June 30, 2005
That's all I can take for today.
Resting now... it's been a long week. More blogging tomorrow.
For all the ways people worry about American society going straight down the tubes these days - violence, drug use, politics, loose sexual morals - what I miss most are just plain good manners. I really honestly remember a time when people were generally nice to each other, and at least were respectful to each other in public.
If nothing else, the last presidential election showed us that good manners and common respect are fast becoming a thing of the past in this culture (on both sides of the political fence).
This brief, easy-to-read essay is about just that, and is worth the five minutes it'll take you to read the thing. Thank you.
New blood, dry lungs and 327 bits of spam.
I'm home from the hospital!
Blogging will resume in earnest tomorrow.
I have lots of red blood cells right now, more than I've had in about six months, so I actually have some energy. No chemotherapy until Wednesday, so I have some time to get in trouble with the energy. No more fluid in my lungs, so I'll be able to breathe the whole time I'm getting in trouble.
Of course, while I was gone, our computer friends bombed me with 327 bits of spam in the comments of this weblog, so plenty of this newfound energy will be going to deleting comments by naughty poker sites and banning evil IPs.
Still, I'm feeling better, my temperature this morning was dead-on 98.6, and I'm home in my own comfy chair. Thank you for your thoughts in my time away and I promise to get back to wasting your life with bizarre Internet links ASAP.
June 29, 2005
more news from the hospital
The pathology report showed there's nothing bad in the fluid they took from Dan's chest. The ultrasound he had yesterday showed no more fluid, so that's all taken care of for now. It is possible that it may collect again so the doctor will keep an eye on it. His blood cell counts will be checked again in the morning and he should be discharged at that time.
The pulmonologist didn't do the thoracentesis today (sorry for all the big words) because they want to wait until the lab analyzes what was already taken out before they proceed. Also, Dan will not be doing
chemotherapy on Wednesday as scheduled. They want to make sure his blood cell counts are a little higher before they do that. He may have to have another blood transfusion (he had one in the ER Monday) to
help with this.
Hopefully there will be more news tomorrow.
June 28, 2005
Update on Dan
One of the doctors saw Dan this morning and told him that he will probably stay a couple more days so they can keep an eye on his blood cell counts. He had an ultrasound this morning so we're waiting now to see when the pulmonologist wants to try the thoracentesis again.
June 27, 2005
Dan was admitted to the hospital this afternoon. A pulmonologist tried to remove most of the fluid from around his left lung, but not much of it came out. He's going to try again Tuesday after conducting an ultrasound to find a better spot to insert the needle.
June 25, 2005
Some more news
Dan is still feeling yucky, but his temp has stayed just under the red zone pretty much all day. Thanks for the prayers and well-wishes.
Here's something to keep you occupied until he returns.
A chickpea is neither a chick nor a pea. Discuss.
June 24, 2005
This is the Mrs. letting you know that Dan is not feeling too good right now. After his chemotherapy yesterday, he continues to have trouble breathing and now has a fever. We'll continue to monitor it and call the doctor if it doesn't go down.
Jesus Loves You sandals.
I'm not in any way against these sandals. In fact, I think the idea is a creative and, for lack of a better word, cute one.
Still, I didn't need the "Inspiring Story of Our Sandals" section, as if they had just uncovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For those of you ordering, I wear a size 11.
Popping Cancer Reflection: On Grinding.
For a while there, you will remember, I was regularly posting long reflections on my experience with cancer. For some reason, in the last month or so, that has dropped off.
I think at least part of it is because I'm in the grinding phase. At first, cancer is all excitement and worry and information learned bit-by-bit. It's new.
Now, it is clear that I'm not going to die or be cured in the next month or even three months. There's nothing really to do but grind it out. Rest, chemotherapy, rest. Stay alive. There aren't any lofty goals or motivations beyond just making it through today.
Grinding, in other words. The trick now is to have enough stamina to be able to grind it out no matter how long it takes. I sure am tired of having cancer.
June 23, 2005
Real blogging sometime tomorrow, when I can breathe again.
June 22, 2005
No, no... I don't see any publicity stunt.
The first two innings of the July 16th game between minor league rivals the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers will be played virtually.
Both sides have created teams based on their actual rosters and intend to play the first two innings on an X-Box. After those two innings end, the actual teams will take the field and pick up where their cyber counterparts left off.
Set your VCRs!
Oprah is repeating the show that features Tom Cruise's now-famous freak out on Thursday!
The show includes a visit from brainwashed cult member, er, make that, true love Katie Holmes who is apparently now a Scientologist too, because, you know, their teachings make so much sense.
I've decided what my last words should be.
"There's too many of them!"
Yes, I realize that is not grammatically correct. I think it adds to the charm.
"There's too many of them!"
Meow! CATscan results are in!
The tumors in my chest are once again the same size. No shrinking, but no growth either. My doctor insists this is a good thing, since cancer will always grow if left alone, so the treatment is doing something. I would much prefer shrinking tumors, but I'll take what I can get.
Also, the fluid in my left lung is increased, which explains my crappy breathing and sleeplessness. I'm taking lasix daily now. If that doesn't work, the doctor is going to cram a needle in my lung and get the fluid out that way. It doesn't sound fun at all.
So how was your day?
So I get up this morning bright and early for chemotherapy. You know how I love the chemotherapy.
We got to the doctor's office by ten minutes to nine and it was already backed up. We wait and wait and wait and finally get to go in and get my blood pressure checked and give some blood.
