Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Rise of Skywalker with medium-sized spoilers, casually thrown hither and yon

I’ve been reluctant to try and set my thoughts down on paper about the ending of the Skywalker Dysfunctional Family Drama, also known colloquially as The Star Wars Saga. I knew I would need to write about it, but I didn’t have any idea how I was going to get into it. Then a funny thing happened as I was recovering from my surgical procedure; I realized we were at the Fin-de-Siecle of sorts.

After all, it’s not every year that several major franchises wrap up long-time over-arching storylines, is it? We didn’t really celebrate the actual 21st century event horizon, since we were all too busy making sure Y2K didn’t happen. And then 2001 sucked all of the oxygen out of the room and, without getting off on a tangent, knocked us back into the 1980s in a lot of ways that we are only now seeing come to light.

All of the last 20 years feels like a virtual reality simulator designed by Cold War scientists to simulate what the Matrix was trying to provide us with; a reality fraught with strife, held together with flashes of popular culture, and an ever-expanding arsenal of shitty things to react to so that we stay miserable and jaded.

It’s fitting, really, that the last six movies in the Star Wars saga should be completed during these dark times.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cancer: The Devil You Know

The water she has to drink
prior to the CT scan
It's been a while since an update, and that's because we've been overwhelmed with the new chemo cycles and the crippling downturn of the entertainment industry this year. I'm used to not being busy due to high school football, but it's been worse than that, and for months instead of weeks. We are both dealing with life, the best way we know how. My way, for example, includes bourbon.

At the last visit to the oncology center, Cathy was chatting with one of the nurses she's gotten to know better and we found out that there's a cool, fun nickname for the melted Flavor-Ice looking stuff that she gets at the beginning of each new cycle.

They call it "red devil."

I wish I was being funny.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1960s

The sixties were a decade of extremes. The joys of The Beatles and the British Invasion, the hipster excess of Frank Sinatra’s Ratpack, the birth of Marvel Comics, the Space Race, and trippy, free-loving hippies were opposed and even overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, The Martin Luther King Assassination, the Viet Nam War, and dirty smelly evil hippies. Historian Mark Kurlansky alleges that 1968 is when things took a turn for the sober because it is the year that television started showing uncensored and unfiltered images of the Viet Nam war and other important news from the other side of the world, and those real-life horrors certainly colored and shaped the events of subsequent decades.

I don’t think that the decade of the sixties was ground zero for the birth of pop culture as we know it, but I do think it started to codify around college campuses and having access to more forms of mass media. Books were cheap. Comics were everywhere. Nearly everyone could read and most folks had access to a television. Airlines were flying people from Los Angeles to New York. Pop art was emerging. The Cult of celebrity was nascent. It was a groovy, happening time, driven mostly by the ever-mercurial “Youth Market” and it drove the first tentative wedge between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

This decade, then, was the battle ground between generations, as the protests on college campuses later in the decade would attest. Things changed, seemingly overnight, and the world became a darker, more frightening place. It made the Elvis movies and the Beach Romp Teen Comedies seem more vacuous and out of place, but there were suburbs everywhere that these movies were playing to packed houses.

In some ways, the decade was also the last hurrah for the American Dream; the bill of goods that Generation X would inherit bore little resemblance to what the Greatest Generation or even the Baby Boomers had access to. The myth of America had been exposed, but it would take a few decades more to fully die. The horror of the 1960s is largely about exposure, metaphorically or otherwise and commentary on our collective impressions of the status quo. We don’t know who the monsters are anymore, and that’s because we are the monsters.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1950s

Post-World War II, American tried desperately to return to normal. The problem was, 1940 was ten years ago, before the atomic bomb, secret Communists teenagers running amok, and science greatly overstepping its bounds. The artifice of the 1950s can be seen in popular culture, at every level from newspapers and magazines on up to radio and television. The military-industrial complex seamlessly transitioned from ammunition to space-age toasters, and thanks to the G.I. Bill, everyone could afford a house and get cracking on the business of having a job, having kids, hosting cook outs, and living that American Dream.

It was all weapons grade baloney, of course. In the midst of all this prosperity, the threat of encroaching Communism was portrayed as very real and something to fear. This was the time of the Hollywood Blacklists, the start of the Cold War, and real-life Cat and Mouse games with Russian spies.

