Sunday, August 31, 2014

Info Dump: Missing Flick Picks

The missing flick picks below from last week's techno-hiccup. Again, apologies.
Just because I didn't blog about them on the day, don't think for a minute I didn't still pull them off the shelf and watch them again. Like the rest of the list, I think these are all keepers:

August 26
Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery
(New Line, 1997)

Absolutely superb send-up of nearly every spy movie ever made, with Mike Meyers pulling off the Peter Sellers-esque task of successfully providing both the hero and the villain, and doing it with notable skill, wit, and style, with over-the-top characterizations in both cases that totally work. Like watching a guy juggling flaming chainsaws, it's easy to get so sucked into the spectacle that you overlook how much talent that took to pull off, and the fact that you don't notice it otherwise is testimony to a really rare level of craft.

August 25
The Enforcer
(Warner Bros., 1976)

Just when people figured there was nowhere for Inspector Calahan to go, he came back, and while gently mocking his female partner, ably portrayed by Tyne Daly, probably (and not inadvertently) did more for women's rights with this movie that a year's worth of PBS specials and policy papers could, while delivering Eastwood's trademark Calahan portrayal in the usual taken-from-the-headlines storyline, while handing his co-star the more popular role.

August 24
Magnum Force
(Warner Bros., 1973)

Doubling down on the original movie, this sequel opens on Harry Calahan's monologue about the Smith and Wesson Model 29. Which to date is the second most known and popular weapon in cinematic history, after only the Jedi lightsaber. Mission accomplished. The follow-up to the original not only helped Eastwood cement his legendary status, it pulled three of the four death squad cops into successful careers as well. (Kip Niven(?) being the only one to fall off the face of the earth afterwards.) But the driving force in this movie from beginning to credits, isn't the weapon, it's all Clint, all the time.

August 23
Dirty Harry
(Warner Bros., 1971)

Passed around amongst studios like an orphan in a basket, finally landing at Warner, and after getting turned down by half a dozen much bigger stars, this finally ended up where it was destined to belong.
Before this movie debuted, Clint Eastwood was a moderately successful mainly western star. Afterwards, he was a film icon. And 40 years later, the flick still holds up, and shows you exactly why.

August 22
Where Eagles Dare
(MGM., 1968)

The other Alistair MacLean truly great film, which debuted only two months after Ice Station Zebra, and shares not only the author, but unbelievably good filmmaking from that source. Prime Richard Burton, excellent early Clint Eastwood, and spectacular action, suspense, and cinematography made this flick every bit the equal of the its Cold War older brother, and a perfect reminder that a great story is always the thing that matters.

August 21
Running Scared
(MGM, 1986)

Great dramedy buddy flick, featuring the sadly once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, who are individually good, and simply marvelous opposite each other. In a better world, they would have made five more movies together at least. Any five minutes of this movie should serve to remind people that Billy Crystal has always been better than you remember, and Greg Hines left us far too soon.

Flick Pick: The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers
(Universal, 1978)

Jake and Elwood's mission from God, featuring 200 national guardsmen, 100 Chicago cops, 80 cars, a top 40 soundtrack album, and 17 bona fide musicians, just to raise five grand to pay the tax bill on their orphanage. Wildly late and over-budget from the days when cocaine was a line item on movie budgets, it all comes together remarkably on-screen in this once-in-a-lifetime comedy musical demolition derby.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flick Pick: Dragnet

(Universal, 1987)

Parody homage to the perennial Jack Webb franchise, executed near-flawlessly by Dan Aykroyd, in probably his personal best post-SNL performance. Also with Tom Hanks in his comedic prime, and the added bonus of Harry Morgan reprising his Frank Gannon role.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Flick Pick: Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles
(Warner Bros., 1974)

The other funny western, the one so edgy then, let alone now, that no studio would dare make it today, and the product of pure comedy genius. Warner did exactly two things right: they greenlighted the film, and they gave Mel Brooks final creative say in what was in or out.  Brooks' writing team included Richard Pryor, and the execution of the script was wonderfully accomplished by the dream team of Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, and Harvey Korman. It's a non-stop 95 minute send up of every western movie and cliché accumulated in the prior sixty years of Hollywood filmmaking, throwing in everything but a pie fight and a kitchen sink in pursuit of that objective. In response, it got three Oscar nominations, brought in $119M on a $2.6M budget, and probably contributed more to better race relations in America than any ten years of the civil rights movement.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flick Pick: Leap Of Faith

Leap Of Faith
(Paramount, 1992)

Funny, lightly sardonic, and yet still touching and respectful look at the fringe elements of  American Protestantism, this film features Steve Martin at his sequin-jacketed best, playing the quintessential I'm-In-On-The-Joke revival huckster, Jonas Nightengale, in a performance of razor-sharp clarity. Debra Winger was a wonderful foil, Lukas Haas providing one of the few successful child star transitions to adulthood in movie history, and Liam Neeson, talented though he is, the only screen clinker, awkwardly miscast as a rural plains state sheriff, Irish brogue and all (which is heard so frequently across the Great Plains - not!). The movie rocks, with no small help from a great soundtrack and backup choir, and all the glitz Hollywood can inject into sending up a faith-healing three-ring circus. But the payoff throughout this movie is Martin himself, going from con man to confusion, sarcasm to surprise, and consummate comedian throughout. That he wasn't nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this performance was a crime against audiences and the acting profession.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flick Pick: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
(United Artists,1974)

This is the original and genuine article: accept no poor and hopelessly mis-envisioned later substitutes. Walter Matthau made an entire career of playing world-weary deadpan everymen with a hard-edged sense of humor, and he's hitting on all cylinders in this turn. Robert Shaw is meticulous and menacing as an absolutely cold-blooded and ruthless criminal leading a small gang of men to hijack a NY subway train and making the moves to get away with it in this perfectly executed howdunit. The only thing predictable about this movie is that once it unfolds, the audience remains hooked to the final shot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Technical Difficulties

What are the odds of one's laptop AND 4G WiFi brick both crapping out in the same 24 hour period?

