Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Hanlon and Occam

December 16, 2019

I have been thinking lately of two famous sayings, both are remembered for good reason as their wisdom has filtered down through the years. The first is Occam’s Razor which says literally “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” However, in modern days we have translated it more clearly as “The simplest solution is most likely the right one.” The other phrase I have been thinking of is Hanlon’s Razor which states “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. There is a lot going on in public discourse on politics and it is driving me a bit crazy (as it is with most people).

The first is the ridiculous OK symbol controversy. Apparently, if people want to casually and surreptitiously signal their allegiance to white supremacy, they just have to make an upside OK symbol with their hand. Recently, at the annual Army-Navy game, a couple of midshipmen were seen to flash the symbol behind a broadcaster. Everybody was aghast and outraged. Now, far be it from me to defend the military-industrial complex but I think these were just dumb kids. I mean, I would not be surprised if the military was not filled to the brim with white supremacists. I think there are plenty in the Army, Navy, and Air Force and, obviously, the Police.

However, I have read that these incidents are more likely the Circle game, a game where you flash that same symbol. If you get people to look, you get to punch them. It may have evolved to just be something you get your friends to laugh at. I honestly never played the game but I know it has been around since the mid-nineties. I don’t know if they are playing a game or flashing white supremacist symbols. Little actual journalism seems to occur after the fact, the perpetrators are not questioned publicly. They are usually reprimanded or punished and ordered not to talk about it publicly. Here, the cadets and midshipmen will probably get a good talking to and told to never do it again.

My issue here is both Occam’s and Hanlon’s razors yet again. Having this complex little game where people turn an innocuous gesture into a symbol of white supremacy seems like a stretch. I mean, they could be doing that but just this year an entire West Virginia Corrections Academy class did the Nazi salute in a photo and got away with a slap on the wrist. Yet, a costumed performer was fired at Universal Studios after making the symbol in a picture with a bunch of kids. No public statement from the performer. I really wish we knew for sure whether it was malice or stupidity. I don’t want to let white supremacists off the hook but I also think people have a hair-trigger these days. I wish people would stop screaming at stupid things when there are bigger evils in the world.

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I think the same can be said for the cries of “Russia!” Everything evil that happens now seems to be attributed to Russia when the simpler cause is capitalism and stupidity. Capitalism breeds people like Trump and, to a lesser extent, centrists like Hillary and Biden. Their lives are filled with few consequences and therefore they know they can get away with just about anything. In a world where George W. Bush did not see any consequences from committing war crimes, how can we expect anybody in office to behave properly? The rich will always look out for each other and few, if any, will ever choose us over them. The simpler explanation is that most of our leaders don’t really care about us and are only out to enrich themselves and maintain a status quo with them on top.

The instinct to attribute the evils of the world to Russia (without much evidence) seems to come from a fear to confront that our problems started right here at home. We were too permissive with our leaders. We expected the government to punish George W. Bush and his cronies for their crimes and we were disappointed when it did not happen. How were we surprised when Nixon and Reagan went free? Obama, as good as he was, got away with some nasty stuff with drones and a vast program spying on our own people. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have been punished instead of the people they exposed. It is hard to have much hope that the current crooks will be punished if we have such a poor record of keeping our politicians accountable.

So that is why I roll my eyes every time I see “Russia” on twitter or on some pundit’s headline. While there is evidence that Russia attempted to meddle with our election, there is more evidence of the corruptive influence of capitalism. Besides, the US has meddled in countless elections and more effectively than infiltrating Facebook or hacking a few voting machines. Should we prevent Russia from doing it again? Yes. However, we should also look at ourselves. We need to stop trusting the smiling faces of the rich and powerful when they say they want to look out for us. It is a lie coming from Trump the same as it is a lie coming from Joe Biden.

* * *

To sum up: I think we need to engage in more critical thinking and less jumping on the bandwagon. The more complicated answer is sometimes simpler emotionally but it does not make it the right answer. I feel like people are chasing ghosts and their own tails instead of confronting the real issues. I have little faith that this will change but maybe.

Night Watch (2004)

October 31, 2016

The Other can be a frightening concept. As I have discussed before, The Other is anything that is not us. In this movie, “The Other” is anything beyond our normal natural world. This is even more frightening because it comes from a world of secrets and the unknown. Generally, ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds violence and hate. Not knowing what was out in the darkness and why bad things happened gave birth to folktales and religion. Both have their bogeymen who we are told we should fear and perform rituals to protect ourselves from what goes bump in the night. We also are told often to embrace a duality and are told that picking a side will protect us and empower us. However, in the old tales often neither side was really the good guys. If you look at most material covering faeries, both courts are to be marveled at but also feared. Looking at things as Light and Dark without seeing the Gray is dangerous. However, the great thing about fiction is that they can often simplify things so that evil is evil and good is good.

I have been thinking about what makes a monster in these tales of supernatural horror. Do we do bad things because we are a monster or are we a monster because we do bad things? Freddy Krueger was a horrible human being even before he became a dream demon. However, in the Buffyverse, the very act of becoming a vampire removes the soul and usually turns a person evil. Our justice system says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Religion says that it is our actions that define us and not our thoughts. So if you are a vampire who refuses to feed on humans, are you a monster? I think not. However, just watching and experiencing the misdeeds of others can be enough to darken the soul. Police officers and military are often as irreparably changed as gang members and other violent criminals. Hunting vampires can be almost as troubling as being one.

We have yet another foreign horror movie which makes it the sixth of sixteen reviews this year. This one is Russian and might just be the first pure Russian movie I have watched outside of a certain Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Yet again, this means that I have no preconceived notions about any of the actors in this movie. The movie stars Konstantin Khabensky as Anton, a man who basically tracks monster criminals on behalf of the Light side. I like how Anton is not perfect and his journey on behalf of the Light is plagued by the temptation of evil. He is a great example of the reluctant hero. I like to think that even when pressed, we are all the reluctant hero. Nobody gets supernatural abilities and suddenly leaps up excited to risk their life. Anton and everybody he meets is  hardened by life outside the norm where things are more dangerous.

I really liked the visuals in this movie. Everything is bleak from the very beginning of the movie. The world is full of shadows and muted colors and light is almost a godsend. Even in sunlight, everything is just dark and dangerous looking. It makes light and splashes of color a very welcome contrast. I really love the digital effects of the supernatural world. I especially loved how various vampiric powers and abilities are depicted. For example, vampiric vision makes everything but the veins of a human body invisible, making it easier to feed. There is also some great drawn animation which makes some of the exposition easier to get through. The editing is smooth and keeps the movie clipping along at a pretty good pace. The action is easy to understand and the subtitles made the Russian language clear.

Overall this is a pretty good horror adventure movie. The depiction of the supernatural world just beyond our natural one is one of the most interesting examples I have seen in pop culture. The movie was the top grossing film in Russian history when it was released but the record has since been topped. It is also one of the first Russian blockbusters after the fall of Soviet cinema and is therefore automatically a success. The movie has some great ideas but I would say its only sin is that it is too long. It incorporates two plots that do not ever fully connect. However, I feel like the world building and character work mostly make up for this. I would recommend watching this movie because it is so different in how it depicts the creepier side of things.


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