Saturday, November 30, 2013

Flick Pick: The Sound Of Music

The Sound Of Music
(20th Cent. Fox, 1965)

This Oscar-winning Best Picture surpassed Gone With The Wind to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, until Star Wars knocked it off the perch, propelled to the top of the Alps by Julie Andrews, fresh from being Mary Poppins onscreen the year before, and My Fair Lady on Broadway before that, cast here picture-perfect into the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Truly one of everyone's favorite things.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Elephant In The Room: Partying Like It's 1986

Boys and girls, let's flash back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
To 1986, to be specific.

Our beloved federal representatives, in the spirit of Satan Santa Claus, bestowed upon our republic (and to a great degree, most of the medical professions) two acts of public munificence scarcely to be imagined (at least by anyone who can balance a checkbook).

I refer to the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, whose passage the same year was anything but coincidental.

EMTALA was, in almost every way, the prequel to Obamacare. It mandated (without anyone anywhere paying for it) that all hospitals with emergency services had to provide them to anyone and everyone who walked in, regardless of ability to pay, citizenship status, or any other wee considerations.

Imagine, if you will, McDonald's mandated to give away free cheeseburgers to everyone who demanded one under the same (lack of) restrictions, and then come up with your best guess as to how long before they'd go bankrupt and close forever.

Except that, as a rule, hospitals are full of people who don't want to close, because they're genuinely concerned with finding a way to help people rather than shutting down forever. Because unlike a fast food restaurant, when hospitals close, people don't just miss lunch; they die.

Nonetheless, skyrocketing unreimbursed expenses under EMTALA have driven hundreds of hospitals, especially the smaller community hospitals you may remember if you're over 30, right off the financial cliff and out of business forever, along with no small number of larger facilities as well, due to the crushing burden of unreimbursed care to the indigent and illegal. (CA has lost something like 80 hospitals in the last 15 years, when last I looked, and chiefly for exactly this reason.)

Many others (Kaiser, I'm looking at you) simply curtailed or eliminated emergency services, thus ducking the law (legally). Which then made the wait for you or I to be seen at the hospital ERs remaining climb from minutes, to hours, to even days now at some inner city locations.

The huge hospitals and health care chains that remained had to find a way to make ends meet and buffer the enormous financial losses, so they began padding their bills. Your aspirin, for example, now costs $20. Mind you, it's still bought at $0.02@, but the cost to the insured helps subsidize the 999 other ones given out free (or at least unreimbursed by the recepients, or anyone else) to homeless, indigent, poor, uninsured, and illegal aliens, all by the trainload daily at every hospital impacted by the new law. Nothing in the new law gave these folks any incentive to make better life choices, nor any likelihood they'll ever have to pay for all the "free" health care that Tip O'Neill and Congress started handing out to them, as they have for almost 30 years now. After helpfully inviting 3 million folks to partake of American citizenship with IRCA the same year.

Flash forward, and let's see how those two genius moves have worked out:
Hospital emergency care impacted.
Health care cost rocketing to Jupiter.
Wait times to the moon.
Another 10-20 million folks thronging here illegally, and partaking of all the benefits of "free" health care, among other things.

So, in order to wipe out the scourge of uninsured patients and rampant runaway costs, we get EMTALA on steroids: Obamacare! (Because as we all know, if smashing your thumb with a hammer hurts, the best cure is to take a sledgehammer to your entire hand!)

By forcing millions of young healthy people who could formerly choose to do without it to get health insurance under Obamacare (under pain of IRS enforcement and hefty fines), the government, in collusion with the insurance companies, and against the interests of everyone, not least of them those millions of young healthy folks, has found a new way to pay for care for the unemployed, indigent, insane, and illegal patients, and now everyone else gets to pay for it all, forever! It's a Health Care Miracle!! (Well, except for that whole crashing 1/6th of the American economy like it were the LZ Hindenburg thing. FWIW, the hospital I formerly worked out has laid off 40% of staff across the board, in the fear certainty that reimbursement schemes will bankrupt them. Which put 1200 formerly insured and gainfully employed folks, and their families, in the unemployment line to buy...wait for care from Obamacare! Genius, no?)

And more doctors leave the profession forever (25% of our ED doctors group retired last December, most of them years early, and the group has no plans to replace them anytime soon), most of the rest curtail or cease entirely accepting Medicare or any other government insurance, more hospitals close, the wait gets longer at the ones which remain, and the billing price of everything, like that $20 aspirin, is worse than gasoline: rising indefinitely, with no end in sight.

Meanwhile, your employers cancel (or will shortly) your policies, cut your hours to less than 29@week, or just lay you off outright. And the insurance companies sit back, as their willing shark-smiling minions at the IRS shovel you one and all into their maw, by the government's requirements that everyone buy insurance they don't need - like mandatory mammogram and maternity coverage for men - at prices they can't afford.
Cue government single payer in 3, 2,...

Next up: Let's bring that whole Amnesty Thing up for discussion again, so we can "solve" that problem like we "solved" the health care "crisis".

The biggest problem isn't that the Obamacare sign-up website is broken. It's that someday, it's going to work exactly as designed.

Grab your wallets, and run for your lives.