Well, about a week ago, 100%, as it turns out.
But no, I didn't manage to get the Powerball numbers to come up at the same time.

Regular posting will resume tomorrow. Sorry for the interruption.

The missing daily Flick Picks for the downtime will be added this weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Papieren, bitte.

Facts, as John Adams famously noted, are stubborn things.

Karl Deninger's Market Ticker b-roll backstory seems to underline the zealousness of the 53-member Ferguson Gestapo PD in how they oversee the peasants down on the plantation of greater Ferguson.
By all means, go read the link, then come back.

in 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, “or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.”
Or put another way, it amounts to 463 warrants per sworn officer and 227 cases per sworn officer, which amounts to every officer coming up with 2 warrants and one case per shift, every day, forever, in a 'burb with a population smaller than an Ohio State U. football home game crowd. And a court that in a nominal 250-day calendar issues 98 arrest warrants every single court day forever, 12 an hour, one every five minutes.

Holy Fucking Shit, Batman, it's a monumentally epic crime wave!!!

No one has documented this level of everyday lawlessness in 6.2 square miles since Genghis and Co. dropped in to visit Russia on a road trip from Mongolia.

Even allowing for some help from outside agencies for some fraction of those stats, one wonders how people like Ofr. Wilson found time to accost two mere jaywalkers in the first place, since they have apparently stumbled upon a municipality that runs like Beirut, yet with only 6% of its population.

Beirut Lebanon population: 361,366
Ferguson MO USA population: 21,135
That's more than one arrest warrant per resident, per year!
Either this is the largest organized crime tribe in America encompassing the entire city; or if, as in most communities, fewer than 10% of the city's people are causing more than 95% of the problems, you'd think they'd elect to do something besides citing the same 2,000 people every 5 weeks over and over again, at some point in time.

For comparison, in 928 episodes on TV, over 27 seasons, the TV show COPS would have to document a warrant case more frequently than one-per-minute of its 20,416 total on-air minutes to date just to get to that level of crime and disorder that Ferguson apparently enjoyed in just the last year.

Nota bene that's the arrest and case stats for only the Municipal Court, so it doesn't even approach the number of absolute total traffic tickets, as well as normal misdemeanor and felony arrests processed there or in Superior Court, or whatever Ferguson's version of it is.

It's truly a wonder the members of the Ferguson PD can shoot a gun at all with their hands as crippled up from writer's cramp and repetitive stress syndrome as they must certainly be from this level of lawbreaking.
When, praytell, do they find time to eat a donut??

The Ferguson PD don't need to be suspended: they need to be lined up against a wall and shot.
Why the protesters haven't marched on and burned the police HQ and the courthouse is anybody's guess, but against stats like that, assuming they're accurate, their forbearance is legendary, and makes the signers of the Declaration of Independence sound like a bunch of whining pussy crybabies by comparison over a paltry ha'penny tax per hundredweight on tea.

Ignoring these obvious truths is what happens when you make math optional beyond the 10th grade, and especially at journalism school. One can only wonder how no one in the Fourth Estate - 57 channels and nothing on - never seems to have ever noticed the level of what passes for justice that has been going on in that little burg since time out of mind.

Flick Pick: The Great Train Robbery

The Great Train Robbery
(United Artists, 1979)

Sparkling period howdunit, written and directed by Michael Crichton from his own novel, and featuring the services of Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and the captivating Lesley-Anne Down, which just on its face is a talent grand slam of noteworthy proportion. The film included an extended stunt scene atop the eponymous moving train, performed almost solely by Connery himself, at speeds of 50MPH. The entire movie has a deft light-hearted tone, and an excellent Jerry Goldsmith score, and is just the sort of perfect entertainment one goes to the movies to watch.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Throwing The Bullshit Flag

If you Google-search "molotov Ferguson", you can find a plethora of video and written story links to report after report from the lamestream media, and even alternative media sites like Breitbart BigMedia (who ought to know better), who have parroted for days and days the allegation that protesters in Ferguson are hurling Molotov cocktails right and left nightly.

So, for the record, anyone who does that, as a general rule, deserves a marksman's bullet in the head, or arrest on every charge from domestic terrorism to attempted murder that can be sustained by the facts in their case.

But if you look for video of such an event anytime recently, you begin to rapidly feel like Captain Ahab attempting to locate Moby Dick. (I.e. there may be one such actual example, somewhere, but no one has seen it in a very long time.)

