October 18th, 2014


My Happy Place

At some point I should post my entire Happy Songs playlist from Amazon. Not all truly happy, happy songs, but they make me smile. I started this when I got home from the hospital a year ago and decided to put some things on my Kindle Fire HD.

Right now there are 44 songs -- over three hours. And I've three hours between classes, so sometimes I use it to time my office hours. Sometimes I put it on random.

Of course I didn't have to fork money over to get all these MP3s. The first songs came from some credits I got with the Kindle and a few of the paid programs -- what the kids these days call apps. And then one day I discovered I didn't have a dozen songs, but hundreds. Amazon linked up MP3s of many of the albums I'd bought over the years. Sure, Amazon may yet be an evil force in the world, but they do make life easy. (sad-evil-grin)

Tonight I decided to add the two great Miami Vice anthems from Phil Collins and Glen Frey. I'd already made a note to add The Pet Shop Boys / West End Girls, and while that was playing, 43rd on the playlist, I knew instantly what #44 had to be. One Night in Bangkok from the amazing Chess.

Alright, enough nickel and diming for a while!

I've actually seen Chess staged. They did it at the Frauenhall Theatre in Muskegon. I contacted a friend who was obsessed with Chess and they came down for the spectacular show. One Night in Bangkok was banned in Thailand, but it is a clever and quick song. And by Jove, it pairs sweetly with West End Girls.

And that's all you need to know about the magic of playlists.

Before the Kindle, I was an album man...

Dr. Phil
  • Current Music
    Bangles / Hazy Shade of Winter


So... the United States is going Ebola crazy.

Not because thousands have died in Africa. Not because tens of thousands have contracted Ebola in Africa.

No. All because we've had a couple of cases in the United States. Two hands worth of fingers is more than enough. A couple we brought here to treat. One guy brought it with him on a plane. He infected a couple of hospital workers. That's the thing. To get Ebola you have to go to where it is and then directly have contact with bodily fluids from someone showing symptoms. That's it.

I've been a "fan" of the filoviruses, as if one can Like something awful, for a long time. Marburg surfaced in 1967 -- Ebola in 1976. I was in college when I first heard about these hemorrhagic diseases. The worst strains of Ebola zaire have over a 90% mortality rate, kill in like two weeks and burn through a few villages in a relatively short time.

This strain isn't as lethal and struck in higher density populations with better access to hospitals than usual. That's why the numbers are so high -- it doesn't burn out so fast.

Of course facts aren't the strong suit of many Americans these days. Like I said the other day -- these blog posts are as much for me as to put my thoughts out there. I'm unlikely to cause any tectonic shifts in American politics or science literacy -- I'm sad about the latter.

Anyway, we've had three, count 'em THREE big Ebola news scares here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's right. Grand. Rapids. Michigan. Not Dallas, not Atlanta. Grand Rapids.

First there was word about a patient who Spectrum put into isolation. He was in Africa! Sure, maybe a thousand miles from the outbreak and offshore on an island, but... Must be Ebola! No, actually it was another hemorrhagic fever. I know better, but the comments on that story on Mlive were frothy all over the place. Funny, not one commenter asked, "Huh? There are other hemorrhagic fevers?"

Then there was a news item that said Grand Rapids WASN'T READY FOR AN EBOLA EPIDEMIC. Huh, you think so, Sparky? I don't think any city in the United States is ready for an Ebola epidemic. We've half a dozen cases. One death.

Oh, and this one male nurse brought here to be treated has been discharged and is going back to West Africa to help out. I mean, he's already had Ebola.

But tonight... big scare at Kent County Gerald R. Ford International Airport. A flight of 44 people from Dallas was parked off to the side. There were ambulances. Ebola! From Texas! Send the plane back! Don't let them get off. Burn them! Shoot the plane down! Nuke them from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure! ***

Turns out it was a group -- family? -- of five? -- all had colds. Coughing, sneezing, feeling bad. You know, a cold. But the flight crew decided to put them on oxygen masks. That upset the passengers, because EBOLA!

Now I'll grant that Grand Rapids has a fair share of people doing missionary work, so working in the target zone isn't impossible. But I'd guess that right now in the United States there'll be over a million times more people who are going to get the flu than have Ebola. And many of these people, eager to fight Ebola in our streets, haven't and likely won't have gotten flu shots.

As for the government. Sigh. Close the borders with Mexico! Bomb and burn those parts of foreign countries with Ebola! Complain that President Obama hasn't done enough. Or has an evil secret plan. He hasn't appointed an Ebola Czar! Despite holding up the nomination of the Surgeon General, cutting the budget at CDC and spending weeks of hearings grilling CDC execs in DC, rather than let them work in Georgia. And then complain he's overreaching when he does appoint someone to look over the Ebola response. Sigh.

Ebola seems to cause dementia. From afar. Without direct exposure.

Dr. Phil

*** It amuses me no end that this line from Aliens gets used on these pages enough, that the next word in the sentence is in the offered word list on the Kindle...

