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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY (2009-2012)

Considering the recent mishegoss involving J.K. Rowling, I was inspired to reread THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY. 
 
The book kicks off with a prologue that reimagines THE THREE PENNY OPERA through the lens of Alan Moore while setting up a thinly-disguised Aleister Crowley's plot to generate the Anti-Christ, a scheme that spans the titular century. The remainder of the narrative skips ahead to the 1969, 1977, and the present day of 2009, and it's the usual festival of Moore's showing off of how much disparate pulp fiction and pop culture he has absorbed (which some find confusing and tiresome, but which I find a lot of fun). The segment in 1969 is awash with the mod psychedelia and excesses of swinging '60's England, the 1977 section conjures up the feel of first wave U.K. punk, and through it all we see the seeds sown for a twisted take on J.K. Rowling's kid-friendly world building (which is pointedly NOT kid-friendly here). It's an admitted hodgepodge but definitely worth reading. A dense work but a deft cocktail of the dark and utterly absurd.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (2020)

Older and no wiser: the long-awaited and most welcome return of Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reevs) Theodore Logan.

Just finished watching BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC, and I found it to be considerably superior to the second entry in the series, BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991), a film that is not without its supporters. And before we get to the review, the original BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) is still the best of the unintentional but very much a trilogy. This current entry brings everything full circle, and who of us who saw the original when it came out would have expected a return to our heroes some 31 years later?

The film finds our hapless heroes, still brought to life by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves — who slide back into the roles effortlessly — racing against the clock to simultaneously acquire the song that will unite humanity and save an unraveling universe, while also seeking to prevent their wives — 15th century princess, remember — from leaving them. Meanwhile, their daughters and female doppelgangers, Billie and Thea — they named their daughters after each other — go off on a trans-temporal adventure of their own as they assemble a band to play the song that their fathers are destined to craft, and in the process they set up "Bill & Ted: The Next Generation," should there be more of these.

 Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine): the next generation of time travelers?

Winter and Reeves return to their old characters deftly, having not lost a single step, and William Sadler returns as Death, reprising the role that was easily the best thing about BOGUS JOURNEY. Billie and Thea are basically Bill & Ted reborn as girls and they both work as distaff duplicates of their fathers, so they would be welcome if the torch is passed to them. Brigette Lundy-Paine is a standout as Billie, thanks to her nailing everything when it comes to a new embodiment of Reeves's Ted. She nails his manner of speech and his body language to an uncanny degree, and I would love to see more of her in the role. We also get Billie and Thea assembling an eclectic crew to travel through time with, including Jimi Hendrix, Luis Armstrong, Mozart, and others. It's a loony, convoluted mess that's a hoot to sit through, and it ends with quite and unexpected twist, actually...

There are no gags that went nowhere like in the previous film — one word: "Station," though station does briefly return as a nod to what came before — and the whole film is just a much-needed feel-good movie for this dire era. It's amusing on its own, but I think a lot of whether or not the viewer will enjoy it will be based on how much the viewer is already a Bill & Ted fan.

Bottom line: BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is just what we need right now, and I feel good for having sat through it. If I had seen it in the theater at full price, I would have exited satisfied and in a good mood.

Lastly, illegal "party favors" are recommended for full enjoyment. Trust me on that one!

Poster for the theatrical release. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS Vol. 1: 1950-1989 Vol. 2: 199-2019

Though I've had it since just after my birthday, I have finally sat down (during dialysis) and begun reading special effects makeup legend Rick Baker's enormous and comprehensive two-volume autobiography, METAMORPHOSIS.

Straight-up the most expensive book I have ever purchased as a new edition, this tome is worth its weight in gold to Baker's fans, something I have counted myself as since the 1970's, and upon cracking it open and thumbing through it I felt like I had not spent a dime. This an exhaustive retrospective that stuns with every page, providing candid info on Baker's career, straight from the man himself, warts and all.

