(Visual) Notes on Culture
  The Value of Life
As I continue to fret over personal finances in a bid to a have quiet, stable, and hopefully somewhat relaxing summer, I stumble across two news items that put the value of life in conceptual dollars. Marx would be appalled at how far along capitalism has come. While he criticized the commodification of time (labor value and duration are directly exchanged for specific dollar amounts in a capitalist system...therefore, time = money) and the general fact that the bourgeois world became obsessed with meetings, appointments, punctuality (while times of day were once approximated and were relative based on the season, now machines--watches, clocks, and even things like metronomes--made sure that every moment of the day could be accounted for), he would not live to see the escalation of speculative industries like life insurance. Suddenly, in addition to being governed by the time-money situation in life, a person in a capitalist country was likewise given value in death. While memories, family, relationships, and aesthetic experiences could still remain priceless, a person was also strictly valued based on their age, health, and social situation even as they died.

The first news piece is from Time Magazine (how appropriate!) and argues that life is almost uniformly undervalued! Kathleen Kingsbury talks to some economists about how certain aspects of Medicare (dialysis, especially) have worked out to yield a $129,000 value on a year of life, well above the "standard" specification of $50,000. Amidst the constant struggle between proponents of privatized health care and those interested in building a model of universal coverage, these estimates will certainly cause rifts. The estimates for extremely sick people could be cited as deterrents against the view advocating shared social responsibility. At the same time, others could rally behind the huge costs based on current going-rates for treatment as a sign that the system must change. These figures should likewise be compared against what Americans earn per year. In this scenario, how are massively wealthy people compared with the abject poor?

The second item comes from the realm of science fiction and does not deal with purely organic human life as such. Aaron Smith writes about the $6 Million Man (Steve Austin) and speculates as to his value given inflation and the changing world of cybernetics. The simple shift, given current inflation rates, could identify him as a $26 Million Man (super human, yes, but still less than some professional athletes or Hollywood stars earn in one year)! Smith next talks about how much the total replacements and adjustments to the human body would cost using real, extant technologies. The bill? Speculation goes as high as $100 million!

As a point of synthesis, mobile and cognizant life is worth big bucks. On one level, human work is given dollar amounts and valued in relative comparison to other human work. On another, our very selves participate in a complex and shifting economy of life that can (in some ways) be replicated, but probably still works best under pre-post-human means of thinking.
  DVD Boxed Set Summer
The school year is over and the summer is poised to start. As a personal note, I will be living and working in Raleigh. This time of year no longer has the eminently positive connotations that it used to have. Even under the seasonal-academic lifestyle, there is always work to be done. I am currently re-shaping an old essay on Alex Cox's Three Businessmen for an edited collection and continue to march forward on my edited collection of essays on Ken Russell. But, since I want to retain some semblance of my former (leisured) life, I will be doing some serious movie watching this summer. While I tend to do this even during the school year--I am, after all, a film studies student and need to stay on top of the game--the summer is usually a pretty ripe time for catching up on what one has missed, neglected, or avoided.

That said, I have a bad tendency to buy movies on "spec" when I don't have time to watch them, to sit on them until such a time as I am able to kick back and give them a go. Unless I acquire something that I've had my sights on for a while, the gestation period usually lasts a few months, especially since I still cycle through my Netflix cue. I assure you, I do in fact have a life, but have always been proud of my ability to make the best use of my downtime. I am not a YouTube browser (I mainly use it to put music videos on as "background" while I do other work) and have cut back on the number of websites I check everyday. So, the saddest fact of this post is that all the titles that I am about to mention are actually things that I own.

The most cost-efficient way to acquire some movies is via boxed sets. These curated, thematic collections have really taken off since the infant days of VHS and laserdisc. In terms of film, I have recently (last several months) managed to get through The Richard Lester Collection (UK import featuring The Knack, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and How I Won the War), British Horror Quadruple Feature (four Pete Walker movies from the early 1970s, during one of the "golden ages" of British horror cinema), and Mario Bava Collection Vol. 1 (five classic Bava films, nicely produced by Anchor Bay Entertainment). Recent TV boxed set viewings include Arrested Development Season 1, Martin Tahse's After School Specials Set 1, and Mr. Show Season 3, not to mention my compulsive re-watching of Peep Show Seasons 1-4.

So, what's left for summer? On the TV front, Arrested Development Seasons 2 and 3 seem like sure bets. On the slightly more oddball side (though AD is no casual stroll in normal city) are Dune (the SCI-FI channel 2000 miniseries, though I don't see how this could possibly hold a candle to the misguided David Lynch film) and Blue Murder, a critically-lauded Australian cop drama from 1995 that was lovingly issued by Subversive Cinema. To bring some brevity to it all, I've been saving up Chappelle's Show Season 1 for a rainy or unbearably hot day. As for films, well, here goes.

Though I've had my fill of British horror for the time being, there's Elite entertainment's old British Horror Collection which contains Tower of Evil, Inseminoid, Horror Hospital (a favorite from my late high school days) and Curse of the Voodoo. I have already seen each of the movies in Anchor Bay's The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, but not in several years, so it promises a few days of outre, warped entertainment. I also recently took a bite into (but have not finished) Optimum Entertainment's region 2 Julie Chrisite Collection, a nice set that contains bare bones editions of Billy Liar, Far from the Madding Crowd, Darling, and Joseph Losey's The Go-Between.

Classic "B" genres will certainly be a focus of my summer viewing. One of the first up will be Sam Katzman: Icons of Horror Collection, a group of four notorious stinkers from the height of the cold war. The paranoia is sure to continue with the inefficiently-titled The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. 1, a nice Universal package with winners like The Mole People and Monster on the Campus.

One big undertaking will be the Mario Bava Collection Vol. 2, this time packed with 8 later Bava titles across several different genres. If it is anything like the first set, it will be rewarding, powerful viewing. Expert Tim Lucas is on board for many supplements, and since this is my first time watching each of these films, I am sure to learn a lot. My most recent purchase (for less than $15, to boot) has been MGM's Roger Corman Collection, an eight film release that spans from Bucket of Blood to GAS-S-S. I am especially interested in watching The Trip, which has been on my "to-watch" list for nearly 8 years.

I certainly won't watch all of these. I hope to get through many of them. But for now, courage.
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