Filtered for air and light and war and stories

11.48, Thursday 26 Nov 2015


I was complaining out loud the other day about the distracting man I was sitting next to, hammering his keyboard, typing like a donkey falling downstairs. But then it occurred to me, I always blame external factors for ruining my focus when really I lack it for internal reasons. If I genuinely had focus, nothing could disturb me.

Eric piped up with this poem by Charles Bukowski, air and light and time and space.

if you’re going to create … you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown away



Muji’s mission statement:

MUJI’s goal is to give customers a rational satisfaction, expressed not with, “This is what I really want” but with “This will do.” “This is what I really want” expresses both faint egoism and discord, while “This will do” expresses conciliatory reasoning.


Machines generating stories about images.

He was a shirtless man in the back of his mind, and I let out a curse as he leaned over to kiss me on the shoulder. (Looking at an image of two sumo wrestlers grappling.)

Uses a technique with the astounding beautiful name of skip-thought vectors, a machine which is able to reconstruct the surrounding sentences of a passage in a book.

See also: A video of the same stories-from-images trick being performed from a live webcam feed: a man is eating a hot dog in a crowd.


From this explanation of Soviet Deep Battle theory, an insight into military science:

War is no longer a series of short and sharp engagements but rather a flowing affair, with larger, strategically oriented battles (‘operations’) that often encompass several smaller, shorter battles-within-battles (tactical engagements).

Which leads to approaches:

Deep Battle, or Deep Operations in particular first begins to develop as a theory in the 1920s. Like most developing theories of Mobile Operations at this time, it had one, over-arching goal: Get the battlescape moving, and keep it moving



I’ve been skiing like once and my main metaphorical takeaway was that it’s easier to course correct when you’re in motion. Try to turn when you’re going forwards slowly, you’ll tumble. There’s a lesson there for company strategy, and I find myself reaching for this metaphor again and again. But now it turns out that military science understands movement, ability to adjust to circumstances, and flow, in a far richer way than me and my experience on the side of a mountain in Canada.

We tell stories to ourselves about what we experience, then we use those stories to approach the world. What stories we choose matters.

War has a vocabulary and a philosophy all of its own, and the fact I don’t know anything about it tells me I’m missing out on something valuable – as unpleasant as the subject matter is.

See also: Frieze magazine on the Israeli Defence Forces (from 2006) who, it turns out, are heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy:

Most important was the distinction [Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus] have pointed out between the concepts of “smooth” and “striated” space … In the IDF we now often use the term “to smooth out space” when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. … Palestinian areas could indeed be thought of as “striated” in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, roads blocks and so on. When I asked him if moving through walls was part of it, he explained that, ‘In Nablus the IDF understood urban fighting as a spatial problem. … Travelling through walls is a simple mechanical solution that connects theory and practice.’

A startling article.

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