And let’s not forget the emergence of youth culture, too: rock and roll became big business, thanks to Elvis Presley kicking the door down for everyone that followed. Teenagers suddenly mattered, and that was terrifying to the establishment. Why, they’d only recently gotten control of juvenile delinquency by publicly “encouraging” (by way of televised Senate Sub-Committee hearings) the comic book companies to self-regulate, thus putting an end to crime and horror comics, presumably forever.

It’s no wonder that pop culture pushed back. The fifties saw the rise of counter-culture, the codification of what would become known as Film Noir, and the popularity of darkly pessimistic novel writing, in particular hard-boiled crime novels from authors such as Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, and James M. Cain.

I don’t think anyone was really buying what America was selling, but the mindset was one of wanting to conform, to belong, to fit in, even if you don’t feel like you do. Horror movies moved from the gothic into the modern age, and made scientists and generals the patsies and the fools who usually exacerbated, if not outright caused, the monsters to roam free.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1970s

Cinema Verité. The death-throes of the studio system. Docu-dramas and New Age Woo conflated with UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle, the pyramids, the Moth-Man, and a variety of urban myths into a muddled roux of pseudoscience and fictionalized academic speculation.

It was a great time for monsters. Or rather, it should have been. Unfortunately, while the horror movies had a wealth of history and tradition to draw on, they instead relied on quick camera cuts, shaky, hand-held footage, and confusing storytelling to hide the fact that the mutant bear was, in fact, only a guy in a suit, and not a very good suit, either.

There was a lot going on in the 1970’s, both at home and abroad. Television had finally become ubiquitous in American households, and the networks wasted no time showing everyone the horrors of the Viet Nam war, the Manson children trials, the tragedy of the 1972 Olympics, and of course, the Watergate investigation. People were protesting on campuses, and four of them were killed at Kent State. The economy was in a recession and we were in the midst of an energy crisis. Is it any wonder we needed to escape to the movies?

Horror movies in this decade were largely reactive, and carried a verisimilitude of realism that wasn’t quite an imitation of reportage, but had enough leading headlines cobbled together to make it seem like the events could have happened. All pretense of decency was abandoned, and with it came shockingly realistic depictions of violence like what was shown (or implied) in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Exorcist (1973). It’s not surprising that some of the most iconic and influential horror movies of all time were from this decade.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1940s

The 1940s found America engaged in the business of war, and for four and a half years, business was good. Then in 1945, all of the active service men came home and everyone was expected to pick up where they left off, before they had seen the atrocities of war. Most of the horror movies during this decade were produced by Universal, who had a growing stable of now-classic movie monsters to menace earnest young women, when they weren’t engaging in their own turf wars for supremacy.

The modern world was rapidly intruding on the gothic sensibilities of the previous decade’s horror movies, so Universal obligingly dropped the monsters into a more contemporary setting. Apart from the change of scenery, the monsters still grappled with their inner demons. What the 1940s horror movies seemed to be most preoccupied with was keeping it together. This would have real and fictional repercussions a decade later.

The optimistic propaganda of early wartime America was quickly subsumed in the aftermath of the atomic bomb drops that signaled the end of World War II and would soon usher in the Atomic Age and the Cold War in equal parts.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1980s

 Mullets, keyboards, and Day-Glo Swatches. Also, Dungeons & Dragons, Heavy Metal, and the ever-present threat of nuclear holocaust. It should come as no surprise that with all of that going for it, the 1980s were a kind of Renaissance for movie (and TV) horror; the genre was popular on every medium from comic books to TV, movies and of course, the VHS straight-to-video market that sprang up to meet the seemingly insatiable need for more tapes.

I was part of this, however briefly. My family ran a video rental store in my small town and I worked there from 1985 to 1988. It was the best of times, to be sure, and I got to see (by acquiring for the store) lots of stuff that wasn’t making it to Waco, Texas, for some reason or another. Because I just liked this stuff, I was somewhat indiscriminate, which made our horror section the best, most eclectic selection in the area. As a consequence of this, many of my initial viewings of classic 1980s horror were on good old VHS magnetic tape.

