State of the Season 1: Ebola to Halloween – Why the Latter is a Greater Health Concern in the US

Hello everybody! Can you believe that this blog has been alive and kicking for three months now? I can. It’s actually quite feasible considering the pace I put them out is once a week. That’s very manageable, even for my lazy ass. Still, it is significant to me to have successfully not run this project into the ground after such time. So to celebrate I am going to look back at all 12 of my previous posts with the purpose to update them with new information and in some cases to tell you, the loyal reader, about some things I left out or missed when I originally wrote them. Why is Chris Pratt dressed as Princess Leia the title picture? Because last week was Halloween and there are no questions about my sexuality, that’s why. This is a trend I intend to continue (not putting up pictures of Chris Pratt; writing a recap blog – doesn’t mean I won’t do both though) after every 12th new post (not including these posts) to allow for constant check-backs to build upon what I’ve already said with what is new and fresh about it. I call this return a State of the Season, as it is an assessment of what I have written about over the last three months, or season. I know that it doesn’t exactly line up with the actual start of each new season, but it is still a quarter of the year and if the Chinese New Year can start after January 1st then, damn it! I can have a season start whenever I write 3 months-worth of blogs. I realize this will continue to offset with each State of the Season as it will be the 13th blog of each “seasonal” set, but that will make things all the more interesting. And speaking of interesting… The biggest story over the course of my blog’s existence is the one that saw its beginning: the current Ebola outbreak. In my first blog post I explained a little bit about the dreaded filovirus and the nasty things it does to us. Since then a lot has happened. A lot. Most noticeably for us here in America a man with Ebola flew from Africa into the United States and ended up infecting two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The man died; the first infected nurse went into quarantine and her dog went into a separate quarantine; and the second nurse flew back home by my first college roommate’s hometown to plan for her wedding, then returned to Texas before she started developing a fever and checked herself into the hospital. But of course, you knew this all already. And how could you not? It was all over the news in all facets at every minute of the day. I have managed to avoid any spoilers for Interstellar beyond the first preview that was shown in theaters months ago, but then that’s not that difficult to stay in the dark about (it helps that Christopher Nolan is really good at keeping things under wraps, even in his trailers – something he can do because people like I will go see any movie with his name in the director spot). However, even if you lived atop a lofty mountain peak, detached from society for the past few months you still undoubtedly heard all about Ebola in America. There were certainly many causes for concern: the CDC kinda fucked up a little; the Texas hospital with America’s patient zero kinda fucked up a lot; and good gravy gosh! that wittle puppy dawg is too kewt to get sick with a Group V negative-sense single-stranded RNA virus that turns your insides into outsides! For a quick recap on what I’ve just recapped and then some, click here. No offense to Bentley and his upcoming second birthday, but a lot of people in West Africa, both locals and visiting health workers are suffering and dying from Ebola and the biggest news story over here pertaining to the subject is about a fucking dog. Now it’s fine if we talk about Nina Pham and her thankful recovery, and even about her spoiled little furry friend and how lucky he and everyone else is that he did not contract the virus, but are we really going to stop there? If anything this should be the springboard to the bigger, more globally important story but unless it’s happening here in America, or if nothing else is happening in the world we don’t hear about those still very much affected by Ebola in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. I recall a brief mention of Nigeria being declared Ebola-free (Senegal is too, though I saw nothing on that without digging for it), but not much else is presented for us. Now if you really want to learn more about anything, be it a news story about a disease or about the disease itself, you have to do a little bit of searching for facts, or at the very least turn past the front page because the headlines rarely answer your questions on their own. But unless you’re reading my humble and supremely-entertaining words, reading is boring, so here’s more educational Ebola videos from the brothers Green, Hank and John. In the unlikely event that you are one of those people who still prefers reading then knock yourself out. There is so much more I could say about Ebola here, but I’m sure it will be a subject I’ll revisit in the near future, hopefully with happier news. In the meantime, read up on it and the current outbreak where you can get less scary news headlines. Ebola is a terrifying disease, but even with the recent situations in the United States bear in mind that there have only been threes cases of infection, of which only two (the nurses) were infected on US soil. One case is too high of a number for everybody’s liking, but with all the shit that’s gone on with these domestic incidents it is reassuring that there were only those cases and the two nurses have been cured and brought back to good health. So Ebola is not the greatest threat to our health here in the western world, but we should do what we can to help those that it is a tremendous threat to.


