Book Review: ‘Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs’ by Michael T. Osterholm PhD MPH, Mark Olshaker

For what this is, it’s pretty invaluable.

I first heard of Michael T. Osterholm when he appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and gave his very informed and personal take on what’s going on. In fact, I’d implore people to watch that episode, just to have a better grasp on fact vs. fiction in a time when there is a lot of misinformation and fear floating around.

You can actually watch the episode on YouTube and I’ll link it at the end of the review.

This book goes through the history of Osterholm’s work in this field, as he breaks down how they scientifically figured out a lot of viral mysteries over the last few decades.

This also talks about how pandemics can be prevented and what needs to happen for the world to take these things more seriously and learn how to protect itself. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for awhile and things could have been done to manage the spread of deadly germs and viruses.

Deadliest Enemy is superbly written and frankly, everyone should read it, especially now. There needs to be a collected effort from as many people as possible to push our governments towards taking these threats more seriously. Plus, it would be in everyone’s benefit to understand this stuff on a factual level, as opposed to emotionally reacting to sensationalist headlines and social media rumors.

If it’s hard to find a physical copy of this book, which I imagine is probably true now that the COVID thing has hit us this hard, you can download the Kindle version (see here), which I did.

Rating: 9.5/10

Vids I Dig 112: Defunctland: The History of ‘Captain EO’

From Defunctland’s YouTube description: Defunctland takes on the troubled 4D, sci-fi, Disney, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Michael Jackson, and Michael Eisner film, Captian EO.

Diets Are Bullshit

*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.

*Written in 2014.

I’m a big guy, I’m cool with it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be healthy. I try to stay active and eat well, as often as I can. Due to my incredibly slow metabolism or whatever, I have struggled with my weight my entire life. In that time, I have tried an endless number of fad diets and every other dietary system out there. Being 35 years-old, I think I’ve followed that cycle long enough to see the trends and results and can pretty much conclude that all these fad diets are bullshit.

I’m not going to sit here and argue against the “science” of any of these diets because for every study that says one thing, you can always find one that states the opposite. Studies are also bullshit but maybe I’ll write a separate article about that in the future.

Losing weight isn’t easy. Well, in theory it should be. Of course, if you follow most of these fad diets to a tee, you’ll probably see results but whatever the system or method is that you’re using, there is most assuredly a catch involved.

I’m sorry Dr. Atkins and your followers but your “no carb” madness is bullshit and those of you dining on bacon all day and night are going to run into some serious problems. You think at this point, that it would pretty much be common sense but people still take this diet to the nth degree: believing such dietary behavior to be a magic fix all. There is a truth to low carb/high protein diets that people need to realize. While they work for weight loss, they are harmful to your health and can be dangerous.

The crazy juicers out there have really fucked themselves. Essentially, you have to juice forever or switch over to a micronutrient diet every now and again, which allows you some solid food. Sorry, but this shit is torture and I’d rather eat responsibly than suck a tree’s dick for the rest of my life. Juicing is gross and disgusting. Plus you can’t tell me that you are taking in all of the plant when 75 percent of it is being spit out of your juicer’s ass like some sort of swamp cole slaw. Unless you are a Buddhist monk trying to prove a political point, fasting is stupid.

Don’t even get me started on “The Master Cleanse” a.k.a. the lemonade diet.

The South Beach Diet just pisses me off by the name alone, as Miami is just a shit hole of a place obsessed with stupid trends. Why would I follow their diet fad? Plus I ate one of their microwave meals one time because I was hungover at some dumb girl’s house. The meal was the worse thing I’ve ever tasted after liquid kale.

The raw food diet? I don’t get it. Vegetables and fruit are good raw but don’t ever show up at my house with a raw key lime pie made out of avocado. That shit isn’t even cute, it is an abomination and the worst idea anyone has ever had. Raw milk? Why don’t you just go to the source and suck it out of a cow’s titty?

The paleo diet, also called the caveman diet and other things, is seemingly the most plausible in my opinion. However eating what cavemen or our ancestors from the Paleolithic era ate, is damned near impossible because despite what all these books tell you, different people from different regions had access to different things. Also, there is no real way of knowing exactly what made up the diets of all these specific cultures. We have some good knowledge on it but it isn’t complete. For fuck’s sake, this was like millions of years ago. There is a reason why it is referred to as “prehistory”. Paleo practitioners eat a lot of meat and vegetables (but they’re picky as to which ones) and they stay away from grains and white potatoes. Well, there is evidence suggesting that Paleolithic people ate white potatoes and grains, so there goes that dietary theory. Paleolithic motherfuckers also ate grubs and insects. So are you going to bacon-wrap some cockroaches?

