About that Van Gogh DoubleQuote

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — Van Gogh, Rilke, El Greco, Von Kármán. Hokusai, Jakob — rich correspondences between singificant items in widely separate disciplines ]

My friend Steve Engel suggested this variant on my personal favorite DoubleQuote — the one pairing Van Gogh with Von Kármán — and as a lover of Rainer Maria Rilke I very much appreciate his suggestion, which bridges painting and poetry as my original DQ brdges arts and sciences:

SPEC DQ Gogh Rilke Steve Engel


I’ve also featured that particular van Gogh painting in another DQ, this one showing the sky as painted by El Greco and Van Gogh:

SPEC DQ greco gogh

El Greco was first among my loves in painting, and I’ve long thought that the differences between how El Greco sees the sky and how Van Gogh sees it could stand in for the differences between religions — you don’t see Van Gokkites attacking El Grekkites in museums on account of the different visions of their preferred painters, and if we could view religions as visionary rather than prescriptive, taking from them what a poetic, metaphoric, non-literal, non-fundamentalist, non-reductionist reading would approve, we might be a little farther on our way towards interfaith harmony, and away from religiously-sanctionable violence.

I’m thinking here of St Francis‘ meeting with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil, and more recently Thomas Merton‘s meetings with Buddhist contemplatives, Sufis and the like..


Here’s the Von Kármán / Van Gogh DQ, which I value in light of Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as a clear bridge between one of the crucial dualities of recent centuries — the needless and fruitless schism between the arts and sciences, which has given rise not only the rantings of Christopher Hitchens and his less elegant disciple Bill Maher, but to such other matters as the Papal condemnation and “forgiveness” 359 years later of Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage‘s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Andrew White‘s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in ChristendomW, and CP Snow‘s The Two Cultures:

karman gogh


And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:

SPEC-DQ-Hokusai-fractal v 2.0 minikozy92

On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four

[ following parts 1, 2 and 3 with a fourth ]

Back in my student days, I used to have a three dimensional tic-tac-toe board, 4 x 4 x 4, made of plexiglas sheets with holes drilled in them, and using colored golf-tees for markers. I could play pretty well on that board, but these ones would drive me nuts — whether for tic-tac-toe or for HipBone / Sembl.

with a chaser:

And that’s what I call a DoubleTweet.

PetersenGraphEmbeddings wolfram

On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three

Following up on two previous posts on graph-based design: Preliminaries and Two dazzlers


Here are two old HipBone boards that have the curious property of looking very different while being, in fact, topologically identical. Moves played on either board will feature the same set of links — although, given the visual impac ts of proximity and distance, they may “feel” very different to the players themselves:

Petersen graph boards

I call them the Pentagram and Mercedes boards, for what I trust are obvious reasons. They are both based on versions of the Petersen graph, and I’m grateful to Walter Logeman and Miles Thompson for introducing me to them.


One of the vivid differences between my childhood memories and present experience has to do woth the time when the table, the place where food or whatever was, was above my head.

Of course, the table was flat — but it was flat above my head, and I had to reach up into that unknown flatland to grab what I could. Unless of course there was a tablecloth trailing over the edge of the flat, down towards eye-level, in which case.. voila!

Hence my ongoing notion that something tasty might be literally above my head, and my associated excitement. Hence, too, my excitement at the prospect that tasty ideas might also be above my head, and that I might reach up into unknown intellectual flatlands — or pull them down to my own level with a tug of the intellectual tablecloth.


That may sound foolish, but it’s entirely in line with Eric Drexler’s advice — and Drexler published the first scientific paper on molecular nanotechnology [.pdf] in 1981.

Here’s what Drexler has to say about reading scientific journals:

Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.

Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you – instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.


Okay, I’m in over my head as they say.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of something called, I guess, an amplituhedron, a (relatively) newly discovered mathematical object that has the world of physics all excited:


Here’s another, titled for some reason “droplet”.:


Neither of those is anything I could conceivably use to come up with a HipBone or Sembl board, is it?

