On Robocops and Resistance

This one’s a bit scattered today.  Much like my brain these past few years, ha ha.

On Thursday I had my second and final follow-up appointment with the ENT for my nose surgery.  It is pretty much fully healed and my septum is remarkably undeviated now, which pleased both the doctor and me.  I can generally breathe through both nostrils now, or at least as well as I can expect to during beautiful Ohio’s allergy season.

To anyone who may be on the fence about having surgery to correct a deviated septum, I would say it was totally worth it.  As previously noted, the first week is rough, but things improve a lot once the splints are removed.  I only wish I would have done the surgery years ago.

I’ve been rewatching the ROBOCOP movies over the last couple of weeks. Paul Verhoeven’s original remains a dark and brilliant film. The dystopian corporate culture that ROBOCOP satirized in 1987 doesn’t seem too far removed from our present reality, here in the year of our lord, 2022. I can only imagine how it hit when it came out during the Reagan “Morning in America” era. ROBOCOP doesn’t quite rise to the level of some of Verhoeven’s other sci-fi efforts like TOTAL RECALL or my beloved STARSHIP TROOPERS. But nonetheless — it’s quite good.

ROBOCOP 2 is a hot, uber-serious, boring mess, made even worse by the fact that when the cops go on strike, Robocop crosses the picket line, ultimately putting to rest the question of, “can a robot be a scab?”

I have a fondness for ROBOCOP 3 that I really can’t explain.  It’s much goofier than the first two — a 9-year-old hacker girl reprogramming an ED-209 on the fly to be “loyal as a puppy”? — and Peter Weller is replaced by some other poor bastard who has to wear the Robocop suit, plus there is the addition of a ridiculous gang of dorks who go by the name of the Splatterpunks.  But the story is treated with a humanity that absolutely works for me, and probably only me.  OCP, the villainous corporation throughout the trilogy, has been bought by a Japanese corporation, but they’re still trying to raze Detroit to build their for-rich-people-only Delta City.  In this one, though, they’re now actively forcing people out of their homes, putting them on buses to relocation centers, and some other really fascist shit.  This has resulted in the creation of a resistance movement, which Robocop, his scabbing days now behind him, eventually joins, as do all the cops.  A bit cheesy?  Yes.  But who doesn’t love a good resistance story?  Gods know we can use them these days.

Also, this piece of anti-OCP graffiti is really great:

I mean, they’re not wrong.

In case you missed it earlier in the week, I linked to this wonderful story about a journalist who accidentally discovered his wife was the world’s best Tetris player. As someone who is both a cynic and an idealist, it’s good for my soul to read a sweet story like this from time-to-time.

And now I am signing off so we can go to a baby welcoming for some dear friends.

Keep your head down and your chin up, and have a good week.

tête-à-tris

I love this story, published by the Boston Globe way back in 2007, about a journalist who accidentally discovered his wife was the world’s best Tetris player.

“It’s funny,” I told Flewin. “We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She’s weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem.”

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

“Oh, my!”

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

“Honey,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who’s in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world’s largest classic video game tournament.”

Read all the way to the end. The last sentence is a perfect denouement.

Take This Job and Shovel It: A Sandra Bullock Appreciation Post

The other weekend, Jess and I spent a lovely few days with Sandra Bullock.  It started on a Friday night, when we were in the mood to watch something light and funny, so we settled on TWO WEEKS NOTICE.  Then, the next day, while on an excursion in Cincinnati, we decided we wanted to see the new Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum movie, THE LOST CITY, and would do so on Sunday.  Jess then had the fabulous idea to watch THE PROPOSAL that night, and have our own little Sandra Bullock film festival. And in true film festival tradition, I have thoughts, shared below, which will be aided by a rating classification scale of one through four Sandra Bullocks.

TWO WEEKS NOTICE ‒ I had not seen TWO WEEKS NOTICE before, and I thought it was good but not great.  Sandra Bullock is fine in it, but Hugh Grant is almost too charmingly befuddled even by Hugh Grant standards.  The set-up of Bullock coming to work briefly for Grant and then giving two weeks notice was awkwardly handled, but it had some cute moments. I know it’s not the main point of these films — or a minor one, really — but between TWO WEEKS NOTICE and THE PROPOSAL, it really hammers home the importance of establishing and ruthlessly maintaining clear boundaries between one’s work and personal lives. My rating for TWO WEEKS NOTICE:

THE PROPOSAL ‒ I didn’t catch THE PROPOSAL when it came out, which was a mistake on Past Josh’s part, because it was sooo good.  Bullock nails the grumpy and reluctant rom-com lead, which really seems like her bread and butter when it comes to film roles, and the rest of cast, which includes Ryan Reynolds and fucking Betty White, just shine.  The power imbalance of “boss forcing employee to pretend to be married to her” comes off as a bit cringey now, and is the only thing keeping this movie from getting a full four Sandra Bullocks.