My second (and personal favorite) blog post was about the shortcomings of Shark Week in recent years. I was not the first nor the last to point out how, similar to much of the news coverage of Ebola, science has given way to sensationalism during Discovery’s once great week. Nevertheless, their viewership has increased to a higher level than ever. Unfortunately, the top shows were the ones with the most fabrications. Here’s hoping Discovery Communications fixes up its complete programming, but they probably will just keep catering to what gets big ratings because that’s what networks do. Sharks will definitely be the subject of some future blogs, so if that’s your thing you’ve come to the right place. Just be warned: I’m only going to tell the truth.


The third post I put up was a selection of many of my favorite music videos. By no means was it a complete list and there will be at least one other post like this one (I left out a few favorites and new music videos are being made every day!), and another post that will be based on music videos and songs from one specific artist. I do feel some great choices were omitted, partly because I didn’t want the whole text to be filled with blue links. Nonetheless, I think that using an image from a video I mentioned but didn’t include a link to was criminal, so lock me in the stocks while you watch my second favorite video; first favorite song from The Beastie Boys. I also meant to mention that Spike Jonze directed my favorite music video of theirs, “Sabotage” because I was going to link that video with Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” which I did state Jonze directed. Of course, I will continues to include links to music videos as they apply to what I write about in future non-music topics.


Rounding the third post and heading home to the fourth I bridged the natural gap between the three “B”s. It was a discussion of Lou Gehrig’s incredible baseball career; the eponymous disease that ended his life; the odd, yet popular and good-hearted charity to benefit researching treatments and ideally a cure for that disease; and naturally, a concluding thought on the most brilliant scientific mind of our age, whose body suffers from a like ailment. This summer the ALS Association received over $115 million in donations from the ice bucket challenge. Job well done to those who doused themselves and their friends and helped contribute to the study of a disease that gets 5600 new cases here in the States every year – obviously many more than American Ebola.


Post five brought out a lot of emotions within me. My least favorite roller coaster at the park with the best and my favorite roller coasters has been closed forever…kinda. In case you’re wondering, I did not get to Cedar Point again this year, which had its final day of the season yesterday, so I never will ride the Mantis again. I will however be one of the first in line to ride Rougarou, a re-purposing of the coaster formerly known as Mantis. So now instead of being a rickety-rackety blue, red, and yellow stand-up coaster named after a predatory insect it will be a hopefully smoother orange floorless coaster named after a French werewolf. Oui oui! The park will also have major renovations on its historic Hotel Breakers next season, so maybe there will be less mayflies that get inside.


Numero sixo posto was about the longest running show on American TV and it got some lovin from another blogger despite our different wishes for the future of The Simpsons. If you’re also a fan of Matt Groening’s Futurama then be sure to catch Sunday’s Simpsons for one last hurrah from that cast of crazy characters from the 31st century before they get justifiably picked up and inevitably unjustifiably kicked off by some other network again.


And on the seventh post, Alex looked on his creation and phoned it in. I assembled a list of famous Scots in the wake of their momentous vote to decide to be independent or not to be independent. I invite you to re-read it, or read it for the first time while you consider what you’ll vote for tomorrow.


