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War, Games and morale

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — on gaming “living and moral forces” — with a whiff or two of Montaigne ]
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the-mind-is-a-dangerous-weapon-even-to-the-possessor

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Let’s start with Clausewitz, On War.

He says — and we’d be wise to pay attention — “most of the matters dealt with in this book are composed of equal parts of physical and of moral causes and effects.” Earlier in the paragraph, he’d said, “The effects of physical and psychological factors form an organic whole which, unlike a metal alloy, is inseparable..” — which puts the physical and the moral on equal footing. He then tilts the board decisively in favor of the “moral” factors —

One might say that the physical factors seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely-honed blade.

Furthermore, these “moral factors” are “intangible” — or as Michael Handel puts it:

In contrast to the physical forces, which are relatively easy to estimate, the equally important moral forces are more difficult to gauge.

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and Gen. Paul Selva, Revitalizing Wargaming is necessary to be prepared for future wars:

For example, faculty and students at the Naval War College integrated wargaming into their entire course of study, analyzing the then-novel concept of carrier task force operations, the role of submarines in scouting and raiding, and how to provide logistics support to fleet operations spread over the vast Pacific Ocean. Wargames in classrooms at Quantico helped the Marine Corps develop new concepts for amphibious warfare and conceive of new techniques for capturing advanced naval bases. Wargamers at the Army War College explored how to employ tanks and artillery on infantry-dominated battlefields and examined the logistical challenges of fighting a war far from American shores.

and:

Most importantly, players should be able to observe and live with the consequences of their actions (where possible, based on previous rigorous analysis) in the face of a thinking and reacting competitor, and so come to understand dynamic military competition from the perspective of opposing sides. Actions taken by the players on both sides must have tangible consequences that are determined — where possible — by the actual performance of weapons and sensors in the real world, backed by a rigorous adjudication process using the best available analysis and professional judgment.

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In the first of those paragraphs, we have “carrier task force operations”, “the role of submarines”, “logistics support”, “fleet operations”, “amphibious warfare”, “advanced naval bases”, “tanks and artillery”, infantry-dominated battlefields”, and more “logistical challenges”.

Now admittedly, that’s pre-WWII wargaming — but no mention there of the impact of upcoming psychological forces such as the Nuremberg rallies, Hitler’s obsession with Wagner and Bayreuth, Leni Riefenstahl, Himmler’s occult interests, and so forth — not because they were known or in existence at the time, they weren’t, but because they constituted in the event precisely the sort of intangible morale boost / force multiplier that can tip a battlefield and slide a war, as per Clausewitz.

Nary a mention of psychology, moral, morale, espirt, spirituality, religion, let alone Dempsey’s “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision” which we now face in IS.

And that second paragraph, dealing with the present and near future — the move to consider dynamic interaction is to be lauded, but once again we’rew in the realm of “weapons and sensors in the real world”. I’m led to the suspicion that current wargaming doesn’t know quite how to deal with “tangible consequences” that are not determined “by the actual performance of weapons and sensors” but by, ahem, passion.

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Raisciac

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If moral causes and effects are as potent as weapons, or even, as Clausewitz said, are themselves “the real weapon, the finely-honed blade”, games focused not on performances of weapons but on moral causes and effects — games that game passions — must surely have a significant role to play in revitalizing wargaming.

The process of associative memory

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — it seems — to me at least — that associative memory is at the root of creativity, and that the process, preconscious pattern-recognition, is basically aesthetic in nature ]
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There’s the present moment — in this case, today’s tweet from the RNLI above.

And there’s the memory it elicits — in this case, Hokusai‘s Great Wave at Kanagawa, with its three little boats, tiny Mt Fuji, and towering, breaking wave, from A Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji:

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That’s the same process, from perception to memory, that I was thinking of when I wrote DoubleQuoting the French Revolution, and quoted Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

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Come to which, and moving by the same process from what’s in front of me to what I remember, here’s a DQ of Hokusai (~1760-1849) — before me now as I write this — and an image deriving from the work of Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010) on fractals” — which looking at the Hokusai quickly reminds me of:

SPEC DQ Hokusai fractal

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And as I look at that DoubleQuote, here at the time of writing this post, it reminds me strongly of my earlier DoubleQuote of Van Gogh and Von Kármán:

In each of these two cases, art precedes science.

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In each case, too, the associative process is the same, with some item perceived in the present calling up a past memory that is related to it — in a manner that can generally be articulated and annotated.

