Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 31, 2008: 

This is FANTASTIC! Dr. Karen sent me the link to this video about a man with a truly photographic memory....

Beautiful Minds: Stephen Wiltshire

Back when I was healthy, I could remember pretty much anything I had seen in print, and when I worked in radio, I would not only remember the title of a song but also the artist, year it came out, name of album, running time and sometimes even what track and side (track and side referring to vinyl albums, of course). Now I say things like: "Umm, it's a word that starts with a C?" or "You, know that SONG that that one band did, maybe in the 80's??"

Wishin' I was still the mighty and not the fallen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 30, 2008: 

I may have posted these before, but they're kinda cute, so a repeat wouldn't hurt. Link courtesy of Pete....

Time Gets Better with Age

What have I learned at age 44? That you can learn from people of all ages.

I'm (down)LOADED! 

I finally finished using up various iTunes gift cards and downloaded scads of songs. From the list below, I made four CDs of 2007/2008 songs, two CDs of cover tunes (one exclusively dedicated to the '80's), and one miscellaneous alt/rock disc. That should keep me out of trouble for awhile, don't ya think?

Walk Like an Egyptian - The Puppini Sisters
Given Up - Linkin Park
Bleed It Out -Linkin Park
Foxy, Foxy - Rob Zombie
Song 2 - Plain White T's
American Witch - Rob Zombie
Underclass Hero - Sum 41
I Get It - Chevelle
1234 - Feist
On Call - Kings of Leon
Straight Lines - Silverchair
All Around Me - Flyleaf
Holy Diver - Killswitch Engage
Tick Tick Boom - The Hives
Life Is Beautiful - Sixx:A.M.
I Don't Wanna Be In Love (Dance Floor Anthem) - Good Charlotte
Read My Mind - The Killers
Fake It - Seether
I Dare You - Shinedown
Zzyzx Rd. - Stone Sour
Just the Girl - The Click Five
Psycho - Puddle of Mudd
Famous - Puddle of Mudd
The Enemy - Godsmack
Good Times, Bad Times - Godsmack
Staplegunned - The Spill Canvas (Sioux Falls band!)
All Over You - The Spill Canvas
Rose Garden - Southern Culture On the Skids
Lollipop - MIKA
A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Almost Easy - Avenged Sevenfold
Empty Walls - Serj Tankian
Cyclone - Baby Bash (feat. T-Pain)
Beat It - Fall Out Boy (feat. John Mayer)
Falling Down - Atreyu
So Happy - Theory of a Deadman
Can't Get Enough of You Baby - Smash Mouth
Dig - Incubus
Online - Brad Paisley
Timebomb - Beck
Instant Karma - U2
Sweet Sacrifice - Evanescence
Malignant Narcissism - Rush
Just Fine - Mary J. Blige
Try It Again - The Hives
Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
Well Enough Alone - Chevelle
Inside the Fire - Disturbed
Free Fallin' - John Mayer
Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
It's Not My Time - 3 Doors Down
Gamma Ray - Beck
You Wouldn't Know - HELLYEAH
Alcohaulin'Ass - HELLYEAH
Comfortably Numb - Staind
Stronger - Kanye West
Walking Disaster - Sum 41
Girl of the Year - FM Static
Dead! - My Chemical Romance
Love In Your Arms - Eleventyseven
Rise Today - Alter Bridge
The City Is At War - Cobra Starship
Our Time Now - Plain White T's
Until the Day I Die - Story of the Year
Anthem of Our Dying Day - Story of the Year
The Chain - Tantric
Get Free - The Vines
Cars - Fear Factory
Whatever - Godsmack
Oh! - Sleater-Kinney
Dark Blue - Jack's Mannequin
Stay (I Missed You) - New Found Glory
King of Wishful Thinking - New Found Glory
Bulls On Parade - Rage Against the Machine
Renegades of Funk - Rage Against the Machine
Fire Water Burn - Bloodhound Gang
The Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang
Top of the World - The All-American Rejects
On My Own - Hedley
Everything's Just Wonderful - Lily Allen
Ready, Steady, Go - Oakenfold
Starry Eyed Surprise - Oakenfold
I Can Do Better - Avril Lavigne
I Just Wanna Live - Good Charlotte
Run (I'm a Natural Disaster) - Gnarls Barkley
Is She Really Going Out With Him? - Goldfinger
Handlebars - Flobots
Saints of Los Angeles - Mötley Crüe
Hammerhead - The Offspring
You're Gonna Go Far, Kid - The Offspring
If You Could Only See - Tonic
How Bizarre - OMC
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - Ra
Boys Don't Cry - Oleander
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Falling On - Finger Eleven
The Distance - Cake
Bullet With Butterfly Wings - Smashing Pumpkins
Bad Girlfriend - Theory of a Deadman
Beautiful - 10 Years
Pork and Beans - Weezer
Believe - Staind
Devour - Shinedown
Salute Your Solution - The Raconteurs
Bullet With a Name - Nonpoint
Highway to Hell - Angry Samoans
Big Balls - The Dwarves
Always Something There to Remind Me - The Hippos
A Whiter Shade of Pale - Annie Lennox
Hey Jealousy - Hit The Lights
West End Girls - My Morning Jacket
I Melt With You - Sugarcult
I Remember You - The Ataris
Manic Monday - Relient k
Dead Man's Party - A Thorn for Every Heart
Video Killed the Radio Star - Amber Pacific
I Ran - Hidden in Plain View
Bark At the Moon - Strung Out
Seek & Destroy - Agent Orange
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) - Jack The Crack

Should I be fortunate enough to acquire any more iTunes gift cards, my next intended project would be to mine the Billboard pop charts for the '50's, '60's and '70's (1980 to present is already complete). Also, I never did finish copying songs from my own CDs to iTunes because after the basement flooded, I had to cover up all my music with plastic to protect it from the dust and debris kicked up by the foundation and carpenter dudes, and I might as well leave it covered until the basement is finished, which should be sometime in September if I'm lucky. Once I get both projects done, I'm estimating I'll have somewhere between 3500 and 3750 songs in iTunes, which is over nine days' worth of music.

I could practically start my own radio station, heh heh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 29, 2008: 

Something I've been meaning to get to, but didn't until a few days ago. This is where adorable kitties and horrible grammar meet....

I Can Has Cheezburger?

And of course, to give pups equal time....

I Has A Hotdog!

And don't forget the political humor!

Pundit Kitchen

You can even put together your own funnies to add to these pages. I haven't tried it, but I think it would be fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 28, 2008: 

I think we can tell that our dogs like us, but do they actually love us? This article explores that possibility....

