Call me Lecter, Hannibal Lecter

James Bond just kills people and beds beautiful women. Hannibal does all that and somewhere, when he has the time, he eats them, arranges them in beautiful formations or helps us admire how blood can enchantingly squirt from a severed artery across a clean white wall.

And, I do mean the TV series, now in its 3rd season, although the movies are cool too.

Long time ago, I came across Manhunter Red Dragon (not the pathetic remake “Red Dragon”), which introduced me to the word of killing people for fun, and Hannibal (at the time played by some other British actor), enjoying himself. Then Silence of the Lambs with Agent Claricccccccccccce Sssssssssssterling and the bottle of Chianti. And a few days ago, I finally found time to watch Hannibal Rising, which I loved, for the death, the illustration of pain turning into psychosis and of course Lin Gond (sexier Joan Chen) with Samurai swords. God created Ms. Gond to wield a sword and do terrible things to men. Weird timing, as just before that scary movie, I did a marathon re-run of the first 2 seasons of Hannibal, with the awesome Mads Mikkelsen (look for his other movies!).

We all KNOW who Lecter is, as Thomas Harris has created a movie super (anti)hero that anyone with a TV has been exposed to. But, the TV show takes us deeper. This is the phenomenon of last 15 years – good actors run from cinema movies and get involved in TV series. Why? Whatever a director can fit into 90 minutes for a cinema, can be deepend, enhanced, developed, accentuated, built-upon in a series of 5-6-7 seasons, each having 22 episodes, each episode lasting 46 minutes. TV series’ beat movies each time. They make us feel at home…

Hannibal kills. But he makes it look soooooo nice. Never before have you watched a movie or a TV show, seen the beginning where a single individual does his shopping, work, sports and YOU know that he is soon to meet Dr. Lecter. And, as the creators of the show intended, you KNOW what Lecter does. So, unlike CSI, when you expect murder, you watch Hannibal and enjoy the ripening of the… meat. Is the “Meat” training (for good meat taste)? Is the meat working (smart meat)? Is the meat scared (fear releases hormones that SPOIL the meat). Hannibal likes music, he loves his food, he appreciates beauty, he listens to opera, he can scare psychologists and confuse forensic detectives. In the meantime, he finds new meat (victims), plays with them, kills them, leaves some meat in the refrigerator and….
– Throws a lavish dinner for his stratospheric-society friends;
– Arranges whatever is left of the victim(s) in to aesthetically appreciable forms;

In the meantime, he is able to find other sociopaths and, have fun with them, by warning them of impending FBI investigations, FBI raids or… he simply talks to them about the aesthetical consequences of their work. Why dump a body in a river, when you can glue the body in a funny way to a ceiling?

Simultaneously, the TV series Hannibal plays with the FBI by providing them with forensic advice about (other) sociopaths, advises them on cases of incarcerated psycho inmates (including one unlucky FBI consultant) and, best of all, invites the FBI geniuses to dinners during which he serves many amazing dishes containing meat.
Hannibal scares you, makes you think of becoming HIM and also, instils the desperate, immediate need to become a vegetarian.
Unless, you appreciate the dialogue from episode 1 series 3, when Hannibal talks to a kidnapped (other) sociopath:
Other sociopath being eaten: Cannibalism was common among our ancestors. The common link between us and the apes was missing, only because we ate him.
Lecter: This isn’t cannibalism Abel. Cannibalism only happens when we are equals.
Other sociopath: This is only cannibalism if you eat… ME.

Throughout, we are shown taste, class, gene se qua, gravitas, and all the other cultural qualities that any well-bred member of the social elite can exhibit. Lecter enjoys beauty, music, opera, quality, food, tastes, smells, pheromones, emotions (of others), and the overall life experience.

The movies made Lecter cool. The TV series makes him a role model. But can our society survive such examples of sociopathic perfection?

Lecter, as created by Harris, is the guy that you can identify with. Got frustration at work? spend a day imagining your bosses eviscerated on fishing rope, some metal hooks and a good S&M cage. Annoyed with your office neighbour? Take him “to lunch”, where you serve him/her with their own leg, well-baked in thyne, wine, with some basil thrown in. Never got paid by the boss of your collapsing company (while he, the Boss, continues to drive the Ferrari)? Do a garden BBQ, where the “meat” is fresh, really fresh, recently “off-the-bone” and juicy, moist, tasty, “as if it came of the cow a few minutes ago”. If only the “cow” appreciated the guest comments, while it (the “cow”) hangs in your garage, bleeding, crying, trying to call its mother…

Doctor Lecter, you received a trully USEFUL education 🙂

Monsters – Dark Continent

I watched the first movie unknowingly – saw some trailer, blab la bla. And, all of a sudden, I found myself transported into a weird Earth world, where we cannot control part of the planet, because it is ruled (dominated) by massive aliens brought Earthside by a space probe that crashed (Earthside, DOH!). The first movie, low-budget, low-effort was a masterpiece showing the new World, the tragic histories and the new, unavoidable, un-bombable (is there such a word?) reality of huge alien things taking over and humans running for the hills.