Such is the mechanism of a typical “move” in a DoubleQuote or HipBone game.

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

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Hofstadter Langdon Kim — for Gabi Nasemann, & in recognition of Gödel Escher Bach ]
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My friend the photographer Gabi Nasemann recently inquired whether I knew John Langdon‘s book, Wordplay, and I responded, DoubleQuote-style, with Scott Kim‘s Inversions:

SPEC kim langdon

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Kim lo these many years past at the Computer Game Developers Conference, and he was kind enough to say of my HipBone Games:

Your game does seem to really call to mind the Bead Game. Almost a divination system, much more metaphorical than most games.

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Scott Kim and his friend Doug Hofstadter both have a keen interest in Bach, so I thought it might be neat to see Scott’s treatment of the name — an ambigram, lower panel below — and how John Langdon might treat it — upper panel:

SPEC bach

Langdon’s Bach I assembled from his own typeface, Biform, which apparently seeped from his grasp into the wider world under the entirely irrelevant name Lampoon.

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Of all Langdon’s ambigrams, the one that’s no doubt best known — since Dan Brown used it in one of his execrable books — is his square of the four elements, upper panel, below:

SPEC langdon oronce

It was a nice touch, though, that Brown offered Langdon an hommage by naming his professor of symbiology after him. No doubt the fictional Robert Langdon would be familiar with the glorious diagram of the elements created by Oronce Fine, which he’d have run across in a 1549 Harvard Houghton Library volume, Le Sphere du Monde, and which I have elsewhere compared with Jewish and Christian diagrams:

Sembl and HipBone gameboards are in the same genre.. being games of linkage that you play with your mind:

games you play in your mind

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Sources and further readings:

  • John Langdon, Ambigrams
  • Scott Kim, Ambigrams on Google Search

  • Scientific American, Remembering Martin Gardner, with Douglas Hofstadter
  • Slate, Can You Really Be a Professor of Symbology?
  • The New Yorker, Harvard_ No Symbology Here
  • Wikipedia, Robert Langdon
  • Random House, The Official Website of Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon

  • John Langdon, Biform
  • John Langdon, Lampoon

  • Triple Canopy, This is your brain on paper
  • DoubleQuote as Match Cut

    Monday, October 12th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — further passing notes in the virtual music of ideas, including meditations for glass bead game players ]
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    From the agile algorithmic eyes at Archillect:

    A match cut or graphic match in cinema is, in Wikipedia’s words,

    a cut in film editing between either two different objects, two different spaces, or two different compositions in which objects in the two shots graphically match, often helping to establish a strong continuity of action and linking the two shots metaphorically.

    **

    Perhaps it’s time to post my Meditations for Glass Bead Game Players:

    i

    First, I ask you to consider the rhyme of “womb” with “tomb” — which has the delicious property that these two words describe, if you will, the two chambers from which we enter this life and through which we leave it. Not only do the two words rhyme on the ear, in other words, they can also be said to rhyme in meaning. Meditation: if you were wearing headphones, and these two words were spoken, what would the stereophony of their meanings be?

    ii

    Next, I would invite you to consider visual rhymes — known as “graphic matches” in film studies. Take, for instance, lipstick and bullet. To rephrase the opening of a book I am still working on:

    The conjunction comes from a Yardley’s cosmetic advertisement of a few years back: a woman model wearing a leather bandolier with a variety of lipsticks in place of bullets. It is a powerful image partly because it plays on the visual similarity of bullets and lipsticks, each in their own metal jacket. Indeed, the visual match between them is astonishing — and the lurking Freudian visual pun only adds to our delight.

    The juxtaposition of lipstick and bullet I take to be an example of a certain kind of visual logic, a visual kinship. Transposing their relationship from visual to verbal terms, one might say that lipstick and bullet “rhyme.”

    But there is more than the purely visual here too… There is also a meaning rhyme that echoes in Freud’s pairing of Eros and Thanatos, in Wagner’s Liebestod, in Woody Allen, and in the opening sentence of Bedier’s Tristan and Iseult:

    My Lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and death…

    Meditation: what is the stereophany (by analogy with epiphany, theophany — neologism intended) of the meanings of lipstick and bullet?

    iii

    Consider next musical rhymes — fugal treatment of a theme — and if you have the means, play yourself Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903, or Passacaglia and Fugue, BWV 582…

    iv

    Next I would ask you to consider — briefly — rhymes between ideas themselves… Ponder, for instance, the twin themes of the myth of Narcissus, and the rhyme that exists between the idea of “echo” and that of “reflection”…

    v

    Consider rhymes between things, between names and the things they name (onomatopoeia), and between ideas and names and things and musical themes and images:

    Seen together, aerial maps of river estuaries and road systems, feathers, fern leaves, branching blood vessels, nerve ganglia, electron micrographs of crystals and the tree-like patterns of electrical discharge-figures are connected, although they are vastly different in place, origin, and scale. Their similarity of form is by no means accidental.