THE LOST CITY ‒ I am a really big fan of ROMANCING THE STONE, from which THE LOST CITY — with its clueless romance novelist caught up in a jungle adventure and looking for a mysterious lost MacGuffin plot — pulls more than a little inspiration.  Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, as her Fabio-inspired dustjacket cover model, have good chemistry and play well off each other.  The film’s story moves along pretty quickly, there are a couple of really funny gags, and is an overall pleasing-level of dumb fun.  Brad Pitt plays a small role and effortlessly steals the scenes he’s in.  If ever there were a movie made to be watched on an airplane, THE LOST CITY is it.  A solid three Sandra Bullocks!

I have a feeling there will be future Sandra Bullock movies in our future, which probably means more reviews, so stay tuned.

Century’s End

Took myself out to brunch at Mudlick Tap House today.  I sat at the bar reading THE TIME TRAVELER’S ALMANAC on my phone and meticulously worked my way through biscuits and gravy, sourdough toast, fruit, and several steaming cups of coffee.  Mudlick’s biscuits and gravy are to die for.  The chorizo gravy is spicy and thick, but not so thick as to overpower the buttermilk biscuits, and the gravy-to-biscuit ratio is perfect.  It was exactly the type of hangover food my body required.

Yesterday, I took a half day off from work and spent it in the Oregon District with a friend.  The weather was cold and gloomy, and I think it even snowed a little in the morning — extremely rude behavior for April — but it was still a great day for an outing, even if it meant it wasn’t going to be spent hanging out on patios.  We started at Lucky’s for lunch, which, happily, Jess was able to escape work and join us.  From there, we migrated from bar to bar for a little while, having a drink at each, culminating in several pleasant hours ensconced inside the moody gloom of Century Bar.  Later, after returning home, I fell asleep for a couple of hours, and then was resurrected by the sorcerers at Taco Bell.

I don’t do days like that very often anymore. Maybe once or twice a year.  But when I do, I enjoy the hell out of them.

The vibe inside Century Bar, as captured by M.

Trains & Thao

Welcome to the Cincinnati Dinner Train, where what’s on the menu tonight . . . is you.

Okay, so the Cincinnati Dinner Train is in fact not a cannibalistic pleasure cruise. This line came to me last night while I was trying and failing to fall asleep, and I thought it could be a nifty premise for a horror movie.

I love riding on trains. I also love eating, drinking, and trying new things. This combined love is why the Cincinnati Dinner Train has been on my Things to Conquer list for several years now. This past weekend, I was finally able to cross it off.

We parked in a warehouse parking lot, then followed some finely dressed people towards the back of the lot where the train was awaiting. We had an extremely unflattering photo taken in the chilly wind by a kindly old man, and boarded the train. Our table was located in the Oasis Tavern car, which in a previous life had housed folks who worked for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

For three hours and approximately 25 miles, we rode the industrial rails of Cincinnati. Pushed half the way, then pulled the other half back to the station. It was gray and rainy outside, and the views through our foggy window were not always what one would consider “scenic.” But inside, the ambiance was warm and the setting and staff were pleasant. We drank champagne with friends K & A, made inappropriate jokes, and in general had a lovely night.

This selfie, however, was extremely flattering.

Then, to round out my birthday month, we traveled down to Cincinnati again last night, this time for the Thao show at the Woodward.  We were originally supposed to see Thao – formerly of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – play in St Louis in 2020, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons.  So, when we saw she was going on tour this year and was coming to Cincy, we got very excited. I love Thao’s music.  Her particular brand of rock is quirky, inventive, and catchy as hell.  Her records are great, though for me, Thao is at her best, her most goddamnedly delightful, when performing live.  The songs rock harder.  The energy on stage is incredible.  Thao’s vibe is charmingly offbeat, and she and the band are clearly having a blast.

Here is “Nobody Dies,” one of my favorite songs of hers:

I first discovered Thao back in 2016, when I was on holiday in New Orleans. She happened to be playing the same week I was there with my old comrade Kat. Kat was already a fan and the timing was kismet, so we went. The performance was, quite simply, electrifying. One of my favorite shows ever. Last night’s show – my first since the pandemic began – ranked right up there with that first time in New Orleans.

Thao!

On Aging and Having One’s Shit Together

It was my birthday on Friday.  Had a short day at work, moved five feet away from my desk to my couch and napped, then went out for dinner with friends to Roost.  It was a very good day.  Getting out and seeing people and doing things has been doing a lot to fill my cup the last couple of months.

I am now 40 years old.  A “geriatric millennial,” as a social scientist so rudely coined several years ago.  As a logophile, I enjoy the inherent opposition of the words “geriatric” and “millennial” being placed together.  I also like the phrase because so many millennials hate it, and, honestly, that makes me want to embrace it even more. 

