Horror movie scene. Young girl sits in her bed in a dark room. Her head kind of turns 360 degrees over her torso, causing the two priests present to intensify their praying and the electric light to flicker. She opens her blood stained mouth and pointed teeth become visible. She vomits a huge jet of yellow, sticky brexit. A few moments of quiet, and then a small Donald Trump crawls out of her esophagus, in a business suit with a red tie. The door to the bedroom is thrown open, Stephen King stumbles over the doorstep, he shoots across the room and careens our of the window, spilling a huge stack of his horror books on the way out.
The end. Credits.
(The Girl – Linda Blair. First Priest: that guy from Manchester by the Sea. Second Priest: his brother. Stream of Brexit: Boris Johnson. Stephen King and Donald Trump as themselves.)
In 2011 I published a visionary novel TWO JOURNEYS, which deals with a corona pandemic. I’m a biologist with considerable virology experience which, with the SARS epidemic, inspired my literary work.
Although I do not see myself as a expert virologist, I do track this pandemic with high interest. A lot of data has been collected, which can become very confusing (even to me; although I‘m used to work with scientific data) – but I would like to offer a single data point. Today, May 9, globally 275,000 individuals have died. As certain countries (China, Brazil, Russia, Iran, even the UK, and others) are poor at reporting corona deaths, my guesstimate is that the actual number of deaths is probably closer to 600,000. This happened in about 4 months. Imagine no lockdowns would have happened!
It is hard to extrapolate (as crucial data is still missing), but my guess would be that the total number of deaths from this pandemic could easily be within a range of 10,000,000 to 100,000,000 (see the Spanish flu, which had probably 17,000,000 victims – in a less densely populated world). This is a “guesstimate” for the case of no lockdowns at all.
Now let’s take a different angle. The challenges that we are confronted with are three fold: (1) circumvent human suffering (2) limit economic repercussions (3) as primates, we are eager to have full social, face-to-face contacts. We want all three, and as soon as possible.
These goals seem to contradict one another. However, the beauty is that the solution for all three is identical. And very straightforward: we must all follow the WHO guidance rigorously, and do this now: wash your hands multiple times a day, do not touch your face, sneeze and cough in your elbow, keep a distance to others of 2 meters/6 feet, stay at home & only leave your house for essential business.
My main concern is the weakening of discipline, this is the true problem. People are beginning to move the goalposts, there is a trend to soften the handling of social distancing.
You can help to reduce the number of deaths AND also make sure that the lock-downs are lifted quickly. This means you will have to inform yourself. How often and how to wash your hands? What should my children do (especially teenagers)? How are aerosols created and how far do they travel when talking, coughing or laughing? See this great article by Erin Bromage.
If all of us are very consistent and self-disciplined throughout this pandemic, then we save lives… and the economy.
As the author of the 2010 corona-pandemic novel TWO JOURNEYS, and as a biologist with 20 years of laboratory experience with microorganisms, viruses and radioactivity, I provide some insights on how viruses may contaminate us as individuals. I am not a medical doctor: as a scientist my general advice is to always listen to the experts, such as the WHO or your government. However, as my work in the lab has taught me, you should always work from the premise that any object that has been touched by other people has to be considered contaminated (the same is true for any object that you touch with unwashed hands). That is one of the key ways to stay safe.
What I do not mention in the movie is that several surfaces in your surroundings are potentially high risk. From my lab experience working, when for instance radioactivity was accidentally spilled, my colleagues and I usually found the highest levels of contamination on the surfaces that people touch, sometimes without noticing. So always clean:
Water taps / water handles
Any button, switch or keys on any appliance. Here you can think about: the buttons on your espresso machine, the door of your fridge, the flush button on your toilet, the buttons in the elevator.
Also consider the car steering wheel, the gear stick, car door-handles (in- and outside), or the handles on your bike.
As Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS says: Stay Healthy, Stay Sane. Let’s kill this bastard virus!
Also see this blog post:
The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us – link
Years ago, during a visit to a Disney movie, my youngest son (10 at the time) accidentally referred to popcorn as cockporn.
I haven’t been able to order a bucket of popcorn in the cinema since, as I once copied his error. Now I am afraid to mention cockpo… popcorn in any public situation.
Worse yet, I had a marketing colleague who continuously mixed up YouTube with an infamous porn channel of a very similar name. To bypass this embarrassment, he started posting all marketing videos on Vimeo.
