What COVID Can Teach Us About Climate Change

We are nearing a million Americans who have lost their life to COVID. It’s one of the leading causes of death in the world, and the level of mortality caused by it is almost certainly undercounted. Despite this, there are still people like Possible Sociopath David Leonhardt who are trying to argue it’s all no big deal. To be fair, no idea if Leonhardt is a sociopath but some of his Tweets and writing are, well, coming off like he has minimal care for his fellow humans and just wants to be able to go to a restaurant without a … Continue reading What COVID Can Teach Us About Climate Change

When Taking Precautions Is A Threat To ‘Freedom’

This is going to go down in history as one very strange period of time. A fairly large portion of the population has, apparently, decided that the COVID pandemic is over. When these people came to this conclusion varies anywhere from two weeks ago to two years ago. I honestly do not know how some of the more recent “the pandemic is over” converts will react if/when there is another variant. Perhaps they will accept going back to mask-wearing, or perhaps they will click their heels three times and pretend that will be protection. Where we go from here is … Continue reading When Taking Precautions Is A Threat To ‘Freedom’

Of Groundhogs, Joe Rogan, And Germ Theory Deniers

This week is Groundhog Day, an annual celebration of German heritage and the folklore that was brought over from the old country and adapted to life in America. The origins of this day can be found in the German holiday of Candlemas, where part of the proceedings was a weather forecasting badger. Once my ancestors arrived in America (my father was the interesting combination of Native American and Pennsylvania German), they switched the forecasting varmint to a groundhog. The tradition continues to this day, and it’s a fun time in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as thousands gather for what is basically a … Continue reading Of Groundhogs, Joe Rogan, And Germ Theory Deniers

‘Don’t Look Up’ Deserves a Look

A climate change metaphor hurtles toward Earth.

Making a political satire in 2021 is one difficult task. How do you make a satirical movie about a reality that is so bizarre right now, if it was a movie plot in any other time period, critics would slam it as ridiculous and over-the-top?

That is the tall order director Adam McKay took on with the latest Movie Everyone Is Talking About, “Don’t Look Up.” McKay’s latest film is a continuation of his trend away from broad satires and toward more dark comedy/drama-type movies such as “The Big Short” and “Vice,” which may have led to his well-publicized breakup with his creative partner, Will Ferrell. So, has McKay succeeded in skewering how our society reacts to serious threats like COVID-19 and climate change?

I would say mostly, he has.

“Don’t Look Up” begins with our intrepid heroes, Dr. Randall Mindy, an astronomy professor played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and one of his graduate students, Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence (smell the Oscar bait already), discovering a new comet, and then calculating its path. As you have probably heard by now, they find out the thing is heading right for us, and it’s really big.

What follows is a trip to the Oval Office, where they are met with apathy by obvious conservative President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep, again, smell the Oscar bait), and her Chief of Staff, who is also her toadie son, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill). Initial attempts to cover up the killer comet fail, which leads to Dr. Mindy and Dibiasky appearing on a breezy morning show to try to warm people, but the hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) are hyper-focused on “keeping it light.”

Dibiasky’s frustration boils over, turning her into a social media meme, and Mindy becomes seduced by fame and Blanchett’s Fox News-esque morning show host. Soon an oddball tech mogul, Peter Isherwell, played by Mark Rylance, becomes involved because of course he does.

Make no mistake, this is one angry movie, perhaps the most pissed movie I’ve seen in a while. There are multiple times where the movie itself seems to possess DiCaprio and Lawrence, when they launch into rants about people not taking an existential threat more seriously, often to great comic effect. There are also scenes in it that seemed to be designed to enrage Rachel Maddow, as various conspiracy theories pop up on the Internet about whether there is even a comet.

This is also a movie that probably couldn’t be made five years ago. There are moments in it, such as a presidential sex scandal, that would be considered absurd prior to Trump. Now they get a “sadly enough, I could see that” type reaction. There are very funny moments, some moments that are not clear whether they are intended to be funny, and moments of deep existential angst. The title itself comes from a conservative slogan championed by the Meryl Streep president, “Don’t Look Up,” which is basically telling the movie wingers to ignore the planet-destroying comet, everything will be fine.

But does it all work?

I will say that there are moments where it feels like the movie is ready to careen off the rails and collapse under its own anger. Streep is really not given much to do other than be a series of right-wing memes, and while she was her usual marvelous self, it feels like her character could have been more. There is an infidelity plot in the film that feels attached and is sort of clumsily handled.