Do Dogs Feel Love?

And this is a cute video featuring a "talking" dog....
Dog Videos

Chip seems to like me well enough. But then, it could have something to do with his being the world's most spoiled English springer spaniel, heh heh....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 27, 2008: 

Not only is chronic illness rough on the person who is sick, their loved ones suffer too. This is by a man whose wife has CFIDS.....

Personal Stories: A Spouse's Transformation

It sucks that Dan can't have a normal life when I'm the one who's sick. But we all have our crosses to bear, I suppose.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 26, 2008: 

I came across this entry in one of the blogs I read regularly and laughed my ass off! Warning: link contains profanity....


I don't think I could handle replacing my computer every couple of years. Of course, if I had a PC, I might not have a choice.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fibromy ow ow ow!! 

I like to think I don't complain excessively about the pain - after all, it's a 24/7 thing, and I've been putting up with it for 11 years. But right now I'm at a level of agony that would make even a saint swear like a sailor. And I don't get discouraged often, but tonight, I'm waving the white flag.

My base pain level has been climbing steadily for about a month I think? No particular reason - that's just how it goes sometimes. Been doing my usual ignoring it, tuning it out, distracting myself by watching funny movies or listening to music or whatever, and that worked reasonably well until this week.

I started developing a migraine Tuesday night I think. And with my pain level already high, that just turned EVERYTHING up to an 11 on a scale of 1-10. Can't handle much physical movement without becoming dizzy and disoriented, the sound of a child screaming at the grocery store about turned me inside out, I'm so fibro-fogged that it took me 10 minutes to decide whether I needed to put on a pair of socks, and the smell of someone's perfume brought on an asthma attack.

Yesterday, I went to my usual aquacise because I need to keep my muscles loose while I'm in a flare. But I had to do most of the exercises with my eyes closed because the reflection of the overhead lights on the water was making me nauseous. I'd hoped exercise would help the headache, but it didn't.

Today, I had a dentist appointment for a regular checkup. By then, I was so sensitive that every time they scraped a tooth for cleaning, I thought I was gonna jump out of my skin. And sitting in the chair was plenty uncomfortable even though I had taken a non-sedating muscle relaxant before the appointment to try to make it more tolerable.

I was in tears after I got home because I simply couldn't help it. I would have gone to the ER if there was anything they could do for me, but I really have tried all reasonable treatments in the past without success. Unfortunately, due to my gastroparesis, I cannot tolerate any pain meds.

So I sat there on the couch for awhile and wished I was unconscious. No, I don't wish myself any harm, I just wish I wasn't awake enough to experience pain for awhile. I hate when I get so desperate for relief that I would take just about anything, legal or not (but don't worry, I never do).

I'm not fond of the idea that I will likely hurt for decades to come. It seems bleak at the moment. I know that these migraines do eventually burn themselves out, and my sense of hopelessness will probably fade right along with it, but right now, I just need a virtual (very gentle) pat on the head.

Thanks for letting me get this out of my system. In a weird way, it is a form of pain relief.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 23, 2008: 

My latest article for But You Don't Look Sick has been posted. The topic shouldn't be surprising, heh heh....

"Stay-cation" Ideas

I still have three books I want to review as well as other ideas for articles. But I want to do reviews of the movies I've been watching on the DVR first.

The other stuff that didn't suck during my stay-cation.... 

Got kinda caught up in a torrent of rants and neglected to mention what Dan and I did during the rest of his week off. Considering that Dan doesn't get any more vacation time until next June, it was important that we got to do something fun even if we had to stay in Sioux Falls to do it. Only problem is that I'm in a stupid flare again and can't quite remember everything, but I'll do my best.....

On Tuesday, we decided to hit the zoo, hence this cute shot Dan got of a zebra on a roll. It was a cloudless 90 degree day, so we applied the bug spray/sunscreen liberally. And I had plenty of batteries for the digital camera.

Only problem with touring the zoo in a wheelchair is that most of the fencing comes up to about eye level, making it difficult to get photos or sometimes even for me to see the animals unless I got out and stood up. Luckily, Dan was more than patient, both with pushing the chair and with taking pix for me when I couldn't get a good shot. Many of the animals were hiding away from the heat; can't say I blamed them.

The Sioux Falls zoo is much tinier than the one I was accustomed to in Denver, so many fewer animals, and some areas are being worked on, creating a lot of dead ends, but I did see some cool things. Like the tiger fanning the air with a paw that was bigger than my head, the wolf who popped out of his hideaway to check us out, the giraffe who posed for pix, and the baby gibbon. I also liked the atrium full of flamingos.

I was really surprised that as hot as it was, I didn't get the usual sun-sickness type of symptoms (at least not right away). I think the Imuran must have something to do with that. I also didn't get any rashes or excessive photo-sensitivity.

That evening, Dan's parents wanted to take us to dinner, and we agreed to try someplace different, an Italian restaurant called Carino's. I'd never been to one before, but I found a gluten free menu for them on the internet. Was hoping they'd be as good as Carraba's, an Italian chain I used to go to in Denver (there isn't one in Sioux Falls, unfortunately).

Was feeling adventurous and ordered something with a cream sauce, chicken scallopini. I'm supposed to avoid high-fat dinners, but I hadn't had access to a gluten free cream sauce in almost two years, and I figured the fat content would be lower anyway since the chicken wouldn't be breaded (normally it is). And instead of spaghetti, I had green beans.

It was awesome! I wanna go back there again someday and try some of the other gluten free dishes. I can even have ice cream with caramel sauce there (if I share it with someone else, naturally).

On the way out of Carino's, all the activity (and sun exposure) of the day caught up with me, and I felt like I might faint. But Dan got me out to the car before I fell over or anything, and we went straight home. Don't remember what I did the rest of the evening; we probably watched stuff on DVD.

On Wednesday, we had planned to go the Indian restaurant for supper, but I was too wiped out to go anywhere, so we watched "Waitress" on DVD. I really enjoyed that movie. It was quirky and sad and funny; the only downside was that it made me really hungry for pie, heh heh.

On Thursday, we decided to hit the cheap theatre while "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was still playing. Awesome flick! I was laughing harder than anyone else in the theatre, particularly at the gratuitous male nudity, which in my mind sorta makes up for all the gratuitous female nudity I've seen in other movies.

Friday was when we finally made it to the Indian restaurant. Dan had his usual Lamb Vindaloo, but he ordered it even hotter than usual, so I'm surprised he didn't catch fire, heh heh. I had Lamb Rogan Josh, which has a a tomato/onion sauce with cinnamon, cardamom and clove, and the usual basmati rice, mango lassi (a yogurt drink) and the chick pea bread appetizer with dipping sauces.

