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Atlas Shrugged is Filming, but not really

According to Variety, Atlas Shrugged has started filming. But I don't think this is good news, for a few reasons:

1. It's based by a script from Brian Patrick O'Toole, who has never written anything I've heard of, and John Aglialoro, who has never written anything and has zero experience in the Entertainment Industry.

2. It's being directed by Paul Johansson, who has acted in lots of TV shows but has only directed some episodes of the show One Tree Hill. (Which he also starred in.) He'll also be playing John Galt.

3. Dagny Taggart's being played by a 25-year-old who has only acted in the TV show Mercy.

4. Really what's going on is producer John Aglialoro was going to lose the rights if he didn't go into production by this Saturday. So it seems to me that instead of waiting until he had the right script, actors, and producer, he just threw something together with whoever was available and cheap.

This is a lot like what happened with the 1994 Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie. (Which is an interesting story if you're unfamiliar with it.)

I predict that like in that situation, the hastily thrown together Atlas Shrugged movie will be dumped straight to video (if it's released at all), and Aglialoro will sit around waiting for someone to pay him to buy back the rights so they can make a real movie. Which is just one more barrier in making the film that's been stuck in development hell for fifty years, and makes it even less likely that a real Atlas Shrugged movie will see the light of day.

Here's the article, which I'll copy-past because sometimes links to Variety don't work right.

The long-brewing feature version of author Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" has begun shooting in Los Angeles as a $5 million indie produced by John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow.

Cameras began rolling over the weekend on a five-week shoot for "Atlas Shrugged Part One" with Paul Johansson directing from Brian Patrick O'Toole's script. Aglialoro would have lost the feature rights if the film wasn't in production by Saturday.

A spokesman for Aglialoro -- the CEO of exercise equipment producer Cybex -- said there will be at least one more "Atlas Shrugged" shot after the current film's completed. Rand's massive novel is divided into three parts, each consisting of 10 chapters.

"Atlas," published in 1957, takes place in a dystopian version of the U.S. in which society has collapsed as the government gains increasing controlover industry. The decline occurs while the most productive citizens, led by John Galt, begin vanishing.

Johansson ("One Tree Hill") portrays Galt. The lead role of railroad executive Dagny Taggart has gone to Taylor Schilling ("Mercy) and the part of Henry Reardon is being played by Grant Bowler ("Ugly Betty").

Michael Lerner ("A Serious Man") portrays lobbyist Wesley Mouch and director Nick Cassavetes has signed on for the Richard McNamara role. Other key cast include Matthew Marsdan as James Taggart and Graham Beckel as Ellis Wyatt.

"Atlas" also stars Edi Gathegi, Jsu Garcia, Rebecca Wisocky, Ethan Cohn, Patrick Fischer, Neill Barry, Christina Pickles and Nikki Klecha.

There have been unsuccessful attempts to bring "Atlas Shrugged" to the bigscreen and TV dating back to the 1970s.

In 2007, Angelina Jolie was to star in a Lionsgate version, with Vadim Perelman directing and rewriting "Atlas Shrugged" from a script penned by Randall Wallace. Husband-and-wife team Howard and Karen Baldwin and Media Talent Group's Geyer Kosinski were set to produce.
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How Would You Profit from Time Travel?

Quasi-related to my last post, but this is something I've been thinking about since watching Season 5 of Lost.

Imagine you suddenly find yourself transported back in time 30 years. This was completely unexpected, so you didn't get to plan for it. You don't get to bring back any modern technology, and you don't have any records other than your own memory. (No Back to the Future 2 sports almanac.)

Some ground rules of time-travel from the scenario:

1. You are stuck in the past. You have no way to return to the present other than waiting 30 years. (And of course you continue to age normally)

2. This is an internally consistent time-travel paradigm. This means that whatever happened happened, and you cannot change any facts. You can't prevent 9/11 or save a relative from a car accident. You can't found Google because Google was founded by some dudes who aren't you. You can't give your younger self advice, unless you remember some mysterious relative giving you that exact same advice. (Or alternatively, your younger self ignored that advice and completely forgot about it 30 years later.)

3. However you can affect things you have no specific knowledge of, because that doesn't violate internal consistency. Do you know who invented, say, Crocs shoes? I don't. Maybe it was time-traveling you.

4. Not really a rule, but an application of these rules: You've never heard of some dude who could accurately predict the future. That means that you can't go public with your foreknowledge. If you do, you either won't be believed or nefarious interests will conspire to keep that information hushed up, which probably wouldn't bode well for you.

So what would you do? Given these constraints, I don't see any way you could help the world. (But if you can think of something, feel free to suggest it.) So it seems like you ought to focus on getting yourself rich. (By yourself, I mean the version of you who traveled through time. Not the younger version of you who naturally exists in that time. You can't make him rich because you didn't grow up with a mysterious stranger giving you lots of money.)

How would you do that? The obvious answers are to get a job, and then bet every spare penny on stocks and sports. But there are problems with that. How good is your memory? Are you sure you're correctly remembering events from 30 years ago, and aren't mixing them up with something that happened a year later?