But get this:


This is another way of looking at the same corner of mathematical physics — one of over a hundred diagrams in the same paper– and here are the two “lesser” diagrams that caught my attention and made me think back to the Petersen graph boards earlier on today:

twistor-diagrams- scientists discover a jewel

Now my itch is to figure out what use the “filled” and “open” nodes in these two graphs might serve in game-playing terms, and how on earth to interpret in game terms the complex weavings of the colored lines in the larger image / board.


And hey, while we’re at it, Here are the Wolfram variants on the Petersen graph — striking, aren’t they?

PetersenGraphEmbeddings wolfram

Food for thought is food for play.



Metamap of the relationships between analogy, assemblage, cognition and so on

Cousin Metamaps

Toiling away on a project like Sembl can be lonely, so I was chuffed this week to make an acquaintance with Metamaps – or more particularly, Ishan Shapiro, one of its founders – and to discover some shared heritage.

Sembl is a descendant of the Glass Bead Game, and its purpose – or one of them – is to foster collaborative sensemaking. In its first form the game aspect of Sembl dominates its role as a sensemaking tool. But part of the reason I adopted this mission to bring Sembl into being was that I’ve been disappointed by every single mindmapping tool I’ve ever tried – because I want to be able to handcraft my own connections between nodes. For me, generic linking is a major limitation of most mindmapping software because the juice of a story is in the quality – and the nuance – of the relationships between the nodes. So my plan for Sembl has always included a de-gamified version, for personal or collaborative non-linear storytelling.

I was pretty excited to discover Metamaps, because it’s almost exactly the mindmapping tool I’ve always wanted. Then – thrill! – I learned that Metamaps was also inspired by the Glass Bead Game. By my reckoning, that makes Sembl and Metamaps cousins :)

Of course, my first exploratory exercise in Metamaps was Sembl-related, mapping the relationship between analogy-making, assembling and cognition, and their effects. Here’s the result:

Metamap of the relationships between analogy, assemblage, cognition and so on

I’m sharing a static PNG here because I wanted to show it with all the relationships visible. But (assuming you have requested and received access to Metamaps) you can see – and adapt! – the live version on the Metamaps site.

Pooh bridge

PR Beckman tweets on bridges and analogy

[ this post is for Cath Styles, who has been thinking bridges ]

Pooh bridge


My blog-friend PR Beckman, on a roll, has been tweeting Octavio Paz and Martin Esslin.

I’ve taken Beckman’s tweets out of 140 characters and put them back into paragraphs, and given a little more context to some of them, but greatly though I admire Octavio Paz and much though I have puzzled over the Theater of the Absurd, I wouldn’t have run across these particular passages if I hadn’t found them in my Twitter feed today. Important.


Octavio Paz, Children of the Mire: Modern Poetry from Romanticism to the Avant-garde:

Analogy is the science of correspondences. It is, however, a science which exists only by virtue of differences. Precisely because this is not that, it is possible to extend a bridge between this and that. The bridge does not do away with distance: it is an intermediary; neither does it eliminate difrerences: it establishes a relation between different terms. Analogy is the metaphor in which otherness dreams of itself as unity, and difference projects itself illusively as identity. By means of analogy the confused landscape of plurality becomes ordered and intelligible. Analogy is the operation nby means of which, thanks to the play of similarities, we accept differences. Analogy does not elimiate differences: it redeems them, it makes their existence tolerable.

Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, pp 419:

the Theatre of the Absurd is concerned essentially with the evocation of concrete poetic images designed to communicate to the audience the sense of perplexity that their authors feel when confronted with the human condition

and 428:

The realization that thinking in poetic images has its validity side by side with conceptual thought and the insistence on a clear recognition of the function and possibilities of each mode does not amount to a return to irrationalism; on the contrary, it opens the way to a truly rational attitude.


