[ by Charles Cameron — a biker gang as alt-army, a chess board as Cold War battlefield — Night Wolves, and Fischer Spassky ]
I mentioned the Night Wolves bikers in my post It’s how we / they roll in May 2015, and there have been many reports of their activities elsewhere — but yesterday I was pointed to some videos I hadn’t seen before, and came across this intriguing title on an RT video from Sevastopol, 2014:
Russia: Epic Night Wolves biker rally takes war in Ukraine to the stage
Putin’s Angels: the bikers battling for Russia in Ukraine
Think about it. Taking a war to the stage — with a couple of rock bands, a light show, plenty of fires, and the Night Wolves themselves making high bike jumps across the stage — may sound like little or nothing, but for the citizens of Sevastopol is’s either w pretty profound warning or a pretty powerful affirmation that the Crimea belongs to Mother Russia.
That’s quite an audience! And read the caption:
This city will come back
Sevastopol will stay Russian
Note — this is a very short video clip — that Putin rides with the Night Wolves — in Crimea:
Note that Putin‘s bike has the Russian Imperial insignia of a double-headed eagle — on his gas tank!
Note the crown at the very top, and St George slaying the dragon in the center panel.
If you have 35 minutes, watch this — it’s pretty damn impressive for a show put on by a biker gang:
If you don’t have 35 minutes, just flick through it, catching a sense of the thing. But uit’s well worth watching in full, so perhaps you can find time to come back and watch it later.
The title of this post claims that “Epic Night Wolves biker rally takes war in Ukraine to the stage<" is A very interesting title". Any text which suggests that war can be considered a drama, a game, or a dream -- a subset of reality -- is of inherent interest: think of the impact of the black American athlete Jesse Owens crushing his German opponent to win four gold medals in Hitler's 1936 Summer Olympics!
In this case we have the claim that war can be enacted in a rock and roll and light show. A comparison with warfare as chess may prove illuminating: consider the Telegraph article titled How Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky became pawns — the title itself is extraordinary, making pawns of two great chess grand masters!
Even before Fischer-Spassky, we are told:
For the USSR, chess had always been a key weapon in the Cold War.
Cold War in Reykjavik as Fischer breaks Soviet defender Spassky
Never before or after has a chess tournament, or perhaps any sporting event, taken on such non-sporting significance. This was not Spassky v Fischer. It was the USSR v US. [ .. ]
The fate of a nation has rarely depended on the result of a sporting endeavour. But that was how the match-up between Fischer and Spassky was portrayed in the lead-up to Reykjavik in 1972.
When he defeated Spassky, we are told, Fischer “was treated as a war hero.” Spassky resigned by telephone– and Fischer? Ever the eccentric —
The audience (about 2,500) burst into rhythmic applause and rose. Fischer, still busying himself at the chessboard, again nodded, looked uncomfortable, glanced at the audience from the corner of his eyes and rushed off.
Bryan, lately of Vermont and now at Georgetown, is our keenest observer of the higher educational future. He coined the term peak higher education in 2013 — like peak oil, but for education, right? — and has been tracking it since then. At some point, he added the notion of queen sacrifice — “A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs” — and has made at least sixty posts in which queens are sacrificed, and one on a knight or rook sacrifice? (sports). Bryan‘s latest post is Casualties of the future. In it, he writes:
That academic phase hasn’t been clearly replaced yet. The new phase’s nature isn’t fully evident. Perhaps its outlines will become apparent after several years of change. I’ve speculated on what that next higher education phase might look like here and elsewhere. But for now, let’s consider the present as a moment in between those two phases. That’s our time, right in the midst of a switching period, a liminal space, marked by uncertainty and instability. We’re in a boundary zone.
Okay: a gentleman scholar as wise as he is bearded — and that’s a considerable double-barreled compliment — sees fit to emphasize the liminal in his latest broadside on higher education and its current obsession with cutting arts and humanities programs and various faculty members — ahem, bringing new and far broader meaning, in fact, to the concept of cutting classes. And why?
Why provide a graphic of brick wall(s) unless, somehow, the idea of breaks, gaps, thresholds, borders, leaps, in short the liminal, is of intrinsic importance?
Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?
We can consider the cases of women from the US, UK and elsewhere who volunteered for ISIS and now wish to return home.