The sequel, has been hailed as a war movie, with some monsters thrown in. I had read the reviews before I saw the reel. I went in, expecting a reviewer-inspired war flick, aliens+Iraq, Bedouins+weird, camels screwing aliens, aliens eating camels, goats scaring everyone, etc.
The critics were wrong.

Monsters Dark Continent IS a war flick. But, of course, not how you would expect it – there is a team of US soldiers, they do fight, they do “go in”, there is a lot of shooting. Standard war drama with people dying, soldiers suffering, partners being blown away, blood and death (and taxes?). You watch it and seek the components of the Hurt Locker, House of Saddam, etc. In the meantime, you discover that there is a second universe to this movie. Yes, the US Army is fighting the aliens on all fronts, bombing, shooting, killing, even running-over with cars. Aliens die, and US soldiers have fun. Individual aliens.

What we see is Humanity, represented by the US Army, winning individual battles, soldier-vs-alien fights. But, as the movie progresses, we begin to understand that Humanity as a whole, “owners of Earth” as a whole, are losing the WAR. Only in the desert, is it clear that the Bedouins, or whatever the tribes are, have found a balance with the alien creatures.
MDC is a movie about change – undesirable change where the governments will focus all their efforts on bombing, assassinating, killing, shooting, fighting. Billions will be wasted, millions of lives lost, economies bankrupted and territories destroyed. All in the face of an all-powerful enemy, able to ignore our weapons, capable of growing from small earth-sown seeds into creatures bigger than aircraft carriers in a matter of months. The progression is simple – whatever we throw at the aliens, they come back, bigger, stronger. A question appears in the heads of smart viewers: when will this escalation end? How big will be the last bomb? Dr Stangelove anyone?

Let us bypass the Gaia component, which sits nicely hidden, as little aliens vanish in the earth and reappear as giant beasts filled with weird energy. And then their next “incarnation” gets gaint-er and giant-erer… The movie skilfully points out that trying the same solution to a problem that has defeated our “solution” before is pointless, but our politicians simply love throwing the same ideas at mountains glass walls or… continents where “our idea of right and wrong” is not necessarily the ideal one. In the movie, the Bedouins are learning to live with the big scary aliens, but the US Army cannot. Especially a US Army that is NOT in the US but happily blows up other people’s countryside.
Ehhh, how to hide a hippy peace message in a sci-fi war movie 🙂

But, the clear message is a simple question: who are the monsters? Them, for living where they were thrown or us, killing anything that does not fit into our definition of “normal”?

Taking Chance

Combine Kevin Bacon with an amazing storyline based on an acclaimed short story based deep in real life and you have yourself a tearjerker. This is a movie that will make women cry and men, real men, either cry (secretly) or wipe their eyes claiming “allergies”. During this movie, I have MANY allergies.

This is not a movie about love. Not clear love. It is a movie about death, death in combat, suffering, loss, tragedy. A solider dies in Iraq and his body is transported from Baghdad to his final resting place in the USA. This is a movie about the dead soldier, PFC Chance Russell Phelps. None of us know him, none of us ever heard of him.
His body is the focal point of all human reactions. Reactions that make you THINK, PONDER, CRY.
This is a movie made regardless of war’s multiple sides – the enemies and good guys, heroes and villains. It is a movie about ultimate death, sacrifice for an ideological ideal and the suffering of normal people left behind to… live through the death/sacrifice.

Initially, you watch it to see the progress of the body. Taking Chance. Action on the battlefield, his trauma, death. Battle hospital. Diagnosis. Death = body. Incomplete body. Transport. Rammstein AFB (USA base in Germany), cleaning of body, progress. Body arrives in USA, undergoes the next stage of cleaning, analysis. You see the RESPECT offered to fallen soldiers by medical staff who NEVER met/knew the Fallen (with a capital F). And then you see the system for taking a body of a fallen soldier to his home. What other form of respect is there?
And the miracles begin. The accompanying officer getting upgrades at the airlines. Baggage staff respecting the coffin, pilots asking for passengers to WAIT until the coffin-accompanying-hero disembarks, lines of people saluting the (unknown)coffin. The pilot of a regional flight remembering the name of EVERY fallen hero he ever carried. The love, attention and devotion of every citizen that had the honour of witnessing the final journey of a fallen soldier. The little signals along the way make you think about love, honour, duty, service, sacrifice. Survivor guilt.