However, I’d best describe the movie as an angry gymnast doing a crazy vault full of spins and twists and somersaults, all while rage-screaming. And then sticking the landing. I feel like the third act of “Don’t Look Up,” is a bit unusual in where often a movie falls apart in the third act, this film ends strong (won’t spoil a pretty wonderful ending except to tell you to stick around until midway through the credits). Also, Hill’s chief of staff/spoiled brat son is obviously an amalgamation of Trump’s spawn but still kind of fun, and, Rylance’s tech guru performance was outstanding. McKay was wise in creating Isherwell as his own sort of weirdo, and not as a Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Must clone. He’s still one of those tech moguls who are so strange that you can’t figure out why people take what they say as a form of gospel.

Blanchett and Perry are solid as representations of a rather heinous aspect of our society that I refer to as Toxic Positivity. The two happy-happy morning hosts drive our heroes insane by making jokes and focusing on “positive things” while they are trying to warn people of our Earth’s imminent demise. Toxic Positivity takes many forms, such as those concern trolls who hector civil rights activists for being “divisive” or shout down people warning of imminent dangers as “focusing on the negative,” and the movie works well here mocking those tendencies.

Continue reading “‘Don’t Look Up’ Deserves a Look”

Today on Tommy T’s obsession with random ruminations – “Big Pharma doesn’t cure” edition

“Big pharma doesn’t cure….” I’m sick of people saying that “Big Pharma doesn’t cure diseases”. Cures are few and far between (the most recent cure is the one for Hepatitis),because once the damage is done, it’s done. It’s a little like saying that regular oil changes don’t fix a cracked engine block – of course they won’t, but they might have PREVENTED the hung valve that broke the engine block. The Eliquis I take keeps me from having multiple AFIB-generated strokes like the ones that struck down my Mom and destroyed her brain, (and the ones that paralyzed her Mom … Continue reading Today on Tommy T’s obsession with random ruminations – “Big Pharma doesn’t cure” edition

For The Rain It Raineth

Rain Clouds Approaching

There’s a storm coming.

The rainclouds are gathering and the word on the wire is to batten down the hatches and prepare for four days of deluge.

Here in NorCal, we couldn’t be happier.

I know in many areas of the country a warning of four days of rain will bring reactions ranging from ho-hum what else is new to not again make it stop. But here it only elicits smiles, happiness, and even a little dancing in the streets.

You always welcome that which you haven’t seen in so long.

And we haven’t seen significant rain for several years now. In the midst of pandemic, social upheaval, elections and claims of election fraud, through the Trump years and into the Biden years, the one constant has been that we have not had rain. Reservoirs are at lows never seen before. Lake Tahoe’s water level is so low boats are marooned in mud while algae rots their hulls. Trees are dying at such a rapid rate they can’t be chopped down fast enough to prevent them from becoming fuel for this week’s wildfire.

In fact wildfires have become so common now we’ve taken to naming them just like hurricanes. If only the hurricanes and the wildfires were just baseball team names. On a recent wine tour, the bus driver and I got into an argument over which fire caused the damage we were driving our group through. So many of them we can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

One of the big promises of this weather system is that there will be enough rain to put out all fires on the west coast. Now that’s the kind of rain I can get behind. We’re even ready for the probability of mudslides. During the drought California has been diligently shoring up problematic landscapes, especially the ones alongside our major highways. What can I say, we think ahead. Not all of the projects have been finished, but enough so that it appears (hopefully) when the rains come this week we will not have traded one problem for another.

So we have rain coming and the possibility that all wildfires will be put out. All is rosy once again in the Golden State.

Eh, no.

You see, we here in the land of baseball playoff games beginning in twilight like to be proactive about problems. We try to face them head on instead of running and hiding and hoping someone, anyone, else will fix them. That’s why we elect Democrats to leadership roles both in the state and in Congress. We also believe in science and in the scientists who actually do the science. Had we not the death rate from COVID would have been in the millions. At last check we were holding at 7 deaths per 100,000. Compare that with Louisiana where the rate is 17 per 100,000 or West Virginia where it’s 42 per 100,000.

And it’s that belief in science, in that refusal to allow politicians and media outlets to “but on the other hand” us that gives rise to our current concern over climate change. We understand that one state can’t stop climate change. The weather doesn’t recognize political boundaries, only people do.

And lately people have been disappointing us left and right.

Continue reading “For The Rain It Raineth”

Some Assembly Required

Sears Home Kit Ad

Once upon a time you could buy a home and have it shipped to you.

Some assembly required.

Sears Roebuck and Company, the Amazon of it’s time, sold everything. At first they sold everything via their catalog, everything shipped via the US Mail and the Wells Fargo Wagon. Later they opened those stores so many of us will forever associate with the smell of fresh popcorn, an aroma artfully aimed to draw in passersby who might otherwise wander into the Montgomery Wards.

They didn’t call Richard Sears a marketing genius for nothing.