The decade was one of weird contradictions; the surface, Cosby Show normalcy was a cover for the AIDS epidemic, a weakening of the public trust in government, drugs and crime in record numbers, and the dawn of Big Media in the form of cable television. MTV told us everything was going to be all right, but we didn’t really believe it.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Some Thoughts on a Half-Century

Taken one week before my fiftieth birthday. Not much
has changed since then. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not the year I imagined having.

I mean, who starts their year, literally the first day of the year, in recovery from surgery? And who gets dangerously sick because the recovery time is freakishly, abnormally long, and winds up spending nearly a week in the hospital? Who does that?

Well, I do. At least, when I’m not looking after Cathy and her second round of chemotherapy, which is an even more treacherous and unpredictable ride than the first round, which we only barely began to recover from when it was revealed to us that nope, she needs to go back on again.

Nuts. Nuts to all of it. Including (but not limited to) my much-decreased but still tumescent scrotum. Turning fifty has royally suuuuuuucked. Not for the usual reasons, though. But it’s been a shit-show, pretty much, all year.

Let me ‘splain. No, there is no time; I sum up.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Cancer: A Long-Overdue Update

I met Cathy in 2000, which makes it easy to compute our anniversary and our wedding and all of those other days. Weirdly, in our relationship, I'm the one that tends to remember those things, so this works out great. Today is our 16th wedding anniversary, and I can't quite remember what the 16th year present is, but I'm going to call an audible and wish, instead, for a break from all of the crap Cathy's been dealing with.

This second brace of chemotherapy has been, in many ways, worse than the first round. Chief among them has been the nausea. Cathy didn't have severe nausea the first time around, not like this. Two weeks ago, I woke up to the sound of Cathy throwing up. It was horrible. I mean, any time you throw up, it's bad, but this was scary. I sat up with her the rest of the night, and every time she ran to the bathroom, I dutifully wetted some paper towels and waited for it to subside. It's a helpless feeling, to say the least.

We are also battling the new schedule, because it's a twice a month deal, but they have been calling her in for iron infusions and blood work. So, in effect, it's been more or less weekly anyway. We have tried five times to move the treatment days to Tuesdays, to no avail. The self-populating schedule making program that Texas Oncology uses will let you change one appointment date, but not all of them. Very frustrating, considering that I can do it was Google's calendar app and I'm not a medical facility.

We are trying to focus on the upside, which is this: Cathy gets a CT scan at the end of the month. They are looking now for any shrinkage, rather than waiting for six months. That means we'll know very soon if all of this horrible poison is working. If it's not, we get to try a different cocktail of chemicals. If it is working, however, we will soldier on through and get more anti-nausea meds and all of that fun stuff.

In the meantime, we are trying to live as best as we can. We have an evening planned for our anniversary, and I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get to go through with it.

Next week is my birthday. I'll be turning 50. I haven't decided if I'm going to write about it or not. But I know some of you like to do nice things for people, so if you want to do anything, you can either drop a few dollars into Cathy's GoFundMe account, or head over to and buy one of my books. My author page has all of the things currently available that I have stories or essays in, as well as things like Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, the Con-Dorks trilogy, and all of that other stuff. Recently some folks have re-discovered the Con-Dorks trilogy and have been saying nice things about the books.

Cathy's GoFundMe page.

Mark's Amazon Authors page.

That's it, really. I'm sorry the update is so short, and that it's not very funny. I just wanted to let folks know that we are still here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

My FenCon Toastmasters Speech

From FenCon's Facebook Feed. It's Finn at the Finish!

Several of my non-geeky friends have asked me what a Toastmaster does at a convention, and moreover, why I got to be one. I told them that it was a mainly ceremonial position, part greeter, part genial host, and ideally someone with a bit of verve and aplomb. When I get to that part about verve, they all go, "Ooh, okay, now it makes sense."

They have also asked me if I have to make a toast. I then tell them that it's not a toast, but rather some toast. They don't get that joke, and I've stopped trying to explain it to them. But they are curious as to what kind of speech I gave.

So, for those that didn't make it this year, here's what I said, more or less.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Ongoing and Updated Top 5 Horror Movies Master List

This has become something of an October tradition around here at the North Texas Apocalypse Bunker.  And the lists are all spread out over the blog and it's hard for me to link them and for you to track them.