The unlucky episode around Harvey Weinstein. When it started to develop, my initial reaction was something like: no surprise here, after all, the man is a movie-mogul – and isn’t harassment exactly what moguls are supposed to do? But on second thought I wondered: what is a mogul actually? And is obnoxious behavior a perk of a Mogul’s job, or, even worse, part of the essential job profile? (“Our studio is seeking a motivated, experienced individual to fill the role of Senior Movie Mogul. A proven track record in lewd behavior towards junior employees and subordinates (both sexes) is a requirement. We look forward to your meaningful application. Please provide photographic evidence.“).
Time for some research
According to the dictionary, a mogul is also defined as a magnate, either a business magnate (a prominent person in a particular industry, kinda what William Randolph Hearst was for newspapers), or a media mogul, a “person who controls, either through personal ownership or a dominant position, any media enterprise”. I like the phrase “who controls […] through personal ownership or a dominant position”: both fuzzy and threatening, like the silhouette of a shark in the murky depths of an ocean.
The phrase Mogul smoothly associates with Kings of Exotic Countries: it has a dark, foreign resonance (how different from “Trump,” a name that sounds like a blown musical instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles). Indeed, the Mughal Empire, from which the word Mogul originates, has its history in India, and was founded in 1526. It was ruled by a Muslim dynasty with Turco-Mongol Chagatai roots from Central Asia. Interestingly, the Mughal Empire did intervene in local societies during most of its existence, but balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices. The rulers of this dynasty had a highly relevant positive influence on science, trade (mostly with Europe), governmental policies, and architecture. Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, gave the world the beautiful Taj Mahal.
Further (admittedly highly superficial) investigation
This seems to indicate that like in any other dynasty, kings had varied characters and quirks; yet the word “Mogul” seems to refer mostly to the unifying character and resulting vastness of the kingdom, and less to the embarrassing behavior of the rulers.
No mention that a typical King of the Mughal Empire or, for that matter, a Movie Mogul, must embark on lecherous, randy, lewd, degraded, embarrassing, harassing, disgraceful or shameful behavior.
I’ve been spending quality time viewing and listening to works by Sergei Rachmaninoff on YouTube (played by Anna Fedorova, the great Ukrainian pianist). Fantastic music, and even I can see that it is extremely challenging to play this.
Surprise, surprise: one piece sounded a bit familiar, and as it turned out, the 1975 smash hit “All by Myself,” a song by American artist Eric Carmen is based on the second movement (Adagio sostenuto) of Sergei’s Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, opus 18 (1901).
Seems Eric should have titled his song and changed the lyrics to “Not by Myself, but by Sergei” – which admittedly isn’t very catchy and might not have lead to a top 20 ranking in the hit parade.
By the way, during my exploration of Rachmaninoff’s work, I also discovered that his music is also used in the beautiful ice skating scene in Ronin; that action packed John Frankenheimer thriller with Robert DeNiro – one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.
I have been looking at a couple of articles that, although not #realnews, may be interesting for you to take a quick glance at, even if only superficial.
Stumbled across an article about a Bodybuilder from Germany, Ralf Moeller, who became quite a celebrityin Hollywood. You can read more about this 1.96cm celeb here. Ralf made quite a success of himself.
From there it was (however) only a small step to a list of the worst movies ever, some of which feature (drumroll – but no surprise whatsoever)… Adam Sandler. This depressed me no end; just imagine spending a year or more to write, act, direct, edit and market a movie; all that time & effort, to then be featured in this list as one of the worst movies ever: Life is cruel.
The discrepancy between the worst movies in that list and the movies that bomb at the box-office is intriguing. I actually kinda linked The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Blade Runner 2049, Hello Dolly and One from theHeart. But none of those made a lot of money. Sad! The audience is merciless.
Better quickly turn the page on that unsavory topic, and zoom in on some of the best movies ever made– especially the country lists contains some gems: the Dutch Turkish Delight (an early work by the famous Hollywood director Paul Verhoeven), Australia’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the UK’s The Third Manand Lawrence of Arabia. All absolute favorites of mine.
Before you get the impression that I am a couch potato, only watching old movies on my TV: I actually saw two movies in the cinema this week: The new Star Wars movie and The mountain between us. I enjoyed both, the former because the makers managed to reinvent the series yet again; the latter because two excellent actors excel in a very intimate what-if, end-of-world scenario. Naturally, the idea of being left on a deserted mountain is close to my heart (as reflected in my own work, see the section “books”)