Friday, March 27, 2020

What's After Lockdown? Imagining a New Post-Covid19 Lockdown Normal

Roboseyo! Are you blogging again?


Here's the thing I wrote about how South Korea flattened the curve.


USA just had 3.2 million people file for unemployment in a week. USA also just blew past China to take the world lead in Covid 19/ ChinaVirus TrumpVirus infections.

Meanwhile, US politicians are starting to float the idea that maybe a few hundred thousand deaths is just the price you have to pay to keep the economy chugging. (Seriously, fuck those guys.) That idea -- the "herd immunity" idea Boris Johnson floated in the UK is inhumane, and anybody who promotes it should have to pick which 20% of their parents (or beloved elderly relatives, friends or mentors over 70) "gets" to die to save the economy, and then sit at their bedsides.

THIS IS YOUR FUCKING PLAN? Holy shit I'm mad.

But... something's gotta give, right? You can't just lock down for eighteen months.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

How Korea Flattened The Curve (So Far)

Might be time to revive Mr Rogers week.



A friend, who is a paramedic (and you think your job is stressful) asked me how I think South Korea flattened the CoronaVirus curve, so I wrote this for her. I figured I'd share it because hey, why not? These are thoughts I've had spread out over a number of Facebook comments and things, but seems like a good time to get them all in one place. There are places where I paint with a very broad brush here. Deal with it.

Also... this one ended a little bleakly, so in a follow-up blog, I wrote about what a post-lockdown world might look like, and what leaders should be doing during lockdown, so that they don't just get a repeat of exponential infection once lockdown ends.


Hi [redacted awesome person's name], you have asked me to talk about how Korea flattened the curve, and which actions South Korea took that I think contributed to that. I'm doing this with voice to text, so forgive me if there are weird voice recognition errors.

First, let's be clear, I think South Korea is not out of the woods yet. South Korea's big climb in infections was mostly from one super spreader in a city called Daegu. She went to a mass church service, and declined to get tested for covid-19, and was just generally reckless. At one point 80% of all the covid-19 cases in South Korea could be traced directly to this one woman. Google “patient 31”  to learn more about her if you want. The number of cases in Seoul has been pretty steady rather than climbing exponentially, but also not decreasing.

A Close to home Warning

Monday, March 23, 2020

CoronaVirus CoVideo Bonanza Side Quest: SOCIAL DISTANCING MOVIES

Hey there friends.

Source
Feeling a little cooped up? Self-quarantine and voluntary isolation getting you down? Climbing the walls like a capillary action food-coloring and paper science experiment... gone wrong?

Well, self-isolation is getting to me, too. So I'm taking a short break from my CoVideo Plague Film Bonanza for a mini-side quest to mention movies about... isolation! Ever been locked in a room, not knowing when you'd get out? Ever reached the limits of what you could do in your confined space, but you don't know when it'll be OK to leave? Ever hear people say things like "We might have to do 18 months of social distancing until there's a vaccine" and thought "Oh crap. I'm losing my grip already after twenty days!" This one's for you (and me), before we all start seeing ants.



For all the weirdos like myself, who deal with the anxiety of living in a time of plague by watching plague films, maybe you also cope with isolation and quarantine by watching movies about isolation, confinement and claustrophobia. In case that's you, here are some films about isolation and claustrophobia. I'm not going to watch new films for this because it's only a sidequest to my Plague Film Bonanza, and be warned that things are a little spoilery, but while my discussion of the film might require me to reveal that there's a twist (in order to talk about whether it was well done), I'll try not to give away what the twist is, exactly. Here are a few social distancing films I've seen, and I welcome your suggestions for further viewing in the comments.

Here is the rest of the CoVideo Corner plague film series.


Now on to the list!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

CoronaVirus CoVidEo Corner: Plague Film Bonanza: Part 3

To Recap:

Weirdo that I am, I'm commemorating the CoVid19 lockdown by watching plague movies, and because I love you, dear reader, I'm writing them up for you, and I'll end the series with a nice best-of countdown!

