Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hey, Marge just called me upstairs to check out the young female wild turkey on our front lawn. She (the turkey, not Marge) scratched around, then hunkered down to nest a bit by our front garden.

Which brings to mind --

Did You Survive the Bird Flu TV Movie???

OhmyGawd did you?? I've missed all the reports of hysteria, dread and death somehow.

This was my fave numbskull news item of the week thus far (hey, the week is young):

  • Experts fear bird flu movie may spur panic
  • By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A film about a fictional bird flu pandemic that will air on television on Tuesday has experts worried it will panic some people and convince others that legitimate warnings are mere hype.

    But the same experts are taking advantage of publicity surrounding the made-for-television movie to stress what they see as the need for individuals, businesses and local officials to do what they can to prepare.

    The Health and Human Services Department issued "talking points" to staff who may get questions about the movie, Pennsylvania is rolling out a new Web site and telephone line to coincide with the release, and the Trust for America's Health held a briefing to try to sort fact from fiction.

    Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America features scenes with actors wearing spacesuit-like protective gear, a terrified populace and an ending scene in which most residents of an African village lie dead.

    "I am not happy," said Mike Osterholm, a University of Minnesota public health expert who has been warning about and consulting on the threat of an influenza pandemic. "I worry that this could very well be portrayed by many as ultimate example of sensationalism," Osterholm told reporters in a telephone briefing on Monday.

    The H5N1 avian flu virus has been found in birds in more than 48 countries. It has killed 115 people out of 207 sick enough to be treated at hospitals.

    Bird flu only rarely infects people now, but scientists agree it could evolve into a form that transmits directly from person to person. If it did, it could infect hundreds of million of people within a few weeks or months.

    Note, with that last sentence, how the story turns, fanning the very flames it is claiming to be "concerned" about fanning. This shift in content and tenor continues:


    Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has been holding meetings in the 50 states and territories to convince businesses, educators and individuals to prepare for a pandemic that could throw 40 percent of the workforce out of action for weeks on end.

    "While the movie does serve to raise awareness about avian and pandemic flu, we hope it will inspire preparation -- not panic," the HHS talking points read.

    Yes, and The Day After brought the threat of nuclear war to an end, and Rene Cardona Jr.'s Survive warned us all about the dangers of crashing in the Andes, saving countless lives since 1976.

    Hey, did Rene direct Fatal Contact? Oh, no, wait, that was Beaks, with Chris Atkins. Where's Rene when Rumsfeld needs him?


    Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson and state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff announced the launch of
  • their Web site
  • to coincide with the TV film.

    OK, you know what to do! Quick -- "Put The Mask on now... put The Mask on now..."

    Oh, sorry. Continuing:

    "It is our hope that this movie will draw people to more reliable sources for information such as the Department of Health's 1-877-PA-HEALTH line and the Web site we've launched today," Johnson said in a statement.

    The entertainment industry does not have a pristine record on medical matters. A Mayo Clinic neurologist reported on Monday that motion pictures inaccurately represent the coma.

    Hmmm, what are they saying?

    You mean I shouldn't accept Warning Sign, Outbreak or The Ebola Syndrome as documentaries? Y'mean, Fatal Contact is (palm slap to the skull) fiction??

    Gee, President Bush seemed pretty taken with The Crazies, judging from one of his press conferences a few months ago.

    Oh, sorry, Mayo clinic neurologist, didn't mean to interrupt you --

    "Generally, there is a pattern of inaccuracy. It's an enormous caricature," Dr. Eelco Wijdicks said in a statement. Most films great exaggerate how often patients recover completely from extended comas, Wijdicks said.

    Then again, most films haven't the cajones to name a character Dr. Eelco or Dr. Wijdicks, either.

    A film based on Richard Preston's novel The Hot Zone similarly exaggerated the effects and spread of the Ebola virus.

    Wasn't that the film that caused, like, nationwide panic, including mass hysteria, traffic jams and accidents and a reported attempted suicide?

    Oh, wait, no, that was the 1938 Halloween War of the Worlds radio broadcast. That's right. Sorry.

    What the fuck?

    Coincidentally, Steve Perry just sent this along to me as an email forward.

    It urges the recipient to "PASS THIS ON SO IT CAN BE KNOWN" (caps from the letter, followed by, uh, seven exclamation marks -- must be a comicbook writer was the source).

    Do you know that 'bird flu' was discovered in Vietnam 9 years ago?

