Why You Should See an Uwe Boll Movie

June 20, 2010

Photo by Michael Heilemann courtesy of http://www.bollfans.de

My recent research on the infamous genre/video-game film director Uwe Boll has raised some eyebrows, both professionally and personally.  After all, am I not just a lowly East German film scholar, fighting “nobly” for a “lost” cinema?  What the hell am I doing flirting with the worst director in the world, let alone evaluating his work on its own terms?  Several people have asked me directly how I can be interested in a director whose slapdash aesthetic is modeled off the made-for-TV movie.  The wheels of concern about me as a sane individual have started to turn.  Boll has apparently become such a perfect “bad object” of cinema that one wonders why someone of intelligence would buy into his attention-getting schema.

Nevertheless, if you’re an intelligent person, you should see an Uwe Boll film.  Here’s why:

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Our Health Care System Needs Immediate Reform – The View from the Inside

September 9, 2009

This is the second of three posts on health care reform in the United States. The first post was about which type of experts to trust. The third post will be published on the so-called “public option” after the author has had a chance to review the legislation.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 9, 2009, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to argue for health care reform. But you might not realize why health care reform is so desperately needed in the United States, since your only experience of health care in the US might have been good visits with an excellent physician. The need for health care system reform isn’t about the quality of our doctors and other health care providers: for the most part, they’re highly qualified and good at their jobs. Instead, there are three basic symptoms of ill health in our health care system, and I will investigate the causes of those symptoms in this essay, partly from the view of an insider who worked in health care for six years, partly from the view of someone especially knowledgeable about the health care system from careful study. I argue that because the health of this system has been bad for so long, we must take action as soon as we can to reform it.

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The little law that would make liberals love sales taxes

May 16, 2009

I don’t know about you, but the unequal distribution of wealth doesn’t actually bother me at all. What bothers me is the unequal distribution of consumption.

In other words, I don’t care about your paycheck. If you’re just going to put it in the bank, knock yourself out; I hear they need the money. I sure know my own employer could use a decent loan right now.

No, the inequality I care about is practical: unequal distribution of yachts, yoga classes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert tickets.

That’s why I support revenue-neutral sales tax reform to include the taxation of services. It’d be the first step towards a fairer, more efficient tax system that penalizes what we don’t need — stuff — instead of what we do need — work.

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The coming revolution over anti-aging research

December 14, 2008

On Bloggingheads’ Science Saturday, Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Gray argues that eternal life is within reach and attacks those who think it’d be a bad idea.

But here’s something he and interviewer Eliezer Yudkowsky don’t address: on the day eternal life becomes available, it might be a bad idea for everybody over a certain age. Those people would be locked into life at their current age indefinitely, while the rest of the world — their future friends, enemies, bosses and lovers — would become an ever-swelling group of 24-year-olds.

How would society react to this approaching possibility?

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It’s great to be back at Goodwill

August 6, 2008
'goodwill' by bluecinderellee on Flickr

'goodwill' by bluecinderellee on Flickr

I love Goodwill. I worked at Goodwill stores for two summers when I was 18 and 19, and I learned a lot about each aspect of running the store. More importantly, I learned how to shop there. Before Goodwill, I’d never much cared for shopping, and shopping in thrift stores seemed particularly unconducive to the “get in, get what you want, and get out” approach that I’d thought was the only tolerable way to go about it. But after working at Goodwill and seeing how carefully donations were inspected and sorted (a lot of stuff doesn’t make the cut), I stopped seeing the store shelves as a disorganized dumping ground for junk and started seeing them as a lovingly curated collection of potential treasures. Very reasonably priced treasures. And my 20% employee discount didn’t hurt either.

Goodwill stores are all over the U.S. and Canada, but I was living in middle America when I worked there, and so I tend to associate Goodwill with that part of the country. Maybe that’s one reason I never went to Goodwill during the three years I spent living in Portland, Oregon. But as of six days ago, I’m back in the Midwest — Bloomington, Indiana, to be specific — and I’ve got a limited budget, a new apartment to furnish, and some free time. Where do I go? Do you even need to ask? In six days, I’ve already made three Goodwill trips. It’s great to be back. Here’s what I’ve found so far, all of it essentially like new:

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Making a Supernatural Living

July 30, 2008

Ah, capitalism! Someone sees a market for something and then acts to fill that need at a healthy profit for themselves. It works so well (on paper)! A personal hobby horse of mine is what often seems to be a failure of otherwise fascinating and detailed fictional worlds with meticulously developed supernatural or pseudoscientific powers failing to take the profit motive into account.