Then we wait and wait and wait to see the doctor. He finally comes in and gives me the once-over, then says the blood testing machine is down all of a sudden and they can't tell if I have enough red blood cells to safely do chemotherapy. Maybe I should wait in the waiting room and see if they can get the machine fixed.
More waiting. Nope, they can't get it fixed. Go home and we'll try again tomorrow.
So, to sum up: no chemotherapy today, chemotherapy tomorrow, wasted morning, napping all afternoon. Any questions?
June 21, 2005
In the news...
Popping Cancer Update: quick hit.
Chemotherapy and CATscan results tomorrow. The party, it seems, is over.
Ebay item of the day.
It's probably best if you don't click here.
Robber's note to bank teller: "Hi, I am Thomas Mason..."
"He's not a career bank robber," said Sgt. Chris Nelson. Guess not.
June 20, 2005
While I wait for CATscan results, why don't you caption this for me?
Best Headline Ever.
I'm not going to read the story. I don't want to know what it's about. I'm satisfied with the headline:
Quote of the Day
If you're gonna be stupid you gotta be tough. — Joe Byrd
Maybe he's just a slow reader.
It was in the family home for so long, nobody realized it was a library book.
"It's classic -- we all read it," Pavon said Friday. "It sat on a shelf or in a box for years. But I guess no one ever noticed that there was a little library card and sleeve on the back cover that said when it was due."
UPDATE: Link added. The book was a hardback copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Kim."
June 19, 2005
Believe it or not, there is still American Idol news.
Because, you know, winning sucks so bad.
Another important movie moment.
That always brings a tear to my eye.
A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman
A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
I have nothing to say.
Summer blockbusters are upon us. I preached today for the first time in six months. I am awaiting the most critical of my CATscan results to date.
Yet I have nothing to say. Seems like one of those things would be worth putting down words over. I don't think it's writer's block, I just don't think anything is worth the type just yet.
Could be the Nyquil.
Ever look at a blank screen and realize you had nothing to say?
June 18, 2005
Fans of the show "Angel."
It could happen. Be sure to click on each guy's name.
If you love me - if you ever loved me - you'll buy me this.
I am in love (well, ok, lust) with Shocking Laser Tag.
I saw a live demonstration of this sweet little number on "Attack of the Show" on G4. They had the intensity level maxed out and when someone took a hit, they reacted as if they had been tasered in the hand, twisting and jumping and dropping their gun. It looked by all accounts to be sincerely painful.
I must have it! I must!
June 17, 2005
A conspiracy theory before bed.
They start promoting the summer blockbusters Batman Begins and War of the Worlds.
Stars of both movies, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, who are years apart in age and seem ill-suited for each other, begin dating.
Release dates draw closer. Tom Cruise goes on Oprah, et. al., generally making a fool of himself, pronouncing his love for Katie and churning up a big ole mess o' industry buzz.
The films in question start being released.
Tom and Katie GET ENGAGED (look at the rock on her finger below).
True love or conspiracy to generate more ticket sales for both?
There's only one thing clear from that picture: Katie Holmes is HOT.
Exhausted from the trip, but I thought I'd leave you with this...
Finally home from vacation! Let me hit some high notes for yas:
* The beach was both relaxing and exhausting. There's nothing like falling asleep with beach air coming in the window. On the other hand, at one point, there were six boys under the age of 12 simultaneously screaming in the cabin. In the last week I ate crab, flounder, lobster, shrimp, fettucine alfredo and a porterhouse steak. More beachy details to come.
* Thanks go out to Sheila and Joel who did a fantastic job covering for me here. Looking over what they offered in the last week, I could not have asked for more and they provided exactly what I had in mind. Kudos and expressions of gratitude to both. They will keep their keys to the kingdom and I hope they will feel free to keep posting as the urge hits.
* CATscan results: nada so far. I tried early in the week to call the doctor twice. Once, he wasn't in and the other time my cell phone pooped out on me. So we decided to wait until after the vacation for results. I called this morning and - surprise! - the lab hadn't remembered to send the results to my doctor yet. Fine. The nurse said she'd get them faxed right away and to call back in half an hour. Half an hour later, I find out the lab had read the abdomen scans but not the chest scans. Of course, the abodomen scans are meaningless since all my fun tumors are in my chest. And also of course the doctor called to get them to read the chest scans but then had to leave the office and won't be back until Tuesday. I think I can beat the system with an end-around, though. Last time, my specialist in Cleveland wanted copies of the scans on CD, so I called the hospital and picked them up, then found out I could read them on my computer. So tonight I'll call the hospital, tell them my specialist wants a CD copy (which is probably true), then try to pick it up tomorrow. So stay tuned. We're all very interested.
* Flying in a plane for an hour and fifteen minutes is better than driving in a car for twelve hours.
* Anything I missed?
In A Dark Car
(Posted by Joel)
This is originally from my blog and, while it's personal and feels a little strange now posting it here, I also am pleased with how it came out. Plus, you all know you don't read enough poetry.
I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.
Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest--
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
I have had enough--
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
O for some sharp swish of a branch--
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
only border on border of scented pinks.
Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light--
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?
Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit--
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.
Or the melon--
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste--
it is better to taste of frost--
the exquisite frost--
than of wadding and of dead grass.
For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves--
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince--
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.