Here’s a paragraph to transition us smoothly:
How easy should it be to give up your citizenship? In the era of Oswald, it could be difficult—like joining an especially selective monastic order that turns away aspirants until they kneel in the snow for a few days outside the monastery or consulate’s doors. Now a U.S. citizen can stop being American with a single visit to a consulate. (Most renounce not for ideological reasons but to avoid the complications of living as an American expatriate, subject to dual taxation and bureaucratic requirements far more onerous than for expatriates of almost any other country.)
That’s a liminalissue, questions of citizenship and borders are liminal. And Bryan is talking liminality when he talks education.
Here’s a quick liminal zing from Abigail Tracy, in the title and subtitle of here Atlantic piece:
I’d have been happy to include this in my chyrons and headers collection, but between the lines is too nicely liminal to miss.
A limen is a <threshold: it ‘s neither one thing nor the other, it’s in-between. And in-between is a time or state of transition, often tricky — think of the interregnum between the election of a President and his or her Inauguration — and often deeply human — we’re stuck with human nature, every one of us, which as Solzhenitsyn noted has a fault line in it more significant perhaps than even the fissure that separates our left and right cerebral hemispheres. Stunning us, he wrote:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
There’s liminality for you.
Here’s how Bryan ends his post:
There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.
The war we fight is not against powers and principalities — see my earlier post today on spiritual warfare. And The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation — the horror, the blessing of liminality.
SEAL training is the great equalizer: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart — and that deep sense of being equalized by sand. tide, and fatigue, brings with it fine-grained humility and profound bonding with ones’ fellows.
Victor Turner was the anthropologist who made liminality the corner-stone of his great work, The Ritual Process — see how closely his ideas correspond with McRaven‘s SEAL training. Back in my early post on the topic here on ZP, I wrote:
Basing his own work on van Gennep‘s account of rites of passage, Turner sees such rites as involving three phases: before, liminal, and after.
Before, you’re a civilian, after, you’re a Marine — but during, there’s an extraordinary moment when you’ve lost your civilian privileges, not yet earned your Marine status, and are less than nothing — as the drill sergeant constantly reminds you — and yet feel an intense solidarity with your fellows.
Before, you’re a novice, not yet “professed”, after, you’re a monk — but during, you lie prostrate on the paving stones of the abbey nave as you transition into lifelong vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
There are two things to note here. One is that liminality is a *humility* device, the other is that is creates a strong sense of bonding which Turner calls *communitas*: in one case, the Marine’s esprit de corps, in the other quite literally a monastic community. Part of what is so fascinating here is the (otherwise not necessarily obvious) insight that humility and community are closely related.
earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:
[ by Charles Cameron — (some of) what gaming, TV watching & quotation mining can get you in terms of strategy ]
First off, let me thank Trent Telenko for turning me onto the Xanatos Gambit at at ChicagoBoyx, which started me on this particular chose of a gaggle of wild geese..
The Xanatos Gambit caught my eye by virtue of its decision flow chart [you start at the top]:
That’s brilliant — not a win-win play, but an i-win-anyway ploy. [Linguists — remind me whether ploy is a warped variant of play, will you?] And Trent then identifies the Xanatos Gambit as Donald Trump’s characteristic play.. ploy.
A Xanatos Gambit is a plan for which all foreseeable outcomes benefit the creator — including ones that superficially appear to be failure. The creator predicts potential attempts to thwart the plan, and arranges the situation such that the creator will ultimately benefit even if their adversary “succeeds” in “stopping” them. When faced with a Xanatos Gambit the options are either to accept that the creator will get the upper hand and choose the outcome that is least beneficial to them, or to defeat them by finding a course that they didn’t predict.
In the casino business they say that the house always wins, and indeed, it’s true. When gamblers lose all their money, the house gets rich, but when someone has a lucky streak and wins big, this only serves to encourage others to take more risks, which means the house will actually get even richer in the long run for having “lost” some money to a big winner. The law of large numbers is on their side, after all. This is, in short, how casinos can stay in business—they virtually always turn a profit on the actual gambling
Okay, here the geese gaggle in formation after the Gambit. Our clue:
A convoluted Plan that relies on events completely within the realm of chance yet comes off without a hitch.
“How can anyone, even skilled conspirators, predict with perfect accuracy the outcome of a car crash? How can they know in advance that a man will go to a certain pay phone at a certain time, so that he can see a particular truck he needs to see? How can the actions of security guards be accurately anticipated? Isn’t it risky to hinge an entire plan of action on the hope that the police won’t stop a car speeding recklessly through a downtown area?“
If your first reaction to seeing the plan unfold is “There is no way that you planned that!”, then it’s roulette.