I was in a bind the day of the release of my eighth post. I had no inspiration and no template for what to write about. It could have been a very dark day for my dedicated readers who I’m sure are aplenty yet shy as I’ve received no requests for blog topics (yet!). In desperation I texted a friend who had just had a birthday and asked what she wanted me to write about. She replied with three cards from Apples to Apples: “Chickens”, “Helen Keller”, and “Cuddliness” so naturally I came up with this. Enough said! Especially since I’ve told that story in at least three posts now.


Like the ninth post! Looking back this actually is an awesome title. Isn’t that right Pink Floyd? This post told the story of the trip I took with some friends for a destination wedding/bachelor party rolled up into one, much like the amalgamation of dinner theaters and carnival areas planted in the Smoky Mountains throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This post covered the Pigeon Forge side of the trip where we partook in bachelor party events leading up to the wedding.


The tenth post covered the unique awkward situations, strange museums, and overly intense wildlife encounter we had on the eve of the wedding. Always check the windowsill and watch a lot of MacGyver. And read this post. I look to add in more of my real-life experiences in the future, as well as some more two-parters to keep you all drooling for the next post each week.


This blog sailed skyward in post eleven which was my creamfest for Chuck Yeager and his amazing aviation achievements, like breaking the sound barrier and what else, oh I don’t know, maybe that one time he was in freefall for 24 fucking kilometers. Yeah, it’s intense like a troop of Boy Scouts at summer camp. I will revisit the subject of aviation many more times in the future.


Most recently, besides now of course, was my baker’s dozen of movies that make for great Halloween watching. Hopefully you got to see some of them this past weekend. Some that just missed the cut were mentioned, but the one that was the hardest to kick off the list was An American Werewolf in London (1981), John Landis’ great take on horror. I mentioned how Landis, the director of hit comedies like Animal House and The Blues Brothers directed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video in which MJ transforms into a werewolf; this movie was a big reason why Landis got that job. Like the later released Evil Dead 2, American Werewolf is equal parts horror and comedy, with both hilarious moments and very scary scenes. It is the story of two Americans, David and Jack, who get attacked by a werewolf in the English moors. Jack dies and David awakens from his injuries nearly a month later. Uh-oh. It contains some great upbeat music to lull us into a false sense of happy security and turn a blind eye to the horrors that are prophesied by Jack’s ever-decaying ghost who visits with David to plead for him to commit suicide before he hurts somebody. The highlight of the movie is the transformation scene which is a marvel of make-up and editing done right. Rick Baker won a very deserved Oscar for that one.

There will be more movie lists in the future. And remember to take it easy on that leftover candy. Dish it off on your coworkers; they’ll love you for it and you won’t increase your chances of diabetes, a very common ailment that deals way more damage in America than Ebola (this is what I meant by the title). I hope you enjoyed my rehashings and will be enthused for the next “season’s” worth of material. I don’t want to just leave you all with updates on past subjects even if they do contain new information, so before you go here’s a list of fun facts I learned from Neil deGrasse Tyson today with some input from me mixed in:

-The element Mercury (Hg 80) freezes at about -40°. And after fact-checking this (that’s right, I fact-check Neil deGrasse Tyson; never assume anyone is just correct on something unless it’s me) I discovered that this is the temperature where the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales meet, so -40°F = -40°C. Most thermometers today use alcohol because it freezes at a much lower temperature and is much less toxic.

-There are 88 constellations in the sky, which, if you’re musically inclined, you can commit to memory because there are 88 keys on a piano. Or you can recall that there are 88 counties in the state of Ohio, which probably only matters to you if you’re from there like I am, and even then probably only if you work in government or are a history or geography teacher.

-There are orange, red, and blue stars, but no green stars in the entire known universe. I never knew Kermit was talking about the cosmos when he said, “It’s not easy being-” well, you know. In case you’re interested in hearing him speak these facts yourself you can watch this video where he makes a cocktail concoction.

Gravitate back here next week for another actual topic that will lead off the next State of the Season in 13 weeks!

Ad astra per aspera, as well as their themed drinks,

Alex

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