That's why I'm making an evergreen list, and I'll add to it each year. This is current up to 2019, and as new lists are created, they will find their way here, too. That means if you want to bookmark this post, it'll serve you well and you can jump on and off without losing your place.

Finally, know this: I will be updating these lists until I don't. As new movies come out, it may change the rankings of the other films. I may have an epiphany and change my mind about something. When I do, those updates will be made on the appropriate lists and I may not think to mention it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Cancer: Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush...

One of our friends thought I was wearing a
tuxedo shirt. It was funny at the time, but
now I want a tuxedo shirt. She was right:
it is a "me" thing to own.
Cathy started chemo. Again. New drugs, more powerful (and more dangerous) than the other ones she was taking. Side effects? You betcha. Plus possible health complications, too. And all of this done with fingers crossed, because while this is the Standard of Care, it's a crap shoot. I mean, we thought we had it licked the first time, right?

The fact that the cancer came back so fast is what makes this a serious situation. Hence the stronger drugs. Also, we only have to wait two months before they do a C.T. scan to see how the tumors are responding to the chemotherapy. If there's shrinkage, we will plow ahead. If there's no shrinkage, or worse, spreading, well, that's a different conversation. One I'm not willing nor ready to have just yet.

Things are still cautiously optimistic. There is no surgical plans at this time. There's other stuff available, including clinical trials that have shown "remarkable results" according to the doctor. Staying upbeat, staying positive, has been one of the most exhausting things I've done in a while.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Hey, Toxic Fans! Get Off My Lawn!

I've had it with these fair-weather Johnny-Come-Lately 4Chan Troglodytes and their mouth-breathing screeds that get slurped up by every nearly-news outlet and then sent back out into the aether to clog up my feed, pushing the puppy pics and the food selfies out of Facebook's algorithm. Knock it off, you assholes.

Of course, I'm speaking about the latest Teapot Tempest: the She-Hulk announcement that Disney made over the weekend. Oh, there was also an announcement about a Moon Knight show, but none of the Innsmouth-Tainted Stumblebums of Twitter are talking about that, nosireebob. It's all about the She-Hulk show, and how Disney is RUINING the world with its Feminist Agenda by turning the Hulk into a woman just to appease the Femi-nazis and the democrats, all of whom only want to kill babies and steal money from hard working Americans, and by the way, Trump rules and you suck, and oh yeah, Marvel isn't ever getting another penny from me.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Cancer: Well, Shit.

It's back.

Talk about counting some chickens. I had always thought I might have to deliver the bad news again; after all, Cathy's cancer of choice was particularly pernicious and there was a high chance of recurrence. But after she responded so well to the chemo and the surgery was so positive, I thought--we thought--we'd have a year or two before we had to worry about this again.

We sure as hell didn't think the down time would be three months. Not even an "All-Clear" to the end of the year? Come on, Cancer. I know you're an asshole, but do you have to be such a fucking asshole?

Here's what we know: because of the quickness with which the cancer has returned, it means that Cathy has developed an immunity to her chemo drugs, so we are going on to treatment option number two: different chemo drugs, with side effects that are a cause of concern. Specifically, blood clots, which are already a problem for Cathy to begin with.

This is a six month treatment. Not sure what that will fully entail, but she's going to start the week after next. And just like that, we are back in the barrel.

In an effort to provide balance to this shitty update, I have two pieces of news that may offset some of the existential dread I feel right now.

Numero Uno: Since we caught this new cancer (still in the lining between her organs) inside of three months, it's much smaller and so hopefully we won't have to deal with any surgery.

Numero Two-oh: My edema continues to shrink and has in fact reduced size and density by two thirds. It's still deformed looking and horrible, but it's a much smaller horribleness.

I'll put more up when I know more. This week we have two different tests to determine if there are going to be any complications with the treatment. I've also updated the GoFundMe account, as we are already getting static from the insurance company.

Well, those three months where Cathy was okay and I was getting my mojo back were pretty swell while they lasted. Looks like I'll be seeing everyone on the other side of 2020.

Friday, June 7, 2019

I'm Updating My Terms of Service

Since this whole Game of Thrones thing really pushed Questionable Internet Behavior into the limelight, there have been a rash of petitions, admonishments, snarky commentary from media outlets, and the shaming of the shamers who have shamed the anti-shamers by shaming the shamed, who frankly, should be ashamed. It's been a tire fire, combined with a train wreck, and it is now hopping to each next new thing, in order to be replayed from the top, a playlist full of regretful choices.