But to listen to daily and nightly news reports, and police press releases, you'd think they were coming down like raindrops in a summer shower there. Yet despite hundreds upon hundreds of professional news crews, thousands of amateur videographers with cell phone video, and a legion of news directors who'd play the cut of an actual firebomb conflagration endlessly, like the Rodney King beating video, just for the ratings boost, there are no such shots in existence.

We generally get the same pic of a single man throwing a burning CS grenade back at the police who fired it, rather than one actual clip of a firebomb arcing into the police vicinity - or anywhere else - and exploding.

For the benefit of you younger whippersnappers too young to have experienced the actual 1960's firsthand, for whom this is unfamiliar territory, actual molotovs thrown are not hard to spot in the wild.

Try this example from Ukraine, notably at about the 0:42 mark.
In case you were confused, that is what a glass bottle filled with flammable petroleum products looks like on impact with someone or something you don't like.
So, where's that video from Ferguson??? Ten networks and 4,000,000 YouTube videographers shrug their shoulders, yet the claim is repeated over and over again.

Total number of videos that document this occurrence from Ferguson, in the last week-and-a-half: zero.
Total number of police officers from there with injuries consistent with a firebomb getting lobbed at them: zero.
Total number of police and media reports alleging "Molotov cocktails" being thrown: hundreds, thus far.

Having been observed before now, that phenomenon has a name.

What you can find with virtually no trouble at all, is video after video of the po-po there, whether city, county, or now state, lobbing CS tear gas bombs into non-violent protesters as though they were getting bonus bucks per round expended.

There are certainly some violent screw-ups there, whether we're talking looters, arsonists, and violent instigators.

The textbook way you handle that in civil disturbances is to wade into the crowd with overwhelming force in a extraction team, pluck them out, drag them back to police lines, book them, and max them out with every charge they merit.
(Don't believe me just because I say so; head over to read the Army's FM on Civil Disturbances and look it up for yourself. [.pdf alert.] Section 6-10 is what you're after.)
The textbook way to radicalize and convert a non-violent crowd into a violent mob is by profligate use of force against non-violent protesters as though they were all rabid anarchist bomb throwers.

So, you tell me which scene is being documented every day and night in Ferguson for the last week and a half.

"Molotov cocktails" being thrown?
I'm calling BULLSHIT, with bullshit filling, bullshit frosting, and a piquant drenching of bullshit sauce with shredded bullshit flakes, topped with a dungball of bullshit shaped like a cherry on top.

Enjoy your dessert.
Officer Safety will be your server.

Flick Pick: The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain
(Universal, 1971)

Prescient and brilliant sci fi, from the novel written by a young once-in-a-generation polymath named Michael Crichton, then all of 26 and doing post-graduate studies after Harvard Medical School. Robert Wise' version was notably well-done because the screenplay is for all intents every word of dialogue in the novel to the letter, only a couple of cosmetic character changes, and with precious little screen time wasted on anything superfluous. The effects and visualization of the novel used industry state of the art input, which achieved a film that was not only cutting-edge then, but remains so even now. It was one of the first sci-fi films as such I ever saw, and its appeal hasn't diminished a whit since then.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Flick Pick: Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean's Thirteen
(Warner Bros., 2007)

The monster conclusion to the trilogy. Soderbergh and his stars have learned how to have fun making fun of themselves, the return to Vegas pays huge dividends, David Holmes' score is again wonderful, and Matt Damon's nose definitely plays. Al Pacino makes a great villain, the caper spirals up appreciably over the first effort, and it all gets brought home nicely in the finale.
With the subsequent death of Bernie Mac in 2008, and Carl Reiner being, at this time, 92 years young, further sequels are unlikely. Except Hollywood.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flick Pick: Ocean's Twelve

Ocean's Twelve
(Warner Bros., 2004)

Bigger budget with smaller returns, the only downer on this installment is a slow middle that proves to have been mostly pointless, but otherwise still fun to watch. Because everyone knew Terry Benedict wasn't going away, and as a bonus, it features the film debut of Tess.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Survival - How Not To Do It - UPDATED

Moron Thwarts Darwin

For one California man, what began as a day fishing trip quickly turned into a five-day fight for survival.

Mike Vilhauer, 58, went fishing Aug. 6 at Lower Sunset Lake in Alpine County when he noticed he wasn’t catching any fish. Deciding he needed more bait, Vilhauer, butterfly net in hand, left on what he thought would be a short trip to find some grasshoppers.

“I was just zigzagging up and down the mountain,” Vilhauer told ABC News. “I didn’t see anyone for quite a while.”

After a few hours, Vilhauer said it began to get late, and he decided he should probably head back to the fishing site. “That’s when the fun began,” he said.

Vilhauer began to make his way towards what he thought was the fishing site. But with darkness upon him at about 8 p.m., he decided to make shelter under a pine tree, covering himself with pine needles and willow branches in an attempt to stay warm. Vilhauer attempted to call 911, but a weak signal thwarted his efforts.

Vilhauer continued his search for the help on Thursday. Weak from his lack of food and water, he adapted what he called his “survivor man routine,” drinking water out of puddles, regardless of what else was in the puddle.
Unaccountably, the CHP, using helicopters, and local SAR groups on the ground found him after five days in the NorCal/Tahoe area Mokelumne Wilderness, at the 7800' level in the alpine forests about 25 miles south of Lake Tahoe.