Flick Pick: Fantasia

(Disney, 1940)

Coming only three years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and only thirteen years after the first ever feature-length talkie, I'll use the words in popular film critic reviews:
"Courageous beyond belief"
"A marvel"
"Visually stunning"
"Animation landmark"
All that and then some, for the world's first feature-length collection of music videos.
Sit back with the popcorn, and bring on the dancing hippos!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks--for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Geo. Washington

{I find it manifestly helpful, whenever possible, to consult the original "videotape", record, as it were. Happy Thanksgiving.}

Flick Pick: Megamind

(DreamWorks, 2010)

Over-the-top animated view of good vs. evil, with Will Ferrell as both. Fun, funny, and fantastic. Just the thing for a long holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fisking Stupidity (concl.)

10. Trust your instincts
"Be careful who you go into the backcountry with. Some people just have it stamped on their foreheads: "I am going to die in a wilderness accident." "

And most of the people who fall into that category trust their instincts too.
"I have a great sense of direction."
"I know where we're going."
"I don't need directions or a map."
"I know a shortcut."
"This way is easier."

Flying by the seat of your pants is a recipe for a short and messy end.
Those signals are seldom subtle. And if you're going into the backcountry, or embarking on anything where survival may be part of the equation, with anyone you aren't better than in terms of travelling safely and responsibly, you've just climbed into a foxhole with someone braver than you. And you deserve what happens afterwards.
Don't trust your instincts. Prepare beforehand for things going sideways.

11. Know Plan B
"When undertaking anything risky, always have a clear bailout plan.Whatever the criterion, make sure it’s specific. Then, when you’re brain’s not working well because of stress or exhaustion, you’ll still make the right decision."

Right. Gotcha. Like f'rinstance, if you're out sailing, and the weather gets ugly, pull an ocean liner out of your back pocket to get home safely. Keep a hot air balloon gassed up and hovering in the back yard, because earthquales can happen anytime. Always ride to the ATM in a tank because of muggers. Thanks a pantload, Chief.

If you're under stress or exhaustion to the point your brain's not working well, you've either planned extremely poorly, or you've probably already passed the last good bailout point. Most decisions at that point will be varying degrees of bad.

Survival is best accomplished in two ways:
First, by being somewhere else, whenever foreseeably possible;
Second, by not doing stupid things once being somewhere else is no longer an option.
Otherwise it's not survival, except in the sense of not being a jacktard.

12. Help others
"Psychology professor John Leach writes in his book Survival Psychology that in disasters, natural and otherwise, doctors and nurses have a better survival rate because they have a job to do and a responsibility to others."

Uh huh. So, how'd that plan work out for firefighters and policemen helping others inside the WTC on 9/11? How does it work out for doctors and nurses when terrorists enter a hospital to kill people?

Yes, helping others is good: once it's safe to do so. Running through a burning building, into machinegun fire, or chasing tornadoes and hurricanes is best left to professionals.

The biggest way to help others in any sort of emergency is to not make yourself a part of the problem. Which frequently involves either not getting into someplace you shouldn't have gone, or getting the hell out, as fast and as far as you can get, once the place you're in is a bad idea. If you have room and time to grab a bystander or two, good for you. But when the plane is on fire, or the rhino is charging, having everyone hold hands and walk towards safety together probably isn't going to cut it.

13. Be cool
"Siebert wrote in his book The Survivor Personality that "combat survivors . . . have a relaxed awareness." People who are destined to be good at survival will get upset when something bad happens, but they will quickly regain emotional balance and immediately begin figuring out what the new reality looks like, what the new rules are, and what they can do about it."

Newsflash: combat survival is generally pure luck, because everybody there is at the point of "relaxed awareness", 24/7/365, because the reality is that there aren't any rules. The few who aren't relaxed yet aware die with a surprised look on their faces.

And people who are destined to be good at survival are someplace else when something bad happens. We knew Katrina was coming ashore for 3 days. With a bicycle, I could have been in Arkansas when it hit New Orleans. With a car, I could have been in South Dakota or California. I'm unaware of any serious Katrina flooding at Little Rock, Mt. Rushmore, or Palm Springs. I'm thinking there's a lesson there.

14. Surrender, but don't give up
"The concept of surrender is at the heart of the survival journey. While that may sound paradoxical, it starts to make sense when you realize your limitations. A good survivor says: "I may die. I’ll probably die. But I’m going to keep going anyway." "

Once again, a good survivor avoids putting themselves in a position to die.
And when circumstances change that, they don't say "I may die. I'll probably die."
They say "I'm going to kick this thing's ass, and tell a helluva story in the bar afterwards. And if I die, it'll be despite my best efforts, as an bloody or emaciated corpse with my fingernails ripped loose from trying to claw my way to safety, or in a huge pile of hot brass surrounding by the corpses of everything that tried to do me in, with my weapons bent and broken after using them as clubs."

The only thing to surrender is the illusion that you're in control of the universe, which most folks in Westernized high-tech life take for granted all day every day. If you don't start with that ridiculous assumption, there's nothing to surrender when things get sporty.

_ _ _

I left the author my thanks for this article at the site, noting that I'd had a hard copy of it printed out, which I'd referred to when trapped in a horrible meeting. I then set the pages on fire, which set off the alarms, was rescued by firefighters when the meeting was abruptly adjourned, and I was safe back in civilization rather than facing another minute in the interminable Meeting Of Death. Which was the best use I could think of for this article under any circumstances.

I don't think the NatGeo moderators will publish it.

But if I were trapped with the author in a survival situation, I think the best reaction would be to carve him into steaks and bait, so that at least one of us would make it.

