Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Health Report Update

So last week I started taking a new anti-anxiety and antidepressant. This is the third time now they've tried me on something; this time it's Venlafaxine (Efexor). I'm on the lowest possible dose for now, and I've been on it for nearly a week. It's too soon, probably, to expect any measurable changes, but Becca says she thinks I've been a little calmer.

It's not like I haven't had opportunities to be anxious, too. I haven't been sleeping so well again, and sometimes I just lie in bed in the morning and don't want to get up. My glasses broke (the frames broke) last week, and today I went to the optometrist for the first time since 2007. I hadn't been able to go with the insurance situation being what it was, but I was able to find a single place in DeKalb that accepted Medicaid. Medicaid covers one pair of glasses every two years. I was worried exactly how much the Medicaid would cover, but it turned out to be all of it. No co-pay, and the glasses are covered. That was a relief. And the eye doctor was a nice guy, too. I notice that I have a tendency to explain things to doctors apologetically, but he was just pleasant and even a little folksy, and I relaxed pretty quickly. Good guy. Also, my eyes haven't really gotten too much worse in the last seven years, so that's nice.

The only downside is that I've had to tape up my frames for now and the new glasses won't be ready because of a backlog for something like 4 to 8 weeks. But I'll have to be patient.

I handled all of this a lot better than I usually do when having to go new places, meet new doctors, etc. So maybe the medication is working.

I started with a new psychiatrist, too, at the behest of my therapist. My old psychiatrist has moved on elsewhere (getting used to this being a thing that happens at state-subsidized places), and I wasn't prepared for the new one. For some reason, I got switched to a different doctor than I had made my appointment with, and I didn't know she was someone that you see in the office on Skype, so I was a little lost. Plus, all the new places/new doctors/even leaving the house anxiety.

She and I talked about Lexapro and how it numbed me and I put on so much weight and the sexual side effects, and how I didn't want to do that again. We also talked about my brief times last year on Fluoxetine and Buspirone and the suicidal urges I'd had. I've become aware this year that I can't trust the reactions I had then. I used to make myself sick, to the point of vomiting and/or diarrhea, when my anxiety got out of control, so that I'd have a believable excuse to not go and do things other than "I'm too scared and I don't want to." That was the way I would self-sabotage. What I do now, I've realized, is get so worked up that my blood pressure gets too high.

My self-sabotage is so deeply ingrained that I can't trust my reactions sometimes, so my earlier reactions to those medications may have been me subconsciously throwing a wrench into the whole thing because, you know, I don't "deserve" to feel better. After the medication was prescribed for me, I couldn't pick it up for a couple of days, and those days were riddled with anxiety. I'm kind of glad that happened, so that I could see for myself that the anxiety was going to happen and that I wouldn't just write it off as some kind of instant side effect of the new pills.

So far, so good. I'm optimistic, but cautiously so. The side effects for this one aren't supposed to be like they were with Lexapro. Today feels good to me. That's all I can ask right now, I think.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Gerry Parkes 1924-2014

Sad to hear tonight that Gerry Parkes has died. When I was a kid, bullied and harassed in school, one of my few respites was racing home to catch Fraggle Rock on HBO. That show meant a lot to me, and I always thought Doc was wonderful and funny. Parkes was 90, and I hope he had a full life. Thanks for being a part of the joy of those five years.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Song of the Week: "A Nightmare on My Street"

I remember the first time I heard this track was on Guam in 1988. When we first got there, I had terrible jet lag, and I would stay up late at night listening, very lightly, to the radio. The first time I heard this, I thought I was having some kind of weird dream. Perfectly appropriate. Apparently, the story behind this track--in which the Fresh Prince has an encounter with Freddy Krueger and which heavily samples Charles Bernstein's score from A Nightmare on Elm Street--was originally considered for inclusion on the soundtrack for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. When it was decided the tone didn't fit, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince went ahead and released it on their second album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, and promptly were sued for copyright infringement. Both sides settled out of court, and this was the follow-up single to "Parents Just Don't Understand." I've always dug this, and I haven't heard it for years and years, so here's some late eighties Halloween silliness.

Marvels: Fantastic Four #25

"The Hulk vs. the Thing" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos
(April 1964)

This anniversary issue of Fantastic Four has some epic worldbuilding, tying the continuity of the Marvel Universe closer together and continuing the story of the Hulk. So far, this is the most interesting I've found the Hulk, perhaps because he doesn't have his own book and mostly exists as this sort of force that the Marvel characters have to take into account. Like Namor, he's not exactly a hero and not exactly a villain, but he does have a sense of tragedy to him.

This issue pits the Hulk and the Thing against one another for the second time (the first being the great Fantastic Four #12), but it also ties in heavily to what's going on in The Avengers. The last time we saw the Hulk was in Avengers #3, where he and Namor briefly teamed up to fight (and lose) against Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The Hulk turned back into Bruce Banner unexpectedly and fled. Namor's story continued into Avengers #4, in which he fought against a team that now included Captain America. It was also in that issue that Rick Jones and Captain America became friends, and Rick worried that the Hulk would feel betrayed by his disloyalty and come for him.

