Monday, August 26, 2013

My Weekend of Paranoia, or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Prepare for the Coming Global Pandemic, um...Alien Invasion, um...Random Senseless Murderers Who Will Break into my Home in the Middle of the Night, um....uhhhhh....

The above photo shows you EXACTLY how I felt last night.  It's probably how I looked, too.  Somebody has got to stop me from trolling through the vids on YouTube.

This weekend I was very innocently watching some YouTube History Channel stuff about ancient Rome and Greece and feeling purty durn edgeecated.  I learned a lot about the Greek/Persian dustup at Thermopylae in 480 BC, the Roman emperor Nero, the war between Rome and the ancient Celts (no, not Larry Bird), the invasion of the Huns, and about Cicero (the orator, not the mobbed-up suburb of Chicago).  Then... somehow, somekinda way...I clicked on something titled "After Armageddon - a SHTF Scenario".  (SHTF = shit hits the fan.  I didn't know.)  It outlines what conceivably, and likely, could happen during a worldwide pandemic.  For purposes of demonstration they use an influenza virus that is particularly nasty and virulent which wipes out most of the world’s population.

In betwixt the narrator giving facts and statistics and the usual roundup of talking heads – scientists, survival experts, military types, sociologists, etc. – we watch actors portraying a “typical” suburban family trying to survive the S as it H the F.  The film is well made, and pretty informative even though the family portrayed do some pretty stupid things.  But then, showing people doing stupid things is realistic.

I mean, someone really shouldn’t be surprised that after a few weeks of a worldwide catastrophe:
-      The power goes out.
-      You can’t get a cell phone signal.
-      The net is down.
-      The water doesn’t come out of the tap anymore.
-      The stores are cleaned out of everything.
-      Your suburban street is littered with trash and abandoned cars and dead bodies.
-      Looters are going house to house.  (“Honey, we’ll leave in the morning.”  WHAT???? IN THE MORNING?????  HOW ABOUT RIGHT NOW???)
-      The highway out of town is impassable due to the fact that it has been transformed into a miles long parking lot.  (“Boy, I didn’t think anyone else would come this way.”  Ok, the dad didn’t really say that, but it sure looks like that’s what he is thinking.)
-      In the desert you need lots of water to survive.
-      This one SHOULD surprise you:  Your wife hasn’t killed you for not leaving as soon as the looters were spotted, or for trying to get on the damn interstate instead of using the side roads.

Actually, I’m not being fair.  Both the man and the woman took turns making bad decisions.  She was correct in panicking much earlier than he did, even though her panicking took the form of whining for the most part.  He was correct in staying fairly calm for the most part.  Well, I suppose I’m being picky here. 

Hold on!  Oh, yeah…and their kid!  He is shown using his video recorder throughout the whole ordeal.  “six month later” and he is still filming stuff.  Really??  He still has batteries??  And if he does have batteries, why are his parents letting him use that precious resource for his flippin’ recorder instead of for, oh…I don’t know…maybe their flashlight or something?  Yeah, I’m being picky.

Ok, ok.  In spite of myself and picking apart every little thing, I got into this film.  The story continues through months and years of the catastrophe, long after the virus itself has burned out and the survivors have to try to rebuild some kind of civilization.  Twenty-five years later they are living in an agrarian, solar powered community – a yoga practicing granola eating windchime liberal’s wet dream! (I can say that, being one of those types myself.  Except for the yoga part.)   Mom and dad have died, he from a small cut on his hand going toxic from lack of antibiotics (oops, spoiler!  Sorry.) and son is married with his own family, and is still watching the videos he made 25 years ago!  That's IT!  I'm fed up!  There could not possibly be any batteries left anywhere after 25 years!

The lasting effect of watching this film was to make me a little nuts.  I kept thinking about what I would do in the face of an apocalyptic whatsit.  How can I prepare?   How could I survive?  Should I start buying bottled water now?  Should I keep my bathtub filled at all times?  Should I get some books about survival in the wild, like what kinds of plants are edible, or how to make a shelter?  Should I buy a gun?  Then I came to my senses and realized that none of that is necessary.  I would probably be one of the first casualties so I don’t really have to worry about any of that stuff.  Wow!  What a relief!  I hate planning.

