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Sunday surprise 22: bring a gun to a steak dinner?

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- variations on a theme in The Untouchables ]
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Duncan Kinder posted a pair of video clips to one of Zen’s FaceBook posts a day or two ago, and since they made a fine DoubleQuote, I thought I’d bring them here.

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The “bringing a knife to a gunfight” idea seems to have spread from its origins in The Untouchables (upper video above) to multitudinous other moves. Movie site Subzin tracked at least some of these movies, and Movies & TV Stack Exchange lists these movies:

The Untouchables (1987)
The Target Shoots First (2000)
Shottas (2002)
Duplex (2003)
The Punisher (2004)
Waist Deep (2006)
Dod vid ankomst (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)
The Good Guy (2009)
Wonderful World (2009)
Death Hunter (2010)

with variants found in:

The Glimmer Man (1996) 00:16:59 It’s kind of like takin’ a screwdriver to a gunfight.
Black Cat Run (1998) 00:32:40 A crow bar to a gun fight? Drop the fucking crowbar.
BloodRayne II: Deliverance (2007) 00:28:09 Ain’t it like an Irishman to bring a bottle to a gunfight.
Urban Justice (2007) 01:27:07 l know you ain’t dumb enough to bring a fist to a gunfight.
G-Force (2009) 01:12:27 [Speckles] Just like humans. Bringing guns to a space junk fight.
Unrivaled (2010) 00:28:46 you brought a knife to a bottle fight.
Cross (2011) 00:08:06 Genius. Brings sticks to a gunfight.

What’s intriguing about the Raiders of the Lost Ark episode (lower video, above) is that the reference is made without words. The Indiana Jones Wiki has the scoop on this… Apparently Harrison Ford had dysentery at the time, and was finding it difficult to act the longish duel scene, whip against sword, that was called for by the script — and finally suggested that Indy should just shoot the guy.

**

A couple of thoughts that occur to me:

  • Bringing a slingshot to a giant?
  • Bringing a lance to a windmill fight?
  • bringing a knife to the soup course?
  • It’s my good fortune, once again, that my fascinating with the details of one relatively innocuous matter — the “bringing a knife to a gunfight” meme in this case — leads me to another area of interest.

    — in this case to hastilude, the generic name for forms of mock-martial fighting that include tourneys and jousts along with others I hadn’t even heard of — behourds, tupinaires? — thus providing ample impetus for yet further wanderings across the web…

    But it’s time for me to wind up — let’s get back to Raiders of the Lost Ark

    It’s not every day that one can justifiably attribute the origins of a widespread, hilarious yet serious, and blockbusterish money-making meme — to dysentery.

    Freud, however, would have understood.

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    The best war game is a library of windows

    Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron -- Escher, Borges, simulating the future, wargames, A Pattern Language, Sembl ]
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    MC Escher, Relativity

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    Ridiculous phrase, a library of windows. Unless you think, as I do, of books as windows onto different worlds, in which case it makes a whole lot of sense, and a decent library has more windows onto more profoundly different worlds than any physical room — and here we are getting into the territory of Jorge Luis Borges (links to Library of Babel) and Maurits Escher (image above).

    And let me just state for the record that Godel Escher Bach could just as well have been Escher Carroll Borges, and that a comparison between the logics of Escher and Borges is one of the desiderata of our times.

    That’s a Sembl move.

    **

    Let’s expand the concept of window to include the sort of inter-worldview glimpse that Haaretz describes today here:

    Last week, in a small beit midrash (study hall) named after Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, an emergency meeting was convened to discuss instigating freedom of religion and worship on the Temple Mount. It was a closed meeting attended by representatives of the Temple Institute, HaTenu’ah LeChinun HaMikdash (the Movement to Rebuild the Holy Temple) and the Temple Mount Faithful, as well as two representatives of Women for the Mikdash, and others. The activists met to try to understand how they could overcome the authorities, who they believe are plotting against them, and return to the Temple Mount. At this meeting, Haaretz was offered a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the most ardent activists in the battle to Judaize the Temple Mount.

