Archive for May, 2017

The Cure for What Ailed Me: Epilog

May 29, 2017


I empathize with you so much, little horse.

They wheeled me to the front door and then I was on my own. My family was there but nobody could really do anything for me anymore. Somehow, my body had forgotten how to walk properly. Everything was sore and my strength and coordination were still way off. It was embarrassing. I felt like a newborn foal. My bedroom at home was on the third floor and it was my sanctuary. Until I healed, stairs were too difficult and we worried that something would cause me to have to go back to the hospital. So, I slept on the couch for weeks as I got my sea legs back. My grandmother, Maw Maw, came up to keep me company.


My scar was exponential.

I am left with a fairly wicked scar. When it was fresh, it curved from between my shoulder blades down to my left side above my hip. It was pretty brutal-looking. However, my body grew and the scar did not so it is a lot smaller these days. It looks less like I wrestled with bears. That is an actual rumor that my wrestling coach joked about starting in seventh grade. Experiences like that made me self-conscious about the scar but also let me laugh about it. Body image is especially tough when you are young, even if you are a guy.


I have never had street cred.

Next to the moon-shaped scar is the scar from the place where they inserted the drainage tube for all my various fluids. It was gross to think about and even now I can feel my skin crawl. Sorry if I made the same happen to you. My family affectionately called that scar ‘the bullet wound scar’ because of how clean and precise it looked. Also, when the time came for them to remove the tube so that I could heal, it certainly felt like I had been shot. They grabbed and yanked the tube out of me and I felt a sudden, hollow pain. It was one of the worst pains I had felt at the time.

Slowly, I started to find my footing again. It did not take too long for me to start gobbling food down faster than I anyone else at the table. I was overcompensating for all of my past issues. I started to breathe clearer soon after that. The danger had passed.

Extra Stories and Fun Facts:


No No No No No No

Now some readers may remember my great fear of needless. When I went in for the MRI test to map my circulatory system in advance of the surgery, the nurse was very kind but very utilitarian with a brusque bedside manner. They were going to give me something to put me out for the MRI and they also had to inject the fluid that would make the MRI actually work. When I started to get nervous she told me ‘Don’t worry, it won’t hurt any more than a bee sting’. The problem for me was that not only was I afraid of needles, I was also terrified of bees. I was swarmed by a whole nest when I was younger. My mom leveled a hard look at this nurse and informed her that she was not really helping.


What do I have in common with him? Not much, thankfully.

They told me a lot of interesting things to try to calm me down in the days before the surgery. One of the more interesting things was my surgeon’s past history. They told me that my surgeon had been one of the surgeons who operated on Ronald Reagan after he was shot over a year before I was born. Of course, this impressed me when I was a kid. Now, I am just glad that he was successful with me. Regardless, he was a world-renown expert on the surgery and I was lucky that he worked at a hospital less than half an hour away from home.


I owe a lot to the most powerful institution in Baltimore past, present, and future.

Now, medical science is much more advanced than it was over twenty years ago. Doctors are able to detect Cystic Fibrosis much earlier. They are also able to detect Double Aortic Arch through many different tests (some of which I eventually got). Often, the problem is detected in the womb or shortly after birth and is corrected through surgery before the damage is done. In fact, most babies born with Double Aortic Arch usually turn blue from oxygen deprivation not long after birth. I went through what I had to go through and nobody really screwed up. It is one of the reasons that I support science-based medicine so much. It saved my life.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 3

May 27, 2017

The Sound

Natia sat under the bridge, clutching her guitar to her chest tightly. Usually, she would be with her friends jamming out a little bit. She loved being loud but now it was time to be quiet for once. When she had been headed to the jam space, she was sure that she had spotted the local truancy officer, Mr. Collins. She had thought that she knew how to shake them off but this one seemed especially aggressive. Natia’s usual indestructible confidence was shaken.

She pulled out her phone and texted “007” to her friends both as a warning and to psych herself up. The thought of the famously ridiculous spy made her smile. She could do this. She was better than any Bond, she was Natia Apatu. She looked around for some way to escape. Just a few feet away, there was a grate over a large pipe that looked like it might access the sewer. It was not the most pleasant way to travel but there was a sink and a hose at the jam space. She could get clean again. Mostly clean.

She pulled at the grate and, surprisingly, it came off right away. It was not even that heavy. This did not exactly inspire confidence in the municipal infrastructure. Of course, Natia and her friends regularly raged against that machine so it was not remarkable for her to criticize or expect much from the city. She loved the people but hated the man. The man did not like freedom and Natia was all about freedom.