For the record, out of all the things I’ve tried, I did like the paleo diet the most, I felt the best on it compared to other diets and I lost weight at a decent rate. However, I am a sucker for meat, so I made it work.

The truth is much easier than these fad diets want you to believe. All one really has to do is use common sense and eat sensibly. You should know what is good and bad for you and if you don’t, educate yourself and quit relying on dietary quacks trying to sell their program. And that’s the thing, stop believing what every snake oil salesman is trying to sell you and do a fucking Google search to read the criticism of the product you want to rush out and buy. If it sounds to good to be true, it is.

The most successful diet I have ever been on is no diet. Knowing what is good and what is bad and eating appropriately with portion control, has led to me losing weight the quickest and most healthily. Also, one has to add exercise because to burn calories, you have to do something other than sitting on your ass watching “America’s Got Talent” or playing “Angry Birds 17”. Your body needs to work and move, which is something else that should be common sense.

And don’t be dismayed, you can still eat those things you want to eat, you just have to learn what the word “moderation” means. Yes, I eat some bad shit but I don’t eat it all the time. I post recipes for glorious high calorie treats but I have that stuff once in a blue moon. I still eat red meat, chicken, bacon, fish and the occasional Snickers bar or pint of ice cream. The fact that I don’t do it on a daily basis, makes those things much more enjoyable when I do treat myself.

Just don’t be a dumbass and don’t be some fool forking over cash for the next miracle diet book or program or $1,400 megajuicer. It’s all bullshit. If you want to know more, as to why these fad diets are crap, read some of the stuff Rational Wiki has to say about them and do further research. Know your sources and don’t take information at face value. If someone says, “studies show…” you need to run.

Documentary Review: Kon-Tiki (1950)

Also known as: A Aventura de Kon-Tiki (Brazil), Kon-Tiki 1950 (Swedish re-issue festival title)
Release Date: January 13th, 1950 (Sweden)
Directed by: Thor Heyerdahl
Written by: Thor Heyerdahl
Music by: Sune Waldimir
Cast: Thor Heyerdahl, Herman Watzinger, Erik Hesselberg, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby, Bengt Danielsson, Ben Grauer (voice), Gerte Wald (uncredited)

Artfilm, Janson Media, Sol Lesser Productions, 77 Minutes, 58 Minutes (TV edit)

Review:

For those who don’t know the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition, you are sorely missing out. Back in 1947, a brave Norwegian, Thor Heyerdahl, rounded up a team to construct a primitive style raft with local materials in Ecuador and Peru for the purpose of setting sail towards Polynesia to show that such a task was possible in order to prove that it’s also possible that the Pacific islands were populated by people who migrated from South America.

Heyerdahl also kept things as primitive as possible, as far as the method of travel. They did bring some military rations for food and had a radio, in case of emergency and to make contact with the outside world in an effort to check-in on their progress.

If you love nature documentaries or seeing real men do some really manly shit, than this is something you’ll probably enjoy. It’s really exciting, informative and kind of magical. It makes you wish that you were there, even though it was hard and strenuous. But these guys really tested their mettle and spirit but got through it okay.

Also, if you’re into history, science or just love things pertaining to South Pacific culture, this really delves into all of that.

There is a great scene with curious whales, another regarding the dangers of having freshly caught sharks on the boat, as well as the big climax where they have to work their way over a massive and dangerous, razor sharp coral reef in an effort to finally hit land.

I loved this documentary and it’s made me want to go back and watch the 2012 motion picture based on this expedition. Mainly, because I want to test its accuracy after having seen this documentary and just because this is such a great and incredible story.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The 2012 motion picture Kon-Tiki and the other Thor Heyerdahl seafaring documentary The Ra Expeditions.

Documentary Review: Grizzly Man (2005)

Release Date: January 24th, 2005 (Sundance)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: Werner Herzog
Music by: Richard Thompson
Cast: Werner Herzog (narrator), Timothy Treadwell

Discovery Docs, Real Big Production, Lions Gate Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog. It follows the life and tragic death of Timothy Treadwell, who was killed and partially eaten by grizzly bears along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

Herzog, like in his other documentaries, weaves a wonderful tale out of extraordinary events and a very interesting character. This is one of my favorite Herzog documentaries, as it showcases a man, who many believe was out of his mind, and his crossing the line into living among the wild.

