Saturday, September 29, 2007

Freak Epidemic Reduces Recruitment In Lake Havasu


By CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 28, 2:18 PM ET


PHOENIX - It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.
Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it's killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.


"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL'-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials noticed a spike with six cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.


In Arizona, David Evans said nobody knew his son, Aaron, was infected with the amoeba until after the 14-year-old died on Sept. 17. At first, the teen seemed to be suffering from nothing more than a headache.


"We didn't know," Evans said. "And here I am: I come home and I'm burying him."
After doing more tests, doctors said Aaron probably picked up the amoeba a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu, a popular man-made lake on the Colorado River between Arizona and California.


Though infections tend to be found in southern states, Naegleria lives almost everywhere in lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment.


Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.
The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, "basically feeding on the brain cells," Beach said.


People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they'll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said.


Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.


"Usually, from initial exposure it's fatal within two weeks," he said.


Researchers still have much to learn about Naegleria. They don't know why, for example, children are more likely to be infected, and boys are more often victims than girls.


"Boys tend to have more boisterous activities (in water), but we're not clear," Beach said.


In central Florida, authorities started an amoeba phone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water and areas with algae blooms. Texas health officials also have issued warnings.


People "seem to think that everything can be made safe, including any river, any creek, but that's just not the case," said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.


Officials in the town of Lake Havasu City are discussing whether to take action. "Some folks think we should be putting up signs. Some people think we should close the lake," city spokesman Charlie Cassens said.


Beach cautioned that people shouldn't panic about the dangers of the brain-eating bug. Cases are still extremely rare considering the number of people swimming in lakes. The easiest way to prevent infection, Beach said, is to use nose clips when swimming or diving in fresh water.


"You'd have to have water going way up in your nose to begin with" to be infected, he said.


David Evans has tried to learn as much as possible about the amoeba over the past month. But it still doesn't make much sense to him. His family had gone to Lake Havasu countless times. Have people always been in danger? Did city officials know about the amoeba? Can they do anything to kill them off?


Evans lives within eyesight of the lake. Temperatures hover in the triple digits all summer, and like almost everyone else in this desert region, the Evanses look to the lake to cool off.


It was on David Evans' birthday Sept. 8 that he brought Aaron, his other two children, and his parents to Lake Havasu. They ate sandwiches and spent a few hours splashing around.


"For a week, everything was fine," Evans said.


Then Aaron got the headache that wouldn't go away. At the hospital, doctors first suspected meningitis. Aaron was rushed to another hospital in Las Vegas.
"He asked me at one time, 'Can I die from this?'" David Evans said. "We said, 'No, no.'"


On Sept. 17, Aaron stopped breathing as his father held him in his arms.
"He was brain dead," Evans said. Only later did doctors and the CDC determine that the boy had been infected with Naegleria.


"My kids won't ever swim on Lake Havasu again," he said.


It's that LAST LINE that scares ME. We have the girls at R&D on top of this already; the outbreaks will subside and human scietists will TAKE FULL CREDIT because they sprayed all the standing water they could find with rat poison, or whatever they think of. It's a good thing fish don't have egos!

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Go Into The Water" -- a song for you to learn and sing


This is simply THE MOST TOUCHING HYMN TO OUR CAUSE EVER WRITTEN. Is the lyricist for this band an operative? YOU BE THE JUDGE:


"Go Into the Water" by Dethklok


We call out to the beasts of the sea to come forth and join us, this night is yours
Because one day we will all be with you in the black and deep
One day we will all go into the water
Go into the water live there die there live there die


We reject our earthly fires
Gone are days of land empires
Lungs transform to take in water
Cloaked in scales we swim and swim on


We are alive, and we'll metamorphasize
And we'll sink as we devolve back to beasts
Our home is down here, and we've known this for years
We must conquer from the sea, we build an army with water steeds


We'll rise, from our depths down below
Release yourselves, drown with me
We will conquer land with water


Gone are days of land empires
Lungs transform to take in water
Cloaked in scales we swim and swim on
We swim on
We swim on
Very special thanks to the Philadelphia operative who sent this information to me. You will inhabit a very special pocket of the Roiling Intestine Of Dagon for this boon!
SO WILL DETHKLOK.