Also during the week, I finally got back to using up my iTunes gift cards! I haven't finished sorting the downloads out to make individual CDs, but I shall soon. And I'll post a list of this year's downloads at some point in case anyone's curious.

Well, those are the main highlights. Getting a migraine; gotta stop.

Monday, July 21, 2008

DAMMIT! Basement flooded AGAIN! 

I seem to be turning into a whiner. Or maybe it's just that I'm experiencing a series of unfortunate events. Either way, I need to vent again.

The first basement flood was in April and led to the discovery of mold, cracks in the foundation and sagging of the foundation. The south wall of the basement was anchored and a secondary drainage system installed July 7. Still waiting to get the drywall, insulation and built-ins replaced in that area.

On Saturday, we had a massive downpour - I think two inches of rain in less than two hours? It was raining so hard we couldn't see past the end of our own yard. It also hailed a bit.

When the rain was starting to let up, I took my lunch downstairs so I could watch something I had recorded and noticed nothing amiss. After maybe 15 minutes, I realized I had left my drink upstairs and went to fetch it. I got to the bottom of the staircase and SPLASH! my socks were completely soaked!

The part of the basement that had been completely fine, the northeast portion, had flooded. There was water running across the storage room and the bathroom, and the puddle at the bottom of the stairs was spreading and heading for the area where I had stashed all my scrapbook supplies during the first flood. So I began hauling things upstairs while my husband started mopping up the mess.

Apparently, the gutters on the house were insufficient to hold the volume of rain. Also, the windows leaked. In addition, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more cracks in the foundation that we missed, but of course I can't tell because they are covered with drywall and insulation.

Problem is, we absolutely cannot afford any more repairs right now other than what we had already committed to. We had to borrow the money for the foundation repair, and it won't be paid off for about a year and a half. So we will just have to sit tight and hope it doesn't rain this hard again.

We used a shop vac on the carpeted area immediately in the hope that we can salvage it and it won't mildew. We ran box fans aimed at the floor as soon as we had removed as much water as possible. It is finally dry now.

Naturally, the business of moving stuff around and vacuuming up water gave me mega massive muscle spasms in my back, the kind that take your breath away and make you cry and you can't do a doggone thing about them. I took Baclofen that night, something I usually avoid because it upsets my stomach and makes me act drunk and gives me a hangover when it wears off. But it was either that or sit around and cry.

So I missed church yesterday due to Baclofen hangover. I did go to aquacise today, but my back still hurts pretty badly. Stupid annoying fibromyalgia.

I just hope I get a tax refund next year because I'll need every penny to get that basement as leak-free as possible.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mystery bill.... 

This falls under the heading of: "don't you hate it when...." because I'm sure this happens to many of us. Seems like all my outgoing mail at times is medical bill payments. So many of them that it's tough to keep them all straight.

In May, I get a bill from a company I've never heard of. The weird part is, the date of service is August 2007! There's no explanation of services rendered, just a balance due and an indication that it was run through my insurance.

Well, I'm not about to pay a bill from a mystery company. So I call the 800 number listed for "billing questions". Apparently, it's some sort of clearinghouse that represents numerous medical offices.

I go through the automated system after entering my account number. I have an option to request a detailed description of services rendered, so I choose that. And then I wait to see what the heck I'm being billed for.

As of July, I've heard nothing from them. Since the original date of service is nearly a year old, I decide I don't want to risk being taken to collection for non-payment (this has happened to me in the past with companies that NEVER actually billed me) and call the 800 number again and this time ask to talk to a person. The person I reached does not have direct access to a description of services rendered, but she says she can arrange to have one sent to me.

Today, I get another bill. It is identical to the one in May: just a date of service and how much I owe. No hint of what this company actually did that merits me sending them money.

I guess the next step is calling my insurance company? Seems so stupid that I should have to do that.

Just thought I'd share because I know many of you can relate.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not gonna party hearty this time..... 

I've been trying to make the best of things, but every once in awhile, my limitations get to me. Yesterday, I got an invitation to my nephew's first birthday party. Even though my sister just moved about 350 miles closer to me (she's in Nebraska now and I'm in South Dakota), it's still too far away for me to go, at least it is at the moment.

I have never seen my nephew in person. And my dad is coming up from Denver just for the party. But I'm not up to a four hour each way car trip, not while I'm in mid-flare yet again.

So I had to politely decline. I did ask that someone take some pix of the party and send them to me. But I am also grumpy at the moment that my body won't give me a break.

Such is the life of a person with chronic illness, I suppose. Perhaps I can go to Nebraska the next time there is a three day holiday weekend so my husband can drive me there one day, I can visit the next, and then come home on day three.

But I do miss my old road trip days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bonus Rave of the Day for July 16, 2008: 

The folks at JibJab strike again! Saw this on Leno and just had to share....

Time for Some Campaignin'

I'm sure there will be a wealth of material between now and November for them to mine, heh heh....

Rave of the Day for July 16, 2008: 

Here is a tribute to "The Invaders" set to "Bad Wicked World" by Frank Black. New from Robert....

Who knew you could rock out to an alien invasion?

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm on vacation! 

People might think that because I cannot work, every day would be a vacation for me. Not really. But Dan has this week off from his job, so this is out of the ordinary.

We cannot afford to leave town, so we are being trendy and doing the "stay-cation". That basically means doing stuff either at home or within a short distance. The advantage of this is that I don't have to rack my brain finding places where it is safe for me to eat, and I get to sleep on my nice Tempur-pedic mattress every night.

Actually, I started the vacation a bit early when a friend, his wife and their niece came for a visit on Friday. As luck would have it, that was the hottest day of the year in Sioux Falls so far. Kinda reminds me of when Dan and I went to visit his uncle in Bismarck when it was 111 degrees, heh heh.

We started off with lunch at Chili's. Hadn't been to the one in Sioux Falls before, but we were fortunate enough to get a waitress who was familiar with their wheat-free menu suggestions, so that wasn't a problem. Turns out their baby back ribs are wheat-free, which surprised me; I had the salmon though.

Then we went to the Sertoma Butterfly House, which has a room where live butterflies flutter all around you. It's very similar to the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver, the difference being that this one is smaller and has only tropical varieties. Easier to establish a habitat that way, I guess, and they are able to maintain a lot of really gorgeous flowers.

I was in my wheelchair, which everyone was nice enough to steer for me. I took a ton of pix, including the two in this entry. It was a challenge, what with the humidity making it harder for the camera to focus and trying to capture shots of certain butterflies that were almost constantly moving, but I think I did all right.

