|I had my teeth cleaned on February 19th.|
They took more X-rays of my mouth than I have ever had taken. That took almost an hour. I had asked if I couldn’t have my X-rays from my dentist in the Quad Cities sent and avoid having to have MORE X-rays. They agreed, but, when the X-rays arrived, they didn’t like them very much. It seems that this dental practice prides itself on being much more thorough and rigorous.
By the end of February (10 days) I noticed that the cold bottle of water that I take into my bathroom at night to take my nighttime pills and to swish my mouth after brushing my teeth caused me to “twinge.” Our water here takes a long time to get hot; it takes a long time to get really cold, so I carry my bottle of refrigerated water into the bathroom at bedtime every night.
I noticed that the cold water, when it made contact with some sensitive areas of my metal-laden mouth (old silver fillings) hurt briefly and sporadically.
I continued to notice a “twinge” here and a ‘twinge” there, but the steady throbbing didn’t really set in until after Friday the 13th of March, which was the last time I went out into the world to go to a movie (“The Way Back,” with Ben Affleck. Very good movie. Stream it on Netflix). When the 19th of March arrived, it had been one solid month since my teeth were cleaned. By March 30, it was hurting more than “normal.” I called the dentist’s office, got a recording, and learned that the dentist’s office will not re-open until April 22nd. There was, however, an “emergency” number.
Was I an “emergency”? It hurts off and on, but can’t I make it through until April 22nd when the dentist re-opens his office?
Uh…that would be a no. I made it the entire month of March (31 days), 10 days in February, and another 13 days in April, for a total of 54 days, or approximately 8 weeks since the thorough tooth cleaning.
By the time I declared myself a “medical emergency” I was neither eating nor sleeping much. I was spending a lot of time holding cold things against my cheek and hoping that that would make it feel better. It did not.
I sent 2 e-mails to the dentist’s office, declaring myself an “emergency.” (*Note to self: do not declare yourself an “emergency” using e-mail. I have not yet received a response.)I ended up calling the dental emergency number and getting an appointment with an endodontist in a downtown building.
First problem: I have no idea where “the Marketplace” is and had great difficulty finding the building. I finally had to pull up in front of a large sign for a different dental group (Floss), which had a large address emblazoned on the sign, so I could tell the receptionist exactly where I was with a real address. She was able to guide me to an underground parking garage for the two building towers.
Most of the lower parking spots were reserved for physicians or dentists (no cars in them). I kept climbing in the ramp and parked, taking the elevator to the basement, as instructed (and then up to the 4th floor).
A kindly neighbor had given me a mask, so I started heading towards the building door without the mask and then remembered to go back and retrieve it. (I had not been wearing it while driving.) I put it on.
Immediately inside the door there was a table with 2 health care workers, wearing protective gear, issuing masks to anyone who planned to go into the building. An African American gentleman in front of me was trying to enter a floor that said it was the oncology floor.
I was heading to the tooth guy on the 4th floor. I entered the elevator with another mask-wearing rider, mumbled that I needed the number 4, and she pushed it with her cloth-covered elbow. I found the office and chatted with the receptionist for a short time—no longer than 5 minutes. They had me fill out some forms and took my picture.
Now I was summoned to the back of the office for 3-D X-rays (MORE X-rays!)The endodontist shows me the X-ray of my abcessed, cracked tooth (last molar, back left), complete with a rather large pool of what he described as “infection.”
“How long have you been in pain?” he asks.
“Off and on for 8 weeks, but really bad since March 13th. I was trying to make it through until April 22nd when the dentist’s office re-opens. I was doing the Spartan thing. Mom would be proud.”
“Yikes! That’s heroic! That must really hurt!”
No comment from me, but, yes, that’s why I finally declared myself a “medical emergency” and made the decision to risk my life by going downtown to have what would turn out to be three and one-half hours of dental surgery. That is 3 and ½. Hours. In the dentist’s chair in one place. No bathroom breaks. No coughing. Mouth open the entire time.
