I bought myself a tailored suit recently. I needed one for my wedding, and I do work in a position where sometimes you need to look presentable, so I blew five hundred pounds on a really nice grey suit made for me and fitted to my body.

I have two observations.

One, it looks really good. You can see this suit was made to fit me, and was not just taken off some rack in an outlet.

Second, James Bond is even more awesome than I thought. You literally have no ability to move; for example I can’t really lift my hands over my head, let alone climbing over balconies, winning fist-fights and jumping off buildings.
Seriously, though, the Secret Service is either dressed in special suits, that actually allow you to move, or they are absolutely and utterly useless: all looks and no bite. I don’t think I could jump in front of anyone to protect him with my own body even if I wanted to in my expensive, good-looking suit.

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“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

This is one of those sayings that everyone utters while nodding to themselves, with the warm glowing feeling in their tummies of being very smart.

Except it is not true.

Just a quick look at recorded human history is sufficient to see why this saying is stupid. The reason is simple: for most of our history, we were ruled by absolute rulers. Sure, there is the occasional Nero and Caligula, and other crazy kings (or effective kings), but the fact is that by and large the institution of absolute monarchy has been quite successful as a political system; and this would not have been possible if the long line of absolute rulers were absolutely corrupted by their own power. (By the way there are some indications that neither Nero nor Caligula were as crazy as they were made out to be.)

On the other hand we do have the examples of people getting into power and being corrupted by it, so there is some truth in the saying, though. But can these two things (long line of absolute rulers ruling relatively successfully and power-crazy tyrants popping up here and there) be true at the same time?

I think the context is the key here. Most rulers were brought up with power; their education focused on how to be rulers, how to handle the responsibility –even if they were not singled out for succession, by large they came from the “upper classes”. These people were very well equipped to deal with absolute power –within reason, of course. There are no saints here; Ivan the Terrible and Henry VIII were certainly not nice people, and they did abuse their power, but they were not consumed by it, as the saying would suggest.

However, in the more modern age, people who are quite unprepared for it can grasp absolute power now and then –and I think this is what the saying is referring to. A regular Joe, such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler and the rest (all your petty dictators and revolutionaries who turned out to be worse than the monsters they replaced) will probably fare much worse resisting the siren song of absolute power than someone who was trained to wield it from childhood.

I understand that nuances and sayings do not exactly go well together, but it still annoys me when I hear it; it puts a lie to at least six thousand years of history. There are way more Dariuses, Sun Kings, Ramseses and Hamurappis than Napoleons.

bombers-star-wars

The movie was bad. I mean, really, really bad. (Spoiler alert, though.) I’m not talking about the complaints/accusations of “liberal agenda pushing” and whatnot; I don’t care about anyone who has a axe to grind from the absolute fan boys to the different left/right wing ideologues. I just wanted to see a fun movie, and I honestly don’t care about the genitals and the pigmentation of the lead actors.

But the fact is that the story itself was, well, shit. Insultingly so. Like the silly chase scene of Star Destroyers not being able to overtake a couple of rebel ships (first of all, if the Resistance won, why are they still called “The Resistance”? And where did the supposedly vanquished Empire got all its stuff from?), so they just kind of trudge along until their fuel runs out (?) – OK it’s Star Wars, we don’t need to discuss inertia and whatnot in interstellar space. But our heroes just take off from said ships, travel to a different system to hire a hacker, randomly meet a different hacker in a cell, and then go back to our battle scene of escaping ships, where their whole effort turns out to be absolutely useless, so they might as well have stayed… well, it was just a mess. (Let’s not talk about the whole issue of just discarding our mysterious evil overlord without ever getting to know who he was, which is just lazy story writing, and the rest of stupidity and inconsistency in the story.) You know that saying about infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters and Shakespeare? Well, this script might have been a result of that. I just blows my mind that extremely expensive movies (and this is not the only one) have no actual script; as if they wanted to save on writers, so they asked the director’s ten year old son to put something together. Honestly the Quantum of Solace (cobbled together by Craig and some other non-writers) is a better written story. (Ironically Spectre is another mess of a script.)

 

But then I’ve read it. Apparently it’s a common practice to hand out different fake scripts to the actors and other people who are involved in the making of a movie to lessen the chance of leaks.

I think there was a fatal mistake in the making of this movie, and they actually shot the fake scenes. There is no other explanation is possible.

I had a revelation on the way to the office today about violence in popular culture, and why John Wick might have been made.

I think John Wick -which, let me add is one of the best action movies ever made with very strong and intriguing characters- was made to put a mirror to our enjoyment of blood and gore.

Back in the days, ancient Romans unashamedly enjoyed blood sports in the arena. Yes, death was not a very common occurrence during gladiatorial combat, but the chance was always there- and they had animal hunts, executions and mock battles to watch, too; plenty of blood and death.