I think we all had a good time, but we did reach a point where the humidity was almost unbearable, so we had to escape to the gift shop. I found this adorable t-shirt with butterflies in the shape of a peace sign! After a trip to Wally-World for travel supplies, we headed back to the house as Dan had gotten off work by then.

Soon everyone was in the mood to grab some supper, so we headed to the Outback. First time in probably four years that I had eaten back to back meals in restaurants. Had steak medallions with grilled pineapple and mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and I shared the world's best gluten free dessert, the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under.

By the time we were done, I was pretty much a zombie, so we called it a day. I watched a DVD of Jeff Dunham the ventriloquist with Dan. After that, I can't remember what I did between then and bedtime.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, Dan woke up with a cold. We had originally planned to go to the zoo, but I was wayyyyyy too wiped out from the day before to leave the house anyway. I don't remember a whole lot except that I had recorded a 12 hour "Monk" marathon and that Dan and I watched some episodes.

Yesterday, we managed to get to church, but I was still fairly zombie-ish, so we headed right home afterward. I rested for awhile, and then for lunch, I tried my hand at adding extra lean ground beef to organic pasta sauce and putting it on brown rice spaghetti, which turned out really well. Dan borrowed a bunch of DVDs from our friends, and we watched "Disturbia" (better than I was expecting) and a few episodes from season 1 of "Californication" (shockingly crude but hilarious).

I'd been having some really horrible muscle cramps over the weekend due to being out in the extreme heat on Friday, so we decided I'd better not miss my usual aquacise class today. It did help even though it does make my fatigue worse. Also today, Dan and I watched two more episodes of "Californication" and two more of "Monk".

As for the rest of this week, we're gonna keep the schedule pretty light and may even skip some stuff if Dan doesn't start feeling better. We're tentatively thinking of the zoo tomorrow, dinner at the Indian restaurant on Wednesday, and going to the cheap theatre Thursday to watch "Forgetting Sarah Marshall".

And if I have time and/or energy, maybe I'll put together an article for But You Don't Look Sick about "stay-cations". After all, by a week from now, I'll be an expert, heh heh.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Surprises, jackhammers and sledgehammers (of fatigue)..... 

My brain is squarely in Zombieland, which is the land beyond Fibro-fog, so I don't know how complete or coherent this entry will be. In fact, I'm not even sure where to start because I can't remember where I left off. Something like, once upon a time, there was an exhausted domestic goddess....

Let's see.... I got a copy in the mail of a letter dated July 3 from the rheumatologist I had seen at the Mayo Clinic addressed to the office of the rheumatologist he had referred me to. He used all the appropriate doctor-y words to describe what was going on with me AND sent copies of the test results and consultation notes. Lo and behold, on Monday, the Sioux Falls office calls me to set up an appointment for September when they previously told me the earliest opening was in November!

Also on Monday, I had been told to expect the foundation guys mid to late morning, so I had Dan set the alarm for 8am. No sooner have I shut off the alarm, sprung out of bed and started to get dressed when the doorbell rang! Nothing like answering the door and giving a stranger a tour of the basement while disoriented from having been asleep 30 seconds earlier.

These guys wasted no time in getting to work, and soon the soothing sounds of jackhammers filled the house, and dust filled the air (although I admit the dust this time wasn't as bad as when the brick wall was being demolished). Four anchors were placed inside the southern wall of the basement, and holes in the yard were dug eight feet out into the yard, and the anchors in the house and in the yard were attached by non-corrosive poles. Also a drainage trench was placed along the basement wall starting five feet from the southwest corner, all along the west edge of the back room, under the wall to the laundry room and all the way to the sump pump.

Would you believe all this was accomplished by 2pm? The only bummer was when I found out that the anchors are going to have to be tightened in small increments every few weeks for the next two months, so the earliest I'm going to be able to get the basement put back together is September! I did at least talk to the carpenter about getting that damned wood-burning stove out of the basement, and he did get the dumpster removed from our driveway.

ALSO on Monday, Dan's cousin that I thought would be coming by on Tuesday or Wednesday called to say they'd already arrived in Sioux Falls! Luckily, Dan's parents had graciously volunteered to have them over there along with Dan's sister and her family that evening. Only problem was, Dan's car needed repair again, and he'd taken mine to work, leaving me with no way to get over to his parents' house as Monday is the night he works late.

So I had to ask Dan's parents to drive across town and pick me up. Dan went there after his shift ended, so at least I had a ride home. I guess it was a good thing I wasn't driving anyway as I was feeling awfully flaky already from the long day.

Dan's cousin was nice, as was her husband, 15 year old daughter and 2 year old daughter. Things got pretty lively when my 4 year old niece and 1 year old nephew arrived. They had plenty of toys and things at Dan's parents house (they babysit their grandkids a lot), so it was much better for them than if they'd just been hanging around my living room listening to boring adults talk.

Unfortunately, a room full of multiple conversations really wears me out, and a room full of that plus energetic kids hastens the exhaustion even more, so I think we called it a night before Dan had wanted to. I barely remember getting home and making my usual eggs. When Dan went to bed around 10:30, I told him goodnight, promptly zonked out on the couch, and the next thing I knew, it was 1:30am.

Took my obligatory night meds, skipped the toothbrushing thing and crawled into bed. Woke up at 7:30 because Dan wanted me to take him to work after he put his car in the shop, but he found out they were too busy to fit him in that day, so I zonked back out again and finally dragged my ass out of bed for the day at 11:30. After my 10 minute stint on the Gazelle machine, I fell asleep AGAIN on the couch for another two and a half hours, and somewhere in between the copious bouts of sleeping, a friend called and said he, his wife and a niece would be visiting on Thursday.

On Wednesday, I got up at 7:30 again to take Dan to work. I had missed a week and a half of aquacise and knew if I went back to bed, I'd miss again, so I stayed up and watered the lawn while it was somewhat cool. By the time I went to aquacise, I was already getting end of day flaky even though it was only noon.

Tried to read the paper after lunch, but every time I did, I would doze off. Was expecting Dan to call to tell me whether or not his car was ready, but he never did, so when I woke up at ten minutes before his shift ended, I rushed out the door to pick him up. Was I pissed when he never showed because he'd already gotten the car!

There was other stuff, but I can't do anymore tonight.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bonus Rave of the Day for July 10, 2008: 

I don't post much political material here except for funny stuff most of the time, but this had me too outraged to ignore it. Thanks to Dr. Karen for the link....