Can we blame the media for picking up on it, really? The last time we saw a bootlegger reverse this spectacular was in Smokey and the Bandit: one minute, everyone is bursting with joy at the start of the final season, and then just as quickly, there was blood in the water and sharks all around.

Nevertheless, I've been wrestling with my part in this, small as it is, and how I tend to spend a lot of my digital time discussing what I liked and didn't like about stuff. It's been an up and down enterprise, especially since I'm not known for my brevity. I would rather err on the side of writing too much than not saying enough and having myself misconstrued.

Right now, the online push is coming from the group that wants people to be left alone to enjoy things uncritically. Fans. Any commentary is being pounced upon and worried to an uncomfortable silence. Usually it's because someone started an online petition or an online boycott campaign. There's been a lot of that going around, too, but that's another topic for another time.

I thought that for some of you who don't know me personally, and don't hear my voice when you read my posts, it would be a great opportunity to revisit and update my terms of service agreement for you, the consumer of said posts. These changes go into effect immediately. You pushing these words into your eye holes constitutes tacit acceptance, so neener neener.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

So, You Want to Be the Voice of Your Generation…

Dear Mr./Miss [YOUR NAME HERE]

Congratulations! You have made a wise decision, no doubt after much consideration and with no malice aforethought. You want to be a representative of your generation on The Internet. Good for you!

In today’s hyper-realized mega-culture, too many voices constantly clamor for our attention, leaving us numb to any sort of reasoned thoughts that might exist in the aether, and often incapable of recognizing those thoughts when we stumble across them.

This is where YOU come in. Yes, you! Are you not chock-full of the attributes that constitute your arbitrarily and narrowly defined “generation?” That makes you the perfect person to step out of the crowd and make your voice heard over the din! Be an “influencer!” A “taste-maker!” Why, if you play your cards right, you might one day become “an Internet Sensation!”

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But, hold on there, Eager Beaver. Before you go running off, nilly-willy, and start banging on your keyboard like a belligerent grotesque, there are a few things you’ll need to know in order to be the best, most intensely saturated version of your digital self that you can be. These simple principles will ensure that you appeal to the broadest possible swath of humanity, who are most often going to experience you in their worse possible state of mind, such as sitting on the toilet, or waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Monday, May 20, 2019


We got the news last week and we've been sitting on it, because, well, we're still processing it, but the doctor has officially pronounced Cathy In Remission. This mean that she is currently cancer-free. It does not mean we are off the hook. The next year to two years will be regular blood labs and follow-up appointments. Type 3 Ovarian cancer has a middling-high chance of recurrence, though that is mitigated by a number of factors, including how well the patient responded to chemotherapy. Cathy responded very well to the chemo, so well, in fact, that in the event of a recurrence, chemotherapy as an option is still on the table.

These are all good things, and we are grateful in our profound relief, exhausted in our awareness of how lucky we got. Right now, Cathy is focusing on getting back on her feet. There's something about aggressive cancer treatment, surgery, and pneumonia that really takes it out of a person, you know?

I'm healing, too. Slowly. Oh. So. Slooooooowly. But I am healing.

We are currently bracing for bad weather and trying to figure out what the rest of our life looks like. For now, the good news is enough.

Thanks for taking this journey with us. You are a big part of the reason why we got through it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Five Things That Are Ruining Movies

1. The misuse and over-application of the word “trope.”
2. The misuse and over-application of the concept of a “plot hole.”
3. Deeply unqualified people telling me why the movie sucked.
4. Catastrophically angry people excoriating directors, producers, and writers for not doing enough.
5. Eagle-eyed detail-oriented people ticking off all of the mistakes a movie made, implying that the film would otherwise be a cinematic gem if X hadn’t gotten in the shot or if the scrambled eggs didn’t stop moving around on the plate in that one scene.

