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A combined movie review (by Jill) and Covid 19 update (by Dr. Duane Rommel)!

Jill:  Once again, Tom Hanks, the famous actor with the average face of Everyman, occupies center stage in heroic glory, as the Captain of an Allied ship in WW II.  Their mission: to defend desperately needed supplies as they travel through the Atlantic.  They face a formidable enemy,  German u-boats.

The most surprising moments in the film are brief scenes where Hanks prays over his breakfast, or fixes his tie as he gazes into a mirror edged with the verse, “Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8.”  Or worries about the souls of the Germans he just killed.

Captain Krause is a man of faith.  The story unfolds as the intense 36 hour fight to protect the convoy.   Tom Hanks exudes believability Krause,  directing the ship through icy winter seas and torpedo attacks.   When the Germans send threatening messages in the dark night that play over the ship’s radio to the crew, “We are Grey Wolf and we are going to destroy you,” I felt the fear.  But Krause skillfully leads his team to work together to destroy a few of the German U boats who are trying to kill them.  Some of their own men die (war is hell) but Krause ultimately triumphs, bringing his ship into safe harbor.

In stark contrast, yesterday The Tampa Bay Times featured a front page picture of a teacher holding up a sign, “I can’t teach from a coffin.”  I was shocked.  In a time of war on Covid, our country and world need heroes.   The  teaching profession is usually made up of our leaders who instruct and inspire our next generation.   The message of magic marker on the sign was worse than a lie, it was a half-truth, something more powerfully destructive than a complete falsehood.  Yes, the truth is, a small percentage of those who get Covid will die.  But someone dedicated to teaching truth should know that the data supports the fact that most people will not.

Dr. Duane:  The fear and hysteria surrounding Covid 19 continues in a significant percentage of the population in the U.S.  Because of these overblown fears, many are now advocating a delay in the opening of school.  In my office, my patients ask me:

“Should kids return to school next month?”

My answer is an unqualified “YES”.

I am in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics, who wrote in their guidance statement: ” Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.  They provide our children with academic instruction, social and emotional skills,  safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits.”  Statistics continue to show that the risks for kids under the age of 19 are minimal for dying from Covid.  Of the total number of deaths from the virus in the U.S., .0004 are in people under the age of 19.  And that does not even account for the underlying conditions in those children who died.  That is the total number.

So, school leaders need to ask themselves:  When is the treatment worse that the illness?  It’s obvious that the risks associated with the virus for our children are much less than the problems we will create in not opening the schools.  This does not address the personal concerns of  individual teachers.  If a teacher has an identified health risk from Covid 19 according to their physician, they should not teach this year.  But that does not mean we should close the schools because a small minority of teachers cannot be in the classroom.  To clarify: teachers, along with the general public, need to be reassured that statistical data shows the risk of dying from Covid, for teachers under the age of 65  is very low.  (see  http://jillrommel.com/2020/06/01/covid-19-statistics-for-dummies/).  The fear of some should not control a school districts’ decision about what is the right thing to do for our kids.

 

Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”  We must move forward with life.  Schools must open.  As a physician, concerned with the whole well being of my patient families, I see how unwise policies produce more fear, which are pushing too many into unemployment, isolation and depression.

Jill and Dr. Duane:  The media is not helping.  Putting an image of a frightened teacher on the front page tears down the truth.  Rather than instructing the public, they pander to their fears to sell papers.  They play the part of “Greywolf” in the movie, the enemy, taunting the sailors with lies.  “We are coming after you and will destroy you.”  Instead, the media should be highlighting the lawn signs we’ve seen as we’ve biked our neighborhoods, “Thank you to our heroes: our health care workers and grocery store workers.”  Our heroes show up to work.  They are.  Teachers need to be heroes, too, and show up for school.

Seeing a hero, like the one Tom Hanks portrayed in “Greyhound,” reminds us that right actions are based in our faith in the truth.  And the truth is, getting Covid is not an automatic death sentence.  Scientific data continues to support this.    One would hope that schools, some with specific ‘STEM’ labels, would be places where their leaders would grasp these ideas.  I know quite a few teachers who do, and are ready to start back to school.

Some British made WW II movies are based on the idea of ‘the enemy within.’  This theme used to surprise me, as I assumed that all the Allies were on the same team:  ‘We’re all in this together.’  The facts reveal stories like that of Charles Lindbergh, American aviation hero, who was supporting the Nazis.  Royal Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson sympathized with the Nazis … or the traitor can be turn out to be the neighbor next door.  Unfortunately, there may be those among us that are trying to tear us down; who are on the Fear Team.

