Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcome To My World

Ebola is here.

I told ya so. (Seven weeks ago.)

Nota bene he made it past the airport/airline screenings.
Then became symptomatic (i.e. contagious).
Which means everyone he contacted, hugged, kissed, shook hands with, worked next to, etc., has been exposed.
Then, after two days shedding virus like a cat shedding hair, he seeks medical treatment. Exposing all those people.
And GOT SENT HOME, because of course, he just had the flu, right?
Then went to the ER again, and exposed all those people too, plus everyone he saw after the first check-up, including the people who took him to the ER, and everybody between the hospital door and the isolation ward.

Of course, effective tonight, Dallas County and the contiguous counties are being put on a one-day shutdown quarantine, so they can find and escort all those potential infectees to a 21-day mandatory quarantine isolation ward.
And because it obviously isn't going to work, they're shutting off all flights to the US from Africa, if not everywhere.

What's that, you say?
They're NOT doing that?
And even though the CDC sent out a "Holy shit, it's coming!" memo  two weeks ago, the hospital staff screening the guy weren't wearing hazmat suits, hoods, gloves, booties, goggles, and masks?
And neither is the staff at any other hospital in the country, not even the ones nearest to international airports?

Brilliant! That will end well.

I'm betting airline/airport and hospital sick calls tomorrow in DFW set a small record.

I took an indefinite leave of absence.

Good luck, and hope that fingers-in-their-ears-going-La!-La!-La! Strategy works out for the White House, the CDC, every hospital in the country, and you all.

Best wishes.

Flick Pick: The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story
(MGM, 1940)

Had this been done by average contract players, it would have been merely excellent. Handicapped by such slight talents as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart, it's simply brilliant. The screenplay, from the Broadway play, is twice as smart as anything you'll see in most movies on their best day all the way to the present time, and George Cukor's directing was nearly effortless, consisting mainly of staying out of the way and letting the story tell itself. It's rare to find such snappy and witty dialogue in any movie, but to find it in one that's 75 years old is a notable thing indeed. Hepburn, who had headlined the stage play, was considered a movie box office jinx after a string of horrid films nearly ruined her career, despite two prior nominations and one Oscar win as Best Actress. But with the help of Howard Hughes, she acquired the film rights to the play (Hughes bought them for Hepburn as a present), to use as her chance to stage a box office comeback. She and the movie were both nominated for Oscars, six in all, and it won two, for Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for James Stewart, who was surprised to beat out the guy he himself had voted for, Henry Fonda in The Grapes Of Wrath. Hepburn went from "poison" to a career of only twelve nominations, and a standing record of four wins, as Best Actress. She was 33 when this film was made. Watch it, and see what all the fuss was about.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Flick Pick: Red Dawn

Red Dawn
(MGM, 1984)

Accept no substitutes. This movie, made on a humble $4M, recouped more the nine times its production budget at the box office, and set the usual suspects on the left to wailing and gnashing their teeth upon its release. It's a truly great "what if" alternate history movie, and the kind of thing that could only happen in Hollywood when Reagan was president, and the box office held absolute sway, even for those who would rather have made the Russians the heroes of this piece. It's become a cult classic and patriotic film icon, making National Review's list of "Best Conservative Movies". And unlike the atrocious textbook awful how-not-to-do-a-remake version, this one is totally politically incorrect, and kicks so much ass it spawned the PG-13 rating, for violence. We disagree with the MPAA: you can never have too many communists getting killed in a movie. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SHTF Larder: Lessons Learned

For a number of reasons, it was time to spend a month and eat out of the grocery store in the pantry. I wanted to see how well I'd planned.
In no particular order:

1. The canned meats from Costco were the bomb, albeit bland.
For personal preference, the beef improves greatly with a bit of Worcestershire sauce.
The chicken loves teriyaki. YMMV.
I overbought them: one can, it turns out, is enough meat for two meals, or two people, not one, as I planned. Compared to my planning amounts, I was long on both.
2. Some decades after a year's time on the open-air prison that was Okinawa (where logistics and notable lack of creativity from the mess deck led to a 365-day rice-at-every-meal diet) I have gotten over my distaste for that food. Cooked properly, it makes a nice meal adjunct.
3. Beans are your friend too. Black as well as regular baked.
4. DAK hams, and the Hormel catfood cans of smoked ham are great; a Hormel whole smoked ham in a can is a non-stop 7-day feast! (Esp. if you remember to include yams, cranberry sauce, olives, pineapple slices, etc. I did.)
5. I underplanned both veggies and fruit, esp. the later. But once again, even the individual cans are a double serving.
6. Words cannot describe how much Gatorade, lemonade mix, and Tang turn drinking water into a joy rather than a chore. I'd never had Tang, successfully avoiding the Apollo-era craze in the day, but I'm here to tell you, short of having oranges, it's pretty dang close. Mixing the stuff in a 7-glass OJ plastic jug is also hella easy, and helps to fool the brain: it looks like OJ, it smells like OJ, and it tastes like OJ. I'm sure Kool-Aid packets would be just as welcome. Nestlé's cocoa is also never a bad thing. And most of it keeps damned near forever. Seal it airtight, as the unsealed cardboard canisters for bulk drink mixes eventually suck in moisture, and over time turn the dry powder to a rock that must be chiseled to measure and use.
7. Dinty Moore beef stew isn't bad. Neither is Chef Boyardee ravioli or lasagna. The spaghetti is tolerable. Vienna sausages taste like $#!^, with $#!^ sauce.
8. A well-made PBJ is still a lunch, just as it was in grade school. Ditto for tuna.
9. Condiments, condiments, condiments. You need mayo for tuna salad; threw in a blob of some Dijon mustard too, and the result was better than expected. Already mentioned Worcestershire and teriyaki sauce. Salt & pepper. Brown sugar definitely helps canned ham. So does honey, in jars, or even bulk-bought restaurant packets. Dijon and regular mustard help with ham slices, sardines, etc. Tartar sauce made a can of salmon I had included for the helluvit into a pure delight. Butter/margarine does things for mashed potato mix and canned veggies that I'd forgotten was culinarily possible. Sugar makes any breakfast cereal taste better. Chocolate is a vitamin - esp. to your attitude. Cinnamon for oatmeal.
10. Retorts of spiced salad croutons mix into tuna salad and make a suitable substitute for bread at a fraction of the size or weight. I get the impression dried bread crouton packets would last even if sealed in the pyramids for a millennia or two.
11. Snacks: nuts and raisins, along with granola bars which are both, are the bomb. If I'd had chocolate chips, it would have been heaven. I knew this anyway from backpacking, but after 2-3 weeks, they taste even better than nothing, and they're good for you.
12. Exactly like in backpacking, powdered nonfat milk and dry cereal in water is good stuff. And again, a great place to put dried fruit like raisins and apples, which also works in oatmeal.

Coming up on 30 days this week, I neither gained nor lost weight.
Without being too graphic though, expect a change in daily bathroom habits.

And avoid those trendy protein bars like the devil unless you like the complementary taste of Miralax, and reading War and Peace in the thinking room, with occasional bouts of abdominal pains equivalent to birth pangs. (Actually, it was worse than that.) We should drop those damned things on enemies (along with cans of Vienna sausages), and just sit back and watch. I'm taking them out of everything, as the results (and price) are not worth the penalty, in every sense.