    Do you know that barely 100 people have died from it throughout the whole world in all that time?

    Do you know that it was the Americans who alerted us to the efficacy of the human antiviral TAMIFLU as a preventative?

    Do you know that TAMIFLU barely alleviates some symptoms of the 'common' flu?

    Do you know that its efficacy against the common flu is questioned by a very large part of the scientific community?

    Do you know that against a SUPPOSED mutant virus such as H5N1, TAMIFLU barely alleviates the illness?

    Do you know that to date Avian Flu affects birds only?

    Do you know who markets TAMIFLU?


    Do you know who sold the marketing rights for TAMIFLU to ROCHE LABORATORIES in 1996?


    Do you know who was the then president of GILEAD SCIENCES INC. and remains a major shareholder?

    DONALD RUMSFELD, the present Secretary of Defense of the USA!

    Do you know that the base of TAMIFLU is crushed aniseed?

    Do you know who controls 90% of the world's production of this tree?

    Do you know that sales of TAMIFLU were over $254 million in 2004 and more than $1000 million in 2005?

    Do you know how many more millions ROCHE and GILEAD can earn in the coming months if this business of "Bird Flu" fear and panic continues?

    So the summary of the story is as follows:

    Bush's friends decide that the medicine TAMIFLU is the solution for a pandemic that has not yet occurred and that has caused a hundred deaths worldwide in 9 years.

    This medicine doesn't so much as cure the common flu.

    In normal conditions the virus does not affect humans.

    Rumsfeld sells the marketing rights for TAMIFLU to ROCHE for which they pay him a fortune.

    Roche acquires 90% of the global production of crushed aniseed, the base for the antivirus.

    The governments of the entire world are threatened by a "possible" pandemic and then buy industrial quantities of the product from Roche.

    So we end up paying for medicine while Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush continue to spread pandemic fear in order to do their business...along with their other big one...oil.


    Hmmm, they forgot the TV movie in their chronology.

    Nice to know Rummy and his cronies might be channeling either William Castle's ghost or at least Aaron Spelling's residual energies amid their Tamiflu conspiracy circle. If you can't rally the populace into a good lather pushing that well-worn fear button, nothing like the equivalent of an ABC Movie of the Week to do it for you.

    Anyhoot, exploitation and TV movie buff that I am, I'd welcome a comment here from anyone who saw the film -- or better yet, a videocassette or DVD recording of Fatal Contact just to check it out.

    In the meantime, where did I put that old video of Beaks...?
    Josie's Site!

    Completely by accident, Leah Moore found, like, me on
  • this website,
  • which she visits for reasons to do with the comforts of knitting hats. It turns out it's Josie's site, and she's one of my students at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Cool! Check it out (howdy, Josie!).

    The Link I Forgot

    When I posted mention of Stephen Colbert's historic Press Club turn, I forgot to post a link to easy-read access of a transcript, which is
  • here.
  • I've received a bunch of emails (and one comment) taking me to task for saying this was mere court jesterism -- hey, having seen the video, Colbert was amazing, and it was a ballsy and immensely gratifying spectacle. But it's not going to change anyone's behavior in the White House, and that's what's necessary... but then again, apparently no one, save the neocon pundits (remember the Harriet Myers nomination debacle?), seem capable of shaking this White House.

    Free Work

    Doing lots of free work this week, and turning down requests for more of the same. There's only so far one can stretch with 'free work,' but almost everyone I know does it (not counting housewives, a career arc based entirely on 'free work').

    I'm juggling a bunch of Vermont film related workloads, none of which adds up to income, but all of which feeds my desire to chronicle once and for all the rich heritage of the state's cinematic legacy. So, Ken Peck -- who has done, if anything, more 'free work' on VT film than I ever will -- popped in last night for supper with Marge and I and we worked our way through what was needed for a presentation Ken is doing next week for the VT Libraries Council on VT film and video. I've still got to get some illustration materials off to Ken, but wrapped up the prep work for his text handout -- so, that's done.

    After that, there's plenty of other 'free work' to do on some Marlboro community stuff I'm working on (in hopes of getting high-speed internet access here before 2010, which is the soonest Verizon is likely to get anything like that up and running hereabouts, by which time the rest of the world will most likely be implanting microchips for telepathic transmission of information while Marlboro will be just barely getting what most of you have). Then somemore 'free work,' then a little more. Free. Work.

    It makes the world go 'round.