Tag Archives: Russia

The name’s McClane…John McClane.

It’s good to know where you stand sometimes – witness this clip, via IGN.com, from February’s “A Good Die To Die Hard”.

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With each moment of glorious vehicular abuse, John McClane‘s caterpillar to butterfly like evolution from resourceful beat cop to blue-collar James Bond seems complete, doesn’t it?  The beaten-down, right-guy-in-the-wrong-place vibe of the original movie has long since become unravelled by the need to pitch McClane into new and more exaggerated jeopardy with each sequel.

Remember this bit from “Live Free or Die Hard”/”Die Hard 4.0”?  Yes, quite.

"Free Pussy Riot? Challenge accepted..."

“Free Pussy Riot? Challenge accepted…”

If I were a harsher critic of this series, I’d say that this was more or less the point at which the franchise jumped the shark (and then killed it with a concealed rocket launcher), but I just can’t bring myself to get ticked off at the “Die Hard” flicks or their increasingly irascible hero.  As Willis gets craggier and ever more likely to request that you damn kids get off his lawn with each movie, he somehow becomes more endearing – witness the bit in the first clip linked above where he punches out a Russian motorist to commandeer his vehicle.

The films now inhabit some kind of pleasant virtual realm where vacationing  Jerseyite McClane can slug a random citizen with impunity and suffer barely a politsya scolding by way of consequence – five minutes browsing on YouTube will doubtless find you numerous videos indicating that such behaviour in Moscow will earn you a one way ticket to Slabville:  Our Russian compatriots do not eff around.

“A Good Day To Die Hard” opens in cinemas in February.  And a delightfully morally unambiguous slice of retro-mayhem it promises to be.

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And justice for…some?

Yep, that dude looks like a challenge to morality and national values…

I’m a big fan of freedom of speech – and that includes unpopular speech.  I think it’s important for bigots to be given a public forum to amply demonstrate their stupidity and the worst excesses of their viewpoints so that there can be no doubt how dangerous they are.  Hatred and intolerance often manages to wear an acceptable face and it’s important for us to be able to decode the unpleasant subtexts and core meanings which extremist groups try to disguise in order to achieve a greater public profile.

Hence the picture of Adam Darski, erstwhile frontman of Polish Black Metal band Behemoth – Nergal to friends and fans.  He this week found out that the Polish supreme court had ruled that a 2007 performance where he criticised the Catholic church and tore up a bible constituted a criminal offence and that he could be tried for offending religious sensibilities and the more nebulous offence of blasphemy.

It’s good to know that rational debate is still alive, well and thriving in Poland, eh?

Indeed, it’s almost as if nobody in government in Poland has ever seen old-hat, slightly camp, playing to the converted rock theatrics beforehand – the reaction that many Poles have had to this presumed attack on their religious faith is exactly the kind of response that Nergal would have predicted (and perhaps wanted) – an over-the-top, sub-dark ages, hysterical over-reaction which serves only to make them look like enemies of rationalism and absurdly subject to religious dogma.

If you have religious convictions, that’s fine – my problem with the devout, as stated before in posts on this blog, is when your individual faith begins to cloud your judgement and you try to preach and impose your religion onto those who neither sought out nor will benefit from the pursuit of your personal delusions.

To the Polish supreme court, I would say this – produce your God to explain how Nergal’s actions have offended him/her/it and then you can put somebody in prison for two years?  What’s that you say?  God hasn’t shown up in person for the court date?  How very curious.

First Pussy Riot’s absurd imprisonment in Russia, now this potential debacle – it’s getting dangerous for artists to express any kind of opinion, lest the pious scream and rage until they get their hooks into you, demanding their pound of free-thinking flesh from politicians too cowardly and vote-grabbing to stand up for rationalism and a world free of modern day zealotry.

 

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Pussy Riot members sentenced to 2 years in prison

 

Free Pussy Riot – lock up a real menace like Jessie J before she ruins any more Queen songs…

I wrote about the appalling treatment that feminist art-punk collective Pussy Riot were receiving at the hands of what passes for a judicial system in Russia a few weeks back, and on Friday the inevitable happened – arrested band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were handed two-year sentences for the in-no-way imaginary offence of hooliganism committed by a group of persons motivated by religious hatred.

Or, as appears to be the case, the rather more accurate crime of criticising Vladimir Putin‘s Russia and the Draconian B.S. carried out on his say-so to silence dissent in whatever form it takes.

Photograph by Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

I try to wear my atheism lightly – nobody wants a strident anti-theist blogging in their face with their best sub-Dawkins one liners annoying the crap out of all and sundry – but cases and religiously motivated legal decisions make it very difficult for me not to have absolute and complete contempt for believers who allow their personal convictions to intrude on their professional lives and directly impact those who don’t share their faith.

By all means, take the Pussy Riot collective to court and charge them with presenting a political protest – but don’t bring imaginary deities into it.  That’s just cretinous.

If your God’s so offended by protests against he/she/it, have the omnipotent icon show up in court themselves to explain just why they require such absurd overreaction to be carried out in their name.  What’s that?  You can’t get your God to actually show up?  Oh, how very convenient.

This verdict is about silencing unpopular thought, women and ideas – and non-existent, invisible, oddly diffident deities don’t really come into matters, but can be invoked by the terminally cynical to silence criticism of their fascistic approach to social control.  Let’s just get things straight, shall we?

You can follow the fight to free the band members via Amnesty USA’s site – and hope that Putin soon realises that this idiotic debacle is doing more to dent Russia’s reputation than a decade of locking up oligarchs and riding rough-shod over democracy has done to date.

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Putin’s New Noise

Pussy Riot – Russian Art Punk Superheroines.

Clearly, I’ve not kept abreast of world news – if I had, the treatment of Russian art-punk collective Pussy Riot by Darth Putin would have moved me to write this post previously.  Your usually scheduled daily helping of power metal, Christopher Nolan worship and complaints about video game storytelling will be along anon.

Anyone reading the Guardian‘s story on the issue – feminist art punk band play impromptu performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Saviour and things go south rapidly – with a long enough memory may recall the Riot Grrl movement of the early nineties, where similarly politicised indie kids used all kinds of situationist techniques to underscore their musical rage but didn’t face the prospect of seven years in jail, as far as I recall.

How things change.  Or don’t.

I don’t suppose I should feel any surprise that Vladimir Putin‘s zero tolerance response to criticism of his dictatorship presidency is to round-up the geeky art students responsible and sling them in the clink, but the brazenness of his actions is sufficient to raise an eyebrow in the West, where our freedom to yell slogans and strum two chords is mostly protected and unlikely to get us into any serious trouble with the law.

Seriously? A trial with a potential jail sentence of seven years for playing a few songs in a church?  It’s fair to say that those of us who have reasonable freedom of speech, assembly and dissent in our countries don’t realise just how fortunate we are when we see people protesting on TV and being arrested (or worse) as a matter of course.

I’m going to try to follow this case for future reference – now that the celebrated Twitter Trial in the UK has been sensibly settled in favour of the daft bugger whose off-the-cuff tweet mobilised South Yorkshire police and the head of the DPP against him, it behoves us all to keep an eye on those in power who would seek to use the full weight of the law against any and all criticism of their decisions.

Never trust a politician, kids.

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