Massive Crumbling Concrete

Sunday is the anniversary of getting home from the hospital last year. We are "celebrating" with a movie and a Crust 54 pizza -- 12" Chicago stuffed, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, fresh garlic, green peppers -- and tomorrow, Country Captain chicken curry. Yum.

After the movie, we had just gotten to the D&W grocery store, when I heard the siren song of a train. So after I dropped off Mrs. Dr. Phil -- I drove over to the Wesco gas station by the railroad tracks. No train coming up the cutoff. Was I hearing the horn from over by the mainline? Looked the other way -- headlights a coming. 4:40pm.

I had the Nikon F3 with the 28-200mm f3.5-5.6D AF-NIKKOR all-in-One lens. Squeezed off one frame, then set up the hero shot, crossing the grade crossing and... nuthin'.

Dammit -- I am so spoiled by digital and autofocus and built in motors. Can't do anything about the former, will have to use that focusing aid and film has to wait for developing, but dammit. I spent twenty years loving my F3's and the smoothest easiest film advance -- as much as I wanted one, I never had to spend the $400+ on a motor drive. Now? Now I need to comb eBay and get a decent $50-$80 MD-4 motor drive. Because I keep missing shots. Plus it'll balance better with the longer zoom lenses.

Lesson learned. If I'm out with a film camera cruising, I'll take the F4s, or at least the N2020. Save the F3 for less action until I motorized it, and make it a pro camera circa 1981...

The Maze Runner [PG-13]
Holland 8 Theatre #7 2:00pm 2x$6.49

Oh great. Another YA dystopia series I need to read.

This opened the other week, but this was the first weekend we had free for a movie. The trailer looked great, but I hadn't heard any buzz and we hadn't read the series. So l bopped over to Locus Online for their review. Promising. And I was warned there are differences with the book.

You wake up in a metal cage rising up a deep subterranean elevator shaft. Shades of entering the arena in Hunger Games, except there's cargo and you have no idea where you are or what is going on. Of course what is going on is some sort of evil cross of Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games and some massive open air prison surrounded by a massive maze. The maze closes at night and no one left inside has ever come back. At night the maze changes. And you hear these mysterious monsters inside.

Oh fun.

Actually, for all the confusion, the boys have organized themselves. They are given supplies and a new boy once a month. The actors are all terrific -- and diverse. We think we've seen all these stereotypes before, but it isn't so formulaic, not so cut and dried. The boy we think is the enemy, he actually seems to be trying to hold things together... Or not?

The maze is a Thing all to itself. Imagine half a hundred graving docks smashed together, solid, concrete, towering, mobile, crumbling, rusting. This place is a multibillion dollar construction project -- but by whom and for what reason?

If that's not confusing enough, the elevator cage comes up after only a few days bearing a girl. Things are changing and no one knows why.

You know there's a connection between our hero and the girl. You know he's destined to run the maze, stay overnight, fight the monsters and make it out alive. But they have surprises for us at every turn. Things are not only not what they seem, but wildly so. The end the boys and girl are hoping for is not the one they get. On the face of it, fans of The Hunger Games might say their series is about a revolution, as is Divergent. But there's some serious roots here, and what fruit it might bear in the sequels, I cannot say. So far, well-played.

We loved the look and the sound. There are so many questions and I might speculate on some answers, but that involves details, so I might post some spoilery comments another time. But the final aerial view of the Maze raises more questions than it answers.

As we left, the young man cleaning asked what we saw. Maze Runner? Yeah, we haven't read the trilogy. Oh, there's a fourth book, actually a prequel -- read it last. Okay.

Mrs. Dr. Phil just ordered the boxed four-book trilogies for The Giver and The Maze Runner -- our Fall and Christmas reading programs are set.

We can't speak to whether the film does justice to the books. But on its own The Maze Runner is a great end-of-the-summer good looking entertainment.

Highly Recommended

Trailers: Nightcrawler has Jake Gyllenhaal becoming a rogue last night news chaser, Rene Russo works for a local affiliate and wants If It Bleeds It Leads -- what could possibly go wrong? Madagascar's The Penguins get their own movie... as super spies. If you're a fan of the silly animated series, it'll be fun. Interstellar, opening in TWO WEEKS on 7 November, has a new trailer and it looks gorgeous. Regular or IMAX? Hard to call right now. Might just see it in Holland and avoid the crowds. Right now, with my leg, the most comfortable seats in the IMAX theatre are in Row 1... Some Dreadful Horror Movie Whose Names Escapes Me means Halloween is around the corner. Exodus: Gods and Kings -- okay, with this trailer, I am officially intrigued with Ridley Scott's take on The Ten Commandments. It's been remade several times and the Cecil B. DeMille version with Charleton Heston and Yul Brenner is superb, but a little long in the tooth and heavy handed all these decades later. It looks good, much better than Noah looked, at least in terms of trailers.

UPDATE: The horror flick is Ouigi, featuring a... wait for it... Ouigi board. Luigi board sales may be up for Christmas. Or not. There was another trailer, for a high school football player blinded in an accident and his improbable recovery, including getting back on the team.

Dr. Phil
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