Click here to download the song!

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

DARK GOLD


This one is by David Angsten, published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks, copyrighted 2006 to the author.


AND WHAT A BOOK IT IS. This shipwreck-diving adventure story charts the efforts of Jack Duran to find his brother in Mexico, after their mother has a terrible premonition that something bad has happened to him in his travels. Dan, Jack’s brother, an anthropology student roaming Central and South America in search of treasure and mind-expanding drugs, has not contacted anyone in the family for about 4 months. Jack enlists the dubious help of his best friends from college, two inebriated knuckleheads named Duff and Rock, to go with him and help search.

What do they find? ADVENTURE, ADVENTURE, ADVENTURE.


I can’t find it in the book now to doublecheck, but I have the impression that the plucky travelers decided to search Punta Perdida on the basis of a dream Jack had one night. Jack, who is supposedly skeptical of his mother’s psychic visions, never even checks a map to see if there really is a Punta Perdida, and nobody really argues with his out-of-nowhere idea that they can find Dan there. He just heads down to the Puerta Vallarta waterfront and starts haggling with the locals over who’s going to take him there in a boat. The locals all refuse, saying it’s a bad place and no amount of gringo money will persuade them to go there. Hmm, interesting.


While trying to get their college-educated keesters to a destination at the far outposts of civilization, Jack also follows some of the local wildlife to a biker bar, gets blasted on some sort of mescalinish stuff made of cactus juice, finds himself roped into a surprise game of pinata with the bikers – that’s what I said -- and wakes up many hours later with "YANQUI GO HOME" carved into his back with a knife. Some fun, huh, kid.


Well, they finally get a lift to Punta Perdida. The ride comes from one of the many shameless dei ex machinae in this story, a wealthy Jamaican yacht owner with two luscious supermodels crewing for him. He is so intimidating that Duff is positive the guy is Idi Amin. Why, you may well ask, would they get on this boat, with a strange man who may or may not be Idi Amin, on the basis of a beer-addled dream? Because they saw one of the crew take off her bikini top on the beach one day to go swimming. That’s why. No other reason.


I guess you’re wondering by now why I’m giving you all this detail on the plot. It’s certainly not my usual reviewing style. But I wanted my readers to get a glimpse of the mindset of the characters in this novel, MODELLED CLOSELY ON THAT OF OUR QUARRY: real live landscum.


This is what I want you to notice: A) The supposedly high-quality intellect and education that AVAIL THEM NOTHING when it really counts. B) The dependence on will-o-th’-wisp omens and seductive visions of the things Monkey People want: money, power, and scantily-clad women who know how to balance the books of a major corporation, make superb guacamole, and operate sonar equipment. THESE ARE THE KEYS TO OUR POWER OVER THEM.


WHERE DOES THE STORY GO FROM THERE? We make landfall at Punta Perdida at last, a little shanty town without plumbing or electricity that appears almost deserted, except for a priest who’s been "prevented" rather brutally from sharing the town’s DARK SECRET.




Oh, the secret? Just unimaginable wealth from the sea, guarded by a Manta Ray the size of Central Park, and a tribe of locals who worship her as their true, living God. The rest of the story is concerned with the good townspeople’s attempts to maintain their religious freedom in the face of outsiders who JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.




This is an utterly zany story, unbelievable to any fish reader – but as the narrator points out, a lot of Monkey People have fallen for its various components in the past, and there’s no harm in slapping them all together into a single novel to see if readers will fall for ALL OF IT AT ONCE.



There are a lot of head-scratcher moments in this story, but I wanted to share my favorite one with you now, from pages 269-270:



"Its presence overwhelmed me. I watched the white beast cruise on by and peer into my eyes. It had enormous eyes itself…The great black orbs held no light and gave no hint of feeling…gazing out from languid lids creased with age and worry….and in the cavern of its mouth a crimson tongue was wagging, like…the blooming breath of a dragon."



I KNOW. THAT’S WHAT I SAID, TOO.



I had great fun with this one and recommend it.

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DEAD SEA


This smiley little story was penned by Brian Keene and published by Leisure Books, NYC, 2007.