Flick Pick: the Incredibles

The Incredibles
(Disney, 2004)

Simply the best animated feature in history, bar none.
The genius of director Brad Bird married to the technological expertise of Pixar equals a cartoon movie that outperforms most live action features, with a soundtrack that's screamingly retro-cool from the opening frame to the end of the credits. If there's an afterlife, when this thing came out, Walt was doing cartwheels on a cloud, pumping his fist, and saying "That! Right there!"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fisking Stupidity (cont.)

5. Think positive

Wow. Y'think?

6. Understand linked systems
"I wrote an article for Adventure (September 2002) about an accident on Mount Hood in which a four-man team fell from just below the summit while roped together. On the way down, they caught a two-man team and dragged them down too. Three hundred feet below, the falling mass of people and rope caught another three-man team. Everyone wound up in a vast crevasse. Then, during the ensuing rescue attempt by the military, an Air Force Reserve Pave Hawk helicopter crashed and rolled down the mountain. Because of the complex and coupled nature of the system in which all these people and all this equipment were operating, what had begun as a slip of one man’s foot wound up killing three people, severely injuring others, and costing taxpayers millions in the rescue effort."

Point of order, Einstein: That's not a system, and the only linked part of it was the rope that tangled everyone up when the first unfortunates began their abrupt descent. There's nothing complex nor linked nor even systemic about any of this, unless it was an answer to the Jeopardy question "Name 13 people who wish they hadn't been on Mt. Hood that day."

The actual survival understanding is to recognize that best-laid plans don't count when everything goes to hell. And that gravity works. As Mike Tyson said about his opponents, "Everyone has a plan, until they get hit."

7. Don't celebrate the summit
"Climbers learn this the hard way: Don’t congratulate yourself too much after reaching a goal. The worst part of the expedition may still be ahead. Statistically speaking, most mountaineering accidents happen on the descent."

Great. Instead of survival advice, this has devolved to fortune-cookie wisdom. Except minus the tasty cookie.

8. Get out of your comfort zone
"A study at University College London showed that the city’s cab drivers possessed unusually large hippocampi, the part of the brain that makes mental maps of our surroundings. The fact that London has very strict requirements for cab drivers forced them to create good mental maps, which caused their hippocampi to grow."

Or, only people with unusually large hippocampi could pass the London cabbie test and succeed at the job in a city with a maze of streets dating back to near Roman times.

We don't know which, because nobody measured the cabbies' hippocampi before they became cabbies. This is the difference between science, and junk science. Maybe somebody could let the author know about ad hoc, ergo propter hoc.

And by the way, an inordinate number of jackholes who end up needing to survive something are there because they "got out of their comfort zone", and in over their heads before they knew it.

So this isn't just wrong advice, it's horrible advice.

The correct answer would look like "Grow a bigger comfort zone when your life isn't at stake." Learn critical skills safely when you're not hanging by your fingernails over a cliff. If you don't, you won't rise to the occasion, you will always sink to the level of your training. For a lot of people every year, the last stop on operating outside their comfort zone ends six feet under.

9. Risk and reward
"The more you sacrifice to reach a goal—and the more you invest in it—the harder it becomes to change direction, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that you should alter your course."

That's called stubborn stupidity. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. This is only "survival advice" to people astonished to learn that one shouldn't try to breathe underwater, or light road flares while standing in a pool of gasoline.

(Only 5 more. To be concluded tomorrow...)

Flick Pick: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
(20th Cent. Fox, 1969)

Made for a whopping $6M, and turning in over $100M (back when $100M was considered a lot of money in an era of $1 tickets), this movie is not only a great film, a classic western, and the buddy movie archetype that catapulted Robert Redford onto the movie star A list forever, it's an incredible result of all the ways Hollywood could have royally screwed up a movie but didn't, when you look at the parade of talent they considered miscasting for the roles (including originally switching Redford and Paul Newman's parts). The only tragedy of this movie is off-screen: looking at Katharine Ross in her follow-up to The Graduate makes one wish she'd done another 50 movies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fisking Stupidity

Recently, a fellow forum-member linked to a NatGeo 8/08 article purportedly about survival, but mainly about filling column inches on their website and justifying the author's paycheck.
It was annoyingly bad, and in a way only NatGeo could be responsible for perpetrating, being enamored of exactly the sort of poorly-sourced, woolly-headed psychobabble mind fluff of which this article wasn't merely a fount, but may have been the Mother Lode.

So more for my own entertainment than anything else, a disassembly of the nonsense so recently encountered.

1. Do the Next Right Thing
" For example, Pvt. Giles McCoy was aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when it was torpedoed and sank at the end of World War II, tossing some 900 men into the black of night and the shark-infested Pacific. McCoy, a young Marine, was sucked under the boat and nearly drowned. He surfaced into a two-inch-thick slick of fuel oil, which soaked his life vest and kept him from swimming—although he could see a life raft, he couldn’t reach it. So he tore off his vest and swam underwater, surfacing now and then, gasping, swallowing oil, and vomiting. After getting hoisted onto the raft, he saw a group of miserable young sailors covered in oil and retching. One was "so badly burned that the skin was stripped from his arms," Doug Stanton writes in his gripping account of the event, In Harm’s Way. McCoy’s response to this horrific situation was telling. "He resolved to take action: He would clean his pistol." Irrelevant as that task may sound, it was exactly the right thing to do: organized, directed action. He made each one of the sailors hold a piece of the pistol as he disassembled it. This began the process of letting him think clearly."

