» Radiation tri-blade » Had my 1-year PET scan today (in Encinitas) .. where they set an I-V and inject a dose of highly-radioactive sugar right into your vein. Nothing like main-lining radioactive material.

She said that this particular isotope has a half-life of 90 minutes. That means I am still radioactive. Rad writes while radioactive .. can you dig it? (Do you feel that there is anything recursive about me writing while radioactive? Because recursion is where the power is .. the power of infinity.)

Writing While Radioactive » 1 Year Out

I am now 1-year out. The 1-year PET scan has become something of a thing. Let me tell you.

First, they were going to do it, then they werent .. then they were again, and then they werent. (They = different doctors.)

PET scans are expensive (~$1,600 ?) compared to CT scans (~$400). So insurers are stingy with PET scans. I have had a shitload of CT scans, but only a few PET scans.

The girl today said, "This dose of radioactive glucose costs five or six hundred dollars itself. We have to order it special from the pharmacy."

When I saw my surgeon last week, he said, "You had some areas that lit up during your 4-month PET scan, such as the base of your tongue. They speculate that these areas lit up due to residual inflammation from the lingering effects of the radiation. But those areas shouldnt be lighting up now that you're a year out."

PET/CT scanner » The Final Diagnostic Hurdle

So my surgeon said that he was going to try to convince my insurer that it should be approved.

So I was surprised when I received a call 2 days ago from the PET scan people themselves (.. on the exact 1-year anniversary) saying » "You've been approved and we have an opening the day after tomorrow."

So I went from thinking that I wasnt going to get a 1-year PET scan to actually scheduling it .. with a single call.

This is a big deal because .. in my mind, the 1-year PET scan has always represented the final diagnostic hurdle.

And there is a part of me that cannot really rest .. until the race is over.

Jimmy Carter knows about these scans.

» No More Dragging a Carcas on the Ground Behind Me

I was so happy when I learned that the PET scan had been approved .. that I went for another WALK. I mean, this was on the 1-year anniversary .. which is a big deal in and of itself. So, even before the phone call, I was already feeling very good about the day. Very celebratory.

And this was the first time (2 days ago) since treatment that it didnt feel like I was dragging a carcas on the ground behind me.

When you are in good shape, your body feels relatively light. When your legs are feeling strong and your stamina is robust, you have a feeling of lightness. You know what I'm talking about.

But after treatment, your ass is dragging. You feel heavy. You feel tired. It takes much effort to do even minor activities. You fatigue easily. And once you get fatigued, it takes longer to recover. Much longer. Your ass is dragging longer and harder.

So it's nice to be able to go for a walk, and to feel like you are no longer dragging a carcas on the ground behind you. So nice. The simple pleasures of life.

I am starting to get my shit back .. going on daily walks .. ever since Punkin Pie called and sang to me the Happy Birthday song. A friend said to me today, "You seem to be walking with more of a spring in your step .. with more energy." Plus, I have been out in the sun everyday (walking while it's warm) so I have good color.

I am so happy right now .. for a number of reasons .. some of which I have already outlined here for you. I feel h.a.p.p.y .. all the down to a cellular level. Through and through. Inside and out.

It's not that I feel that much better than I did last month, but rather that I feel so much better about it. It doesnt really make logical sense to me, but I feel like 5 times better than I did last month .. since I have started walking again .. more than the short walks I've been doing. (Where it felt like I had been dragging a carcas on the ground behind me.)

» Cant Put Distance Between You and Cancer Treatment Fast Enough

Treatment sucks so bad .. and represents such a dark place .. that you naturally want to put as much d.i.s.t.a.n.c.e between you and it as possible. But you can't do this as fast as you would like. Not nearly.

You must go slow .. by necessity. It just takes time .. unfortunately. All cancer survivors will tell you the same thing.

I have tried, several times, during this past year, to push myself and stimulate a physical response in order to catapult my body toward higher levels of physical fitness. But each time I have regretted it. Painfully so. After a while, even I get the message.

