhoun

Ongoing, and maybe, never ending project aims to describe what I’m up to, as an artist. In my case, my hope is that the statement unhooks the viewer from its priming effect. My artistic goal hopes to invert the conventional idea that the viewer is supposed to correctly decode the artist’s authoritative objective, itself intentionally encoded in the so-called global unified material object. I do not encode my work with this end in mind, so there cannot be anything but authoritative experiences.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

I.

My art’s aim is to grip the viewer, and then inspire the viewer to seek their own unique discoveries in each piece. The pieces present deep opportunities for visual serendipity by drawing the viewer into experiential, insightful, seeking.

I do not create images to pre-program or encode the viewer’s experience. Each piece is underdetermined up to the point of the viewer’s enactive presence and constructive experience.

The pieces aim to invoke a kind of pareidolia. (Pareidolia–the grasp of order from seeming randomness–is the psychological phenomenon where people see recognizable shapes in clouds, rock formations, or otherwise unrelated objects or data.)

The engaged viewer completes the image’s possible program by virtue of their own subjective and unique experience.

My artistic intention is evoke the truth of spontaneous discovery. Each piece captures an experimental result. The viewer’s unique encounter and seeking completes the experiment.

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The Wonder of Decay

Art of the Collection: The Photography of Rosamond Purcell from Hans Weise on Vimeo.

An Art That Nature Makes, Molly Bernstein’s new film about the artist Rosamund Purcell, has opened, and closes tomorrow. Clearly this will be a must see once the Film Forum in NYC receives its due.

Ms. Purcell doesn’t count as an influence on my own art, although we work in related veins. I’m a naive artist after all! But, I’m relieved one of the world’s finest photographers never became animated by mirror symmetries! Many of her photographs possess qualities worthy of their being cut and re-coalesced.

Still, as it is with most (of us) artists working with photographic set-ups, Purcell is famously a scavenger and collector.

Wunderkammer

Collectors of our sort do end up with their own cabinet of curiosities.

from the article An Eye For Anomaly,

The rotted book, along with the other objects she has amassed in her studio, reflects her fascination with “things that are transitional — between natural and artificial,” as she puts it, and with decomposition’s way of forming strange and symbolic juxtapositions.

Yes. Same rotted page.

Note her comment during this Q&A about randomness. This would be the subject I would engage her on if I ever had the chance. I couldn’t make out the question about kitsch, also a concerning subject.

She’s not in the collection of the CMA. (Shakes head)

No (!) Wikipedia – her books:

Egg & Nest (Harvard, 2008)
Owls Head: On the Nature of Lost Things (Quantuck Lane, 2007)
Bookworm (Quantuck Lane, 2006)
Ricky Jay: Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck (Quantuck Lane, 2002)

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A Year That Made Me

Roxboro-69-IMG_0093

Late during the event approximately half the attendees remained and got together for a memorable photo.

(Susan tells me, “Why would I want to attend a first grade reunion on a work night?”)

Last night I met up with some of my peeps from ninth grade. Jim Duffy reminded me he bought a Peter Frampton LP from the record store I worked at from 1970-1974. But, for everybody else, it was the first time I had encountered them since graduation day in June 1969. Forty-seven years!

Plus there were a few persons who had matriculated to Roxboro from Fairfax Elementary, and this means I first met them in 1960.

It was blast. It made me dizzy. We’re at the age where life brings on the bittersweet, but as more than a few told me, ‘At least I woke up on the right side of the dirt.’ The event occasioned my telling people that twin brother Tim has passed away in 1993. This elicited some moving and warm remembrances. It is amazing how quickly people reconnect and do so warmly and with vulnerability.

Nowadays, Facebook supports the generation of reconnections. Yet, nothing surpasses the fleshy, embodied connection! This is especially so because of the singular impact ninth grade made on me.

Ninth grade at Roxboro Junior High in Cleveland Heights began unfolding in September 1968. I had just turned fourteen. At the time I was a happy-go-lucky, shy, kid who didn’t get the striving thing.

School wasn’t an attractive way to spend time because, as I understood it back then, teachers would just tell you stuff without really telling you the good stuff, such as, how what they were telling you connected up with other stuff.

Ninth grade would end up the one school year (of not too many,) that is etched in my mind for its transformative import. The school was doing a pedigogical experiment called something like, the humanities program. Toward the end of September the head of the program, a rumpled, chain smoking english teacher, James McGuinness met with me in the teacher’s office suite. He sat me down, and brought in a first year teacher, Ron Palladino.

He told Mr. Palladino something similar to:

“Take Stephen under his wing and support in any way Stephen’s quest for knowledge while also helping Stephen organize particular presentations which will verify his learning.”

I don’t know what interactions in the first weeks of school moved Mr. McGuinness to assign to me a personal guide. What next transpired was the only terrific academic year I ever put together.