No disrespect to Pvt. McCoy, nor to sharpshoot his choices, but his survival had a lot more to do with doing the first right thing, which was swimming away from a sinking ship. And while I, as a lone Marine on a ship full of sailors, might want a ready sidearm as well, being on a raft sitting in fuel oil that had been recently inside a torpedoed ship, I think looking for suitable paddles, or something to serve as a sail and/or sunshade, not to mention things to collect drinking water, rations, medical supplies, and perhaps a compass or chart, would be a wee bit more valuable in the near term than a functioning .45. There's a time to stop and think, but that's after the immediate danger has passed. Until then, getting away from the problem and assembling necessary items beats fiddling with something that isn't going anywhere. Relocate before you cogitate.

2. Control your destiny
"The importance of this mentality is evidenced by tornado statistics. In the past two decades Illinois has had about 50 percent more twisters than Alabama but far fewer fatalities. The discrepancy can be explained, in part, by a study in the journal Science, which found that Alabama residents believed their fate was controlled by God, not by them. The people of Illinois, meanwhile, were more inclined to have confidence in their own abilities and to take action."

Yes, Cupcake, but the fatalities have to do with what and who the tornado hits, not about how they feel about it just before the car lands on their head. It has far less to do with controlling your destiny as much as it has to do with whether you have a handy storm shelter close by, m'kay? 

The response to the incident, OTOH, has a helluva lot more to do with the fact that the tornadoes in IL are hitting vast swaths of corn-, wheat- and soy fields, whereas the ones in AL hit small farms and small towns, (with a regrettable tendency to find trailer parks). If a Twister went through the Southside of Chicago, the fatalities would be horrendous, the average citywide IQ would increase afterwards, and those displaced by the trauma would go into full-blown post-Katrina "where's my cellphone, bottled water, and new house?" pissing and moaning, followed by looting in about 4 seconds, whereas in Alabama that sort of thing would only last about 4 seconds. So maybe you want to start comparing AL to Nawlins (or its city-mouse cousin, Chicongo) instead of to vast hinterlands of nothing but crops.

Or maybe just Google the pics of Mississippi River headless-chicken flooding response in St. Louis, versus by farmers in Cornland, who self-constructed massive personal dikes around their own houses and barns, and did just fine. Then tell me which ones believed in God and still took responsibility for affecting their own destinies before, during, and after.

Screw worrying about control of your destiny, control your address, where you plant your backside, and what you do with it right afterwards.

3. Deny Denial
"David Klinger, a retired Los Angeles police officer, describes in his book Into the Kill Zone that while moonlighting as a bank guard he saw "three masked figures with assault rifles run through the foyer of the bank." His first thought was that the local SWAT team was practicing. His second was that they were dressed up for Halloween. Klinger later said, "[I thought] maybe they were trick-or-treaters. It was just disbelief."

Or, alternatively, stop daydreaming during most of your life, and wake up and smell the reality. Luck is not a plan. No one expects a tiger to leap from every bush every minute, but the less time you spend wondering why one did, the less likely you'll be lunch. Everything we do, from getting out of bed each morning onwards, can kill us. You don't have to walk around waiting for the axe to fall, or be crack-fiend hyper-alert, but being awake enough to notice what's going on is vastly more mental energy than most people expend in any given minute, as any trip down the interstate in proximity to other drivers will confirm.

4. Use A Mantra

Right. Like when Christians were thrown to the lions, the mantra would be "Taste Bad."
Yeah, that'd work sooooo well. Not.
But if you're like me, and your karma ran over somebody's dogma, instead of Trusting The Force, how about using your head for something besides a hat rack?
PPPPPPP ring a bell? Beuller? Beuller...?

Like maybe don't drive through blizzards in cotton street clothes.
Or don't walk through the seedier parts of town at 3am with those $20 bills from your G-string hanging out to attract muggers.
Or not depending on your neighbors and your yappy little dog to deter burglars.

You don't have to look like Gilligan in the opening theme of Gilligan's Island, but Stuff comes in handy, and even more so the forethought you put into deciding which Stuff you might need, and the skills you learned to use the Stuff when things go rather unpredictably and annoyingly pear-shaped.

For instance, I don't carry a parachute as a carry-on for commercial air travel (mainly because I haven't learned to breathe on the way down from 40,000', and the FAA frowns on pony bottles of compressed oxygen for civilian flights) though I wouldn't mock anyone who did. But I do wear or carry on clothes suitable for anything short of an Arctic blizzard, and vastly better than a polo shirt and slacks if a plane were to go down somewhere other than the runway by my arrival gate. And a first aid kit, because all airplanes have on board are an AED, stethoscope, and BP cuff, under seal, and you practically have to get Papal dispensation to get them to open them even when people are having heart attacks. But I know that because I asked, and thought about it ahead of time, and have the skills to use what I bring, all of which work much better than deadheading from boarding to landing, or on any other trip throughout one's life.

(Only 10 more points to go.) To be continued...