There’s an old saying that Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth. Well, movies are a collaborative effort between the actors and around seventy or eighty cooks. Mistakes get made. Movies aren’t a perfect story-telling medium and never have been. What they can do, they do very well, and more effortlessly than ever these days, thanks to ginormous budgets and super sophisticated computers. But “perfect” or “nearly perfect” movies are so rare, and I can’t think of a single one made after 2001.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Health Update: A Mixed Bag of Nuts

I'm sorry it's been a while since I let you nice people know what's going on in our Saga of Middle-Aged Wellness. It's kind of been a "no news is good news" sort of thing, wherein Cathy was back on chemotherapy, and it was doing a number on her, but it wasn't anything we hadn't dealt with before--just maybe a little more severe, but we were really close to being done with it, so let's just power through to the end and celebrate, right?

Right. Well, sure, if that were all that was going on.

Cathy finished her chemotherapy last week. It was awesome, in that it was a real relief to be out of those woods, but unfortunately, she was too weak to even celebrate properly. However, we did ring the bell at the treatment center. It's a rite of passage, not unlike when you leave Long John Silver's and you're pretty sure you didn't get a food-borne parasite from eating at LJS. Only this is better because you didn't have to eat at LJS to ring the bell.

Next week, Cathy gets a CT scan, and if it's clear, then we are officially Done With Treatment and go into maintenance mode. This means getting blood work done every three months, for at least one or two years. They are very vigilant because of the change of a re-occurrence. Aside from that, we get to go rejoin the adult world.

Or so we thought.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Greg Berlanti, the DC TV Universe and Warner Brothers’ Critical Misunderstanding of their Intellectual Property, Part 2: How Titans Bloodied Up

Part 1 is here.

One of DC’s greatest strengths is also its greatest weakness in a twenty-first century media-saturated America. The biggest of the big DC heroes—Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman—are routinely compared with and likened to mythological gods and heroes. It’s been the subject of no telling how many master’s theses, stacks of pop culture non-fiction publishing, and long boxes full of comics, all written by the flavor of the month, eager to dazzle us all with “their take” on fill-in-the-blank character that’s been around for fifty or more years.

DC even floated a separate line for these “imaginary stories,” called “Elseworlds,” which has been and continues to be extremely popular. After all, myths are made to be interpreted and re-interpreted, right? So, the idea of setting Batman in, say, 19th Century London fighting Jack the Ripper (Gotham by Gaslight) sounds frankly awesome, doesn’t it? And in The Nail, the Justice League are outlaws in a topsy-turvy world, made very different when the rocket ship discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent ends up in a another family's back yard (with artwork by Alan Davis and Paul Neary, easily two of the best working comic book artists to this day). Sounds cool, right? Oh, and let’s not forget the most famous Elseworlds of all—the one that arguably spawned the need for an Elseworlds bullet in the first place—Batman: The Dark Knight, by Frank Miller.

How can you not love that?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Greg Berlanti, the DC TV Universe and Warner Brothers’ Critical Misunderstanding of their Intellectual Property, Part 1

As a lifelong comic book reader, I love me some Doom Patrol, both the silver age wackiness and the Grant Morrison drug-fueled fever dreaminess. So when I saw that the DC Universe app was going to have its own Doom Patrol show, I broke down and sprang for a subscription.

There’s not much else on the App right now, but their schedule for shows premiering in 2019 is ambitious to say the least. Aside from watching Doom Patrol, the thing I was most excited about was the old Spirit pilot starring Sam Jones as Denny Colt. I hadn’t seen it since 1987 and I’m looking forward to revisiting it. I made the decision to wait, not immediately watch it, because I might need a palate cleanser.

Turns out, it was a good call. Seeing that Doom Patrol was going to be a weekly show, and only two episodes were online, I figured I’d be more frustrated than gratified. With nothing left to lose, I decided to try out Titans

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Health update: Here We Go Again...

In all of the excitement about my harrowing incident, I forgot to mention that Cathy started chemotherapy again yesterday.

This was expected, part of the overall treatment plan: Chemo, Surgery, and more Chemo. We knew this was coming, and we knew it would be part of the overall plan. Cathy, bless her heart, is weathering it as best as she can. I am holding up less well. But we are united in our fervent desire for this to be over and done with so we can get on with being real people again.

Cathy has a minimum of three cycles of chemotherapy, which is three weeks' worth of treatments at a time. After three cycles, they will take a ct scan and maybe even a biopsy to see how everything is clearing up. If she's not clear, she gets another cycle, up to a maximum of six cycles. If she is clear, then we go into defensive mode, wherein we have a check-up every three months to see how the markers look. That will last up to five years before they pronounce her as "in remission."

