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Games, sports, play, dream & other interesting metaphors, &c

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing my habit of collecting language, images included, which catch my attention — various forms of magical, alchemical and other evidence that life is but a dream — Calderón de la Barca, la vida es sueño ]

King’s College To Wit by Thomas Howell Jones

Duel Day is a commemoration of the duel fought between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea over the founding of King’s College London. The duel itself was fought on 21 March 1829 and the anniversary is celebrated annually around this date.


Hardball, carnival barker, dueled with men over the honor of women :

Trump: Next Old Hickory or Carnival Barker?

He touches on the potential for letting Obamacare implode, possibly a hardball play with Congress. [ .. ]

While Old Hickory fought the British, whom he hated bitterly, and the Indians, whom white settlers wanted out of the way, dueled with men over the honor of women and rose from being a country lawyer to the president, Trump is a real estate developer turned reality TV star who doesn’t even have the backing of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Kanye plays 3-dumesonal chess with pop culture, Ari Melber, Fallback Friday, The Beat, 04/28/2018::

I sometimes see Kanye as literally playing 3-dimensional pop-culture chess [ .. ]

That’s a dangerous kind of bed of fire to walk on right now [ .. ]

It isn’t a game to play with words like this [ .. ]

So Kanya’s going to keep pushing forward, but he’s got an album to sell, so it’s a game thing [ .. ]

To me, Kanye plays 3-dimensional chess with pop culture. I’ve seen him make dramatic moves that look like he was in check mate, and then he was able to turn it round relatively [ .. ]

I’ve heard there are people behind the scenes, close to making that check mate he may not be able to recover from

eighth-dimensional chess master sorcery

Do Kanye West’s Politics Matter?

That Kanye West finds his ideas intriguing does not surprise me, however. Adams thinks that he, and he alone, truly gets Trump, and comprehends the eighth-dimensional chess master sorcery that accounts for Trump’s appeal. It’s a way to join a mob but also flatter yourself for transcending it. It reminds me very much of a rapper I used to think I knew.

Bargaining Chips, played like a fiddle:

As Two Koreas Talk Peace, Trump’s Bargaining Chips Slip Away

“The United States has been played beautifully, like a fiddle, because you had a different kind of a leader,” Mr. Trump said after meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the White House. “We’re not going to be played, O.K.? We’re going to hopefully make a deal; if we don’t, that’s fine.”


I guess language play — and natsec rhyme — falls within the play & other interesting metaphors rubric:

“Escalate to de-escalate” is catchy, it rhymes, and it rolls off the tongue. Unfortunately, it is also wrong — but not for the reasons experts usually focus on.

Since Russia released its 2014 National Defense Strategy, and especially after the publication of America’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, U.S. officials, pundits, and national security wonks have used the phrase either to describe Russia’s strategy, or as a launching point to criticize that description. Buzz phrases like “escalate to de-escalate” tend to spread through officialdom where they are misunderstood and misused as quickly as they are shared. The problem with the term is not that Russia doesn’t have capacity or plans to use calculated escalation (nuclear or otherwise) to contain or terminate a conflict. It’s that such escalation is only one part of a larger strategic approach, and the focus on Moscow’s nuclear threshold risks missing the forest for the trees.

That’s from War on the Rocks, today, Time to Terminate Escalate to De-Escalate — It’s Escalation Control

A headline from War on the Rocks, Monday 30 April 2018:



That would have been a game changer —
is hot-dogging on this thing ..


Continuing right here. Every ten additional examples or so, I’ll post & tweet a reminder.


Guest on Rachel Maddow, 05/01/2018:

FThe goalposts keep changing as to what collusion means.


Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump’s legal teamMueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”


Robert Mueller and Co. are playing hardball



Never underestimate your ability to shoot yourself in the head..
non-denial denial .. non clarification clarification ..
enabled some of these dominos to start falling..
Rudy Giuliani is a loose cannon .. rolling around the Oval Office .. another loose cannon..
a fishing expedition .. a happy hunting ground out there..
four dimensional chess..
is he work horse or show horse..
everybody takes a victory lap ..
they are altogether so different, politics and wrestling..
the Olympics of making things up.. (Ari)
full court press ..
he opens the Pandora’s box just a little bit more.. Dateline
opening Pandora’s box: that is war ..
Giuliano’s cleaning up for Giuliano ..
Stormy playing herself (SNL, ourob)
lawyering involves adversarial combat ..
Amb Chris Hall: he might find a way to dodge the bullet that is pointing right at his head ..
behind the eight-ball
people in this morality play [Ari]
gloves are of .. the stakes are getting higher and the gloves are coming off
Gina Haspel, Iran, and Pay-to-Play with Michael Cohen
Yanked the ball back ..
Each show is separate show, each match is the wrestling card
a pretty good roadmap to a smoking gun .. [slate]
the tentacles of players..
he’s wrong it say it’s illegal .. you need a quid pro quo..
he’s always been a hard-charging associate
when the fish are hidden in the shadows ..
Clint Watts “dancing round within their terms of service” ..
ignoring the elephant in the room to concentrate on the fleas on the fllorr.. Avenatti


