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Archive for the ‘gangs’ Category


Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

[by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities edited by Robert J. Bunker

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of Blood Sacrifices, edited by Robert J. Bunker, to which Charles Cameron and I have both contributed chapters. Dr. Bunker has done a herculean job of shepherding this controversial book, where thirteen authors explore the dreadful and totemic cultural forces operating just beneath the surface of irregular warfare and religiously motivated extreme violence.

We are proud to have been included in such a select group of authors and I’m confident that many readers of ZP will find the book to their liking . If you study criminal insurgency, terrorism, hybrid warfare, 4GW, apocalyptic sects, irregular conflict or religious extremism, then the 334 pages of Blood Sacrifices has much in store for you.

Available for order at Amazon

Sunday Surprise: dark beauty in green & red with dragons

Monday, March 9th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the color of green cards, the color of blood ]

I was watching Revenge of the Green Dragons, since Scorsese produced, and had very little idea of what I was going to see — the film is an amalgam of Hong Kong action flick and New York City crime thriller, based on a New Yorker aticle about Chinatown gangs in the 1980s and 90s — but the opening titles were run under a brief voice-over account of Ellis Island, and included this shot of some early “green cards” —

Green Dragons 01

followed by this one of Mahjong tiles, definitively green, and roughly equivalent to cards in western gameplay —

Green Dragons 02

and this, showing the same tiles face-up —

Green Dragons 03

by which point, the greenness, cardness and gameness had my full attention, and at which point I went back and started putting together a series of screencaps, like this one, showing a different but related form of green —

Green Dragons 04

with a switch to red, green’s complementary color, and the violent theme of the movie —

Green Dragons 05

and finally, the film’s title, in red against green.

Green Dragons 06

I was beginning to like this film.


I thought of calling this post “Entertaining the heart’s eye” because it’s the emotions that respond to this sort of (formal) care in detail — the film maker is fully conscious of such things, but the viewer’s mind’s eye is preoccupied with narrative (content) and barely notices them. That’s skillful means, that’s the artistry of the medium, that’s how we’re subliminally engaged and move, that’s how it’s done.

And if narrative is of any interest, as I suggested recently it should be, in terms of trategy, then “how it’s done” — with an emphasis on form rather than content — is key.

Okay, I had my six screencaps and the tale I’ve just told, and I thought that would be enough, tgether they would make a fine Sunday surprise for ZP. And i thoughy, maybe I can sit back and watch the rest of the film without having to constantly stop and start for screencaps, always a somewhat tedious process.


But then, as the film proper got under way, there was this shot of —

Green Dragons 7

a deceased gangster in the dumpster, for all the world as if it was in one of those viewing coffins used for more warmly appreciated mobsters —

Green Dragons 8

but again featuring the film’s characteristic coloring, green, oozing the dark, dark red of blood.


I was enjoying the film a great deal now, and sat back an allowed myself to move through it as, what, “the speed of film”? But I was in for another shock. There’s a narrative within the narrative, you see, a story told by one brother to the other — and as with all such matrioshka “plays within a play” it is the key to the whole. The elder brother explains to his younger sibling the nature of reality, of strength:

When I was six, my father took me far into the forest and left me there. Without food, without water. First two days, I cry and I cry. Then, I started to understand the beauty of forest. How big it was. How small I was.

Soon I come to road, truck take me home. Neither father or mother say anything to me. Not a word.

I loved them even more after that, because they show me how strong I can be.


That tale is what the movie is all about, and it is told in forest green.

Green Dragons 9

The city is left behind, and in otherworldly green Steven tells Sonny this tale as an act of brotherly love —

Green Dragons 10

as they are approaching the glade where Sonny’s love, Tina

Green Dragons 11

before Sonny’s horrified and furious eyes — and strictly according to gang logic —

Green Dragons 12

is to be executed, spilling that dark red once again into the green.


I have left out the “story” and given you the “geometry” here — see my recent post on the geometry of the Narcissus / Echo myth.

Fredric Dannen wrote the New Yorker article on which the film was based, published in 1992. It doesn’t contain the film’s “story within the story” — but it does mention the “forest” —

They circled around for a while and came across a dirt road. The road ran along the bottom of a ravine and cut through dense woods — an ideal spot for an execution.

And there’s a flash of brilliant red, too — the real-life Tina’s relatives had placed a red handkerchief in one of her pockets before her cremation:

According to Chinese custom, if a murder victim is iven something red to wear, the color will “stick to” the killer and he will be caught.


Read the New Yorker piece, see the film, and keep your eyes peeled for the red in the green.

Sunday Saturday surprise: afterlife this side of everlasting

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

[by Charles Cameron — the Michelangelos of mob mortality? ]

SPEC DQ russian vs narco tombs

Russian mafia memorials are more personal, yes, but far less palatial, than their Mexican narcocultura counterparts.


Sources — so you can see bigger images, more of the same ghastly:

  • Guardian, Mob deep: Russian mafia gravestones
  • Financial Times, Deadly splendour
  • On sovereignty by motorbike

    Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — so if they ride through Zürich, do they get to keep all the banks? ]

    Matthew Burton asked an intriguing question on Twitter today [upper panel, below] — while 5,000 Russians pose a similar question [lower panel]:

    When was the last time sovereignty depended on bike club membership?



    Matthew Burton kindly pointed me to this WaPo piece, Obama speaks with Putin by phone, calls on Russia to pull forces back to Crimea bases, which includes the following wording:

    “In the case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea,” a statement issued by Putin’s office said, “Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.”

    Narco-cartels as MBAs Doing 4GW

    Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]


    Yale organizational behaviorist Rodrigo Canales has an interesting talk on the Narco-insurgency in Mexico ( which he correctly sees as having been as lethal as Syria’s civil war). While this won’t be news to close students of Mexico’s cartel wars, Canales explains how Los Zeta, La Familia, Knights Templar and Sinaloa cartel violence is neither random nor strictly criminal on criminal  violence but is used as part of organizational strategies to create distinctive “franchise brands”, amplify political messaging,  reinforce effects of social service investment in the communities they control and maximize market efficiency of narcotics sales and other contraband. COIN, 4GW and irregular warfare folks will all see familiar elements in Canales management theory driven perspective.

    A useful short tutorial considering the cartels are operating inside the United States and their hyper-violent tactics are eventually going to follow.

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