Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Isis, Putin, Hamas and how People Are Rarely as Crazy as You Think

Alright so I had written this blog entry and was all ready to post it when some crazy person decided to murder an unarmed Canadian soldier on ceremonial duty in downtown Ottawa.  As such I felt it would have been in poor taste to post this and just never got around to doing it.  So this is a little old but I believe still a relevant entry and hopefully by posting this part I get around to writing the other two parts.  So without further ado here is my post.

In one of my early Psychology courses I had a professor walk in and, without saying a word, draw a pie chart.  On this chart were only two slices.  One comprised of 99% and the other only 1%.

He then started the class by proclaiming that vast majority of the world is comprised of sane rational people.  As for the 1%.  Well that group is crazy.  It's best to avoid them.

The rest of the lectures were about trying to explain the behavior of the 99%.

The importance of those lectures was that there is a very small subset of the worlds population that reason and logic cannot explain.  There are other disciplines that deal with those people (abnormal psychology comes to mind).


I do find that I hear far too often that so and so, this group, and those other people are crazy.

The purpose of those lectures (as well as much of my early social psychology courses) was to explain that what may seem as far out behavior is in actuality, upon further inspection, quite rational, sane and normal behavior (given the set of circumstances, variables etc).

A very simple example of this.

If you brought somebody from just 10 years ago to a random busy intersection they would probably think the world had gone mad.

That's because 10 years ago a person walking down a street talking to himself would be labeled crazy and probably had a severe mental disorder.

Today, however, this is obviously quite commonplace.  Once you explain to the time traveler the advance in cell phone/microphone technology they would quickly realize the error of their assumption.

Since that is a very simple example there really isn't any negative repercussions of the assumption that the time traveler made.  He may be moderately confused but the person talking on the phone will be none the wiser and unaffected.

Now lets bring in some real life, and incredibly complex, examples.

To begin with I have to preface the whole rest of this blog with i'm a nobody.  What I mean by this is i'm going to delve into some complicated geopolitical and historical issues that i'm in no way an expert on (laughable) or even semi knowledgeable about.

I just hope that, at the very least, my logic and reason is sound based on what information I believe to be true is.

And the overriding message is simple.

(and is therefore not as crazy as you think)

Based on the title of this blog you can probably guess what my next 3 examples will be.  This is going to be crazy hard for me to write so i'm going to start with the easiest one first and work my way up to the hardest.

ISIS and the recent public beheadings

Now by no means am I suggesting that the entire ISIS situation is easy to explain.  In fact trying to dissect the genesis of the current middle east conflicts makes me incredibly dizzy.  The influence of the exhaustive interconnected histories of the vast amount of countries involved, many of which don't even exist today and many others who were clearly influenced by outside countries (most notably England, France and to a lesser extent Russia) is so obviously outside my ability to comprehend that its absurd that i'm even mentioning it.....Man I really wish I knew how to write better that is one insanely long sentence that I'm not sure how to fix.

No what i'm going to get into is the recent beheadings performed by ISIS.

Now remember the title of this blog.  I'm merely trying to make sense of what i've heard/read many people call crazy or insane behavior.  I'm in no way condoning or defending any of this behavior.  I'm merely attempting to point out that what appears crazy may actually have a very logical rational reason behind it.

The beheadings done by ISIS, I argue, are performed for very rational and logical reasons (THIS DOES NOT MEAN GOOD OR ACCEPTABLE REASONS).  Before I explain why, however, i'll start by giving an example of a beheading that was in fact carried out by a crazy person.

I'm sure most people will remember the killing of Tim McLean.  Tim McLean was sleeping next to his assailant while travveling on a greyhound bus.  Suddenly and without warning his killer began stabbing him repeatedly and was locked in the bus by the busdriver after the driver was chased away by the attacker.  The killer then proceded to decapitate the dead passenger and even went so far as to consume some of his body.

There was no provocation and no apparent reason for this tragedy.  This incredibly, and maybe needlessly, greusome account is a very obvious example of insane behavior and the judge overseeing the trial agreed and admitted the killer to a high security mental health facility.

By contrast the beheadings preformed by ISIS were not done suddenly, warnings were given, provocations can be argued to have occurred leading up to them, and ISIS gave reasons for the beheadings (of which i'll actually dispute later).

Furthermore ISIS went to great lengths to film and spread their beheadings using sophisticated filming equipment, editing and numerous forms of social media and other media outlets. Clearly this demonstrates that they had a motive for the beheadings rather then blind rage.

Now i'm actually going to argue against the reason that they gave for the beheadings.  They stated that the beheadings were in response to the West's involvement in Iraq.  I actually doubt this is the true reason they committed these atrocities.

Based on their aformentioned media campaign is seems way more likely that they are using these public beheadings as a recruitment tool to attain more members.

Furthermore, I believe they actually want the West to go after them and their released videos shows them both daring the UK to send troops into the middle east, and mocking President Obama.


Now one may say that, if this were the true motive, then surely they must be insane.  How could you possibly anatagonize the strongest military nations in the world and not be crazy?

Here's what I believe they are attempting:

Post multiple videos of them beheading journalists.
Tell the western nations this is in response to their involvment with Iraq and then mock them.

This has two effects.
First it makes them look like they are standing up to a bully and that will attract more recruits.
Secondly it actually causes the western nations to attack.

This is probably especially easy in the United States as president Obama is constantly, and consistently, being portrayed as a weak president by his rivals.  For him to do nothing would simply be more ammunition to be used against him.

