The Future of Medicine.

So I gave my thoughts on health care reform, now some quick thoughts on the future of medicine. (I am a science-fiction writer after all.)
Three basic scenarios in my opinion. All of these are looking at the state of medical science about the year 2050.

Scenario One: The Conservative Nightmare.
Financial crash due to bloated spending and regulatory overload kills innovation and development. We haven’t progressed much beyond where we are now. Very little research being done as nearly all medical science dollars are consumed in treatment. With or without healthcare reform the government is buried under a crushing load of debt and bills to care for its population.

Scenario Two: The Liberal Nightmare.
Breakthroughs lead of significant advances in health and life extension, but the costs are high. The processes can not be made cheaper by economy of scale or mass production and only the well-off can afford top-end care. For the wealthy life is very good. Disease and morbidity are things that happen to other people. As side from trauma, there is little to fear health-wise and maybe even aging itself can be prevented. For the poor and most of the world it’s a game of watch as the rich go on and on while you get sick and die. Expect vast social upheaval and disruption as this is not a stable system in my opinion.

Scenario Three: Medical Transformation.
The way computer sciences changed our world, advances in medical science make the world of 2050 as unlike todays as our computers are to roman numerals. Quick and easy genetic testing and treatments means that everyone get treatment and drugs designed for their unique genome. Treatment of disease is cheap and plentiful. Healthcare for all is taken for granted because it costs so little. People live long and productive lives without the infirmities and indignities of old age today. Our decedents look upon our medical treatments of today the way we look on witch-doctors and leeches.

The question is — which scenario will it be?

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Thoughts on Health Care Reform

I work in the healthcare industry in my day job. I help drug companies get their products to market. Some of you might read those words and think I work in some kind of advertising and you would be wrong. Most of my experience in this field has been helping doctors and patient get their drugs via their health insurance. Currently I help uninsured patients get access to certain medications. (I am not at liberty to say which drug companies I work for or which products I assist with, but I only bring it up as background on my experience with the subject.) Continue reading Thoughts on Health Care Reform

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Sunday Night Movie: The Towering Inferno

towering inferno

I have a confession, I like disaster movies. I guess part of it comes from the fact that came of age as a movie watcher during the 1970s when the disaster film was created as a genre. Oh before the seventies there were films that had disasters in them and films about the Titanic, but as its own genre the disaster film dates to the 70s.

The genre started with 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure. Based on a novel by Paul Gallico that film became an enormous success and in Hollywood that means one thing, imitations.

The Towering Inferno for me represents the apex of the disaster genre. Made and released in 1974 the film boasted an all star cast, was the first film that required two studios to produce it and made a vat-load of money at the box office. (the film cost 14 million to make and grossed 116 million at the box office.[Domestically])

I was thirteen when The Towering Inferno hit the theaters in the winter of 1974 and I saw it at the Sunrise Theater in Ft. Pierce, Fl. The film was thrilling and action packed and a good staple of the disaster film genre. You didn’t know who was going to live and who was going to die.

The Towering Inferno is the story of the world’s tallest building — a fictional one set in San Francisco — that catches fire on its opening night. With an all star cast, led by Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, it is the story of people trapped far above the ground with a deadly and uncontrollable fire racing up the floors of the tower.

All through the 70’s other producers tried to follow in Irwin Allen’s footsteps. There were all sort of disaster movies and some were better than others, but I think that the ones made by Irwin Allen have survived the test of time over the imitators for a simple reason. The two films that represent the high budget big-star disaster movie made by Irwin Allen, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno were not cynical movies.

The films of the 70’s were very much drenched in cynicism.  People are no damn good, governments are no damn good, companies are no damn good, and it’s all going to end in nuclear holocaust. While in Irwin’s films there are nasty and greedy men who cause terror and death by their greed, there are also heroes. Even when the heroes do not get along and snap and fight with each other, their core motivations are good and they look out for those who cannot look out for themselves. That is the polar opposite of the cynical outlook.