    **

    Here’s the meat of the post, as yet uncooked. Back in 2005, but brought to my attention today by Rex Brynen at Paxsims, is this piece from Strategy Page:

    After eight years of effort, and spending over $300 million, the U.S. Army has officially received its new wargame (WARSIM) for training battalion, brigade, division, and as big as you want to get, commanders, and their staffs. Now even the most elaborate commercial wargame would not get $300 million for development, and eight years to create the system. But wargames for professional soldiers have different requirements, and a troublesome Department of Defense bureaucracy to deal with. First, the requirements. Commercial wargames shield the player from all the boring stuff (support functions, especially logistics.) But professional wargames must deal with these support activities, because in a real war, these are the things commanders spend most of their time tending too. …

    WARSIM covers a lot of complex activities that a commander must deal with to achieve battlefield success. Besides logistics, there’s intelligence. Trying to figure out what the enemy is up to is, next to logistics, the commanders most time consuming chore.

    – which in turn was referenced by Michael Peck writing in a Kotaku piece today titled Why It’s So Hard to Make a Game Out of the 21st Century:

    Let’s build a game. Let’s make it a strategy game. We will realistically simulate global politics in the 2030s. Perhaps a sort of Civ or Supreme Ruler 2020-type system.

    Where shall we start? How about something easy, like choosing the nations in the game? It’s simple enough to consult an atlas. We’ll start with Britain…but wait! Scotland is on the brink of declaring independence from the United Kingdom. Should Britain be a single power, or should England and Scotland be depicted as a separate nation? What about Belgium splitting into Flemish and Walloon states? And these are old, established European nations. How will states like Syria and Nigeria look in two decades? It was only a bit over 20 years ago that the Soviet Union appeared to be a unshakeable superpower that controlled Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

    **

    Let’s cook that meat, let’s make a meal of it.

    Peck’s piece goes into many other ways in which predictive gaming isn’t terribly productive.

    But it left me asking the question, what would I do with a game-sized budget, if my aim was to push military and intelligence towards greater insight.

    And my answer would be to embed information in walls. In corridors…

    To build windows at sparse and irregular intervals into the internal corridors that connect any given office in the Pentagon or three-letter agency — or my local preference (hush, I know it’s the Glorious Fourth tomorrow) MI-5 and -6 — through which analysts and decision makers can glimpse snippets of information.

    Which can then fall into the deep well of memory.

    It is deep within that well of half-forgotten knowledge, ST Coleridge tells us, that the “hooks-and-eyes of memory” link one thought with another to build a creative third.

    **

    A wall, then. I would build a wall embedded with facts and fancies, maps and illustrations, graphs and stats, film clips and news clips, anecdotes and quotes — even, perhaps, tiny alcoves here and there with books free for the taking, music CDs, DVDs of movies, old, new, celebrated, strange…

    And I would be constantly shifting and rearranging the “views” from my windows, so that what was seen yesterday would not be what would be seen tomorrow — yet with a powerful index of words, topics, themes, memes, image contents, names of actors, newscasters, authors and so forth, so that what was once seem and dimly recalled could be recaptured.

    **

    The concept here is pretty much the exact opposite of having a huge black poster proclaiming Creativity Matters!

    Don’t get me wrong, creativity does matter (get that poster and others here), but it “works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform” — and the way to entice it is to see things out of the corner of the eye…

    The windows I’m looking for, therefore, offer glimpses you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you were deep in thought or conversation, and conversely, wouldn’t see twice and grow so familiarized to that they’d become irrelevant by repetition. They’d be glimpsed in passing, their esthetic would be that of Christopher Alexander’s Zen View, pattern 134 in his brilliant work — the closest we have to a Western I ChingPattern Language:

    The idea, then, is to seed the memory with half-conscious concepts, patterns, facts and images, carefully selected and randomly presented — so that those hooks and eyes have the maximum chance of connecting some scrap of curious information with a pressing problem.

    Which is how creativity tends to work.

    **

    That way each corridor becomes a game-board — but it is in the analyst’s focused mind that the game is played and won.