To sum up the ground rules:

Qualifying:
It has to be a film. There might be some great plague TV series' out there, but I have a kid: binge watching six TV series that are too scary to share with my kid is off the table.

The film has to be about a plague or viral infection. That is, the film has to put significant attention on what the infectious agent is, how it spreads or works, and what can be done about the infection. If the response is "we need to hide from/escape/kill the monster" it's not really a plague film: it's a monster movie. If the response is "we can beat this if we discover and exploit a weakness in how the virus spreads" then it's a plague film. (So, World War Z: yes; Dawn of the Dead: no.) There's a little wiggle room here, and I'll be making some calls, 'cause it's my blog.

Scoring:
Films that fail to hold my attention get a DNF (Did Not Finish) and no score (that would be unfair).

Films that hold my attention are scored on four dimensions:
Frightening (is it the kind of scary that builds up, and stays with you afterward? Suspense and atmosphere, anxiety generated and that lingering feeling of dread get points here.)
Scary (is it the kind of scary that makes you jump in your seat, or wish you'd eaten a smaller lunch? Surprises and gross-outs get points in this category.)
Plausible (does the plague, and people's response to it, seem realistic, as if it could possibly happen?)
Awesome (is it a good movie? Does it hit its marks?)
Each of these dimensions will be scored out of five.
Finally, for bonus demerits/points:
"But wait, there's more!" stinger - does the film end by hinting that the infection is on its way to a sequel new location? You know...the montage where the contaminated water ends up at a bottling factory, or an infected street cat escapes the exterminator and heads into the Lincoln Tunnel toward the mainland while ominous music plays? Those are cheesy, and I will be docking points for them, depending on the amount of cheesiness.

It's unlikely that any film will get a 20/20 on this scale, because frightening, scary and plausible are usually a trade-off: films that make me jump like a cat usually don't also make me fear door handles, and a film that does both probably asks for a big suspension of disbelief, losing points in the plausibility category.

Back to Part 1
(Carriers (2009)

Deranged (연가시) (2012)
Patient Zero (2018)
Outbreak (1995)
The Bay (2012)
Perfect Sense (2011)

Back to Part 2
감기 (The Flu)
Black Death
Pontypool
Extinction: The GMO Chronicles
괴물 (The Host)
Viral (2016)
The Girl With All the Gifts

Coming Up in this Review:
And The Band Played On (1993)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Cabin Fever (2002)
Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011-2017)
World War Z (2013)
Contagion (2011)

CoVideo Corner sidebar: Social Distancing Edition:
This post discusses a set of films about claustrophobia, isolation, boredom and helplessness: the feelings we're all feeling during our stay-at-home quarantines and self-isolation.


Click to read the reviews!

Monday, March 02, 2020

CoronaVirus CoVidEo Corner: Plague Film Bonanza: Part 2

To Recap:

Weirdo that I am, I'm commemorating the CoVid19 lockdown by watching plague movies, and because I love you, I'm writing them up for you, readers, and I'll end the series with a nice best-of countdown!

To sum up the ground rules:

Qualifying:
It has to be a film. There might be some great plague television out there, but I have a kid: binge watching six TV series that are too scary to share with my kid this week is off the table.

The film has to be about a plague or viral infection. That is, the film has to put significant attention on what the infectious agent is, how it spreads or works, and what can be done about the infection. If the response is "we need to hide from/kill all the zombies" it's not really a plague film: it's a zombie film. If the response is "we can beat this if we discover and exploit a weakness in how the virus spreads" then it's a plague film. (So, World War Z: yes; Dawn of the Dead: no.) There's a little wiggle room here, and I'll be making some calls. Deal with it.

Scoring:
Films that fail to hold my attention get a DNF (Did Not Finish)

Films that hold my attention are scored on four dimensions:
Frightening (is it the kind of scary that's moody, builds up, and stays with you afterward?)
Scary (is it the kind of scary that makes you jump in your seat, or wish you'd eaten a smaller lunch? Surprises and gross-outs get points in this category.)
Plausible (does the plague, and people's response to it, seem realistic, as if it could possibly happen?)
Awesome (is it a good movie? Does it hit its marks?)
Each of these dimensions will be scored out of five.
Finally, for bonus demerits/points:
"But wait, there's more!" stinger - does the film end by hinting that the infection is on its way to a sequel new location? You know...the montage where the contaminated water ends up at a bottling factory while ominous music plays? Yah those are cheesy, and I will be docking points for them, depending on the amount of cheesiness.