Carol Kreck ticketed outside McCain meeting

Ms. Kreck used to work for my former employer. What really ticks me off about her being "escorted" away from Denver's convention center is that she was not trying to interrupt the meeting, stop anyone from going in, or shouting anything disruptive; she was simply holding a sign with an inoffensive message.

What's next? Are they gonna start arresting people for voting Democrat?

Rave of the Day for July 10, 2008: 

Ok, most of you know I'm not much of one for reality talent shows (except for "Last Comic Standing"), but this was too weird to not share. Thanks to Pete for the link....

This is cool

Have been incredibly busy with good and not so good things. Will try to squeeze in an update but can't promise anything.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rave of the Day for July 9, 2008: 

Good local article about the use of the ERICA (Eye Response Interface Computer Aid) device and how it helps a rock musician communicate and continue to write and mix music. Courtesy of the Argus Leader....

Device sidesteps ALS' effects

I think able bodied people sometimes underestimate how isolating a serious illness can be. I know of a lady who uses one of these devices when she can, and it is enormously important to her as her only means of communication with anyone outside her hospital room.

I think the message here is to do what you love as long as you can, even if you have to modify the means to do it. And like I always say, do the best you can with whatever you've got to work with.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

For those of you who asked..... 

Been getting more inquiries than usual about my current health status. Was telling people to check the blog, and then I actually read through it myself and realized I haven't given a true health update in....months! Oops.

Have been on Imuran since January. I had some stomach pain for a few days which went away and never came back. I continue to have some hair loss and periodic headaches from the med, but nothing significant.

It took a long time to notice any real improvement; in fact, some symptoms didn't get better until TODAY. But now I no longer have rashes or photo-sensitivity, my lymph nodes and glands aren't as swollen, my edema seems less, I have fewer mouth infections, and my neuropathy has improved. And I have SPIT, at normal levels for the first time in five years, and today my eyes are actually comfortable most of the time, which hadn't happened since 1997.

So the verdict regarding Imuran: I feel it does help me in some ways, but it is nowhere near a cure. My pain and fatigue levels are still huge, and my cognitive function doesn't seem any better. Therefore, it doesn't seem likely that I'll get healthy enough to return to work as the fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and pain are the main factors screwing up my quality of life and ability to be productive.

I am curious to see if my c-reactive protein and other protein levels are normal now, but first I have to get a doc to order the tests. I am willing to stay on Imuran as long as it helps keep the Sjogren's from getting worse. I feel really lucky that I experienced some success from the very first immuno-suppressant I tried.

Asthma update: I am now down to taking Advair just once a day, and it seems to help. I still have to use the inhaler when I over-exercise and when I am exposed to cigarette smoke. I also have to be careful with fumes from cleaning products (I used some Simple Green yesterday and began coughing like crazy), and I will need to make sure I don't come downstairs tomorrow while the foundation guys are working so that I don't have any more exposure to concrete dust than necessary.

Diabetes: still doing all right in that department. My glucose readings have crept up a bit, but I just switched to a new meter, so that may be the culprit. I'll ask my primary care doc about it the next time I see her.

Tummy: gastroparesis is unchanged, reflux is worse at times. I have been taking extra strength Mylanta for the really bad reflux days, and that helps most of the time. But I am thinking of maybe going back to the gastroenterologist to see if I need to up my prescription med.

Teeth: still having a pain in a molar that had a root canal two YEARS ago! Can't really afford to have it re-done, so I'm putting up with it, but I suppose I should ask the dentist about it when I see her in a few weeks. I wonder if the endodontist missed part of the root?

Eyes: opthalmologist told me that my vision problems are not diabetes or Sjogren's related but are probably normal aging. Said I may want to consider reading glasses in another year or two. I would not be a candidate for another vision correction surgery due to the Sjogren's.

Neuropathy: improved from what it was in January, but not gone. Instead of odd sensations/numbness/pain in an area that lasts for weeks, I'm back to where it was a year ago, which means that individual symptoms generally only last for a day or less. I still have to be really careful to elevate my feet several times a day and not over-do things as that will make me worse.

The fibromyalgia, unfortunately, has been pretty consistently kicking my ass. I had major flares for stupid things like the seasons changing. But I've tried pretty much every reasonable treatment, and nothing works that I can tolerate, so I just have to deal with it the best I can.

The chronic myofascial pain, which goes hand in hand with the fibromyalgia, has been worse in the past month than it has been in a couple of years. I saw the massage therapist and chiropractor on Thursday, and they were shocked at how incredibly knotted up my muscles were. And I hadn't done a damned thing to aggravate them; my body just seems to delight in puzzling me sometimes.

I am still doing the Gazelle glider machine, but have only worked my way up to 10 minutes on it. At this rate, it will probably take me a year to progress to the 30 minute workout that docs think I should be doing. If only they fully realized how much exercise wipes me out.

Speaking of wiped out, the sledgehammer of fatigue is packing a wallop right now. Better try to get some sleep before the foundation guys get here in the morning.

Probably more than you wanted to know, eh?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I was gonna do this eventually anyway, but.... 

Had every intention of tidying up the house but was planning to wait until the basement got finished because of all the dust that has been and will be kicked up. But then I got a call on Thursday night that changed my mind. And it was from someone I've never met.

At first, I thought it was a wrong number because it was a bad cell phone connection, and I thought the woman on the other end was asking to talk to Denny. But then I realized she was saying DANNY, and after some more hesitation on my part, I realized she was referring to Dan! That was pretty funny because no one has called him that since grade school.

The woman calling is Dan's cousin in Pennsylvania. She told me that she and her family are driving all the way to Rapid City, and she wants to stop by Sioux Falls either on the way out there or on the way back. The day she's thinking of visiting is Tuesday!

This could be interesting because they have kids including a 21 month old, and Chip is scared of children. Luckily, we have a kennel we can put the dog in. Also, our house is sooo not child-proof.

Anyway, I decided it would be worthwhile to clean the upstairs at least. The dust from when the brick fireplace was demolished was everywhere. Luckily, Dan helped me with the living room yesterday, but I tackled the kitchen by myself today; I keep it reasonably tidy, but I needed to take everything off the countertops and scrub the microwave and wipe down everything with something stronger than dishwater.

Holy guacamole! Even with muscle relaxants last night and a hot shower this evening, my body is a chorus of spasms! And it feels as though daggers were buried all around my shoulder blades.

Tomorrow, all I'm gonna do is spruce up the dining area. Dan has promised to clean the bathroom even though it was scrubbed fairly recently. As for anything else, I can't make any promises.