I brought Volume One with me to dialysis and began reading; introductions from frequent collaborator John Landis and director/fanboy Peter Jackson were heartfelt, but I was riveted from page 1 of Baker's recollections, beginning with his childhood years of encouragement from parents who pretty much allowed him to turn their little house into a makeup effects lab (his dad was a frustrated artist of considerable talent whose parents did not think being an artist was a real job), chronicling his teen years and early gigs (including working on GUMBY and DAVEY AND GOLIATH), then on to his first meeting with mentor and effects makeup god Dick Smith, followed by chapters on the making of OCTAMAN and SCHLOCK and other low-budget fare before being tapped to do makeup effects for the eighth James Bond film, LIVE AND LET DIE. Right now I'm absorbing his account of his time serving as Dick Smith's assistant on THE EXORCIST, and while I thought I knew pretty much everything about making of that film, I somehow never knew Baler had been involved, as the (deserved) lion's share of the kudos went to Smith.

I cannot wait to resume reading, as what have read so far made the 3.5 hours of dialysis just fly by. In short: If you can spare the hefty price, order your copy before it goes out print and becomes an even pricier collector's item. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.

Monday, August 10, 2020

COMMUNING WITH THE UNIVERSAL GODDESSES

Yesterday's all-day trip to the inner and outer regions of reality and existence did me a lot of good, both psychologically and physically. It gave the coughing time in which to get itself mostly out of my system while I lay on my super-comfy futon with comforters, stark naked, listening to my favorite psychedelic classics while incense fumes clouded the air.

Medical edibles are indeed the way to go, as yesterday's cubes opened my mind to a degree that allowed me to objectively contemplate all of my current situations and their relative insignificance when weighed against the universe as a whole. My problems amount to naught on the cosmic scale, and that is the lesson. I must deal with the here and now and handle my health situations as best as I can, but in the end it will all be nothing more than just another happenstance in life that will eventually be forgotten as the universe continues. Though I will fight to maintain my health, I have no fear of death, as that is inevitable anyway, so while I am here and going through this journey, I must center and find a place of calm, which I am working on on a daily basis.

It's all a cosmic adventure within my own body and mind, and even with the negative aspects of what I am enduring, it's still kind of cool to find out and understand just how much I can take. The journey continues...

Friday, August 07, 2020

TALKIN' SHIT

Okay, kids, it's Serious Illness Story time!!!

One of the many, many fun things that I am discovering on my Stage 3 kidney failure journey is that the condition adversely affects one's bathroom functions...

You can guess where this story is going from that sentence, so feel free to stop here. You have been given fair warning.

For the past few days I have been semi-constipated but thought littler of it, as I had been eating light meals consisting mostly of Special K Red Berries cereal, until last night's Indian curry takeout meat, upon which I gorged shamelessly. I figured the fiber of the cereal and the assorted aspects of Indian cuisine would eventually team-up and open the sluices, so it was only a matter of time. Thus it was that I put it out of my mind.

Fast-forward to an hour ago, when I decided to finally drop off a massive month's worth of laundry at my local laundromat, so, I wrestled my overloaded granny cart down the stairs from my second floor apartment, a task that tested muscles that had lain fallow since the start of the pandemic and the closure of my gym. I wheeled the beast to the laundromat and hefted it out of the cart, which was basically a deadlift exercise with an improvised 60-pound kettlebell. That task also worked my muscles, particularly my core, and I felt the effect. I also wheeled the now-empty cart to the pharmacy and picked up my long-overdue meds. (While there I could not resist chatting up the always super-cute Latina who's been my favorite staffer there for years. She's utterly lovely and a total bombshell — who knows it — so I had to let her know that the jeans she was wearing today were absolutely her best friend. She smiled and simply said, "Hey, as long as I look good in them!")

I then made my way back toward home, but first I had to hit the Associated for a handful of items needed to facilitate tomorrow's kitchen endeavors. Nothing major, just some cooking oil, a couple of disposable aluminum pans, and some containers for fridge storage.