Let's score his efforts:

The 2003 version of The Mountaineers Ten essentials:

1.Navigation (map and compass) -Doofus had a raggedy old topo map, allegedly of the actual area in question, but NO idea how to use it, and no compass
2.Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)- Nope
3.Insulation (extra clothing) - Nope
4.Illumination (headlamp/flashlight) - Another fail
5.First-aid supplies - Fail
6.Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles) - Fail
7.Repair kit and tools (incl. a knife or multitool) - No
8.Nutrition (extra food) - Total fail
9.Hydration (extra water)- Total fail
10.Emergency shelter - Absolute fail

Final score: 5% (I'm being generous) out of 100 -- Too Stupid To Live, Too Lucky To Die.
This is the military equivalent of TARFU.

Seriously, it is a true wilderness genius who can leave a lake, by definition and physical necessity the lowest terrain feature in a place, wander off, and be utterly unable to follow gravity back to it a few hours later, and then lose himself completely wandering around for four additional days.

The fee for rescue in such situations should include 10 days in the public ankle stocks, with a dunce cap, a billboard detailing your exploit, all while local scouts and such are allowed to come by and throw fruit at you and put their chewed gum in your hair.

It's hard to say the planet wouldn't have been better served had this guy ended up as mountain lion scat, but evidently his family still wants him, for reasons passing understanding.
He should also have his driver's license amended to read "not allowed more than 500' from pavement".

This gets better still, per CBS-13 in Sacramento:
He was rescued Sunday afternoon after a helicopter spotted Vilhauer’s ‘Help’ sign. He was uninjured, but exhausted. He said he was only four miles from the lake when he was rescued, but he travelled in circles during his ordeal.

“That’s when they told me, by-the-way, there's no fish in that lake,” said Vilhauer.
                                                                {emphasis mine. -A.}

He needs to sue his grammar school for malpractice, and give his 6th grade diploma back. What a total oxygen thief.

Flick Pick: Ocean's Eleven

Ocean's Eleven
(Warner Bros., 2001)

As George Clooney put it in an interview, a humble little picture with himself, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and some other fellow struggling actors trying to make a few bucks. A smart, funny, and purely entertaining flick, it was one of the best movies of that or any year, and the ensemble cast, firing on all cylinders, helped Steven Soderbergh deliver the best caper movies of all time, starting with this one. With David Holmes' monster score and Vegas visuals, it was the only sure thing that town has ever seen. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flick Pick: The Duellists

The Duellists
(Paramount, 1977)

Made on a budget that was essentially credit cards, this is quite possibly one of the most visually beautiful motion pictures ever shot. It was directed by a novice director and well-trained art designer named Ridley Scott, whose use of shadow, light, color, and composition throughout this movie is so vivid and masterful that every frame looks as though it were painted there, or could be. It also features a hauntingly melancholy score, exquisite period detail of the Napoleonic era military customs and costume, and flawless character studies by the two lead actors, a pair of early-career relative novices named Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. Not to see this movie is to do yourself a notable disservice.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flick Pick: The Wild Geese

The Wild Geese
(Allied Artists, 1978)

Marvelous adventure film from Euan Lloyd by director Andrew McLaglen. Headed by a magnificent all-star cast, populated with fantastic British character actors and a couple of actual former mercenaries, it was well-scripted, reasonably accurate, exciting, and topical. Shot primarily on location in South Africa, where despite the carping of the perpetually offended, it was a hit with both white and black audiences, as it was in the rest of the world. It also took on real issues amidst a good yarn in a fictional place, and is the rare war adventure in an era where small wars were rampant that wasn't a look back to WWII.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ebola Breaks Out At The US Benghazi Consulate

Nobody cares.


Talking about Ebola = Double plus ungood.

Like turning off a switch, as of last Friday, the media pulled the plug on this story, and now it's back to being fodder for page B26, when they even cover news items from Congobongoland.
Apparently they were getting the cows too upset to give milk, and somebody said "STFU!"
As to who has the juice to convince ABCNNBCBS and Fox to all simultaneously shut up about something, I leave it to internet speculation.
But in practical terms, it's as if Ebola broke out at the US Benghazi Consulate or something.

The official word on this outbreak is to emphasize complacency, and minimize panic, trusting to either a benevolent deity or blind mathematical chance and fate to hope that there isn't one actual infected person anywhere among 300 million of us.

Note this latest line of pure, undiluted bullshit sold as HappyGas powered by unicorns shitting Skittles after eating Magic Beans.
Thirty seconds after one Ebola case is confirmed in the wild in the US, this guy should be strung up by his testicles, then electrified while being set on fire, while being stabbed in the eyes until he dies screaming, all of that televised live, but it'll be too late then.
And of course if it never happens, he's good, so why bother?

For all we know, the Titanic has already hit the iceberg, so why annoy the passengers by waking them up and getting them needlessly upset?

Pretty much the Official Policy On Ebola going back to 1976, but obviously frequently in vogue even as far back as 1912.

But again, once the barn is in flames that've spread to the house, and the family horse is sighted several miles from the barn door, it will be firmly locked, rest assured.


IOW: Everyone is on their motherfuckin' own. Plan and prepare accordingly.