O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
- Hilda Doolittle, 1916
Poetry is always something I've had trouble with. My mind has a tendency to work in too literal a sense and I have always had a hard time grasping poems. There are some that I get better than others and this is one of them. This poem struck me the first time I read it and I grew to love it with repeated readings. I think I'm helped by the fact that I can clearly picture what the poem is talking about in a literal sense. From there, I can work out the metaphorical meanings, as well. My problem with many poems is that I have a hard time approaching them from any angle, thus I am never able to grasp them properly. With this one, that was no problem. I could see this garden, so perfect and manicured, sheltered from the elements. I could also imagine it being ripped apart, as per the final stanza. The beauty of it is that taken in a literal sense, the poem makes sense and is compelling. From there, I can extrapolate out and start pondering the more metaphorical meanings.
This, then, is where the poem starts to get under my skin. When I was around twelve years old, my parents split up. They had been fighting for a long time before that so this did not come as a great surprise. Still, it's a tough time when you're a child and your parents have that conversation with you, trying to explain why they are splitting up. That isn't easy on anyone. My mother was the first one to raise the subject to me. She told me at the time that nothing was definite--just that it was a possibility. I imagine that was a lie, but it didn't really matter. Even then, I knew what she was saying. I knew that it was an inevitable possibility.
We were in the car at night. She was driving me home from somewhere. I think it may have been a piano lesson. The car was dark and I don't know if she was crying, but I seem to recall her voice being thick. There was emotion. She was hesitant and I can't imagine how hard that must have been for her. How do you broach that subject to your child? How difficult must it be to tell your child that you're considering fundamentally altering their world, that you're thinking about splitting their very foundation? At that point, you have to think she would have jumped at the chance to just talk to me about sex. I mean, surely anything would have been better.
I don't remember my exact reaction. As I said, they had been fighting a lot and it wasn't as if I had never considered the possibility of them splitting up. I wasn't shocked and I think part of me felt it would be a good idea. Certainly I must have understood that them staying together couldn't work. But as a child, I was always excellent at looking at things logically while divorcing myself of the emotional realities. I tried to do that then and it succeeded to some degree. At the same time, though, I was fighting back tears.
What is amazing to me, though, is what I thought at that point. I thought to myself, "My life has been good and easy so far. It's about time something bad happened to me." That was what I thought. I may even have said that to my mother and if I did, I suspect that must have half broken her heart. I can't imagine having a child of my own say that to me.
I believed it, though. I had convinced myself my life was great and I look back now and realize I was a goddamn fool. My life was a mess at that point and it stayed a mess for some time after that. My thought process, though, was that I was smart, I was a pretty good basketball player, I was great at playing the piano, I did well in school and I was a talented writer. I thought I had all these things going for me and it felt like I had something of a charmed life at that point. Because at that point in my life, it was about being able to pile up the accomplishments. I don't mean I was looking for awards and certificates, but I counted talents and intelligence as the final factors. Subtle emotions weren't in the equation and that was my great mistake. I wasn't able to recognize the huge family problems I had, the complete and utter lack of self esteem, the ways in which I hated myself. I was only able to see the things I was good at and the fact that I had never experienced any obvious and overt tragedies, and I took all that to mean that I had led too easy a life.
The split, then, was something I could point at and categorize and say "I have felt pain." I could claim that I had experienced hardship and suffering, that a Great Event had affected my life and caused me to grow as a person. I just didn't understand subtleties at that point in my life. I didn't have any grasp of everything that happened under the surface. I needed major events--divorces and death and great illness. I thought these were the things that would cause me to struggle and grow and become a more compelling person. When I was told my parents might split up, I sat in that car and thought that this might improve my writing. Finally, I would have real pain to inject into my stories.
So when I read "Sheltered Garden," I remember that quiet night, sitting in a dark car with my mother telling me about the ways my life was about to change. I took that as the storm that would tear me apart but that would make me a stronger, more experienced and intriguing person. What I didn't understand was that storms aren't always external and at that point in my life, I had already been mostly dismantled. I'd been being ripped apart for years.
June 15, 2005
Whatever happened to plain old chocolate?
I love Sarah's writing at Tomato Nation - and her latest - a rant about her ice-cream choices at the local deli is no exception.
I swear to God, the least complicated pint flavor in the case? Chocolate Almond Heath Bar. Not that it doesn't sound yummy, but when did single-flavor ice cream become a rarity? Because when we went to Baskin Robbins as a kid (my mom was kind of a DNBISS type, but not mercilessly so), they had, like, six flavors available, three of which you could find in Neapolitan, and even that was like, whoa, three kinds in one box? Now Cookies 'n' Creme is practically Amish; every flavor is, like, Fudge Medallion Brickle Jubilee With Raisin-Studded Peeps, and the little signs on the case talk about top notes like it's a wine or something…what ever happened to, you know, coffee? Butter pecan? And the sorbet flavors, oy. Enough with the kiwi. Hairy on the outside, grainy on the inside -- not an association I want in a dessert, frankly. You know what I'd like? Lemon. Just…lemon. Not a kiwi-blueberry infusion, not a mango-loganberry whip, just lemon damn sherbet. Ice, flavoring, spoon, happy.
I was always a strictly chocolate girl myself and I always had it in a cup. No cone. With chocolate jimmies (or as they say in Boston: "chocolate shot".)
Anna Whelan Betts
One of my favorite blogs out there is called 100 Years of Illustration. The blogger profiles early magazine illustrators, and some of the work (by artists you might not have heard of - although there are plenty, like Maxfield Parrish, who did become quite well-known) is startlingly beautiful.
For example: the work of Anna Whelan Betts.