My most often cited example of this is the long suffering Peter Parker. The poor guy barely covers rent in a thankless job doing freelance work for a borderline yellow journalist. The psychological reasons for why he continues to punish himself year after grueling year have been well-documented, but still, I’ve occasionally wondered why a man of such scientific skills doesn’t get himself a better job. This is a guy who over what was essentially a long-weekend invented an incredibly compact liquid substance which when exposed to air would instantly harden into a powerful adhesive which would furthermore dissolve all by itself after a few hours. Consider the potential non-lethal uses of such a weapon in the hands of law-enforcement agencies as a legacy for poor martyred Uncle Ben. If you were willing to be a bit more mercenary, consider the industrial applications. I recognize that he has a deep need to do personal hero work, but it just seems that having a decent financial base to fund your vigilante efforts above the poverty line might make your life a little more bearable (not that it seems to help Batman much).

Still, an example of a well-thought out economic plan in an unusual setting always makes my day. Here are a few examples, though I’m hoping other people will share a few more.

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The Placebo Price Effect

March 5, 2008

On my way home from work, I heard this story on Marketplace explaining a new drug placebo study done recently. From the story:

Participants thought they were testing a new drug for pain relief. In fact, everybody got placebos. Only one difference. Some were told the pills cost $2.50, while others were told they only cost a dime. Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational,” was the lead researcher.

DAN ARIELY: What we found was that the expensive pill reduced pain to a much larger degree than the cheap pills.

This could be significant for the $59 billion generic drug industry. The study helps explain why patients generally prefer brand-name drugs, and why consumers think they are more effective than generic drugs, even though they have the same active ingredients. Glen Melnick is a health economics professor at USC.

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Globalization is Green

February 5, 2008

[cross-posted from GreenCouple.com, where my fiancee and I talk about how we’re trying to live green(er) together]

The Undercover Economist by Tim HarfordI’ve stolen this counterintuitive title from a section in Tim Harford’s interesting economic book (and who thought that phrase would ever be used?), The Undercover Economist. The book as a whole is a great overview of economic thinking applied to a variety of topics, from finding a good used car to pricing coffee. Near the end, Harford attempts to debunk the idea that trade protectionism prevents globalization from damaging the environment. I find most of his arguments very persuasive, although there might be more arguments against globalization that he doesn’t cover. Hardford identifies three main anti-globalization arguments: a “race to the bottom,” transportation costs, and the idea that economic growth inherently hurts the planet.

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Stop saying “recession”

January 31, 2008

This is a plea to anyone who currently holds a position in news broadcasting. You could be a news anchor, a writer, or even a person likely to be interviewed on economic issues. I am begging you, please, please stop saying the word “recession.” After everyone involved has taken five minutes out of their lives to carefully consider the meaning of the word, you may resume using it, on the sole condition that you do so correctly.

So, to be clear, let me take a moment to share the correct definition here. In the United States, the Bureau of Economic Analysis is responsible for tracking and officially measuring and reporting on the gross domestic product (GDP). This Bureau, one of a number of them under the auspices of the Commerce Department, defines the term as follows:

“A recession is a decline in a country’s gross domestic product, or negative real economic growth, for two or more successive quarters of a year”

Now then. Now that we all are working with the definition, as defined by the organization empowered by law in this country to handle these matters and widely accepted by macro economists, let us consider for a moment how this term might apply to an issue near and dear to my heart and likely to yours: the current status of the United States economy.

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What’s your escape plan?

January 23, 2008

I’ve been noticing stories on the news lately about the Iraqi refugees in Syria. The latest one I heard was about all the services needed to take care of that many people with no income. The one that really stuck with me, though, was from a while ago, talking about how so many of the refugees in Syria had actually been quite wealthy when they first arrived, but as the years have dragged on and they still feel unsafe returning to Iraq, their savings have dwindled. They can no longer afford to rent the large houses they settled in originally; they have sold many of the possessions they brought with them; any business they possibly once owned in Iraq has been taken over. They do not have the right to work in Syria, no matter how highly trained, so they have no hope of income. And these were the people who planned ahead and had means to leave.

Today, one of my friends sent me the link to this NYTimes story about Venezuelan immigrants to the US. They are moving to Florida in droves to escape Chavez, or at least his policies. My friend, who is currently living in South Florida as well, pointed out that none of these people are anything but upper class, especially given which Miami suburbs they seem to be settling in. Luckily, many of these people seem to have found a way into the US that allows them to work. They are the wealthy ones, the lucky ones.

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