FWIW, I had more than enough stored water, and 1 gallon a day for drinking/cooking/minimal hygiene (washing face, hands, & shaving) per person is adequate for planning purposes.
Washing dishes would be another story. I have picnic plates and plasticware for that, and didn't need to waste them for this experiment to prove the point.
As is sanitation, as some plumbing changes during the month drove home, when I had to fill buckets to flush a couple of times, when the waterworks minions cut off the flow mid-experiment. Not a welcome reality check, but illustrative. If you don't have a 5-gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid or a military 5-gal. water jug or three, and a red wagon or trash dolly - or something better - rectify that.
I had kitty litter and hefty bags, but I wasn't going for the full apocalypse experiment, thanks anyways. TPTB tend to frown on gifting the trash cans with poop, as a rule, so short of an actual emergency, that's that.
I also didn't need to wash clothes over a month, but after two, it'd become more necessary.
Once again, a gallon of water in a five gallon food bucket with laundry soap and a gamma-seal lid, and you have a washing machine. Another gallon to rinse. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. (And it's clean!) Figure two gallons week/per person, per set of clothes. One set (shirt, pants, underwear/socks) fills a bucket, unless you're a 4X and wear coveralls and 4 layers.

My power use was limited to a dorm fridge to preserve food after opening for multiple days, to make OJ and drinks cold, and the use of a microwave for 5-10 minutes nightly. The ability to make or store enough juice to maintain that, along with lighting, would be all I would need for an indefinite period, which is pretty simple. It worked in missile crews and for space stations, and it worked for me.
I could have substituted propane fuel heating for food prep, but the mini-fridge would still be high on the list of really valuable luxury needs, and once you can accommodate that, running a microwave is more economical than storing bulk fuel. 300-plus days out of the year here (SoCal), a solar cooker would be a viable alternative too. So would a Solo stove powered by whatever could be found to burn in it, probably. Have to try both in the near future.

I ate about $2 of food per day, $3 at the most.
Counting power use, my daily expenditure averaged about $4/day. I could do that 24/7/365, so EBT cards are frankly profligate extravagance.

Things I would have changed, and will rectify:
A lot more fruit, canned, dehydrated, and fully dried.
More veggies. A garden for same is already a given. But due to the need/desire for fiber, I'm looking real hard at adding the capability to generate them indoors year-round, with hydroponics in the short term, and aquaculture in the long run.
Flour and sugar would have enabled creation of bread, cookies, crackers, etc. (the occasional cravings for which I would be hard-pressed to over-describe.) I'm not a great scratch cook, but the lack of same the last month eating almost entirely from stored cans and pouches has made the necessity of adding that capability a higher priority. It's tough to channel pioneer grandma, when she died forty years ago, but this month highlighted the benefits of being able to turn wheat into flour, and flour into anything from a sandwich or biscuit to a cake or pie. And a bread maker just went on my Christmas list.
Potatoes. Need more canned new potatoes, and yams.
They would also go along with corn as necessities on any future garden plot. Being able to turn a single potato into a meal, by adding butter, heat, a few ham scrapings or bacon bits, and a little dried onion, drives this home.
Eggs. Dried for certain; live chickens in the long run, for eggs, and meat too. While a tin of sardines with OJ were a surprisingly good breakfast a couple of times, I'm not Norwegian, and would not care to have to repeat that experiment if other choices were available.
A lot more drink mixes for the water supply, and more variety of same.

Canned goods store incredibly well, and stay fresh for 2-5 years. IMO, that's probably the amount you should ultimately aim to keep on hand, and rotate through regularly. Eating a month's worth in one go was an extreme case, but it was only a minor inconvenience. Doing it for a week, let alone just one day, would have been a snap. Even for a family of picky eaters, to say nothing of during an emergency or catastrophe. So you could do one weeks' reserve per month, and never have less than 4 years in canned goods. I understand space is a concern; my supply runs to a year, and takes up nothing more than a broom closet, even with other supplies included. Unless your family is the Brady Bunch, a year's supply is nothing special, and multiple years' worth wouldn't crush anyone with the bother. (Hint: the only reason you couldn't put a year's food per person under each person's bed, right now, is that you haven't tried, and there's too much junk under there you don't need that you haven't thrown away yet. Or they sleep in bunk beds.)
That's ignoring completely doing this with dehydrated foods, or augmenting with home production and canning, fruit trees, beekeeping, etc.

I grew up on a suburban 1/4-acre plot in a teeming city.
On even half that, with minimal use of the front yard, I could produce sufficient food for a family of eight, in my spare time, unless the house on the lot was the Taj Mahal.

But don't take my word for that:
There's even a fantastic book to get you started. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
There's also a companion book that covers livestock animals in depth too. Also 5/5.

Quit making excuses. Get busy.

(Anybody want most of a case of Vienna sausages and protein bars? Shipping is on you. I may list them on the local Craigslist "Free" page, just for the humor factor. Although it probably violates local ordinances, and the Hague Conventions of crimes against humanity. Sigh.)

Flick Pick: 2010:The Year We Make Contact

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Based on the original movie, and Arthur Clarke's follow up novel to 2001, this is an excellent sci fi flick in its own right. Peter Hyam's vision is also far more accessible and traditionally laid out than Kubrick's opus was, which makes it a bit more fun for the audience. Roy Scheider does very well as the former administrator left holding the bag when the original mission went sideways. Fifteen years gone by allows the story to drag in some of the world at large from the '80s, and push it forward to 2010. The somnolence and lower arc of the real space program by then is paralleled in the lesser vision of future technology, but the movie more than makes up for that with great human performances by John Lithgow, and Bob Balaban as the perfect personification of the inventor/father of HAL.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Flick Pick: 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey
(MGM, 1968)

2001 is quite simply the most brilliant science fiction ever made.
2001 is a strange, overlong, tortured, and at times
Given that it took place in 1968, the visual effects are incredible,
incomprehensible science fiction attempt burped up 
better than most everything since. The futurism is unbelievable,
by a strange and increasingly incomprehensible
given that it takes for granted such things every day now as
director. It goes for nearly three hours,  
video-calling like Skype, and tablets like iPad. Which isn't bad 
bewildering audiences with a dizzying array of
futurism for 45 years early. The film is absolutely non-traditional
cinematic effects shots, all in a futile attempt
storytelling, using visuals and music to tell more of the story than
to tell some sort of story, unfortunately buried
traditional dialogue, resulting in some of the most iconic movie shots
in a cacophony of free-form musical vocals and
of all time. Acclaimed directors by the score have since cited this
odd classical music choices. Audiences were
film as inspiration and simultaneously noted that it set the bar
originally puzzled by the work, but eventually
so high they feared to ever be able to reach it. After a slow opening,
decided it must be so fantastic that their mere
it has achieved blockbuster status and cultural icon-hood, by near 
mortal minds couldn't comprehend the awesomeness
universal acclaim, and stands as one of the greatest achievements
of this acid-1960s pretentious and puzzling goulash
in cinematic science fiction ever.
of sight and sound.

There you go: two reviews, which should satisfy anyone who has or hasn't seen this film.
Take your pick. It's still on my list.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Flick Pick: The Peacemaker

The Peacemaker
(Dreamworks, 1997)

Ripping good action thriller with Nicole Kidman and George Clooney. Well directed, interesting, and suspenseful, Clooney has no trouble playing the action hero in this with the right blend of brains and attitude to sell it. When he was still trying to find his stride on the big screen, Clooney had no trouble making a movie about gunning down Islamic terrorists for trying to pop a bootleg nuke in NYC, but when things got real a couple of years later, he went all "Give Peace A Chance" crazy offscreen, and spun off into a number of mediocre anti-American films onscreen. Which is a shame, because in this film, his character kicked ass, and he clearly knew who the good guys were.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flick Pick: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride
(20th Cent. Fox, 1987)

Released 27 years ago today, if Rob Reiner had never made another movie in his life, this one alone would qualify him to be placed among the ranks of great film directors. A modest success at the box office, cable and video subsequently revealed it to be a perennial favorite in the ranks of The Wizard Of Oz, and a cult classic for the ages. Veteran screenwriter William Goldman's original novel is a marvelous story, and Reiner's film version of it is as close to perfect as it's possible for a movie to get. The casting choices are far greater than the sum of the parts, with most of the actors creating roles that will be associated with them long after they're gone. Mark Knopfler's score is exactly the music needed. It's also one of the most eminently quotable flicks since any of the Monty Python movies from a decade earlier, and has entered the cultural lexicon of generations of film audiences. If you're ever looking to tell a fairytale on film, or need a standard to judge all the others by, pay close attention to this one.