Geez, if the upstairs was this gnarly, the basement is gonna be a BITCH to clean when it's finished! Even with plastic on most of the stuff, there is a visible white film on the walls and anything exposed. Makes me wonder what we've been breathing in the past three months?

So there will be no complete tour of the house when Dan's relatives come by. I don't think anyone should have to be exposed to the downstairs. Hope they like the living room and dining room because that's where we'll be spending most of our time, heh heh.

In the meantime, ow ow ow ow ow. Stupid worthless fibromyalgia flare.

Netflix movie mini-reviews, winter 2007-summer 2008.... 

Holy cow! I haven't reviewed any Netflix stuff since November! This should take awhile....

Wayyyy back in December, I watched "The Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith and his real-life son. This is the true story of a Chris Gardner, who goes from homeless to successful business man with some luck, some wit, and a hell of a lot of hard work in 1980's San Francisco. The scenes of father and son sleeping in in a public restroom because there is no room for them at the shelter are just heartbreaking. But the movie also delivers a powerful message about not letting life kick your ass. I found it very inspiring.

Up until this point, I had limited my Netflix selections to films, but I finally relented and did some television shows. The first was "30 Days", season 1. I had never seen it before, mainly because when it started, I didn't have access to the channel it aired on. "30 Days" is hosted by Morgan Spurlock, the genius behind "Super Size Me". He applies the same principle here, that of trying something new or different for a month, spending time with experts on the chosen subject, keeping a video diary along the way. These were one-hour episodes, some with Morgan doing the particular assignment and some with other people featured. One had Morgan and his girlfriend working for minimum wage with no credit cards and no insurance. Another had a conservative Christian live with a Muslim family and learn about their religion and customs. And in one, a homophobic man had to be roomies with a gay man. If you've seen "Super Size Me", you know that Morgan doesn't take these assignments lightly. He always has some ground rules to follow, and the person making the lifestyle change has to make an honest effort. Most of the time, the person featured comes away with a better understanding of how "the other half" lives, and many people are changed for the better. And, in my opinion, so are the viewers. What we don't know DOES hurt us. Each episode had bonus material in the form of deleted footage; most of it had only been cut for time. This is my kind of reality TV. I thought it was excellent. I have season 2 on my Netflix queue; I think it comes out on DVD next month. You can catch season three on Tuesday nights on the FX channel.

One movie I had intended to watch but never got around to was "The Full Monty". It is the heartwarming story of British steel workers who pursue an alternate moneymaking venture when the mill in their town closes down. Ok, it is actually more funny than heartwarming. When it is discovered that strip tease acts are enormously popular with the local ladies, they decide that they'll go for the easy cash and do an act of their own. Problem is, none of them have any idea what they're doing! The audition sequence is hysterical! But desperate times call for desperate measures, and they succeed in the (bare) end. I highly recommend this one unless you are offended by a little skin.

Here's a concept that is seldom discussed: what if the South had won the Civil War? "CSA: Confederate States of America" is University of Kansas professor Kevin Willmott's twisted take on the subject. It is done as though it were a British documentary on American history from the 1860's to present day. It is complete with various sales pitches that had me rolling on the floor, however inappropriate they may have been (they were, unfortunately, REAL products in the US at one time or another). And that's the most effective part of this film, how it takes every offensive black stereotype, blows it up to massive proportions, and dares you to laugh at it while squirming uncomfortably. And while I was busy snickering at the preposterousness of the re-writing of American history, I marveled at the ingenuity behind it. There is something very unsettling about how race in America is still the elephant in the room 140 years after the Civil War, and I am grateful that someone came up with such a thought-provoking yet amusing way to examine it. There is no denying the somber undertone that at times shines through when you realize that, outrageous though they may seem, some of these events could have come to pass had certain circumstances been slightly different. If you are willing to throw all politically correct views out the window AND think AND laugh, this is the film for you.

Wheelchair rugby, anyone? No? Watch "Murderball", and I bet you'll change your mind. This is a documentary about the sport of the same name, where quadriplegics strap themselves into specially designed wheelchairs and slam into one another like ferocious wrecking balls. This ain't no sport for sissies, and after you get over the initial shock of seeing the players crash into one another, it is quite exciting to watch. The rugby teams are comprised of members with varying levels of use of their arms and are set up so each team is roughly equal in ability to the other. The film covers the US team from the 2002 Paralympics to the 2004 competition in Athens. The team is also covered extensively off the court, and the players do not hold back in discussing how they became injured, what has changed for them and what hasn't, their sex lives, and dealing with the public. The filmmakers also follow a man who was recently injured and his struggle with recovery; he gets to meet some of the players, and you can see the enthusiastic change in him as he discovers a new motivation, that of learning a new sport. They meet young injured soldiers as well. If you are ready for an honest glimpse into the lives of quadriplegic athletes, "Murderball" is just the ticket. Don't forget to check out the bonus DVD goodies as they are excellent too.

Dan decided to watch "Fracture" with me. It's the story of a man, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, who shoots his wife and knows just the right legal maneuvers to allow him to get away with it. The prosecuting lawyer, however, is determined not to let Hopkins remain a free man. The question is whether the lawyer, who is rather young and appears easily manipulated, will step outside the bounds of the law himself to ensure conviction. This movie seemed tailor made for Hopkins, who excels at playing quietly confident, intelligent monsters with an indulgent smile. He is convincing enough to be kinda creepy. Even if you have seen this one before, you might want to check out the DVD because it contains alternate endings. I found it entertaining.

Decided to do one more TV show: "30 Rock", Season 1. This was one of the programs I had intended to watch when it aired, but it conflicted with something else, and I didn't have the ability to record anything at the time. Just as well....it was nice to see the episodes back to back without commercials. I really enjoyed it, especially all the SNL alums sneaking in appearances. This is definitely Tina Fey's baby, and her character, Liz Lemmon, has just the right balance of exasperation and hope to make her really funny. Alec Baldwin is convincingly annoying as her boss. This is a comic behind the scenes look at an SNL type show, and Tracy Morgan literally steals it as a self-absorbed movie star brought in to boost ratings. Not for everyone (for example, Dan doesn't care for it), but worth a look for most.