    G Kepes, New Landscapes of Art & Science

    When the surf echoes and crashes out to the horizon, its whorls repeat in similar ratios inside our fleshåWe are extremely complicated, but our bloods and hormones are fundamentally seawater and volcanic ash, congealed and refined. Our skin shares its chemistry with the maple leaf and moth wing. The currents our bodies regulate share a molecular flow with raw sun. Nerves and flashes of lightning are related events woven into nature at different levels.

    Grossinger, Planet Medicine

    The links of association that are possible between one thing and another are extraordinary, and rhymes of the sort we have been discussing are just the beginning… On being asked:

    What is the intersection of fish and flames?

    my list-colleague Barbara Weitbrecht responded:

    Fish being cooked … flame-colored fish … fish flickering through sunlit water like flames … things to do with water: one in it, one antagonistic to it … fish and flames both images of sleep, of subconscious ideas surfacing, of revelation … fish and flames both images of the Deity ….

    vi

    Consider all things as the calligraphy of a god or gods…

    vii

    Consider, finally, the stereophany between these two elegant paragraphs, one written by the contemporary American poet and naturalist, Annie Dillard, and the other by her compatriot Haniel Long:

    My friend Jens Jensen, who is an ornithologist, tells me that when he was a boy in Denmark he caught a big carp embedded in which, across the spinal vertebrae, were the talons of an osprey. Apparently years before, the fish hawk had dived for its prey, but had misjudged its size. The carp was too heavy for it to lift up out of the water, and so after a struggle the bird of prey was pulled under and drowned. The fish then lived as best it could with the great bird clamped to it, till time disintegrated the carcass, and freed it, all but the bony structure of the talon.

    Haniel Long, Letter to Saint Augustine

    And:

    And once, says Ernest Seton Thompson–once, a man shot an eagle out of the sky. He examined the eagle and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat. The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won. I would like to have seen that eagle from the air a few weeks or months before he was shot: was the whole weasel still attached to his feathered throat, a fur pendant? Or did the eagle eat what he could reach, gutting the living weasel with his talons before his breast, bending his beak, cleaning the beautiful airborne bones?

    Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

    These are the rhymings of the ten thousand things. It is with such meditations as these that we may build the “hundred-gated cathedral of Mind” to which Hesse refers…

    And that “brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back” to my post, DoubleQuotes — origins, of just a few days ago.

    .. bites fish bites snake bites fish bites ..

    Saturday, September 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — for whom death-matches between species have special Platonic significance ]
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    You may remember my earlier post, Bobcat jumps shark, one in which I showed a video illustrating “ring form” — the ourobouros or serpent which bites its own tail.

    Here’s another:

    **

    It was these two quotes from to books by Haniel Long and Annie Dillard that set me firmly on the path of DoubleQuotes. I’ve quoted them before, but they bear repetition.

    From Haniel Long’s Letter to Saint Augustine:

    My friend Jens Jensen, who is an ornithologist, tells me that when he was a boy in Denmark he caught a big carp embedded in which, across the spinal vertebrae, were the talons of an osprey. Apparently years before, the fish hawk had dived for its prey, but had misjudged its size. The carp was too heavy for it to lift up out of the water, and so after a struggle the bird of prey was pulled under and drowned. The fish then lived as best it could with the great bird clamped to it, till time disintegrated the carcass, and freed it, all but the bony structure of the talon.

    And from Annie Dillard‘s Teaching a Stone to Talk:

    And once, says Ernest Seton Thompson–once, a man shot an eagle out of the sky. He examined the eagle and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat. The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won. I would like to have seen that eagle from the air a few weeks or months before he was shot: was the whole weasel still attached to his feathered throat, a fur pendant? Or did the eagle eat what he could reach, gutting the living weasel with his talons before his breast, bending his beak, cleaning the beautiful airborne bones?

    **

    My haiku-esque poem, my one-move recursive HipBone Game:


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