And once you start consistently winning on the large longshot bets you place at casinos, that's going to attract some attention. Would you rotate between different casinos for each bet? Or place the same bet at 50 different casinos, so each individual bet is too small to attract notice. Either way seems risky. You could get banned from the casinos. Or they may assume you're cheating and start breaking your thumbs to figure out how you know all this stuff.

An alternative tack would be to take advantage of the situation to spend time with loved ones. You probably didn't know all of your parents or grandparents' friends 30 years ago, so this wouldn't violate internal consistency. But you'd have to avoid becoming close enough for younger you to remember you. (I suppose theoretically you could adopt the identity of a family friend you knew growing up, but that would be weird. Also it might cause problems for your mother if her son looks exactly like her friend rather than her husband, which was a huge plot-hole in Back to the Future.)

What are your thoughts?
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Dating Advice for your College Self

It's been a while since I've posted, and I continue to be too busy doing work at work to post much. But I have time for some user-generated content, so I'll pose a question. (This was inspired by perich's post here.)

If you could go back in time and give dating/romance advice to your 18ish-year-old self just as you were starting college, what would it be?

Feel free to give as many pieces of advice as you want. But stick to general advice, not "You'll meet your future wife at this time and place" or "Jane Smith is a bitch who will cheat on you." And it should only be dating/romance related advice, not stock tips or career plans. (Social advice that relates to dating is fine.)
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Tech Help

We've been watching a lot of Netflix Instant Download on our Xbox, which is awesome when it works. But it only works about 75% of the time. The rest of the time, it will freeze up or declare the bandwidth is too low.

We have the Xbox hooked up to a wireless adapter, the wireless router in another room, and that's hooked to our DSL.

My question for you is, is there a simple way to make this work more like 100% of the time rather than 75%?

The way I see it, there could be a few sources of the problem:

- The Xbox itself
- The Xbox's wireless adapter
- The distance/walls between the wireless adapter and the wireless router
- The wireless router
- The DSL

Of those, the only thing that I could reasonably change would be to buy a new wireless router. (Note that it's not practical for us to move the Xbox or wireless router to be in the same room, or to run a cord between them. And I don't want to spend $100 on a new wireless adapter for the Xbox.)

So is it worth it to buy a new wireless router? Or is it more likely that the limiting factor is something else in the chain, and we'll just have to live with Netflix not always working? Or is there some other simple/cheap solution that I haven't thought of?
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People of Walmart

Thought of the day: I think the website People of Walmart should be renamed "I hate poor people." Although I suppose if it was more honestly named, douchebag hipsters might feel guilty about having contempt for those who would rather feed their children than buy $100 t-shirts from vintage boutiques.

Also, I'm going to pre-emptively mock anyone who's planning to self-righteously link to their favorite photos from PoWM as "proof" that I should loathe those with different body types and fashion sense than me.
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Why the Oscars Are Irrelevant Part 2

The Academy has started to recognize how irrelevant they've become by continually nominating movies nobody cared about. Since they like money and wanted to trick more people into watching their wankfest, this year they pretended like they nominated more films to include some people had seen.

Here are the 10 nominees:

The Hurt Locker
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
Inglorious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

And the top 10 box office movies:
Avatar
Transformers 2
Harry Potter 6
Twilight: New Moon
Up
The Hangover
Star Trek
The Blind Side
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2
Sherlock Holmes

Three movies appear on both lists, so you might think the Academy is starting to learn its lesson. But the expanded list this year is just trickery. Nobody in the know seriously thought the less pretentious, more popular movies would win. Unsurprisngly, the "Best Picture" winner was a movie that placed 126th at the box-office. Nobody saw it now, nobody will see it in the future. So who cares?

What movies from this year will still be watched in 20 years? I would say Up, The Hangover, and Star Trek. 30% is an off year for sustainability of the box office winners. But pretending to expand the nominees managed to improve the Academy's success rate from a consistent 0% to 10%, so congratulations to them for stepping over an incredibly low bar.

I suppose I should address Avatar. Yes, it was the highest grossing movie of all time, but I think it will be forgotten in short order. All it has going for it is how amazing looking its special effects are. But in a few years, movies will look even better. Without the visuals, Avatar is just Fern Gully with lousy editing. And why would anyone bother to see that? (Especially if they're watching on a TV.)

By contrast, look at Jurassic Park and Terminator 2. Those were movies with effects that were amazing at the time, but look pretty crappy by today's standards. You probably have more realistic looking games on your cell phone. But those movies are still enjoyable to watch, because the story and characters held up - the effects were there to serve the story, rather than the other way around.

Anyway, I spent yesterday evening having dinner with my family, watching The Amazing Race and reruns of America's Funniest Videos (fast-forwarding through the host's banter and any videos involving screaming or naked children), and chatting with my wife. All those things were far more enjoyable and rewarding than watching the Oscars.
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Why the Oscars Are Irrelevant

30,000,000 people were foolish enough to waste their Sunday evening watching a self-congratulatory wankfest where a bunch of people worship themselves for their belief that they're better than you. Ostensibly this was to determine the best movies of the year.