    What you’d get, in effect, would be community-wide, ongoing free-form gameplay in complete alignment with the web-based game we’re currently developing at Sembl. Games of this genre will also have powerful application in conflict resolution.

    And peace.

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    Iconic: compare and contrast III

    Saturday, December 24th, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron - Iraq war, beginning and ending, analytic power of similarity ]

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    I’ve thanked Zen for his Iconic Compare and Contrast post already, but I’d like to run with his juxtaposition of images from the end of the Iraq war, and book-end it with an early DoubleQuote of mine from the beginning, thus:

    That’s the beginning of the war, as I saw it “binocularly” — and here’s its ending, as Zen captured it:

    Different though they are — one verbal, one visual — I think they go well together. I think they belong together.

    But that’s essentially an aesthetic intuition.

    *

    And — apart from thanking Zen — that’s the thing I want to talk about.

    The two quotes, eighty-six years apart, about an (anglophone) army in Baghdad coming there to liberate, not to conquer, are similar enough that they should give us pause for thought. They challenge us to think long and hard about the similarities between the two situations — and they challenge us to think no less hard and long about their differences.

    Likewise, it’s the similarities between the two images Zen chose — of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the US exit from Iraq — that give that juxtaposition its power.  And Zen has chosen very carefully:

    Not only are there two lines of vehicles stretching back from the foreground away into the distance in each image, but the angle from which the two columns are seen is about the same — and there are even two “tracks” in each photo reinforcing the vanishing point — two tracks to the right of the vehicles in the Afghan photo, the edge of the road and a what looks like the shadow of an overhead cable in the photo from Iraq.

    *

    But let’s take this a bit further. The following juxtaposition is every bit as much a juxtaposition of the Soviet and American withdrawals as the pair of images Zen picked, but this time we have an aerial view of the US convoy — so the visual “rhyme” between the two images is no longer there — and even though the aerial shot is an intriguing one, what a difference that makes!

    There’s nothing in that juxtaposition to make you go, yes!

    On the level of what’s being referred to, the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq,  this pair of images has the same properties as the two images that Zen selected.  But it doesn’t capture our attention in nearly the same way.

    And the same would have been true if I’d picked a different sentence from Rumsfeld‘s speech to juxtapose with General Maude‘s “not as conquerors or enemies but as liberators” — such as, “You’ve unleashed events that will unquestionably shape the course of this country, the fate of the people, and very likely affect the future of this entire region.” I’d still be comparing and contrasting two speeches from the beginnings of two occupations of Baghdad.  But there’d be no oomph to the comparison.

    *

    Because — and this is what I am trying to get at, the basic principle of HipBone analysis and what distinguishes it from otherwise similar modes of brainstorming and mind-mapping — the recognition of pattern, of salient sameness, of close parallelism or opposition is the criterion for success or failure in a HipBone-style juxtaposition.

    Zen’s graphic example has that closeness — even down to those two parallel tracks beside and to the right of the vehicles.  My two quotes from Maude and Rumsfeld have that.  And it’s that closeness of match that makes a juxtaposition powerful.

    Analogy works this way, rhyme works this way, fugue works this way, graphic match (in cinematography) works this way — it’s basic to the arts, basic to rhetoric, and basic to the way our analogically-disposed minds think.

    It is not a method for arriving at conclusions, it’s a method for posing questions. And it sits right at the juncture where analysis admits it is not a science but an art.

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    Iconic: compare and contrast

    Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron -- iconic images, riot police, compare and contrast, repetition with variation ]

    First, let’s be clear that both these images have been widely considered iconic.

    Thus NPR reported of the first photo:

    There have been countless accounts of violence recorded during the uprisings in Egypt but the image that perhaps has captured the most attention is the most recent. The image has been widely referred to as the “girl in the blue bra.”

    While Real Clear Politics quotes Michael Moore on the second:

    “The images have resonated around the world in the same way that the lone man standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square resonated. It is an iconic movement in Occupy Wall Street history,” Michael Moore declared on MSNBC’s “Last Word” program.

    Moore was referring to police pepper spraying students at an “Occupy” protest at UC Davis.

