Monday, June 10, 2013

Battle Babble

The compulsion to be verbally creative in the face of an intrinsically absurd pursuit probably comes out of a deep need to veneer chaos with poetic order.

"The U.S. military’s nickname for the no-fly zone in Libya sounds like the beginning of a long adventure. But Defense Department officials insist that there’s no hidden meaning behind 'Operation Odyssey Dawn.' It’s just the product of the Pentagon’s semi-random name-generating system….
     The modern system… came out of bad PR experiences in the Korean and Vietnam wars, according to Lt. Col. Gregory Sieminski’s brief history of 'The Art of Naming Operations,' published in Parameters in 1995.
     Nicknames like 'Operation Killer' during the Korean war and Vietnam’s 'Operation Masher,' Sieminski wrote, caused controversy when reported in the press….
     Coalition partners in the no-fly zone [Libya] have their own operation names. Britain’s Ministry of Defence labeled its participation in the no-fly zone 'Operation Ellamy'*; Canada’s efforts are called 'Operation Mobile.' Ever a patron of the arts, France seems to be the only coalition partner going for the poetic route. It calls its operations in Libya 'Harmattan,' referring to a 'hot, dry wind that blows from the northeast or east in the western Sahara.'”
— Adam Rawnsley, Wired

*"The randomly generated codename, 'Ellamy,' is an alternate spelling of the Early Modern English word, Elami (E-la-mi), a musical solmisation designating the note E in the context of a tetrachord.[19] The spelling 'Ellamy' is found in a poem frequently attributed to John Skelton, The Harmony of Birds."
Read more…

"[Joseph] Heller’s twisted logic is best instantiated by a description of the many difficulties facing a pilot named Orr:
      'There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to.'
     Joseph Heller, it seems, created something transcendental, for Catch-22 applies everywhere. Its brilliantly absurd logic permeates the very fabric of life. It walks among us, cloaked in the veils of respectability and regulation, waiting to madden and infuriate. Anyone who has ever had dealings with the innermost bowels of government bureaucracy will know exactly what I mean."
— Alex MacPherson, the Sheaf

Buy Catch-22 by Joseph Heller here...

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