Now, I love movies, and am certainly interested in which ones are the best. But the fiction that this is what the Oscars determine is flat-out silly.

Here are the twenty nominees from 2004 - 2008:

Million Dollar Baby
The Aviator
Finding Neverland
Ray
Sideways
Crash
Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Good Night and Good Luck
Munich
The Departed
Babel
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen
No Country For Old Men
Atonement
Juno
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader

How many of these movies do you think people will still be watching and caring about in 20 years? I would argue that the answer is zero. If you disagree, feel free to make a counter-argument. But pretty much all of these movies fit into one or both of the categories of "Forgettable," or "stuff nobody watched or cared about even when it came out."

(I enjoyed The Aviator and Finding Neverland, but don't feel any need to see them again and really don't remember any more than their basic subjects. I thought The Departed and Slumdog Millionaire were okay, but certainly not great.)

Compare this to the top five movies by year for each of those years:

Shrek 2
Spider-Man 2
The Passion of the Christ
Meet the Fockers
The Incredibles
Star Wars Episode 3
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
War of the Worlds
King Kong
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Night at the Museum
Cars
X-Men: The Last Stand
The Da Vinci Code
Spider-Man 3
Shrek the Third
Transformers
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Indiana Jones and the incredibly shitty fan-fic
Hancock
WALL-E

Now, clearly there's a lot of crap on that list. But I'd say there are 13 movies that will still be watched in 20 years: Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, Passion of the Christ, The Incredibles, Star Wars 3, Harry Potter 4, Cars, Da Vinci Code, Transformers, Harry Potter 5, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and WALL-E.

Note that I'm not saying all these movies are great. (Obviously Star Wars 3 isn't. Duh.) But they were enjoyable or notable enough that people will keep watching them for decades.

So the "experts" in the Academy have a success rate of 0% over a five year period, while just mindlessly copying a box-office list has a success rate of 65%. But really, that list isn't mindless. It's determined by millions of moviegoers choosing what to spend their hard-earned dollars on.

Quality of movies is subjective. Everyone defines it differently. But I would say the best way to define a "good" movie is as a movie that people thought was good. Certainly people can be tricked into seeing movies that leave them unsatisfied. They can also enjoy a movie that won't hold up over time. And I'm not claiming my standard of "Will be people still care about it in 20 years" is the only way to evaluate film.

But it's certainly a better method of evaluation that seeing which pretentious wankfest a bunch of self-congratulatory glitterati decide to pat themselves over the back for.

(I'll discuss this year's nominees in a separate post)
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Why Macroeconomics is Bunk

Arnold Kling give a more scientific explanation of something I've been arguing for the last ten years, which is that Macroeconomics is complete and utter B.S. Realizing this was one of the main reasons I left Econ grad school.

We studied one model, that started with premises that made intuitive sense. Then chugged through a bunch of math to come up with a prescription of what the government policy ought to be. Then we took a similar model, that started with slightly different premises that made exactly as much intuitive sense. Then we chugged through a bunch of math and reached the exact opposite result as the first model.

So which model do macroeconomists pick? Whichever one matches their preconceived political notions.

Microeconomics is like astronomy, and macroeconomics is astrology. All the fancy math and computer models solely exist to put a scientific veneer on the crap that the high priests are just making up to support their preexisting agenda. Astrologers develop esoteric language, math, and complex computer models too. But that doesn't change the fact that everything they say is nonsense.

To put it into mathematical terms, it's impossible to run a regression where there are more variables than data points. But because each country and each time period is materially different from every other country and time period in hundreds or thousands of ways, it is not possible to ever have more data points than variables. Thus every macroeconomic model is just the modelers opinion, has no basis in science, and has no more validity than the modeler saying "This what we should do to improve the economy because I say so and I'm better than you, nanny-nanny-boo-boo."

Or as Kling says
Consider two ways of getting a computer to print out that the stimulus created 1.6 million jobs. Method one is to set up an elaborate computer simluation that produces such a result. Method two is to type "the stimulus created 1.6 million jobs" into a word processer and hit the print key. The only difference between those two ways is the amount of computer processing time involved.
[Link shpedoinkled from patrissimo]
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Prediction of the Day

A crazed nutbag committed an act of suicide-terrorism against the IRS. He was a self-avowed communist who specifically talked about hating George W. Bush in his suicide note.

However, I predict that since conservatives aren't big fans of the IRS either, all sorts of people will connect this lunatic to tea parties (which they'll call "teabaggers"), Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and those who oppose Obama's health care plan.

I further predict this nonsensical connection won't just be limited to left-wing crazies like Daily Kos and Keith Olberman, but will be the broad consensus in the mainstream media.

(Just to clarify, I don't think this lunatic's actions reflect on other Communists or people who hate George W. Bush. The only person who can reasonably be blamed for this act of terrorism is already dead, so anyone engaging in finger-pointing is just trying to exploit a tragedy to score some cheap political points.)