Facing the realities of life, like this Covid illness, forces each of us to choose what kind of person we’re going to be.  Interesting that in “Greyhound,” Captain Krause found his strength in God.  Duane and I have found ourselves to be in need of help these days.  Not that we’re afraid of the virus, but it’s sobering and saddens to see how the fear of the virus has destroyed so much.

‘Greyhound’ ends with a prayer.  Before falling into bed, exhausted after 36 hours straight of fighting the enemy, Captain Krause kneels beside his bed and says,  “I thank you, my heavenly Father, that you have graciously kept me this day.  Into your hands I commit my body and soul.”

 

Another in what has turned out to be a series of medical posts by Dr. Duane Rommel:

I read the headline in the National Review, “Why does the CDC think the Covid 19 fatality rate is so low and why won’t it tell anyone?”  (https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/why-does-the-cdc-think-the-covid-19-fatality-rate-is-so-low-and-why-wont-it-tell-anyone/)

I’ve been asking myself the same question.

In April, early data was beginning to show the Covid virus that locked us  in our homes was not as fearsome as first thought.  The health experts that supported that view were lambasted.  As the weeks pass, more data has arrived, supporting their claims.  The latest news comes from the CDC, our government’s scientists; yet some don’t want to believe it.  Or, worse, report it clearly to the public.

This report from the CDC, our nation’s health protection agency (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html) was dated May 20.  Their best understanding of Covid 19 shows  that for those age 0-49 the Case Fatality Rate for people who have symptoms is .05%.  

Please take time to learn this important statistic.  This is one statistic that has meaning, in a never ending sea of confusing numbers broadcast in the media.  The case fatality rate means the number of deaths from Covid 19 divided by the number of people who had symptoms of Covid 19 and tested positive.

The case fatality rate for age 50-64 year olds with symptoms is .2%. The case fatality rate for age 65+ year olds  with symptoms is 1.3%. The CDC currently estimates that 35% of Covid 19 cases are without symptoms.  

Even more important than the Case Fatality Rate is the Infection Fatality Rate.  The Infection Fatality Rate is the number of deaths from Covid 19 divided by all the cases; symptomatic plus asymptomatic.  The Infection Fatality Rate, according to the CDC’s research at this time, is: 

Age 0 to 49:  .032%

Age 50 to 64:  .13%

Age 65 + :   .85%

Earlier rates were being used by the government to set policies leading to the shutdown of our country.   These numbers are a significant change from those used in March, which were estimated to be 3-5%.  The case fatality rates clearly have been a major factor in government officials’ decision making.  The higher the fatality rate, the more aggressive we needed to be to minimize the transfer of the virus from person to person.  The less the fatality rate, the more we can resume activities which allow contact between people.   

The current understanding of the Infection Fatality Rate by the CDC on May 20, is one tenth the original estimate.  A typical infection fatality rate for the ‘seasonal flu’ is .1%.  So Covid 19 is three times more deadly than the seasonal flu, not thirty times, as originally predicted.

This great news should be leading media headlines.  Instead, each night news anchors mindlessly read the number of cases and deaths.  Death counts have no meaning out of context.  If a patient deciding on surgery with anesthesia asks, “How many people died from anesthesia last year?”  The factual answer is “310.”  This is not helpful; what they need to know is the death rate, not the number.  The death rate is .001%, a reasonable risk to take.

Why did the CDC, a reliable group of physicians and scientists, change their estimates?

Scientist Brian Nosek, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia, comments: 

 “The pandemic has exposed the messiness of science.  That’s how science always is, but we don’t usually see that truth exposed so vividly.  We all want answers today, and science is not going to give them.  Science is uncertainty.  And the pace of uncertainty reduction in science is way slower that the pace of a pandemic.”

 From the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been clamoring for reliable data.  New data and findings continue to pour in. The truth about Covid 19 is complex.  These fatality numbers are the CDC’s new best estimates.

It’s better to understand science  as a process.  As the new knowledge about Covid-19 emerges, the recommendations by experts need to reflect this change.  We cannot stay stuck in the March policies when we have a better understanding of reality.  This means we should not be fearing the numbers of cases in most people under age 65.  We should be treating this situation as we deal with our yearly flu epidemics. Open schools.  Open camps.  Open stores.  Stop wiping all surfaces.  Finally, figure out how to protect the elderly.  

The greatest challenge for our government and health leaders will be to communicate, after months of fear, that this is a virus we can manage and survive.  The CDC’s latest projections can’t be ignored.

