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Careful with those DoubleQuotes: Benedict & Francis

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- two popes, two images, and vive la différence ]
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It seems that back in the day, I missed this classic example of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild:

JP II Francis

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I was reading an article in the Catholic Herald this morning, because they’re changing format in response to “just how much technology had reshaped the world in the eight years between the elections of Benedict XVI and Francis”, and my attention was caught by this para:

That change was captured beautifully in an image that did the rounds during the conclave. It showed two crowds waiting for the white smoke. In the first, dated 2005, the faithful milled around under street lights, with just one clunky clamshell mobile phone visible. The second, dated 2013, presented a twinkling ocean of iPads, Nokias, iPhones and Motorolas. The message was simple: almost everyone today is online, seemingly all the time.

That expresses the power of DoubleQuotes very nicely — but I hadn’t seen the twinned images, so I went in search of them, and discovered that NBC New’s Facebook page had posted the image under the caption:

What a difference 8 years makes: St. Peter’s Square in 2005 and yesterday.

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That’s accurate as far as it goes, but others presented the two images just a tad differently, as in:

NBC posted a powerful image of St. Peter’s Square showing how different things looked in 2005 when Pope Benedict was chosen from the new world of 2013 with Pope Francis.

and that’s not quite right. As Emi Kolawole pointed out in About those 2005 and 2013 photos of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square:

A composite image has been making its way around the Internet that appears to juxtapose images of the throng in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election with the audience present during that of Pope Francis.

But here’s thing, the photos weren’t taken at those times.

Post photojournalist Nick Kirkpatrick did a little digging and found that the lower photo (shown below this paragraph), which features a sea of smartphones and tablets, was, indeed, taken during the announcement of Pope Francis’s election. But the top photo (shown above), which shows an audience with far fewer gadgets was taken during the funeral procession of Pope John Paul II — a very different mood and event type. There was no one addressing the crowd from the balcony, for example. So, the comparison isn’t quite accurate.

Indeed, Kolawole’s piece reproduces the original caption to the upper photo:

People fill Via Della Conciliazione boulevard about half a mile away from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after Pope John Paul II’s body was carried across the square into the Basilica for public viewing on April 4, 2005. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff’s body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since the previous day. (LUCA BRUNO – AP)

— and follows up with photos like this one, of the crowd in St Peter’s Square when the election of Pope Benedict XVI was announced:

daylight

— which does indeed show more than a few digital cameras raised to capture the event, though not as many as at the “comparable” in 2013.

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But then the photo of the 2013 announcement was taken looking towards St Peters, over the shoulders of the crowd, while the photo from 2005 was taken facing into the crowd — and the 2013 announcement was made at night, when the presence of so many digital cameras and phones lit up the square, whereas the announcement of 2005 was made in broad daylight.

So. With DoubleQuotes, wild or otherwise, it’s always a matter of caveat emptor.

Stage Two of any rigorous use of the DoubleQuote mechanism, after the juxtaposition has been made, should therefore take the form of critical thinking, providing a clear analysis of the similarities and differences between the two “quotes” (texts or images or whatever) so that we are not misled by superficial resemblances into conclusions that jump the proverbial shark.

Nor is Francis — though both be Peter — identical to Benedict.

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Sunday Surprise: Beethoven’s trousers, stockings & Missa Solemnis

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a DoubleQuote in words from the NYRB with one of the last and greatest Beethoven works -- while I polish up the rest of my posts for the day ]
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beet-cover-mk
Beethoven’s britches imagined by Mark Kitaoka for Dallas Symphony Orchestra Beethoven Festival Marketing Dept

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In The Beethoven Mystery Case, Leo Carey writes:

Nine hundred and thirty pages into Jan Swafford’s new biography of Beethoven, there is an interesting juxtaposition. After the composer died, in March 1827, his funeral was “one of the grandest Vienna ever put on for a commoner.” Schools were closed. Some 10,000 people crowded into the courtyard of the building where he had lived, then followed the coffin to the local parish church—not, as Swafford has it, to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (Among the torchbearers was Franz Schubert.) Franz Grillparzer, the leading Viennese writer of the day, wrote a funeral oration. But later that year, when Beethoven’s effects were auctioned off, a lifetime’s worth of manuscripts and sketchbooks fetched prices that Swafford calls “pathetic.” Beethoven’s late masterpiece the Missa Solemnis went for just seven florins. By comparison, his old trousers and stockings sold for six florins.

The “wild” DoubleQuote implicit in those last two sentences:

  • Trousers and stockings, six florins
  • Manuscript of the Missa Solemnis, seven florins
  • One underlying theme here is the familiar one of quantitative vs qualitative evaluations. Another has to do with the slow arrival of great thought among those unprepared for it.

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    For free, courtesy of YouTube, something I believe is worth just a little more than a suit of clothes .. Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings you the Missa Solemnis.

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    A Quick 1: DoubleTweet

    Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a quick one while I'm toiling away at something longer on Ebola & cultures, and I don't mean the kind in Petrie dishes ]
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    This, today wrt Holland:

    more or less echoes this, wrt LA in March:

    **

    I suspect these two tweets, taken as indicators, support the idea that some at least of those who travel to foreign lands for purposes of fighting do so because adventure is a potent lure. I further suspect that biker and gang codes of honor / shame fit well with the codes of honor / shame prominent in the ME — but I’d need anthropological backup for such a claim, and currently lack the resources to pursue it.

    And I suspect there’s a lateral tie in here with the work of Dr Bunker and others on Mexican narcocultura.

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    Peacemaking: of serious joking and most studious play

    Sunday, October 12th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on the aesthetic element in DoubleQuotes, and peacemaking as making connections; together with Renaissance phrasing of the same ideas ]
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    rice hoops
    Ambassador Susan Rice on the White House court with the Israeli & Palestinian Peace Players Yesterday

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    There’s a fair amount of gaming leaking into the blogging I read these days.