Flick Pick: The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed
(ITC, 1976)

Outstanding movie version of Jack Higgins' first best-selling novel, directed by veteran thriller maestro John Sturges (the last movie he directed) and with nothing but first rate leading actors in all the key roles. The wisest thing the movie does is mainly follow the book, and the book itself exemplified how to perfectly write history-that-never-was. When you have half a dozen brilliant actors bringing it to life under a premier director, it's hard to come up short, and this movie delivers on all accounts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Flick Pick: Speed

(20th Cent. Fox, 1994)

Jan DeBont's debut film as director proved to be one the most ass-kicking adventure movies made to date. Dennis Hopper makes an excellent over-the-top mad bomber, Jeff Daniels is the perfect big brother voice of wisdom, Keanu Reeves nails the hero with a brain, and Sandra Bullock manages tough, funny, and vulnerable simultaneously. And the out-of-the-frying-pan, into-the-fire pace gives the audience three different stacked climaxes, so the hero can beat the bomb, kill the bad guy, and save the girl. That the movie's dialogue is smart and still believable largely owes to the efforts of then-script doctor Joss Wheedon to produce something that turned out far better than the usual summer blockbuster, while still giving us exactly that. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flick Pick: Point Break

Point Break
(20th Cent. Fox, 1991)

Kathryn Bigelow has only directed ten films, and this was number five. Despite her additional efforts, and winning the Oscar for Best Director of the Least Horrible Movie Of 2008, she still hasn't done anything as good as this flick since. Keanu Reeves actually got rave reviews for his acting, Gary Busey was once again the perfect man out of control, and Lori Petty mastered the role of being a hot chick who could kick your ass. Great action sequences that bypass the brain, and blur the thin line between struggling cops vs. cool robbers annoyed some people because the transition from moral to amoral was so effortless. And only Patrick Swayze could seduce both the hero and the audience into going along with crime for the sheer rush.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flick Pick: The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project
(20th Cent. Fox, 1986)

Charming and intelligent box office flop, with John Lithgow being excellent, Cynthia Nixon back when she liked boys, and ephemeral star Christopher Collet before he disappeared into oblivion. It's another enjoyable apocalypse howdunit, but was apparently too smart for kids, too scary for adults, and utterly buried by blockbuster movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Back To School, and The Karate Kid II. We liked it then, and we still like it now.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Flick Pick: WarGames

(United Artists, 1983)

An enjoyable look at an almost-apocalypse that came uncomfortably close to truth on numerous occasions. Also enjoyable to see what a different world technology was in the early '80s vs. five minutes ago. Solid cast, well-paced, and with some great supporting players down to even the smallest bit parts.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pandemic: How It Works At The Pointy End

First, read this forum post.

This guy nails it, because he knows what he's talking about.

Let me break it down for you.
I've been a nurse for nearly 20 years. Twelve of them at two of the busiest ERs in the country, one of them the busiest ER on the planet.

A healthy chunk of my time at both facilities was primary triage, which is bar none the hardest job in the ER, and the one they assign to the nurses in each ER with the best grasp on emergency nursing.

My job, frequently for weeks on end, including especially during some epic flu epidemic seasons, was to sort people into degree of urgency, do a basic history, screening, and evaluation of presentation, and then get the sickest people in to be seen first, while continuously keeping up with the flow of inbound patients, room availability, incoming ambulance critical cases, admissions, discharges, etc. In a large department, that involved having 100+ people waiting to be seen, 50+ rooms occupied, and keeping workloads appropriate between 6 doctors, a resident, a medical student, four physician assistants and twenty nurses.

On crappy flu season nights, we saw well over 500 patients in one 24 hr. period, and our 24/7/365 average is well north of 300 a day, any and every day.

That and a buck gets me coffee at Denny's. So what?

Let's put ONE patient with latent Ebola into that mix, and look at a worst case.

Patient Zero hits the door, sees the nurse just inside at the front door, there to eyeball everybody, and speedball the critical ones coming in with SOB (shortness of breath, not bastardlyness) or acute Chest Pain, after the patient pulls up in his vehicle, which he's coughed and sneezed in and all over, which is then parked by valets. The valet is infected. Then he grabs the set of keys of a family discharged and heading home, touching their keys, steering wheel, shift, parking break, seat belts, etc. So now that driver is going to get infected.

The valet now goes back, after rubbing his eye, nose, or mouth, and handles a phone, pens, clipboard, and key locker. Now the other 2-5 valets are going to get infected. And all the patients leaving whose cars they park or retrieve. And their families. And the valets' families. If not tonight, then tomorrow or the next day.

Meanwhile, the patient, presenting with sore throat, cough, fever, maybe vomiting and/or diarrhea, clearly non-critical compared to having a heart attack, stroke, or asthma attack, sits down in the waiting area and fills out their short form info sheet: chief complaint, name, personal info. Then brings the clipboard and pen back so the nurse and financial clerk can input them into the computer database, so that their prior records can be matched up, and to put them on the master patient tracker so that the charge nurse, triage nurse, and all the treating physicians can see what's waiting on deck.

The pen and clipboard are now contaminated, along with possibly the nearby patients and visitors, the chairs, maybe the drinking fountain, and perhaps the restroom doorknobs and faucets. Perhaps they go to the cafeteria while they're waiting, or one of the other newly contaminated people does. They grab a few forks from the cutlery bucket, the doorknobs, the food freezer handles. etc., which the entire hospital uses the next day.

