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When are look-alikes alike, eh?

Friday, September 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a questiom for Cath Styles and Emily Steiner ]
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It’s my proposal here that look-alikes are in the eyes of the beholder, perhaps more so than other forms of likeness.

Consider:

Do they look like Darth Vader and C3PO to you, frankly — or more like each other?

**

One really does have to wonder how medieval monastics got hold of copies of Winnie the Pooh:

honey-bear-02-600

and:

honey-bear-01-600

With a double hat-tip to the immensely followable twitter feed of PiersatPenn

**

And what about this?

It probably takes some historical knowledge to appreciate the similarities here — the comparison is not entirely visual.

**

Are mathematically or verbally juxtaposable similarities equally subject to human comparative bias?

Not up for debate: three candidates

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a light-hearted, part-musical, part-personal, part-putinesque — counterpoise to the present Presidential electoral season ]
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You wanna make government a barrel of fun? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!
Your Politics Oughtta Be A Groovier Thing? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!

**

Okay, we’ve had a day or two to recover from the first of this year’s Presidential debates, and I’d like to give you a break from the incessant Trump no Hillary no stay home or vote Stein or Johnson or write in or whatever shindig with three possible candidates not on most lists.

One is anonymous. One is myself (ridiculous). And one — the best known of the three, but deceased, alas — plays trumpet, and ran in 1964.

**

No, as far as we know, Vladimir Putin has not expressed a wish for Donald Trump to be President of the US, despite some fraternal noises. Instead, he somewhat cannily answered an unnamed US journalist’s question by wishing she could hold that office (upper panel, below):

Tablet DQ Putin & Abu Walid

So:

Putin’s candidate is, as far as I know, anonymous — though there’s a presumably a journalist somewhere who knows, since she was there at the time, and Putin was responding to her.

**

I probably wouldn’t have given this particular remark of Putin’s a second thought, had Abu Walid al-Masri not wished the same fate on me (lower panel, above).

Here’s how that happened.

I’d been in friendly contact with the noted Australian Federal Police counterterrorism analyst Leah Farrall for a while, when Leah struck up an email correspondence some years back with Abu Walid. The latter was among the first Arabs in Afghanistan, a journalist, a friend of Mullah Omar and bin Laden, and a fierce critic of 9/11. Both Leah and Abu Walid were bloggers, and both deeply interested in the early history and structure of Al-Qaida so, Leah thought, why not talk? And talk they did.

At one point, Leah very kindly invited me to join their conversation. I’m a know your enemy type on my father‘s side (he was a naval warrior) and a love your enemy type on my mentor‘s (he was a monk, and quite the warrior in his own way) — so I wrote to Abu Walid, and he responded:

  • All Things CT, Charles Cameron to Abu Walid al Masri
  • Zenpundit, Abu Walid al Masri to Charles Cameron
  • I don’t see myself as US President any time soon — I’m a Brit born and bred, which would rule me out in any case, and a monarchist at that — but Putin’s comment to the journalist reminded me of my own equivalent in Abu Walid’s response to my letter, and gave me a quiet chuckle — hence this post.

    More significant than my cameo appearance.. Years later, Abu Walid was released from house arrest in Iran. He — now dropping his nom de guerre and going by his original name, Mustafa Hamid — met in person with Leah in Alexandria, amd after months of conversations they produced an unparalleled joint work, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan (Hurst, 2015).

    It is, as I said, without parallel — with a second volume to follow?

    **

    Okay, back to electoral candidates. How about Dizzy Gillespie? Here’s a belated tribute to the candidate who blue-notes outside the lines:

    As blog-friend and jazz-meister Bill Benzon noted recently, Dizzy Gillespie nominated himself. And how!

    When I am elected President of the United States, my first executive order will be to change the name of the White House! To the Blues House.

    Income tax must be abolished, and we plan to legalize ‘numbers’ – you know, the same way they brought jazz into the concert halls and made it respectable. We refuse to be influenced by the warnings of one NAACP official who claims that making this particular aspect of big business legal would upset the nation’s economy disastrously.

    One of the ways we can cut down governmental expenditures is to disband the FBI and have the Senate Internal Security Committee investigate everything under white sheets for un-American activities. Understand, we won’t take no ‘sheet’ off anybody!

    You wanna make government a barrel of fun? Vote Dizzy! Vole Dizzy!

    A Plethora of New(ish) Books II.

    Friday, September 16th, 2016

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Image result for montefiore the romanovs  Image result for Sir Ken Robinson creative schools book  Image result for White world order black power politics 

    Image result for Most Likely to succeed innovation education book  Image result for martin van creveld technology and war   Image result for Tough Liberal Al Shanker

       Image result for Tough Liberal Al Shanker  Image result for mercenaries in the classical world book

    The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson
    White World Order, Black Power Politics by Robert Vitalis
    Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the [….] by Tony Wagner & Ted Dintersmith
    Technology and War by Martin van Creveld
    Tough Liberal: Al Shanker and the Battle over Schools [….] by Richard Kahlenberg
    With Arrow, Sword and Spear: A History of Warfare in the Ancient World by Alfred S. Bradford
    The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein
    Mercenaries in the Classical World by Stephen English

    Long delayed part II.