Flick Pick: Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy
(Paramount, 1999)

Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive II  a great anti-buddy chase movie that never disappoints. Directed by Aussie Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy) who clearly knows a thing or two about making movies.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Flick Pick: City Slickers

City Slickers
(MGM, 1991)

Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, and Jack Palance (in an Oscar-winning role) in the best fish-out-of-water comedy western evah. Yeehah!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Flick Pick: The Great Escape

The Great Escape
(MGM, 1963)

The greatest wartime prison break ever, and a movie based on it that's become a cultural icon. James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Steve McQueen in the role that made him an absolute rock star of coolness. (If you're keeping score at home, that's three of the original Magnificent Seven right there, which, no surprise, was also directed by John Sturges, and also with an Elmer Bernstein score.) Originally released on the Fourth of July, this was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, and highly rated among both critics and audiences ever since, for good reason.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flick Pick: PT 109

PT 109
(Warner Bros., 1963)

Few actual presidents have gotten, let alone deserve, their own biopic. This one premiered just months before President Kennedy's assassination, and it's a much better way to commemorate the man than grainy home movies from Dealey Plaza. Cliff Robertson was hand-picked by the man himself to play the role, with Kennedy's other conditions being that all profits go to the survivors and families of his PT 109 shipmates, and that the movie be historically accurate, all of which Jack L. Warner himself ensured. As a bonus treat, note a certain familiar helmsman at the wheel of the Amagiri in the pivotal scene, a few years before he got to steer NCC-1701.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Flick Pick: The Name Of The Rose

The Name Of The Rose
(Warner Bros., 1986)

Sean Connery immersed in a medieval monastery murder mystery.
An excellent 700-year-old whodunit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flick Pick: RED

(Summit Ent., 2011)

You couldn't have picked a more eclectic and mismatched cast of masterful actors (including Ernest Borgnine in one of his last screen appearances), nor predicted the wild success that ensued until you'd seen RED. You could imagine a movie with crisp writing, perfectly edited, covered with a great soundtrack, funny in the comedy parts, crackling in the action segments, and that works on every level. Or you could just watch this movie, and see it happen onscreen. Do that.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Flick Pick: Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
(Disney, 2005)

Both the first and best of the films made thus far of C.S. Lewis' long-revered children's stories, and this one is absolutely magical. Fully accessible even if you've never read a page of the books, and done so well it only highlights the shortcomings of the subsequent films in the series. If Disney had played their cards right, this would have outdone the Lord Of The Rings series, and set a new standard, not to mention raked in money like leaves in fall. As it is, enjoy this one for everything it is, which is wonderful.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flick Pick: Bonnie & Clyde

Bonnie & Clyde
(Warner Bros., 1967)

Landmark gangster flick marking a sea change for Hollywood, esp. regarding taboos on sexuality and violence. (As you may have noticed since then, they're firmly in favor of both.)If you're going to glamorize crooks, it's hard to top Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the icons of choice. Jack Warner and the studio execs hated this film so much they tried to bury it in limited release. The public loved it so much that the studio deal giving Beatty 40% of the gross as producer instead of a rate made him a multimillionaire, free afterwards to pick parts at leisure for the rest of his career as the star system broke down completely. Virtually the entire main cast was nominated for Oscars, though the movie only picked up two; although he was nominated, neither of these wins were for a relatively new guy named Gene Hackman in a breakout role.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flick Pick: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(Paramount, 1989)

The only one of (three, so far) sequels worthy of the original,
and worth the time to view it. (If you haven't seen them, by all means spare yourself the abysmal Temple Of Doom, and doubly so the utterly atrocious I.J.& The Temple of WTF?, which should be used only to torture terrorists. You're welcome.) This follow-up has everything the first movie did, and adds the wonderful chemistry of Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr. to an outing full of everything that is why we go to the movies.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Flick Pick: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Raiders Of The Lost Ark
(Paramount, 1981)

What started as an homage to Saturday B-movie serials, and became one of the best and most nearly perfect movies of all time. If this isn't in anybody's personal Top Ten list, they're pretty much dead to me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flick Pick: Black Rain

Black Rain
(Paramount, 1989)

Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia in Ridley Scott's look at the yakuza, on what Scott vowed would be his only trip to Japan after all the red tape involved in simply making a movie there. Visually notable on at least two levels, because it not only gave us a look inside Japan when they were on top of everything, it also gave us a look at the stunning Kate Capshaw before she became Mrs. Steven Spielberg, in this role quite possibly the sole cinematic proof that she could indeed act, and "coulda been a contendah".

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Flick Pick: Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory
(Warner Bros., 2000)

Mel Gibson as the most likeable whackjob ever encountered in a NYC taxi (opening shots were actual cab passengers, and Gibson ad-libbed the bilge he was spewing), and the ever beautiful-on-film Julia Roberts as the object of his obsession. Never mind the fare, enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Flick Pick: Death On The Nile

Death On The Nile
(Paramount, 1978)

David Niven and the inimitable Peter Ustinov as Agatha' Christie's famed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, in this star-packed cruise on location aboard a slow steamer up the Nile. Well worth your time, and seeing the multiple ways they kill Lois Chiles in flashback re-creations is both high comedy, and the basis for an excellent drinking game.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flick Pick: The Big Sky

The Big Sky
(RKO, 1952)

Howard Hawks frontier epic, starring Kirk Douglas, Arthur Hunnicutt, and the Snake River in Wyoming in all its black & white glory. One of the few movies ever colorized by Ted Turner that should have been, and worth watching in either version.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Flick Pick: Sergeant York

Sergeant York
(Warner Bros., 1941)

Howard Hawks' timely biopic featuring Gary Cooper in the title role, (back when studios thought nothing of lauding the heroism of Medal of Honor awardees instead of mocking them as patsies, suckers, and baby-killers) with Cooper's best co-star sidekick ever, Walter Brennan.Try not to fall over in shock at blatant Christianity, pro-Americanism, and the triumph of uplifting morals as central themes, or the fact that Cooper won a Best Actor Oscar for the role of a hell-raiser turned pacifist turned war hero, reenacting what was a phenomenal event in the midst of a very bloody business. The movie premiered 5 months before America entered WWII, and holds up well for something 72 years old.
Happy Veterans' Day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flick Pick: Battle Los Angeles