So far, I’m enjoying my forties, even if I don’t feel 40. I’m not talking about in a physical sense, though I guess I don’t feel 40 in that respect either, my gray hair notwithstanding. What I mean is that I don’t feel existentially 40. A 40-year-old, in my mind, is someone who has their shit together. When I think of this person, I picture my parents at my age: a house, 1.5 kids (my sister counts as the 0.5), confident, secure. AKA, “grown-ups.” Whereas I, on the other hand, barely feel like a functioning adult most of the time. I’m more a person who is still desperately trying to identify and collect his shit, which makes me a few steps removed from being one who worries about keeping said shit together (okay, I may be taking this shit analogy too far).

What’s interesting to me is that… none of this really bothers me too much.  Sure, despite “no worries” being my default catchphrase, I have plenty of worries.  But it all seems doable, surmountable.  I’ll get there, I just need a few more things to align.  Maybe it’s because I take some solace in knowing that, statistically speaking, there is probably still plenty of runway in front me.  All I need to do is keep moving forward.

A birthday gift I received: my own brand of wine.

Photo by Mel C.

Things That I’ve Learned

Popping in to drop a quick NOSE update.  On Thursday I had the splints removed from inside my nose, and the sense of relief I felt as the pressure in my face immediately dropped made me feel like I needed a cigarette.  The doctor then used a little nasal vacuum to clean me out, which felt like an extended covid test.  But — I could breathe through both nostrils!

For about thirty minutes.

Then the swelling and inflammation began to fill up the real estate the splints had occupied, and I was back to being barely able to breathe through my nose again.  It’s all to be expected, though, and the good doctor assures it is healing the way it should.  Over the next several weeks my septum will continue to heal and gross stuff will exit my nose like coal falling from a Christmas stocking, and by the end of March I should be almost fully healed.

Such a sexy process.

Here in beautiful southwestern Ohio, it was 75 and sunny on Saturday.  We went out to lunch with my folks at our local Mexican restaurant, sitting on the patio and chatting for a couple of hours.  It was perfect.

My first patio of 2022.  Ready for more.

The only bad thing I have to say about this margarita is that it wasn’t bigger. (Photo by Jess.)

week 8/52 — coming up for air

Today it no longer feels like someone with large hands is squeezing my face like they’re palming a basketball.

Huzzah, as they say on THE GREAT.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been able to breathe out of my left nostril.  That tiny little hole may as well not have existed for all the good it’s done me.  Occasionally, if I pushed on my left maxillary sinus — the one below my eye — with my thumb, in the right way, I could breathe through my left nostril a little bit.  And, god it would be amazing.  Feeling air coursing through both nostrils was like taking a party drug.  But as soon as I’d stop pushing on my face — no más aire.  When I finally went to see an ENT about it last year, he took one look and said, “Oh yeah, now that is a deviated septum.”

Being unable to breathe out of both nostrils, while not great, has always been manageable, at least for most of my life.  It never even really occurred to me that what I was experiencing was not a normal person’s experience.  But the last year or so, a lifetime of shitty breathing started presenting me with some health issues, and one day I asked Jess, “Are you able to breathe out of both sides of your nose?”

“Uh, yeah,” she said.

“Hmm…” I said.

Which takes us to last Friday, when I finally had surgery to undeviate my deviated septum.  While I was in pre-op they administered a steroid through my IV that the nurse said caused “pelvic flushing” in 99% of people who received it.  I asked her what she meant by “pelvic flushing,” but she couldn’t get more specific.  I was actually disappointed to discover I was in the 1% for this one.

The procedure went fine.  The surgeon did some septum slicing and rearranged some cartilage, then jammed some splints and packing up in my face to help things heal and make sure my nose wouldn’t collapse in on itself, a horrifying thought.

The recovery period has gone as well as expected.  Some lovely black nasal drip the first couple of days, so I had to wear a piece of gauze taped below my nose to catch it.  A ton of pressure in my face, making my head ache and, weirdly, my upper teeth hurt.  (This last because there is a nerve running from the nose to the front teeth, and it gets bruised during the procedure.  It’s fascinating how interconnected our bodies are.)  Like I noted at the beginning, today is the first day where I don’t feel awful.  I’ve spent the last couple of days mostly sleeping and watching horror movies.

I go in on Thursday to have the splints and packing removed from my nose.  I was curious what that process would be like, so I watched a video on YouTube.  It’s like that scene in TOTAL RECALL where Quaid yanks out the huge-ass metal tracker from inside his nose.  I’m okay with that, just like I’m okay with this new trauma likely causing some more swelling and pain for another day or so.  My eye — nose? — is firmly on the prize of being able to fully breathe for the first time in… well, ever.

week 6/52 — hanging out under trees

Fozzie loves the Christmas tree. He loves to play under it, cantering around the tree’s base and making the whole tree rustle like there is a tiny velociraptor inside. He also loves to curl up on the soft, faux fur tree skirt and make a cozy den for himself. Oftentimes you can hear a quiet snoring emanating from the corner of the living room the Christmas tree inhabits, like the tree is having itself a good snooze.