And when it comes out later this fall, grab a copy of Cary Elwes' retrospective As You Wish, which promises to be a spectacular behind-the-scene look at the making of the movie, featuring interviews with everyone still alive who worked on this screen masterpiece.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flick Pick: The Fugitive

The Fugitive
(Warner Bros., 1993)

That rarest of cinematic achievements, a great movie based on a TV melodrama.
Due in no small measure to the anti-buddy pairing of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, this movie was a blockbuster hit of the year. It made its production budget back in its opening week, racking up $368M total; earned seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; and scored a well-earned Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jones' performance.
It's quite simply one of the best thrillers made since North By Northwest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flick Pick: Murder On The Orient Express

Murder On The Orient Express
(Paramount, 1974)

Brilliantly directed Agatha Christie story by maestro Sidney Lumet, with an all-star cast consisting of a Who's Who of film all-stars. Albert Finney is career-peak masterful as Hercule Poirot, the details are perfect, and the entire thing takes place inside a couple of railway cars. And the beauty of the entire movie is watching the deconstruction of the whodunit, only to arrive, for those unfamiliar with the story, at the hitherto unheard of solution that everybodydunnit. Hugely successful and critically acclaimed, it was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Best Supporting Actress for Ingrid Bergman, her phenomenal third Oscar, as much a career "thank you" for thirty years work since Casablanca as it was an award for yet another stellar performance in this film.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Flick Pick: Scent Of A Woman

Scent Of A Woman
(Universal, 1992)

Phenomenal Martin Brest drama that finally brought Al Pacino a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar, introduced audiences to the talents of Chris O'Donnell, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Brad Whitford, and in a truly magical tango scene, Gabrielle Anwar. The movie is a triumph, scoring blockbuster status, and deservedly nominated for the usual major awards. But the movie is overwhelmingly a tour-de-force for Pacino, finally and unquestionably putting him on the top tier of actors for all time. Hooah.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ebola Update - UPDATED! - TWICE!!

You may have noticed last week that the CDC blasted out an info-bomb to your hospital (and every other one in the U.S.) noting that it's not a question with Ebola about if it gets here, as much as when.

So, are all your local triage nurses working every day in goggles, gloves, exposure suits, and N95 or better respirators? Or did management decide it's better to let their staff die in the first wave, rather than risk scaring away patient$?

Yeah. Thought so.

New numbers posted today, dated from the WHO report on the 17th.

Good news: Senegal and Nigeria have pretty much stopped their infections in their tracks, and have no new cases. They are almost completely out of the woods for the moment, and barring any new patient vectors, should cease to be areas of contagion within a week or so.
Congo's separate strain continues to grow and spread on its own in the backcountry, albeit slowly. They may manage to contain it small, as in previous instances. 

Bad news: Liberia has more than picked up the slack, now having gone from late arriver to the party to the main event, all by itself.
The disease pool remains on pathway to double in size about every 21 days, which points to 100K or so cases in Liberia alone by Christmas, or twenty times the size of the current level of infection, which has already completely overwhelmed all three countries even now.
In a country of 4M, Liberia virtually ceases to exist by about next Easter. 

Worse news: Guinea and Sierra Leone are showing lower growth rate, which points not to control but being unable to confirm accurate numbers, unless the spread and the virus there is miraculously half as virulent as it is in Liberia. Unlikely.
Also, there are only treatment beds for something like 20% of affected victims in any of those three countries, which means the virus is still walking around in society re-infecting more people day over day, as 4 out of 5 contagious victims are not in a treatment center.
Sierra Leone is also enforcing a 3-day total curfew to attempt to slow the spread down, so their next numbers will be low, because of no counting going on, but the infected people on the loose, trapped at home with others caring for them, mean that instead of helping, the quarantine will virtually guarantee a subsequent spike once the curfew is lifted, and the fresh cases can flock for treatment, and the bodies in the streets can be rounded up.

And just for real fun, the freshest outbreaks in Liberia are in the south, which was untouched by Ebola until recently, in the region directly bordering Ivory Coast, a nation hitherto unaffected by Ebola thus far. This points to people with infection travelling there, unable to leave, and spreading the infection within. So Ivory Coast et al are about to be gifted with Liberian visitors, and the resultant outbreak, unless they can maintain a flawless isolation (i.e. enforced at gunpoint), and the government of Liberia, including their border guards, remains intact and functional.

And CDC has quietly revised the prior rosy bullshit estimates from WHO, which was spouting numbers of 20,000 total cases; CDC now estimates things could get into the hundreds of thousands, a number much more in touch with current realities on the ground, and still probably dreadfully low. And to think, I could have saved them the money they spent to get to that brilliant deduction, since weeks ago, just by reading the news to them.

Other notable news:
The U.S. is intensifying its effort, planning to deploy about 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the region to assist with shipping and distributing medical supplies and building treatment centers.

Major General Darryl Williams, U.S. Army-Africa commander, arrived in Monrovia on Sept. 17 with a 12-person team to assess the situation there, Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday at a news conference. That includes deciding where to build treatment sites and what else will be needed from the U.S. military.

One C-17 transport plane has already arrived, and two more are scheduled for next week, bringing 45 personnel and helping to set up a command headquarters, Kirby said.

More from the AP report that news is based on:
The military units expected to deploy have not been identified.
Some equipment has already arrived, including a forklift and generator, and two more aircraft are expected this weekend with 45 more military troops.
U.S. troops will not be involved in the direct treatment of patients.
They'd better have a robust security element, and a bombproof exit plan, like say an LHA, with embarked Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team-SOC, and full vertical-lift contingent on 24-hour standby, or one good riot and they're all going to die in place, when the zombie hordes bite the hand that feeds them.


Here's my revised doubling timetable, based on current infection data:

Now >5K
10/11 10K
11/1 20K
11/22 40K
12/13 80K
1/3/15 160K
1/24 320K
2/14 640K
3/7 1.25M
3/28 2.5M
4/18 5M
5/9 10M
5/30 20M
6/20 40M
7/11 80M
8/1 160M
8/22 320M
9/12 640M
10/23 1.2B
10/24 2.4B
11/14 4.8B
12/4/2015 Game over, planetary reset to the 10% or so of 7 billion still alive (assuming no one decides to start a war or launch nukes, just because, in the downward spiral of civilization).

Nota bene that the CDC projection is right down the middle of the fairway, not the worst case at all, but pretty much an absolute certainty, and all I needed for my projection was a 2014/2015 calendar page, and (literally) the back of an envelope, not 50 math geniuses.
Also be aware that we lost an entire year to "Game Over" in the last 50 days, because the rate of spread has sped up.
If it does that again in the next few weeks, and we go to 14-day doubles, we would reach "Game Over" by next Fourth of July or so.

I figure Liberia collapses by New Year's if not far sooner, all of West Africa shortly afterwards, and by late spring, the black hole spreads outward at the speed of transmission.