It's not that I didnt already know this, but I am just now getting glimmers of my old self. Speaking in cellular terms.

It's funny the way good things come in bunches, isnt it? I actually had the thought, "You should try to spread out some of these cool things, so you have something to pick you up during the darker days."

But that's not how life seems to work. When the bad shit comes, it seems to come in bunches, too. Have you noticed this yourself, too? (Or is it just me?)

I have noticed, over the years, how, during those times when girls come onto me, or act unusually friendly, that they always seem to come in bunches. Even tho I myself can see no difference, nor do I seem to be acting differently. When it rains, it pours.

So it remains something of a mystery .. yet there you have it. Sometimes they even all have the same name (or similar sounding ones.)

» Been a Long Time Since I had Iron in My Arm

Speaking of girls coming onto me .. let me tell you about this girl who injected me with the radioactive material today. No, she didnt come onto me (.. I wish). She is actually outta my league.

But I appreciate competence. She is obviously smart. She sets an I-V nicely and then pumps the glow-juice straight into your vein and then sets you up on the sliding table and runs the PET scan. She does it all. Soup to nuts. (All while looking good and making it look easy.)

When she came and got me in the waiting room, she told me her name, and she has a rare name .. so rare that I remembered it. No chemo-brain here, my friend. "I saw you a year ago." I said.

"Yeah," she said, "I remember."

» Flirting While Radioactive (He's With Me)

I noticed that she had curled her hair today, and looked extra pretty .. but I didnt say anything. She is a pretty girl .. with easy social skills to go with her impressive technical skill set. I would flirt with her, but I dont feel like I know her well enough.

When I came out of the bathroom, before heading into the PET scan room .. I stepped out into the hallway, and she was talking to another lady down the hall. And the lady called out, "Can I help you?" And the PET scan girl said, "Oh, no .. he's with me."

If I would've known her better, I would've said, "Don't I wish."

I was in a much better mood today than I was the last time I saw her. The last time I saw her, I didnt know how much longer I had to live. So I was scared shitless.

It's difficult to flirt effectively when when you are scared shitless and not sure how much longer you have to live.

After setting the I-V, she said, "I'm gonna go get the dose .. I'll be right back." I looked over at the chunk of iron sticking in my arm and thought, "Been a long time since I had iron in my arm."

I would never make a good junkie .. that's for sure. I am not into iron rods sticking out of my arm. During chemo and clinical trials, that sucker is in there for most of the day.

I always look away when they set the I-V. One time, I watched. That was not a smart thing to do.

During cancer treatment, you get many I-V's. Many jabs, pokes and sticks. Both arms, from elbow to wrist, felt like pin-cushions. And that is no exaggeration, my friend. That is not hyperbole.

» I Can Scan Your Brain, Too .. That's Not a Problem

I noticed that the invoice document [ piece of paper that I signed ] stated that I was scheduled to be scanned » from the "base of skull to thighs" .. which means they werent planning to scan my brain.

"My oncologists at Moores," I told her, "said that, if this type of cancer does spread, one of the places that it spreads to is the brain." [ My mom had a brain tumor and died from it. ]

"PET scans are not the best tests to detect brain tumors," she said. "MRI's are best for that .. but I can go ahead and scan your brain. That's not a problem."

It is not every day that you have a conversation with a pretty, smart girl about radioactive half-lifes and scanning your brain for tumors. So perhaps you can see why I like her.

I feel smarter already. Oh, wait .. the 'P' in PET stands for » positron, not proton. They are not the same. They are actually very different. A proton is a positively-charged neutron, which comes from the nucleus of the atom. Whereas a positron is a positively-charged electron, which does not come from the nucleus, but rather from the orbital energy states. But dont quote me on that. My point is that she scanned my brain with something positive .. that makes me feel smarter and happier.

"The results will be to your doctor in 24 to 48 hours," she said.

I firmly believe that I will never have to see her again. And I should have medical confirmation of this in a day or two. (You can be sure that I will be keeping my cell phone right handy.)