    Col. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis is hosting an IS/Coalition War Game [1, 2, 3], while over at PAXsims, Rex Brynen is hosting the “game developer’s diary” of Alex Langer, a McGill undergraduate who is “designing a wargame of the current Syrian civil war as a course project” [1, 2].

    Both efforts are of interest, but what the PAXsims venture makes clear to me is that I have been using my Zenpundit blogging as, among other things, a “game developer’s diary” for my own game thinking, and in particular for my thoughts about the DoubleQuotes format as a playful / serious analytic tool.

    Both playful and serious, because all fresh thinking requires the application of a playful spirit to serious ends — an approach illustrated by the image of Palestinian and Israeli kids on the White House basketball court at the head of this post, by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra put together by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim — and enshrined in the Florentine Renaissance motto “iocari serio et studiosissime” — which Marsilio Ficino, the genius behind the Florentine Renaissance, named as the core practice of Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato – “joking seriously and playing assiduously” in Edgar Wind‘s translation.

    Which would among other things be the Renaissance Platonist’s answer to Scott Shipman‘s question posed here the other day, What tools do you use to boost your creativity?

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    Ficino also said, “the task of Magic consists in comparing things to one another”, as quoted by Mircea Eliade in his Foreword to Ioan Couliano‘s great book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.

    That’s precisely what my own games do, expressed in Renaissance terms, and my DoubleQuotes in particular.

    In terms of theorizing about them, one point I may not have emphasized enough is that the quality of a given DoubleQuote (or move in a HipBone or Sembl game) is dependent on the aesthetics of the juxtaposition.

    Let me give you a simple example, not taken from my own work but from a “DoubleQuote in the Wild” — the header illustration to a recent FP post, The Activists Assad Hates Most Are Now Obama’s Problem. FP could have used any two photos of Obama and Assad, photos of Obama on the phone in the Oval Office, say, or Assad against the background of the Syrian flag — but they chose two images that showed the two men in near-identical poses, and it’s that near-identity which gives force to the juxtaposition:

    obamaassad

    Likewise, I could have chosen any one of a flock of quotes to illustrate British and American forces entering Baghdad in 1917 and 2003 respectively — but the most effective way to make the point was via two quotes that very closely paralleled each other:

    SPEC Baghdad

    That too is fundamentally an aesthetic choice — a choice that favors the simple elegance of the tightest available symmetry.

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    The image at the head of this post show Ambassador Rice on the Court with the Peace Players Yesterday

    Peacemaking, too, is often a matter of bringing out the similarities between otherwise opposing forces.

    As Nicholas of Cusa, Cardinal of the Roman Church, said in his De ludo globi / Of the Game of Spheres, a distant forefather to Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and thence to my own various games:

    This game is played, not in a childish way, but as the Holy Wisdom played it for God at the beginning of the world.

    Luditur hic ludus; sed non pueriliter, at sic / Lusit ut orbe nova Sancta Sophia Deo.

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    Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Shiraz Maher, & Edwin Bakker at van Lynden lecture panel

    Sunday, October 12th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a deep look into IS / Daesh from Amsterdam ]
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    This video contains some of the most fine-grained analysis of IS / Daesh and the situation in Iraq / Syria that I have seen so far:

  • Eye-witness report from the frontline by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad [0:7:00]
  • Discussion on the appeal of IS to foreign fighters by Shiraz Maher [0:22:15]
  • Implications for Western foreign policy by prof. Edwin Bakker [0:37:36]
  • Panel discussion on Western foreign policy, moderated by Ernesto Braam [0:53:15]
  • Audience Q&A moderated by Ernesto Braam [1:02:40]
  • The detailed description of the mix of local interests present in IS / Daesh provided by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in his initial presentation is very impressive indeed, as are his comments around 1.32.30 about the fifty or so factions working under the IS / Daesh name and umbrella..

    On another tack, one particular phrase he used [0.16.45] caught my attention:

    This is a new breed of militias .. the Shia al-Qaida.

    I recommend the entire 2 hour presentation.

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    A few further comments…

    To my ear, this was one of the key remarks from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad during the Q&A:

    The more you bomb, the more you radicalize.

    His remarks from abound the 1.08.00 minute mark up to that quote less than a minute later are chilling in the extreme.

    There’s an interesting question raised from the gallery at about the 1.16.30 mark, asking how US or European citizens volunteering to fight with the IDF differ from citizens of the same nations volunteering to fight in one branch or other of the jihad. Aren’t both of them instances of youth traveling to the Middle East to fight?

    Dr Bakker responds to this question at around 1.29.20 with a story about an uncle of his who fought in the Spanish Civil War. FWIW I imagine that this is an extremely touchy question, and would welcome ZP comments..

    And here’s a key Q&A remark from Shiraz Maher around 1.22.30:

    What should a de-rad program look like? … Some kind of deal needs to be struck: some form of pardon, in return for cooperation, cooperation that leads to active intelligenve, that leads to us gaining a better insight about the threat…

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    I’m particularly interested in this video because I hold a high opinion of Dr Edwin Bakker of Leiden University, having followed his Terrorism and CT Coursera course three times now, the last two times as a TA.

    I recommend his comments here, his analytic work in general, and his Coursera class in particular.

    Interestingly enough for my own purposes, Dr Bakker’s final slide juxtaposed these two images, one from Zhitomar in the Ukraine, the other drom IS / Daesh in Syria, to good effect — in what regular readers here will recognise is essentially a DoubleQuote in the Wild:

    Zhitomir, Ukraine

    and

    Iraq_bodies

    **

    All in all, a most enlightening panel.

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