Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Boogie Woogie Flu

Mask? Check… Purell? Check… Panic? Check… Okay – you can leave the house now. But, no shaking hands, no kissing, no hugging, no sneezing, and whatever you do – try to refrain from licking any pigs. (Didn’t see that on CNN, I’m just assuming.)

Yes, my friends, it’s upon us – the 10th plague. At least that’s what the cable news folks want us to think. The Swine Flu is back! It’s been a while… I think last time through, it toured with Boston, and Blue Oyster Cult. But this is a different strain – harder to contain, scarier, and infecting more people… Like Amy Winehouse after a bender. This new strain is a viral cocktail comprised of not only swine flu, but human, and bird flu’s as well. What the hell is going on in Mexico anyway? Should someone tell our neighbors to the South that the ‘Speak n Spell’ where you point the arrow to the farm animal and pull the string, is not a talking ‘spin the bottle’ game? Actually, it seems that the most likely origin is one of the biggest factory farms in Mexico. Sure, factory farms heavily contribute to high methane emissions, land degradation, nitrogen pollution of land and water, and now - new diseases… But Oh my God! The meat just falls off the bone!!!

Whatever the cause, can we just calm down a little? What is it about peril, and impending doom that we Americans find so alluring? Simply mention things like ‘new strain’, or ‘pandemic’, or ‘virulent’, and suddenly we all turn into Glum from the Gulliver’s Travels cartoons – you remember that depressed, monotonic, “we’re doooomed… We’re all gonna die”. And the media loves it. The apparent Apocalypse is great for ratings. Of course, they don’t just report the news, which would be that there are only 50 cases in the U.S. – hardly reason to panic. (that’s as I’m writing this – if, when you read it, the world outside looks like NYC at the beginning of ‘I am Legend’, maybe I was wrong). But they go on and on with ‘worst case’ scenarios;

“If the disease were to morph further, causing people to, say, spontaneously expand to 4 times their normal size, those wearing unnatural fabrics, like polyester, could suffocate in their own clothing… And if this were to take place as the sun exploded, there would be little hope for the cotton wearers as well, Tom…”

And why is the media staying away from what’s really going on? It’s really starting to smell of conspiracy… Think about it – Chicken Pox, Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis…. I can’t be the only one to whom it’s painfully obvious that Old MacDonald is the Angel of Death!!!

And how much of the evolution of these diseases is our fault? Antibiotics are over-prescribed by doctors, and misused by us. We’ll sometimes take them to avoid getting sick. Which not only doesn’t work, but over time has helped to breed more resilient bacteria. That’s why we never see Penicillin prescribed anymore. It was the miracle cure for a time, was prescribed for everything, (I think at one time it came in a Popeye Pez dispenser), and now most bacteria is immune to it. There is also the argument that antibacterial soaps may be contributing to different types of bacteria becoming more resilient. We used to wipe the counter with a sponge, now we have the entire CDC in a spray bottle. ‘Out damn spot… Out I say!’ (I know – King Duncan wasn’t bacteria… But I heard he was a fungi).

Look, when it comes right down to it, Swine Flu 09 is an aggressive form of influenza. We’ve all had the flu. It’s not fun… It’s not Leprosy either. Unfortunately, like other strains of the flu, this will be dangerous for the very young, and very old. All we can really do is what we would normally do to avoid catching a cold. Keep your hands washed, try not to get sneezed on, and I already mentioned the ‘licking the pig’ thing. Also, keep in mind – during flu season in the U.S., an average of 40 million people get the flu, resulting in about 35,000 deaths. – That’s every year - But they don’t keep a daily tally for this on cable news. So as we see Swine Flu cases begin to rise… and we will - every day… maybe we can try to keep some perspective, and try not to panic. Oh - If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my custom built, ISO 14644-1 certified, hermetically sealed ‘clean’ bunker, complete with redundant HEPA and ULPA air filtration, and reverse osmosis water purification. By the way, I dictated this blog… keyboards are the petri dishes of the office world.

Good luck everyone…

“A-th-th, a-th-th, a-th-th – That’s all folks!”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

That's Entertainment!

Is the entertainment industry completely out of ideas? From movie remakes to an almost constant barrage of so-called ‘reality’ shows… their incredible lack of creativity is evident at every turn. What ever happened to writing? There is an actual Writer’s Guild, so there must still be writers. No reason to have a guild if not. I’m really not actually sure what a guild is to tell you the truth. Sounds prestigious enough. I wonder if they have a secret handshake, and have to wear a red, tasseled fez to meetings where they take ‘minutes’ and talk about dues and stuff. Can I start a guild I wonder? I could probably join theirs, since I’m doing more writing right now than ‘the guild’ did over the entire Bush Administration. It’s kind of our own fault though. If they put it on TV, we tend to just watch it - whatever it is.

I guess I just don’t see the appeal of the reality show. I live in real life – I don’t want to watch it when I get home. I want revenge fantasies. I want to see the guy in the movie do what I wanted to do to the nit-wit who cut me off in traffic, but couldn’t because I’d go to jail. I want to see Dr House be extraordinarily un-PC in a ridiculously over the top PC world - and get away with it. And I want Jack Bauer to keep having much worse days than I could ever have. Why do I want to see a gaggle of pampered housewives, who want for nothing, and contribute nothing, sit around, whine about their lives and bitch about their husbands… Isn’t that what we have neighbors for?

I don’t care if Brodie Jenner gets a new ‘bro’. I don’t want to see your intervention, or little people buying groceries, or top chefs, top models, cougars, millionaires, bunnies, sextuplets, survivors, racers, or Joan Rivers try to smile. And I’m fairly convinced American Idol represents the unlocking of the 4th seal of the apocalypse. (You know Randy Jackson had to have made some sort of deal with the devil – ‘dog’).

What I’m really annoyed with is what’s going on in the movie industry. I recently sat through ‘the Day the Earth Stood Still’ with Keanu Reeves. I’m a big fan of the original from 1951, and wanted to see what they did to it… Ugh! Just another empty, boring script relying on CGI to get them through. Why? Why do these studios feel the need to mess with the movies we love. Is it ego - the feeling they can ‘do it better’? Or is it purely economics? They’ve already sought to destroy The In-laws, Sabrina, Psycho, Planet of the Apes, and King Kong, just to name a few. And this year alone, the list of remakes slated to be made are Arthur, The Birds, Clash of the Titans, Karate Kid, Footloose, (oy!), The Dirty Dozen, and My Fair Lady. There are actually about 40 others as well.

OK – You may be thinking this is a fairly benign thing to bug me as much as it does, or that I’m a little crazy, or being a little dramatic, or that it takes me too long to return calls, or that I look really good in baseball hats - and that may be true. But I think movies are an art form, like paintings, or songs, or books. A representation of someone’s vision, passion, effort, and sacrifice. You’d never see a picture of a seated, homely woman with a crooked smile, drawn in crayon, and entitled ‘Mona Lisa’, hanging in the Louvre. And while recording artists cover songs all the time, they don’t change the lyrics… Well – P Diddy aside of course.

Look – ranting aside. There’s nothing wrong with a little mindless TV – whatever relaxes you, and helps mark the end of your long day is fine… Hey, one of my favorites is a reality show - Deadliest Catch - and I love South Park... doesn’t get more mindless than that. It just disturbs me that Housewives of Orange County, and Who wants to Marry a Millionaire are now synonymous with American Culture. From the golden age of television, to the magic of Hollywood, America set the standard in film and television entertainment. There is a certain responsibility that comes with that, and I hope that is something we don’t lose sight of.

(I wasn't kidding about 'Idol' - Locusts to follow... Dog!)