You see a motion picture and understand that in a good country, the Fallen are revered, respected, loved. They are Fallen FOR the nation. Nothing else matters. All sins, mistakes, errors, inadequacies, are GONE. You (they) died for the nation. All is forgotten, but your courage.

I am not a Marine. But I can only say (by claiming the right to the IMPOSSIBLE): Chance Phelps, you are remembered, because your final journey is so deep and powerful that, regardless of nation-state, YOU HAD AN IMPACT. Greater after your death, but an awesome impact nonetheless.
This is a movie for your darker evenings, when you need to be alone. You, your soul and a good bottle of expensive whiskey.

Rest in Peace, Pvt Phelps = @IMDB.

Semper Fidelis. Because none of us, outside the Marine Core, have the right to say “Semper Fi”.


Quote: “If you knew more soliders like PFC Chance Phelps, the world would not need the Marine Core.” Can there be a better admission/salute?
The movie shows us, normal people, that WE MEAN SOMETHNING, even in death. REMEMBER THAT.

And remember – PFC Chance Russell Phelps, USMC, 1984-2004.

Frakkin’ Battlestar Galactica

I just completed another marathon of BSG 2003. As the owner of the amazing 30DVD pack (30, 40, 50? discs), there comes a time each year when the BSG universe needs a re-visit.
I was too young for the original BSG. Yes, I know, using the term “too young” makes the original BSG aaaaaancient. I recall the original BSG as something looked upon as something weird, not-so-cool, with uncool special effects and a weird premise. What a mistake!

I experienced the BSG universe only through the new redoing. It blew my mind. I loved the darkness, the losses, tragedies, deaths, suffering, blood, guts. This was the first time that something was real, raw, hard, bloody, ruthless. It was all about survival for a species faced with total annihilation form a supremely-powerful enemy that knew you too well. Each death hurt, each tragedy was personal, every plot twist was a surprise.

Ignoring some of the vacuum-dynamics (aerodynamics without the aero), all is awesome. Graphics have not been outdone by time. You live the space battles, get the brain wired with weird manoeuvres, die with every killed pilot and move your head when space debris comes your way. It is real (unlike the “Gravity” bull…).

I find myself torn between the characters, wanting to be each one and then pondering their (mine?) choices. Would I have been as tough as Odama, making the deadly decisions resulting in so much death? Would I be as rebellious as Apollo in going against the norms and standardised expectations? Could I be so two-faced as Sy? What would I do as the President (whichever)? How many times would my decisions have led to more people dying or when would I have been much tougher (less humane) than them? This show is about power – its ultimate applications that take individuals to their gory deaths but assure the survival of the species. This is absolute power and politics and war.

As an economist, you get scared about their resources, consumption and human issues. As a technologist you get headaches considering the issues of space travel and maintaining their technological base. As a sociologist… of My God!!! Panoptic principles, Stockholm syndrome, etc etc etc etc…. etc. In one place you have inter-species conflict, genocide (and its psychological results), terrorism, kidnapping, murder, sacrifice, suffering, weak-becoming-strong, strong cracking under pressure, leaders emerging from nowhere, population needing new babies, abortion, religion, mafia, money, food, slavery… and sooooooo much more.

Drop on top the God component and you have a mind-blowing experience. How do you fight, defend and survive, when everything was predefined thousands of years ago, gods planned your every move and they do not care about you, as you are a cog in the machine. Question to BSG freaks: was Starbuck real in the second half of 4th season? Or was she sixth-sensed?

BSG is biblical. All the weird and unbelievable things in world religions are there. Blind faith, crazies being sanctified, sects emerging, people dying for their beliefs, unstoppable enemies, failures and resurrections and invisible gods who planned everything eons ago and now sat back to watch the show.
Put me into a bathtub filled with white goo, and… “JUUUUUUUUUUUMP”