But, then I made the mistake of watching the 1996 mini-series remake of “In Cold Blood”.  Again, it was well done… Eric Roberts portrayed Perry and Anthony Edwards was Dick, Sam Neill played the lead investigator.  Roberts was particularly fine in his part, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him as good in anything. 

He's also getting better looking with age.

My compliments Eric.  Hey babe, call me!

But, there you go!  "In Cold Blood".  More paranoia.  Anyone remember the scene in Woody Allen’s movie “Annie Hall” when one of his ex-wives is telling him that she wants to move out into the country for some peace and quiet?  He is against it.  According to him the country means, among other scary things, bugs and “Dick and Perry”.  (Hang on a my door locked?  I’d better check.  Again.  Maybe it needs a chair propped up against the doorknob.  I'll be right back.)

And then…I watched something called “National Geographic Alien Invasion” on YouTube.  Another 90 minutes of fear-fueled nuttiness about what would probably happen during, well…an alien invasion of earth.  More talking heads – scientists, survival experts, military types, sociologists, etc. etc. etc.  More jabbering about all the ways we will be doomed - the air force would be blown out of the sky in the first few hours, all the major cities would be leveled in the first few days, millions would die, the president would order a nuclear strike which would destroy Washington DC but not do more to the invading spacecraft than scratch the paint, more re-enactments of survivors scampering through the woods. (I think the folks at National Geographic might have seen "Independence Day".) 

Should I spoil this one for you too?  Why not!!

Just when you thought things were getting pretty bleak - most of the world's population either dead or on the run, cities destroyed and the human species facing extinction and all that - not to worry!  The military has all kinds of really keen, really neat-o plans.  In this particular scenario the aliens are defeated by a band of hardy and resourceful suicide bombers armed with back-pack nukes who levitate up to the spaceships via helium balloons.  No, I’m not kidding. 

In summary, after all of this death, destruction, and cataclysm I was sweaty, eyes wide open with panic, ready to crawl under my covers and never sleep again.

But then I got a great idea!  The perfect antidote to this?  The Marx Brothers.

 I watched “Duck Soup” again.  I can’t tell you how much better I felt after watching and smiling and laughing through 68 minutes of their wooly anarchy. 

Here is Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly accepting his new appointment as ruler of Freedonia.  The grande dame with him?  The magnificent Margaret Dumont, of course


The world was alright again and so was I.  Hail Freedonia!

For good measure, I watched "The Coconuts" and "Horse Feathers" also.  Just to make sure.

Just in case you weren't already worried, the Centers for Disease Control (this is the truth) has a public awareness campaign about how to be prepared in an emergency.  In order to teach us all helpful lessons they use...wait for it....the prospect of a zombie apocalypse.  Here is an excerpt from the CDC literature:  

Zombie Novella
Zombie Cover Banner

CDC has a fun way of teaching about emergency preparedness. Our graphic novel, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic" demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy. Readers follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies. Stick around to the end for a surprising twist that will drive home the importance of being prepared for any emergency. Included in the novel is a Preparedness Checklist so that readers can get their family, workplace, or school ready before disaster strikes. Click on the image below to view the novella. A transcript can be found by clicking on the “accessible text” PDF. You can also download the novella on Google books or download a printable pdf version.

Doesn't that look like fun? 

I can't leave things like this.  Here's more "Duck Soup" - and a great big heaping helping of military preparedness planning stuff for you.  Take THAT, talking heads!!

Duck Soup – 1933.   Paramount.

Big, sloppy, grateful ones.

Director:                                  Leo McCarey
Writers:                                   Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (story)
                                                Arthur Skeekman and Nat Perrin
                                                        (additional dialogue)
Photographer:                         Henry Sharp
Music and Lyrics:                    Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby

Rufus T. Firefly                        Groucho Marx
Pinky                                       Harpo Marx
Chicolini                                  Chico Marx
Bob Roland                             Zeppo Marx
Mrs. Teasdale                         Margaret Dumont
Vera Marcal                             Raquel Torres
Trentino                                    Louis Calhern
Zander                                     Edmond Breese
Agitator                                     Leonid Kinskey
Street Vendor                           Edgar Kennedy
Prosecutor                                Charles Middleton

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