It's unlikely that any film will get a 20/20 on this scale, because frightening, scary and plausible are usually a trade-off: films that make me jump like a cat usually don't also make me fear door handles, and a film that does both probably asks for a big suspension of disbelief in the plausibility category.

Go Back to Part 1 
Films reviewed:
(Carriers (2009)

Deranged (연가시) (2012)
Patient Zero (2018)
Outbreak (1995)
The Bay (2012)
Perfect Sense (2011)


Coming Up in this Post:
감기 (The Flu)
Black Death
Pontypool
Extinction: The GMO Chronicles
괴물 (The Host)
Viral (2016)
The Girl With All the Gifts

Skip to Part 3
Films reviewed:
And The Band Played On (1993)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Cabin Fever (2002)
Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011-2017)
World War Z (2013)
Contagion (2011)

CoVideo Corner sidebar: Social Distancing Edition:
This post discusses a set of films about claustrophobia, isolation, boredom and helplessness: the feelings we're all feeling during our stay-at-home quarantines and self-isolation.


Buckle up!

Friday, February 28, 2020

CoronaVirus Special: The CoVidEo Plague Film Bonanza: Part 1

Well I'm a bit weird, I guess. While most people respond to an epidemic scare like CoViD 19 by buying facemasks and hand sanitizer, and adjusting their weekend plans, I went and found every movie about infectious diseases I could and have been watching them one by one. If you're housebound anyway, why not pass the time scaring the crap out of yourself, right?

Now, I'm writing mini-reviews of some classic, less-than-classic, and absolute garbage plague films, and after the summaries, I'll finish off with a big ol' countdown from worst to best... so stay tuned!

Also, if you have a suggestion for a film I should include, please mention it in the comments!

Now not every film I mention will get a score. A few films just couldn't hold my attention all the way through. If a film was so dull, poorly made, or clicheed I ended up skipping to the "good parts" it gets DNF (Did Not Finish). I tried. Also, some films that seem to be plague films actually aren't. I have to use some discretion in the margins here, but sometimes a film that seems to be about a plague actually isn't. For example: if the vial of plague in Mission: Impossible 2 were replaced with a computer chip, or a piece of microfilm, the rest of the film basically wouldn't change. Mission: Impossible 2 is a MacGuffin chase, not really a plague film. A lot of the plot of World War Z is about Brad Pitt trying to figure out how the zombie virus works, and that focus of attention makes it a plague film, while Dawn Of The Dead is more about people hiding from zombies and less about the workings of the virus, so it's off the list.

A good pestilence film is scary, but any connoisseur of scary films can tell you there are two kinds of scare. One is like oatmeal: it sticks to your ribs, and hours later you're still full. Days after a scare like this, you're still checking the closet, adding locks to your doors, and changing your passwords. These scares are often a slow burn, and they spend a long time building that feeling of dread before finally paying off and messing you up. It Follows, Fulci's Zombi, Paranormal Activity and We Need to Talk About Kevin are like this. The other type of scare, the jump scare, is like wasabi: it sure is intense, but five seconds later, its impact has dissipated entirely. For sudden noises and things jumping out of the closet, films like Drag Me To Hell, It 2017, The Grudge, Final Destination and most slasher movies are examples. The best scary movies do both (The Shining, The Thing, The Ring, It FollowsA Quiet Place). Personally, I prefer the first type, but I'm easy.

