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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