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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 ]

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:


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?


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?


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…


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”…


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 ….


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


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 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.

On the shadows of camels, and the camels that throw them

Monday, August 24th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — in lieu of a belated Sunday Surprise, and slightly more serious ]

Camels throw shadows — a fact brilliantly exploited by George Steinmetz in a rightly celebrated photo, to be found lower in this post — but first, a taste of Steinmetz’ methodology:


It is, I suppose, possible to argue that it is the shadows that throw the camels — but I suggest that only by way of saying that when I post here, fresh angles, not particular statements of opinion, are mostly what I am after.

Steinmetz’ photo illustrates my point nicely:


As you may know — and Snopes confirms — this image is an overhead view of shadows cast by camels in the desert. What’s not immediately obvious is that the black shapes are the shadows, while the camels themselves are the thin strips of white that accompany them.

As Steinmetz’ website explains:

His latest passion is photographing the world’s deserts while piloting a motorized paraglider. This experimental aircraft provides him with a unique physical perspective over remote places that are inaccessible by conventional aircraft.

The unexpected, perhaps even unique, perspective then is what I’m chasing — an “angle” that encourages a frehs view of the matter at hand.


It’s intriguing to note the consonance between Steinmetz’ comment:

I always want to go to the blank spots on a map, or go just a little bit farther. Reality is always more interesting than imagination.

and a comment I quoted with a quick tsk, tsk from David Hume thw other day:

It were better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world.

I feel a DoubleQuote coming on..

On the various uses and modes of DoubleQuotes thinking

Monday, August 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — working my way towards that ever-elusive Grand Theory of Linkage ]

Ahem — not unlike my DoubleQuote format, these Taiwanese leg-irons offer another form of linkage


Here’s a cross-cultural DoubleQuote embedded in a Guardian paragraph — from Xiaolu Guo, writing on the Analects of Confucius in Ten Books that Changed the World:

If you are Chinese, lines from the Bible such as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” can only bewilder you, as Confucius said nearly the opposite: “It is only the truly virtuous man who can love and hate others.” Hate is a necessary moral stance for a Chinese man.


More elaborately, Marcy Wheeler over at emptywheel has an entire post using what’s in effect a DoubleQuotes form of argument, comparing Buffalo’s ISIS Supporting Terrorist and Its Klan Supporting Terrorist as her title puts it, and including such quotes as these..

Concerning Michael O’Neill:

On January 21, 2015, the Niagara County Sheriff’s office responded to a report of an explosion at the house of Chair of the Niagara County Legislature, William Ross. They discovered that his stepson, former corrections officer Michael O’Neill, who lived with his mother and stepfather at the house, had blown off his leg while working with explosives in the garage. In addition to the one that exploded, there were 6 completed Improvised Explosive Devices in the garage, along with shrapnel, fireworks powder, and other explosives precursors.


That evidence shows that the work bench at which Ross’ stepson was emptying fireworks for powder and adding nails to IEDs was decorated with a Stormtrooper poster, a picture of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate flag, and a poster advertising, “The KKK wants you.” O’Neill also appears to have had a sword (most visible in Exhibit 14) not mentioned in any legal document.

Concerning Arafat Nagi:

A week later, on July 29, also in the Buffalo area, FBI Agent Amanda Pike arrested US citizen Lackawanna resident Arafat Nagi on charges of attempting to materially support ISIS. The complaint laying out the case against Nagi relied on trips to Turkey and Yemen (Nagi has family in the latter), a slew of tweets supporting ISIS, and some 2012 and 2013 purchases of military equipment — including body armor and a machete — and Islamic flags from eBay. The complaint also included pictures Nagi had tweeted out depicting ISIS and extremist flags and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

— and concluding:

Still, these two extremists were working their way through the same court room at the same time. The contrast between the two cases is instructive.

Read her entire piece for further elaboration.


A DoubleQuote in my DQ format is intended to work as a sort of haiku, or perhaps a stem christie, incorporating in miniature a change of direction or leap of insight — they come to much the same thing.

A single, glorious gothic arch — you get the picture.

It is becoming ioncreasingly obvious, though, that the DoubleQuote method of comparison and contrast has far wider application — and as my collection of DoubleQuotes in the Wild has hopefully shown, that the basic idea continues to strike artists, writers and analysts as a powerful means of corralling and communicating concept and meaning.

It’s a naturally occurring form for thought, in other words, and at best my graphical DoubleQuotes format can bring a formal unity to many of its possible examples, and thus sharpen it — as a the general idea of a branch can be “formalized” into the concept of a fishing rod or baseball bat — into a tool.

A difficulty with DoubleQuotes

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — from artificial intelligence to the Council of Nicea in one easy blog post ]

It seems fairly easy for a human to tell likes from dislikes, but for a computer to tell likes from unlikes appears to be a far trickier business. Consider the following DoubleQuote in the Wild, which I found in David Berreby‘s Nautilus piece, Artificial Intelligence is Already Weirdly Inhuman:

adversarial example dog ostrich 601

You might think these two images are the same. Or that they’re a little different, as the images from your left and right eyes always are, but that if you squint at them just right they will merge into a single image with a vivid sense of depth, like a movie seen with 3-D glasses. You mivght even think the differences between them are a matter of steganography, encoding some IS battle plan under cover of a diggie pic.