» Confession Time (Feeling Ecstatic)

And because I really believe that I will never have to see this girl again .. is why I must confess that I did actually flirt with her a little .. when I said good-bye.

Of course, this was very mild and tame by my flirting standards .. subtle and understated.

So I was surprised to see how positively she responded. But you know how it is when you genuinely appreciate someone .. when you genuinely admire and respect them. On any level. But especially on a level more than physical.

And what might you expect to happen .. when they shoot radioactive material into my veins? Being a radioactive man all my life .. means that it has an effect on me similar to the way a full moon effects a werewolf.

After she hit me with the rad sugar, I said, "Wow, that feels good."

After having you fast from last night, they have you sit in a dimly lit room for 45 minutes .. while the radioactive sugar works its way into your body tissue. Because cancer loves sugar. "Yum," says cancer, "More sugar, please."

And as I was saying goodbye, I just couldnt help myself (from flirting) because I was just feeling so good .. because I had just gone from thinking that I wasnt even going to get a 1-year PET scan .. to being done with it .. in less than 48 hours.

It was definitely a bit of a head trip. Decent cranial torque applied.

I am not going to tell you exactly how I flirted with her .. but, as I walked out of there, I thought, "Fuck .. I must still have it."

See .. now I am feeling ecstatic. But it wasnt that long ago when I couldnt stop crying and didnt even know why I was crying.

» Those Oregon Girls

I have lived and worked all over the country .. for many years. And I have worked with many different people from all over the country .. so I have much experience from which to based my opinions.

And, if you told me that I was going to spend some years on a deserted island somewhere .. and you were going to let me pick the name of the state from which one person would be selected to spend this time with me .. I would pick someone from Oregon.

I just get along with them most easily. Oregon people have good social skills .. at least, the ones I've met. (None of whom, however, wore a cowboy hat.)

There are many other reasons I could cite .. not the least of which is that Oregon is a special place for me .. but my point here is that .. this girl is an Oregon girl. And I like Oregon girls.

To be continued later .. when I am no longer radioactive.

In the military and commercial nuclear industries, we used "seven half-lives" as a heuristic rule-of-thumb to determine when a particular isotope would be gone or its radioactivity decayed to the point of being insignificant.

Seven half-lives for a 90-minute isotope would be » 10½ hours.

» Attractiveness and Calculating High Genetic Mating Scores

But, if you happen to see her .. please give my best to her grandma. Tho, on a tangent perhaps worth returning to and exploring later .. do you feel that the historical health of a prospective mate's ancestry .. do you feel that this forms an important part of your genetic qualifications?

Things she said about her grandma made me think of this during parts of the new Mad Max movie .. in ways I have not thought before .. about genetics. And reproduction. Both self and species-wide.

"What's that you say? .. one of your parents died of cancer and the other is in an insane asylum? I need to go home and feed my dogs. Please excuse me."

Her grandma was 95. Does this give her more genetic points? For being of more hearty stock? Beyond the other obvious positive points, I mean.

Before, I would have said that it didnt matter. But now, I think it does. Speaking of the new Mad Max ..

» Mad Max Fury Road

I saw Mad Max Fury Road last night. What an outstanding film. I can see why this movie is nominated for Best Picture .. and in 9 other categories. [ Trailer 1, Trailer 2 ]

I dont think I've ever seen another movie like this. I particularly enjoyed the way the viewer discovers information. How they present the story. How they reveal it to you .. rather than narrate.

I would be proud to have a movie like this as part of my repertoire. As one of my credits. I was totally impressed.

It really grabs you .. from the very beginning. The sound is particularly impressive .. from the very first engine rev. Within the first minute, you know » "This is gonna be good. This is gonna be real good."

"My name is Max. My world is fire and blood." He is not kidding. Not exaggerating .. as you will see. Fire and blood. True that.

This film has a must-see aspect to it. Visually stunning. Downright stunning. And I am a visual kind-of-guy. (As are most guys, visually stimulated.)