So Say We All.
ENJOY the BSG universe

Gold or Coal – a course in economics

Many friends are fascinated by my fascination with the Discovery TV series focusing on gold prospectors and/or coal miners (Discovery shows: “Alaska gold” or “Coal”). I watch each episode looking for the economic secrets of success/failure. The little details that make your operation profitable.
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The natural resource is irrelevant. The secret is in the organisation of the production process – either optimising it to the smallest output unit (gram of gold or ton of coal) OR assuring immense economies of scale, with outrageous output assuring the conversion of raw material into profitable product. I watch the programmes, fascinated by the amount of dirt moved, rock mined, sand shifted and I am always shocked by how much useless stuff must be discarded before anything valuable is unearthed.
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The technology ranges from the simple but huge to specialised tools and machines created specifically for the industry. In the latter case, the machines show decades of development, incorporating centuries of experience – they are perfect for the job and must therefore cost a bundle. A fascinating issue is the presence of countless supporting units, rarely visible or used, but necessary for that “one important moment”, when not having this “thing” results in huge losses from stopped production. Both the specialised and general tools require massive up-front investment and take a long time to pay off, making the project budgets immense, requiring continuous production at sustainable levels to even maintain the organisations (not to mention turning a profit).
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Alongside the financing and technology, we have the people. Here Discovery taps into the American Dream – tough, hard-working people, not afraid of taking risks, putting up their own funds, spending their lives on the pursuit of production, revenue, success. These shows are also about luck – every season the teams competing change, insinuating a high turnover resulting from unavoidable failures. For every winner, there are (not shown) countless losers.
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Everyone, at some point, had to start. Start small, succeed, hire people, get new machines, get bigger, succeed even more. Entrepreneurship at its best. And each show is a business case, watched by the unwary, who therefore miss so much. I would like to see some more facts – a budget, some more analytical details, to enhance the understanding of what goes on (maybe on the Discovery website, if not in the show).
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I have to hide my disdain for raping the planet, as without massive open digs (and shifting of tons of earth, rock together with uprooting entire forests) there would not be any shows, however the amount of fuel they use is outrageous – everything runs on diesel, 24/7. Truckloads of diesel. The Arabs must be happy.
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Oh, and I finally know who drives all those American pickups with double wheels on the back…

Shameless – US is OK, but UK blows away

I got hooked on Shameless, the American version, currently waiting for its 3rd season. The family is a bunch of crazy losers, fighting for every day, making pitiful amounts of money to buy the cheapest products that even the Chinese would ignore, fighting their additions and weaknesses while breeding like rabbits.
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The actors for the US version were amazing. The Dad, an actor of nearly-Oscar stature, drives the show with his drunken “loserness”.
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However, I then discovered the British version – as with many amazing TV show, it was the Brits that conceived and implemented the idea. Shameless UK is a 9 season story, meaning that the Americans have a lot of seasons ahead of them. The UK version (original!) of the father, although less known, is even better!
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It is a hard show to watch in “marathon” mode, watching episodes one after the other – I survived 3 seasons at one go, over a few days, but then I had to take a break, coming back to the next seasons after a month-long break. Why? I missed the crazy crazies.
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The UK version is deeper – although the US version shows similar lumpenproletariat lowliness of existence, the UK version is more dark, depressing, soggy, downtrodden. It reeks of Manchester, the unemployed for decades part, and such an atmosphere is difficult to replicate in the US. Even the accents are worse in UK, and anyone who has heard the real tongue will appreciate the depths of the UK show. Interestingly, I wonder how many non-native English speakers watched the UK version and grasped the words, terms, social and cultural and local inferences? I found the US version much easier, maybe because it is aimed at a simpler (??) audience that cannot understand (and thus appreciate) the accent-context?
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I have mixed feelings about the show, and maybe that is why it draws me in every time.
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They are amazing losers, people forgotten by God, fate and state, descending with each episode lower into the definition of whatever bottom-feeding-scum that can be found in the Devil’s dictionary. Drugs, alcohol, thievery, hard crime, violence, betrayal, failure are the standard issues in their daily lives. Cheating and stealing are not just limited to the outside world, as the family does the same to each other, close friends, etc. Crime lords, crazies, criminals, psychos surround them, adding mayhem to their lives.
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At the same time, there is something sweet and optimistic. These are humans at the bottom of the social scale for whom, it turns out, blood is the only determinant of (whatever remaining) loyalty. They are the gang of crazies out against everyone else. There is love (twisted, psychotic, supremely emotional, irrational and unpredictable) that powers them along, gives them strength in time of ultimate doom, while the closely-knit universe of a few people (dozen?) is faced with the challenge of taking on the entire world. They somehow survive.
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Knowing how the world really works, enforces the simple message of that show: blood is thicker than everything else. There is no escaping family.
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A lesson for us, in Central Europe, filled with lovers of the Vodka fluid, is interesting: just like the father in Shameless, every alcoholic loser can utter reality-altering philosophical sentences that explode your reality. If it is not him/her, then similar sentences can be provided by the scarred children. In their single-second of clarity, alcoholics are sane, super sane, Plato-like-sane. It is a pity they descend into chaos and destruction immediately after…
A lesson for all in the world, relates to a question: what will people do, to achieve any, Any, ANY happiness in their everyday-miserable lives?