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The magic of miniatures

Monday, May 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I wasn’t intending this to be my next post in the commercials and magic series, but here it is, with miniatures and matryoshkas all in a row — and Churchill! ]
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Who knows when it started — Egyptian shabtis were small figurines inscribed with the names of the deceased and buried with them, answering for them during judgment in the Hall of Truth where, for the best afterlife, one’s heart should weigh lighter than a feather on the scales —

Myself, buried with my mini-me.

Especially if I am a pharaoh, or person of note:

(From left) Painted shabti of Ramesses IV. 20th Dynasty; decorated shabti of the Lady of the House, Sati – reportedly from Saqqara. 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III; and, a double shabti of Huy and Ipuy, a father and son pair. 18th Dynasty. Louvre Museum, Brooklyn Museum and Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy. (Photos: Heidi Kontkanen and Margaret Patterson)

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A jar fit for a giant to drink from, one of thousands in the Laotian Plain of Jars:

I was reminded of Egyptian shabtis by an article I saw today about thousand-year-old burial practices in Laos, where the vast Plain of Jars is dotted with thousands of large “jars” so called — some have thought of them as chalices from which giants would drink — used in funerary rites, and the article contained this para:

We’d love to know why these people represented the same jars in which they placed their dead, in miniature to be buried with their dead.

Miniatures!

I suppose we all play with miniatures as children — toy guns, toy sheriff’s badges, dolls and dolls houses — all parents need to ensure their children grow up prepared for adult life! — but after-life may have come first where miniatures are concerned.

In any case, there’s an enormous, likely archetypal pull associated with the large and its small analogs.

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Look at this Myself and Mini-me commercial from National:

The large and the small together are somehow more attractive than just the large alone.

And let’s take this a step further into the realm of magic, as understood by the great anthropologist Sir JG Frazer:

Sympathetic magic, anthropologically speaking, is magic in which you enact in miniature what you want the gods to perform on a larger scale. You urinate — or as Shakespeare more delicately puts it, go to look upon a bush — so the gods will pour down their rain upon you.

That kind of magical thinking — sympathetic magical thinking — is what the boy is instinctively doing in this Farmers rooftop parking commercial, while the Farmers rep thinks it’s gravity that throws a large car way up in the air..

To be honest, my money’s with magic and the boy.

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Farther yet, and we come to the Matryoshka principle, in which Russian dolls are contained (‘nested”) within dolls within dolls:

And now consider this commercial featuring vans nested within vans:

Sir Winston Churchill was playing a brilliant variant on this Matrioshka principle when during a BBC broadcast in October 1939, he said:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.

Two variants on a too obvious DoubleQuote

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Richard Nixon, Roger Stone, defeat signaling itself as victory — and then there’s Sir Winston Churchill ]
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Back then or recently, we’ve all seen the victory sign that President Nixon gave before climbing into the presidential helicopter for his final departure from the White House and the presidency:

By now, we’ve all been shown Roger Stone‘s back, with Nixon‘s portrait tattooed on it, and know that Nixon was Stone’s hero, and that Stone played what Snopes calls a “consequential role” — though not enough to qualify him as an “advisor” — in Nixon’s re-election campaign, 1972.

And we’ve seen Roger Stone, just the other day, emerging from court and giving an exultant copy of that Nixon victory sign. It would be all too easy to juxtapose the two, and claim a DoubleQuote — while it also seems just a little strange not to note it..

Maybe this version of Stone‘s salute — surrounded and indeed haloed by Nixon memorabilia — is sufficiently different to cause some measure of surprise or delight.

I can’t hope for an in-drawn breath on this one — but a quiet chuckle from some of you, perhaps?

Or..

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Or how about the great original, Winston Churchill?

Howzzat for a DoubleQuote with Richard Nixon. Nixon’s sign is victory in defeat — Churchill’s is victory en route to Victory!

Sunday surprise — Xanatos and other Gambits, &c

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — (some of) what gaming, TV watching & quotation mining can get you in terms of strategy ]
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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.

Here’s an explanatory para::

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.

Another:

A Xanatos Gambit is a Plan whose multiple foreseen outcomes all benefit its creator. It’s a win-win situation for whoever plots it.

Here’s a quote from a source unknown to me: Cavilo, The Vor Game:

The key to strategy… is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.

Xanatos Gambit / Real Life

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:

Xanatos Speed Chess trumps Xanatos Gambits.

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Xanatos Speed Chess:

Cosmo Lavish, a Terry Pratchett banker character from Discworld, saith:

Plans can break down. You cannot plan the future. Only presumptuous fools plan. The wise man steers.

I agree wholeheartedly with “You cannot plan the future” — a point I’ve made in my Art of Future Warfare entries

And since we’re in Chess territory:

The Chessmaster:

What? That I used two fourteen-year-old pawns to turn a knight and topple a king? It’s chess, Daniel. Of course you don’t understand.

Unwitting Pawn

Tend to be played by The Chessmaster, logically enough.

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Well, I could go on, but let me just list some of the pages I came across, and invite you to look where your interests take you..