I’ve been offered nitrous oxide once before, but, after seeing my daughter come out of oral surgery laughing and loopy while blood dripped from her chin, I kept thinking of Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
It is explained to me that it might make the deadening and the anxiety more effective if I take the nitrous oxide.
“Sure. Bring it on.”
A small mask is fitted to my nose, and I am instructed to “Breathe through your nose and breathe deeply.” Just before the mask goes on, the nurse asks me, in a conversational tone, “What kind of music do you like?”
“I had tickets for the Rolling Stones on May 24th. I’ve seen them about 12 times. I like straight ahead rock-and-roll, but I’m not a rap fan or a heavy metal fan, necessarily. No reggae. No punk.”
I’m answering this question thinking that the nurse is just asking, conversationally. Within seconds I have on headphones and I’m hearing the strains of “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC).Three and one-half hours later, I’m asked about my impression of root canals and nitrous oxide.
My response? “Whenever I think of root canal from now on, I’m going to think of ‘Highway to Hell.’”
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Tonight’s podcast with Texas author Charlotte Canion went well. Charotte said she had had two previous radio shows, and she had much to share about caring for one’s elderly relatives, while also coping with one’s own health and family responsibilities.
Charlotte has 20 grandchildren or great-grandchildren and is a cancer survivor. We talked about her book “You Have to Laugh So You Don’t Cry.” In Chapter 5 (“Forgiveness”) Charlotte shared the story of her 14-year-old daughter’s having been molested by her grandfather (Charlotte’s dad). The actual event happened when her daughter was six years old, but did not come to light until Charlotte shared the experience with a girlfriend, who alerted counselors.
The discussion of that chapter was a late-in-the-recording moment, but we did cover it and Charlotte described it as “ripping the family apart.”
Next week, film star Eric Roberts and his wife Eliza are schedule to talk about his movie “Lone Star Deception” and their careers, in general. I hope it works, this time. Please remember that it is a “live” call-in show and you can join us with your questions. The phone number to call in “live” is 866-451-1451.
The battle for viewers is ramping up on streaming services, with Apple’s entry into the field, competing with the more established Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and—also—with channels such as the Sundance Channel. Add to that services like Showtime and HBO and the competition for viewers becomes even more fierce.
A recent entry on Netflix, which began streaming on Friday (November 1, 2019) was the second season of “Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski. I watched season one, which was set in the Middle East. While it was well-done, I am enjoying season two, set in Venezuela more. Perhaps that is because I have actually visited Caracas, whereas I have not visited the Middle East and don’t expect to any time soon. I say that while realizing that shooting probably did not take place in that currently chaotic country, but there definitely was on-location shooting for the series. It looks expensive to film.
I’ve been enjoying the series “Castle Rock” on Hulu. It’s related to the genre in which I have published, with 3 novels in “The Color of Evil” series and 3 books in “Hellfire & Damnation.” Watching the pre-cursor of Kathy Bates’ “Misery” character, played by Lizzie Caplan (previously of “Masters & Johnson”) was interesting. The writing and execution, with talents like Scott Glenn, Frances Conroy and Sissie Spacek involved in various stories, has been well above par. Hulu also has another season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to entertain, which we haven’t gotten to yet. Meanwhile, there is the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the much-acclaimed comedy series with Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein and Tony Shaloub. It has garnered numerous Emmy awards for its stars. I’m also eagerly anticipating friend Jonathan Maberry’s vampire series, filmed in Canada, which premieres in early December with star Ian Somerhalder.
Then there are the “Don’t Miss” movies of the season as the race heats up heading towards Oscar season. Films like “The Irishman,” which Netflix bankrolled to the tune of $150 to $200 million, are being shown in theaters in select cities to qualify for the Oscar race, after which “The Irishman” will premiere on Netflix—all 3 hours and 20 minutes of it—-on November 27th.