    So we have two similarities between the two images: they both show police in riot gear taking action against demonstrators, and they have both caught the public eye as somehow being representations that can “stand in” for the events they seek to portray.

    Beyond that, it’s all compare and contrast territory — or variations on a theme, perhaps — and different people will find different reasons to attack or defend the demonstrators or the police in one, the other, or both cases.

    1.

    These are, for many of us, “home” and “away” incidents, to borrow from sports terminology, and some of our reactions may reflect our opinions in general of what’s going on in Egypt, or in the United States.

    We may or may not know the rules of engagement in effect in either case, on either side.

    In a way, then, what the photos tell us about those two events, in Tahrir Square and on the UC Davis campus, may tell us much about ourselves and our inclinations, too.

    2.

    As I’ve indicated before, I am very interested in the process of comparison and contrast that the juxtaposition of two images — or two quotes — seems to generate. And I’ve quoted my friend Cath Styles, too:

    A general principle can be distilled from this. Perhaps: In the very moment we identify a similarity between two objects, we recognise their difference. In other words, the process of drawing two things together creates an equal opposite force that draws attention to their natural distance. So the act of seeking resemblance – consistency, or patterns – simultaneously renders visible the inconsistencies, the structures and textures of our social world. And the greater the conceptual distance between the two likened objects, the more interesting the likening – and the greater the understanding to be found.

    I’d like to examine these two particular photographs, then, not as images of behaviors we approve or disapprove of, but as examples of juxtaposition, of similarity and difference — and see what we might learn from reading them in a “neutral” light.

    3.

    What I am really trying to see is whether we can use analogy — a very powerful mental tool — with something of the same rigor we customarily apply to questions of causality and proof, and thus turn it into a method of insight that draws on our aha! pattern recognition and analogy-finding intuitions, rather than the application of inductive and deductive reason.

    And that requires that we should know more about how the mind perceives likenesses — a topic that is often obscured by our strong emotional responses — you’re making a false moral equivalence there! or look, one’s as bad as the oither, and it’s sheer hypocrisy to suggest otherwise!

    So among other things, we’re up against the phenomenon I call “sibling pea rivalry” — where two things, places, institutions, whatever, that are about as similar as two peas in a pod, have intense antagonism between them, real or playful — Oxford and Cambridge, say, and I’m thinking here of the Boat Race, or West Point and Annapolis in the US, and the Army-Navy game.

    Oxford is far more “like” Cambridge than it is “like” a mechanic’s wrench, more like Cambridge than it is a Volkswagen or even a high school, more like it even than Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford — more like it than any of the so-called “redbrick universities” in the UK — so like it, in fact, that the term “Oxbridge” has been coined to refer to the two of them together, in contrast to any other schools or colleges.

    And yet on the day of the Boat Race, feelings run high — and the two places couldn’t seem more different. Or let me put that another way — an individual might be ill-advised to walk into a pub overflowing with partisans of the “dark blue” of Oxford wearing the “light blue” of Cambridge, or vice versa.  Not quite at the level of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, perhaps, but getting there…

    4.

    So one of the things I’ve thought a bunch about is the kind of analogy that says a : A :: b : B.

    As in: Egyptian cop is to Egyptian protester as UC Davis cop is to UC Davis protester.

    Which you may think is absolutely right — or cause for impeachment — or just plain old kufr!

    And I’ve figured out that the reason people often have different “takes” on that kind of analogy — takes so different that they can get extremely steamed about it, and whistle like kettles and bubble over like pots — has to do with the perceptual phenomenon of parallax, whereby some distances get foreshortened in a way that others don’t.

    5.

    So my thought experiment sets up a sunken garden — always a pleasure, with two video cameras observing it, as in this diagram:

    And from the two cameras, the respective views look like this:

    In this scheme of things, Aa (Oxford) seems very close to Bb (Cambridge) seen from the viewpoint of camera 1 — but from camera 2′s standpoint, Aa (Oxford) and Bb (Cambridge) are at opposite ends of the garden, and simply couldn’t be father apart.

    6.