It was during my shopping that I suddenly felt the unmistakable sense of urgency, that signal that screamed "It's almost time for "BOMBS AWAY!!!", so as I paid for my items I debated whether to use the store's restroom or wait until I got home, which was just around the corner, not far at all. Common sense won out, as I could feel the contents of my arse cannon fighting a losing battle to remain within me. (At one point I could swear I felt fudge began to emerge, but, fortunately, I was just being presumptive due to my gastric anguish.) I asked the cashier, who has known me for years, if I could use the restroom. She gave me the green light, so I ran to the back, through the hanging partition and into where the loading into the basement took place, and attempted to enter the lavatory.

It's knob was broken and thus it was quite solidly locked.

I tight-arsed it back to the cashier, in agony, and explained the situation, so I was directed to ask the manager if I could use the can in the basement. I Found him and got approval (he too has known me for the past 23 years), so I flew down the stairs into the active basement, where loading and unloading of stock was going on, and made a beeline to the restroom.

I made it inside with not a moment to spare. In fact, it was so close, I swore I had a torpedo emerging from the firing bay before I had my pants down.

The resulting defecation was of such a tremendous, torturous scale, I felt like I was a priest committing a sacrifice to Sterculius, the Roman god of feces. If such were the case, the deity would be most pleased, as my offering was indeed mighty. A veritable edifice of of stored-up dooky that sat in the secret, underworld space's once-innocent porcelain receptacle in the supermarket that has served me so well in other ways for so many years. So impressive was this effort, that I thought I might have to battle it down the bowl with the nearby plunger as the water overflowed, but I thankfully did not have to endure such an indignity and the newly-minted temple of excremental wonder was accepted into Sterculius's hall of fecal fame with eagerness.

After an effort that was a profane parody of childbirth, I sat on the bowl in a genuine state of physical exhaustion. Is this what I can expect from Stage 3 kidney failure? If so, I need to be more aware and time such happenings with care. I was so drained (literally), I almost fell off of the seat.

I finally collected myself and felt much better, only to find that the only available toilet paper was two rolls, both of which had reached nearly their ass-end. I had the absolute bare minimum  of paper with which to finish the ceremony, but at least I had just enough.

Upon making my way back above ground and out of the rear of the store, I earnestly thanked the manager and the cashier and made my way home. where I collapsed for a while and reflected. The ride is for free, but is it worth it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

TAKING IT WAY TOO FAR


While grocery shopping yesterday, I could not help but overhear a 20-something couple picking out assorted items.

What brought them to my attention was how unconsciously loud the woman, who happened to be a very cute blonde, was, as she blathered on endlessly about this that and everything else, but mostly about white women. What drove it firmly into the territory of the ridiculous and offensive was her doing all of this in an intentional "white woman" accent cribbed from virtually every black standup act of the the past sixty years — if you knew where to look, starting in the days when black men talking about white women on stage was a possible one-way ticket to the morgue — and her accent bore verifiable influences from Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry. All of this was compounded by mixing things up with an outrageous "ghetto ho" accent for counter-point. She was basically a one-woman minstrel show dropping "white gurl" jokes, or, if you prefer, a one-woman show of WHITE CHICKS. It was bizarre and I almost said something, but I let it go. If the cosmos wants to give her a "Bitch, are you for real?" moment, then let someone else do it. I have too much on my plate at the moment.

This level of un-self-aware cringe is what I was afraid of when some of my very white nieces and nephews started getting into Tyler Perry and began imitating Madea's mannerisms. Needless to say, I came down hard on that shit.

And now we have today's climate. How is her unabashedly doing this in a neighborhood dominated by people of color? The mind wobbles.