Other than an "eyeball survey", they haven't even been seen yet, and they've already killed 200 people, in about a month from now. Including the outside nurse, who took the pen and clipboard from them. And her family. And her spouse's and children's friends. And all the other kids at their school, and in their neighborhood. And their parents. And their parents' friends and co-workers. And their kids. And the other kids and teachers and other staff at their schools. And their parents, and their parents co-workers. And on and on.

In a month or two, just one Patient Zero has wiped out a county of several million people.
And everyone they shake hands with, cough or sneeze on, or whose door handles and shopping carts they handle, everybody on every bus, airplane, or train they ride in, etc.
And just for fun, there are four major destination theme parks nearby, one of them known as the happiest place on earth, which is currently seeing 20,000 visitors a day, from all fifty states and 100+ countries, this week alone. We regularly treat their employees and guests, who then return to work there.

Note please that Patient Zero hasn't even been triaged yet, let alone put into a room to see a doctor. And Ebola is "droplet precautions", i.e. the virus is transmitted by body fluids, including cough and sneeze droplets, which fly through the air and land on clothing, surfaces, etc., as well as secretions like tears and snot, not to mention linger on the hands when someone is less than surgically sterile after washing up from a bout of vomiting or diarrhea.

Thing is, at this point, no one knows the patient has Ebola.

Test for it?
No problem. Takes 2-3 days, after sending the sample to CDC in Atlanta.
Take precautions just in case? Sure.

The best-equipped ER I've been in had a total of four negative airflow rooms, where the air is sucked inside under negative pressure to keep snot drops and such from migrating out, and the air is exchanged through HEPA filters multiple times per hour to filter out contaminants, for things like patients with known or suspected TB, etc.
All the other rooms share airflow with the normal circulation system, which is all of the ER, the co-located X-ray department, the financial services office, the observation unit next door, and the main waiting area.
And each time on that shift that someone goes in, they have to don a new set of gloves, put on a new disposable gown, and Ebola requires fully enclosed goggles and a head-covering hood which we don't even carry or stock. So that's a full box of gloves and gowns per patient, per shift, even if no one goes in more than once an hour on a twelve hour shift. That would be a shipping pallet of such disposables per day, for a hospital that doesn't go through that stuff at the rate of a pallet a week. So in hours we'll be out of all the supplies we'd need to adequately and safely care for even one or two such patients if we only suspect Ebola, and take appropriate precautions.

Sneezing, cough, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea is the nightly symptom set of 1/3 of all ER patients every night, forever. {As noted in a prior post, by the time they start vomiting and crapping blood and their internal organs, and bleeding from the eyeballs, the freeways to Anywhere But Here will be bumper-to-bumper outbound, and there won't be anyone triaging or treating them, least of all yours truly.}

And being non-critical on arrival, if it's a busy day or night (most people come at night, because stupid, and because why miss work when it costs you money, when you can come by after 6PM when most of the hospital is closed and your private doctor is home or asleep, right?) they'll wait up to an hour to be initially triaged, and on horrible nights during flu season, four or six hours to be seen. During which time, they're coughing, sneezing, and perhaps vomiting - with splashback - out in the main ER waiting area, with not just up to 100 patients, but their families, including any number of unrestrained and unsupervised children from ages 2-17, who typically run around like wild baboons on crack.

So after infecting everyone nearby, they get put into a room, see a doctor, infect their treating nurse, the tech who takes their vital signs, perhaps the housekeeping staff who comes in after a vomit or diarrhea episode that misses the target, their doctor(s) - one may leave at the end of their shift, and hand the patient off to a second doctor, the x-ray techs who take a chest x-ray, the relief nurse who comes in during the primary nurse's break period, the financial person who does their in-room interview after the doctor sees them, and then anyone else whom those staff members see, touch, care for, etc., and their families and random contacts as well. (Try to recall that 300-500 patients a day thing, when you realize that the medical staff - doctors, nurses, techs, etc. will be back the next night, and the next, only now even more infectious as the Ebola they unknowingly contracted multiplies in their systems too, until they're finally sick enough to call off.) And if somehow they're miraculously admitted for what is generally a non-fatal set of symptoms, multiply this by all the staff and visitors on an upstairs ward, which equals more disease spread, faster.

So let's say that patient came in to Somewhere Unlucky ER last Friday, August 1st. By the end of the month, everyone in the hospital is infected or dead. In six weeks, the county is all sick or dead. At seven weeks, the entire state is. In eight to twelve weeks, the country and the world. 

Halloween isn't going to have nearly the same meaning when 60-90% of everyone's dead, will it?

And that's with first-world health care, at generally excellent facilities, because there's no effing way to put everyone there in a spacesuit 24/7/forever, and put all incoming patients into a bubble and a HEPA-filtered mask and gown for everything until Hell freezes over.

And that's what's one unlucky patient away from us all, with nothing more stringent than airlines asking people where they've been, and occasionally checking the sick-looking ones for a fever. Only British Air and Emirates have fully suspended flight service to the affected countries. (Which means if the disease skips to other non-quarantined countries, it won't work even for them.)

Bear in mind that both of the American victims brought to Emory in Atlanta walked into the hospital under their own power days after being confirmed as infected. And try to recall that people desperate to flee for their lives might actually -gasp!- lie on an airline screening form.

Sleep tight, cupcakes.