Ordinarily, I enjoy the ritual of putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, but last year was bittersweet because we were pretty sure it would probably be Fozzie’s last Christmas. I honestly wasn’t confident he would even make it to Christmas. He hadn’t been eating much, was very lethargic, and just seemed… tired. His primary vet felt that his accumulating health problems were achieving critical mass. After the tree was up, Fozz wasn’t much interested in playing under the tree, and my heart broke a little.

Fozzie had been on a steady decline during November. It got so bad that on the night before Thanksgiving we called Laps of Love, the veterinary hospice, and made an appointment for Sunday to euthanize Fozzie at home. We didn’t go through with it. We had an appointment the following Tuesday with the Internal Medicine team at MedVet Dayton. Dr. O, the internist, had helped with Kirby and we wanted to see if she could do anything help with Fozzie.

She did.

Dr. O ran a battery of tests and deduced that Fozzie had hypertension, and prescribed him something to help with it. She recommended a new diet geared toward dogs with chronic liver and kidney issues. She also put him on some other stuff to bully his organs into improving.

Fozzie slowly got better. His kidney and liver enzyme levels improved. His blood pressure went back to normal. He regained his appetite and began eating regularly. He became stronger, more energic. He started playing under the tree again. Christmas came and went, and not only was Fozzie still here, but he’s the healthiest and happiest he’s been since late 2020.

I have no idea how much longer we’ll have Fozzie. I won’t kid myself: no matter how well he’s doing now, he is still a 19-going-on-20-year-old good boy with chronic kidney and liver disease. As such, we haven’t taken the tree down yet, though we did recently swap out the Christmas ornaments for some glittery, gold stars, thus metamorphosing the Christmas Tree into the Winter Tree. Not sure what we will do in the spring, if we’ll keep the tree up or finally take it down, but for now — it’s Fozzie’s.

Fun fact: After I took this photo of Fozzie the other night, I realized he had somehow gotten a string of lights wrapped around his chest and was, in fact, stuck.

In Soviet Russia, Christmas tree decorate you!

week 6/52 — comin’ up from the bottom

I met my neighbors for the first time yesterday. We’ve lived next door to each other for over three years.

Sure, we’ll say hi or wave when we see each other coming or going, but it’s never been more that.  No real conversations.  No casual chitchat.  Hell, I’ve never even gone the extremely basic extra step to say Hi I’m Josh.

The snowstorm last week changed that.  It wasn’t that bad of a storm, probably 5-6 inches with another inch of ice underneath.  More than normal, but not what anyone in this part of Ohio would call a blizzard.  I shoveled the driveway several times during and after the snowstorm, so it wasn’t in too bad of shape.  However, the snowplows finally came lumbering down our street Friday night, and pushed a bunch of wet and thick slush onto the bottom of the driveway.  This then had the temerity to freeze overnight.

I was excavating this heavy mess yesterday morning, and it was going fine but slow, when my neighbor appeared like a Columbia-clad angel and offered to help.  I accepted, and when we were finished, I helped him dig out his car, which had been walled in by the snowplows.  When we were finished, he said, “Oh, I’m REDACTED by the way.”  I told him my name, then we exchanged the names of our respective families.  I am comically awful at remembering names, so I had to memorialize theirs in a note on my phone, otherwise they would have whistled out of my head in a matter of minutes.

I don’t think we’ll become friends or anything, but it is nice to know one’s neighbors a little bit.  Also, let’s hear it for mutual aid.

Last night we went with friends to see HAMILTON.  I am a sucker for a good musical, and HAMILTON — or HAMILTOE, as I cannot stop referring to it — did not disappoint.  Afterwards, we walked over to 1Eleven Flavor House for dinner.  The vibe was chill and the food, a mix of comfort and Caribbean dishes, was delightful.  I had a jerk turkey burger and several Latin Mules.

Near the end of dinner, one of our friends remarked, “Hey, we went almost the entire time without talking about COVID!”

I had to think about it for a second, but it was true; aside from a passing reference to someone we knew having COVID, the subject didn’t come up once.  It was probably the first time since the pandemic began that COVID and its tentacles wending into everyday life had not made up a significant part of the conversation.

It was a fun, absolutely normal day, and I am grateful to have experienced it.  More like it, please.

I didn’t get any good pictures yesterday, so instead I will share this totally not haunted photo I took a couple weeks ago in the basement of a house we looked at. Not pictured: the ghost of a small child regarding me curiously from the shadows.