Saturday, August 27, 2011


Film: The Lives of Others

I'm a sucker for stories about personal redemption and forgiveness. They provide a much-needed counterpoint to the culturally-dominant "myth of redemptive violence," in my opinion. That's one reason why I liked the 2006 German film, The Lives of Others. The film is set in East Berlin just before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it's about a Stasi officer and his subjects.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Films: The Appeared & The Escapist

Pedro Cabezas' The Appeared (Aparecidos) is a Spanish horror film shot in Argentina and features some beautiful shots of Patagonia. The title is a conscious reference to the "Desaparecidos"--the thousands of "disappeared" victims of the US-backed "Dirty War," a civil war waged by the Argentine military from 1975 until 1983. The film stands on its own as a horror flick but its intelligent and successful incorpation of the real-life horrors of Argentina's recent past enhances the film's appeal. The film is available with English subtitles on DVD from IFC Films.

Rupert Wyatt's The Escapist is a clever British prison break film inspired by American author Ambrose Beirce's Civil War-era short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. The film carries a timely message about the nature of freedom and captivity. For good reason, the film won or was nominated for several awards in the UK and Ireland.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Danger: Mercury in Fish

I've almost finished reading Diagnosis: Mercury by Jane M. Hightower, MD. Diagnosis: Mercury is medical and environmental writing the way it should be done--no sensationalism, just good, solid writing, research, and documentation. Hightower's book is non-fiction but it reads like a gripping mystery novel as she reveals the modern history of industrial mercury poisoning and misregulation. Along the way we gain insight into why, decades after the Minamata disaster (see video below), US food supplies still contain mostly untested but unsafe levels of mercury.

In 2000, Dr. Hightower discovered that some of her affluent patients were ill with symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning--the symptoms improved and her patient's blood mercury levels dropped when they stopped eating swordfish and tuna. This is the point of departure for her book. Leaving her home in San Francisco, Hightower takes us to Japan, Canada, and Iraq, among other places. Along the way we see how greed has corrupted or derailed science, medicine, regulatory agencies, and the judicial system and places people's well-being at-risk.

Note: As it turns out getting a high dose of mercury from a single serving of fish is probably much easier than you think. For example, a 7 oz. serving of halibut for a 150 lb. person would result in a mercury exposure of 105% of the Environmental Protection Agency's "reference dose" i.e., "the amount of mercury a person, including sensitive subpopulations, can be exposed to on a daily basis over a lifetime without appreciable risk of effects." Check out the Mercury Calculator here at

See also:

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