Scoring: Of course I need a scoring system.
Frightening (how scary is it the first way - the creepy, willies, "I'm never leaving the house without hand sanitizer again" way?) (Scored out of five)
Scary (how scary is it the second way) (Scored out of five)
Plausible (Does the film make me believe this could actually happen? Does it make sense and at least have some modicum of logic?) (Scored out of five)
Awesome (is the movie awesome? Like, is it an actually a good movie? Do the payoffs pay off? Are the scary bits scary and the sad bits sad?) (Scored out of five)

Does it end with a cheesy "but wait, there's more!" stinger? (negative one or two points, depending on the cheesiness)

It's unlikely that any film will get a 20/20 on this scale, because frightening and scary are generally a trade-off: films that make me jump like a cat usually don't also make me fear door handles.

In this review:
Carriers (2009)
Deranged (연가시) (2012)
Patient Zero (2018)
Outbreak (1995)
The Bay (2012)
Perfect Sense (2011)

Skip to Part 2
감기 (The Flu)
Black Death
Pontypool
Extinction: The GMO Chronicles
괴물 (The Host)
Viral (2016)
The Girl With All the Gifts

Skip to Part 3
And The Band Played On (1993)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Cabin Fever (2002)
Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011-2017)
World War Z (2013)
Contagion (2011)

CoVideo Corner sidebar: Social Distancing Edition:
This post discusses a set of films about claustrophobia, isolation, boredom and helplessness: the feelings we're all feeling during our stay-at-home quarantines and self-isolation.

Click to read the reviews!

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Hot take: Mitt Romney Made a Calculation

Listen...

Mitt Romney was the first US senator ever to vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.

And... there's been a lot of praise for him. Here's Stephen Colbert, for one example.




And for the record, here's Mitt Romney's speech about why he would vote to impeach on one of the articles of impeachment. He talks about posterity and his vow before god.



I'm not interested here in re-litigating Trump's guilt... it seems pretty clear the Republican Party has decided that he's guilty but it doesn't matter, because they have the power to make it not matter. This is a pretty damn dark time for US democracy, and from there, for the world, as over the last century or more USA has positioned itself as the city on a hill for democratic process and principle, and is now telling everyone who looked to that city on a hill, "Naw. We said rule of law matters, but it doesn't. There's just power now, and who has it." This will speed along the end of America's half-century of post-WWII hegemony faster than anything could, short of catastrophic war or economic collapse. It's amazing watching a country blow off whatever moral capital it had previously claimed so enthusiastically.

That said... I'm not entirely persuaded by Mitt Romney's vote, either, and here's why:

Friday, June 28, 2019

The NC-17 Mr Rogers Connection

I made a weird connection a while ago. Bear with me.

Mr Rogers is back in the zeitgeist these days, with an upcoming film where Tom Hanks plays him, and a documentary about the real man coming out last year. When the trailer for "Won't You Be My Neighbor" came out, a snippet of music caught my ear.

Catch it at 1:05.


Those horns rang a bell for me, thanks to a song from a CD I once had recommended to me by the guy at a Hongdae music shop. It was an album called Whiskey by Jay Jay Johanson. It was alright: my clearest memory of it was one of my coworkers viscerally hating it. But a song on it titled "I'm Older Now" sampled the song where that beautiful bit of horns first appeared, which is why I recognized it.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Reading Racist Books To My Kid

I ran in to a hiccup at bedtime. It wasn’t actually the first time I’ve run into this particular hiccup, but it got me thinking.

Almost every night, I read to my son. It’s great, for all the usual reasons. He gets to discover characters and worlds I loved as a kid, or we discover wonderful new ones. He hears the stories that helped teach me things about bravery, honesty, loyalty, determination, or silliness. We’ve heard from some titans of children’s literature: Roald Dahl is wonderful to read out loud. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles are better than I remember them: the moral choices children make in his stories are valuable discussion starters for father-son talks about responsibility, consequences, kindness, and listening to your conscience.

But then… at bedtime… there are passages like this.

Cover art from the version I read as a kid.
Turbans and scimitars. Source
From The Horse and His Boy:
"This boy is manifestly no son of yours, for your cheek is as dark as mine but the boy is fair and white like the accursed but beautiful barbarians who inhabit the remote North [meaning Narnia].” (Chapter 1) C. S. Lewis. The Horse and his Boy (Kindle Locations 79-80). HarperCollins. HOLD ON! So... C.S. Lewis believes dark people are ugly? Am I reading this right?