After years of selling all the stuff to stuff into a house, Sears decided well why not just sell them the house as well? At the height of their popularity, Sears offered almost 400 different styles of homes all ready to assemble. All you had to do was select the model, send in the money, then wait for the railcar to appear down by the train depot and start hauling out the precut, fully numbered, ready to assemble components along with the building instructions. With no skills at all you could have your new home ready to occupy in as little as 90 days.

And you complain about putting a bookcase from Ikea together. Wimp.

In one of the first of the 75 pages or so of the instruction manual was a warning to follow the directions given to the letter. Don’t succumb to the professional carpenter who happens to wander past your home site and sniff “That ain’t the way I’d do it”. No, why should you listen to a professional who has spent his entire life building homes when you have an instruction manual that details how to build THIS house.

And you were wondering where all of this was headed.

This notion that anyone can do anything a professional can do and obtain the same, if not better, results has been around since the dawn of time. But the internet has made it even more pervasive. It’s moved beyond putting your own house together to being your own information gatherer, transportation specialist, accommodations guru, and even research scientist and/or medical professional. I mean why should you employ a travel agent who spends her day researching all options for your only two weeks of vacation in the year when you can spend all day trying to navigate Kayak just to find the worst hotel in all of Hilo (“but it’s such a bargain!”). And by the way, you don’t pay the travel agent, the best hotel at the best price in Hilo would pay her.

Travel is the least of the problem.

The worst of the problem isn’t even the yahoos who spend a couple of hours reading online forum posts about how “COVID isn’t real” or “Trump won the 2020 election” or “Biden was secretly replaced with a lizard alien shape shifter” and then yell and scream about it so much that you, me, all of us have to spend time shouting him down. I got news for you, COVID is real, Trump lost, and Biden was replaced with Jim Carrey not a lizard alien. OK, that last one isn’t true. Maybe.

Continue reading “Some Assembly Required”

Saturday Odds & Sods: Sail On, Sailor

Fishing Boats by Georges Braque.

My birthday was last Thursday. We celebrated by going to Brigtsen’s a great restaurant in Uptown New Orleans. It was my first time eating out with a mask mandate in place and only my third time in an eatery since the lockdown. It was kind of weird but so am I.

As a result of the weeklong festivities, this edition of Saturday Odds & Sods will be somewhat truncated. Pity that I’m not a show biz kid so I can’t make this pun: “born in a truncated.” I guess I just did…

Cubist artist Georges Braque may not be synonymous with summer, but the Beach Boys are. This week’s theme song was written by Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and two dudes I’ve never heard of for the Beach Boys 1973 album Holland. It’s nautical yet somehow still naughty or some such shit.

We have three versions of Sail On, Sailor for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Ray Charles with the Beach Boys live, and Los Lobos from their new album of California songs, Native Sons.

Now that we’ve sailed the ocean blue but not in 1492, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: Sail On, Sailor”

Why Is Miss Universe Always From Earth?

A lot of us are feeling a lot of anticipation right now—for those who have not yet been jabbed it’s the anticipation of that jab and how your body will react to it (my first Moderna shot elicited a slight headache and the second some pretty bad fatigue and muscle aches for about 10 hours, but so worth it), the semi-jabbed anticipate the next jab, and the fully-jabbed anticipate returning to the larger world. I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and resuming the things that bring me joy:  volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, singing with … Continue reading Why Is Miss Universe Always From Earth?

The Perseverance of Science

    NASA has released video of Perseverance landing on Mars. I have to admit, watching it makes me a little verklempt (it’s Yiddish, look it up). I am of the the generation that grew up with the Space Race. I remember TVs being wheeled into elementary school classrooms so we could watch the Mercury, then Gemini, then Apollo rockets lift the men with the Right Stuff off into the wild blue yonder. There was a time when I could name all the Astronauts, the names of their ships (capsules), and what their particular missions accomplished in the contest to … Continue reading The Perseverance of Science

Texas to Florida: Hold m’ Beer, Watch This

This whole COVID vaccine mishigas (per the Chief I’m trying to use more Yiddish) is getting so as you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Above you see Dr. Hasan Gokal of Houston, TX. Until recently he was the medical director for Harris County’s Covid-response team. In that capacity he was put in charge of getting those precious cc’s of vaccine into the arms of local citizens. On Dec. 29, a mild Tuesday, Dr. Gokal arrived before dawn at a park in the Houston suburb of Humble to supervise a vaccination event intended mostly for emergency workers. … Continue reading Texas to Florida: Hold m’ Beer, Watch This

Saturday Odds & Sods: Time To Kill

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins.

This week’s featured image is one of the most famous American paintings of the 19th Century. I’ve posted it to honor all the medical professionals who are fighting the good fight against COVID-19 but who wear masks and gloves unlike Dr. Gross and his cohort. Thanks, y’all.