I just returned from the Chicago International Film Festival. I am still reviewing film(s) from the Denver Film Festival, long distance. It is impossible to watch ALL of the films offered, but I managed to squeeze 42 films into a brief 2-week span. The day that I attended “The Torch” at 10 a.m. (a Buddy Guy documentary), followed by “Seberg” (Kirstin Stewart and Jack McConnell) for over 2 hours, followed by “The Irishman” for 3 hours and 20 minutes, followed by the late-night showing of “Into the Vast,” (a sci-fi epic about strange noises coming over the radio in a small town that set the town’s DJ and friends off on a search for the origin of the noises can best be summed up by these script lines, “They’re here. They’re really here.”) was a l-o-o-o-n-g day.
Of all the 42 films and documentaries that I took in between October 13-27, the two that are Don’t Miss are “Ford v. Ferrari,” with Christian Bale and Matt Damon, and Martin Scorsese’s epic “The Irishman,” with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano and a host of others. It is definitely a worthy and classic film in the Scorsese cannon. I highly recommend it if you have enjoyed Scorsese gangster films (“Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) over the years.
We watched “El Camino: The Breaking Bad Movie” last night and liked it very much
.There are numerous flashbacks that provide some “Walt” for those who have to have Walt with their Jessie.
Since the original series had been off the air for 6 years, I confess to being hazy on some of the finer TV plot points. For example, I did remember that Jessie was kept in a cage and tortured and forced to make crystal meth, but the contraption used to give him mobility was totally forgotten by me, until it re-emerges in this film.
The “shoot-out at the O.K. Corral” part is quite good. (See it to find out what I mean).
Jessie’s desperate attempt to get money to finance his “disappearing” act was well done, with a run-in with “police” that is very creative. This part involves Robert Forster, who helped Walt hide out in the TV series.
Yesterday Robert Forster, 78, known as “the Disappearer” in the original TV series and the long-ago star of “Medium Cool” back in the sixties (one of the few—-perhaps only—-examples of cinema verite in the U.S.) unexpectedly died of brain cancer. I met Forster in October of 2018 as he made the film festival rounds on behalf of “What They Had,” a very good film with Michael Shannon, Vera Farmigia and Blythe Danner co-starring about an elderly couple coping with the wife’s encroaching Alzheimer’s disease.
Forster was perfect in the part of her devoted elderly husband, but when I saw him standing in the aisle as I walked to my seat (he was leaning against the wall at the time, in preparation for the post showing Q&A) I had to go over and introduce myself and tell him how much I admired his work in “Medium Cool” and many other projects. He was genuinely warm and friendly, and we chatted briefly for a few moments before I took my seat. Then, he talked about his career, both in an interview in the Chicago “Tribune” but also onstage, and, once again, cemented my admiration.
This is Forster’s final film role. I was struck, when he first came onscreen, by how much he had aged in just one year, as it was October of 2018 when I met him in person. It is one year later, I am about to leave for the October film festival again, but Robert looked like 5 years had passed. I assumed it was make-up. And then I heard that he had died, of brain cancer.
I found the arc that Jessie traverses in this film believable and well-acted and another reason it rang a particularly intense bell with me, besides the information in the paragraph above, is that we just returned from a tour of Alaska and Alaska has an important role in the plot.
I definitely recommend the film for fans of “Breaking Bad.”
Joaquin Phoenix has turned in another riveting, intense performance in “Joker,” this time as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill young man who lives with his invalid mother and works as a clown. In the opening scene, he is twirling a sign on the rat-infested, garbage-strewn streets of Gotham (1970s New York City) when 5 young men steal his “Everything must go!” sign and beat him up in an alley.
If you think this is grim, just wait.