Important caveat: If the infection spread is halted by literal draconian gunpoint quarantine, the timeline may be extended. Understand this will require triaging most or substantial swaths of Africa to certain death by disease and/or starvation, and ruthlessly exterminating and preventing any spread of the disease beyond that continent, something never accomplished in recorded history. So I don't give that option a lot of hope, on either moral or logistical grounds, take your pick.
Once it gets to any other continent, we're right back on track. Asia, in particular, would pretty much guarantee a global meltdown, and all that takes is one pilgrimage to Mecca, or one latent-infected health worker going back to, say, India.

Hoping for a medical intervention is on a par with hoping for the appearance of Mary Poppins. It's theoretically possible, but highly statistically unlikely, unless you're looking for proof of the existence of a benevolent deity who loves us and wants us to prosper.

And you can probably bump those dates one place or two sooner, if the current outbreak is as under-reported as I suspect.
And of course, if the rate accelerates as the spread widens, the doubles happen even faster.

Either way, the 2016 presidential races just got a lot less interesting.

From the NYTimes  and WHO, a day or two after this was first posted here:
"The epidemiologic outlook is bleak,” the report said.
If control does not improve now, there will be more than 20,000 cases by Nov. 2, and the numbers of cases and deaths will continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week for months to come, according to the report.

As Casey Stengel said, "You could look it up."
Either they finally found someone at WHO who can count. Or the WHO/NYTimes poaches my blogfodder.
It's not hard to be smarter than the UN and the Fishwrap of Record when you aren't hampered by peddling BS and the "Remain clam. All is well!" brand of happygas they've been full of on this topic.
Now let's hope someone in charge pays attention, and stops mollycoddling the response to this, before the bottom end of my projections becomes as correct as the top end.

Oh, look, the CDC has just noticed that the WHO numbers might be a wee bit optimistic:
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Tuesday [9/23/14] predicting as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, by the end of January. "
I'm impressed. It's almost like someone at the CDC Press Office has learned to read, and count, in the same week. I hope they do epidemiology better than they do media relations and basic statistics. But better late than never, I suppose.

Welcome to the party, guys.

Flick Pick: Willow

(MGM, 1988)

A nice little sword and sorcery flick from George Lucas by way of Ron Howard. Featuring Warwick Davis before Harry Potter, Val Kilmer before Tombstone, and New Zealand before Lord Of the Rings, it's a lot of fun in a very small package. The only drawback is that while it pioneered a lot of modern CGI, it went a little crazy with it, and some of the dark parts are too dark for younger kids. But it's a fun story with a good cast, told well, and Val even got a wife out of the deal - for awhile.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bordering On Insanity

If you don't catch the PJ Media Trifecta segments, you're missing out big-time. They range from good to brilliant, from topical to sublime, and far surpass most anything you'll find on cable or broadcast TV in terms of both honest analysis or common sense. The guests are good, and the three regulars are generally fantastic. Bill Whittle is brilliant, and anyone who wants to run for any GOP national office should have to go to speechwriting bootcamp under his tutelage before being allowed to open their mouths. Steve Green is P.J. O'Rourke's spiritual younger brother. And Scott Ott is an Everyman cross between Jimmy Stewart and George Will. They're different enough to keep things interesting, and intelligent enough to keep things worthwhile and informative.

Until, as in the hot-linked segment above, posted yesterday, when they try looking at Opposite Day ideas, like "just opening the borders and supporting free movement and free markets." And then the rant center in my head goes a little bit explodey.

I like Scott Ott, and I don't doubt he's a good and decent guy, but the only thing he said I can agree with on this topic is that he hasn't thought about this idea enough to know which way to jump. His answers after that admission make his confession self-evident.

Contrary to his video suggestion, we can't place a 20-year moratorium on entitlements to new immigrants, because there's this terrible thing in the Constitution called the 14th Amendment, which helped end slavery, and contains this minor provision about "equal protection" to all citizens.

So if Scott wants to elucidate how we can just cleverly repeal one of the amendments that ended slavery, the open-border utopia is one step closer. (I jest.)

As Bill Whittle noted, the answer is to export America there, not import the Third World here, and as Steve Green said, you can't go back to 18th century immigration paradigms unless you're willing to repeal the entire welfare state. No healthcare, no income tax, no public education, no social security, no welfare EBTs or AFDC or food stamps, not any little shred of it.
While anyone works on that, the wave of immigrants looking in from outside can wait.
I wouldn't recommend holding their breath.

And if you did miraculously get that, what are you then left with?

Competing with the entire Third World by the millions who'll make it here, to drive all wages to the bottom. While concurrently making it as fun to live in America as it is currently to live in Bangladesh, and at the same pennies-a-day wage rate they enjoy there.

Not quite the First World Paradise the jet-fuel genius who burped this retarded idea out had in mind when he was shilling for it.

But it's great for the Chamber of Commerce members who can pay even less than what wages are now, while the prices for everything go up, due to demand for everything, even basic commodities, skyrocketing, and all those new immigrants decide they can vote themselves an ever-larger share of other people's money. This idea is why the Third World looks like the Third World.

Just for two examples, Iraq is a top oil producer, yet the people there only have power an hour or two a day because everyone just taps a line into the power grid whenever they feel like it, and browns out a whole city, and everyone suffers in 140-degree days with no air conditioning.
And the African Sahara marches southward year after year, because everyone there cuts everything for firewood, because they need it, and once-fertile soil turns into a burgeoning dustbowl across an entire continent, killing farming in once fertile land, and bringing famine right behind the blowing sands.

America became America because people here came with an ethic of hard work, a foundation of fair play based on (then) 700 years of English common law, and a respect for freedom and rights that understands life demands responsibilities along with rights, to mitigate a ceaseless quest to grab everything you can, and devil take the hindmost. And when you get a critical mass of people who think and act like that, everything works.

When you never had them to start with, you get the religious freedom of Iran, the political freedom of Venezuela, the driving habits of Mexico City, the respect for law and rights of North Korea (and Mexico), the economic wisdom of Zimbabwe (and Mexico), and the burgeoning grasping grifting government bureaucracy of China (and Mexico). (Clever readers will note a trend there.)

And until 1965 (thanks, Teddy Kennedy!), we had an immigration process that selected for people who had skills, the ability to function in the dominant language, and a grounding in the philosophy which underpinned the America to which everyone wanted to come. Now, having trashed that system (at the exact time the social welfare bandwagon had a supercharged big-block engine dropped into it), we select entrants randomly - unless you've already plopped out an anchor baby, in which case your entire extended under-educated ESL non-skilled dysfunctional family can come on down and sign up for the full boat of government gravy, paid for by people born here who aren't eligible for most of it, because they work too hard - and we wonder why our culture and civilization built over centuries is eroding by the day. And as a direct result, give us a growing population underclass that looks and acts like Bangladesh, or Ciudad Juarez.

The problem, Mr. Ott, isn't that we can't sell the idea of America to the Third World. One look at the border along the Rio Grande shows it's selling like hot cakes. The problem is that we're preaching it from a lifeboat of sanity, and like countless videos of Third World ferry disasters, they're all in water over their heads, and all they can think of is how nice it would be to get into our boat. So they're all swimming like mad and trying to climb inside, heedless of the fact that when they overload it, they'll be right back in the water again.
Which was the reason their ferry overturned in the first place.

And they'll happily drag the rich, prosperous, pinche Americans down to a watery grave with them, out of stupidity, desperation, and a sense of hateful envy for us that would fuel a nuclear reactor and light up Las Vegas.

If you want to buy the world a Coke, good for you. Go over there and do that. And when they smash it over your head, and steal your watch and wallet, only you suffer.
But when you bring them all by the millions to the neighborhood block party, now they're everyone's problem.