The tornado that whisks Dorothy out of Kansas in the Wizard of Oz,  and drops her house on the Wicked Witch of the East, terrifies the folk of Munchkin Land.  The Munchkins are hiding in their homes. Glinda, the good witch, arrives and sings, “Come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the young lady who fell from a star.” 

We can come out now.

 

 

I have a little friend that visits me when I sit at my desk.  His mother built her nest in the hurricane shutter outside my window.  I have a ‘thing’ about birds.  It started with J.M. Barrie’s book, “The Little White Bird,” published in 1901.  I found a copy in a bookstore in England when I was there for the Wheaton in England program.  The middle chapters of the book introduce the wonderful Peter Pan.

Birds fly in many chapters of the Bible.  The dove descends on Jesus at his baptism.  A picture of the Holy Spirit.  Whenever I see a bird in flight, or standing near me on my porch railing, I think, “God is here.”  Good news these days.

What have Duane and I been doing these days?  On March 2, we bought a 2 bedroom villa in Countryside, to be nearer to work and church.  We’re keeping the beach condo.  Here’s a picture of our new bedroom.  Duane just got the mirror I found at a consignment store hung.  Outside the window you can see our deck that overlooks a  small retention pond.

Days after we bought the villa, our world began shutting down.  The lady we bought it from left most of her furnishings, so we had beds and chairs.   I’ve painted almost every room in my favorite color, Benjamin Moore’s OC-19, which sounds eerily like the virus.  It’s name is ‘Seapearl,’ a warm white.

With a new place, we’ve been making frequent trips to Home Depot, staying, as we say in Florida, “an alligator’s distance” from each other.

The owner also left four filing cabinets, and etc., in the garage.  Her move was overwhelming her; she was moving into a senior living facility.  We told her to leave whatever.  Over the last year of 3 or 4 moves we have become adept at Salvation Army, Facebook marketplace, etc.   This picture is after we cleared out, with our friend Dustin McCanse’s help, most of the stuff.

A clean garage, Duane’s pride and joy, because now he has a spot for our bikes.  He has hung my bike on a unique pulley system in the left corner.  Our recumbent tandem is not shown, or Duane’s other bike for riding to work.

We’ve been blessed with 2 of our 4 grandkids being in town.  Last week, Elizabeth and Mike were still in their offices working, so we tried valiantly to oversee Ethan and Sophie’s schoolwork, with schools closed.  Some mornings we had three computers juggling different Zoom meetings.

Then you have to make sure everyone gets lunch.  Sophie counts out the number of Pringles to go with the sandwiches.

After lunch Elizabeth picked up the kids.   We resume the continual small projects of moving, like cleaning dust out of the chandelier from when the popcorn ceilings were removed.    Going to the food store, doing the wash, getting ready for Zoom Bible study, Zoom men’s group, Zoom Adult Bible Fellowship, and church online.

Duane is still working, more part time than ever.  He’s busy with frequent physician telephone meetings to figure out how to best serve their patients.  Things change; another phone meeting.

And we make exercise a priority every day.  At the condo we bike or walk the beach or the neighborhood.  Officially the beach is closed however supposedly if you are in the water you can walk along the shoreline.  It’s pretty deserted but still beautiful.

And we bike.  It’s been easy putting our recumbent tandem, that we’ve had for over 20 years, in the van to transport it between the condo and the villa.  We are thankful we can get outdoors and see God’s beautiful world.  I took this picture because ahead of us is a guy on a bike with a giant front wheel, in the style of the original bikes.

I love this blue flower, a delphinium, in front of the pink geranium.  It won’t last in the Florida heat.  But I’m enjoying it for now.    One of Mother’s favorite questions was, “What are you looking forward to this week?”

If I read the newspaper or watch the news (I’m definitely stopping all news/press conferences as of today) it feels like there’s not much to look forward to.  The government’s idea of ‘soon’ things are opening up, and my definition of ‘soon’ are different!  Not accidentally, I hugged a friend I ran into on an essential trip to Target yesterday.

Each day, the good things prevail .

 

“Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

 

“…we’ve heard the people clammer to shut the beaches,”  stated Janet Long, Pinellas County Commissioner, at last night’s County Commission Meeting.  In spite of Pinellas Sheriff Gualtiera’s objections that the public was using the beach appropriately, they voted unanimously to shut them down.

Welcome to Socialized Medicine.  Democrats, Janet Long being one,  seem to be the ones falling in with the ‘government knows what is best for you’  scare policies.  Politicians, not doctors, telling you what is best for your health.