June 14, 2005
(Posted by Joel)
I wrote and published this review on my own blog awhile back and I thought some might enjoy it here. Blindness isn't exactly light summer fare, but I can't recommend it highly enough.
I read José Saramago's novel Blindness in September of last year. I had purchased the book years ago on a whim. At some point, I lost that copy and ended up buying a second copy. That then sat around for a year or two before I finally grabbed it off the shelf last September, determined to finally delve into the novel. The story sounded compelling to me the first time I read the synopsis. In the book, a man suddenly becomes blind while waiting in his car at a red light. The blindness causes him to see nothing but white. Soon, those who come into contact with him become blind, as well, and the condition spreads like fire, overtaking the entire city.
Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, which seemed to bode well for the book, and my reading of the first few paragraphs confirmed the quality of the writing. So I started reading and was soon lost in Saramago's world. He is an incredible writer, surely one of the best working today.
This book is notable for a few different reasons. First of all, Saramago writes in a manner that can be quite daunting when you first start reading. He uses very few paragraphs and little punctuation. There are no quotation marks to mark the dialogue, no paragraph breaks for new speakers and many times the speaker is never even identified. It sounds like a complete mess and there are, indeed, times when the story becomes somewhat chaotic. However, it works brilliantly. Most of the time, you are able to follow what is happening, even though it can be confusing. You typically have an idea of who is speaking and even when you don't, it never feels wrong or frustrating. Furthermore, once you begin to lose yourself in the story, the style starts to feel natural and you'll find it relatively easy to follow.
Saramago uses this style of writing in all of his books, but it works particularly well with Blindness. The style creates a certain level of chaos that fits perfectly with the story at hand. There is an immediacy to the work, as well, that really helps plunge you into the nightmarish world that Saramago creates. In the story, once the blindness has become an epidemic, authorities start rounding up all the people infected and send them to an empty asylum, where they are forced to fend for themselves. No one resides in the asylum to assist them, as they would quickly become infected and blind. Instead, food is left outside for them each day and the premises are secured by armed guards with orders to kill anyone who tries to escape. Every day, new people who have been infected or exposed are brought to the asylum.
The system within the asylum quickly becomes chaotic and hellish. One wing of the hospital is designated for those who are already blind and the other wing for those who have been exposed to the blindness but have not yet become blind. The story mostly takes place in the blind wing, which quickly devolves. Sanitation is essentially nonexistent, stress levels are high and the characters quickly begin acting like little more than animals. The one thing that holds them together is the main character of the story, the wife of a doctor who is not blind. She pretends that she is blind so that she can function undisturbed within the wing, leaving her free to help her husband, who has succumbed to the illness. She stands as the emotional and moral center of the story, helping those around her as much as she can without giving away the fact that she still has her sight, for fear of what the others will do if they find out.
The doctor's wife is crucial to the novel. She is kind and graceful and moral, a calm in the middle of a truly horrific storm. She is the only one who can literally see what is happening to the people around her and the love and caring that she shows is amazing. She alone seems to understand the true scope of what is happening in the story and she alone sees the full scale of the horror that occurs. The grace with which she handles the situation is incredible. There is one scene in particular at night in the asylum that involves the relationship between her husband and another blind woman in the wing. What happens between them and the way that she handles it is both breathtaking and heartbreaking, leaving you pained and awed and thrilled. The generosity in that moment is overwhelming.
Blindness is a story that deals with the frailty of humanity and society. It is also about human nature. You may be left feeling exhilarated by the humanity on display through the doctor's wife early in the story, but there are also terrible, horrible events within the book that will leave you shaken. The novel deals with a true breakdown in society and how that can lead to the devolution of the members of that society. There are parts that will leave you sick and disgusted—appalled at the inhumanity that can, and does, exist in the world.
Yet, the grace of the novel—the grace of the doctor's wife—never fails to shine through. This story is about all of humanity, not just the bad parts. There are moments of quiet tenderness that are breathtaking and devastating—but that fill you with a great appreciation of just how incredibly kind and generous we, as humans, can be. This novel incorporates the full spectrum of what it means to be human, stripping away society to reveal the basic elements, impulses and desires of humanity.
In another sense, Blindness probes the fragility of our society. One single change that sweeps throughout the populace leads to a complete breakdown in societal systems, transforming the human race over mere days. Stripped of the ability to see, society is forced to change and adapt, moving into a survival mode that, overnight, disregards years of societal training and instruction. Furthermore, Saramago shows how certain social barriers—age, class and race, for instance—can so easily be stripped away if given the proper circumstances. The story is intent on delving into the core of what it means to be human and what kind of base behaviors we are susceptible to, both good and bad.
Eventually, as the epidemic spreads, the story moves out of the asylum and into the city. The inmates are left to fend by themselves in a world they can no longer see or recognize. Again, here, the doctor's wife pulls them all together, acting as the center of the story and as a pillar of strength for the various characters. The climax is chilling and it speaks to something greater within us as humans. I won't pretend to fully grasp what it is, or to claim a complete understanding of the climax, but I could feel the underlying truths of that scene as I read it. There is something about the images within the church—you'll know the scene I speak of when you read it—that dug in and took hold of me. I don't know exactly what Saramago was saying, but I know I felt, on some level, something extraordinary in that passage about the human condition. And that, ultimately, is what Blindness is about. The novel is about our society and our humanity and will leave you both shaken and inspired about what it is to live, what it is to be human.
Dieting in 1974
If Big Dan has ever linked to these before (and it seems like something he would find and enjoy) - forgive me for the repetition. I just wanted to pass on one of my favorite links of all time:
The important thing is to click through all of the cards, and make sure to read the commentary. You can't even believe these things are REAL!