Bryan Kaplan should move to any of those places, and Scott Ott needs to vacation in one of those garden spots for a couple of days - not in a resort, but down among the locals, in the cardboard slums at the dump - and then we should see if either can better answer the question "Why is moving all these people into our neighborhood an utterly idiotic idea?"

"Could open borders be worse than this?"
The root question is, look at San Diego and Tijuana, or El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
And then tell us exactly how much crap is the right amount of crap for us to put in your crap and tunafish sandwich.
Open borders means we should pile in all the crap we can find.
Enjoy that lunch.
But please, stop trying to share yours with us.

Flick Pick: Legal Eagles

Legal Eagles
(Universal, 1986)

Among all the Jeremiah Johnson and All The President's Men solid dramas done by Robert Redford, it becomes easy to forget his talents in light comedy. This one, directed by Ivan Reitman, is a solid reminder that Redford has acting chops in just about any genre one could imagine, and this story was more or less dropped into his lap because the same talent agency owned the story, the screenplay writer, the stars, and the director, in effect assembling the parts of the motion picture and handing it to the studio. Debra Winger, a generation younger than Redford, nonetheless made an able Hepburn to Redford's Tracy. The suspense is suspenseful, the comedy is funny, and the plot delivers the goods.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Flick Pick: Pirates Of The Caribbean

Pirates Of The Caribbean
(Disney, 2003)

The biggest mega-blockbuster of its opening summer, and one of the top 100 grossing movies of all time, this started out as an almost cancelled movie, and spared from mediocrity or cancellation a dozen times. Johhny Depp was a cult-film small-potatoes actor when selected for the role, and his take on a pirate who was more of a rock star (Keith Richards, in fact) so confused and dismayed Disney CEO Michael Eisner he said at one daily screening "You're ruining the film!". Depp stood his ground, and told Eisner to either trust him or fire him. Fortunately, Eisner chose wisely. Depp also gets the best character intro in POTC captured on film since John Wayne was seen swinging a Winchester in Stagecoach.
The movie took a straight shot at being a pirate movie, then was steered into being a ghost story by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his writing team, and comedy fun by director Gore Verbinski. It was widely expected to be a huge-budget flop; instead, it took the summer by storm, and immediately became the number one picture, staying on top overseas for seven consecutive weeks, and earning back its entire $125M production budget in the first week alone. Between US, foreign, and DVD sales, it pulled in nearly $1B, spanning to date four sequels, with no end in sight, and made Johnny Depp, due entirely to his quirky and phenomenal performance, an international megastar. Proof yet again of William Goldman's adage about Hollywood: "Nobody in this town knows nothing."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flick Pick: Into The Night

Into The Night
(Universal, 1985)

A tight little comedy-thriller, replete with cameos, but nonetheless a great ride, with the beautiful and talented Michelle Pfeiffer as the brains of this near-endless caper, and Jeff Goldblum is the perfect everyman trapped amidst the surreal and trying to find his way to the door. Ira Newborn's score features great numbers by one of a kind talent B.B. King, and despite getting dogged by critics for the endless conveyor belt of film personalities squeezed into cameos in front of the camera, they all work to tell the story if you sit back and enjoy the movie instead of going off on a rant about spotting them all. The movie was shot nearly entirely at night (of course), and features a parade of iconic locations around SoCal, and a pretty solid slice of life there in the mid-80s.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Women In The Military, Part the Third

Weaponsman had a link to a nice little award-winning essay posted and hosted by the Marine Corps Association, wherein one Capt. Lauren Serrano, USMC, elucidated that "Women Don't Belong In The Infantry".

And of course, the comments flow back and forth, including one gem that "if women pass the same tests" blah blah blah discriminatory misogynist segregation unfair.

Problem there being, No woman has "passed all of the tests that the men do" as long as we've had them, because from the get-go, being women, they're given different (EASIER) tests! (The last time that wasn't the case was during the Civil War, when the only test was showing up for muster with a pulse.)

If we want women to be treated equally, let's start by getting rid of "female" PT standards. Under that criteria, Capt. Serrano and 99.9999% of women would be civilians, period, when they fell off the pull-up bar with less than 3. We could stop, at that point, arguing and counter-arguing about "women in the infantry", and shift to "women in the Marine Corps", or "women in the military", because the ones you'd have left in all the services would be hard-pressed to staff a 5-woman basketball team most years, as likely as not.

That we've never treated women equally, nor do they nor anyone else want us to, is proven by the gender-norming and separate standards in every service branch since forever, an item Capt. Serrano glosses over effortlessly. If we did otherwise, the essay would have been written by Miss Serrano, not Capt. Serrano.

The two women annually from the entire US population who might be able to pass even that standardized gateway test of the (male) PFT, presuming they managed to make it into the infinitesimal pool of female military recruits in the first place, would then face the exact same problems of distraction, disruption, and dissolution of resources to the core mission of the infantry (and though Capt. Serrano didn't say it - and should have, to all the combat arms, not just the infantry) while bringing nothing good and a host of the aforementioned bad to the combat mission party.

If the arguments that they almost universally can't do the job, aren't needed, aren't wanted, and will inevitably bring their unit's, and the entire Corps' performance down, rather than up, and multiply problems rather than capabilities, doesn't sway you, what you're arguing is essentially that we have to expend severely constrained time, resources, and energy so that we can break the Marine Corps, in order to fix it, because Womyn!

Well played.

When the Capt. Serranos of the Corps, whose service and dedication to the Corps I do not doubt, start agitating to drop their own lower standards, and the military-wide enforced sexism of eternally lower expectations, then we can have a serious discussion about women being or belonging anywhere in the military, let alone the infantry.

I seem to vaguely recall something in Boot Camp about "every Marine a rifleman". I could have it wrong, but my impression at the time was that they weren't referring merely to the physical ability to pull the trigger.

If they had that right, then the entire Corps is infantry when it gets down to it, and the question of whether women belong there at all is germane to the discussion.
And if we treated them with true equality, they wouldn't be there at all.

So put me in the camp of those who really want women in the military to receive “equal treatment”, rather than those who merely wish to posture and pretend that they do.

This reasoning was apparently hard to follow for at least one 0-3, so I double down:

My point is that she's presenting a rather half-stepping attack on the idea, not really all that controversial, and for some well-laid out logical points. Stated economically, if not forcefully.

But in glossing over physical/physiological constraints, she's ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room underlying the entire discussion, either from convenience, or because it hits a little too close to home - including for her.

I'm 100% for giving women absolutely equal treatment in the Marine Corps, and the entire military.
So let's start with administering them the male PFT as the new normal, on Training Day One, and every time after that. If nothing else, not publishing or promulgating gender-separate standards will save the Corps time and paper.

How any woman with a second-class PFT score who barely manages 3 pull-ups will ever get promoted, whether officer or enlisted, or even should be, is a question I leave to others.

Then we can move on to the remaining minutiae, such as about whether the 23 (or whatever miniscule number it would be) women left in the military after that first step should be allowed to serve in combat units, or not.

Random little data points like the documented observational studies that something over half of women recruits at Parris Island were incapable of throwing the impossibly heavy (I jest) 1lb M67 issue frag grenade far enough away as not to be a danger to themselves and their fellow service members will doubtless rise to significance in such a discussion. (To be fair though, blowing yourself up with your own grenades didn't seem to hinder the career of our current Secretary of State, but at least we should have the discussion of whether or not it's a problem for frontline combat units.)

I suspect the deeper question that would (or ought to) be asked would be why we needed to sign up those 23 (or whatever miniscule number it would be) women in the first place, and whether it was worth any fraction of the trouble.