She stepped into the pipe, ducking her head and slinging the guitar under her right arm. She reached back and pulled the grate back into place the best she could. It kind of looked exactly how it had looked before. At least, this is what Natia hoped. She doubted the officer would crawl through the sewers to catch one preteen girl who was skipping school but the paranoia was real. She quickly and carefully crawled further down the pipe.

Thankfully, the thing was dry. She had imagined it would be absolutely caked with questionable oozing substances so she was glad to be wrong. She idly hoped nobody flushed but as far as she knew, the sewer did not work like that. This was probably just a storm drain. This was going to be easier than she thought. The only worry she had was her guitar. Everything else could heal but her older brother had given her the guitar before leaving for college. It was irreplaceable.

Natia missed her brother dearly. The had been pretty close growing up, squabbling sometimes but they always had each others’ back. They often got into trouble together but Samula was also always getting Natia out of it. She missed that. She really did. After he left, school did not feel worth going to and teachers got no respect from Natia. Not when dreams of a hit record danced behind her eyes. Besides, she had made friends with a bunch of kids who were also done with school.

At the other end of the pipe, was the sewer. Natia tried to count out the distance so that she could slide under and past Mr. Collins. Once she was sure that she had gotten past the guy, he started to climb a ladder. This was so 007. She started to hum before she realized that she was humming Mission Impossible and not James Bond. She hummed one of her own compositions instead. It kept her hands steady.

The manhole at the top of the ladder was heavy. She heaved but nearly lost her balance on the ladder. Instead, she used her shoulder, grunting with the exertion. The manhole finally moved. She shoved it aside as carefully as she could and found herself in an alleyway. She leaned the guitar against the wall and gently moved the manhole back into place, trying not to make any more noise. After that, she sat next to her guitar to catch her breath and get her bearings.

The alley looked kind of familiar. On a whim, Natia clambered up some boxes and crawled into an open window. Luckily, it was the right building. She recognized the crappy wallpaper and everything. Natia sighed with relief. The rest of the gang was probably already in the room. They were a stealthy bunch and half of them usually crashed in the room anyway. They probably had not even known the officer was around.

She headed up the stairs two at a time, shouldering her guitar as she walked. There was not a spot of dirt on it and that made her proud. She started to tune it. IT felt good to be home free. Each musical tone from her guitar made her more excited, more alive. It was time for another day of rock and roll. She opened the door to absolute silence. Nobody was there.

“Where is everybody?” Natia asked the room.

“They got caught by the truant officer,” A voice said from somewhere. “They’re gone.”

“Who’s there?” Natia asked. A thing that was not a cat came out from behind a speaker.

“Natia Apatu. I will not answer that question right now,” The voice said. “But we have a need for your creative energy. It could save the world.”

“Save the world?” Natia asked. “Who is ‘we’?”

“That is not quite settled yet,” The things said. “Take this charm and meet us at the location on the note.”

The thing dropped a charm and a slip of paper jumped out of the window. Natia scrambled over and picked up the charm which went from red to green.

Media Update 5/25/2017

May 25, 2017


Independence Day: Resurgence

This is a project that I have heard about for the last twenty years. The original was created by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (of Leverage/Librarians fame). It was a fun, cheesy blockbuster action/comedy movie about a full-on invasion of Earth by extraterrestrials. I have seen it several times and it never gets old to me. This sequel basically took the form that was rumored for the last twenty years. Humans merge their technology with the tech of the fallen ships to fight a bigger threat. Sequels always have a bigger threat. Twenty years later and they combined some of the old cast with a new one. We get a returning Jeff Goldblum who is just as eccentric as he is in every movie. We also get a returning Brent Spiner who gets more of a role and a returning Bill Pullman who gets less of a role. Our action stars are Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe who all play fighter pilots in the battle and Deobia Oparei. Judd Hirsch also returns but probably should not have, same goes for Vivica Fox who was in the movie for like 30 seconds. The movie was pretty fun, actually for a 20-year sequel. It felt like the first movie but it made a little more sense to me. I want to see a prequel about Deobia Oparei’s African warriors fighting the aliens hand to hand. I recommend it but your mileage may vary.


Interstellar

I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan and I have been since I saw Batman Begins. I like his filmmaking style that always has interesting characters and intricate plots that pay out big time. Some (like Dark Knight) are better than others (The Dark Knight Rises) but I have at least liked each of his movies that I have seen. This movie is a thinkpiece about the physics involved in space travel, black holes, and wormholes. It also touches on the emerging science of gravity waves. Nolan and his brother had a consulting physicist named Dr. Kip Thorne who is a former classmate of Dr. Stephen Hawkins and a brilliant scientific mind in his own right. They worked hard to make this tale of space travel as scientifically accurate as they could. The way they play with time and relativity is really amazing and actually kind of terrifying. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as a former NASA pilot and a scientist who are tasked with finding a suitable planet for humans to relocate to. McConaughey’s daughter is also a key character and she is played by three actresses due to the relativity of time. There is a definite feel to the movie that is reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010. The movie made me think, made me laugh, made me sad and made me happy. It is super long but if you have the time I recommend it.