Giuliani: The special counsel so far seems to think that Comey is Moses, and I happen to think Comey is Judas..

I wouldn’t be an attorney if I did that, George — I wouldd be living in some kind of unreal fantasy world, that everybody tells the truth ..


Giuliani’s FBI ‘Stormtroopers’ Smear Is the Key to Trump’s Authoritarian Mind-set



When it came to the US breaking the Iran deal .. Effectively we are grabbing the ball off the field, popping it, and telling everybody we are about to tear gas the pitch. And so it seems unlikely that this game will keep going for long.


I would describe pulling out of this deal [nuke deal] as possibly the greatest deliberate act of self-harm and self-sabotage in geo-strategic politics in the modern era.

George Will:

Judging by the number of times Pence announces himself “humbled,” he might seem proud of his humility, but that is impossible because he is conspicuously devout and pride is a sin.

Between those two Cabinet meetings, Pence and his retinue flew to Indiana for the purpose of walking out of an Indianapolis Colts football game, thereby demonstrating that football players kneeling during the national anthem are intolerable to someone of Pence’s refined sense of right and wrong.

20 Responses to “Games, sports, play, dream & other interesting metaphors, &c”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    Trump should say, “John McCain and I, we’ve had out innings, we’e been on opposite sides ofnthings” ..

    the sniping that goes on behind the scenes


  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    There’s a fairly extended use of the telephone metaphor in this Atlantic piece;

    North Korea’s Dangerous Game of Telephone With the United States
    Kim Jong Un “has been playing a high-risk, high-return game. And he has never lost a bet thus far.”

    The article begins with a version of the whiplash imagery I discussed in Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]:

    The incredible spectacle in recent days of Kim Jong Un becoming the first North Korean leader to step into South Korea, and Donald Trump welcoming home American hostages from North Korea, and Kim and Trump announcing an unprecedented meeting next month in Singapore, inflated expectations for a breakthrough. After 25 years of failing to denuclearize North Korea, and 65 years of failing to secure peace on the Korean peninsula, something historic seemed finally within reach.
    Then Wednesday happened.

    From there, after a few paras, we get back to the tekephone game of the title:

    The developments highlight the fragility of the current diplomatic campaign to denuclearize North Korea. But they also reveal the perilous downsides of the international game of telephone that has been playing out over the last few months regarding North Korea’s intentions.
    South Korean officials, for example, have claimed that Kim Jong Un is no longer demanding that the United States halt its military exercises with South Korea and withdraw American troops from South Korea in return for the North giving up its nuclear weapons. But North Korea’s furious objections to this week’s drill suggests that its willingness to compromise on these key issues may not hold up to scrutiny.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    I don’t think you can hit a home run witth these leaders..
    Axios Ourob: White House leakers leak about leaking ..
    a Mexican standoff ..
    We’ve gone from defense to offense.

  4. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Maybe it’s already been noted hereabouts, but if not: Regarding their capacities for grand strategy, Xi is playing Go, Putin chess, and Trump poker. Xi’s Belt and Road initiative, esp the expansion across the Indian Ocean, has been compared to Go. Trump seems to think mainly in terms of “deal power” rather than hard or soft power. And today or yesterday he denied his team has done any “folding” in trade negotiations with the Chinese.
    Actually, I don’t see that Trump is pursuing a grand strategy, whereas Xi and Putin are. Which makes the game metaphors all the more applicable. No grand strategy should rest on a poker metaphor.

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Re Trump legal advisors: “they’re not smart and they play tic-tac-toe — Michale Avenatti ..
    David Corn: “hush pay, pay to play..
    at this point i need a vision board..
    we have a big dog in the fight .. Avenatti ..
    clint watts the online game .. the ground game ..
    ryan evans: the frenemy game ..