Joaquin has pretty much made a career out of playing character parts that Bruce Dern of 30 years ago, Crispin Glover of 20 years ago, or Michael Shannon of today might play. He is intense and strange, excelling, as one critic put it, in films that depict “exquisite isolation.” In this film, for which he lost 15 pounds, he looks emaciated, like Christian Bale in “The Mechanic.” He claims it helped him with his weirdly artistic dance moves to be lighter on his feet. Arthur (Phoenix) laughs inappropriately and compulsively and may suffer from pseudobulbar affect disorder (or any of a series of ailments often related to traumatic brain injury and/or schizophrenia). It is off-putting and uncomfortable; he even carries a small card explaining his condition to strangers, much like the deaf have used.
The tour-de-force part of Arthur Fleck is eerily reminiscent of Travis Bickle in 1976’s “Taxi Driver.” This part also builds on Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight Rises” and gives us a back story for Joker that is different from the ones in other “Batman” films. Oscar history could repeat itself with a gold statuette for Joaquin, but the film, itself, does not seem Oscar-worthy, to me.
Joaquin has been acting since the early eighties. Many of his best performances have utilized his personal projection of a sense of strange intensity. I remember seeing him on David Letterman’s show on February 11th, 2009, when he claimed he was giving up acting for good to become a rapper. He acted weird, strange and was monosyllabic. Letterman played off that, as he used to do when Crispin Glover came on the show and acted like a World Class Weirdo. (Remember the kicking sequence with Glover on the show?)
At the time, Joaquin was making the movie “I’m Still Here” with his then brother-in-law (Casey Affleck). As it turned out, they thought it would be a good promotional stunt to have Joaquin claim he was quitting acting to become a rapper. Later, on September 22, 2010, Joaquin returned to Letterman’s “Tonight” show to admit that he was actually not finished with acting. Each time, Phoenix came across as supremely weird, strange, and intense. He’s supposed to be engaged to frequent co-star Mara Rooney now, so perhaps both of those television appearances were just good examples of his acting ability.
Whatever. He fooled most of us, and, therefore, his persona with the public and the press has been close to that of Arthur Fleck. The part of “Joker” was perfect for him. Director/Writer Todd Phillips (the “Hangover” movies) said that he never wanted to develop a Plan B for any other casting, because he always intended to cast Phoenix in the part.
When New York Times writer David Itzkoff pointed out while interviewing Phoenix that he seemed to be the “go to” character actor for such over-the-top intense performances and that Phoenix could continue acting characters like this for a very long time, the actor responded, “Oh, really?” in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. “Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s great. I was worried.”
Then, said Itzkoff, “he grinned and let out a laugh to let me know he was kidding. (Or was he?”)
Joaquin Phoenix is a good bet for an Oscar nomination and, potentially, for a win, although it’s still early for making those predictions.
The film is powerful, but about as grim a film as you can find. Still, there were many great supporting turns from the rest of the cast including Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under,” “American Horror Story”) as his mother, Robert DeNiro as talk show host Murray Franklin and Zazee Beetz as his next-door neighbor Sophie Dumond. The use of DeNiro as the late night talk show host modeled on Johnny Carson elicited echoes of Jerry Lewis’ 1982 film “King of Comedy,” where DeNiro played Rupert Pupkin.
Cinematography & Editing:
Director/Writer Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver) has used an interesting mix of “Is this really happening?” cinema, woven together to leave it up to the audience to determine whether what Arthur Fleck is experiencing is wishful thinking or really happening. Audiences today are fairly savvy. We are used to having to figure out some of the connecting tissue of a film on our own, and Phillips handles that beautifully, along with the assistance of cinematographer Lawrence Sher, who seems to love to dwell on Phoenix in close-up. Phillips does a good job of incorporating the seamy, rat-infested city of Gotham as almost a character in itself, and the many nods to Scorsese’s classic films show that, “Hangover” or no “Hangover,” Phillips recognizes a modern-day cinematic icon’s quality work when he sees it. All nice touches.