Battle Los Angeles
(Sony, 2011)

Gritty, realistic (as can be, given the subject) look at a squad of Marines taking on our would-be alien overlords in Santa Monica. From their lips to God's ears. Just the thing to watch to celebrate the birthday of the USMC today. "For yea, thou I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil; for I am the biggest, baddest, meanest m*****f***** in the Valley." Oohrah.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Flick Pick: Innerspace

(Warner Bros., 1987)
Well-engineered buddy tale with Dennis Quaid and Martin Short, and the incredibly cute Meg Ryan forming the third corner of the love interest triangle. Still holds up well 25 years later, with Joe Dante directing another solid delivery for Steven Spielberg.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Tip Of The Assberg

This topic just won't go away, apparently because it's a Cornholeucopia of Fail:

Border Patrol Doing Vaginal and Anal Exams Without Warrant

If you're keeping score at home, that's the third such story in as many days, and I can state categorically that I'm not having to look inside anyone's anus to find them. Evidently no one told a number of guys with badges that "assclown" is a pejorative term, not an appellation of the level of professionalism to which one ought to aspire.

Look, let's try this slowly, and in small words for those of the law enforcement ranks who apparently took the training on the Constitution at the academy via internet courses they cribbed the answers for:

In any situation where you wouldn't, as part of the course and scope of your employment, be entitled to walk around with your hand casually inserted up into any bystander's bodily orifices as they go about their normal business, any such search of same absent clear and compelling grounds, with the requisite warrant from competent authority, based on clearly articulable probable cause, is an illegal search.

Knowing this, and doing it anyways, is sexual battery under color of authority, especially when y'all seem to be getting off on doing it, and serially addicted to the procedure, both of which are rather serious violations of civil rights, not to mention perverted, disgusting, and grounds for horsewhipping in at least 57 states, or should be.

So just for the hell of it, maybe the rest of law enforcement could act like the victims here were their friends and family, if you want the rest of us to act like you are ours every time some knucklehead takes a shot at you.

Otherwise, there isn't enough attitude and body armor on the planet to protect you from the backlash that's coming.

The fact that you've trumped the TSA should have been your first clue that you've gone so far off the legitimate law enforcement reservation that it can't be tracked with existing technology.

So seriously, get your hands out of our asses, and your heads out of yours.

Flick Pick: Aliens

(20th C. Fox, 1986)

Sigourney Weaver, sole survivor of the last outing, in a grudge match against the species that wiped out her crew and ruined her life. This time with James Cameron at the helm in a classic '80s Cameron-Hurd sci-fi spectacular, the focus is less on horror/suspense thrills, and more on raw ass-kicking action, which it delivers by the spaceship-load.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Raping the Bill Of Rights: Just Another Day In Deming NM

Caveat: Good cops are worth their body weight in gold. Bad ones can - and should - be melted down to make fishing sinkers.

"Welcome to Deming NM, where the only safe @$$holes wear badges!" - proposed sign for the Deming NM Chamber of Commerce to put up at city limits

Yes, I'm late getting to this, because everyone else is having so much fun with it.

First, the LINK.

Now, the highlights:

One Mr. Eckert, of southern New Mexico, having concluded his shopping at a local Wal-Mart last January 2nd, did a rolling not-quite-a-stop as he left the parking lot, and was immediately selected to donate to the town's tax coffers pulled over for a  moving violation by the Deming PD.
Whereupon, for this grave breach of public order and safety, he was ordered to exit the vehicle.
(WTF. Why?? For a ticket, all you need is a promise to appear, and normal observables for citing officers don't include the behavior of your ass muscles.){Update: Aha! Because their Talking Dog told them! More later.}

Whereupon, based on personal observation, and a career familiarity with proper buttocks etiquette, Officers Assclown and Dipshit decided that the driver was almost certainly clenching his cheeks to maintain an imaginary stash of illicit narcotics in his booty hideout.
Whereupon they contacted and received from a local graduate of New Mexico's finest internet law school and all-night taco stand judge a search warrant for the anus of the motorist in question.

Apparently in Luna County, probable cause of no more than some jackassical officer's desire to have a peek up your ass is sufficient to set aside the entire Bill Of Rights.
There's doubtless a thumping sound coming from the vicinity of 77 graveyards as the signers of said document spin in their graves.

Our brave butt pirates in blue took him to a local Deming ER, whereupon the medical professional on duty told them not just no, but Hell NO! because performing such a procedure, warrant or no, was a violation of his professional ethics. Doctors typically bill separately from the hospital, so this guy's medical group should award him an on-the-spot 5-figure cash sum for sparing them the lawsuits and ridicule to follow, a sum that should be matched by the hospital out of sheer gratitude. And if the AMA has an Ethics prize, this unnamed doctor just won it for 2013, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Undeterred by such flawless ethical reasoning, Officers Assclown and Dipshit, assisted at some point by Officer Shitforbrains, and later assisted by Hidalgo County sherrif's deputies Bumblefuck, Stumblefuck, and Bufflefuck, trundled the motorist outside the county limits (and the limits of the jurisdiction of said search warrant, nota bene) to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City NM, where the local disciples of Dr. Mengele were more than happy to use a search warrant from an alleged judge in another county as a pretext for an epic butt-fishing expedition.

