The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

December 27, 2009

'Magic and War'

(I gave my SVA students a final in-class essay topic - the relationship,
if any, between war and magic. We read Tournier's The Ogre, which I have
always thought is a critical text for understanding the semiotics of
history and violence. In any case, below is my summary of the essays,
which you might find interesting. The class, on magic, art, symbolism,
modernism, and a bit of science, was great to teach - I learned a lot
myself of course.)

War 'magically' wipes out the fundamentals of human morality - it's ok to
kill for example.

The fury of modern weaponry in WWII and beyond appears magical.

War may appear surreal to soldiers, almost magical, as if they're living
through someone else.

There have been mysterious disappearances of soldiers in war, which
frightened minds think may be the result of ghosts.

Children's play and nationalism produce magical feelings which may be
enacted out in war.

Wars magically transform people, who almost magically seem to lose their

Wars may be fought over magical phenomena like witchcraft.

Sun Tzu speaks of deception in war, which is similar to magic; the
battle-field becomes a stage.

The truth of war is (magical) fantasy that must be told over and over

War propaganda affects people almost magically, if it is successful.

Magicians and soldiers have common traits.

The violence of war destroys beliefs in a magical world.

The threat of war creates a desperate need for magical escapism.

War and magic are like Yin and Yang.

Magical disappearing acts and slaughter in war are related; both alter
human lives.

The outcome of war is permanent, the outcome of magic may well be

War is fundamentally scientific, magic is not - they're two sides of the
same coin.

The magic of war is the power it has over everyone.

The magic of war is the power that the people in charge have over other
people's lives.

The magic of war is the illusion of hope that it gives, and the illusory
magical powers the leaders seem to have.

War gives people hope, and that is magical, but it is the magic of evil.

Warfare is uncanny because soldiers don't have a say in what they're
fighting for.

Armies are weird, and armies and at times war can benefit people who
enlist; this weirdness touches on the magical.

The darkest magic is when wars are planned by individuals who see soldiers
as tools or targets.

Taking symbols literally, pushing them into the arena of war, is
horrifying magic.

The Great Wall of China, built to protect the Chinese Empire, is the locus
of magical stories.

Dogmatic religion and opposing theologies lead to war; religions
eventually provoke violence.

There is nothing magical about war's deaths and destruction; war is
tragic, stupid, and depressing.

Magic is a false sense of realism, but through war, dead is dead.

Both magic and war are hard to explain and experience.

Bravery is magical when soldiers fight against impossible odds and
superior weapons.

Wargames on computer, like World of Warcraft, are inherently magical; the
battles use spells and other things not found in real war.

For some, war can be a time of magical thinking and escapism; it can lead
people to think in extremes.

War may enable some people to experience an alternative reality, a
different way of being than they have in their normal lives.

(please listen to these; they owe to taksim, qin, and other forms; it 
amazes me, what an electric (actually electric/somewhat acoustic) oud
can do.)

oud wood thing

to new thing but i was also reacting to oud _taksim,_ and other musics, no
muscle memory, musical kludging. i played electric oud last night and
played oud before last previous night. the instrument is fretless, and i'm
better player SOLO ELECTRIC OUD FAILURE functioning oud benefit hadn't
pickup piezo gamble fifths: the fast oud cura music of the radio. in spite
of the fact that oud was most without doubt introduced dates back and in
spite of the fact that flate ut shame oud are not playing dates and most
the famous oud are not playing shamefully, so all devotion was zyriab. he
is the DEAD SON derived from finishing the tree. in spite of the fact that
first oud dates back to farabi, in spite of the fact that the oud was.

they [hold] in their hands the wood to bind the hands,
they are to be known from the wood to bind the neck .
  - hey dante, meet me in the dark wood some other time -
what when wide wife will wise with wood worn xifz yeti york your
some have wood all the way up until it's lost.
the wood is lost in things like leaves, arcs, KOALA.
there is nothing like wood beyond the wood.
the blood which swells the wood swells for thee,
jennifer crooked head, wood splinter, fall off nikuko head!
nikuko head on crooked, wood broken, neck broken, dangling nikuko head!
  was wood it was wood it was wood
   it was wood it was wood it was wood
   turns MY JUICE  CALLS forth wood for, eating, core-dumping.
  cultures heroin drugs girl onto floor wood while she ties cock
slip, strings unwind or break, wood cracks, the body expands or contracts
bones surrounded by wood, wood surrounded by wood...
is there, wood is there, and the forests!
there is nothing like wood beyond the wood.
there is nothing like wood beyond the wood.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2009 20:30:15 -0500
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Scientists 'Decode' Memory Making

Scientists 'Decode' Memory Making
US scientists believe they have uncovered one of the
mechanisms that enables the brain to form memories.
December 24, 2009

[moderator: the authors of the paper referenced below
are Sourav Banerjee, a postdoctoral fellow with the
Neuroscience Research Institute and the Department of
Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology and
Pierre Neveu, who is affiliated with the Neuroscience
Research Institute and the Kavli Institute of
Theoretical Physics]

Synapses - where brain cells connect with each other -
have long been known to be the key site of information
exchange and storage in the brain.

But researchers say they have now learnt how molecules
at the site of the synapse behave to cement a memory.

It is hoped the research, published in Neuron, could aid
the development of drugs for diseases like Alzheimer's.

The deteriorating health of the synapses is increasingly
thought to be a feature of Alzheimer's, a disease in
which short-term memory suffers before long-term
recollections are affected.

A strong synapse is needed for cementing a memory, and
this process involves making new proteins. But how
exactly the body controls this process has not been

Now scientists at the University of California Santa
Barbara say their laboratory work on rats shows the
production of proteins needed to cement memories can
only happen when the RNA - the collection of molecules
that take genetic messages from the nucleus to the rest
of the cell - is switched on.

Until it is required, the RNA is paralysed by a
"silencing" molecule - which itself contains proteins.

When an external signal comes in - for example when one
sees something interesting or has an unusual experience
- the silencing molecule fragments and the RNA is

Kenneth Kosik of the university's neuroscience research
institute said: "One reason why this is interesting is
that scientists have been perplexed for some time as to
why, when synapses are strengthened, you have the
degradation of proteins going on side by side with the
synthesis of new proteins.

"So we have now resolved this paradox. We show that
protein degradation and synthesis go hand in hand. The
degradation permits the synthesis."

Identifying the proteins the brain needs in order to
cement the memory could ultimately have benefits for
those suffering from memory disorders.

Rebecca Wood, head of the Alzheimer's Research Trust,
said: "Scientists say they have studied nerve cells in
the laboratory and learnt more about how specific
proteins may have a role in areas of the brain that
transmit messages and help us store memories.

"This interesting development could give a greater
understanding of the memory loss experienced by people
with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and lead to
new treatments."

The most recent projections suggest 115 million people
across the globe will suffer from dementia by 2050.

Julie Williams, professor of psychological medicine at
Cardiff University, said: "Our increasing understanding
of genetic risk factors in Alzheimer's is pointing to
the synapses so any new study in this area is welcome.

"Alzheimer's is a complicated disease and it is early
days, but the health of synapses and their activity
levels is becoming an important and interesting focus of


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