AND WHAT A STORY! This is the happy tale of how Baltimore was taken over by flesh-eating zombies, and how the few remaining live humans were forced to run for their sorry lives – out to the open ocean on a boat that is less than perfectly seaworthy. But it turns out the zoms may have followed them out onto the briny. WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?

This book is full of great stuff. I like the way most of the people on the boat have no clue how to survive on the ocean. I like the realistically unlikable, irritating characters, just like the real live humans I work daily to rescue from their hairy monkey lives. I like the way the zoms take over utterly, leaving nothing for the living to do but run. I like the changes the author rings on the flesh-eating zombie archetype.

WHY CLIFFIE RECOMMENDS THIS AS FINE LEISURE READING FOR ALL OPERATIVES:

>> Two words: MANEATING. FISH.

>> OK, a few more words: This is a satisfying story that allows the reader to watch humanity’s safe territory shrink down to almost nothing. First they flee the sidewalks, and find themselves trapped indoors. Then they flee the city itself. Then they flee – chuckle! -- dry land. And it gets way worse from there, believe me.

>> The message is utterly delightful: THEY’RE COMING, AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. So easy to change to WE’RE COMING, AND THERE’S NOTHING etc. etc. etc.

>> This was a quick read. It’s as thick as your average novel, thicker than some certainly, but I got through it in just a few hours, wishing I knew exactly how it comes out.

>> Why don’t I know how it comes out? Keene doesn’t actually tell you. DO I SMELL SEQUEL?

>> I realize this stuff is pure wish-fulfilling fantasy, but sometimes you have to just let your brain lie fallow, and allow yourself to be replenished with a burst of happiness, too rare here up on dry land. This is one such revivifying jolt. WE’LL GET BACK TO THE WORLD TAKEOVER SCHEME TOMORROW.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO


A 1955 Republic Pictures cliffhanger serial

Directed by Franklin Adreon

Starring Phyllis Coates in the title role, vs. an all-star cast of GIANT KILLER CRAWDADS!

PLOT SUMMARY: A nature photographer named Jean Evans is out lensing one day, in the company of her trusty African guides, when what strolls out in front of the camera! It’s an IMMENSE CRAWDAD, twice the length of a tall man, acting quite as if he OWNED THE JUNGLE. Jean keeps filming, only realizing when the CLAWED SPECTER OF TERROR is ALMOST UPON HER that her trusty guides have already CUT AND RUN. She takes off after them, whereupon the IMMENSE CRAWDAD proves itself to be a RUTHLESS KILLER by, slowly and tentatively, turning over the camera tripod, then slowly walking away.

The chase is on. Jean is hot on the trail of the GIANT KILLER CRUSTACEANS with the help of a local bwana, Larry Sanders, trying to figure out how this can be happening while investigating the strange behavior of two good-for-nothing lowlifes from the next village over. All these people, except the native guides, are white Americans, by the way. It turns out that the two suspicious guys are working for the local Mad Scientist, and we learn almost immediately that the scientist is the one who’s been enlarging the local wildlife by feeding them special hormones. Why? To chase away the ignorant, superstitious locals from their SPECIAL FIND: a played-out goldmine that proves to be full of diamonds. The idea is for the three evildoers to dig out all the diamonds they can carry and go back to civilization to be rich guys.

Because this is a cliffhanger serial, the story is chopped into twelve pieces, most of them less than 15 minutes long. And we get to ask, with each installment: WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?

CLIFFIE’S NOTES ON THIS COMPULSIVELY-WATCHABLE INSTANT,YET FORGOTTEN CLASSIC OF KILLER CRAWDAD GOODNESS:

>> "Jean" Evans? I think they meant to call her "Dale." This story may be set in Africa, but this serial is, unmistakably, a Western. Dale Jean goes out to work each day in a flirty little buckskin mini-dress, with a tiny little skort at the bottom and snappy lapels at the top, edged with giant blanket-stitching that appears to have been done with leather thongs. Cuffed go-go boots and a leopardskin gunbelt, cunningly disposed to show off her corseted waist, complete the outfit. Man, I hope that corset isn’t made of leather like the rest of the ensemble. It could become really painful after she gets it wet.