Mind you, those are maximums and worst case scenarios. Given that she has responded very well to the chemo drugs she is on, this could be over sooner. We are hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. If this whole thing has taught us anything, it's taught us that.

The worst of the symptoms for Cathy is the neropathy. Her feet have gone partially numb at the soles and toes and when it flares up, it makes walking very hard for her. This puts the kibosh on the exercise they say she needs to have in order to keep up her strength. She did some yoga at the start of her chemo and I suspect she'll take it up again.

My infusions continue apace. I've got three more weeks of them, and I'm already getting grumpy about the daily visit to the hospital. Not their fault, by the way; they've been nothing but pleasant. I just hate that I have to do it.

I will be done in April, hopefully with all of it. Cathy's got a little farther to go, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cathy's GoFundMe page has officially become our communal GoFundMe page. I'm hate asking, especially since so many of you have given so generously, but for those of you that haven't and can spare just $10, it would mean the world to both of us. At this rate, I'm sending the wedding comic pdf out to everyone who gives anything. Just follow this link. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Spiritual Gift of Sarcasm

All was not gloom and doom at the hospital.

Yeah, okay, I'm not buying it, either. For most of the stay, I vacillated back and forth between various states of fear and boredom. That's a screwed up Venn Diagram, let me tell you. Every single doctor who visited me had a different diagnosis and worse, a suspected prognosis. It was frustrating, to say the least. One doctor comes in and says, "We don't know what you have, or how long you're going to be here." The next day, the surgeon comes in and says, "This wound site looks fine. I don't think you'll need a PICC line or a port. You may be able to go home today." Then the infectious disease specialist visits the day after and says, "You will need constant care for a minimum of four weeks." This multiple choice kind of diagnosis always happened before noon, insuring that I'd have the rest of the day to ponder every decision that may have led to my groin exploding in a fountain of goo.

On the other hand, I did have a captive audience by way of the nurses. None of them had heard any of my scrotal edema jokes, so I got a tight five minute set out of every new nurse that came to visit. After a while, they were just sending new nurses in from other floors. That kept me busy for about two days. After that, I started eyeing the window for a quick exit.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Six Days Closer to Death

Well. That was fun.

For those of you just joining us from another station, I've been recovering from a surgical procedure I had at the end of last year, literally on the 31st of December. It involved removing part of my lower abdominal pannus, which is that thing that hangs down over your belt. In my case, it had developed into panniculitis, which is when the fatty tissue hardens and in my case, blocked my lymph nodes, was pushing my legs apart, had gotten infected, etc. A real mess. And if I was to get healthy, as is my continued intention, it had to go first, so that I could, you know, walk more than ten yards without feeling like my hips were displacing.

The panniculitis got cut off  (in a panniculectomy) and the bottom of my abdomen was stitched back to my stomach and, well, aside from some scrotal edema (about which you probably know way too much), I was more or less okay. Turned out, it was less. A lot less.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Valentine's Day Update, and a Top Ten List

On Our Way to the Hospital with Matching Haircuts.
Let's get to the good stuff first; Cathy is home, and resting. Surgery went very well, better than expected. They did a full hysterectomy, which is standard procedure for ovarian cancer, and that went by the book. When the doctor starting looking at the scans to "de-bulk the tumors" (which is fancy medical-speak for 'cut those suckers out') he found only scar tissue, which he described as a gritty-textured thing.

No tumors to cut out.

He biopsied all of the areas, and we'll get those results in two weeks, but the upshot was this: the surgery was way less invasive, since there was nothing for him to "de-bulk." All of that extra chemotherapy did the trick, it would seem.

We know there will be some follow up chemo, and it'll likely depend on how the biopsies turn out as to how much chemo there will be. No more than three rounds. We're hoping it's less.

Just some of Cathy's family that showed up during our vigil.
That follow-up chemo will be the last of Cathy's treatment for Ovarian Cancer, Stage 3. After that, it's routine check-ups every six months, for a minimum of five years. We should probably be getting bi-annual check-ups anyway, so no big deal, more or less. My mood is cautiously optimistic, until we get those test results back and figure out how much more chemo Cathy will need. It ain't over 'til it's over.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry with relief when the doctor told me about the tumors turning into scar tissue. I couldn't believe it; for once on the balance sheet, it looked like everything Cathy had been through--the blood clot, the surgical delays, the extra rounds of chemo--it seemed as though everything balanced out in the end.