Timothy Treadwell was certainly eccentric and you can clearly see that, as much of the film is made up of the home movies Timothy shot while living with Alaskan grizzlies over thirteen summer seasons. One could bring his sanity into question and as the film went on, the less I liked the guy and thought he was off of his rocker. Did he deserve to die? No, but his incessant stupidity at being “one with the bears” eventually lead to him being one with the bears’ digestive track.

The videos that Timothy shot of the bears over the course of his time with them is nothing short of exceptional but he died for his work and very idiotically so. I understand passion but I also understand mental illness and I’m not saying that he was mentally ill but he certainly wasn’t all there and lived in a fantasy world where he thought he could tame the wild and thrive in it and among its apex predators. Even with thirteen years experience, one day the wild had enough of Timothy Treadwell.

This is a tragic story regardless of how you feel about Treadwell. In the end, I am glad I got to go on the journey and see things through his eyes, even though he wore rose-colored glasses.

And there is an awesomely epic bear fight about halfway through the film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Into the Inferno, The White Diamond and Into the Wild.

TV Review: StarTalk (2015- )

Original Run: April 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: StarTalk podcast by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Music by: various
Cast: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, various

Curved Light Productions, National Geographic Studios, 60 Episodes (so far), 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Last night I watched the series debut of StarTalk, a TV version of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast of the same name.

For those who know me, you know I am a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and have read all his books, watched just about all of his television specials and listen to his StarTalk podcast regularly. I have to admit, I still haven’t watched his version of Cosmos because I still find Carl Sagan’s original version to be perfection – even if it is now outdated.

Nat Geo decided to take Tyson’s podcast and make it into what they describe as a “late night talk show”. Having now watched it, I don’t really think it fits that category and it is bad marketing on their part. Sure, Tyson does interviews with celebrity guests but based off of the first episode, the interviews are prerecorded and shown in clips throughout the show as he and a few panelists discuss the interview. It’s not really a late night talk show format and is more of an interview recap show. Going forward, StarTalk would benefit from having guests actually appear on the set for a sit down interview à la The Tonight Show.

The content of the first episode was a bit weak. George Takei of Star Trek was the first celebrity guest for this inaugural episode and while it was a good interview, the show itself expanded into talking about the science of Star Trek and what is plausible and what isn’t with the knowledge we have today. While an interesting topic to some degree, it has already been done to death on multiple science shows across multiple networks. Additionally, there are countless books on the subject. I feel that for this show’s first outing, the subject matter should have wowed the audience. Give us your best foot forward and not a rehash of something that has already been debated more times than I care to count.

On the positive side, Tyson is a charismatic individual and the perfect successor to Carl Sagan’s throne of being the face and voice of astrophysics. He can explain complex things simply and has a knack for solid communication and a great sense of humor.

Neil deGrasse Tyson truly is the “star” in StarTalk. Without him however, the show would just be an average science show that would probably fail to engage audiences in the long run. Hopefully it is going to improve with time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Neil deGrasse Tyson shows and TV specials.

Film Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

Release Date: December 10th, 2016 (SVA Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Based on: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge

Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films, 20th Century Fox, 127 Minutes

Review:

“There are no colored bathrooms in this building, or any building outside the West Campus, which is half a mile away. Did you know that? I have to walk to Timbuktu just to relieve myself! And I can’t use one of the handy bikes. Picture that, Mr. Harrisson. My uniform, skirt below the knees and my heels. And simple necklace pearls. Well, I don’t own pearls. Lord knows you don’t pay the colored enough to afford pearls! And I work like a dog day and night, living on coffee from a pot none of you want to touch! So, excuse me if I have to go to the restroom a few times a day.” – Katherine Johnson

I was really looking forward to seeing Hidden Figures. It is a film that tells the true story of the black women who were instrumental in helping NASA get John Glen into space and eventually, getting a man on the moon.

It starred a very capable cast, had a director that impressed me with St. Vincent and really looked to be a film that had all the right things going for it. There really could be only one major thing that might disrupt what should have been a solid film. Sadly, it is that one thing that holds this picture back: heavy handedness.