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks again, David.
    I’ve been concentrating on quanttity, noting as many instances of different sports and game metaphors as I could recongize, and along the way I’ve noticed a few very rich extendded uses, but I haven’t moved to a consideration of strategic implications. I guess for me the most compelling usages are the ones where two games (or more) are invoked, as in your “Xi is playing Go, Putin chess, and Trump poker” — and from there the most significant extension would be where a particular game is either the national strategic game or the game known to be an individual leader’s favorite. Chess will pretty obviously influence Garrry Kasparov’s analyses, and Mao’s thinking has been usefully analyzed in terms of Go by Scott Boorman in The Protracted Game: A Wei-Ch’i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy.
    Even just noting instances and variations of game and sports metaphors has seemed at times a lonely task, drawing little in the way of comments, to the point where I’ve worried I am turning off readers rather than informing them — and yet I’m pretty such that metaphor is a useful level at which to intersect with a body of texts and affairs. At the very least, it is one that draws my own attention. And I am indeed grateful to receive the encouragement your comment above offers me.

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    prime piece of horse meat .. &c Ari Melber, May 18 2018, m 24/5
    he was never as good ats Shaq was at his game..
    Hardball: Politics is an acting profession ..
    He’s playing a role, he’s playing a TV lawyer..
    Nolan will not play that game..
    It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too. .. [ourob?]

  8. Charles Cameron Says:

    Rebecca Solnit:

    Sex is a transaction; men’s status is enhanced by racking up transactions, as though they were poker chips.

    Incidentally, her piece, A broken idea of sex is flourishing. Blame capitalism has quite a reading of the Trojan War.
    Rebecca Solnit again, in a new intro to her original mansplaining essay:

    One evening over dinner, I began to joke, as I often had before, about writing an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me.” Every writer has a stable of ideas that never make it to the racetrack, and I’d been trotting this pony out recreationally every once in a while. My houseguest, the brilliant theorist and activist Marina Sitrin, insisted that I had to write it down because people like her younger sister Sam needed to read it. Young women needed to know that being belittled wasn’t the result of their own secret failings; it was the boring old gender wars. So lovely, immeasurably valuable Sam, this one always was for you in particular. It wanted to be written; it was restless for the racetrack; it galloped along once I sat down at the computer; and since Marina slept in later than me in those days, I served it for breakfast and sent it to Tom later that day.

  9. David Ronfeldt Says:

    Yes, Charles, count me as one who appreciates game metaphors — for me, they’re much easier to understand than game theory. But there are limits as to how much can be done with a game metaphor. Can it provide sustained insight, as with Boorman? Or does it amount to little more than a sprinkled flourish for sentences here and there, albeit a flourish that may be culturally informing? Also, game metaphors would seem to be more a man’s game, less found among women writers? Beats me. But I’ll keep reading your updates about them when I sporadically pass by here.

  10. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks, David. I ponder the same questions myself, and when I feel a little less fatigued I hope to see what I can make of the whole (continuing) colletion. I would say sports and game metaphors make up (how can one count metaphors, when do they just slip into “language”) a good two thirds of the total, and the reason for and implications of that are worth thinking about.
    President Trump on TV as I was writing this:

    President Xi is a world class poker player.

    If a world leader can be described as a world class poker player gives us a clear and concise image of a single, significant psychological trait. Saying they play three, six, or eight-dimensional chess tells us much less, I think, though chess vs go, or checkers vs three-dimensional chess, at least offers a rough assessment of relative skills.
    Aha — yesterday on All In:

    Trump has no poker face, no chill

    Either that, or he has a brilliantly colored Rorschach inkblot mask..

  11. Charles Cameron Says:

    On the sermon at the Royal Marriage:

    And indeed, eliminating poverty was a big theme during Curry’s sermon on Saturday—a surprising choice of topics for an opulent affair that’s often covered like a sporting event.

  12. Charles Cameron Says:

    It seems to me that Trump’s speeches could be analyzed in terms of “bracketing”:

    A method used to determine the range to a target. This procedure was extensively used by the German Navy in both World Wars. As used by the Germans, three half salvos were fired. The first half salvo was fired at the range determined by the rangefinder, the second at a range 400 meters too long and the third at a range 400 meters too short. By seeing which half salvo lands closest to the target, the actual range and bearing can be determined.

    I’m thinking that Trump often says thing like “It may happen, it may not happen, no promises.” That’s two salvos, with the target he’s going for somewhere ambiguously between the two.