Plan 9 (2015)

Another movie that has been in the works for a long time. Remaking Plan 9 from Outer Space of all movies sounded like a fool’s errand to me when I first heard about it. The original is so bad that it is fun to watch it, especially with friends. Ed Wood was a passionate filmmaker but he never really had enough money or expertise to really bring his movies to life correctly. The premise of this movie is trying to make a modern remake that is truer to that original vision but with a better budget and more hands on deck to realize the vision. The result was actually really fun. The movie is reimagined with less aliens and becomes more of a sci-fi zombie movie with more mysterious aliens. This removes the awkward speeches from the aliens and allows the movie to focus more on the townspeople. While it is not a perfect movie by far, it has an offbeat humor and a lot of fun action. It plays a little with zombie tropes since the method of creating zombies is a little different from most movies. I recommend it but mostly for the hardcore bad movie junkies, the sci-fi nuts and nerds like me.

Music of the Week:
Patrik Fitzgerald – Safety-Pin Stuck In My Heart

Wrekonize – Clones

X – Johnny Hit and Run Paulene

One Direction – Drag Me Down

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj – Bang Bang

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Outer Space”
– I watched a ton of Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
– I watched more Season 2 of The Get Down
– I watched more Fairy Tail
– I finished Sherlock Season 4
– I finished Better Call Saul Season 2
– I finished Season One of The Crown
– I caught two more episodes I was missing of The Librarians

The Cure For What Ailed Me Pt. 3

May 22, 2017

When we last left off, I had finally received a confirmed diagnosis of Double Aortic Arch. To this day, doctors still do not know exactly what causes the condition but they think it may be genetic. Whatever caused it, I was born with a congenital heart defect. This was an amazing find because it is a very rare defect. It was also an amazing find because, like Cystic Fibrosis, it usually kills babies fairly quickly after birth. I was born with it but I survived over ten years without it being detected. I am so lucky that I did not die. I could have easily keeled over and they would have diagnosed me in an autopsy. The thought both makes me feel good and it also terrifies me.


Wow, that was dark. Let me remind you that this has a happy ending and I am not a ghost.

The doctors told my mom that not only did things look bad but with each passing day, they were getting worse. My body was slowly strangling me from the inside and there was no chance of it healing on its own. Medical intervention was absolutely necessary and that means that I had to go into surgery and soon. My mother, knowing that Halloween is my favorite holiday, asked if the surgery could wait. The doctors told her in no uncertain terms that the surgery could not wait. They told her why. One night, my parents sat me down at the dinner table that I had grown to dread. They told me what was wrong with me and they told me that I had to go into surgery.


I would be going as a sick kid for Halloween.

I sobbed and begged for it not to be true. I remember being on my mother’s lap, my heart seized with fear like never before or since. I cried and cried but tears do not change reality. They told me that if I did not have the surgery I would lose the ability to walk and then I would die. I had to be in surgery soon and I had to learn to accept that. I told my friends and my mother told the school and they were all behind me. I wish I could say that this made anything better. I remember going into the hospital for a consultation with the surgeon. He sat me down and drew simple little pictures and told me what he was going in to do. He was kind and although it did not make me any less scared, I know I appreciated at least knowing what was happening. Knowing is almost always better.


Nothing funny here. This was the inspiration for my character Lennon Clarke.

The day of the surgery came in almost no time at all. The night before, I was given the usual order to not eat or drink anything. This had to be enforced by my folks because I get cranky when I do not eat. As a concession to my young age, they allowed me to drink apple juice but only a little bit to keep my blood sugar up. They brought me into the hospital. Having been briefed on my fear of needles, they numbed my arms before they injected me. At some point, a troll doll from the school store was put into my hands and I clutched it tightly. As the drugs started to take effect, I cursed at whoever would listen and I told them that my parents were lawyers and they better take good care of me. They pumped enough drugs in me to put down a horse. I started singing the Animaniacs theme on loop and then I blacked out.


I was quickly getting zany to the max…

It was hours later when I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit. I was still alive. Not only that, but I was told that the operation was successful. I was in pain but happy that the scariest event of my life was all over except for the healing. As a reward, I got to watch Disney’s Aladdin on heavy drugs. It remains one of my favorite films to this day. I do not remember much else from the ICU except for fading in and out of consciousness and the occasional sponge bath. They had deflated one of my lungs to get at my heart and there would be a lot of healing. Eventually, they decided that I was out of danger and moved me up to a room to recuperate. Once there, I became a more difficult patient.