Your reply indicates that you accept that there will never be equality in the military for women, because of "self-imposed PC BS".
I agree, and think that's rather the salient point.

You're a current (or former) Captain of Marines, granting (out of a sense of reality, doubtless) that "the fix is in" on the question, and has been since before the match was agreed upon. Curious strategy that.

It's like trying to judge a painting competition after agreeing to only use blind judges, and trying to pretend afterwards that the selections have any meaning or merit.

If the standards matter, enforce them fairly, and across the board.

If they don't, because Diversity, we should be actively recruiting the blind, lame, crippled, and elderly. (Deaf radio operators and blind aviators: Diversity for the win!)

But it can never be both at the same time, and it's a disservice to both logic and the Corps to pretend otherwise.

So let's don't.

The solution to demands for equality, is to give it - and in true Marine Corps fashion: both barrels, right in the face, hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle.

That will (or at least, should) end this particular discussion until such time as women play starting middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's curious that the NFL gets this when there's only money at stake, but the whole concept becomes confusing when we're talking about young Marines' lives.

So, would Team Diversity like to try for best four out of seven...?

Dec. 15 UPDATE:
A little cluster bomb of reality, from a guy with a sense of humor, and a metric f*ckton of unassailable evidence backing up his point:

 Enjoy that. And if you disagree, enjoy the complimentary shit sandwich.

Flick Pick: A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far
(United Artists, 1977)

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the launch of Operation Market:Garden, and a few short weeks after the passing - at the gloriously fully ripe age of 90 - of the movie's director, Sir Richard Lord Attenborough, today's pick is a magnificently done war epic, based on Cornelius Ryan's book. The cast is nothing less than a veritable galaxy of stars, running the gamur from Laurence Olivier to John Ratzenberger ages before Cheers, all of them showing up in vignettes interwoven in the film as they were in real life. Mostly accurate, in some cases painstakingly so, and occasionally not, and marvelous for the fact that they gathered a small air force and assembled an army of cast members to do the air drop scenes, back before faking such things with CGI even existed. The war movie genre numbers no small number of remarkable efforts, and this movie belongs among that pantheon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flick Pick: Last Of The Mohicans

Last Of The Mohicans
(20th Cent. Fox, 1992)

Epic historical drama, shot with breathtaking beauty, with the wilds of the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains doubling admirably for upstate New York in the mid 1700s. Along with the incomparable beauty, it also won an Oscar for Best Sound, and took great care with historical props and costume, as well as use of Mohawk and Huron language. The dialogue is sparse but weighty, but the movie is carried almost entirely by the visuals from beginning to end, and brings to life Cooper's novel in ways he couldn't have ever imagined, nor even written, and suffused throughout with an excellent score, ranging from expansive as a full orchestra conveying the grandeur of the vistas, to one sparse fiddle solo to highlight the journey of the protagonist. The music that results is of a type which gets into your memory, and then won't get out.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmmmm" - UPDATED

Totally aside from the march of Ebola unchecked or even constructively hindered by anything done so far, as documented multiple places, a couple of things we know, and a couple of more things I'd like to:

FACT: We were told that Nancy Writebol and Dr. Brantley were infected with Ebola.
FACT: Both were medically evacuated to Emory U. Hospital for treatment.
FACT: Beating the not inconsiderable odds, they both survived, and have been discharged as EVD infection-free.
FACT: Discounting WHO's cooked numbers, if you look at the number of cases and the number of deaths, the rough number of deaths now for any point in time, is the same as the number of cases 21 days prior to now (the incubation period of Ebola) if you multiply that number by 90% (the standard prior Ebola max death rate).

> This strain of Ebola is behaving exactly as every other strain did with regard to speed of progression, and fatality.
> The spread is different, precisely because it got out of the boonies, and into large urban populations, which it's never done before.
> If Writebol and Brantley were truly infected with Ebola, the safest place for them right now is working with the sick in West Africa, because they're both presumably bulletproof as far as Ebola virus is concerned. For life.
> Their combined survival, assuming both had Ebola, is a 1% absolute likelihood on a probability scale. (10% of 10% = 1%).
> If they didn't have Ebola, their dual survival in a BL4 hospital ICU under round-the-clock medical care and observation is a 99.9999999% certainty.

FACT: Neither of them is in West Africa now, despite being so dedicated prior that they were willing to work among a deadly pestilence with sub-par protective gear, and even none, to bring what help they could, and ease suffering; not particularly bright, but on a moral level if not an intelligence one, commendable.

FACT: Either they had Ebola, or they didn't.
FACT: They either knew the truth of their status, or they didn't.

Tinfoil fringe decision matrix in line with the known facts:

If they were infected with Ebola, why aren't they back in action on the ground?
They could now go there without any protective gear, and give unprotected mouth-to-mouth, with no further risk of contracting Ebola. (They wouldn't do it because of any number of other infection risks, but it makes the greater point.)
Since they aren't back nor champing to try to get back, either their prior commitment is suspect, or their immunity is, and they know the truth of both those things at this point.

If they didn't have Ebola, either they knew that, or they didn't. Either way, the CDC knows the truth.
If they didn't have Ebola, why say they did?

If they didn't have Ebola and knew that, why consent to be evacuated and held for treatment?

I could spin any number of wild suppositions. I won't because that's what Daily Kos and Facebook is for.
But all I know at this point is that the undisputable facts don't add up.
2 + 2 = 9 and 11/3rds.
And it's nagging the hell out of me.

When I couple that lack of coherence of what we know with what we've been told and what we may reasonably and logically assume, with CDC today issuing a "Prepare to Shit Kittens" Warning Order to every hospital in the US, I'm even less comforted.

UPDATE (9/30): I saw Brantly's testimony before Congress today. Based on his description of symptoms, I'm as certain as I can be (without running his bloodwork myself) that he had Ebola. He also noted that he was one of only two doctors in all of Southern Liberia treating Ebola patients when he got sick with it. He further noted that the Ebola wards use the few survivors who recover to help care for the others, because they can do so without needing the foofaraw of all the hazmat gear. Which, given his healthy and robust appearance now, and decided lack of any effort to return, means that he is an Altruism fail: the Ebola equivalent of a liberal who's been mugged.

So when a man who'd travel 8,000 miles to treat strangers doesn't want to go back, ponder the diligence of those here, now, tracking down contacts and caring for victims, now that the CDC guidelines that ensured Ebola could get here, have succeeded in accomplishing precisely that result.

Flick Pick: The Negotiator

The Negotiator
(Warner Bros., 1998)

Superlative action thriller, with Samuel Jackson and Kevin Spacey, both at the top of their craft, in one of the most unlikely screen pairings you're likely to find. Separately, they're awesome, and once Spacey's character is introduced, forty-plus minutes into the movie, and they start playing off of each other, the fireworks really start, occasionally literally. The supporting cast deliver solid performances in every respect as well. By turns funny, suspenseful, and over the top, director F. Gary Gray guides it through twists and turns to a great screen climax, but only after paying off every set up in the movie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Flick Pick: The Mummy

The Mummy
(Universal, 1999)

Originally conceived as a schlocky update of the studio's 1930s classics, they eventually decided to do it as an $80M effects-laden Indiana Jones-style film. And succeeded in making a box-office blockbuster that has fun with the original concept, and makes sure the audience has great fun watching. There's nothing much bleeding-edge artistic or dramatic, just wall to wall non-stop entertainment throughout the movie, which is what audiences are paying for, and something too few studios remember. That was not the case this time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Flick Pick: Hidalgo

(Touchstone, 2004)