    Some repeat names in this batch; I have long been a fan of creativity theorist Sir Ken Robinson and eminent historians Simon Sebag Montefiore (Russia, USSR) and Martin van Creveld (War, Strategy) and own many of their other titles. These were easy choices – I’m curious to see how Montefiore’s Romanovs stacks up against the book of the same title by the late Russia scholar, W. Bruce Lincoln.

    Some of these titles are outside my normal genres and political dispositions, but if you don’t read things that you might disagree with you’ll never learn anything new. The Vitalis book on the influence of African-American scholars on the evolution of international relations came highly recommended to me by Daniel Nexon so I thought I’d give it a go. The Shanker book I thought was interesting because Al Shanker was not only instrumental in shaping the teaching profession and unionism, he was a “Cold War liberal” and tough anti-communist of the kind the often bloody trade-union wars between the democratic Left and the pro-Soviet Communists in mid-century produced.

    What are you reading?

    Quick notes on intelligent intelligence, 2

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — on a quote from my fellow whacky Brit, Geoffrey Pyke ]
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    the-ingenious-mr-pyke-cover-smaller

    Whacky? From a short description of the man by his biographer, Henry Hemming:

    Geoffrey Pyke, an inventor, war reporter, escaped prisoner, campaigner, father, educator–and all-around misunderstood genius. In his day, he was described as one of the world’s great minds, to rank alongside Einstein, yet he remains virtually unknown today. Pyke was an unlikely hero of both world wars and, among many other things, is seen today as the father of the U.S. Special Forces. He changed the landscape of British pre-school education, earned a fortune on the stock market, wrote a bestseller and in 1942 convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. He escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers.

    Whacky!

    And for good measure, here’s Jami Miscik on oddballs:

    To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians and give them opportunities to run free. Leaders in the analytic community must avoid trying to make everyone meet a preconceived notion of the intelligence community’s equivalent of the “man in the gray flannel suit.”

    and Reuel Marc Gerecht:

    And the service can ill-afford to lose creative personnel with a high tolerance for risk.

    It’s a sad fact that the folks who are in government, especially in the “elite” services of the CIA and the State Department, aren’t what they used to be. They are, to be blunt, less interesting. There are vastly fewer “characters” -— the unconventional, often infuriating, types who give institutions color and competence.

    **

    Okay, here’s Geoffrey Pyke in his own capital letters:

    EVERYTHING IS IRRELEVANT TILL CORRELATED WITH SOMETHING ELSE

    And why does that interest me?

    Well first, today it corroborates my comment just now on David Barno and Nora Bensahel and the importance of their suggestion that “The Army should also reinstate the requirement for every career officer to develop skills in two specialties.”

    And then second, because I have been saying for a while that:

    Two is the first number

    and quoting along the way Aristotle, Jung, and the tenth-century Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’..

    **

    For these reasons, and with a hat-tip to Bryan Alexander, I cherish the contrarian intelligence of Mr Pyke.

    A Plethora of New(ish) Books I.

    Monday, August 29th, 2016

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Image result for goddess of the market  Image result for a gentle madness  Image result for small wars and faraway places burleigh

    Image result for warfare in antiquity delbruck    Image result for on killing  Image result for Gulag applebaum  Image result for muqqadimah   Image result for denial klehr haynes  Image result for the restoration of rome Image result for excellent sheep

    Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns
    A Gentle Madness by Nicholas A. Basbanes
    Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh
    Warfare in Antiquity by Hans Delbruck
    The Libertarian Mind by David Boaz
    On Killing by LTC. Dave Grossman
    Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
    The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun
    In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage by John Earl Hynes and Harvey Klehr
    The Restoration of Rome by Peter Heather
    Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz

    Nothing makes me happier than buying a new batch of books. So I did. In a large enough number to require two separate posts.

    A Gentle Madness intrigued me, naturally enough, when I caught it years ago on the old C-Span Booknotes program, the book jacket mirrors the look of the old, fine press, book cover. Some of the authors, Burleigh, Boaz, Haynes and Klehr have written works I have enjoyed and already have on my shelf ( I used to be on a listserv with the last authors years ago in the pre-blogging era. Careful and smart scholars they were). On Killing is widely cited and remains controversial in military academic circles and two of the other books are classics.

    I’m not reading any of these books at present. My time is currently occupied by with The Landmark Thucydides in preparation for the upcoming Thucydides Roundtable in October and also with Coming Apart by libertarian intellectual and gadfly Charles Murray (seemed appropriate given the election cycle).

    What are you reading?


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