Flick Pick: National Treasure

National Treasure
(Disney, 2004)

Charming, witty, and absolutely fun to watch, this blockbuster caper/treasure hunt from Disney was hugely successful, and simultaneously sparked a renewed interest in American history. The transitions are Hollywood classic lessons on how to move a story along from one scene to the next. Casting was inspired, with no shortage of talent (when your sixth acting slot is filled by Harvey Keitel, your movie has quite a bench), plot twists, great locations, and just enough plausibility to keep the audience hooked all the way to the conclusion.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I and II)
(Warner Bros., 2010/11)

 I'm including both movies into one post this time, because it's functionally the same movie, just over 4 1/2 hours long (and ain't nobody got time for that), and it was split because Rowling's books grew in size with age like the national debt, plus of course WB, like any studio, was keen to milk every dollar from the franchise humanly possible. So splitting the last installment over two parts to do justice to the story was the simplest answer on how to make a bit over $2B dollars. The second installment did particular justice to the franchise, wrapping the story up with a suitably epic final confrontation between good and evil, while blowing every other movie of 2011 away, and being the first film in the series to top out at over $1B ($1.3B actually). Overall the series received 12 Oscar nominations (notably winning none), while over the course of a decade's work hauling in $7.7B in gross after Warner Bros. spent a total of about $1.2B for all eight installments, making it the highest grossing series of films of all time, where it's likely to remain, until they can make several more Marvel Avengers, James Bond, or Star Wars features to finally overtake it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
(Warner Bros., 2009)

The descent into darkness continues in this episode, with the looming question of Severus Snape as friend or foe moving to the forefront. Beautifully shot and again wonderfully acted on all parts, the film once again set box office records as it set up the final parts of the saga.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix
(Warner Bros., 2007)

Probably the most sparkling among the installments in the series, highlighted by Harry's first kiss, the maturation of the entire cast, and among another number of excellently cast character additions, Imelda Staunton stands out as the most perfectly dreadful villain-you-love-to-hate at the movies in years. On top of that, throughout the movie is Nicholas Hooper's absolutely phenomenal score, with music that thunders and soars, and is probably the best addition to the series since the original selection of John Williams at the outset.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(Warner Bros., 2005)

Another great episode of the series, with the lead actors demonstrating more range and better character development, and with the introduction of great new characters like Mad Eye Moody and Rita Skeeter, and in a moment of notable cinematic villainy, the payoff of Voldemort in the person of Ralph Fiennes.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Biological Problems: What You're Looking At, vs. What You Should Be

This is most particularly in light of the current Ebola epidemic, but applies more or less generally.

First, let's get the stupid shit out of the way, specifically:

"ZOMG, they're importing infected Ebola victims to the US! Run for the hills!"

If that's your take, to any degree whatsoever, this is addressed to you:

Shut the fuck up, you ignorant hysterical jackasses.

At this point, the two known infected American healthcare workers are being returned to the US to Emory University Hospital's Infectious Disease unit.


I suspect it's:

1) Because I have more leftover health care and medical supplies laying around in just my storage unit than all that there probably is in all of Sierra Leone.
2) Because the local community hospital in Hootin Holler, Appalachia is more advanced than any ten hospitals within two tanks of gas in a Prius from the locus of this outbreak, let alone what's available at a Tier One first-world teaching and research hospital a short trip up the road from the CDC - like Emory.
3) Because one of the Americans was injected with the sole existing dose of way-pre-pre-pre-experimental Ebola vaccine, while the other one was transfused with blood from a previous Ebola survivor, and thus either or both may generate successful antibodies.
4) Because they're going to be in isolation that makes The Andromeda Strain precautions look quaint, as opposed to them being dropped onto the salad bar at the local TGIFridays, or seated on the mid-level at Yankee Stadium to drool blood and cough their internal organs onto passersby during a double-header.

This is as close to zero risk as is humanly possible, with an upside that something worthwhile may come from the research. Not to mention decreasing the load on medical resources over there, where they don't need it, and bringing them here, where if you hadn't read about it in the papers, you wouldn't even know it was going on in the first place.

It's also a non-shitty thing to do, considering the family may at least get to see them, through 4 layers of glass and vacuum seals, and talk to them, before they lapse into a coma, die in agony, and then get flash incinerated at 1500 degrees for a funeral.
And for the same reason we don't just shrug and say, "Oh, tough $#!^, they're dead..." when somebody gets killed any other way, and why we've sent recovery teams to scrape a few bones and some rags out of mildewing rusted debris that went down in Laos 50 years ago, and any other ends of the earth. Because we're not callous selfish bastards, and neither is the aid agency that these two worked for.

Nobody's asking any of us to take them home and care for them in the spare bedroom, or even chip in for their plane ticket. This is not a problem.

And bringing them home is the right thing to do.

The real problem is the non-symptomatic guy who was exposed, skipped out early, transferred in some European hub to an American air carrier, got off in Atlanta or Miami or Philly or Chicago, with no screening or quarantine, and is shivering and crapping his guts out in some flophouse right now, where in a week or two, he'll be found, after infecting god-knows-who-or-how-many family, friends, and random contacts going to the WalMart and gas station to get aspirin and tissues.

You wanna freak, freak about that.
And hey, how likely is THAT scenario, really?!?