Epic swashbuckling adventure fiction, starring Viggo Mortensen, a horse, and the deserts of Arabia in panoramic splendor, with a solid boost from Omar Sharif. If you haven't seen this ever, ignore the carping from people with their panties in a perpetual twist, and watch the movie. Some people know how to write a good story, and  a luckier few get to see them made into movies. John Fusco, author of this screenplay, is both.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flick Pick: Pale Rider

Pale Rider
(Warner Bros.,1985)

A perfect Clint Eastwood western. After the notable flop of Heaven's Gate, ("Hollywood westerns are dead!" example #57) this came out to great reviews and box office success. Both a follow-up to all his Man With No Name westerns, and somewhere between an homage and re-imagining of the classic Shane, Eastwood made no missteps, and the film unwinds flawlessly from beginning to climactic end, with Clint riding off after taking care of business, and the child star of the piece calling after him as he goes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flick Pick: First Blood

First Blood
(Orion, 1982)

The monster that ignited a genre. (Terminator and Die Hard were years away.) Sylvester Stallone in a sequel-prone vehicle, at a time when vets were portrayed as walking PTSD bombs after a long questionable war, and the cops were seen as running roughshod over civil liberties with a casual indifference, because they could.
In other words, a 1982 film ripped from the headlines of 2014.
Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna balance out the testosterone-laced love triangle in this movie, and it's doubtful anyone other than Stallone could have pulled off the lead in this movie, then, anytime since, or ever.
You also have to watch it to notice, but Stallone goes through most of the movie, whole yards of scenery and action, acting while uttering fewer words of dialogue than Marcel Marceau. And pulls it off with an epic verbal meltdown at the end. He mops up the floor when it's Rambo v. cops, then kicks ass when it's Rambo v. Nature, and it's only when he finally has to fight himself that he loses it at both ends.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Flick Pick: Sneakers

(Universal, 1992)

Utterly superb caper dramedy film by Phil Aden Robinson. It showcases every reason why Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier are consummate actors watchable in anything, and the rest of the supporting cast in this are marvelous. Dan Aykroyd as the conspiracy-shopping Mother is a scream, David Strathairn as the blind tech genius is marvelous, Ben Kingsley does a superbly menacing villain, Mary McDonnell delights throughout, River Phoenix shows why the loss of his talent was truly tragic, Stephen Tobolowsky's role as an hyper-nerdy genius was inspired, and the build-up to James Earl Jones' appearance at the conclusion pays off like a progressive slot machine in the final scene. The plot points drop in this like pearls, each one another gift to the audience, and the score by James Horner is hauntingly beautiful, and sparkling with Branford Marsalis sax solos alone worth the ticket price. As a bonus, the entire central theme of the NSA spying on Americans proves to have been prescient beyond belief by a mere two decades.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flick Pick: Heaven Can Wait

Heaven Can Wait
(Paramount, 1978)

Wonderful and perfect tale, itself an artful remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, this time brilliantly co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. Beatty dazzles in every scene, the comedy infusion by Henry, and Elaine May, permeates everything, and the cast was simply marvelous. Jack Warden as the only guy in on the gag was perfection. Julie Christie in her prime is angelic; James Mason is the supervising angel we all hope we get to meet us on the other side, and Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin pull off some of the most screamingly funny comic moments in film history with the skills of burglars, stealing every scene they're in. In all, the movie was nominated for ten Oscars, from Best Picture downwards, every one of them well-deserved, but winning only for Art Direction.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flick Pick: Under Siege

Under Siege
(Warner Bros., 1992)

Great action blockbuster, and the high-water mark of Steven Seagal's career. Good story idea, great execution, and the best two-fer of villains one's likely to ever find, in Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey. Also managed nominations for two Oscars, for Sound and Sound Effects Editing. This movie was one of the biggest box office successes in history when it premiered, and set the template for similar offerings ever since, not to mention being just plain fun to watch.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Flick Pick: Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction
(Miramax, 1994)

A personal guilty pleasure, with everything I'd normally skip, and love to hate (rampant violence, criminality, drug use, language that'd make a sailor blush) but done so damned well it's still unbelievable to watch twenty years later. The original monster independent smash hit, this film is Quentin Tarantino's magnum opus. There isn't one scene in the movie that does not, seemingly effortlessly, become iconic. Made for a relative pittance, $8.5M, guaranteed to break even by an offer of $11M for the foreign distribution rights, Tarantino got his cast members cheap, and put every other penny on the screen. And OMFG did he get it right. The cast is to die for: John Travolta was resurrected from film limbo to megastar, and nominated for Best Actor. Uma Thurman was the instant A-list "It" girl, and garnered a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Samuel Jackson was cemented as the coolest guy ever, and nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Bruce Willis took a high chance on a low salary, and scored huge in points on the $200M+ gross, giving himself a second wind in films after some earlier career disappointments, one that still hasn't stopped. Harvey Keitel was magnificent, stealing and owning the entire scene he was in. Ving Rhames became an instant legend. Tim Roth went from Tim Who? to That Guy overnight. And Christopher Walken demonstrated in one flashback scene why he's not an actor as much as a force of nature. There were also Oscar nominations, seven in all, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing, and it won Oscars for Tarantino and his writing partner Roger Avary for Best Original Screenplay. Emphasis on Original. Before Pulp Fiction, there had been nothing like it. Afterwards, everybody wanted their movie to tap into its vibe, its look, and anything remotely close. Tarantino's genius was multi-faceted, and not least of which is the movie's non-linear style, which forced everybody in the audience to pay attention to every scene, and spend the mental time to pick up the pieces and straighten the order out in their minds. Which locks every one of those scenes in your head long after the projector fades to black. How rare an example is it in American film making? That I would willingly quote from the NYTimes review from it's opening should give you some idea:
"[Tarantino] has come up with a work of such depth, wit and blazing originality that it places him in the front ranks of American film makers." - Janet Maslin
If anything, that's too modest a description for such a cultural watershed work.

Full disclosure: I got to work once on location on another Tarantino film shortly after this one. So yes, he's helped me pay my rent. Helluva nice and down to earth guy for a someone who had a shiny new Oscar sitting on the mantel at home at the time, but the true mark of his cultural status was that at our lunchtime, 50 kids from ages about 9-16 hung around for autographs from the director (which is about as rare as wanting or getting autographs in baseball from the manager) which he graciously signed all of, and had he not begged off, this little swarm of padawans would have followed him around all day long. I've never seen anything like it before or since in Hollywood for a director; that, my friends, is true cinematic rockstardom, and I got to see it with my own eyes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Flick Pick: The Deep

The Deep
(Universal, 1977)

Peter Benchley's other sea adventure novel turned into a hit movie, and again with Robert Shaw (who fares better this time around). Featuring Nick Nolte when he was young, the always enjoyable Jacqueline Bisset, whose t-shirt and bikini scenes sold a lot of tickets, Lou Gossett Jr. as quite the local villain, and Eli Wallach as a rascally little weasel.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Flick Pick: The Guardian

The Guardian
(Touchstone, 2006)

Solid intergenerational buddy pic, well directed by Andrew Davis, showcasing Kevin Costner at his best using understated talent, and with Ashton Kutcher going toe to toe with him and holding up his end. The supporting cast is similarly talent-heavy, and the street cred of using a large number of actual Coastie AST instructor cadre added no small part to the realism of the entire film. So did the serendipitous fact that they were filming this flick in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina struck N'awlins, which put the exact Coast Guard ASTs the movie is about into the starring role of the decade on national and international news for two solid weeks. The critics who've never served painted this as a tired recruiting ad, but audiences disagreed. The movie is nothing so trite, and is in fact a worthwhile effort, ably executed, and genuinely entertaining.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

EBOLA: Simon Sez You Need To Wake The Eff Up

Just a little more sunshine for your fund of How Bad It Really Is:


The hospital in Liberia where three American aid workers got sick with Ebola has been overwhelmed by a surge in patients and doesn't have enough hazard suits and other supplies to keep doctors and nurses safe, a missionary couple told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The latest infection -- of Rick Sacra, a doctor who wasn't even working in the hospital's Ebola unit -- shows just how critical protective gear is to containing the deadly epidemic, and how charities alone can't handle the response, they said.