I had my own fight going on so I felt for Link.

I happily ate applesauce and watched television. However, it took me a while to kind of learn how to go to the bathroom again. I insisted I could do it and I would struggle my way to the bathroom and then nada. I was stuck with a catheter for a while. As they decreased the drugs they gave me, I hurt more but hurting is part of healing. While in the hospital, I got the entire set of Aliens action figures including the Alien Queen. There was a hospital visit from Captain Planet and I got Wheeler’s fire ring and also Linka’s wind ring. When I got a little better, I would make the long and painful journey to the game room to play Legend of Zelda on the NES. I never had enough time to get anywhere in the game but controlling Link made me happy.

Stay tuned next week for part 4 which will probably be the epilog!

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 2

May 20, 2017

The Flame

The doctor came back into the room and Lennon knew from his face that the news was bad. She wiped at her glasses in an attempt not to cry. She hardened her heart and looked up at the doctor almost defiantly. She felt her mom squeeze her hand and the tears almost came again but she held on tightly instead. She had to be strong.

“Lennon, Ms. Clarke,” The doctor said. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”

At that, Lennon’s mom did start crying. Lennon kept it together even though she felt the words tear her apart inside. She found herself focusing on being strong for her mother and trying to comfort her, reaching to stroke her mother’s shoulder and back. This illness had been a long journey for both of them. It seemed the journey was far from over.

Over five years ago, Lennon had lost her father. He had been hit by a taxi on his way to his car after a late shift at work. She still missed waiting up for him so they could eat cookies and talk about their day. She missed Sunday breakfast where all three of them could laugh and have a leisurely meal together even though her father was still usually dog tired from the night before. She knew her mom felt the same. Now, Lennon stayed up alone with only her books to comfort her while mom was off working to cover the bills. Cookies had lost their taste.

Two years ago, Lennon had fallen during gym class. She had thought it was just a fluke and chalked it up to being an awkwardly clumsy nerd. Things went downhill from there. She had thought that her legs were just bruised and injured from the fall but they started refusing to work right. They were weak and she could not stand right. Soon, her legs shook too much with the strain of her weight and she could not stand at all. The school had chipped in for a wheelchair. It made her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

There had been so many tests and nobody had any answers. Lennon felt that she had become an expert on the subject by now. Not only was she living the experience, she was also spending all the time she was not doing her homework studying medical books. She was looking for some clue the doctors were missing that would lead her to walk again. She never wanted anything more. She had found nothing in those books. Nothing useful.

“The tests show what we feared,” The doctor said. “Your legs show no signs of improvement and may only get worse from here. With some work, you may be able to stand briefly in the leg braces but you will most likely never walk again.”

“Never?” Lennon asked. She had always been a bookworm but even bookworms like to walk and play with the other kids.

“I’m sorry,” The doctor said. Her mother hugged her and Lennon allowed a single tear as emotions swirled inside of her. There was a lot of sadness but there was also a lot of anger.

“Can I be alone for a little while?” Lennon asked. The question surprised her mother but not the doctor.

“Of course, honey,” Her mom said. “I want to go over the charts with the doctor if that’s alright?”

Lennon nodded and wheeled herself toward the door. The doctor pressed a button and the door opened, letting Lennon out. She wheeled past the receptionist’s desk, a dark cloud hanging over her head.

She tried to think of all the people she knew who still made a difference while confined to a wheelchair.  There was Dr. Hawkins, Mr. Reeves, Frida Kahlo, and so many more. Still, she pictured having to cross the room for a book and now that simple task was so much harder. She would probably have normally spent her career sitting anyway but not her whole life. It was not fair.

She did not look forward to all the awkward smiles and pitying looks from her friends. Lennon did not want to be pitied. She just wanted to live her life. Everybody kept saying that things would get better but that sounded hollow to Lennon. It was hard to have faith sitting in a wheelchair with no hope of ever getting out. The lobby felt so cold and empty.

That was when she heard the weird purring noise. It was almost like a mechanical rhythm which made it even weirder. It instantly distracted Lennon from her troubles, pushing them aside for the moment to solve a mystery. She rolled toward the noise and found nothing at its source. Which is when a weird cat thing jumped out and startled Lennon.

“Aah!” She yelled. “Stupid cat!”

“I’m not a cat!” The thing shot back. “I’m not stupid either. Though I admit that I am not as smart as you are, Lennon.”

