The Allure Of Free

There’s a response that is, I believe, inherent to human nature, transcending boundaries – almost unanimous. And it is the response to something that is free.

If I tell you I’m willing to give you something for free, what would be the first thing that comes to your head? Yes, there it is… “What’s the catch?” And what do you do? You don’t take the thing.

My cousin was telling me earlier today about her dilemma in Australia. She works at a leading TV station and is often given tickets to movie premieres. We’re talking about the star-studded events, involving red carpets and bling, not the excitement we feel when we watch the first screening of a movie on its release day. And more often than not, she can’t go to those premieres so she usually asks around if someone wants those tickets, only discovering that giving this tickets away for nothing is harder than her actual job.

And it happened to me when I was at AUB outdoors. There was some guy offering free hugs and the moment I saw him, the second idea the crossed my mind (the first one being how weird it was) was that there was definitely a catch somehow in those hugs.

But why do we have such a response to free stuff? Why is it that most people would take the premiere tickets from my cousin if she had asked for an insignificant amount of money but refrain from doing so if she was handing them for nothing in return?

Our mentality is apparently wired to go away from things that are too good to be true. Even for things that are not totally free. If you find a bargain online, you are as skeptical.
But in the world of today, do not underestimate the power of “free.” I am most definitely not an economy expert but with most things getting cheaper and cheaper because of competition, offering things for free has become a way for some companies to topple others. Offering things for free is also a way for those companies to introduce services.

When I started buying stuff off amazon, I was offered a free trial of “amazon prime” in their attempt to hook me on speedier deliveries. And if I had been living in the US, I would have totally gone for it. Amazon redid a similar thing with Lady Gaga’s latest album: they sold the mp3 version for $0.99 along with a free trial of their newly introduced “cloud” service, as a way to get ahead of Apple before they introduce their own version of cloud services, probably later this year.

According to Chris Anderson, “free” is the future of prices. He wrote his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a $250 netbook, running a free version of Linux, free Google Docs, which offer him free backup and on-the-go access and then he offered the work for free on iTunes. He argues that billion dollar industries are being formed today around the price of “zero dollars and zero cents.” And if you think about it, isn’t Google one of the leading companies in the world today and it gives almost everything for free? So don’t freak out when you’re offered something for free. Odds are, someone, somewhere, is making money off of it somehow – with no catch to you.

This Is What A Trillion Dollars Looks Like

During our scholastic years, we were taught that a zero is a bad grade to get, right? And we’ve all panicked nights and days over exams that we hadn’t studied well for (and yet, we all leave ourselves till the last possible¬† minute in order to study, every single time).

However, with age (some age, others mature, right?), you get to know that the more zeros you have, the better. Especially when it comes to dollar bills.

For those who don’t know, a trillion has twelve zeros. A billion has nine. So a friend sent me these pictures online to come to grasp with the US national debt. I decided to incorporate the Lebanese national debt in this as well.

Let’s start with $100, the largest US denomination in circulation. We’ve all seen it, not many of us have owned it.

A packet of 100 $100 bills is about 1.5 cm thick and makes up $10000.

Now the “little” pile of money next to the man is, believe it or not, $1,000,000. That’s more money than most of us will ever make in our lifetime.

A $100,000,000 pile, however, looks more impressive, right? Yeah, keep dreaming (or drooling). But we’re not done yet.

Now add together ten of those precious previous piles, and you get $1 billion. Now imagine the below picture multiplied by 50 and you have the Lebanese national debt.

But even after the 50x multiplication, you’re not even close to $1 trillion. Why’s that? because you are literally rendered insignificant compared to it. This is what $1 trillion looks like.

The US national debt is $14 trillion. Enough said, right?

Fast Five – Movie Review

Fast Five is the latest installment in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. It stars regulars of the past four movies: Vin Diezel as Dom, Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent, specialized in finding wanted criminals.

Former FBI agent Brian O’Conner, along with Mia, Dom’s sister, help Dom escape a 25 year prison sentence while being taken to jail on a prison bus. They split up and agree to meet in Rio De Janeiro. However, Mia and Brian run low on cash and agree on doing a job for their friend. The job turns out much complicated than expected, however. The train on which the cars are found are seized property by DEA agents. And among the three cars to be taken, there’s only one in which those running the operation have special interest. Why? because it contains information about the location of $100 million, drug money, that Dom and co decide to steal and use to buy their freedom. But the money belongs to the most corrupt man in Rio and they’re being haunted by Luke Hobbs.

The fact that this movie is meant to entertain more than garner awards does not excuse the horrible performances you have to bear with for about two hours. There’s a sheer amount of melodrama in the way the actors react to what they have to do that is just mind blowing. At some points, you can’t but sit and look at the screen and go: “are they kidding me?”

Moreover, the script, especially most of the dialogue, is garbage material. I cannot conceive how the actors actually agreed on uttering some of the lines that were said. Some of those include: “I like my dessert first” when asked if they wanted good news or bad news first, followed by “now give me the vegetables”, among other lines spread throughout the movie that are completely ridiculous.

And even though you’re expecting to go into a movie with lots of cars, don’t be too disappointed when you see little car action sequences. At one point, they basically set up a race and jumped into the next scene with the race already done. There is an emphasis on the “furious” part though. The characters are almost angry all the time.

The final sequence of the movie, however, was well done. Even though it defied every law of physics that I know, it was still an enjoyable watch. And the overall resolution is quite smart, even though you might have seen it coming.

Overall, the movie should have been more accurately titled “Furious Five” but I guess that would have gotten some people confused with Kung Fu Panda. Why? because the amount of anger in the movie is unbelievable and always over the top. Although the cars and women that are featured are quite awesome, the movie fails. Why? simply because it’s too indulgent. The movie makers know this will be a hit financially and that’s all they cared about: deliver action sequences that keep a viewer entertained (hate them or like them, you cannot but watch action sequences) and that viewer would forget about all the other silly and ridiculous stuff. I’m not saying you won’t enjoy it, after all, it is a movie about cars and weapons and women, but it could have been done in a much, much better way. And watch out for The Godfather reference at the end.