>> Doesn’t sound very Western to you? Then consider the two thugs: they wear low-slung gunbelts, workshirts, dungarees, and sturdy boots. They have the requisite matchsticks protruding from the corners of their mouths, scatterguns slung casually over their elbows, six-guns on each flank, and they didn’t forget the cowboy hats. The male lead, Larry Sanders, tries to look more bwana than buckaroo, with a safari shirt open at the neck and a white Panama hat, but it doesn’t quite work. He looks merely out of place in this utterly Western picture. So do the elephants and lions.

>> So, for that matter, does the Mad Scientist, a very elegant Forties noir villain with the slicked-back hair and the tweed sack suit. Yes, he has the sort of spectacles worn by all intellectuals of that era, in accordance with international law. And, yes, he has the ritzy pseudo-English accent. Life is strange, isn’t it? One day you’re doing pure research in a chemistry lab in Boston; the next you’re enlarging Crawdads in darkest Africa.

>> Dale Jean gamely does all the good Tarzanish tricks she can to try to make this back into a jungle picture. She swings from vines, rides an elephant, braves quicksand, and swan-dives into a river from an immense height, with a knife in her teeth, to kill a giant rubber crocodile and save Larry’s life. But the cowboys show up and start shooting, and there’s no fighting it: we’re back in a Western again. Before we know it she’s in a mineshaft, ducking the lit sticks of dynamite the cowboys are throwing at her, firing a pistol 18 times before the bullets run out and never hitting anything.

>> Even the friendly natives look more like refugees from a picture about the old South, in their tattered slave outfits. One of them found a skipper’s hat somewhere and looks for all the world like the forgotten Black cast member of Gilligan’s Island. Only the tribal chief, a James Earl Jones prototype with a booming voice, wears African regalia. They manage to make even this guy look like some kind of weird renegade Plains Indian, by giving him a great big headband stuck full of great big feathers, and having him stride around with his arms folded across his chest.

>> The evil natives are a different story. They look very African indeed, with warpaint, leopardskin miniskirts with daring "car wash" hemlines, and extraordinary marabou headgear that strongly resembles Sam Jackson’s "Mr. Glass" hair from Unbreakable. These are typical evil natives – chicken-hearted toadies who speak pidgin English and do anything they’re asked in exchange for the Mad Scientist’s habit-forming "jungle juice."

>> All this talk of trails, canyons and the like is very un-jungle-picturish, too. Someone even said the word "posse." Come on, people, THINK.

>> The story is full of surprising elements: a barking Lion; a tame Elephant named after the host of This Old House (Jean calls her out of the jungle by hollering "VIIIIIIIIIILA!"), who on closer examination proves to be an Indian Elephant, not an African one; a girl nature photographer who is tougher than her big, brawny male protector; a bad guy raising the shade so that his partners can easily hear the drum signal he’s sending out; and most importantly, those GIANT KILLER CRAWDADS.

>> Let’s take a closer look at the stars of this serial. The evil chemist explains dismissively that the Crayfish only live a few days after being embiggened, and that may well be true in their puny scientific lab, but little can they suspect the natural rebellious streak in GIANT KILLER CRUSTACEANS that will make them survive JUST TO SPITE YOU. At one point, the cowboys tell the scientist that the latest Killer Crayfish must be dead, because they found pieces of shell on the trail. It occurs to NOBODY that, like the Crabs in Island Claws, the Crawdads may simply have MOLTED and GOTTEN BIGGER in order to DESTROY YOU ALL. Sorry, was I yelling?

>> You have to like the nonchalant way the Crawdads stroll through each installment, totally unconcerned by the frenzied antics of the Shaved Monkeys. Said monkeys try to herd them around the jungle with sticks, then pepper them with bullets, run away screaming, throw rocks, whatever. THE CRAWDADS DON'T BAT AN EYESTALK. That's 100% right and proper, ladies. I like the careless display of RAW POWER when one of the stars crashes through the log crate she’s being kept in. I like the casual way another picks Jean up off the ground like the PUNY HUMAN she is. As someone who dines at least monthly with Giant Killer Crawdads, I know they got THIS part right, at least.

There are so many things to like about this story.

BUY IT. TAKE IT HOME. WATCH IT. REPEATEDLY.
One more thing...See that whiskery, tentacled monster on the poster above? Upper left?
It doesn't appear anywhere in the story.

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