Contagion was a so-so movie, but when it plays as a documentary, it should scare the $#!^ out of people.

Philadelphia, for one example, has a population of 10,000 Liberian-origin persons, including US citizens, legal residents, and illegals. Any one of whom could be the real Patient Zero for a US Ebola outbreak, rather than hissy fits over the two relief workers being treated at Emory Hospital.

That there aren't currently screening measures for all international travelers, quarantine for any recent visitors to the affected region, and a total embargo on all flights from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and any contiguous countries (except for returning mercy flights each undergoing specific decon measures), right this effing minute, is a scandal presaging a tragedy leading to a catastrophe. It's playing Russian roulette with the entire country.

And for the people wearing both tinfoil hats on too tight, there's no secret reserve of Ebola vaccine, except in mediocre sci-fi movies. No matter what you read on They don't keep the mythical vaccine just down the hall from where GM is sitting on a 400MPG carburetor, and where GE has secret perpetual motion Tesla coils sitting for when oil runs out. Or next to the room with the secret AIDS vaccine, all stored with loving care in the Secret Mountain Cave Of The Underpants Gnome. (Probably the same place they're hiding our flying cars, laser guns, and jetpacks too. Fuckers!) It simply doesn't exist.

If there were an actual vaccine for Ebola, the developed countries of the world would pay for it to be given away free to every swinging Richard from Casablanca to Capetown, just to be free of having to deal with it ever again. Airlines and hoteliers would simply slap a $20 or $50 or whatever surcharge for everyone coming and going to Africa, and countries would add it to their visa fees, and that would be that. Maybe someone will recall what we as a species did about smallpox?

But getting a vaccine of any type through Stages II, III, and IV testing takes
years. So far, they have one vaccine that's a candidate to begin Stage II, and the Stage I testing only confirms that it doesn't kill people outright, not whether it actually works. So we may never get an effective vaccine. The cost at that point is minimal, since the US .gov could spring for the $1B out of petty cash, given that they blow through that amount every 2.5 hours, 24/7/forever.

Oh, and the total number of viruses that we can cure after an infection manifests fulsomely, to date, since the dawn of time: 0.

I'm here to tell you, if and when the epidemic gets here in force, I won't be going to work. Not because the protective measures don't work - they do - except when they're not followed scrupulously, like anywhere in West Africa, which is why the healthcare workers there are regularly infected and die. And like they won't be followed here when things go to hell because of an influx of hundreds to thousands of people, which no hospital in Creation has stocked enough basic everyday supplies to handle, nor practiced to any degree to cope with properly and sensibly. (Ask me how I know that.)

Two people in a Level Four biohazard isolation unit is an easy day's work for a few people.

Two hundred people with fever and diarrhea in any ER I've ever worked in, where the price of any lapse, however minor, in standard precautions and infection control is a slow, agonizing death, is a recipe for killing the only people who can help.

Homie don't play that.

And it's far too late to clock out when people start staggering in bleeding from the eyeballs, shitting blood, and quite literally puking up their internal organs, or dropping in the streets. Like is happening now in West Africa.

An outbreak here that becomes a pandemic isn't going to be solved by everyone wearing Tyvek suits, N100 masks and enclosed goggles. (Those are all good to have anyways, but stupid to use unless absolute necessity forces your hand, and even then as a strictly one-time deal - like on a bug-out - not a daily gear-up.)

It's going to be solved by keeping your ass home, living on your canned goods and cash reserves for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and waiting it out until the stupid people either die off or learn that basic lesson. If you can do it away from crowds in a relatively rural environment, so much the better.

Ebola isn't going to blow in your chimney and ass-rape you, or drift up the driveway on the evening breeze to kill you in your sleep; there's no need to seal your house in plastic sheeting or get into MOPP IV to water the lawn.

But the mail is going into a trash bin (until they stop delivering it at all), the front gate is getting locked, the "No Trespassing" and "UNWelcome mat" are going out, and anyone coming over the fence is going to die where they lay when I drop them, and if I'm feeling moderately charitable, they'll get a Viking funeral with a couple gallons of regular unleaded, and a few words of benediction ending with "Flame on!".

If you're not geared up for that, you're not ready, and you're worrying about the wrong things.


Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(Warner Bros., 2004)

Teenage angst hits Potter-ville in the third installment of the magical series, and continuing the descent into darkness, introducing more scope and new characters, and lending depth and nuance to the lead characters. It was nominated again for Oscars, while beginning to win over the paltry few critics who continued to harp against the series. Audiences unimpressed with that continued to show up in droves, and it racked up another almost $800M worldwide.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Flick Pick: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(Warner Bros., 2002)

An even better work than the initial episode, again well-directed by Chris Columbus, and opening up more of Harry Potter's world to view. Also notable for being one of the last screen appearances of legendary actor Richard Harris, who only took the role initially because his 11-year old granddaughter told him if he turned it down she would never speak to him. He died of Hodgkin's complications two weeks before the film opened. Which it did with a gusto, setting opening records, and again returning over eight times the $100M production costs.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Warner Bros., 2001)

Absolute film magic in the opener of the series, a faithful but not slavish adaptation of the book with the author's full input and approval, earning three Oscar nominations and just shy of a billion dollars worldwide, or about eight times its production budget. The critics who racked it for this and that sound properly silly and petty now, while the film remains perfectly marvelous.