June 12, 2005
Look Out! Here Comes The Spider-Man!
While you're waiting for Spider-Man 3 to hit theaters, I have a couple of related news pieces to help tide you over.
In Hong Kong, a Frenchman who goes by the name of "Spiderman" climbed a 928 foot building Saturday, without benefit of anything except his own bare hands. Apparently, he only slipped once and it didn't result in his grisly death, so good for him. Oh, and the man has done this sort of thing before.
Meanwhile, here in my own town of Vancouver, Washington, someone dressed as Spiderman is hanging around local schools and approaching children. Whenever an adult tries to get near the person, Spiderman runs off.
Parents and school officials are concerned. While the situation may be dangerous, it's also kind of amusing. I imagine it's just some idiot messing around. The police are looking to track down and talk with the person, but they can't exactly arrest him. After all, it's not illegal to dress up as Spiderman and hang around the neighborhood.
Anyway, if I see Spiderman, I'm supposed to call the police. Don't you wish you had my life?
I love cats
I used to have one. I adore cats in general.
But still. When I saw this video - I laughed out loud.
Today is Anne Frank's birthday.
She received the diary that would make her live forever on June 12, 1942, for her birthday. Less than a month after starting her diary, her family was forced into hiding.
I remember first reading her diary when I was 11 years old, and it was my first encounter with what I would call "evil". I read the book, and I was the same age as Anne ... and I knew she died, but I could not get my little 11 year old brain around it. There was rage in me, a kind of rage I had never experienced before. I was so ANGRY that she died and I didn't know where to put my anger. The Nazis, sure ... but most of them were dead and gone. I remember vividly kneeling at my bed in my room, with tears streaming down my face, SCREAMING at God. He seemed more to blame than anyone else. I was screaming, "WHY, WHY ... HOW COULD YOU LET HER DIE, GOD???" I have never forgotten that moment. It was a crucible for me. My soul grew in leaps and bounds with that one book. I entered into a more complex adult world, where there aren't always neat little answers, where terrible things happen, where there is no deus ex machina. My belief in God was not shaken, but I sure was pissed off at him for a good long while. I like to imagine that He's okay with that kind of rage. It means we are human, we are not indifferent to one another ... God can take our rage. At least that's how I like to think about it.
Here is how Anne Frank's diary ends:
"Believe me, I'd like to listen, but it doesn't work, because if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I'm not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can't keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if ... if only there were no other people in the world."
(Posted by Joel)
(Click for larger image)
Calvin and Hobbes was easily my favorite comic strip when it was in circulation. In fact, it's still my favorite all time comic to this day, though The Far Side is right up there, as well. But Calvin and Hobbes had a little something extra, on all levels. The drawing could be gorgeous, particularly in the Sunday editions and I loved the way that Bill Watterson took inspiration from the Utah landscapes. The writing was particularly wonderful, as well. Not just in the sense of the humor—though I did greatly appreciate Watterson's twisted sense of humor—but also in the way that the strip would at times touch on small bits of humanity. I remember the fascination that Calvin would have with the nighttime sky and the sheer vastness of space and how insignificant that could make him feel. That sense was a very human quality to the strip—something that really spoke to the reality of life, at least for me.
Needless to say, I was quite sad the day the last Calvin and Hobbes strip ran. The comic ended far too soon, and it seems particularly depressing that the strip, from what I understand, ended largely due to Watterson's concern with the blatant and widespread merchandising of his characters.
Anyway, you can always relive the comic by checking out the strips through the official site. Better yet, if you have about a hundred bucks to spare this September, you can pick up a three volume, hardbound set of every Calvin and Hobbes strip ever produced. A hundred dollars is steep, but I think it just may be worth it to reexperience Calvin's world.
June 11, 2005
Because This Is Just Creepy
(Posted by Joel)
And if there's one thing I appreciate, it's creepy photographs.
June 10, 2005
Jay Leno Makes Everything Better
(Posted by Joel)
I've found Katie Holmes to be quite attractive for awhile now, so it generally weirded me out when I heard that she was dating Tom Cruise. It just seemed very wrong. Which appears to have become the general consensus as I keep noticing headlines like, "What's Wrong With Tom?" which I suppose isn't the most desirable publicity.
Apparently, then, the solution to this is to go crack jokes with Leno or Letterman. I guess that gets you off the hook.
I didn't realize until reading that article, though, that Tom Cruise had gone on Oprah and jumped up and down on her couch due to his excitement at hooking up with Katie Holmes. Now, if I had been the one going out with her, then that seems like it would be an appropriate reaction. But for Mr. Cruise, it seems a bit more strange. Maybe that's just me, though.
As for Russell Crowe . . . he seemed so nice and calm on The Daily Show. But perhaps the South Park guys weren't too far off the mark when they did their portrayal of Crowe a couple years back.
Update: Free Katie. Oh, and, did she actually say, "He's kind, he's generous, he's smart, he's Tom Cruise"? Like the man needs his ego fed even more.
And I promise, I'll try to avoid making all my posts about topics that are already horribly overwrought and overdone and that you all are likely sick of hearing about.
Hi. I'm Joel.
I'll be doing some posting over the next week while Dan enjoys his much-deserved vacation. I'm going to try to not make Dan regret the decision of giving me access to Popping Culture, but I can't guarantee anything. I have been known to be a bit uncouth. I'll try to keep myself in line for the week.
