Tag Archives: war

The Greencine Five, Part XII: Purple Butterfly, Happy Together, The Road Home, In the Year of the Pig, King of Chess


Purple Butterfly is a slow-moving spy thriller that takes place in Shanghai immediately before Japan’s invasion of China. Purple Butterfly is really good, but the lack of dialogue and the physical similarity of two characters leave some reviewers confused. The film centers around a Japanese intelligence service’s secret war against the Purple Butterfly Organization in a setting that could easily be transferred to Peshwar, or Bali. The set-up, that a Chinese factory worker is mistaken for a Japanese spy, sounds like a comedy. Instead, an increasingly dark story of betrayal, confusion, and revenge brilliantly defines the murkiness that is the fog of war.


Happy Together is a film by Wong Kar Wai, better known for his atmospheric “Hong Kong” trilogy (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046), as well as Chungking Express. Happy Together was released to controversy, as it his first homosexual romance. Those who enjoy atmospheric Chinese-language gay romance films will enjoy Happy Together.


The Road Home is Zhang Ziyi‘s break-out performance, and probably her best. The film is set in Manchuria before the Cultural Revolution, which is rememberd similarly to the 1950s in the United States: stable, prosperous, uniform, culturally conservative, and safe. It is the story of an illiterate farm girl and the teacher she falls in love with. The film’s style is consciously taken from Titanic (the most popular movie in the history of Chinese cinema), and even shares with it the use of flashbacks to tell the main story.


In the Year of the Pig is a pro-Ho Chi Minh documentary about the Vietnam War, produced in 1968. I was shocked at how different the style and tone is from Hearts and Minds, an anti-war movie films in 1974. Year feels like its policy film from the 1950s, where clean-cut men in suits criticize France, discuss why some American policy was reasonable at the time, and argue for the need for a change. If the speakers are indeed Communist-sympathizers, then it is striking just how serious and alluring that movement must have been. Alternatively, Year may the voice of a lost moderate-liberal position on foreign policy that has yet to reemerge.


King of Chess is weird. It looks like someone spliced together documentary footage of the cultural revolution, added a rock anthem soundtrack, and then proceeded to combine two featurettes (one about the rustification campaign, the other about a psychic boy and an evil professor in Taiwan) together. That’s because it is. The production of the intended movie collapsed early on, requiring the filming of another, parallel story to fill out the running time. My friend criticized it as the most boring we watched since The World. It definitely isn’t the best film we’ve watched.

Genetics and Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors?

Yesterday, Mark of ZenPundit linked to a conference announcement for an upcoming (September 2007) get-together by the Combat Studies Instituteof the US Army on “Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army.” I have to admit, it sounds exciting. The call for papers asks for a 300-word abstract. My thoughts:

Genetics and Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors

For the past half century, social sciences generally and military studies in particular have belonged to the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of research. Under the SSSM, all of “human nature” and all variations within human populations are the result of learning, socialization, and outside influence. The SSSM teaches that the keys to understanding an individual actor’s behavior, whether a soldier, a terrorist, or a politician, was his personal environment, group environment, and social environment.

Recently, the SSSM has come under renewed attack by researched who look at genetic factors of behavior. Taking a Environment-Genetic interaction view of human behavior instead of environmental determinism, these scientists have found evidence for human-universal and intergroup-variation resulting from genetic genetic-environmental interactions. An environmental-determinist perspective blinds us to true cause-and-effect, and may lead us to treat symptoms instead of diseases.

These findings have immediate findings for military studies, both from established findings and original research. Classic findings, such as the human-universal “modules” for injustice-detection,injustice-avoidance, and injustice-punishment; inter-population-variations in the Dopamine Receptor D4 (7 Repeat) (“DRD4 7R”) allele associated with hyperactivity; and intra-population variations in predispositions for political beliefs and political obsessions are analyzed. Additionally, recent findings by the authors are presented. “Pentagon’s New Map” theory is presented as an example of SSSM research, and original criticisms which may help harmonize it with genetic factors are presented. Likewise, an ongoing experiment with altruistic super-punishment is presented and its implications for dealing with “suicide bombers” are discussed.
All findings are tied back to the new world of non-state actors and American army intervention.

The SSSM cripples our attempts to understand how non-state actors operate and how to defeat or co-opt them. In the future, research and action must take into account the genetics of the populations it deals with just as much as scientists and practitioners worry about the populations’ environments

Any suggestions? Advice?