Well, turns out that's exactly how the Hulk feels. Wandering the desert after his defeat, the lonely Hulk makes his way back to his old underground lab. Wondering where Rick is, the Hulk lashes out in anger, destroying his lab, including that old machine he had where he could bathe himself in gamma radiation to turn himself into the Hulk at will. After discovering a newspaper that talks about the Avengers and Captain America, the Hulk vows revenge on Rick and the Avengers, and heads to New York City.

The Fantastic Four are immediately called into action, but to up the suspense, their leader has been sidelined by a potentially deadly virus. Most issues open with some kind of tense argument, and this one is no different: Reed is still trying to devise a chemical solution that will "cure" the Thing and turn him human again. Ben doesn't want to be human again, because Alicia loves him the way he is and, deep down, he's afraid she won't love him if he's not the Thing. He says, if anything, he'd rather be able to become the Thing at will, switching back and forth. Reed is actually pretty hurt and angry that Ben doesn't want a cure, but he continues to work at it, accidentally exposing himself to a virus that weakens him and puts his life in danger just as the Hulk comes rampaging through.

The Human Torch is no match for the inexhaustible Hulk. Neither is the Invisible Girl; she tries to create a force field, but Hulk stretches it to the limit with one of his mighty leaps. It's really up to the Thing to slow the Hulk down, and that makes up the bulk of the issue. I won't go into too many details here, but it's incredibly exciting and suspenseful, watching two of the strongest beings in the Marvel Universe fight. The Thing wisecracks his way through, but it soon becomes clear that the Hulk is much stronger and won't give up.

As their fight becomes more and more desperate, the Thing trying not to give in to exhaustion, Reed is falling in and out of consciousness as a doctor tries to revive him. Sue, who has been torn between her love for Reed and her attraction to Namor, confesses that she never realized until now just how deep her love for Reed really is.

The Thing finally collapses on the George Washington Bridge after a failed last ditch effort to capture the Hulk. With the Army deployed in New York City, the Hulk making his way towards Tony Stark's mansion, Johnny in the hospital and Reed at death's door, Benjamin J. Grimm decides that the only way he's going to stop fighting is if the Hulk kills him...

To be continued!

Stray observations:

:: Stan Lee accidentally calls Bruce Banner "Bob" once again. I assume this confusion is why his official name is Robert Bruce Banner.

:: "I feel sorry for ya now, Hulk... because you mad me mad! Me, who's never been known to lose his temper before!"

:: "Where are your wise-cracks now, Thing?? Your insulting remarks?? Where is the strength you always brag about?" "Maybe I left 'em in my other suit! Hey... leggo! That's the hand I eat pizza with!"

:: At one point, the Hulk throws the Thing onto the roof of a condemned building. The Hulk literally grabs the building and shakes it back and forth to dislodge the Thing.

:: Even the Yancy Street Gang tries to help the Thing by pulling the brake on a truck and sending it careening downhill into the Hulk.

:: This month's letters page teases the next Fantastic Four Annual, promising an appearance by Doctor Doom. Jimmy Edelstein of Stoughton, MA, wants fewer fights with commie agents in the Marvel Universe; Marc Bailey of Lomita, CA, is the first person I've seen call Iron Man "shell-head"; and only a few of the letters point out errors in the other books. Bill Dubay of San Francisco is given a no-prize for being the reader with the largest comic collection--11,221 issues!

I think this issue of Fantastic Four came along at exactly the right time. I've talked a little bit about how routine the book was becoming--still well-executed, but a little formulaic--and by addressing the larger Marvel Universe and amping up the drama, Stan & Jack made this issue a vital tour-de-force, a keystone issue of this world they've been constructing. The suspense of Reed's illness and the limits of Ben's strength (but not his resolve) elevate this issue from something done just for the sake of tying continuities together.

In the next issue, the Avengers become a part of this whole thing, too. They're still looking for the Hulk, and this is all going to come to a head...

But first, next time: the Executioner and the Enchantress!

Sunday Hottie 507


Saturday, October 18, 2014

HALLOWEEN: The Great Pumpkin Waltz

I posted this back in 2010, but I see the video's no longer there, so on this cloudy Saturday, here's a lovely score piece by Vince Guaraldi.

Friday, October 17, 2014

HALLOWEEN: Peanuts, 1975

Unrelated-but-related Halloween stuff: over at the Wonderful Wonderblog, Erick has been posting a series of Halloween cutouts that have been making me nostalgic. This one and this one always graced our patio door when I was a kid.

What Married People Talk About In Bed

Last night, after turning off the lights and getting into bed.

BECCA: If you had to spend the rest of your life with a cereal mascot, who would it be?

ME: Why would I even want to do that?

BECCA: This is a very important question.

ME: But they're all manic, why would I choose to live with any of them?

BECCA: I don't know, but you have to pick one.

ME: Well, do they at least give me access to as much of their cereal as I want?

BECCA: Well, what else would be the point of living with one?

ME: Yeah... Do tie-ins count? Media tie-ins?

BECCA: Yes. But they have to have appeared on the box. So if you chose Batman Cereal, you would just have this giant, non-sentient bat-symbol.

ME: Well, then that's what I pick, obviously, because then I can just hang the symbol on the wall and eat Batman Cereal every day of my life, which is my dream, anyway.

BECCA: Well played, sir.