» The Director of Happy Feet (George Miller)

This is the same director who directed Happy Feet. I must've watched that a hundred times with the Bug.

Our favorite scene was where Ramon says » "Oh, I love gravity." [ This clip here is lower quality, but it includes the preceding song, which I also like. We would always get up and dance to that song. "You hear me." ]

Out in the rec room, where we watched so many movies .. we had one of those circular mini exercise-trampolines. When this song came on, we would sometimes put it on the floor in front of the TV and he would bounce on that trampoline .. dancing to the rockin' latin beat. We would turn it up loud.

I would hold his hands and lift him up after each bounce in order to help give him more height. (And to make sure he didnt fall and crack his coconut.) Sometimes we would replay that part over and over. "Again, dad!" [ He has been bouncing on trampolines ever since he could walk. ]

» The End of the Tour for David Foster Wallace and his Infinite Jest

Next on my Netflix que is » The End of the Tour. Which I am very much looking forward to .. let me tell you. (Tingling.)

Because it is a story about David Foster Wallace (.. who killed himself at age 46). I have never read anything by DFW, but Joseph Frank himself mentions DFW in his intro to his single-volume condensed bio on Dostoevsky. And that alone sends up my writer's antennae.

I might have to throwdown here. (Because this is what I do.) I can tell you that I do not feel ready for a throwdown of that magnitude.

Tho, how can you ever really feel ready for something like that? I'm not sure that you ever could be. And that's part of what makes it so special. And inspiring. And challenging. A chance to test yourself. It's a good idea to test ourselves from time to time.

And maybe even learn a little about yourself. And explore uncharted realms of imagination. "Hey, look .. it's you."

Oh, look at this. Infinite Jest was published Feb 1, 1996 .. 20 years ago .. the anniversary of which is a few days from now. He was 34 when Infinite Jest was published.

DFW killed himself in 2008. I am actually more interested in The Pale King .. because that was the book that killed him. I can feel myself curious about if he left any clues.

Just like I am more interested in Finnegan's Wake (1939) than I am in Ulysses (1922). Tho not for the same reason.


» Radiation tri-blade » Happy New Year. (And I do mean happy.) This is the first new year that I have rang in as a cancer survivor. I have noticed that you take the New Year much less for granted as a cancer survivor. (As you might imagine.) The sense of gratitude, for another year, is front-n-center .. easily felt and embraced. "Hello there, 2016 .. nice to see you. Very nice, indeed."

» He's Back, But With a Long Ways to Go Still

I sat outside and watched the sun go down on the final sunset of 2015 .. with a surprisingly fulfilling sense of accomplishment.

For just being alive. For just being abe to witness the sun setting on another year.

For the first time since treatment, I went for a walk today .. one of those walks that I used to go on before treatment.

Except I walked a lot more slowly today .. and I was breathing much harder. I do not anything very fast these days (.. except fall asleep).

I actually called Cousin Patty and said, "Right now I am standing in a place where I havent stood in over a year .. since before treatment began. Since the end of 2014. I am breathing pretty hard, but it just feels so good to get out that I can hardly stand it."

Tho walking and talking is actually a bit much for me right now. So we didnt talk very long.

Back during treatment, when I was deep into it .. I remember talking with my shrink, and how she mentioned that she had kept in touch with a guy who had gone thru the same treatment as I was going thru ..

.. and how she said, "I talked to him last week, and he says that he is just-now starting to feel like he is getting back to normal. And he is a year out."

So her statement, quoting that guy, resonates with me. (I see my surgeon next week for another check-up.)

But the thing that made me feel so good .. the thing that made me feel like going for a walk .. a walk like the ones I used to go on before treatment began, before the cancer diagnosis .. was a message from Punkin' Pie .. singing to me the Happy Birthday song.

He just leaves the best messages. You can really feel his love coming thru. It made my whole day.

This is a tradition we have in our family .. calling and singing the happy birthday song. (I think Nana was the one who started it.)