Unfortunately, there are a few doctors, Dr. Fauci being the leader, terrifying the public with statistics and suggestions of: death.  Yikes!  We are all mortals!  Many other doctors are willing to put those statistics into a larger perspective to calm down the public.  They haven’t been featured on the news, which I gave up watching several days ago because the illogical stories, like ‘how to make candles’ to pass the time while you are isolated at home, have gotten boring.

Time for Americans to stand up for freedom and common sense.  We’ve watched communist and  socialized medicine countries implement draconian policies of shut down that have produced a ‘cure’ far worse than any illness.  Not only are people losing businesses and jobs, but people with significant medical needs  are being overrun by policies that hamper their care.

My husband and I went out for dinner last night.  We waited for our dinner at the outdoor empty seating area of a favorite restaurant and watched many diners come to collect their dinner ‘to go.’  One lady, standing at the curb, puffed on her cigarette as she waited.  When is our government going to stop selling cigarettes and ban alcohol, two health risks that kill more people than the present virus?

Kudos to Gualtieri,  who is trying to remain sensible.  And also to our governor, Ron DeSantis, who seems to be fighting to keep things open.  They are holding fast to their political beliefs.  Governments should serve, not terrify, their people.

“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” – Winston Churchill

5-star-movie reviews

“Just Mercy”‘s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), heroically fights for truth and justice for his death row clients in Alabama.  Based on a true story, the film exposes flagrant racism too close in time, only twenty five years ago, for comfort. Aren’t we past all that?  Five stars for subject matter: truth and the fight for justice.  Also, a graphic portrayal of the death penalty with a worthy plea to shut it down, in the name of justice and mercy.

However, on a cinematic level, although the acting was believable and writing hammered home the film’s message, the pace of the story in the first half was slow, and visually, something I could have watched at home on a TV screen.  Hence the three stars below.  Best supporting actor for Tim Blake Nelson,  whose characterization of the guy whose lies put innocent Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) on death row sparkled.

The movie could have ended where Foxx’s character realizes that the truth has set him free, while he is still incarcerated.  Powerful scene.  But doesn’t.

Duane wondered why the title was, “Just Mercy”:  Real justice stands alone on the truth, and in this story, that’s all the man needed.  

 

“Parasite,” Oscar nominated for Best Picture and International Feature Film, among other categories, is the story of two nuclear families: father, mother, son and daughter.  The poor family lives in honest, harmony, hungry and dependent upon each other, in a hovel in South Korea.  The rich family don’t know or even like each other, living in an architect designed dream house, with a basement.  (Foreshadowing; there’s lots of it in the movie.)

What happens, when, through the appearance of a metaphoric rock, the lives and hopes of these two families intersect?

You have to see the movie to find out.  Discover how peach fuzz and morse code, American Indians and the danger of cell phones, combine in a story that consistently surprises while at the same time, is relatable.

“What’s the plan?” the poor son asks his father, as they lay side by side on the floor of a gymnasium, after their hovel is washed away in a rain storm.  Throughout the film, the family had worked many plans.

“There is no plan,”  the father replies as he gazes hopelessly at the ceiling.

But that’s not the end of the movie.

A must must see.  Because the details are so creative: like how the wrong smell can give away a scheme.   And because the characters are so finely written.  Especially the father, who appears at the beginning as an out of work loser.  Then becomes the suave chauffeur of the rich family.  He fools the rich family, til even the rich father says, “There’s something I like about him:  ‘he knows not to cross the line.'”

And who’s fooling who?  Another big theme.

We saw lots of horror movie previews before this film; thought we must have been going to see a horror movie.  The tone shifts from comedic to satire to – well there is lots of blood at the end.  Not for kids, at all.  Too dark.  And it has subtitles.  But brilliantly told truth to ponder.

I karaoked to this album on Dad’s Fisher stereo at full blast whenever I had the house to myself, in high school.  The power of that orchestra, led by Mort Lindsey,  created a magical musical world with hit song after hit song by Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Dorothy Fields and on and on, topped with the icing of Judy’s full throttle voice.  “We’ll sing ’em all and we’ll stay all night!”  Judy exclaims before the second to last showstopper.  I brought the album with me to college.  I listened to it as a young mother while walking.  Now it delights me as I drive in my car, preferably in a Chrysler car because somehow their sound systems are better.

I adore Judy’s voice.

Her life was a train wreck.  Renee Zellwegger is not my favorite actress as she seems self- conscious.  “I’m on screen and I love it.”  Now that she’s up for Best Actress I forced myself to watch the movie.