As noted in the federal filing complaint and linked story, the motorist was then subjected to the following:

1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
{Nota bene that at this point, it ceased being a search, and the torture began. - A.}
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a second time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.
{At this point chronologically, after failing to notice that the warrant itself was invalid in their locale, no one noticed that the time limit for said warrant had also expired even if it had been a valid warrant. Which it wasn't.}

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a third time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines.  No narcotics were found.
Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures.

This all took place in January 2013, and while it's a wonderful practical demonstration of Obamacare a few months early, like most of the activities of the current president, it's also a wee bit afoul of tiny details like the Bill of Rights and that pesky Constitution thingie.

My original response to that catalogue of nonsense was to a fellow online commentor who wondered why they didn't "just give him a dose of salts, and wait for the results" is as follows:

Because he has the legal right to refuse anything and everything. The only thing that can be done to anyone without their own consent in the ER is drawing blood for alcohol/drug tests, and administering emergency psych medication and strapping them down when they're actually violent and a danger to themselves or others (by which I mean swinging punches, kicking, and frothingly Hannibal Lecter bite-happy, not merely enamored with dropping F-bombs due to a lack of serotonin or social graces).

For everything else, they can tell everyone up to and including the President to "Eff off" with a mere 500 years of English Common Law and the full faith and credit of the U.S. Constitution on their side, something I regularly have to remind both cops and doctors of, but which our Legal Dept./Risk Mgmt. drones pound out in memos about 3X/yr.

Evidently somebody forgot to tell the local gauleiter, statspolizei, and the local disciples of Dr. Mengele in this instance that this sort of behavior was rather discredited post-1945.

Remember this when someone tells you the average h.s. grad doesn't need to know civics and political history for life beyond the 12th grade.

"These guys need to be locked up."

Letting the punishment fit the crime dictates that during confinement, they also be placed in restraints - by court order - and ass-raped by convicts repeatedly.
It's also funnier that way.

And for the record, every medical professional who didn't say not only "no" but "Hell no!" at the offending facility, from the lowest clerk up to the attending physician, just forfeited their licenses to practice, everything they own, and the next 10 years of their lives, at minimum.

Whether anyone admits it or not, this victim is on the short list to becoming the new co-owner of that entire hospital. This is a $20M judgement, and that's if it never gets to a jury's ears. He'd be crazy to settle for anything less than that, and if he has competent counsel, they've made that clear to him.

If it were me, I'd let them off with $5M in damages, provided they all stood in the town square for a week while any resident of the city limits was permitted to come up and kick them in the crotches as hard as they desired, once apiece.

And in all probability, Eckert was still issued a citation for the moving violation, and the medical center sent him a $6000 bill for sexually assaulting and humiliating him with glee multiple times, and showing a shockingly reckless disregard for anything we normally associate with professional ethics or common sense.

But, as countless late-night infomercials have told us, "Wait - there's MORE!"

They've done this before!

And come to find out, the original suspicion in both cases was the K-9 partner of Officer Shitforbrains: Leo the Ass-Sniffing Drug Dog!

Whose Crack Hound certification as a drug dog expired in 2011, at least a year before both incidents. Thus neither the dog nor the probable cause passed the smell test.

Not to mention that he doesn't know drugs from dirty underwear, and the false positives in both such notable occasions were ignored by everyone from Officer Shitforbrains to the Chief, because ass-raping both the citizenry and the Constitution in Deming and Hidalgo County is apparently so commonplace there that it doesn't even rate a yawn.

And notably, they again took their prospective butt-rapee to the same Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City. One might notice a pattern here.

To the disciple(s) of Dr. Mengele working at that particular would-be Nazi Concentration Camp Processing Station and Sexual Assault Training Camp brilliant example of what you get when you make doctors the tools of the government at Gila RMC, particularly the really really questionable ones who should probably have been flunked before licensure, and be dissecting cattle for the local butcher shop instead of practicing medicine last seen at Auschwitz circa 1944, and best left there:
Show some self-respect, and burn down your hospital, for the good of all mankind, not least of which includes the local citizenry.
And then, please, if you personally had anything whatsoever to do with participating in the above or similar incidents, with all dispatch, go home and hang yourselves, as a mark that you have some shred of personal honor and a sense of shame.
Or turn yourselves in and become State's Evidence witnesses, and offer a full confession. It's the very least you can do, and clearly long overdue.

And one wonders just how many times this sort of outrageous conduct will have to be repeated before the Governor of New Mexico directs the State Police to step in, suspend the entire city of Deming Police and Hidalgo County Sheriff's Departments, and take over both until further notice to restore the rule of law and order, after referring both and any other such matters (and if they've done this twice, they've probably done it twenty times) to the state's Attorney General for some rather speedy and sweeping show trials in Albuquerque, ideally no later than close of business Friday.

When the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico will commence an investigation into the issuance of dodgy search warrants by judicial jackholes in and around Luna County has not been addressed, even by reporters who should know better. C'mon, counselor, this is an easy ticket to Congress or the governorship, and looks to be as hard as shooting fish in a barrel. Jump right in.

No points for guessing the winners of the 2013 Jackbooted Thugs Of The Year Award, by miles.

Nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

And please, for the love of all that's holy, it's long past time for SCOTUS to revisit the Fourth and Fifth Amendments relating to automobile and personal searches during traffic stops, and the admissibility of using drug dog "testimony" as probably cause for doing anything but handing out Milkbones. I pray that counsel for plaintiff uses some of the undoubted civil damages in this case to seek redress at the highest level for what has become a long train of abuses and usurpations of the Constitution, evincing a design to reduce us all under absolute despotism. Jefferson had a solution for that. What say let's nip things before we go there?

Flick Pick: Alien

(20th C. Fox, 1979)

Scariest sci-fi suspense thriller ever, and another in a string of masterpieces by Ridley Scott.
Fantastic ensemble cast, vs. one horrific mystery guest.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Flick Pick: Kelly's Heroes

Kelly's Heroes
(MGM, 1970)

All-time great heist caper set amidst WWII in France with Clint Eastwood before he was Dirty Harry, along with Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, and Donald Sutherland as the hippest tank commander ever.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Flick Pick: Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
(Warner Bros., 2011)

Sherlock Holmes redux, and the rare sequel that is truly an excellent continuation of the story begun in the first movie.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Flick Pick: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
(Warner Bros., 2009)

Guy Ritchie's marvelous re-invention of classic characters, via Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, with Holmes and Watson equal parts action heroes along with the cerebral pursuit of criminal goings on. The game is afoot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Flick Pick: Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes
(Paramount, 1985)

Excellent homage to the original character and legend, courtesy of Chris Columbus' story, Barry Levinson's direction, and with effects by ILM and Pixar. This was Harry Potter before he even existed, produced by Steven Spielberg.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Flick Pick: Bladerunner

(Warner Bros., 1982)

Ridley Scott's brilliant film noir thriller, with Harrison Ford, Sean Young, and Rutger Hauer set amongst a visually stunning imagining of a near future, wrapped in sci-fi and yet all too chord-strikingly human.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

LAX Shooting

At approximately 9:30A local today, a whackjob from New Jersey began shooting TSA agents at LAX, with a rifle he'd cleverly smuggled into the airport by putting it in a bag, underlying motive(s) as yet undisclosed. He apparently hit three, and killed one, thus buying a ticket in the federal death penalty sweepstakes (Go Team Lethal Injection!) Within moments of his attack, a Los Angeles Airport Police officer or officers fired shots that wounded the suspect multiple times (and hey, NYFPD, they hit ZERO bystanders! What a concept!), ended his rampage, and for all intents and purposes, ended forever any further criminal activities for the rest of his natural life as a free man. (Yay, great police marksmanship! Nota bene criminal dumbshits and crazies, an airport is NOT a Gun Free Zone. Heh.) That return fire was evidently the last demonstrably intelligent activity of law enforcement or government in that zip code detectable with existing instrumentation for the entire balance of the day.

At this point now (note: updated as of 11/2), well over 700 1500 flights inbound to or outbound from LAX, the nation's 3rd busiest airport, have been affected, including delayed, cancelled, or diverted. Passengers on arriving planes immediately afterwards were held incommunicado on board aircraft for hours with no updates, getting better news from smartphone apps than airline officials, then let out into terminals and held incommunicado for another good bit of time by law enforcement officials, and again with no explanations. When they were finally turned loose, it was on foot, as all roads into and out of the airport complex were closed to all but official traffic for nearly ten hours after the incident, long after it was clear to anyone with brainstem activity that the incident was over in the first 5 minutes. Passengers, including wheelchair-bound/handicapped and elderly, were left to fend for themselves in making a trek of 3 or more miles to exit the airport complex and fend for themselves for further transportation or assistance. Passengers present in the terminals at the time of the attack were cleared out immediately, in many cases minus all belongings, and again sent on their way for the same Bataan Death March to exit the premises.

There are 7 HUGE primary passenger terminals at LAX, IIRC. The middle one, at the top of an inverted "U", is the international terminal, adjacent to the shooting. Arrivals and departures take place on separate levels. The shooting itself took place in Terminal 3. By some point tomorrow, they expect to reopen the other six terminals, but all of Terminal 3 is closed until further notice.

My condolences to the victims and families of the wounded. I would not wish this fate on any of them, but I do confess to a hope upon initial reports that this was the result of some frequent flier who'd been groped one time too many, and finally snapped.

But long before the details are released, one thing is absolutely clear: there haven't been as many retarded people all in one place at one time as there are at LAX today, since whenever they held the last Special Olympics.

Today's unredeemed and inexcusable biblical level of pandemonium, chaos, and associated disruption, traffic jam, and destruction of public order was clearly not the result of one lone whackjob shooting three unfortunate targets.
It was the concerted unpreparedness, negligence, incompetence, and calculated and studied stupidity of countless bureaucracies, agencies, and generally useless buffoons who populate almost every finger stuck in this pie this morning from top to bottom, other than the few good or lucky bastards who shot straight at today's assclown du jour when it counted.

And there is also clearly one way today's senseless tragedy could have been totally avoided: disband the TSA completely and absolutely, immediately and forever.

It's clearly an idea whose time has come.

But wait! There's more!: The Fairytale Version The Official After Action Report

Flick Pick: The Mark Of Zorro

The Mark Of Zorro
(20th C. Fox, 1940)

Seventy-three years(!) to the day after it premiered, this classic tale of romance and swordplay still outshines every pale latter-day attempt to ape it. Tyrone Power is peak-of-career dashing, Linda Darnell is breathtakingly beautiful, and Basil Rathbone is a villain with whom it's worthy to cross swords. If there's any fault in the production it's that it creates a yearning for the days when meddlesome government officials could be sent packing at the point of a stout blade.