Gambit Roulette

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.

The Trickster

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..

Poem of mine.

The Fool:

Well, I see the Fool differently:

I claim the final authority, rule
from the steps below the throne.
Kings look to me for approval, fool
that I am, for at court, I alone
see all men as wind in a cage of bone.

Another poem of mine — brought down from the attic.

A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside An Enigma

That’s Churchill, Winston:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.

Riddle for the Ages
Secret Identity Identity
Multilayer Facade
Gambit Pileup

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There is also:

Knight Templar:

This fellow interests me because of my recent 5,000 word foray into Templar territory, Templarios: Echoes of the Templars and Parallels Elsewhere for Doc Bunker‘s next volume — but what really struck me was the quote used as an epigraph to the topic. It’s from James Baldwin:

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.

Who would you trust more at CIA?

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — seeking to emphasize what may be at base a spiritual / psychological question ]
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First, the context, courtesy Washington Post:

Trump had signaled as a presidential candidate that he would consider reestablishing agency prisons and resuming interrogation methods that President Barack Obama had banned. Trump never followed through on that plan, which was opposed by senior members of his administration including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured while imprisoned in Vietnam, said Haspel’s Senate confirmation should be conditioned on securing a pledge to block any plan to reintroduce harsh interrogations. “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program,” ­McCain said.

Haspel ran one of the first CIA black sites, a compound in Thailand code-named “Cat’s Eye,” where al-Qaeda suspects Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in 2002.

An exhaustive Senate report on the program described the frightening toll inflicted. At one point, the report said, Zubaida was left “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

Internal CIA memos cited in a Senate report on the agency’s interrogation program described agency officials who witnessed the treatment as distraught and concerned about its legality. “Several on the team [were] profoundly affected,” one agency employee wrote, “.?.?. some to the point of tears and choking up.”

Haspel later served as chief of staff to the head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, when he ordered the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the Thailand site.

Rodriguez wrote in his memoir that Haspel “drafted a cable” ordering the tapes’ destruction in 2005 as the program came under mounting public scrutiny and that he then “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.

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In light of the above, who would you trust more?

Someone who has overseen torture, deeply regretted / repented of it (metanoia), and wouldn’t repeat the crime / error / sin / shame / pick your word and its accompanying implications under any circumstances — or someone who was against torture from the first?

As I understand it, Gina Haspel claims to fall in the former class, thought I’m not sure whether she views her earlier actions with regret and / or remorse — and these /// differences are important.

There’s little doubt that as an administrator of Agency business, she’d more than qualified, so our “only remaining question” is whether someone who once oversaw a black site (and destroyed potentially incriminating evidence) can be trusted never to permit CIA to practice torture, under whatever name or cover it may hide, ever again.

Does she regret / repent, or does she feign regret / repentance?

And would you expect a newspaper reporter or cable news pundit — indeed, anyone short of her confessor or Haspel herself — would know?

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Once again, mortals must decide, and quickly — our continuing koan or paradox — while the most relevant information of all is tangled up in the knots of human psychology / hidden deep in the heart of God..

Onward, Christian Soldiers

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — as sung by FDR and Winston Churchill in August of 1941 ]
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It seems only appropriate first to bring you the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers as performed by the Manchester Citadel Band and Yorkshire Chorus of the Salvation Army — Christan Soldiers and Salvation Army both having meaning that blends the military with the religious:

As regular readers here will know, the disjunction and conjunction of the spiritual and military is a central focus of my thoughts and posts here on Zenpundit.

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It may seem entirely trivial in comparison with the stunning footage that follows, but the article that brought me to think once again of the military-religious nexus was a piece from Russia’s Pravmir today, titled Bishop of the Russian Church compares Russia airbase in Syria to a monastery:

“The situation is interesting in spiritual sense, it reminds of a big convent without Internet, television and almost without a telephone. All servicemen are involved in sport activities, they have a great demand in reading,” the hierarch said in his interview with the Pobeda radio.

The bishop noted that the servicemen participated in pastoral conversations with great interest.

“This informational blockade helps them refresh their conscience, in result they have a demand to talk about important spiritual moments. It impressed me much,” he confessed.

The church official said he saw “an absolutely new face of our military forces there.”

“Not only weapons and outfit, but their new way of thinking impressed me. It was seen in their discipline, in organization of service, which we witnessed during the week. It differed so much from all the things I saw before that I sincerely rejoiced,” the bishop said.

That’s worth pondering, you know, as we think about Putin‘s Russia and current events in Syria..

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The near-pacifist son of a World War II naval war hero in me was intrigued enough to go searching for Onward Christian Soldiers as a musical match for this article, and it was in search of an appropriate rendering of the hymn that I ran across the FDR / Churchill footage.

I am profoundly glad it did.

In my view today, the most riveting rendering of Onward Christian Soldiers must be the one captured on archival footage here, with Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt present on the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales in August 1941:

The other hymn sung in that clip is the quintessential naval hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save with its refrain, O hear us when we call to Thee / For those in peril on the sea..


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