“You can talk?” Lennon asked. She felt that she may have disproved her intelligence by asking that question. “I mean, how do you know my name? What do you want with me?”

“You are strong enough to exist in that chair, Lennon,” The thing said. “We, however, may not be strong enough without your intelligence and heart. We need you.”

“Who is we?” Lennon asked.

The thing produced a charm from somewhere and placed it within reach of Lennon. It started to back away.

“Take this charm to the meeting on the note and you will find out all the answers to your questions and more.” Then the thing was gone. Lennon picked up the charm which went from white to red. She puzzled over it but pulled out the note.

Media Update 5/18/17

May 18, 2017


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I remember seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters by myself and it was one of those movies that I wanted to show everybody because I loved it so much. It was based on a comic book but it felt more like a fun science fantasy film. I went to see the sequel at a theater with friends and I was glad I did. This movie was everything I needed it to be and everything I wanted it to be. This is the franchise that taught me how funny Chris Pratt is, it is the main reason I tried Parks and Rec. Somehow, this movie was even funnier, more exciting and more heartwarming than the first movie. Now that we know the characters, we could really get into how they tick and dig into more of their backstory and where they are headed. The characters and the acting made this so good. Everybody was given a little more to work with and the script breathed a little more as a result. As with the first one, the music was so perfect. Rocket and Quill’s story resonated so much with me. I wholeheartedly recommend it and you do not really have to see the first one to enjoy it.


Bad Moms

When I first saw the trailer for this one, I thought it might just be a female version of The Hangover. When I found out that this was not the case, I was a little bit excited. After all, I am a huge Kristen Bell fan and I wanted to see her in another movie. Kristen Bell is, of course, great in this movie as a stay at home mom who has been driven a little crazy by her four kids. However, the real star of the movie is Mila Kunis who plays a mom who reaches a breaking point in her life and absolutely needs a change. Kathryn Hahn plays a crazy single mother who befriends the two. Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett-Smith are great as the psychotic mom villains. A lot in the movie is played for comedy but it really is a touching movie for anybody who is a mom or has had a mom. It made me really grateful for my mother and for all the people out there I know who are mothers. It was really interesting to watch two women (Bell and Kunis) who I had watched playing teenagers now playing mothers. The movie was really fun to watch but it also felt like it spoke not to just being a mom but also being a human being. None of us are perfect, so we should embrace our flaws even as we work on them. I definitely recommend it.


Logan

I am really going to miss Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He has been the heart and soul of almost every X-Men movie so far. It is a shame that his solo movies are not well-received. I have defended the first film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) on this blog and I also liked The Wolverine as well. I think they both would have been better without the goofy effects and set pieces. This movie is what those movies should have been. The movie starts slow but it picks up a little bit in and then it grabbed me and did not let go. While I miss the color of Origins and the comic book references, instead they stripped the story down to focus on a post-apocalyptic story. The movie is dominated by the contentious friendship between Logan and Professor Charles Xavier but what really made me happy was Laura. A combination between a pit bull, a tornado, and a precocious pre-teen, her mostly silent performance was actually really powerful. This movie is also a comic book movie for non-comic book readers as no reading of the books or watching any other movies is necessary.

 

Music of the Week:
Ra Ra feat. TI – For The Money

The Slants – You Make Me Alive

Hyo Min – Nice Body

Diet Cig – Scene Sick

Shaggy feat Alaine – For Yur Eyez Only

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Rebels With a Cause”
– I finished Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23
– I finished Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow
– I am almost done Better Call Saul Season 2
– I am almost done Season 1 of The Crown
– I watched more Fairy Tail
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I continued Season 1 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
– Happy Two Year Anniversary!

The Cure For What Ailed Me, Part 2

May 15, 2017

When last we left off, I was talking about how I had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a very serious condition that would have changed the course of my life. While people live with chronic conditions, it was not a diagnosis most people would wish on their enemies. Thankfully, the doctors were not quite sure about the diagnosis and continued to do tests. I am lucky that I was born in Baltimore City which has some of the best hospitals in the country (and perhaps the world). Foremost among them is Johns Hopkins Hospital which is often on the forefront of medical technology. It is a teaching hospital so there is a lot of information flying around the halls of the hospital at all times. So, they performed a battery of tests.


Just give me an A on these tests and get it over with!

I already spoke about one of those tests where they drew blood and then had me run laps and then they drew blood again. Once again, I think this was to test how much oxygen was getting into my blood stream even when I was breathing as hard as I could. I did exercises where I breathed into a tube as hard as I could to try to get a meter to move. It reminded me of the ping-pong tests from the film The Right Stuff so I was right up there with the Mercury 7. I had something called a “sweat test” done. In this test, an electrode is attached to your arm and another location. An electric current is used to activate a special chemical mixture to induce sweating on a site on your arm. I remember it hurting a lot. In fact, every test either hurt or was uncomfortable. I hated it.