".. happy birthday dear daddy .. happy birthday to you. I love you, dad." It was precious and priceless to me .. enough to get me out on one of my old (pre-cancer diagnosis) walks.

I have poured tons of love and affection into him .. and it feels like the effort was worth it. Well worth it.

And yes, it is a lot of work. A lot of hard, thankless, exhausting work. This is why, when those rare, magical moments come, you appreciate them so much.

And it is such a nice day, today .. 70 degrees and sunny. Feels like a spring day.

So, in a way, it feels like » I am back. But, in other ways, I can see that I still have a long ways to go.

Before treatment, I would run the hill 4 or 5 times » walk down, run up, repeat as necessary. And this was even after I had been diagnosed with cancer, but before treatment actually began. [ After which, your ass aint running no where, my friend .. except maybe to the bathroom. (To throw up.) ]

But I am in no shape to run the hill right now. Not even once. Rather, walking up inclines, even slowly, gets me huffing and puffing heavily. Panting.

But this is how we build stamina and fitness, no? Bet I sleep good tonight.

To help celebrate the new year, I ordered a couple of bars of chocolate that I read about in this article at the Times .. from the first one listed there » Amano.

I am almost done with them. In fact, I am sucking on one of the small squares right now .. after which I have one small piece remaining. By the end of the year, I would like to sample all eight of these.

Ah, the simple pleasures of life .. such as breathing without an oxygen bottle and going for a walk and eating some of the finest artisan chocolate and drinking yummy coffee. Never before have I had such a deep appreciation for these simple things .. let me tell you.

Speaking of a sense of accomplishment despite still having a long ways to go .. I hit 153 pounds last week. That is the first time I have been that heavy since I weighed in at a scary 140. (Mr. Skin-n-Bones .. having dropped 40 pounds frighteningly fast, from 180.)

You cannot imagine the sense of accomplishment it gave me to see the number 153 displayed on the scale. Both arms shot straight up. I doubt that Conor McGregor felt any more stoked when he knocked out José.

Eating is work. I just dont feel like eating much of anything .. but I have to. Or I start to get light-headed.

Cousin Patty said, "If that's the extent of your troubles right now, then I'd say you're doing pretty good." [ I like the way she reframes things in a positive light. Tho I am dealing with a number of post-treatment issues. None of which, however, is cancer. ]

Did you see the national championship game last night? Alabama vs Clemson. I dated a girl who went to Clemson. I called her at the end of the 3rd quarter. She was freaking out. She was wearing her bright-orange Clemson jersey. Both her and her young son.

» The Biden/Obama Cancer Moonshot

Speaking of being back .. from both cancer and cancer treatment .. this is the best article that I have ever read on the subject of cancer. And I have read more than a few of them .. let me tell you.

There are actually 4 separate pages connected there .. but you have such a critical mass of intelligence and experience represented there.

These cancer people are all very smart .. at least, that was my experience. I mean, they are wielding not just one, but a whole constellation of disciplines .. very sophisticated disciplines. So it was very encouraging to read those pages.

Feynman said .. as we study and get smarter about things .. we learn that two seemingly separate things are » really two separate parts of the SAME thing (.. such as electricity and magnetism, and also space and time).

I'm sure that similar revelations await those in the medical field.


» Radiation tri-blade » Yesterday, I was 11 months out of treatment. So today I am less than a month from the 1-year point.

Less Than a Month to the 1-Year Point

I can still hear my chemo doctor saying, "If this type of cancer does come back .. it usually comes back between 1 and 2 years after treatment."

And then she said something like, "But we are not concerned about that, because this is not going to come back on you."

Tho I did not hear the rest of her statement her very well, because I was still thinking about the implications of the first part.

» Is That Another Bulge in My Neck?

Last week I was in the bathroom and the lighting seemed different and I happened to glance at my neck and thought I saw a lump there.

Upon closer examination, I attributed this to odd shadowing. But I will tell you .. that fucked me up. For the rest of the day. Most unsettling. I could feel the anxiety jump on me and crawl over me.