Our 20th and 21th century sensitives, however do not really allow for enjoy violence for its own sake even if it’s simulated – in a movie, book, or computer game. We need our hero to have a valid reason to go on a murderous rampage, which we can then enjoy to its fullest extent, since, you know, it’s all justified. After all his family has been murdered, he is forced by the baddies, he is trying to save his girlfriend, he is fighting the evil Russians, the enemies are computer programs anyway, or they are slimy ugly Nazis or aliens. It’s all good, you see; he has a good reason to spill all that gore, and he does not enjoy it at all while doing it (but he is very good at it regardless). This thin moral veil allow us, connoisseurs, to take delight of the masterful ways the blood is being spilled by our reluctant hero. Sure, there are people who would love watching a 120 minute action sequence without any context, but they are in the minority. (The closest to a 120 minute torture-fest is the Passion of the Christ, but even there you have the whole religious “they are killing your Saviour” angle; it would have not been so successful -or accepted- if they just filmed the execution of any random Roman civilian.)

It’s very difficult to make a successful action movie/thriller/whatever with a psychopathic protagonist who just kills for killing’s sake. Even if the protagonist is literally a serial killer who obviously has mental issues, you need some sort of a moral anchor that justifies his urges you otherwise would find reprehensible (…like only killing bad guys who escaped justice).

I think the makers of John Wick simply decided to do away all that; they have given people a really, really, really flimsy pretext (such as the killing of our retired hitman hero’s dog) for him to go on a rampage where he ends up killing over seventy human beings. All in the name of revenge for the dog (who was admittedly really cute). Don’t forget; most of these people are simply hired muscle who have nothing to do with John’s angst- the only person who does deserve death is the guy who actually killed the dog. The rest are collateral damage occurred while he was trying to get to our dog-murderer. I do not know if the screen writers really wanted us to face our need to justify violence, or if the script was just making fun of the whole “revenge killings” genre of movies, but they succeeded in making one -if not- the best action movies of all time. Perhaps it’s coming to a full cycle: we are slowly returning to the Romans’ unashamed enjoyment of bloodshed.

I’ve written about Gyozo before; this is an update on her.

Considering how much I am afraid of spiders (well, size does matter in this case), we became strangely invested in the well-being of Gyozo. I took her off the Christmas tree before we took the tree out, and placed here on a rose we have in the window. For some reason she decided she preferred the wall to the green plants; so she set up shop next to the window. I’ve also fed her some aphids over the weeks, but, for some reason they died off by themselves, so I was left without a source of nourishment. And Gyozo seemed very incapable of catching anything by herself. When I saw a disoriented fly on the floor during cleaning I knew my time came to shine. Armed with a pair of tweezers I managed to hunt down the prey and carefully deposited it into Gyozo’s net. She jumped on the fly the same size as she was without hesitation; I think she was so hungry, that her normally shy behaviour (she always ran away when I touched her net no matter how delicate I was) disappeared. I guess she thought that either she is going to eat or she is going to be eaten, but she would not give a damn. (I even have a photo of her with her -well, our– prey.)

Let this whole thing sink in a bit. I’m actually hunting prey for the spider who set up shop in our living room.

What do you do in the following situation: you get a new job, and transfer to a place with firedoors ever 5 meters. We’re talking about double, interlocking firedoors, here; if you don’t push/pull the correct wing, you will push/pull both wings, which is annoying (and then you have to make sure they close properly).

It’d be great if they built these doors with consistency in mind: let’s say, you always use the left wing, but they did not. It’s absolutely haphazard which door needs to be pushed/pulled, and which wing locks with the other. So you can either memorize, or, as I came to a realization with a flash of genius- you can just use the dirtier doorwing…

Finally my skills as a researcher were of practical use.

Wildlife has the tendency of ignoring your personal space, and invade your little apartment without any hesitation.

This is how Gyozo (a Hungarian version of the name “Victor”) has joined our little family in November. I suspect she (as it is almost certainly a “she”) did not particularly care for the cold, and found our place more accommodating. She built her little web under the ceiling, and that was that. (She seems to be a common garden spider; not your usual in-house arthropod.)

We left her alone (my wife named her Gyozo) as she was quite small and nonthreatening. (Anyone knowing me probably knows this one fact: I’m scared of spiders.) I would not have been so laid back if it was one of those monstrous house spiders roaming the UK. Those suckers have no business being in a non-tropical place.

Anyhow, back to the original point.

In December we erected a Christmas tree, left for two weeks, and when we came home, Gyozo was gone. At least that’s what I thought. A couple of days passed by before I realized we have an extra Christmas ornament -a small garden spider hoping to catch something (anything) among the pine branches. Funny how these things go; as soon as you attach a name to something you start caring for it. I genuinely felt worry for her as I did not think she could hope to catch anything to eat. The apartment we live in is thankfully short on insects, and it felt cruel to put her out in the middle of the winter. At least this is what I thought until I discovered aphids on a houseplant we have.

And this is how I started feeding Gyozo. She is getting a regular supply of aphids; I suspect she might be getting fed up with the taste (if she is, she is free to write messages Charlotte’s web-style). I also assume she will be constructing philosophical arguments about the true nature of The Tweezers, and what it means to regularly find flightless insects in her net. (Or maybe she’s patting herself on the back for successfully taming two humans. Who knows.)

On my part I have to face the fact that I now have a pet spider.