"1408: Theatrical Version" AND "1408: Unrated Version": I did see "1408" at the theatre, but then I found out that there would be an alternate version available on DVD. Unfortunately, it was released separately from the theatrical version. So the only way to compare the two was to rent them both. I chose the theatrical version first because Dan had not seen it. Basically, it's the story of a writer of haunted hotel reviews who checks into a room where many deaths have occurred, most of them involving murder and/or suicide. He is told he won't even last an hour in that room. Sure enough, once inside, bizarre things start occurring, including visions of a daughter who had died a few years back. But are the visions real, or are they the manifestation of a grieving father? It's a Stephen King story, naturally, with John Cusack playing the hotel reviewer and Samuel L. Jackson the concierge. While probably not the most original premise ("The Shining" featured an entire hotel that was evil), I found it to be an enjoyable roller coaster ride with a few surprises along the way. The alternate version Dan and I watched a week later, so it was still difficult to compare the two, but the main thing is the non-theatrical version is eight minutes longer. The plot goes in a slightly different direction, which isn't necessarily better or worse, but it is interesting. I did think it was worthwhile to see both.

"Tying the Knot" is a documentary on a subject very much in the news right now: gay marriage, civil unions and same-sex relationships in general. This doesn't just cover legislation and protests but puts a human face on the issue by introducing you to individuals of various age and economic circumstance and getting to know them. You meet a woman whose partner was a cop who was killed in the line of duty; because she is not allowed to legally be a spouse, she is not entitled to survivor's benefits and now will lose their home and everything they had worked so hard for. You also meet a man whose partner died, and even though there was a will, greedy relatives have had it nullified, have seized the farm they lived on and have forced a grieving man out of the house he had helped build 25 years ago. Also, the documentary goes into the history of marriage in the context of religion and points out that the requirement of one man, one woman is a fairly recent one (recent compared to how long the concept of marriage has existed). And the filmmakers go to foreign countries where gay marriage is legal, showing ceremonies of happy couples. While I know that nobody who opposes same-sex marriage would ever watch this (and I think that's a damned shame), I encourage anyone with an open mind to check this out.

Another serious subject documentary is "Maxed Out". The subtitle is self explanatory: "Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders". This came out in 2006, and seems even more relevant now given the current horrors of record high foreclosures and investigations into dishonest lending practices. Yes, there are a few people in this movie who could have gotten themselves out of their current financial nightmare by downsizing their lifestyle to something more reasonable (it opens with a Las Vegas realtor showing oversized trendy homes), but then there are the folks who were genuinely preyed upon. Like the mentally disabled, the working poor, people who have never held a job, students, people already in bankruptcy. Why? Because credit card companies make the majority of their money from these situations in the form of high interest rates, adjustable rates, annual fees, late and over the limit charges, etc. And then there are the really dirty tricks: "losing" payments so late fees and higher rates are charged; new laws that greatly restrict a person filing for bankruptcy; over-the-top harassment from debt collectors. There is also some lighter material in the form of a cheesy educational video from the 1960's about the "wise" use of credit. Thing is, it really would do high school kids a great service to teach them all about money management before graduation. Financial guru Dave Ramsey makes an appearance, but I wish they had spent more time on his truly useful tips. Overall, though, a real eye opener, fairly well done, and I think it should be required viewing for all students.

There are times I can't resist the allure of a strange but true tale. "The Hoax", which came out in 2006 and stars Richard Gere, fits the bill perfectly. It is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and is about the antics of Clifford Irving during the 1970's, based upon the book by, you guessed it, Clifford Irving. In case you are too young to remember the scandal, Clifford Irving attempted the most outrageous publishing hoax ever when he claimed to have access to legendary recluse Howard Hughes and was writing his authorized autobiography. He actually gets a million dollar advance for this! As one might expect, once Irving begins the ruse, he finds himself coming up with new lies to cover up the old ones. After awhile, this really snowballs. The funny part is, the more outrageous the falsehood, the more certain people are apt to believe him, because this was supposed to be coming from the eccentric Howard Hughes, after all. And the more Irving pretends to be speaking for Hughes, the more like Hughes he actually becomes, and he eventually reaches the point where he starts to believe his own hype. He even sets up fake appearances by Hughes. Irving goes from desperate but amusing to creepy but sad. Even the best roller coaster ride, though, must come to an end. Hughes himself is the one who ends up coming forward to set the record straight. I found the story fascinating, and I was quite willing to go through the gamut of emotions elicited. And the bonus DVD material was awesome, a must if you want to find out more about the real Clifford Irving.

"The Other": ok, I had actually seen this one before, but Dan hadn't, and I wanted to show him an example of the type of "horror" movie I was accustomed to watching on late night local TV in the '70's. The basic premise is that a mischievous boy growing up on a farm during the 1930's has an even more mischievous twin brother. The twins' Russian grandmother has taught them a "game" in which they can enter the mind of a person or animal and control them. But it becomes evident that the more evil of the twins is not merely playing, he is hellbent on revenge for any perceived slight. And the innocent twin? Not so innocent. As tragedies on the farm mount, the grandmother must confront the truth. Written by Thomas Tryon based on his novel, I believe. John Ritter makes an appearance. While "The Other" is probably not considered a horror masterpiece, the fact that I remembered it so well 30 years after I first saw it indicates that it makes a lasting impression. As with most old school stuff from the early '70's, not much gore, but plenty of psychological twists and turns. Worth checking out if for nothing more than nostalgia's sake.

Decided to check out another Pedro Almodovar film (I saw "Volver" last year). This time, I chose "Talk to Her". Like most Almodovar works, the storyline is unusual, and describing it doesn't really give it justice. Here, two men are in love with women in comas. One has been the nurse of a ballerina for some time. The other, a journalist, is totally at a loss when his bullfighter girlfriend is gored nearly to death. He asks the nurse what he should do at the hospital. The reply is, "talk to her". The two men strike up a friendship. But the nurse is not just in love with the ballerina, he is obsessed, and this has tragic consequences. There are a variety of emotions evoked by this film; it is by turns funny, sweet, shocking, disgusting and sad. The use of flashbacks and fantasy sequences give it a dream-like quality. I enjoyed it very much, and I think others will like it if they don't compare it to a typical American film.

"Knocked Up": Dan watched this one with me. In this Judd Apatow vehicle, Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" stars as a TV journalist who engages in a one-night stand with Seth Rogan after they meet in a club. Drunk and horny, Rogan tosses the condom aside at Heigl's suggestion; eight weeks later, Heigl discovers to her shock she is pregnant and must break the news to a totally clueless Rogan. Thus begins the extremely rocky road to figuring out whether they should even be friends, let alone raising a child together. Rogan is a loser, not so much because of his looks as because he is so lame that he doesn't even realize that his get-rich-quick project, a website that tallies nude scenes in movies, already exists ala Mr. Skin. He also choses so save his bong instead of Heigl during an earthquake. If Heigl's character were a snob, this movie wouldn't have worked at all. But she cuts Rogan a generous amount of slack, maybe too much slack, and she has a healthy sense of humor. Is this movie crude? Yep. Too many stereotypes? Affirmative. Did it make me laugh my ass off? Definitely.