"The next thing was that these men were not the fair-haired men of Narnia: they were dark, bearded men from Calormen, that great and cruel country that lies beyond Archenland across the desert to the south." C. S. Lewis. Last Battle (Kindle Locations 263-264). San Val, Incorporated.

Yes, the Calormenes, from Calormen, across the desert south of Narnia, worship the cruel god Tash (with hints of human sacrifice). They feature in The Last Battle and The Horse and His Boy and they are clearly coded as Muslims: they are dark-faced, wear turbans, and wield scimitars. They are also described as cruel and exploitative. Oh... and some Dwarves mock them by calling them "Darkie.” And in case you thought you could omit a few details and remove the racial coding... they're drawn on the cover of the version I read as a kid. No getting around it.

The Silver Chair's treatment of the character Jill Pole in particular falls into many old tropes about what girls are and aren't, can and can't do.

Cover art of the version I read as a kid.
Source.
Roald Dahl, whom we’d been reading before reading Narnia, had this buried in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator:

'It is very difficult to phone people in China, Mr President,' said the Postmaster General. 'The country's so full of Wings and Wongs, every time you wing you get the wong number.' (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Kindle Locations 302-303).

When they do call someone in China... their names are Chu-On-Dat and How-Yu-Bin, and they address the president as Mr. Plesident. Yeah. Roald Dahl went there. Just skip Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, folks. As sequel letdowns go, it gives Jaws: The Revenge and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a run for their money.

So what do we do about this?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Gillette: The Best A Man Can Get Ad: U Mad about This?



Gillette ruffled some feathers last week with an ad about masculinity, pointing out things that happen, like bullying, casual violence, and casual sexism - some obviously shitty things - suggesting that the excuse, "Boys will be boys" is not a good excuse, and encouraging men to 1. be less shitty, and 2. encourage other men to be less shitty, and 3. stop making excuses for shitty behavior by other men and boys. It ends with close-ups of some kids watching their dads stop other men and boys from being shitty, pointing out today's men are models for the men of the future, so our behavior teaches our kids to be shitty, or not shitty.

It has been hotly discussed in a number of places I frequent online, so I thought I'd put my thoughts in one place.

The ad itself... viewed on its own terms, without having it framed by someone who wants to rant about "SJWs" and the North American culture wars, or by someone who wants to rant about "Toxic masculinity"... isn't that controversial, really.

It's true that people make excuses for boys and men's bad behavior. It's true that some boys and men do shitty things. Among the behaviors identified, it's not controversial to identify these behaviors as shitty:
Groping women
Catcalling
Interrupting women
Patronizing or stealing ideas of female colleagues
Bullying smaller or weaker people with physical violence or verbal harassment
Treating women like trophies or toys

If someone is mad about the Gillette ad because they think the above behaviors shouldn't be criticized, they have much bigger problems than a men's grooming company telling them how to be decent human beings (most urgent: they aren't decent human beings).

Only slightly less slam-dunk obvious is the ad's emphasis on the excuse made for bad behavior: "Boys will be boys" (which is repeated by a whole lineup of men: this is pretty emphatic). I would guess that a lot of people who regularly say "Boys will be boys" will be surprised to hear it pointed out as troublesome. The ad posits a better response for men's shitty behavior than excuses: men stepping in to stop the shittiness.

But remove this from the "somebody is telling men how to behave" pearl-clutching, and again, it's not very controversial. Given a choice, I think most people would say that it's better to stop bad behavior than to make excuses for it.

Anyone disputing 1. that the behaviors above are bad, and 2. that correcting them is better than making excuses for them, definitely carries the burden of proof.

The most common complaint I've heard about the ad is that it's somehow claiming that ALL men are shitty... yet the ad clearly ALSO shows men stopping all the behaviors pointed out (except the man interrupting his female colleague while putting hand on her shoulder and restating her idea in his own words - he seems to get away with it).



So... not seeing that.

The "Woke Ad" thing