“And then they attach the electrodes” usually is not a good sign.

It was frustrating having to do all these tests because I just wanted to be better. I not only wanted to get better but I wanted to give them what they were looking for. I wanted to complete a test that did not end with somebody shaking their head in confusion. I wanted my parents to not have to worry about me anymore. I do not remember actually complaining or any specific incident of depression but I do remember feeling bad about it. Of course, I did. How could a sick kid not feel bad about being sick? However, things were about to change. By chance, somebody at Johns Hopkins poked their head in while I was performing another inconclusive test. They said they might know what it was but it was a bit of a longshot. At this point, we all were ready for longshots especially if it was not as bad as Cystic Fibrosis.


The human body is probably the human body’s most dangerous enemy.

What he proposed was that I had what is called Double Aortic Arch. Now, this is a very rare condition and no doctor that treated me should have felt ashamed not to have come up with that possibility. People with Double Aortic Arch are born with two aortas. If you have studied any sort of human biology, you already know this is really weird. Normal humans are born with only one aorta. The aorta is the main artery that brings blood from your heart down to your abdomen. From there, it branches off to various points in your body. You really only need one. What can happen when there are two is that they can be accidentally connected down the line. This can cause a tangling with various parts of the human body which can cause damage and complications. It was important that we test for this quickly because it has the potential to be very nasty.


I would be basically swallowing dye. Sort of.

I went in for another test which I was not happy with. At this point, I was pretty pessimistic about any success in finally finding a cure for me. Still, I was a kid and I do what I am told. So it was that I went in for what is called a Barium Swallow Test also known as an esophagography. I had to miss school once again and go into a laboratory. Once I got there, they handed me a cup with a straw poking out of it. I was confused. I was told to drink up. What I drank tasted chalky but strangely I do not remember it being horrible. It was kind of like a bad milkshake and I like milkshakes. They then spent some time photographing my insides with special instruments. When we saw the doctor again, we found out something astonishing.

Hourglass

Basically what my esophagus and trachea looked like.

My esophagus and my trachea were in an hourglass shape. My body was trying to kill me by squeezing my two aortas around my eating and breathing tubes. The three most important tubes of my body were working together to end me. I was sent to get an MRI to confirm what exactly was going on. The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was horrible. As stated, I hate needles and each MRI starts with one. Then you have to lay in a box while a loud machine thumps all around you. Thankfully, they gave me something that put me out and I got to bypass most of the experience. When I came out, they confirmed the diagnosis and it only got worse from there. Find out how it got worse (and better) in Part Three!

Tooth and Claw

May 13, 2017

Bron found himself in the woods, deep in unfamiliar woods. He had no memory of how he had gotten there. He remembered being on watch with that Druid. She at least could make good food. Orc cooking was crude and utilitarian so Bron had grown to like Elven cooking even if he rolled his eyes at all the religion the elf girl and others insisted on. He also really liked alcohol but it would have to wait until the next town. Regardless, he must have slipped past everybody at the changing of the guard which made them all a bit more useless. Or it made Bron that much better than them. However, he wished he could spot the camp fire not that he needed them.

“You are growing more powerful,” A voice said from somewhere. Bron looked in that direction and watched as the Witch stepped from behind a tree. Bron let go of his axe, letting it hang back in the sling on his back. He could always grab it if she said something stupid.

“Witch,” Bron said and spat. “It was you who brought me here.”

“It was either fate or free will. Which do you believe in?” The Witch asked.

Bron thought for but a few seconds. “I do what I want,” He said gruffly.

“Fair enough,” the Witch said. “Do you want more power, Bron? To battle new challenges?”

“My power is enough,” Bron said with a frown. “No deals. No tricks.”

“No deals and no tricks. I promise,” she said. “This power is not coming from me. Nature itself is recognizing your strength. It has a gift for you. A tribute of sorts.”

“A tribute?” Bron asked. Tributes were only for powerful and important people.

“Turn around.”

Bron turned and saw a large bear standing almost directly behind him. As he reached for his ax, the bear moved to a pose on all fours. It was almost like it was genuflecting, bowing to him. Clearly an offering.

“Kill it,” The Witch said. “Take its power.”

Bron looked at the peaceful bear and shook his head. He threw down his ax. The witch looked outraged like she was going to start yelling at Bron.