Going into this film, you know it is about black struggle and not just black struggle but the struggle of women in Civil Rights era America. The whole film itself is the point, the premise is the point. However, the film, as is so common with pictures with similar themes as of late, has to remind you at every single turn that these women are persecuted against. I get it. We all get it. But every single time a white person walks into frame doesn’t mean that there needs to be some sort of hostility towards these black women. Not every single white person was an asshole. If they were, the Civil Rights movement couldn’t have happened. Lots of people were more than just tolerant of blacks and it was those people that helped to usher in Civil Rights. I hate to be all soapbox-y but I feel like films that use this tactic, which is all too common, kind of dismiss the fact that there were good people on all sides of the racial spectrum that wanted equality and respect for all people.

Frankly, this film also cheapens the importance of the work that Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson did at NASA by harping most specifically on the race issues. Hidden Figures actually takes some narrative liberties and just makes some shit up to enhance its need to focus on the racism in the film.

One example that I’ll give is Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison is actually three different people pushed together into one character. He’s the “nice yet still casually racist white person that needs something to open his eyes” archetype that these sort of films all have. I guess Kirsten Dunst is the same thing too. Anyway, Costner’s Harrision is smacked in the face by a truth bomb from a very frustrated Katherine (in a tremendous moment of acting by Taraji P. Henson, mind you) about the racist bullshit at NASA. So Harrision walks down to the Colored Women’s Bathroom and violently knocks down the sign in front of a crowd of whites on one side and blacks on the other. Then he proclaims that there are no more colored toilets and no more white toilets at NASA. It’s a great feel good moment in the film but it never really happened and the whole subplot about Katherine having to run a half mile with mountains of files just to pee a few times a day, isn’t accurate. Segregated bathrooms at NASA were abolished in 1958, this film takes place in 1961.

I don’t want to be the asshole that just dwells on this shit but the point is, this had the makings of a beautiful and great film had it stuck to solid truths and focused on these women’s actual contributions and their incredible minds. Yes, that stuff is in this film but it doesn’t seem to be the most important statement. This is a picture trying to make a political and social statement about Civil Rights America and the racial divide that still exists on a level even today but there are already dozens, if not hundreds of films that have been tackling the subject for decades.

Point being, if you are an American, you know all of this. You don’t need it spelled out to you every second like your getting your first history lesson. And if you are a decent person, which I believe most people are, you already reject racism and bigotry against all types of people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or what have you.

The acting in this movie was pretty damn good. Especially from the three female leads but none of them have really disappointed me in anything that they’ve done thus far. I also loved Mahershala Ali in this and he’s becoming one of my favorite actors working today. He’s just got this electric charisma and he’s a stunning looking man with a powerful presence.

It was weird seeing Jim Parsons in this because I have never seen him in anything outside of The Big Bang Theory. I’d like to see him get other work, as his character of Sheldon Cooper is already one of the most iconic characters in television history. While I liked him in this, his NASA engineer character just seemed like an unfunny and bigoted version of Sheldon.

Despite my criticisms, I definitely liked this film more than it may appear. It was well made, well acted and was about science and history. I just wish that it would have been more accurate and focused on telling a story instead of feeling the need to make a statement we’ve all already seen countless times over and are very well aware of.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: For similar themes about the black struggle leading up to and through the Civil Rights era: A Raisin in the SunThe Great DebatersMalcolm X… there are so many.

Documentary Review: Touching the Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch (2014)

Release Date: April 16th, 2014
Directed by: David Allen
Cast: Joe Hutto

Rubin Tarrant Productions, 52 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Touching the Wild was a pretty stellar installment of PBS’ Nature series. In fact, it is now one of my favorite episodes of all-time in this show’s 30-plus year run.

It follows Joe Hutto as he lives with the mule deer of the Deadman Gulch area of Colorado. It chronicles how he gained their trust over years and became a part of their lives, families and societal structure.

Man, this was a pretty emotional documentary. It is hard not to get swept up in the feelings Joe conveys throughout this 52 minute film. And what is great about this documentary is that it just features Joe, telling his story, telling the story of all the deer and how it has effected him every step of the way.

From a science standpoint, Touching the Wild is pretty profound in that it delves deep into mule deer behavior, their way of life and shows a more intimate and up-close view than what has ever been seen before.

Deer are pretty private creatures that want nothing to do with humans. This shows how close a man can get however and it blurs the line between species – showing the true nature of these animals, their heart, their ability to trust and their ability to treat something unlike them, as one of their own.

And this is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other installments of PBS’ Nature series.