I prefer to keep this weekly feature light but it’s hard to do in these tough times. The second act is kind of heavy, but the jokes return in our third act. Laughs are precious right now when fear is abroad in the world and our government in the hands of an evil clown, President* Pennywise. Oy just oy.

At the risk of being a pest, a reminder to support Chef’s Brigade NOLA for all the reasons set forth in this post. Thanks again, y’all.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson in 1970 for The Band’s third album Stage Fright. It’s a joyful tune with a somewhat dark lyrical subtext.

We have two versions of Time To Kill for your listening pleasure:  the Todd Rundgren produced studio original and a live version from the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen: a 1973 festival starring The Band, The Dead, and the Allman Brothers Band.

The title certainly resonates in our era:, we all have time to kill. One of my mottos as a blogger is: When in doubt, post a Kinks song:

Now that we’ve killed time, let’s jump to the break. It won’t kill you.

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: Time To Kill”

It’s A Mystery

This is a lot of words about why “we” don’t believe in science anymore just to NOT say “Republicans:”  We are abandoning our last greatest hope and assuming enormous risk when our policy makers stand at odds with science without any rational foundation for their dissent. The U.S. has long led the world in scientific discovery and putting science into practice to advance human health, energy, agriculture and food safety. Yet, now, amidst impending crisis, are we to deny our own strength and step back from leadership? I mean … I can’t imagine why one political party in one country … Continue reading It’s A Mystery

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Can’t Stand The Rain

Landscape in the Rain by Vincent Van Gogh.

It was the week from hell in New Orleans. There turned out to be much more human error involved in the flood I wrote about Monday. It has led to an orgy of recrimination and paranoia. The bottom line is that the city’s pumping system is in poor shape at the peak of hurricane season. It makes me glad to live in the so-called sliver by the river but it still bites the big one.

Mayor Landrieu has been re-enacting my Russell Long meme:

Comparisons to Katrina and the Federal Flood remain overwrought but things should not have gotten as bad as they did. It was also my birthday and in the future the August 5th flash flood will join the list of local flood dates. Heckuva job, Mitch. Btw, your fantasies of a presidential bid are underwater, both literally and figuratively.

This week’s theme song was an easy choice since I live in a city with marginally functional drainage as of this writing. I Can’t Stand The Rain was written by Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, and Bernie Miller. It was a big hit in 1973 and could be the theme song not only of this post but of the city of New Orleans in the summer of 2017. Heckuva job, Mitch.

Here are two versions of this superb song: the Ann Peebles original and a live version from the great Paul Rodgers. Rodgers recorded the song in Memphis for his Royal Sessions album. It was one of my birthday albums. It’s a good ‘un.

I’m feeling terse and not particularly funny as I write this on Friday morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extraordinarily bad customer service this week and I’m still fuming as you can see from this tweet:

The post was already assembled so I’ll play hurt as it were. We’ll see how that works out after the break. At least I’m not concussed…

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: I Can’t Stand The Rain”

Studying the Universe from the Outside

Boss lady:  Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime—almost a century ago. But until recently there was no way to observe them. But thanks to the work of Dr. Nergis Mavalvala and her colleagues at MIT, Einstein’s theory is now a proven phenomenon. Last week, the ultrasensitive telescope her team built detected gravitational waves for the first time, created from the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion years ago. [snip] “Theoretically a consequence of violent cosmic events—the collisions of black holes, the explosive deaths of stars, or even the big bang—gravitational waves could provide a … Continue reading Studying the Universe from the Outside

We Don’t Believe Women Get Sick, Not Really

There’s pretty much nothing that can’t be solved by the hysterical bitches just calming down a little and maybe admitting it’s all in their heads:  “That to me felt like this deeply personal and deeply upsetting embodiment of what was at stake,” she said. “Not just on the side of the medical establishment—where female pain might be perceived as constructed or exaggerated—but on the side of the woman herself: My friend has been reckoning in a sustained way about her own fears about coming across as melodramatic.” “Female pain might be perceived as constructed or exaggerated”: We saw this from … Continue reading We Don’t Believe Women Get Sick, Not Really

Knee Jerk Nuke Jerks

The Republican freak out over the Obama-Kerry-Moniz nuclear agreement with Iran is in full fury. They don’t know what they’re for but they’re against anything proposed by this administration.  It’s called a knee jerk reaction hence the post title. The knee jerk nuke jerks have a beef with the proposal. They are convinced that doing what we’ve been doing for years will suddenly work as if by magic. It’s very much like their reaction to recent changes in Cuba policy. Give the sanctions a chance to work say Marco Rubio, man of the future, and his ilk. And they call … Continue reading Knee Jerk Nuke Jerks