“No challenge,” Bron muttered. Bron pulled back his hand and slapped the bear across the snout. The bear suddenly forgot its sense of decorum and reared up angrily. Bron had to dodge its first furious swipes. The battle was on. The two brutish competitors lunged at each other, wrestling with one another as one tried to kill the other. They both got their shots in, inflicting horrible damage. In the end, Bron rolled over to his great ax and brought the fight to its end. What was left of the bear lay still.

Bron stood, breathing hard and covered in blood and wounds but smiling. The Witch’s eyes were wide as they shone from under her hood. Her identity was still hidden but her surprise and fear were laid bare. She held out a necklace made from the bear’s claws.

“Take it,” She said. She held out the necklace firmly. To her credit, she did not shake. She seemed to have re-composed herself. Bron snatched the necklace from her and she did not flinch.

Bron instantly felt the bear again and the hair stood up on the back of his neck. It was there but Bron could not see it or hear it. Then he realized that he felt the bear’s presence within. Its menace, size, and ferocity were there and Bron felt stronger. He felt his flesh knit together once again, leaving just the usual blood stains on his skin. He felt nature around him come alive. He was acutely aware of every creature within miles, including the tiniest insect. There was challenge out there.

His vision blurred and when it cleared, he was running on all fours. His fur rustled in the wind. There was a deer that he was chasing so tantalizingly close in front of him. The deer stumbled on a tree root and he felled it with a mighty swipe of his paw. He bit the thing’s neck and dove into its guts, ripping and tearing. For a brief moment, the thing was Urka and Bron smiled.

“You are one of us,” a voice said. “Go and show them your power.”

“I will,” Bron said. “I am half orc, half human and half bear. And I am more than all of them.”

Then Bron awoke, still clutching the necklace. The fire was low and the Druid was making breakfast and everybody was starting the morning routine. He still felt the challenge ahead.

“Let it come. I am ready.”

Media Update 5/11/2017

May 11, 2017


Lego Batman

I am a huge fan of Batman and, with the exception of Batman v. Superman, I have seen pretty much every iteration of Batman that has been released. This movie is a spin off of The Lego Movie which was a surprise hit. The Lego Movie being a hit was a surprise to me as well because I was expecting crass commercialization but instead we got a really good story with fun characters. So, when they announced this movie, I knew it would probably be pretty good. Will Arnett’s Batman is a different animal from other Batman versions. He is flashy, brutally honest and a blowhard who is jealous of anyone who becomes more popular than him. We get Zach Galifianakis as the Joker and he is a perfect foil for Lego Batman because he is silly, cartoony and strangely sweet. This movie is the cure for the way the DC Cinematic universe has gone lately. It is not afraid to take chances and get silly. It is also one of the best Batman movies that I have seen. It references a lot of Batman and DC Comics history and acknowledges the past with reverence but too much reverence. It strikes the delicate balance of poking fun at its source material while also celebrating it. It also has the baddest woman on the planet Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. I definitely recommend it but especially for fellow Batman fans.


Trolls

Dreamworks is a studio that is kind of hit or miss so I often let their movies pass by unless I hear some buzz. The first trailer I saw of this movie was a music video for the big original song and I was like ‘this song is good… oh it’s the Trolls movie’. This was a mistake. After watching two animated films, I decided to give this movie a shot. I remembered the trailer having good art and animation. I also found out that one of the movie’s stars is Justin Timberlake. While I was extremely anti-boy band in the nineties, I have become a fan of Timberlake in these times. He also executive produced the soundtrack which is a mix of covers of popular music and original music. Arguably the real star of the movie is Anna Kendrick whose movies I have never really seen (except Into the Woods) but she was great in this one. She and JT have great chemistry together and she is a obviously a great singer as well. There is a great supporting cast as well including Jeffery Tambor, Christine Baranski, Zooey Deschanel and Christopher Mintz-Plasse along with a great group of comedians and musicians. If you do not like pop music, then this one might not be for you but I love upbeat music so I might have to download the soundtrack at some point actually. The message of the movie was simple and some of the points were predictable but sometimes that is just the movie I want to watch. I definitely recommend it for those who love good animation, good dialogue and fun music.


Sing

I was never one for singing competitions. I love music but I never really got into declaring winners or losers because skill is not the only thing that makes a good musician. Sometimes a singer with a lot of heart beats a singer with impeccable talent. Which is kind of the message of this movie although they never really come out and say it. The movie follows a dying theater which puts on a singing competition in order to draw interest from the community and sell tickets. Of course, the movie being what it is, there are about eighty popular songs in it. For me, it becomes a bit much. Often, there is no rhyme or reason for what songs are bein sung. Somebody just looked up the last forty years or so of the Billboard listings and just had random animals singing them. There are also truly unlikable characters in the movie, chief among them is played by Seth McFarlane (of course). All that aside, there is actually a pretty sweet movie in there. Mostly because most of the main cast learns important lessons about life and show business. I was completely blown away by Taron Egerton’s musical skill but a lot of the main cast had really great performances. I recommend this one but you could probably fast forward through the Mike scenes and just be patient for the third act which is where the movie really shines.