» Not the Expected Reaction

And even tho all my doctors say that I look good [ "You look fantastic." ] I have still been reading a little here-n-there of that book by Bosworth (1877-1958) Christ the Healer (1924).

A page here, a page there. It's very thought-provoking stuff and I cant read very much without stopping to ponder. I usually read until I see somthing new .. which usually doesnt take very long.

I mean, I have a ways to go .. grasping this stuff. This is something that I can tell. But at least I am starting to grasp what the scriptures teach on this particular subject.

They teach, for example, that you shouldnt freak out like I did .. when I thought I saw a lump in my neck. No. The believer is supposed to believe the word of God regardless of contradicting physical evidence.

This is not as easy to do as it might sound. Which is one reason why Abraham is so universally revered. Try it for yourself and you'll see what I mean. It's not as easy as Abraham makes it look.

Sometimes it seems downright impossible. You can feel inside when you are really believing something. Versus merely mentally agreeing. And when you can feel yourself really believing something, it feels like you are doing the impossible. Which is probably why it impresses even the most impressive.

» My Neck and Throat Feel Different Now

Anyway .. I am not going to get off on a tangent here. Tho I certainly could. But my neck does not feel like it did before treatment.

Rather, it feels like somebody pressed a hot coal to my throat .. and held it there long enough to burn a hole right through. Sure, it's healed now, and is no longer painful. But I can still feel the effects of the past burning. The scar tissue.

I no longer need to shave my neck. At all. No hair grows there. It stops at the line of my jaw. Ever since treatment.

I was in treatment this time last year. And it wasnt pretty. I actually had to go for a radiation shot on Christmas eve last year. Late in the day. At night. Ho, ho, ho.

So the thought enters my mind more than once » "What is that feeling that I am feeling there in my neck?"

And worrying about anything is not good for your long-term health. So I find myself dealing with and grappling with these things every so often. I imagine that they will subside as the 2-year point approaches.

I dont ask many questions in this area (for obvious reasons) .. but my doctors suggest that, if the shit comes back, then it sounds like they start cutting stuff out (.. instead of more radiation/chemo).

Right now I feel confident and secure that I will not be dealing with any such things in the next year. But this doesnt mean that these thoughts dont periodically fuck with my head. (You know.)

It seems like I am always feeling something here or feeling something there. And the last time I was feeling something strange, it turned out to be cancer.

» Adapting to a Lower Energy Level

Regarding energy level, I am just having to adjust to dealing with less energy. I thought by now that I woud be close to my pre-treatment levels of energy. But I am not even close.

This is probably the most frustrating aspect of my post-treatment life. I could do nothing for so long that now I want to do everything .. but I obviously can't.

And if I push it, physically, I always regret it .. for days and sometimes even for weeks.

In the old days before treatment, a good hard workout would make me feel invigorated. Now, when I do such things, my ass is sucking wind and I am regretting doing stupid things.

» Who Has Not Yet Felt the Awakening in the Force?

I saw the new Star Wars movie a few days ago. It seemed to go by so quickly. I think this is characteristic of a good, engaging movie. It's over before you know it. (I saw it in 3D.)

I felt emotionally fatigued at times while watching it. Not sure what that might mean.

» Did You See the Burnt Helmet, Dad?

My son said, "Did you see the burnt helmet, Dad?"

I was never much into Star Wars myself, growing up .. but my son was. We watched untold episodes of Clone Wars .. which is a cartoon version designed for kids. Which we would check out from the library.

A cartoon version that stars Anakin Skywalker .. who later becomes Darth Vader. And the thing that turns Anakin into Darth Vader .. or, at least, the thing that represents that transformation .. is the burnt helmet. So to speak.

As a little side-commentary .. consider, if you will, the p.a.r.a.l.l.e.l.s between Anakin turning into Darth Vader .. and the Count of Transylvania turning into Dracula.