I was not a fan of the cello-heavy score by the 31 people listed as being in charge of the music for the film. It was overpoweringly dark, screaming, “Feel sorry for Arthur” at every plot turn.
That last remark brings me to the fact that we are primed to feel sorry for/excuse Arthur for his misdeeds. There isn’t a single murder that takes place (and there are plenty, most of them bloody) that some rationale or excuse as to why Arthur would have committed the bloodthirsty crime can’t be ginned up to defend or excuse this poor mentally-ill man (who seems completely amoral by film’s end, if not before).
When Arthur first turns homicidal on a subway train, he has acted in self defense. The plot channels Bernard Goetz, who shot and wounded four African-American youths on a Manhattan subway train in 1984. Only this time “the enemy” is Wall Street and it is three young white Wall Street brokers, insensitive louts all, who abuse and mistreat poor Arthur before he snaps. That brings about the violence. The viewer does feel that the audience is supposed to sympathize with the poor beaten-down loser that Joaquin is portraying so well. We’re rooting for “the little guy” standing up for himself, even if you feel that a sane person would have taken his chances with the NYPD, since the subway shootings seem justified.
After that, while excuses/rationales/reasons are still given for every single murder, feeling sorry for poor Arthur goes downhill fast.
The entire idea of the poor versus the rich is elevated to new heights when portions of Arthur’s comedy act showing him laughing hysterically and uncontrollably are broadcast on Murray Franklin’s show. Arthur becomes a lightning rod for the general sense of malaise and unrest abroad in the land. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Arthur, at one point.
It’s not just you, Arthur. It IS getting crazier out there, and most of us know why.
It is interesting to have a homicidal, mentally-ill killer elevated, by film’s end, almost to the point of “leader of the pack,” but maybe not such a great idea. We can always bring back Steve Bannon, who wants to tear down everything in order to create “the Fourth Turning” (as he himself articulated in the Erroll Morris “American Dharma” documentary).
Permissive nods towards out-of-control violence of any kind should be quickly squelched, whenever and wherever they crop up. Arthur’s sad plight illustrates many of the issues this country is facing. Indeed, problems that the entire world is facing: the ‘haves vs have nots” battle, etc. But letting anarchy rule doesn’t seem like the best solution, regardless of our emotional empathy for Arthur Fleck and embattled little people the world over.
I hope that is the link to the “live” radio interview I did with CUTV on July 31st at 1 p.m. (CDT) 2 pm. EDT.
If so, have a listen.
If not, I will have to try to type the link for you, when you let me know it didn’t “work.”
Thursday, June 27th activities at the National Federation of Press Women began with a memorial service to former presidents of state organizations who had died in the past year. Candles were lit and and passed from member to member representing that state. We sang “Amazing Grace” (lyrics were passed out) and, since it was the day of friend Nelson Peterson’s funeral, which I was missing to be here, it was particularly poignant for me.
In the evening, we boarded a bus and were ferried over to the Museum associated with the Old Capitol. We were met by waiters with drinks—rose mixed with rum, pink with a raspberry in it. (“Packs quite a punch if you drink enough,” the wait staff told me, so I took it easy.) The wait staff was cordial and friendly and, in the background, a string quartet played popular music of a certain genre. (“Stairway to Heaven,” “All of Me”).
The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Billie Nungesser welcomed us to the state and the open bar and wonderful seafood buffet was sponsored by Visit Baton Rouge and Louisiana Seafood. The food, itself, was to die for, as they say. There was even a separate “oyster tent” where oysters had been cooked and were served on the half-shell in a delicious sauce. During the dining experience, you could opt to hold a baby alligator or shop with local artisans who made jewelry, paintings or woodworking.
After dining, we were free to browse the interior of the museum, which was a fascinating place. It was a little too dark to get good shots of the exhibits, but the information was interesting and well-presented. Plus, a scavenger hunt had been set up for party goers to find a specific display, take a selfie with it, and send it in for a $100 prize.
A good time was had by all!