(Although, when I next attended the private school Hawken, I was a good, not stellar, student–except for cursed spanish class. Still, McGuinness and Palladino had raised the bar impossibly high.)

In retrospect, I recognize how McGuinness had completed a narcissistic circuit–a good thing–and so, ninth grade was my greatest school year.

I’ve had to conjure the equivalent of McGuinness and Palladino over the decades I’ve tenaciously continued to self-direct my learning, exploring, making connections, creating spider webs of knowledge. The moment in September 1968 I experienced support and affirmation for my aspiration about the satisfaction of curiosity was key.

It was also the year of a ferocious dual block set by Mike Baum and yours truly on a muddy field during the last minutes of the fourth quarter in the season’s last football game. This block collapsed the left side of the Wiley Junior High School defense, and allowed Tom Olmstead to scamper into the end zone. His touchdown were the first points Roxboro had scored in five football games. Nobody noticed the block at the time, except for me and Mike. High fives.

Ninth grade was the year Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt came to visit Roxboro, and hang around for most of a school day. It was the year my hormones overflowed while granting no great romantic triumphs. Our social clique was very influenced by our liberal parents; (and thanks for all the good times, Kate, Joan, Sarah, Sara, Greer, Kathe, Dave, David, Paul, my brother Tim, and others–no doubt.) I have sustained a friendship with Kate Kuper since the fall of 1966!

It is really close to impossible to fully explain and describe what it was like to be fourteen in an era easily marked by stretching it between the election of 1968 and the Woodstock Festival of August 1969. Or, alternately stretching the year between Coventry Village and Cedar-Fairmount.

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Thick Now

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Activist Totem

My artist’s statement has been updated.

Goal: make myself thicker!

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Fundamentally Temporary

FreePlay-August5_DSC0052

In any complex string of events in which each event unfolds with some element of uncertainty, there is a fundamental asymmetry between past and future. Leonard Mlodinow

Over the last six weeks, Free Play Softball league has shown six games decided by five runs. As the handicapper, I’m enjoying the regression to the mean. This too shall pass.

taleb

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Creative Fire

In this second volume of The Sparks of Randomness, The Atheism of Scripture, Henri Atlan pursues his investigation of human life, which he grounds in a distinctive intermingling of the biological and cognitive sciences and traditions of Jewish thought. The Atheism of Scripture offers up a paradox: its audacious thesis is that the Word or revealed scripture can be better understood without God. It must be decrypted or analyzed atheistically, that is, not as divine revelation, but in and of itself.

The Sparks of Randomness, Volume 1: Spermatic Knowledge (Cultural Memory in the Present) Amazon

What does it mean to be the being observer?

[General Complexity] draws its epistemological implications from the point of view of the subject who knows: complexity would compose a “new paradigm” (Morin, 1977) or “new alliance” (Prigogine and Stengers, 1979), which is potentially transdisciplinar. Therefore it gives a theoretical account of the properties of self-organization and autonomy of the physical, biological, and social systems from the perspective of the process of their observation. Complexity would express the extent of ignorance of an observer who is unaware of the information of the observed system itself (Atlan, 1979) and the process of “construction” (von Foerster, 1981) of an external object that is unattainable by the cognitive system of a subject. It is characterized more by their own “operational closure” and “internal consistency” (Varela, 1979) than by the faithful representation of the external reality. This approach, going back to the historic Macy Conferences (1946-1953) on Cybernetics (Dupuy, 2000), was widely developed in the 70s since the transition from a “first-order cybernetics” or cybernetics of observed systems (Wiener, 1948) to a “second-order cybernetics” or “cybernetics of observing systems” (von Foerster, 1981). A. Malaina, 2015

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In the Details

Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the Devil TRAILER from Pieter van Huystee Film on Vimeo.

new Film now playing in NYC: Pieter van Huystee’s Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil

The Cruel Beauty of Hieronymus Bosch: 500 Years of Breathtaking Imagery

As for the obvious relationship between Bosch and my own art, the director of the documentary ends his interview at Hollywood Soapbox with this:

He added: “It was important for me that the viewer had always the feeling that you’re there next to the painting. … If somebody came to me after the screenings and said, I’ve seen ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ many times in real, but he says, ‘It always remains on the distance because it is so detailed. And you don’t come close, and you don’t get emotionally attached to the painting if you see it in real.’ So in the film, in the documentary, I have the opportunity to be very close, sometimes to a square centimeter.”

In many ways, Huystee documents the paintings from the vantage point of Bosch. The director is as meticulous a craftsman, working from close-ups and always focused on the details. “The devil is in the details,” he said. “I hope people can reflect on what he was painting. He was not telling us something. You’re telling yourself something by looking at the paintings.

hieronymus-bosch.org

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