I may well be jinxing it, but I know there's one more shoe yet to drop. That's in the future. Right now, the plan is simple: rest and heal. She needs to heal and I need to heal. And speaking of that...

I know, I know, I said last time that it would be my final post about the ol' scrotal edema. However, new information has come to light. Specifically, the light of the full length mirror in the hotel room.

You see, prior to last week, my relationship to my junk was not unlike that of three blind men describing an elephant--you know, each of them is touching a different part of the animal, and based on their limited input, describe three very different animals. Well, in my case, I was three blind men touching my hoo-ha. I could see it, peripherally, when I was laying down, and I could feel it (boy, could I ever!) when I walked, sat, or drove. And I could sense it when I used the bathroom. I had a tactile picture, but not an optical picture.

That changed when I got out of the shower last Wednesday. I rounded the corner heading for pants, and that's when I saw it. I stopped and stared...just stared. And it stared right back at me, with binocular vision, like an apex predator. I had not seen it--truly seen it--until now.

Yeah. Something like this. 
Two thoughts hit me in the brain pan at the same time.

Thought number 1: "Well, now I know why the nurses were all so damn amused."

And Thought number 2: "My looks like..." and my writer's brain took over. Perhaps as a defense mechanism. I had to make sense of what I was seeing, and I've always done that with words. I waddled to the desk, took out my notebook, and filled a page with "what it looks like" until I could do no more. Over the next few days, as new ones occurred to me, I would write them down, as well.

I have since winnowed the list down to the old reliable--a Top Ten List. We're going old school for this, Letterman style. And now that you know what's coming, let me stress to those of you with delicate sensibilities, what follows is Not Suitable for Work. It's Not Suitable for School. It's Not Suitable for Life. It's basically just not suitable. Please, for the sake of our relationship, eject now.

But for those of you who have tittered, guffawed, and even chuckled at the saga of my Hindenbergian Tallywhacker, then this list is humbly and respectfully dedicated to you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Last Word About my Tumescent Scrotum

I know, I know, how many times on the Internet have we seen this promise made, only to be broken the very next day? But in my case, I assure you, it's true; this is my final post about the scrotal edema that has besieged my nether regions these past four and a half weeks, with no relief in sight anytime soon.  It's just not healing up as quickly as I'd like. Everyone keeps telling me to be patient, and on one hand, I hear them, and I'm trying. On the other hand, "AAAAARGH! MY DICK IS A GRAPEFRUIT!"

So, you can see my problem.

Read on, if you dare. Or, if you think this will embarrass you, please don't. You have been warned.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Health Update: Cathy First, and then Quasimodo

It's been a while since we had an official update, mostly because I've been in and out of consciousness like Robert Di Nero in Sleepers. But while I am "sitting," and before the pills crowd me out, I want to report that Cathy will be going in for surgery on February 7th. We expect to be out of pocket for a week or so. There's a lot of logistical things to work out while we set all of this up, but we are excited to be moving forward with her treatment plan. It's the shortest part of the process, if you don't count the recovery time, but it's certainly the most nerve-wracking. I will keep everyone posted if things change.

I will now give you an update on my condition, so for those of you who do NOT want to read about scrotal edema, please veer off.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I'm in Waste Management

Warning: this post contains language that people may well find offensive, especially since we're talking about body parts that are considered naughty. Please don't read this if you are decent, church-going folk. The less you are exposed to stuff like this, the better.

I've been quiet after my surgery on December 31st, for a number of reasons. I'm uncomfortable--the surgeon pac-manned me open like Toshiro Mifune in a Kurasawa flick and then stapled it all shut again. This uncomfortable sensation has led to me needing to take pain killers, which make me sleepy, because I have zero tolerance for pharmaceuticals, and those pain killers put me right to sleep. So I'm not using my time very well. Mostly, when I'm awake, I have three things on my mind: peeing, pooping, and my two drain tubes, sewn in to either side of my groin. I've been telling people I'm in waste management, a la Tony Soprano, but that's not really what's bothering me.