Both men started out as beacons of light .. both men were strong, morally and physically. Both were genuinely trying to do the right thing .. the noble thing, the honorable thing, the godly thing.

<end side-commentary for parallel consideration>

The #1 thing I remember from watching all of these episodes of Clone Wars with my son .. was when Anakin and Ahsoka go to heroic lengths in order to return Jabba's son to him.

But the Evil Count Dooku tricks Jabba into thinking that it was really the Jedi who stole his son. And when Anakin and Ahsoka return Jabba's son to him, Jabba says, "Kill them both!"

And Ahsoka turns to Anakin and asks (somewhat exasperatedly, because this type of thing has happened before), "Does this always happen to you?"

And Anakin responds by saying, "Everywhere I go."

And Anakin's response resonated with me. On a deep level. Especially the way his says the word "everywhere" .. which suggests an air of resignation .. to the unfair shittiness than life can often be for some .. and especially because of its implied theme of "no good deed goes unpunished."

Of which I could elaborate on .. ad naseam. But I won't.

But yeah, I saw the helmet. The burnt helmet. The badly burnt helmet. I relate to the burnt helmet. I 'get' the burnt helmet .. better than I would like to. Far better.

There is a verse of scripture that I read recently, which made me think of the burnt helmet .. see » here. Hopefully, you dont get the connection.

» Tarantino Breaks Out the Good Stuff for Christmas

I also wanna see the new Tarantino movie. Lots of interesting films were released this week. Tis the season, you know.

Tarantino's new movie was shot with some super-duper quality film. 70mm super extra wide shit. Check out the trailers and see for yourself the vibrancy of the colors.

This is the kind of stuff that gives Film people a total boner. I would hear them talking about "image quality" and you could see the look in their eye.

Tarantino knows the colors are gonna look super rich and vibrant. And you can see the way he plays with that.

He might very well know more about the art and craft of making movies on film .. than any other person ever. He's a walking encyclopedia.

Wouldnt I love to see a cage match with Tarantino and AO Scott .. with Manohla as his tag-team partner. (Tarantino needs no partner.)

Tarantino has something going on with him. I dont know what it is .. but I can feel it whenever I write about him. It's strong. The force is strong in him. Or around him. And he keeps popping up in my writing. Scenes from his films.

And speaking of Film critics at the NY Times .. that might very well be the best job in the universe.

Tarantino is both a writer and a director. A screenwriter. Notice the credits for Hateful Eight. Both the Written by and the Directed by credits go to Tarantino.

That is similar to your singer/songwriter .. in that they both craft the vision and also the expression of that vision. That is a very cool thing.

The sense of freedom that must come with such a repertoire .. the creative freedom. Virtually unlimited. He must pole-vault out of bed every morning. Another day in Boner City.

» Delving Deep into the Turmoil of Dostoevsky's Psyche

Lately, I've been delving deeper into my 932-page biography of Dostoevsky (1821-1881) .. a single-volume condensing of the original 5-volume, 2,500-page, 3-decade work by Joseph Frank (1918-2013).

What a deeply enjoyable experience it is to read this biography. I am often surprised by how closely I resonate with the life of the 19th century Russian. I could cite passage after passage .. but I won't. (Because that would be too revealing.)

Well, here is a passage that spoke to me quite loudly .. one that is not too revealing. In speaking about a man [ Ivan Shidlovsky ] who served as something of a mentor to the young Dostoevsky, who "aided Dostoevsky in making the transition from his childhood faith to its sophisticated modern equivalents" .. Joseph Frank writes (page 54):

Nor should one underestimate the future influence of Shidlovsky's living demonstration that intense religious commitment could be combined with a frank confession of the torments of doubt. Genuine faith for Dostoevsky would never afterward be confused with a tranquil acceptance of dogma.

Boy, could I ever get off on a tangent there. But I wont. Tho the phrase "its sophisticated modern equivalents" (speaking here of what became of Dostoevsky's childhood faith) .. that is a mouthful. That is something of a mind-blowing transition.