An example of this is the character of Gary Parker, a US senator . If this film was made today the senator would be a self-centered egotist who only cared about saving his own hide and about not looking like he was scared. It would be a character of image and lies. This is not the character played by Robert Vaughn in The Towering Inferno. This Senator is heroic, works to help save others, and never seems to be motivated by his own self-interest. We would not expect such behavior because we are too cynical now, and it was worse in the 70’s.  Then as now too many people mistook cynicism for wisdom.

It’s really interesting how quickly this film was made. The production company started filming in late spring on 1974 and the prints were released to theaters nationwide, not in a limited grab-the-Oscar-nomination but a wide release, in December of the same year. A film of this scope and complexity simply could not be done that quickly today.

The disaster movie is not for everyone, but if it’s is your taste or you want to see a good example of this genre rent The Towering Inferno.

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Movie Review: District 9

district9_m

It was a few months ago that I first saw the previews to the film, District 9. I was intrigued by the preview but did not become really motivated to see the movie at that time. However, as time passed and I heard bits here and there I became more interested in this project until finally I was committed to seeing it on the opening weekend.

District 9 is produced by Peter Jackson best known for his Lord Of The Rings films, and was directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film directorial debut.  My understanding for the history of this film ties back the proposed HALO movie. Peter Jackson and his company Wingnut films had obtained the rights to make a movie base on the popular video game franchise HALO. Jackson had selected Blomkamp as the person to direct the HALO movie. Sadly, due to constant downward revisions in the budget by the studio, Jackson was forced to abandon the HALO project. Jackson and Blomkamp then raised the money to make a feature film out of a short subject Blomkamp has directed in 2005, Alive in Joburg. District 9 was the result.

The setup for District 9 is more of an alternate history than a near-future science fiction. Twenty years ago an alien spaceship enters Earth’s atmosphere and come to rest hovering above the South African city of Johannesburg. Eventually the aliens are settled on the ground in a special area, District 9, which becomes an alien slum. The film takes place twenty-some years after the arrival and after a great deal of human alien interaction had been established.

I am not going to delve into the plot of the film because to talk about it in even general terms will be spoiler-like. It is not that the film’s plot is totally new and unheard of, but rather the style with which the film is made makes this a very fresh way to approach the plot.

The production design on this film is just fantastic. For many years the look of science-fiction films had been sterile white affairs. In 1977 George Lucas gave us Star Wars in which he presented a lived in universe. A universe where things looked old, beat-up, and dirty. (It’s a shame he lost this when he revisited the series. Everything looked just made in the last three films.) Between Star Wars and Ridley Scott‘s Alien, SF films became dirtiy and more rough looking. District 9 takes this to a whole new level. Shot in a documentary style the production design of District 9 is one of total realism.  It’s not just lived in, the production looks real, as though Blomkamp simply walked into District 9 and started filming with a handheld camera.

The special effects are truly mind blowing when you think about them. And you have to think about them to remember that they are special effects. Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings was an impressive achievement as a digital character. The aliens in District 9 are to Gollum as Gollum was to digital characters before him. There was no moment in the film where I thought to myself, that’s pretty good but it doesn’t really sell me. By the use of puppets and digital characters and attention to detail in the sound department these aliens have become the most credible cinematic aliens yet filmed.

It is a shame that Blomkamp never got to make his HALO movie. He showed me here that he would have brought a vision and talent to the film that would have surprised the world. I’ll be following this man’s career and look forward to his next movie.

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A response to thoughts on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Over at National Review’s The Corner blog there have been some comments about the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Mainly the comments are about how women today seem to be falling for Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard, more than John Wayne’s character Tom Doniphon. Many of the people at NRO seem to feel that this is a shame and are more sympathetic to Doniphon as a heroic character.

A number of email reposes from ladies supporting their love for Doniphon were posted and I just had to say something. I emailed one of the writers to let her know my thoughts of the characters and I thought it would make an interesting post here as well.

There are spoilers so do not follow the link unless you’ve seen the film or do not care about spoilers. Continue reading A response to thoughts on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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Troubled story

So I have been trying to get my werewolf story written and it has been a troublesome story. I have the beginning of the story on paper and I know how it is going to the end, but I’ve been struggling to find the voice and arc of the middle.
I have finally figured out where I’ve been going wrong and I think now I should be able to finish it. In reality I still hadn’t settled in what the story was really about. I had some ideas and some characters and some events but it didn’t add up to a complete story.
Now it has. I had that flash of inspiration that seems to bring it all together.
And I think I have found a market for it as well.
It’s a print market which is good. Call me old fashion but I still have a bias towards print. (It’s wrong head I know, but I started writing when computers were things writers simply didn’t have access to. I remember as a teenager lusting for an IBM selectric typewriter.)