    But it becomes a useful tic, if we recognize also that “It may happen, it may not happen — it may very well not happen” leans negative, and “It may happen, it may not happen — it’s quite possible it will happen” leans positive. At this point, what seemed like a slew of phrases somewhat indiscriminately scattered round becomes a means of approaching an ambiguous situation with a strategy that allows for an emphasis to be made within the ambiguity.
    Compare “fuzzy logic”?
    Of course, this leaning may be politically or diplomatically engineered, but ya can’t have everything, can ya?


    Bracketing — thinking along these lines is the direct result of my father being a gunnery officer, Royal Navy — one of the relatively few things I can with confidence trace directtly back to him, his fondness for word-play being another.

  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    It seems to me the goal posts have been moved a lot, regarding what the Republical party will be willing to tolerat / accept (roughly) — Katy Tur?
    Rob Rosenstein played this exactly right.. we have to play chess with a president who doesn’t know how to play chess .. [in this case, the implication seems to be that the AG has to play beginner’s chess, not that he’s unquestionably superior.]
    War metaphors:
    plenty of Rubicon’s crossed, lots of White House at war with the DOj — and one semi-extended reference to the DOJ under bombardment, comparable to the London Blitz, little bombs, big bombs, this one (revelation of a source’s identity)bthe biggest bomb of all.. Deadline: White House before m 17 TRANSCRIPT PLS
    We know there’s a relation war >> politics by other means, and we also see that games are the closest available model and metaphor for war, but then.. somehow that makes a trinit:

    games >> war >> politics

    Exactly how to make a fine phrasing of that relation I don’t know, but it would surely be worth pondering.
    James Clapper, book Facts and Fears, quoted in Rachel Meadows, May 22 2018, keyword parallelism:

    What I did see as DNI … is that the Russians and the campaign seemed to employ strikingly parallel messaging in social media posts and public statements, effectively complementing each other to great effect, with no attempt to hide it. [..]

    On a routine basis, whenever the campaign published an allegation that huert Cliinton, the Russians would repeat, amplify and embellish that claim; and when the Russians promulgated a conspiracy theory about her, Trump would repeat it at campaign rallies and on Twitter.

    Whether secretly coordinated or not, whether there was actual collusion or not, this parallelism constituted a putative team effort by the Russian government and the Trump campaign…

    Clapper is sensitive to this form of pattern — aren’t we all? but spooks more than most, hopefully. Also, note his comments on “vignette”, “follow the money” “have come under sustained attack” TRANSCRIPT PLEASE

  14. Grurray Says:

    This appears to be a chess game


  15. Charles Cameron Says:

    Oh, terrific find, Grurray. I just have to bring the pic over, and maybe the first two comments, in case they disappear from Reddit (Reddit’s MO is utterly beyond my think-grade).
    The image:

    The comments

    :Donald: Move that piece over there and watch the media go totally crazy about my statement, while I win more delegates.
    Barron: Is this before or after, Mr. Bush becomes Low Energy?
    Donald: He’s always been low energy.


    Barron [quoting]: Is this before or after?
    Donald: It’s 4D chess, son. There is no before or after.

  16. Charles Cameron Says:

    This one is (philosophically) noteworthy:

    In reversal, Giuliani now says Trump should do interview with Mueller team:
    Giuliani said he was concerned that the president would become a target or that the interview would be a perjury trap, because the “truth is relative.” The president’s legal team continues to try to set limitations on an interview, including the duration and questions posed, he said.
    “They may have a different version of the truth than we do,” Giuliani said.

    just keep bouncing and bouncing and bouncing the ball ..
    out of right field ..
    two bidders ..
    ammunition in his war against the Mueller investigation ..
    complete exonertion of the FBI by the FBI ..
    a fight between gary bussey and meat loaf.. m ~42 Nicolle Dateline White House May 24 2018
    we’re back to laying a game of nuclear chicken May 24 2018 Hardball m~27
    GAME, SET, MATCH: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s endgame in Syria has arrived. It’s not an Assad victory; it’s a frozen conflict

  17. Charles Cameron Says:

    zero summit game — Atlantic email ..
    I grew up in a bipolar world, now we live in a bipolar presidency .. Nicolle Wallace’s show, m~11, 12
    everybody plays games, you know that [trump] ..
    there was a tug-o-war going on about..
    Trump just canceled a high-stakes summit. In 1972, Nixon almost did the same.
    oh, ah: high stakes would be a sports metaphor, and reach all the way from the World Series of Poker to negotiations teetering on the brink of World War III. It’s almost not a metaphor, it’s almost a continuum.. come to which, “war games” names a continuum from chaturanga via kriegspiel to a red team war-game simulation on the scale of Millennium Challenge 2002 (has there been anything on that scale since then?). Continua would be a significant categoiry to watch for, esp those bridging dream, model, play, or sim and “the real thing”.
    From the same:

    Trump’s North Korea gambit has a built-in tension

    I’m not sure what game a gambit comes from, bridge would be my guess — is it a sort of gameplay pixel or “bit” as in “bits & bytes”?
    War metaphors:
    He wants to do shock and awe — he doesn’t realize it’s World War I and trench warfare ..
    Not exactly a war metaphor, but a wonderful ouroboros from Micah Zenko, MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE: THE REAL STORY OF A CORRUPTED MILITARY EXERCISE AND ITS LEGACY):

    Van Riper decided that as soon as a U.S. Navy carrier battle group steamed into the Gulf, he would “preempt the preemptors”

    And another ourob, from the same piece:

    As [Van Riper] recalled: “War-gaming is not normally corrupted, but this whole thing was prostituted; it was a sham intended to prove what they wanted to prove.”

    Setting things up to prove what you want to prove is the fatal design flaw ourob; preempting the preemptors is the significant decision ourob that sunk the carrier & so fortth.

    Flirtation & love metaphors:
    head-spinning on-again off-again romance..
    stood up ..
    left at the altar ..

    Trump to North Korea: I Want You to Want Me
    As badly as both leaders desire negotiations, they are even more eager for the other to appear to need it more.
    First came the jilted-lover tone of the letter that Trump sent Thursday. Then came a conciliatory statement from North Korea, and by Friday morning, the president was saying that summit might go off as planned on June 12. Defense Secretary James Mattis even dismissed the whole thing a so much teenaged drama, calling it “the usual give and take.”[ .. ]

    It turns out that, according to NBC News, the U.S. decision was made in part because the administration was afraid that North Korea would pull out of the summit first, and decided to cancel first: You can’t break up with me, I’m dumping you! { .. ]
    By standing the U.S. up in Singapore, Pyongyang sent a message that it was not a counterpart to be trusted either.
    The “I want you to want me” pas de deux is happening in part because this is how delicate negotiations happen. [ .. ]
    Put into romantic terms, it’s much easier to conduct an on-again, off-again flirtation than it is to do the real work of making a relationship function.

  18. Charles Cameron Says:

    John McCain, Honor, and Self-Reflection
    Self-reflection at the latter end, it can happen throughout life to an extent, but activities and then rest when fatigued often take precedence, and the “final chapter” would seem a good place for self-reflection and summation — once again, the ourob appears when it’s most richly needed.
    Tody being Memorial Day, I’ll read David Foster Wallace‘s 74-page The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub in McCain‘s honor and in memory of my father.

  19. Charles Cameron Says:

    Sports, games &c metaphors:
    NAACP Doubles Down On President Who Lied About “Racist” Cop
    I’m not sure in what gaming — all betting? — one “doubles down” — poker, perhaps, but at the horsesd too?
    Richard Engle:

    The President likes high-stakes. He’s always gambled. But he hasn’t always won.

  20. Charles Cameron Says:

    Game metaphors &c

    Here’s the game Kellyanne Conway and the Trump team are playing on ‘collusion’

    Much Like a Trump Rally, the End of “Roseanne” Felt Both Shocking and Inevitable

    Roseanne Barr shot off her mouth, and the projectile, ricocheting, fatally struck her own show.

    Hardball, Chris M to Trump:

    If you were a corner man for Kerry right now..

    [presumably boxing]
    most interesting “high stakes” example yet:

    The big story behind the story of Patterson’s fall is a high-stakes showdown between two generations of Southern Baptist leaders.

    He (Giuliani) is not playing a legal game, he’s playinng a communicatins game ..
    a sphinx-like presence ..
    he’s not a man who likes to show his cards, he holds them close to his vest ..
    he was much better at putting things togetheatthe strategic and tactical levels than anyone I’ve worked with at CIA and ..
    It’s called pay for play, which is illegal, 100% illegal ..
    fight now, pay latter..
    i am not taking cards off the table ..
    we’re going to play a game of Eric Holder, This is Your Life.
    Cohen’s team must speed it up .. they have to come and play ball..
    she was like, show your roll in there..
    [mueller probe is] in the eighth inning? people are already heading out for the parking lot, then ..

    Military metaphors:
    Trump’s war of attrition against Mueller bears fruit among Republicans
    metaphor note:

    goalpost moved = Overton window

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