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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.

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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 flute that sets Kurosawa’s Kagemusha in motion

    Saturday, April 19th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- also the battle of Gaixia, 200 BCE, with an echo late in the Korean War -- and a tip of the hat to Emlyn ]
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    Kagemusha, the flute call:

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    There’s a sequence near the start of Akria Kurosawa‘s masterpiece, Kagemusha, when a flute player on the ramparts of a besieged castle belonging to Tokugawa Ieyasu so captivates the men of the daimyo Takeda Shingen‘s besieging force that everyone listens for the flute each night:

    Our men are impressed. They can’t wait for night to come.

    This flute, in turn, becomes the primary indicator of whether the besieged castle will or will not fall after the besiegers cut its water supply. The daimyo’s general and close confidant suggests whe asked:

    The castle can stand longer. The garrison leader is a fine warrior. He lets us hear the flute at night. …

    If we hear him tonight the garrison will hold. The castle will not fall. But if we do not hear the flute, the castle is doomed. Its fall is near.

    To which the daimyo responds:

    I want to hear if the flute is played tonight. Prepare my seat.

    The daimyo’s seat is prepared, the flute plays, a shot rings out… the daimyo is mortally wounded… and the narrative of the film unfurls.

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    I was watching Kagemusha with son Emlyn last night, saying how close the film seemed to come to my current interests, and remarked on the scene with the flute because it illustrates so perfectly the ideas that morale may prove more powerful than materiel, and the arts as valuable in coflict as ballistics.

    Emlyn spent a short while at the computer, and found two web-pages he thought might interest me.

    The first page pointed me to the battle of Gaixia in 202 BCE, in which Han Xin trapped Xiang Yu‘s Chu forces in a box canyon,

    To further break the Chu army’s spirit, Han Xin employed the “Chu Song from Four Sides” tactic. He ordered the Han soldiers and captured Chu troops to sing Chu songs. The Chu songs made the Chu troops remember their families back home, greatly reducing their will to fight.

    Increasingly homesick, the Chu soldiers began to desert, Han Xin’s brilliant tactic gave him the vistory, and the Han dynasty was established.

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    The second page Emlyn pointed me to was titled The Use of Music in Psyops. In it, SGM Herbert Friedman takes a long (67 pp.) and detailed look at this general topic, and made a fascinating “DoubleQuote” style connection with the first in its near-final paragraph:

    The Communist Chinese used music against American troops on several occasions during the Korean War. Soldiers from the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division recalled that when the enemy played Joni James’ rendition of Hank Williams “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” on dark and foggy nights it gave soldiers some reason to pause and think of home.

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    For your edification and delight, Joni James sings Hank WilliamsYour Cheatin’ Heart:

    Here Liu Fang plays the celebrated pipa solo that depicts the stages of the battle, The Ambush from all Sides:

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    For what it’s worth, the banner and motto of the Takeda clan, Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain — given in the subtitles as —

    Swift as the wind
    Quiet as a forest
    Fierce as fire
    Immovable as a mountain

    — which adds much to the poetry of our understanding of Japanese warfare, is known as the Furinkazan, and derives from Sun Tzu‘s seventh chapter:

    Therefore the army is established on deception, mobilized by advantage, and changed through dividing up and consolidating the troops.
    Therefore, it advances like the wind,
    it marches like the forest,
    it invades and plunders like fire,
    it stands like the mountain,
    it is formless like the dark,
    it strikes like thunder.

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    Beautiful film, great film.

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    Marx repeats itself

    Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- an irresistible application of the DoubleQuotes method to a well-worn aphorism ]
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    History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farceKarl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire.

    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remediesGroucho

    With appreciation of the wit and skill of artist David Levine and the New York Review of Books

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    Sunday surprise #21 — Defiant Requiem

    Sunday, April 13th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- the power of music -- Verdi's Requiem in the Terezin / Theresienstadt concentration camp ]
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    Two minutes of your time will bring you the Dies Irae of Giuseppe Verdi‘s Requiem, conducted by Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra:

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    Yes?

    A little over an hour will bring you an astounding documentary, describing how the Jewish prisoners of the Theresienstadt camp ouside Prague rallied around conductor Rafael Schächter to perform that great Requiem, not once but sixteen times, inside the camp…

    From the Defiant Requiem Foundation site:

    Conductor Rafael Schächter told the choir, “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.” … The performances came to symbolize resistance and defiance and answering the worst of mankind with the best of mankind. The performance is powerful, dramatic and inspirational, with a contemporary message of hope.

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    You might wish to support a performance of this work in Detroit, currently being funded on Kickstarter:

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    And the Requiem itself — played here by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Ricardo Muti — will take less than two of your hours — you can safely skip the introductory remarks and go straight to the 12 minute mark:

    — less than two hours, yet timeless.

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    Trumping even the horrors of the camps: the power of music.

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    Shoma Choudhury talks to the CIA & Taliban, more or less

    Thursday, April 10th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- two talks from India's THiNK2013 conference, one about the Taliban and US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the other a tale of India / Pakistan Partition ]
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    Here, Indian journalist Shoma Choudhury interviews Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, one time Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and author of the book, My Life with the Taliban, and Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Islamabad in 2001 and later Director of the Agency’s Counterterrorist Center, during the THiNK2013 conference held at the Grand Hyatt in Goa, in a session titled An Afghan Date: The CIA Talks To The Taliban on November 9th, 2013:

    I haven’t found a reference to this event in the New York Times or Washington Post, and the video of the event has been viewed less than 1,250 times — so I hope that if any Zenpundit readers have in fact already viewed it, they will forgive me for posting it here. It seems to me to be a remarkable conversation, not least because of Choudhury’s skillful moderation.

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    I only know about this conversation because blog-friend Omar Ali pointed me to the video of a reading of Saadat Hasan Manto‘s account of Partition in his satirical short story, Toba Tek Singh at the same conference. The reader is the actor Naseeruddin Shah whom I admire enormously for his stunning performance as “the common man” in Neeraj Pandey‘s A Wednesday — the story is told as written in Manto’s Urdu, with a principal character who “mutters or shouts a mix of Punjabi, Urdu and English” — and most of an English language translation is provided for those like myself who need it, by means of projected background slides.

    But that voice, Naseeruddin Shah’s voice!

    You can read Toba Tek Singh in Frances Pritchett‘s translation here.

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    If these two presentations are anything to go by, the THiNK conference series may be what TED talks could and should have been…

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