I first met Dan over at the original Iron Blog, back when he was running God In The Machine, and despite the fact that I was--still am--an emphatic liberal, he put up with me. And I would say that he's become a good friend since and has even managed to teach me a few things and dispel some of my widespread ignorance.
Apparently, he likes my writing a bit, as well, because he asked me to help out here for a week along with Sheila. Or it could be that everyone else just said no and he scraped the bottom of the barrel with me. Either way, I agreed. And then I grinned an evil grin and laughed in a mischievous manner. However, I've since regained control of myself.
A bit about myself: I'm 24 years old, live in Vancouver, Washington (that's not Vancouver BC, by the way) and I work retail, which ranges from being not so bad to being horrid, grueling work. If nothing else, it gives me plenty of opportunities to think all kinds of things about my fellow human beings.
I'm a big reader, I write fiction, I love certain good television shows and movies and music, enjoy video games though I don't play them nearly so much of late, and feel happy when I'm outside. I love to hike, camp, go to the beach and stare at the ocean, or just drive around. Oh, and I love the zoo. The monkeys are particularly excellent.
So what you'll see from me over the next week will include some repurposed posts from my blog, The Between. If you happen to be a reader of that blog, then you're going to see some familiar posts. But I'll also try to get in some of that quirky cultural news that Dan is so good at bringing us.
Also, Sheila will be posting and whatever she puts up will probably be far more interesting than what I manage, so keep an eye out for her stuff.
So thanks for having me, and thanks to Dan for asking me to do this, and hopefully you all won't hate me at the end of the week.
June 09, 2005
Seize you in a week.
I'm off to the beach. Tonight I pack a little and rest a little, then we head out tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. sharp!
I'll try to post when I find some Internet access, but don't hold your breath. I'll at least try to post when I find out CATscan results. I took the test today (mmmm... barium contrast) but the doctor's office is closed tomorrow, so I won't get results until at least Monday.
In the meantime, and until we get back home next Friday, I am leaving you to the tender cares of Joel and Sheila, may God have mercy on your souls.
Keep checking in, and I'll leave you with this to ponder over the long week:
Be well. Rest.
Germany and the build-your-own-sex-joke.
World Cup 2006 soccer.
"Drive-in sex garages."
Thanks to Dortmund, Germany, it's not a joke.
On religious tolerance.
From The Christian Century:
In apparent response to reports that American guards at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Qur'an down a toilet, the Danieltown Baptist Church in North Carolina posted a sign which reads: "The Koran Needs to Be Flushed!" The pastor acknowledged that the sign was controversial but defended it, saying, "We just have to stand up for what's right." The pastor eventually removed the sign, explaining that he didn't realize how highly Muslims regarded the Qur'an. (www.thedigitalcourier.com)
This is the age-old quandary. If you believe that your religion is the only way to God (for example, we Baptists generally believe that Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life."), does that by definition justify attacks on other religions, which are then, also by definition, false?
It's easy to say no when we consider the 9/11 attacks. We the victims cried out "how could any religion justify murder?"
Yet the only basic difference between the 9/11 attacks and the sign at Danieltown Baptist Church is that one attack was physical, the other verbal (well, written). Both proceed from the basic tenet that since our religion is right, and the only way to God, we have the right to try to eliminate (or flush) those who practice false religions. When God is involved, the implication is that any means justify the ends. This is why any fundamentalism is dangerous: it carries the implied authorization of God.
That said, is it watering down your faith if you believe, for instance, that Jesus is the only way to God, but you are content to simply promote and share your own faith without feeling the need to tear down the faiths of those who differ from you? Does holding a firm, exclusive religious belief compel you into opposition to other, differing beliefs?
Of course, my answer is no, but a solid logical argument can be made on either side.
NOTE: I am aware that about half of the folks who read this blog are Christians, the other half hold no religion to speak of. If you comment, be respectful.
No, no... your other left.
This is scary...
"When Elie Ghawi woke up from brain surgery at Loyola University Medical Center, he discovered his surgeon had operated on the wrong side of his head, a lawsuit claims.
The next year, the same thing happened to Rashida Aziz, a patient at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, a second lawsuit alleges.
Such wrong-site surgeries happen with surprising frequency, despite efforts in recent years by medical groups to prevent them."
For a full freak out, the story is here.
June 08, 2005
Well, I have here your newest time drain.
Unfortunately named urologist of the day.
We at Popping Culture don't find anything funny about this at all.
Two days and I'll be on the beach!
You guys be nice to Sheila and Joel when they post in my stead. I see that Sheila is on the ball and has already provided a highly entertaining link for you savages.
I'm out of here Friday morning at 8. In the meantime, I get another Procrit shot (today), two jugs of chalk-tasting contrast (tonight) and a CATscan tomorrow, but then it's all sun and sand!
Fly me to North Carolina, boys! What could possibly go wrong?
Is this thing on?
Hi, it's Sheila here, and I am one of the lucky few Big Dan asked to post here while he was on vaca.
I figured I would just say hello ... and also just see if I'm able to post this.
Let's see if I can do URLs too.
I came across a highly amusing cartoon today:
It made me laugh out loud. Especially the role that Chewbacca is given.
June 07, 2005
I woke up with a sore throat this morning. Make it go away.
I have vacation plans. Of course, after 6 months of chemotherapy and with the plane tickets purchased and non-refundable, I'd go even if I lost a limb or two at this point.
Sometime's it isn't easy being dead.