Music of the Week:
Elton John – I’m Still Standing

Logic – Everybody

Megadeth – Sweating Bullets

Rebel and a Basketcase – Oh Yeah

My Life as Eva – Literally My Life

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s Theme is “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work”
– I watched more of Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23 Season 2
– I watched more Fairy Tail
– I watched a lot more Legends of Tomorrow Season 2
– I finished Season 1 of MST3K: The Return
– I started Better Call Saul Season 2

The Cure for What Ailed Me Pt. 1

May 8, 2017

I have danced around this story for quite some time especially in April. I searched my archives to see if I have told this story and I could not find it. Of course, I do not have time to comb through over 500 posts to make myself completely sure. I am not going to stress about it. I want to tell this story right because it is such an important part of my life. So welcome to the tale of that time I got life-changing surgery.

I have always been a short guy. When I was a little kid, my pediatrician constantly talked about how I was at the lowest end of the growth chart. I was the shortest kid in my class and I was something approaching underweight. I was a happy boy but I was also kind of a frail boy. This is very disconcerting for a kid who grew up reading comics and watching Power Rangers. The power of friendship and kindness in your heart only got you so far. Eventually, I would have to punch something. More importantly, I was reminded at every turn that I was not as big or athletic as the other kids. I was the only male who sat on the floor for class pictures. I started to look up at my peers instead of looking over at them. I remember feeling really uptight about that. Every time people called me short, it was an insult instead of something I just could not change.


Screw you, Randy Newman.

Later, things got even worse than just being of a small and slight stature. At some point, I realized that I was always the last one at the dinner table every night. Let me explain. My family ate dinner together almost every night and we talked about our day and any other cool topics we could think of. We all ate and talked but, whether I was talking or not, everybody was done with their meal before me. I ate so slowly. Eventually, my folks had to release my brothers from the dinner table because everybody had things to do before bed. I would still be eating. I would focus on eating to try to beat everybody else to no avail. I could not point to anything specifically but I just could not manage to eat fast enough for the family to all finish together. Before you ask, it was also not because I am a picky eater. I ate pretty much everything happily.


Eating by myself. Alone. Independently.

It got worse. I noticed that I was getting winded a lot easier at recess. This is horrible news for kids because they are supposed to have nearly boundless energy until they pass out like their batteries suddenly lost charge. I was not the most athletic kid (and probably the worst Little Leaguer ever) but I did like to run around with my friends pretending to be a superhero. I have fond memories of pretending to be on the X-Men Blue Team while not using a basketball court as it was originally intended. However, I was breathing hard more and more. I was having difficulty catching my breath and even talking could be a chore sometimes. This is when doctors really started to get involved. They really do not appreciate when kids stop breathing correctly.


I usually wanted to be Cyclops. Less running.

For the longest time, they thought I had asthma. I had never really shown signs of it early in life but suddenly at age ten, they thought I had somehow developed it. That may be possible but (Spoiler Alert) that was not the case. When I went off to sleepaway summer camp (for dyslexics, another great story), I had to bring my inhaler with me. After breakfast and after dinner I had to get in line in front of a table with the other weaker members of the pack. When it was my turn, I had to breathe in chemicals that stung my throat and lungs from a little plastic bag. It is probably a hundred percent the reason I never tried marijuana. It felt like crap and it never helped but everybody, including me, felt more confident about my condition while doing it. Eventually, they realized it was not asthma. At that point, they thought it might be Cistic Fibrosis.


This was my anti-drug…. nevermind.

Yes, Cystic Fibrosis, that disease that the March of Dimes was always raising money for everywhere I looked at that age. Of course, my parents did not tell me this tidbit. Cystic Fibrosis sounds really scary and the medical description sounds even worse. The disease causes a build up of mucus in the lungs that blocks airways and makes it difficult or sometimes impossible to breathe. It also causes a mucus build up in the digestive system which makes that process hard to do as well. It seemed like a likely contender for what was wrong with me. I had problems in both those areas and everybody was probably pretty proud of themselves for coming up with that answer. Of course, nobody was happy about the diagnosis because it meant a lifetime of health complications and being stalked by death for at least the rest of my childhood. But was it the answer? We will find out next time in part two.


Support your local March of Dimes.


susanne matthews

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