About 250 staffers at the hospital use thousands of disposable protective suits each week, but that's not enough to fully protect the doctors and nurses who must screen people entering the emergency room or treat patients outside the 50-bed Ebola isolation unit, they said.

"We don't have enough personal protective safety equipment to adequately be able to safely diagnose if a patient has Ebola. So they are putting themselves at risk," David Writebol said.

Sacra, 51, a doctor from suburban Boston who spent 15 years working at the hospital, felt compelled to return despite these challenges. As soon as he heard that Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were sick, Sacra called and said "I'm ready to go," SIM President Bruce Johnson said.

Sacra's job was to deliver babies and care for patients who were not infected with Ebola. He helped write the protocols for handling Ebola, his brother Doug said, and he followed all the protections, said Will Elthick, the group's operations director in Liberia.

But Sacra got infected nonetheless by the virus that has killed more than 1,900 people and sickened 3,500 in five West African nations.

The disease is spreading faster than the response for lack of protective gear and caregivers, said Tom Kenyon of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least $600 million is urgently needed to provide these tools and extra hazard pay so that more doctors and nurses are willing to risk their lives, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Health care workers at other West African hospitals have gone on strike demanding more protections, the Writebols said.

"They see colleagues who have fallen. They don't want that to happen to them. But they are saying, 'I can't go to work safely until there is personal protective equipment available -- the right gear, the right procedures in place. And then, if they don't go to work, are they going to get paid?" David Writebol said.

The Writebols left Charlotte for Africa several years ago; David helped with the hospital's technology while Nancy helped dress and disinfect people entering and leaving the Ebola unit at ELWA, which stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa.

Liberians were already struggling to survive when they got there, but with Ebola it's chaos — the number of patients is surging, finding food and supplies is more costly, schools are closed and people with common injuries or even mothers in childbirth can't get care.

Ebola has "overwhelmed the supply chain," David Writebol said. "They can't get equipment in because there aren't any regular flights coming in. Same thing with aid workers from the international community. There are only a limited number of seats available to come into Liberia. ... That's one of the biggest problems -- getting medicine, protective gear and supplies for health care workers who are there."

Nancy Writebol said people who showed up at the emergency room with symptoms were ushered into triage. But health workers were sometimes exposed as they screened patients who may not have known or advertised that they were carrying the virus.

And sometimes, the sick would leave before finding out if they had Ebola. "Those are the people you really worry about going back into the community, because if they are sick with Ebola, it will ultimately spread," she said.

Sacra immediately got tested for Ebola after coming down with a temperature, and like his colleagues, went into isolation to avoid spreading the virus, his brother Doug Sacra told the AP.
Some other doctors haven't been so rigorous.

The WHO announced today that a doctor in southern Nigeria was exposed by a man who evaded surveillance efforts, and then in turn exposed dozens of others by continuing to treat patients after he became ill. Before he died, his family and church members laid their hands on his body in a healing ritual.

Now his widow and sister are sick and about 60 others in the city of Port Harcourt are under surveillance, the agency said.

Sacra, who left his family at home for this latest trip to Africa, was in good spirits Wednesday and able to send emails, Elthick said. That could mean he's physically well enough to be evacuated.
His wife, Debbie, said in a statement that she's focusing on her husband, but she said "Rick would want me to urge you to remember that there are many people in Liberia who are suffering in this epidemic and others who are not receiving standard health care because clinics and hospitals have been forced to close.

"West Africa is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, and the world needs to respond compassionately and generously," she said.

It's not clear where Sacra would be treated in the U.S. Experts say any fully-equipped hospital that follows safety protocols could prevent an American outbreak while caring for an Ebola patient. But there are four high-level isolation units designed especially to handle dreaded infectious diseases.

The largest is at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which was told to prepare to receive a patient, but they were told the same thing before Brantly and Writebol were evacuated instead to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, medical center spokesman Taylor Wilson said Wednesday.
 The other two units are National Institutes of Health facilities in Maryland and Montana.

So to recap:

* one facility, with but a modest patient capacity, goes through "thousands" of those suits weekly
* the hospitals are out of the suits, routinely, to provide basic protection in order to limit the further spread of the disease and keep staff alive
* the staff at those hospitals are bright enough to say "F--k no!" when asked to work without the suits
* the do-gooders coming in from outside the countries affected aren't that bright
* some staff members, after becoming infected, are becoming Typhoid Marys and actually propagating the spread themselves by wanton indifference to reality
* patients leave before diagnosis and quarantine, guaranteeing further spread indefinitely
* there are a total of four facilities in the entire US capable of properly handling Ebola patients without spreading the disease and making it worse

Which I've far from vaguely hinted at for a few weeks now, despite the "it can't happen here" BS being spewed from the White House, CDC, WHO, and every media jackass in creation.

(BTW, nota bene that the NSC adviser for this crisis, Gayle Smith, is precisely such a medically ignorant media jackass, and Special Adviser To The President, and who has noted that contrary to the requests from actual doctors from Medicins Sans Frontieres, who've been on the scene, and requested bio-incident response teams, Ms. Smith's extensive experience from a lifetime background of journalism school, reporting from African hotels, and poverty pimping on Africa through successive Democrat administrations and multinational boards and such, has led to the recommendation that we ignore the requests of medical professionals, and not risk testing our capabilities by sending our people to the hot zone, but rather just send them more boxes of those disposable suits. Either because our precautions are suspected of being ineffective as well, or because she knows we'll be needing those teams in NYC and Atlanta all too soon, and helping to guarantee that reality by waiting to face the problem until it walks onto our own front porch.

(I can count on the fingers of my third hand the number of times, when some serious question arose, anyone intelligent replied, "Quick, let's get a news reporter to tell us what's really happening."
But the current administration actually puts them in charge of that. What could possibly go wrong?)

But hey, cheer up:
New numbers  are up, as of September 3rd:

3500+ cases, 1900+ deaths

Note the official transition to the "plus" sign, to scientifically indicate "we have no fucking idea anymore", along with the notably sharper-than-expected upward trend of both categories since the tally on 8/26/2014. It's transitioning from an upward curve to a more vertical spike.

If this still isn't on your dashboard of things to consider yet, the next step is when lights start flashing on the instrument panel, and strange noises and smoke begin to emanate from under the hood.

"Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..."

Flick Pick: Mission:Impossible Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
(Paramount, 2011)

Directed by the man who brought you The Incredibles on his live-action feature debut, and with the same panoramic sense of style and action. He created a box-office monster as a result, and provided a stunt-lavish action thriller of epic proportions, as befits the actors, the franchise, and the genre. If anyone can't watch this one, I'd have to question why they watch movies in the first place.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Flick Pick: M:I III

(Paramount, 2006)

Third entry in the Mission:Impossible franchise. Critics had fun dissing it, and everyone had fun taking potshots at Tom Cruise for his off-screen antics, but the movie actually on the screen was a solid action blockbuster, with one of the best plots in the series, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman one of the best screen villains since Hannibal Lecter. Final revenge was at the box office, where all the gas and venomous ink directed at the movie fell into oblivion, and audiences went to watch to the tune of nearly $400M.