(From Obscure Store)
Josephine Miskowitz,78, who is quite alive despite what the government says, hasn't received her $992 monthly Social Security check for three months, forcing her to dig into her emergency funds. Social Security also stopped paying her HMO, which sent her family a letter of condolence that politely canceled her insurance, effective Feb. 28. "I think they're from orbit," she says of the Social Security workers.
The HMO has refused to pay for her emphysema medication as recently as Saturday. Presumably it's easier to kill her than change her status back to "alive."
June 06, 2005
Hot semi-cultural gossip!!!
"I've turned it down for years. I couldn't see how it would work," she said. "Now, it seems right."
Vacation in four days! Bring on the beach babes!
Now we're cooking! Uh oh... now we're still cooking.
It's probably bad when your gas stove won't turn off, isn't it? We finally just unplugged it.
Popping Cancer Update: The waiting is the hardest part.
Yesterday was the worst of this last treatment. "Joint pain day" is mostly over, except for a bit of leftover fatigue and stiffness. Now I have two weeks off and a fun vacation before any more treatment.
Still, I've let myself forget how important these next tests are.
The first type of chemotherapy was not only brutal, but didn't do the job. It kept the main tumor in check near my lungs, but let two more grow to the size that they suddenly appeared in CATscans.
This new chemotherapy, you'll remember from our last scans, checked the growth of all three of the main tumors (a Petscan in January showed lots of potential tumors, but if we beat the big ones, the little ones will fall too, and the little ones don't show on CATscans). That is to say, the form of chemotherapy I'm doing now kept the tumors from growing but didn't shrink them. Still, this was good news because cancer, if left alone, always grows, so the thought is that the chemo was doing SOMETHING.
Now I have another CATscan on Thursday. We leave for vacation on Friday. I would prefer not to get rotten news while on this much-needed vacation.
If we get bad news, it's really bad news, because the specialist in Cleveland indicated that there aren't really any other good treatment options for sarcomas. It may be that if this type of treatment fails, the game is over. In short, we really need this CATscan to indicate some success.
I don't know what will happen if the tumors are identical in size again. If so, I may ask for another Petscan despite the cost, because I have read that sometimes chemotherapy can kill tumors and leave dead cells. Since the CATscans only identify masses, some or all of a tumor can be dead but still show up in scans. Petscans identify living cancer cells.
The point of all this? During the six weeks of treatment all I worry about is surviving the treatment itself. It's easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Now that it's getting closer to scan time again, I'm getting nervous. After all, the big picture is more than just a course of treatment: it's my life.
Scans Thursday. I'll try to post results from vacation when I can.
June 05, 2005
Here's a cause I can get behind!
I'm not talking about the movie previews. I LIKE the movie previews!
I'm talking about paying closer and closer to 10 bucks for a movie ticket, that again for snacks and then having to sit through a Coca-Cola commercial that's probably run on television already before you get to see the movie you paid for. Then another ad.
I PAID for a PRODUCT. Give me that product. Just because you have me in a seat in the dark with my cash in your hand doesn't mean you can toss up anything you want while I'm held hostage.
Click the link above. They have some good ideas.
They all think I'm wasting my time playing video games.
Just wait until I'm CEO. Who'll be laughing then?
6. Always take headshots. That is, get directly to the point. You can apply this equally to the boardroom as well as the bedroom. Don't dance around the issue...if you've got something to say, take aim and fire away.
June 04, 2005
Let's be careful out there this weekend.
BEN JONES, who played Cooter on the original Dukes of Hazzard television show, had this to say about the upcoming film with braintrust JESSICA SIMPSON, SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT and JOHNNY KNOXVILLE:
They had the opportunity to make a wonderful film, but they have turned it into Hollywood garbage. All the language is extraordinarily profane. These people are degrading the South and a great family TV show. I don't know what they were smoking when they came up with this.
How many times does Popping Culture have to say this? DO NOT anger Cooter, people.
More Idol chatter: Because she couldn't be cuter if she tried.
"Looks like Carrie Underwood may win more than the "American Idol" crown. The crooner is the lead contender in a poll for the world’s hottest woman who doesn’t eat meat.
Every year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals conducts an online vote for World’s Sexiest Vegetarian, and this year, the 22-year-old Oklahoman is in the lead, beating out including Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Avril Lavigne."
PS The pundits made a big deal this week when Bo Bice's song ranked higher on the charts than Underwood's. What nobody mentioned was they had to sing those stupid songs written FOR them during the week of the American Idol finale. Underwood's song was horrible on paper; not much she could have done. Wait until Bice's first Southern Rock album comes out and compare THAT to Carrie's first mainstream contemporary country album. We'll see what's what then.
Popping Cancer Update
Important CATscans Thursday. Last scans showed the cancer had stopped growing, but had not started shrinking.
These scans should give us a clue whether or not the type of chemotherapy I've been doing lately will do the job or not.
Scans Thursday, so I'll be getting results while on the road for my much-needed vacation, but I'll try to post results as soon as I can from an internet access site at the beach.
June 03, 2005
Quote of the Day
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-William Shakespeare, "Hamlet", Act 1 scene 5
It feels kind of spiritual, but also kind of stupid.
As your pastor, I have no comment on this product.
Somebody wanna caption this for me?
Yet another base closing in the news.
It took longer than the 8 hours I expected to get the announcement, but....
June 02, 2005
Big Bard Bash Booked.
I made up that headline myself.
Anyway, the HUGE news is that D.C. is planning a ginormous Shakespeare Festival for January 2007. This would count under my "reasons to live" if there was a chance in the world I could get there. If I'm healthy, I'll have to work.