Then when the west does attack, innocent civilians are inevitably going to be killed.
ISIS will then use those deaths as another means to recruit more members.

Like I said this is an easy example.  Anybody who has even remotely considered this issue, i'm sure, have not come to the conclusion that these actions are crazy.

Now before I get into two more examples i'm going to go off on a little tangent.  Very small this time I promise.

This is not a new, profound or particularly deep reflection that i'm coming up with here.
This goes back probably as far as conflict has ever existed and has been documented by the Chinese General Sun Tzu and probably every other friggin general since!

Might be something to think about.

Alright this is already quite long so rather then make this a giant huge blog i'm going to make this a 3 parter.

Next up will be me explaining how Putin and his ongoing shenanigans doesn't make him a wild crazy man.

This picture makes him a wild crazy man :

Monday, 2 March 2015

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul has regained my lost faith in the film industry.

So what if it's a television show.  It's sure as hell not shot like a television show and certainly beats out most of the 2014 films that i've seen.

However don't let the dismal showing of films in Hollywood diminish in anyway Better Call Sauls expertly crafted art piece.  And it truly is the personification of what art house theater ought to be attempting.  Its mesmerizing, enthralling, and picturesque on a grande scale.  If the first episode was extended into a two hour film it would have easily bested all others for best picture at the Oscars this year.

Am I coming off a bit strong?  Possibly.  But I really want to get across how much I've enjoyed the first couple of episodes of this television series.  It truly needs to get its due recognition as it takes what Breaking Bad did and has thus far made it even better.

Let me explain by getting into the nitty gritty of why I think this is the best show out there.

First a super basic synopsis is in order.  Better Call Saul is a spinoff series based on Walter Whites lawyer (Saul) from Breaking Bad.  The series follows Saul as he is starting out his struggling Lawyer career well before the events of Breaking bad.

Just based on the first two episodes it appears as though the overall story is about a man who is struggling with being a moral person (through guidance of his older brother) while the world is tempting him at every turn to turn bad.

This is actually a very similar theme to Walter Whites character in Breaking Bad however whereas I believe Walter White was always deep down an evil person (a debate that deserves its own blog) I think this series is attempting to frame Saul as ambivalent with leanings towards goodness.

Unlike breaking bad however this series appears to only have one true main character (Saul) with little to no side characters competing for attention.

I believe this is what makes this series great.  Breaking Bad not only followed Walter White but also examined the impact of his decisions on his family and all others around him (most notably Jesse Pinkman and Saul himself).

Better Call Saul is attempting to show us the life of only one person.  Saul. And in doing so is making a series that is more like reality TV then any real reality TV program ever made.

Now this is an interesting assertion that deserves dissection.  First I should say that reality TV has an obvious negative connotation.  Thats because the reality TV shows that are actually available are as fake as any fiction based program.  The closest thing we got to true reality TV is Jim Carrey in the Truman Show...and now Saul in Better Call Saul.

I know I know still doesn't make sense so i'll do some more explaining by examining another aspect of this show that sets it apart.  The way it is filmed (yep sticking with movie lingo).

Much of the first episode was actually devoid of dialogue.  This is because we are being invited into every facet of Saul's life, not just the exciting sections.  So we get to see Saul working a menial job at Cinnamon Bun in a glimpse of his life hiding out after the events of Breaking Bad.  We also get to see him retire from said menial job to his residence where he watches old tapes of his advertisements for his previous career.  We get to see him in the men's washroom practicing before each court case.  We get to see him struggle with payment with a parking attendant in his beat up car.  We get to see him retire after a long day to his pathetic residence inside a nail salon.

Through all of these glimpses into Saul's life we begin to piece together just who Saul is.  This isn't done with any lazy script writing where a secondary character explains to you everything you need to know.

For example you get to see Saul interact with a very strange character.  It takes a while to figure out what is going on.  Not because the show is attempting to keep you guessing but because these two characters have a long formed relationship and it would actually be strange for them to outright explain what is going on.

No instead you are given the pleasure of just observing and getting to know just who Saul is.  And this connection between the viewer and Saul is what makes this true reality television.  You get a feeling of really getting to understand Saul on a deep personal level and it truly is great.

And this discovery is done with tons of long takes (which appears to be a theme of advanced filming after True Detective and Birdman) whereby the camera follows Saul uninterrupted (that is without cuts) thereby not breaking the spell to the viewer so you really do feel like you are following him.

And seriously this series, as well as Breaking Bad, deserves awards for best cinematography.  These shows manage to take what could just be a bleak desert into a captivating and breathtaking landscape.

I believe i've made it clear that its a series worth watching and its current 100% rating on rotten tomatoes and 9.3 on IMDB is certainly deserved.  Metacritic is definitely getting it wrong at 78% even if that is a fairly high rating.


Alright review is done but I do have one more thing to discuss.  There is one character on Better Call Saul that I guarantee will have repeat viewings.  It's a criminal named Nacho Varga.  Thus far he has had minimal screen time but i'm aware of the actor Michael Mando and the pure talent that he possesses.

Please do not let the following sentence dissuade you from trusting my judgement....

Michael Mando was the voice actor for character in the popular video game Far Cry 3.

Seriously I hope you havn't stopped reading and have lost faith in me completely.  Stay with me here.

He didn't just use his voice for the character.  When Ubisoft Montreal (the video game maker) went on a casting call for its game Michael Mando showed up in character.  Not in character for anybody that was within the game.  He made up his own character and nailed it so well that they used his exact character for the game.  And his character is what made the game.

Alright if you don't believe me just watch these videos:
Cartoon version:

Real life person.