Anyway I’m going to push and try to have a first draft finished within a week and a half.

We’ll see.

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The Coming Massive Change

Right now in America we are debating health care which changes, if any, to make to our current system. (I believe that change is required, but that is not the focus of this post.) What I think is very difficult to see is how much things are going to change and change soon.
I think we are currently in a phase of history where health care will be the most expensive, but soon that is going to change. I think the transformation in health and biology by the year 2050 is going to be as massive and world altering as when physics changed the world from 1900 to 1950. We are going to get a great deal of control over the biological processes and be able to mold them to our purposes.

This can be the greatest boon to mankind since fire, or it can be a greater threat than nuclear weapons ever presented.

Take a look at the following article. In mice scientist have completely reversed MS. This is big and it’s big for more than just MS. This is about learning to control the immune system. (I’m personally interested in this. I have arthritis and I have friends with MS, arthritis, and other auto-immune diseases.) Clearly controlling the immune system can be a benefit to those like me with an autoimmune disorder, but it could also be a terrifying weapon.

God, I hope we use this power wisely.

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Suit shopping

Today we learn how little your host knows about fashion and clothing. (Stop giggling Gail.)
At my day job I have an interview for upper-level training on Friday. This means a panel interview. Oh how I hate that. I never do well with interviews. Anyway, so today my wife got my suit out of the closet to get it cleaned and ready for Friday.
No good, moths or something had gotten at the slacks and eaten holes in the suit. (It was fine just in May when I used it for a friend’s wedding, but oh well.) So we made an emergency run to the Men Fashion Depot where i bought the suit more than three years ago to get a matching set of slack for my jacket.
I know nothing about fashion. I thought go in there with the eaten slack, show them to the girl and I;d be shown which slack I needed.
Nope.
The slacks I had bought in December are a herring-bone pattern. That is only made in winter and fall. It is not available in summer. Silly me though grey is grey is grey. Nope there is summer grey and there is winter grey.
Luckily they were having a sale and I was able to pick up a new suit — one that even fit better I thought — for not too much money.

Still, it seems silly to me.

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Sunday Night Movie: Son Of Frankenstein

sofLast night I was in the mood for something classic and genre so I popped into the player my favorite of the original Universal Frankenstein films, Son Of Frankenstein.
Son Of Frankenstein was the last film in which Boris Karloff played the creature. The story follows Frankenstein’s son as he arrives at the family castle with wife and son in tow and becomes seduced by the brilliance and madness that destroyed his father.
This film is a joy to watch if you are fan of the comedy, Young Frankenstein. It is clear that Gene Wilder loved the original Universal movies and many of his gags work best if you have seen these movies.
Basil Rathbone plays Wolfgang Von Frankenstein — and I think this is the first film to give him the title of Baron, but I could be wrong about that — and the performance is really one to watch. Wolf is a man for whom nature holds no terrors. In his book fear exists where there is ignorance and misunderstanding. Armed with knowledge a man fears nothing in nature. Naturally a man with this sort of hubris is heading for a fall. Wolf’s life takes a turn for the worse when he meets Ygor, played by Bela Lugosi, a criminal who’s survived a hanging and now uses the Frankenstein monster to visit revenge on the men who sat in judgement on him. Ygor manipulates Wolf into restoring the monster to health. (It was only wounded by the fantastic explosion at the end of the last film.) Countering these two conspirator is the police inspector Krogh, played by Lionel Atwood, who would in the next film in the series be a scientist that causes the tragedy to continue. Krogh is a wonderful character and he is lampoon marvelously in Young Frankenstein by Kenneth Mars.
This is a Frankenstein movie where the monster is an invalid for two of the three acts, yet it is my favorite. I particularly like watching Rathbone’s performance as Wolf cracks as the situation spins dangerously out of control.

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