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An old Boyd reference to you, maybe — new to me

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- John Boyd in pop culture ]
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I have just gotten access to Generation Kill, the HBO miniseries about the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Corps, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and was accordingly surprised to stumble across this frame ..
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Boyd in Generation Kill
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.. from a shot in which Lt. Col. Stephen “Godfather” Ferrando tells his men:

The enemy, he stared us down in Nasiriyah. But I wanted to show him today that some Americans won’t back down from a fight. I can put it in terms of tactics or strategy. I could quote Boyd. The simple way to say it is that some people might reasonably fear these Iraqis running around trying to organize ways to kill us. I don’t. And not because I’m a particularly courageous individual. I simply have a bigger fear. In my darkest hours, I sometimes fear that I will do something General Mattis won’t like. Gentlemen, I have no such fears tonight.

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I suppose that’s not so surprising, given that at the time of Boyd‘s death in 1997, Sen Grassley noted inter alia:

General Krulak describes John as “an architect” of our military victory over Iraq in 1991.That’s an oblique reference to John’s “Patterns of Conflict” briefing. This piece of work had a profound impact on U.S. military thought.It helped our top military leadership understand the advantages of maneuver warfare. Those ideas were used to defeat Iraq.

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Okay, you probably already knew all this ..

I didn’t. Hence, strictly ICYMI — this post.

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DoubleQuote: Genocide Memorial Church before and after

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a quick note on the DQ format used to illustrate church "before and after" attack, montage in Pudovkin / Eisenstein, and cognition ]
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Pondering these images, I see that while they do clearly represent “before and after” when juxtaposed, they do not represent “cause and effect” as such. The cause of the visible changes is not itself present, although implied. Even so, the viewer is liable to jump from a non-causal double image via the implied causal connection to an emotional response — “the bastards!” or something of that sort.

I’ve been interested in the intellectual and emotional responses generated by juxtapositions at least since I first read about montage, Pudovkin and Eisenstein in a class on film directing at UCLA some decades back. It is one of the great issues in film — Eisenstein wrote:

to determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema

It’s more than that, though — it’s one of the great issues in cognition and metacognition.

We’d do well to put some bright minds on the task of understanding it.

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Poetry in the Square

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- the public square, that is, and specifically Tahrir Square ]
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The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim — a documentary tracking the lives of six people in Tahrir Square through the two recent Egyptian revolutions — just won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming, 2014, and is up for the Documentary Feature Oscar. Here’s what struck me right off the bat:
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we will fill the world with our poetry Tahrir
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Yevtushenko had that sort of impact in Russia, Neruda in Chile. Poetry speaks where the oppressed are silent — is such a phrase, “we will fill the world with our poetry” conceivable in the cultured west?

Russia, Chile. Yevtushenko, Neruda.

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Yevtushenko wrote a poem for Neruda, mentioning Bilbao — which Bilbao? a statue where? — which may give us a clue to poetry and its power:

You see–
             over there, among the puddles and garbage,
standing up under the red lamps
stands Bilbao — with the soul
                            of a poet — in bronze.
Bilbao was a tramp and a rebel.
Originally
         they set up the monument, fenced off
by a chain, with due pomp, right in the center,
although the poet had lived in the slums.
Then there was some minor overthrow or other,
and the poet was thrown out, beyond the gates.
Sweating,
        they removed
                            the pedestal
to a filthy little red-light district.
And the poet stood,
                             as the sailor’s adopted brother,
against a background
                              you might call native to him.

and…

And Neruda comments, with a hint of slyness:
“A poet is
             beyond the rise and fall of values.
It’s not hard to remove us from the center,
but the spot where they set us down
                                                       becomes the center!”

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A weed if named a rose might smell less sweet

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- diplo cover-stories east and west, & a very funny movie ]
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I wanted to recommend the Bertrand Tavernier film Quai d’Orsay, available at Netflix under the name The French Minister, in any case — but couldn’t resist this DoubleQuote betweet news and cinematic art:

The film is a quintessentially French diplo equivalent of the political bureaucracy and chicanery found in the UK and US versions of House of Cards, with the formidably unpredictable, Heraclitus-quoting Minister of the English language title apparently based on Dominique de Villepin.

My news source is The Australian, Japan may pursue whaling in north Pacific despite Antarctic unlawful ruling, although there has been plentiful coverage of the situation.

No particular conclusion about a pattern of fishy political denialism — just some amusement about art imitating life.

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Form is Insight: painter’s eye, cinematographer’s segue

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a follow-up to Form is Insight: parliamentarian scuffle, photographer’s eye -- Breugel's Fight between Carnival and Lent comes to a movie house near you ]
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Jem Cohen‘s film, Museum Hours, is set largely in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, with a particular focus on Pieter Breughel the Elder. Less than 10 minutes into the film, this shot, showing a detail of one of his paintings:

is followed seamlessly — as though nothing had happened — by this one, a “detail” one might say, of the Vienna street, perhaps indeed as the viewer steps into it right outside the museum:

Between the two shots — in the cut — we move from the sixteenth to the twentyfirst century, and from curated museum to careless street. The painter’s eye is echoed by the cinematographer’s segue: litter remains litter.

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The first image is a seemingly insignificant detail taken from the area of Breughel’s painting containing the “figure of Carnival”:

which you can easily spot, low down and slightly left of center, in the painting as a whole, here:

The painting itself, which goes by the title The Fight between Carnival and Lent, presents Breughel’s juxtaposition of festive and fasting seasons which follow one another seamlessly in the calendar of the church, while their respective impulses wrestle constantly for dominance in the hearts of humankind…

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Drew Martin at The Museum of Peripheral Art blog notices the successive “litter” shots from inside and outside the museum in Cohen’s film, too, and writes:

The most brilliant thing about this movie is the use of segue. In one scene, a series of shots focus on details of a Bruegel painting with the guide’s voice listing the objects “.. discarded playing cards, a bone, a broken egg ..”, and then the images switch to nondescript ground shots in Vienna, as he continues “.. a cigarette butt, a folded note, a lost glove, a beer can.”

When I write of the power of juxtapositions and of the eye that perceives pattern, then, I am not speaking of something that is entirely subjective and personal, but of a faculty native to the human, yet woefully under-practiced, under-explored. My intention is to suggest that this faculty is not merely of use to the artist or art-historian, but basic to a rich and full cognizance of the world around us. It is one techne of reading the world, one of many.

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How’s this for another juxtaposition from the same film?

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