Friday, July 10, 2020

THE NEVER-ENDING SHITSTORM CONTINUES

Well, today sucked out loud. "Hey, Steve! What did I do on your summer vacation? Fun in the sun? Debauchery between the oiled, tanned thighs of some sweet lady in a sarong? Teaching bottlenose dolphins to be eloquent vulgarians?" Oh, GO FUCK YOURSELF...

Though the recurring hiccups gave me a brief respite during last night's watch of DOOM PATROL, they returned with a vengeance and kept me awake all night long. I could not go for more than a few seconds without hiccuping, so I resolved to make my way to the local urgent care when it opened at 8am. I had a similar issue two or three years ago and that's where I went for help during that incident, receiving a prescription for Gabapentin in the bargain. (It resets the vagus nerve, thus preventing the hiccups.)

Today, however, found me admitted a little after 10am, and once shown into an examination room I told the resident what was wrong, along with my prior history with the same thing and how I had come there before for help, and making sure to mention that Gabapentin did the trick last time. I also clarified matters further by letting him know that I'd had that nuclear stress test on Monday and that my hiccups started in earnest sometime on Tuesday.

The resident left and soon came back with the attending physician, and upon hearing all of this he asked me why I needed the nuclear stress test. I told him it was to check the state of my heart ahead of the upcoming dialysis fistula surgery, which was itself ahead of the eventual kidney transplant, and that information gave him pause. He felt that because a nuclear stress test is stressful (it's right there in the name), it was possible that the dilation of my heart's arteries may have shaken me up and kick-started the hiccups. So, before anything else could be done, he felt it would be advisable for me to undergo an EKG. I resigned myself to it because an EKG is basically non-invasive and quick, plus my chest and abdomen still bore the bare patches from when I got shaved for the EKG I underwent the other day.

Unfortunately for me, the resident was the one who was tasked to hook me up and administer the test, and the guy clearly did not know what he was doing. It took him 20 minutes to figure everything out, and the doctor, who was present for most of the prep, offered no assistance. After much fumbling I was finally properly connected to the unit, and when the doctor looked over the results he told me to get myself to the nearest ER immediately.

I was stunned.

I had just been given good news in this department by my team at Mount Sinai two days prior, so to hear that was a blow.

When I asked exactly what was wrong, the doctor stated that due to my age and the fact that I am a high-risk patient, it was best if I let the folks in the ER at NY Methodist (which was two avenues away) give me a going-over, which would include another EKG, blood work, et cetera, a prospect that filled me with dread, especially since I just cannot seem to go more than a week or two without being in a hospital for something. And frankly, I am fucking sick of it.

I explained that I had received good results from my cardiologist, but the urgent care doctor was having none of it. He began filling my head with every worst case scenario he could think of, including the possibility of me having "a metabolic abnormality," and with that I admittedly kind of lost it. I just sat there, silent at first, and then I quietly-but-sternly stated "It never fucking ends..." followed by a ramble expressing my utter weariness of all of this, only I cannot even remember exactly what I said. All I know is that I was clearly angry, as when I am in that state I remain seemingly calm but level-voiced while avoiding the use of contractions when I speak. The doctor was visibly taken aback, and he had backed up by a few feet as he said "I'm sorry. It's a hard road." In my head I responded with "Tell me something I don't know motherfucker," but I opted to be polite and instead stated "Yeah. It's a hard road I've been walking for the past seven years, and I am just exhausted."

The doctor proceeded to try and placate me, stating that if I went to the ER and it turned out to be a waste of time, "Hey, no big deal, but you've got to stay on top of this sort of thing." I figured there was no point in trying to get across to him just how comprehensively "on top of this sort of thing" I am and have been for years, so I told him I would go. At that point I would have said anything, just so I could get the hell out of there. Not just because of the unpleasantness of yet more testing and hospital shit, but because I could see my energy was scaring the shit out of the doctor. Those of you who know me in the world outside of social media know that I am basically a pussycat, but to those who have never encountered me before, I am a large black man whose manner of communication and overall demeanor do not jibe with the common perception an American black male, so I am already an unknown and confusing commodity to most. Couple all of that with all that's been going on of late, and in some eyes I become some weird sepia golem, only dispatched by who knows what ire-fueled forces. (Let me assure you it was not Rabbi Loew.) I did not mean to scare anyone, and the fact that that's exactly what I was doing just brought me right down. Anyway, I left immediately after being handed my dismissal papers.