    Now, my thinking here is either so obvious and simple as to be a platitude verging on tautology — or one of those subtle places where the closer examination of what looks tautological and obvious leads to the emergence of a new insight, a new “difference that makes a difference” in Bateson’s classic phrase.

    And clearly, I hope that the latter will prove to be the case here.

    7.

    What can we learn from juxtapositions? What can we learn from our agreements about specific juxtapositions — and what can we learn from our specific disagreements?

    Because it’s my sense that samenesses and differences both jump out at us, as Cath Styles suggested — and that both have a part to play in understanding a given juxtaposition or proposed likeness.

    Each juxtaposition will, in my view, suggest both a “sameness” and a “difference” — in much the same way that an arithmetic division of integers, a = qd + r, gives both quotient and dividend.

    And then we have two or more observers of the juxtaposition, who may bring their own parallax to the situation, and have their own differences.

    8.

    Tahrir is to Tienanmen as Qutb is to Mao?

    Or is pepper spray just a food additive?

    And how do icons become iconic anyway? Are they always juxtapositions, cops against college kids, girl vs napalm, man against line of tanks?  Even in the iconic photo of Kennedy from the Zapruder film, the sudden eruption of violence into the stateliness of a presidential parade is there — a morality play in miniature.

    Any thoughts?

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    Al-Awlaqi and the Rebbetzin?

    Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron -- tracking an al-Awlaqi quote through Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Hindu sources ]

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    awlaqi.jpg

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    I was reading JM Berger‘s CTC Sentinel piece about al-Awlaqi‘s Constants on the Path of Jihad, which is itself an expansion of al-Uyayri‘s original text, and found myself feeling vaguely uneasy about one of al-Awlaqi’s interpolations.

    Berger’s example of how al-Awlaqi frequently “expanded al-’Uyayri’s citations into living, breathing stories, often at significantly greater length, transforming the legalistic argument into an emotionally and politically loaded discourse” concerns the “People of the Ditch” motif found in the Qur’an and hadith:

    In the story, a king is persecuting believers in Allah. He orders them to renounce their religion or be thrown into a flaming ditch or trench to die. All of the believers throw themselves in. One woman, carrying her baby, hesitates, and Allah inspires the baby to speak to her, saying “Oh Mother! You are following al-Haqq [the truth]! So be firm!” As a result, she carries him into the fire and succeeds in achieving martyrdom.

    Al-Uyayri makes a brief mention of this story; Al-Awlaqi expands on it, transforming (in Berger’s words) “al-’Uyayri’s perfunctory citation into an emotional journey that engages the listener and broadens the original point to emphasize the importance of taking even one step toward jihad.” He does this by commenting:

    This woman, because she took the first step, and that is the willingness to jump in the trench, when she was about to retreat, Allah helped her. So if you take that first step towards Allah, Allah will make many steps towards you. If you walk towards Allah, Allah will run towards you.

    *

    So far so good. But isn’t al-Awlaqi quoting someone here?  I had an itch in the back of my head…

    I thought I should check, and what I found frankly surprised me. I mean, was he really quoting the Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis?

    We have a promise from HaShem that if we take just one step toward Him, He will take two steps toward us.

    Not likely.

    Perhaps it was a Christian source he had in mind…

    A common saying in my church and in many Christian circles is the following: “Take One Step Toward God and He Takes Two Steps Toward You”

    Nope.  Surely, it must have been a Hadith:

    Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.”

    After all, he can hardly have been quoting the Hare Krishna devotees, can he?

    in 1972 In Denver, I remember hearing all the time from the temple devotees to encourage me as a new bhakta… “you take one step towards Krsna and He’ll take 10 steps towards you”.

    And no, that particular phrase doesn’t seem to be in the Routledge Dictionary of Religious and Spiritual Quotations — perhaps because it’s hard to know quite where to put it…

    *

    My own favorite among cross-religious commonalities of this sort, fwiw, is this one:

    dyad_planting.jpg

    *

    BTW, nice to see both Berger and Chris Anzalone in the Sentinel — and the Flagg Miller cover-piece on early bin Laden tapes is interesting, too.

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