Details here for you lucky bums who can go get cultured. Gads, I love Shakespeare. See the picture in the top right corner? Gads, I say.
This kind of thing is exactly why we're flying to our vacation site.
This is huge: "Dukes of Hazzard Institute" opening.
From CNN: Yes, Christopher Nelson's new job, which comes with a $100,000 salary and a one-year contract, will be to watch reruns of "The Dukes of Hazzard" weeknights on the Country Music Television cable channel and write blog postings for the network's Web site.
Woman surprised to find a stranger in her grave.
But the undeniable evidence of an intruder delivered a wallop to her already ailing heart.
"I was totally devastated," said Vasquez, a 53-year-old heart patient scheduled for further surgery later this month.
"I told her, 'Get this person out of my grave.'"
Full story here.
Shut Up. I liked her back in the day.
My doctor said not to lose my head on this upcoming beach vacation.
Who is he kidding?
Quick update on Dan's life.
*Chemotherapy was horrible yesterday. Surprise!
*My boy Steve from work finished the new furnace in our house with his old man's help. Steve gave us the "cancerous pastor's discount" which means an absurd savings on a new furnace, which was much-needed since the old one was 40-years old. At night you could hear it muttering plans to burn the house down.
The bonus feature? CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING! Yes. My house, built in 1900, now has central air conditioning. I couldn't be happy if I was twins.
*Of course, because of the cost of putting in a new furnace we may have to forgo certain niceties while on our upcoming vacation, since a pastor's disability check pays out in nickels and pennies. The plane tickets and cost of the cabin are paid for, sort of, so we know we'll at least have a week at the beach. Whether we can do things like visit the aquarium, eat out, eat in, eat, etc. are still up in the air.
*Steroids for the next couple days mean free energy and ravenous appetite. Any suggestions?
*Today I get the shot that will boost my white blood cell count and will also, in a couple days, give me the worst joint pain I ever felt in my life. Still, beats dying.
Tossing out the blogger love. Targets: Ara, Joel, Sheila.
In the Bible we are commanded to love our neighbors.
Of course, in another place in the Bible we are also commanded to kill everyone in an enemy town, including the pregnant women and unborn children.
But in the more recently written bits, the bits that more closely address today's society, we are commanded to love our neighbors. Jesus goes so far as to command us to love our enemies.
Jesus is a pretty sharp guy in my book. He saw that love is, and always has been, whether you are religious or not, a decision more than anything else.
Love is certainly more of a decision than it is a random, flighty emotion, as our movies, TV shows and books would have us believe.
Love is an act you can take more than a feeling that overwhelms you, although it is certainly both.
With that in mind, I think it's time to toss out some happy happies to three people I have come to admire in my time blogging. These are not people I met at school or church or work, like the rest of my readership. These are three people who found their way here because they have blogs of their own. All three are accessible in perpetuity from the right sidebar. Saddle up.
Ara runs E Pluribus Unum, a decidedly left-wing political blog. Because my own politics are a jumble, we disagree as much as we agree. His is the only political website I visit, having been turned off by how mean the "blogosphere" can be.
Once, a long time ago, Ara posted something I thought was particularly offensive, and in response I removed him from my list of blogs here on the site. That lasted less than a day, but I took a more active role in figuring out who this Ara guy was after that.
Now, I see a man who not only has strong beliefs, he can approach them from inciteful ways. He also takes time to post pictures of his cat and tell stories about the days when he was courting his wife. More than anyone I've ever met on the web, Ara gives me the sense that he would take a bullet for me. Although we most often communicate in one-liners, Ara is genuine, and I can tell that if cancer ever beat me, he would feel a real loss. He would be sad.
I love you, Ara Rubyan.
Joel runs The Between. Joel Caris is one of the best examples going of what I would call a seeker. And he shares his searches publically, although we all wish he would update his web log more often.
If forced to describe Joel in a sentence, I would say that "Joel cares passionately about the things he knows and is almost clueless about the things he doesn't." Of course, this should not be taken negatively. Joel asks questions. He looks in new places instead of being content with the same old.
Those things he knows, like popular culture and outdoorsy living, he speaks to with great accuracy and authority.
He likes The Shins, the good superhero movies and, most importantly, shared my deep grief at the loss of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angel. What more could someone ask in a friend?
I love you, Joel Caris.
The very best thing I could say about Sheila is that she is the most genuine person on the Internet.
On her web log, The Sheila Variations, she speaks about her life and her loves (acting, her nephew, her friends (whom by now we all think we know, too) old movies and actors and actresses) with a clear transparency.
When she writes about Cary Grant, for example, she exudes an attitude of "I know more about Cary Grant than you ever will, so just be quiet and you might learn something" and IT'S OKAY because it's true.
Then in her very next post she will reprint her pre-teen diary from camp or vacation and expose for us all her youthful foibles and insecurities and failings.
Then she'll write about a relationship she was in LAST WEEK, and expose the ways that she can still be that same young girl.
Sheila is a gift. And I've changed my mind: the very best thing I can say about her is that every time I visit her website, I learn something. I don't know what to say that can add to that.
I love you, Sheila O'Malley.
NOTE: You will get to hear from Sheila and Joel right here on Popping Culture while I'm away on vacation June 10-17. I thought about asking Ara to post here too, but he might say something he means.
June 01, 2005
Light Blogging today
Still, the thought that this will be the last treatment for three weeks, and that the third week will be spent at the beach in North Carolina, is something to cheer about.