Instead of hitting the ER, I came straight home, deeply bummed-out, and called a dear friend who's a doctor. Since all of my medical shit kicked off, she kindly offered her assistance as a consultant if shit gets too thick, so I called and told her what had just happened. I was immediately glad that I called her, because her calm, rational and soothing voice always puts me at familial ease, and upon hearing the situation she suggested that I call my cardiologist and may primary care physician at Mount Sinai for their take on the matter. I was still hiccuping and it was driving me insane, so I hoped talking with either of them would get me the Gabapentin I was denied during my urgent care visit. I left messages with the aforementioned Mount Sinai doctors and attempted to get some sleep while awaiting their responses, but that effort proved futile.

I eventually heard back from my cardiologist and, upon hearing of the situation at urgent care, he told me in no uncertain terms that there was no need for me to go to the ER, as my results from the other day clearly showed that, while not the acme of heart health, I was doing quite well, all things considered. The urgent care doctor may have been erring on the side of caution, but he also did not have my charts or the recent cardiac imaging to base his assumptions on, while my cardiologist had all of that. He told me not to worry and that the hiccups should clear up. If not, I was to call him again and we would take it from there. As for my primary care physician, she can sometimes take a while to get back to me if I leave her a message, which is wholly understandable, as Mount Sinai is swamped with COVID-19 cases, so I have yet to hear back from her. Thus, still no Gabapentin.

I again tried for some sleep, but I was so disoriented after no sleep due to endless hiccuping, I have no idea exactly how long I may or may not have managed to achieve some shuteye. The hiccups did eventually diminish considerably, but they still sneak in every few minutes, which definitely beats them occurring every ten seconds or less. I'm hoping it will all finally abate by the morning, by my throat is raw from all of it, and I have massive headache.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

A MOMENT OF "PURE IMAGINATION"

You never know where you'll find much-needed emotional release. To say that I have been incredibly wound-up of late would be a massive understatement, and tonight while finally watching last week's episode of DOOM PATROL — "Sex Patrol" — my emotional guard was unexpectedly fully let down, and the floodgates opened.

During an impromptu party to restore the broken Danny the Brick to his full glory as Danny the Street, Dorothy lets loose with a sweet rendition of "Pure Imagination" that, especially considering who it's coming from, was heartfelt and poignant. So much so that I found myself singing along with her as happy tears streamed down my face.

As a possible side-effect of the drug that dilated the arteries in my heart at the hospital the other day, I suffered with hiccups that would only briefly subside, so I got no sleep last night and spent the majority of going "hic" and having no appetite. I was going to hit the local urgent care in the morning and ask for a prescription for Gabapentin, the drug they gave me to reset my Vagus nerve when this happened a couple of years ago, but after "Pure Imagination" I felt better and my hiccups ceased.
Let's see if that state holds for the night (at the very least).

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

A LOST DAY

Today went by in a hazy blink.

As has been previously stated, it'd been a stressful past few weeks, with very little little sleep, so upon returning from the hospital yesterday I almost immediately crashed out for a few hours, waking up only for the most minimal of food intake. Today was no different, as I only got out of bed for the occasional bathroom break and a piece of toast. The residual effects of the isotope serum and artery-dilating drug rather did me in, so I was either sluggish and woozy with limbs that felt as heavy as lead, or I was out cold asleep for most of the day. I clearly needed the rest and I will likely go back to bed in a bit, but my appetite is final returning and it must be sated. Frozen Swedish meatballs and pasta to the rescue...