But you are unlikely, I suggest, to think the image on the left is of a dog, while that on the right is of an ostrich. Which is what “artificial intelligence”, in the form of a neural net, figured out.


And how different are they “in fact”?

The middle image here shows the amount of variation in pixels between the two outer images:

negative2 cropped

The image on the right — the one the neural net iodentified as an ostrich — is an example of what the researchers, Christian Szegedy, Wojciech Zaremba, Ilya Sutskever, Joan Bruna, Dumitru Erhan, Ian Goodfellow and Rob Fergus, call an “adversarial example”.


It’s not my intent to dismiss neural nets by any means: I have one myself.

What interests me, though, as someone preoccupied with analogy and metaphor — with likeness and unlikeness — is the deep question of what likeness and unlikeness mean.

That question lies at the heart of my DoubleQuotes and HipBone Games.

Back in my Oxford days, my tutor in Dogmatic Theology had me thinking about the difference between the two words Homoousion and Homoiousion, homoousion meaning of the same essence, and homoiousion of similar essence. The distinction was important in Patristic theology, the questionn being whether the Son and Holy Spirit were of the same essence as the Father (one God in three Persons) or of similar essence (three Persons in one God).

You’ll see from the way that I’ve phased the distinction in brackets (one God in three Persons vs three Persons in one God) that I find the distinction itself less than helpful — and I said so in the essay I read my tutor. Those who hold the Three Persons are the same God (the homoousios doctrine) are saying they are both similar as to the recognition of their common Godness and dissimilar as to the recognition of their separate Personhood, whereas those who hold that they are of similar essence (homoiousios) are, perhaps unexpectedly, also saying they are similar but different: it’s all a matter of emphasis.

My tutor, much to my surprise and delight, mentioned that he had made the same point in a paper he had recently published in, if I recall, the Journal of Theological Studies, and gave me a signed offprint.

Similarity and dissimilarity, likeness and unlikeness appear to me to find themselves on a spectrum which approximates closely to identity at one end — but if two things are identical, how can they be two? — and absolute distinction at the other.

Yet the difference beween homoousion and homoiousion was decided in favor of homoousion at the Council of Nicea, a decision which one writer calls a “bloodless intellectual victory over dangerous error” and “of far greater consequence to the progress of true civilization, than all the bloody victories Constantine and his successors.”

And okay, there’s more to it, as always…


Dogs and ostriches, apples and oranges — what’s the diff, eh?

And G*d knows best.

Gaming the Islamic State three ways from Sunday

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — what hipbone thinking / gaming could and should bring to the natsec table ]

I have just been browsing the Institute for the Study of War‘s report on its ISIS wargame, and thought I’d wargame ISIS a bit myself, using my DoubleQuotes game.


The ISW report, in its 32 pages, barely mentions religious drivers, features one use of the word “apocalyptic” in a pretty non-specific sentence that implies nothing about what that word implies in terms of religious instensity — “ISIS intends to expand its Caliphate and eventually incite a global apocalyptic war” — and generally focuses on everything but “knowing” the enemy..

If they’d invited me and added a round or three of DoubleQuotes during a coffee break, I’d have been grateful for the coffee and the visit to DC, and very quickly played these two double-moves:

For wide context:

SPEC DQ Taiping IS

Upper panel: the Taiping Rebellion, an apocalyptic (in the true sense) movement in China, 1850 to 1864, with between 20 million and 30 million dead — as a reminder that apocalyptic movements can have, ahem, far-reaching consequences.

Lower panel: Refugees fleeing the Islamic State, a movement whose apocalyptic (in the true sense) strategy includes a focus on great end-times battle to be fought at Dabiq in Syria, Dabiq being the name of their English lnaguage magazine.

Read into the record in support of these two visuals:

  • Jonathan Spence, God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan
  • William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State
  • And with narrower focus:

    here, on the brutality levels permitted in two rival jihadist groups in Syria:

    SPEC DQ IS vs Jabhat

    Upper panel: the Islamic State brutally executes British aid worker Alan Hemming

    Lower panel: AQ affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra points out that he was under an offer of protection binding on all Muslims.

    There would be background reading to explore and expand that DoubleQuote too. But the main point is: the contest of ideas, not simply that of troop movements and materiel, would have been part of the picture.


    The Atlantic Council has also held two wargaming sessions on IS [1, 2], but again the insights to be gained into the Islamic State’s end-times motivations and their implications are almost nonexistent:

    ISIS carries the seeds of its own destruction primarily because it has an extremely small constituency within Islamist populations around the world, an apocalyptic vision, an unsustainable strategy of us-against-theworld, and a failed governance project.

    And that’s about it.


    McCants’ presentation at the Boston conference, and his forthcoming book (above), both make it clear that the apocalyptic stress of today’s “caliphate” has morphed significantly from the more immediate apocaypticism in IS’ Zarqawi-era predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    And for a nuanced understanding of time-urgency in apocalyptic rhetoric, Stephen O’Leary‘s Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric is the definitive work.

    So when do we start introducing ideational war (and/or peace) games alongside our games of brute force?

    And how do you factor esprit, morale, and “angels, rank on rank” (Quran 8.9, 89.22) into troop movements and so forth?

    Hint: they’re force-multipliers.

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