Let me add a quote of my own choosing, this one from Winnie the Pooh:

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

Illustration: Original, 1928 Illustration Of Pooh, Christopher Robin and Piglet Could Fetch Over $200K

sacred bridge over a river

Peace is a bridge

Crafting an entry for the Peace App competition, I came to see the extent to which peace depends on stereophonic thinking – or dialogue in the radical sense deployed by Paulo Freire, David Bohm and so on. It didn’t surprise me – Charles (Sembl’s progenitor) is a kind of peace activist, intervening as he does in the realm of religious violence and global conflict. But for this competition I fine-tuned into the consonance of ‘sembl thinking’ and the project of working for peace and justice.

As it happens Sembl didn’t win, so I here record my thoughts on Sembl and peace-building.

My point may be summed up in the metaphor ‘peace is a bridge’.


Peace is a bridge. Los Angeles County Museum of Art

It’s not as simple as you think. (It seldom is, right?) Partly, the insight is that it’s important to find a way to meet between two opposing sides. In the middle of the bridge you can see both sides equally. That’s the obvious part.

Less obvious but equally important to the peace mission is that when you cross all they way over, you gain a new perspective on where you came from. The kicker is that you don’t actually have to even concentrate, specifically, on the opposing sides, in order to come to new understandings of that conflict, the social structures and historical legacies that fuel it. To foster peace, a bridge doesn’t have to cross the front line; it can go anywhere.

As Charles is wont to say, in Sembl every move is a creative leap. It’s about playing with concepts – diverting your mind in order to come to a some new understanding of what happens in relationships – especially those involving difference or conflict. To illustrate, here are some examples from my recent games:

  • The notion that the military is invincible can be used to sell cigarettes and support for war alike; in the context of a Christian culture it draws power from the story of Jesus’ resurrection, fuelling a sense of righteousness.
  • Children are always drawn into war – in these examples their food is rationed and they are used to advertise cigarettes for sailors; in real life they are also directly, horrifically, involved – as in the recent Peshawar attack.
  • We take care of soldiers, inside and out – as well as all the resources that go into weapons and armour and directly serving warfare, there are plenty more resources deployed to indirectly support it, including the psychological support offered by and required of women and children. What a waste.
  • Thinking more broadly about conflict, difference and Otherness, negotiating relationships can be challenging – whether personally, through diplomacy or culturally, through immigration – and in every case, hospitality has its limits.

Aside from any particular insights that this diversionary approach to peace-building generates, as a method it’s a bit magical. For better or worse, most people prefer to be in control of their own learning, to assimilate new information in their own way, if and when and how they like. Presented with a worldview in stark contrast with their own, it’s difficult for anyone to instantly or simply adopt it. And if a peace offering feels disciplinary in any way, it will generate resistance counterproductive to the mission.

Sembl is not pinpointedly concerned with peace and justice, but to my mind – and in my experience – that’s exactly where and how it intervenes. It allows players to find their own way, to build their own bridge.

c 13 brain

An early representation of the mind at play, Sembl-style?

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — tracking the prehistory of the HipBone / Sembl Games ]

Mind diagram

Those familiar with my HipBone Games, and Cath Styles’ Sembl, know that the boards are node-and link diagrams, aka graphs, and that ideas are played in the nodes:

Lotus board, from the Museum Game, and WaterBird board, the standard HipBone game board

Lotus board, from the Museum Game, and WaterBird board, the standard HipBone game board

I have previously posted a number of examples of “ancient” boards which utilize the same mode of annotating complex ideas:

The kabbalistic Tree, Oronce Fine's Four Elements, and a Trinitarian diagram

The kabbalistic Tree, Oronce Fine’s Four Elements, and a Trinitarian diagram

The image at the head of this post interests me even more than these, since it is clear that the “board” here is inside the head and mind of the “player”.

In the terms used to describe a variety of games in the Brahmalaja Sutta of Hinayana Buddhism, this would be called an “akasa” game, since it is “played by imagining a board in the air”.

c 13 brain