The film was brightly colored, contrasting her bright, not drab,  black hair and dark fake eyelashed eyes with a rainbow of colors.  For the first half hour that was fun to watch.  In the second hour, it was tiring to see close ups of the Judy face with the pouty lips impersonation.  The story of her childhood/teen years at MGM was briefer than expected.  I’m not sure if the filmmaker intended that those loveless and demanding years were an excuse for Judy’s drug, alcohol and anxiety issues.  Or is it that people that are talented to genius artistic level are just impossible to live with?

Either way, it’s a depressing story, a gifted person turned into a victim of her own life.  Was it well told?  The pace, after the first half hour at that pace, was too slow. And not enough of Judy’s life was told, in a 2 hour story.  Tell a story instead of so many many close ups of Renee’s face.

I apologize for being tough on her, but we’re talking about a legend. And Renee’s singing voice, on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being Judy, was a 0.  Find the Judy at Carnegie album and listen to it. You’ll see I’m right.

Nominated by the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, “Knives Out” doesn’t make the cut of ‘best’ or ‘original.’  The film did have a screenplay – which fits into the category of ‘been there, done that,’ like a game of ‘Clue,’ as alluded to in the film, with the typical caricatures who have a possible motive for the preposterous murder.

An entertaining film has a clever story but just as important, if not more, is how the screen delights the eye.  I’ve never seen a mansion with more maroon carpeting and walls, dark brown woodwork and olive (yuck) green.  Enhanced with only the light from the windows on a cloudy winter day, the lighting budget was obviously nil.   The drab, colorless scenes don’t get any help from the ‘action’ (?) of the film: mostly actors sitting in chairs talking to each other.

Daniel Craig’s southern drawl didn’t work and the puking was gimmicky.

 

 

“Little Women” treads on sacred ground.  I grew up reading and re-reading this classic in the yellow spined  ‘classic of the month for children’ edition my mother bought for her four girls.  (Each month’s spine color a different color of the rainbow which looked classy when they lined our bookshelf).  I was in sixth grade when I fell in love with Jo March; not because she wanted more than anything else to be a writer, but because she was independent and unafraid to break the feminine falsities of the day.  She was a woman with an ‘attic of her own.’  My kingdom was in the basement; a desk, bookshelf and bulletin board, under the stairs.

So, wouldn’t I love this feminist “Little Women” flick?  The visuals: settings, home decor, costumes and hair are gauzily beautiful.  They made Americana look as elegant as Downton Abbey.  The writers chose to keep the storyline, if somewhat back and forth in time.

Where it fell completely flat was in the writing of the dialogue of the four sisters.  I didn’t believe any of the words that came out of their mouths, which makes working off a script dicey for an actor.  Oh, except one or two of the lines, which came directly from the book, like, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents!”  Funny thing, that, the charm and brilliance of Louisa May Alcott’s actual writing, which Greta Gerwig mistakenly thought she could fill in, with her own political beliefs about women and marriage in the 19th century.  The only other thing missing from the film was the emojis that should have accompanied the end of each sugary syrup scene.  Those round yellow faces wouldn’t fit the period, so the creators of this sermon on the injustice of marriage to women substituted a musical soundtrack of over obvious crescendos and sappy sentimentality.  Women who made this film, are you trying to work your way out of your jobs back into your meaningless marriages?

The Laurie character is always a tough one… Chalamet fit at the younger Laurie stage, but looked too young for the more mature Laurie.  Also, the Amy character looked too old for her younger part and overplayed those scenes.  Is it ‘looks’ or is it ‘acting?’  And horrors! The March girls never wrestled each other or punched a friend, even in play.  For all the efforts in scenery, costumes and staging, to have the characters act like hyperactive children was offensive to the dignity that Louisa May Alcott instilled in her characters.

I’m trying to remember why I loved reading her books so much when I was in 5th or  6th grade;  I also adored her second book, “Jo’s Boys.”  I wanted to run an orphanage for boys, too.  Her stories inspired because her characters were real people who lived ‘ordinary lives’ with courage, creativity and love.

I’m sorry that for Greta that wasn’t enough.

Oh, and my baby sister, like Amy, took her ‘fancy drawings’ and turned it into a thriving design business!

This is a movie review about the film “Marriage Story.”  We watched the film on Netflix, not in a theater.  Starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, the title could be “Divorce Story.”  This movie is truth truth truth.  If you know anyone who is on the road to divorce or in this painful place, you must see this film.  It will be up for all kinds of awards; acting, writing, directing, editing, film work, best picture, etc.  Standout performances by all, including Ray Liotta and Laura Dern as divorce lawyers.  You know a film is true when it captures reality so that even in sad and painful places there are glimmers of humor and hope.

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