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Sunday surprise: an extended DoubleQuote

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Lucille Ball and Groucho Harpo Marx, what more need I say? ]
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A Comedy of Mirrors..

How to draw a circle in a line

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Robert Redford and Brad Pitt on a Berlin rooftop ]
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circle on a line Spy Game rooftop
how do you draw a circle in an entirely linear medium?

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The movie is Spy Game, with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

To my mind, it’s a brilliant piece of film making: director Tony Scott chose a terrific location for Nathan Muir (Redford)’s debrief reaming of Tom Bishop (Pitt), in the course of which Muir very pointedly tells Bishop:

Listen to this, because this is important. If you’d pulled a stunt there and got nabbed, I wouldn’t come after you. You go off the reservation, I will not come after you.

That’s the heart of the movie, right there, in negative — because the whole movie is about Bishop going off reservation in China, pulling a stunt there, and getting nabbed by the Chinese, and Muir coming after Bishop and rescuing him, with great shenanigans and flashbacks along the way.

Scott wants to draw a circle around that point, to drive it home — but this is a movie, a totally linear sequence frames, whether celluloid or digital, so how do you draw a circle in a linear medium?

Scott shoots the scene atop a circular roof, and before, during and after the conversation between the two men, has the camera circle the building:

**

I know, I stretch the limits of this blog mercilessly — and I’m spending this post on a piece of cinema technique. Let’s just say that I take Adam Elkus‘ words seriously:

Clausewitz himself was heavily inspired by ideas from other fields and any aspiring Clausewitzian ought to mimic the dead Prussian’s habit of reading widely and promiscuously.

I’m being promiscuous.

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There are two other major points caught in Scott’s tight circle. One offers the essence of Spy Game, emphasis on the spy:

Bishop: Okay, help me understand this one. Nathan, what are we doing here? Don’t bullshit me about the greater good.
Muir: That’s exactly what it’s about. Because what we do is, unfortunately, very necessary.

The other gets to the other half of the name Spy Gamegame:

Bishop: It’s not a fucking game!
Muir: Yes, it is. That’s exactly what it is. It’s no kid’s game, either, but a whole other game. And it’s serious, and it’s dangerous, and it’s not one you want to lose.

So, in the gospel according to Spy Game, espionage is a deadly and death-dealing game, played unfortunately but very necessarily for the greater good. All that in three short minutes, with a circle drawn around it for emphasis.

**

Thus a problem in geometry is artfully transcended.

Sunday surprise: desert and triple canopy

Monday, April 18th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — as a poet, i love the term “triple canopy” — okay? ]
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I was watching The Big Lebowski — a great film that’s all the better because it features a cameo of my old buddy Jimmie Dale Gilmore — and was caught off-guard when I saw this particular segment:

desert vs triplem canopy big lebowski

Once again, the arts — my side of the house, you might say — are bringing me intelligence of strategy — the main course here at Zenpundit, which creativity a close second — and I was pretty sure I’d read much the same thing somewhere in the last few days..

A quick query on FaceBook revealed that I wasn’t making things up out of whole cloth. Stephanie Chenault and Laura Walker had seen it, too.

And then Mark brought the whole thing back home, with this FaceBook post of his:

Safransky canopy

Very likely, that’s what we all saw..

**

It’s still Sunday here, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised — so this can still be the Sunday surprise I meant it to be, even though you likely won’t see it till Monday.

And mebbe in future we should simply refer to The Big Safranski as The Dude.

Across the great divide

Friday, April 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — philosophy during a bank heist — and its implications in terms of military doctrine ]
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tactical

mental

Two screenshots in sequence from the Denzel Washington movie, Inside Man, bring me back to the philosophical fissures and fusions between mind and brain, subjective and objective, quantitative and qualitative, man half-angel and half-beast — in a law enforcement context.

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When one side has reached the limits of its material strength, it can always add to its military efforts by mobilizing all possible moral strength.

I often need to talk about this. As material, for Clausewitz, is the counterpart to moral, what for TRADOC is the counterpart to Human Terrain?

Contrapuntal video, fugal braiding

Friday, March 11th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — from Trumpery to Altman’s Nashville ]
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Tufte’s illustration of the Kathasaritsagara or Ocean of the Streams of Story

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Wired had a piece titled Never Mind Trump. The Internet Wants to Watch What’s Behind Him a couple of days ago, and it contained a sentence that caught my attention:

Like a Bach fugue, the counterpoint rivaled, and then overtook, the original melody.

**

I’m always interested in non-musical forms of counterpoint, whether we’re talking Glenn Gould‘s radio dramas, Claude Levi-Strauss‘s structure for his Mytholoogiques, Tufte‘s Rushdie‘s Kathasaritsagara, or the various attempts to make Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game playable. Hesse himself invokes both fugue and counterpoint in the passage in which he describes actual moves in his game about as clearly as anywhere:

A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game’s symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating ide by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously ombining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to
evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis.

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I was accordingly interested to read this paragraph, ending as it does with the sentence I quoted above:

The Christie videos were just the latest installment in what might be the defining video format of this election. Call it marginal media, in which background activity overwhelms the intended subject. Most candidates have found themselves inadvertently sidelined at some point. Hillary Clinton was overshadowed by the surreal stylings of “Sticker Kid,” who mugged, jerked, and danced throughout her stump speech. Another short video treated Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of marijuana decriminalization as a preamble to an audience member’s startled reaction. Another Trump rally was undercut when a member of the crowd behind the lectern began reading a copy of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. The drama unfolded over the course of Trump’s speech, as the reader’s neighbors began to argue with her, then brought their neighbors into the fray. Soon, the tension made it impossible to pay attention to Trump at all. Like a Bach fugue, the counterpoint rivaled, and then overtook, the original melody.

**

We need, it seems to me, to get used to thinking contrapuntally — and accordingly it is instructive to see just how many of the great artists of recent times have employed some measure of contrapuntal thinking in their work. From the same Wired piece:

The frames of Robert Altman’s Nashville are packed with overlapping dialogue and activity—it’s often hard to determine which storyline should dominate—granting his aspiring losers the same weight as the country-music superstars they idolize. Tom Stoppard applied the same lens to Hamlet when he made two lackeys — whose off-stage death was barely remarked upon in Shakespeare’s play — the heroes of his fan-fic spin-off, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Okay, I’m off to see Nashville if I can find it..


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