This fellow coyote is,
fellow the road-runner is but a shadow of, is
by definition, tricky, has
a penis can cross
the Ventura freeway
in seek of skirt, whose
penis maybe run over
by fate’s own eighteen wheeler..
[ by Charles Cameron — a light-hearted look at Trump Chess, and an umpire explains millisecond decision-making ]
The first of two pieces I’ll explore here is from the New Yorke, Rules for Trump Chess by Andrew Paul. It’s a humor piece, but not without its satirical effect, as you can tell from Rule #1:.
Each turn is referred to as a “news cycle.”
At times, the hunmor gets a bit sour, as with Rule #4:
A handful of new pieces will be introduced during game play, scattered haphazardly across the board. They include: two overcooked macaroni noodles (Kushners), a shrivelled white raisin with lint on it (Sessions), and a washcloth soaked in warm Johnnie Walker (Bannon). Their permitted moves are unclear, but every news cycle, players must select one to put in their mouths until they gag.
Links to an earlier (and more balanced) form of chess are not entirely absent, as exemplified by Rule #11:
Knights still move in that ridiculous two-squares-up, one-square-over path. They think they are being very clever. Their creepy horse faces must always be turned to face the king.
I don’t remember when I first heard the popular analogy comparing judges to umpires calling balls and strikes, but recently it’s been everywhere. When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated to the Supreme Court, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called him “a constitutionalist — someone who will call balls and strikes.” This past week, as Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) described him as “somebody who calls balls and strikes and doesn’t come up with his own strike zone.” Supposedly a judge is, and should be, as mechanical as an ump.
It’s true that there are similarities. Umpires have always been considered authority figures, like judges. Both are subject to a lot of scrutiny, and we do what we think is right by rule and tradition. Umpiring is a special calling and a learned skill that requires extraordinary mental toughness. When you put on your uniform, you are supposed to leave all your subjective feelings in that dressing room. Personal integrity and respect for the game are at stake.
I’ve seen similar said about judges when they put on their robes.. But even the simple “calling balls and strikes” level of analogy lacks subtlety:
Seeing the televised rectangle that allegedly represents the strike zone, you might surmise that any 3-year-old should be able to tell whether that little white sphere is in or out of that box. Replay has reinforced the feeling that it’s simple and obvious.
Yet there are many intangibles when it comes to calling balls and strikes. What the umpire’s actually doing is gauging a baseball’s relative position as it travels 95 miles an hour into a three-dimensional area. You’re judging a pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and goes to the catcher’s mitt in less than half a second.
Getting into greater finesse:
For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call.
Interesting final sentence, that.
Okay, it would be neat if an appellate or superior court judge could write a similar piece on the niceties of judicial judgment..
Umpires and referees..
I’ve always tended to think of umpires as the cricket equivalents of referees, and referees as the soccer equivalents of umpires, but what do I know?
Chair Umpire Carlos Ramosarguably interfered in the match, bringing both repeated champion Serena Williams and first-time winner Naomi Osaka to tears.
Match Referee Brian Earley holds his fists in, exemplifying both the passion and restraint in play in the US Open final
In the Serena Williams objection to penalties allotted her during the second set of her finals match with Japan’s young winner Naomi Osaka, I’ve learned today that in tennis, the umpire, usually seated in a high chair at center court makes unassailable rulings of fact, while the referee can overrule him in matters of tennis law — effectively making the umpire analogous to the jury, and the referee to the judge, in a trial by jury.
[ by Charles Cameron — I’d infinitely rather play Bach than chess.. ]
Above, a three-dimensional chess set. When I was up at Oxford, I had a three dimensional tic-tac-toe board, four sheets of plastic stacked vertically, each one drilled four by four, with yellow and red golf pegs to mark moves — it was quite a thrill, especially as an escape from Old Testament studies, but I wouldn’t play it now to save my, well, soul.
Below,Jonathan Scott performs his arrangement of the Finale from Saint-Saens “Organ” Symphony (No. 3) on the 1895 T.C. Lewis organ of Albion Church, Ashton-under-Lyne, UK.
I would, OTOH, give my soul to be able to play the organ — a privilege denied me until I reached Grade 5 in the British system — a grade I gave up on in despair after too mant teachers forcced me to play the detested Alec Rowley‘s exercises — with different fingerings.. Piano, feh, It took me half a lifetimes to realize there is some merit to be found therein.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.