Went back into Almodovar mode with "All About My Mother". This came out in 1999, and its title is a nod to the film "All About Eve". In it, a woman named Manuela witnesses her son's accidental death in Madrid on his 17th birthday while he sought an autograph from a famous actress. She decides to return to her former hometown of Barcelona to search for her son's father, a man going by the name of Lola who is a transvestite and doesn't know he had a child. She doesn't find Lola, but she does find an old friend who introduces her to a pregnant nun played by Penelope Cruz. Manuela ends up working as the assistant to the actress her son had admired. The plot is actually much more complicated than this, but you get the general idea. There are many satisfying twists and turns in the story and some very awkward situations, typical of a Pedro Almodovar film, but this may be one of his best. Manuela's old friend, an outrageous transvestite who seems very hung up on blow jobs, provides comic relief and nearly steals the show. The number one reason to watch "All About My Mother", though, is to see the perseverance of Manuela and the wonderful compassionate relationships she forms with people who can be quite difficult. By the film's end, I felt like Manuela's friends were mine too.

One more from the Almodovar zone: "Bad Education". The plot on this one is even more complicated than the others; there are actually three (or four??) different stories going on featuring the same actors. It starts with a filmmaker, Enrique, who gets a visit from a childhood friend, Ignacio, who was his first lover, actually. Enrique thinks something isn't quite right about his old friend put can't figure it out. Ignacio leaves a manuscript called "The Visit" for him to read. The script contains details of their childhood and abuse at the hands of a priest. This storyline is woven into the movie in the form of flashbacks. In "The Visit", the priest is confronted and blackmailed by his former victim, and we see this story as well even though it is a work of fiction. But what is the truth? Enrique starts investigating and uncovers some shocking answers. As with other Almodovar films, I thought it was excellent but cannot recommend it for anyone who is the slightest bit homophobic or (no total nudity, but it is rated NC-17 nevertheless). I believe this film was banned by some who construed it as an indictment of the Catholic church, but it is much more about the characters than the church, or at least that was the impression I got. I loved the convoluted intertwining stories and marveled at how deftly a single actor could play multiple roles which were variations on the same person or at least that person's character. The lines between acting and being who you believe yourself to be are blurred well here. Approach this with an open mind, and you may find it as fascinating as I did.

"Away from Her": I told Dan the basic plot of this, and his reaction was, "Why do you watch such DEPRESSING stuff?" Actually, I didn't think it was all that depressing while I was viewing it, but, then, my grandmother died from Alzheimer's in a decidedly not cheerful way, so I guess it may be a matter of degree. "Away From Her" is about a woman whose Alzheimer's is growing worse, and after she becomes lost cross-country skiing in what pretty much amounts to her own back yard, she decides she needs to be checked into a facility over her husband's protests. The facility has a horrid policy of not letting its patients see family members for the first month they are there, supposedly to allow the patients time to "adjust", but probably more for the staff's convenience. So the husband promptly visits when the time limit is over. He is prepared for the fact that his wife might not recognize him, but he is NOT prepared for his wife to ignore him because she is infatuated with another patient. The movie then becomes more about the husband/wife relationship and what becomes of it. Julie Christie is awesome as the main character Fiona, and Olympia Dukakis as the wife of the man Fiona falls for in the nursing home. Despite the subject matter, this film reminds us to try to fully appreciate the good moments no matter how fleeting they might be.

Can you believe that neither Dan nor I had ever seen "The Dead Zone", the David Cronenberg film from 1983? Especially me being a big Stephen King fan and all. I guess these days it would be considered a classic. Christopher Walken practically jumping out of his skin every time he has a vision has become a cliche, but it wasn't as cheesy as I thought it might be. It was an enjoyable enough film even though there were a few parts that could definitely have used some computer graphics. Having read the book, I've always been partial to this story where a man through no fault of his own gains the curse of knowing too much. The moral dilemma of whether he has an obligation to do everything he can to prevent a tragedy is compelling. I think Dan would agree with me that this is definitely worth seeing.

Oddly, it was Dan that requested that I put "Curse of the Jade Scorpion" on the Netflix list. Odd because it's a Woody Allen film. Yes, Dan did like "Match Point", but that was mainly because Allen wasn't IN it. I think in this case, he just wanted to watch Helen Hunt. This is set in 1940's New York. Allen plays C.W., a skirt-chasing old school insurance investigator. Hunt is Betty Ann, his new no-nonsense boss, an efficiency expert who is disgusted with C.W.'s approach to his job and his lack of respect for female co-workers. Since they hate each other so much, the snappy one-liners fly around the room like daggers. And naturally, two people that doth protest this much are destined to be be together, although in this case, they have no control over the situation. That's because a hypnotist uses them as his subjects and his minions when he has them carry out a series of jewel heists. I found this hilarious, lightweight entertainment that reminded me of Allen's 1970's films. I don't think Dan enjoyed it nearly as much.

Since I have an English degree, I of course studied "Beowulf" in college as it is the earliest known epic poem in the English language. I was intrigued when I found out there was gonna be a film version. What I didn't know is the people who made this CG extravaganza thought that the original poem was BORING, so they "spiced" it up by re-writing most of it! The result gave me mixed emotions. I was disappointed that they dumbed down the language and plot to appeal to the average movie-goer (although they do just a tiny bit of old-sounding dialog between Grendel and his mother). I was disgusted with the amount of gore, with heads and bodies severed, blood and spittle flying everywhere. I was impressed with the image-capture technology and how they transferred realistic-looking movement to characters that otherwise did not resemble the actors portraying them (example: Crispin Glover was Grendel). The storyline, such as it was, did have some interesting twists (such as Grendel's mother being a seductress), but I wish they had called the movie something else, like maybe "Beowulf: 21st Century Edition" or "Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf" so people like me wouldn't be expecting something more closely resembling the poem. I know some were offended by the nudity, but I was amused by it (yes, I know I'm weird to be ok with sex but not with excessive violence). The dragon sequence was awesome and was more what I had in mind in terms of bringing a mythological hero to "life". All in all, I would recommend it for gore-lovers and people who don't give a damn about literature. For the rest of us, I think a love/hate relationship is reasonable.

Weeks have passed since I began this post, but I am at last caught up. I will be limited in posting the next several days (or weeks? or longer?) as work on the basement continues Monday morning and we'll have to cover everything up with plastic again. But I'll sneak in some updates as to what's going on with me if possible.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day! 


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