I never would've imagined that I would have had much of anything in common with this man. But he did not always have a reputation .. of being "one of a handful of thinkers who forged the modern sensibility."

So naturally, I want to know » how did he come upon such a towering reputation? And » is such a reputation warranted?

But there is a fascinating passage in the chapter where Dostoevsky, as a teen, is a student at the (bording) Academy of Military Engineers in Saint Petersburg .. when his dad died (with questions about a murder).

I will return later to quote it for you. Super yummy shit. I love stuff like this .. delving into what makes people tick. Delving into what makes them do the seemingly weird shit that they sometimes do. Boner-city.

But I remember reading this quote from Dostoevsky .. which said that true art must, by necessity, be fictional. So I am very much surprised to see how closely the Brothers Karamazov echoes the most intimate themes of his life.

His work is not nearly as "purely fictional" as I had anticipated .. based on that quote I read long ago.

Okay .. here's the passage (page 49) I mentioned earlier. I will simply share it now and return later to set the scene.

If we assume that turmoil of Dostoevsky's psyche can be described in such terms, then we can come close to providing a specific explanation for Dostoevsky's behavior in the 1840's and for the character of his work. Nothing would have been more natural than for him to try to relieve his guilt by projecting it externally in social terms, where it assumed the particular humanitarian form of joining a conspriracy to spread propaganda against serfdom.

"Guilt over what?" you ask? Good question.

» Robert Downey Jr Gets a Christmas Pardon from Jerry Brown

I was also very happy to hear about the pardon given to Robert Downey Jr .. by Jerry Brown. I did not know that he spent a whole year in jail.

If I were king, I would assign Robert Downey Jr and Russell Brand and the Dog (you know) and Lisa to a committee .. to design a policy that is more compassionate than the highly biased, draconian drug laws that were designed under the administration of "I'm-not-a-crook" Nixon.

I bet Emma would agree.

» More Netflix DVDs

The nice people at Netflix continue to send more new DVDs to watch. I probably have about 70 titles listed on the que, and I dont even know what is coming next. Some months ago, I moved up to the top all the ones that I really wanted to see. So it's always a surprise what the mailman will bring next.

EXODUS Gods and Kings » Dedicated by Ridley to his Brother Tony

Right now, for example, I am in the middle of watching Ridley Scott's Exodus | Gods and Kings.

I am totally impressed. I am trying to figure out what is real and what is computer generated. Particularly the scene where Moses gets caught in the rocky mud-slide on the mountain. That looked like Christain Bale really did get caught in a rocky mud-slide.

There are *lots* of people in this movie. And the settings look so .. real. I think filmmakers call this 'high production value'. Gorgeously shot film.

Anything that Ridley does I catch myself looking a little more closely .. at the composition. At the craft. "Ooh, I like how he did that," I found myself saying.

I particularly appreciate the artistic elements woven into this film. I very much feel that they get the gist of the story. The spirit of the story. And if you honor the spirit, then you are free to take whatever artistic liberties that you see fit .. as a filmmaker .. in order to best convey the story. (God, for example, is played by a young boy. Clever.)

There are children in this story, as you know. Pharaoh often says to his sleeping son, "The reason you sleep so well is because you know that you are loved."

And I remember when the Bug was that age .. how I would just lie there beside him and watch him sleep.

Then, when Pharaoh sets the lid on the coffin when his son dies .. that scene is short, but it delivers a powerful message. Along with a few seconds of the mother rocking an empty cradle .. that is almost too much for me to handle.

This would be a great movie to see on the big screen. I'm at the part where the Israelites are now leaving Egypt. I wonder what will happen next.

Update » I have just finished it. Ridley dedicates the film to his brother Tony .. who jumped off a bridge. (Something mentioned by Bukowski, I recall.)

I would be lying if I said that the thought never blew thru my mind » "The people who crafted this film understand the s.p.i.r.i.t of the story better than many church-people I know."

So naturally, I find myself curious about » how much of this crafting comes from the writer .. and how much comes from director (Ridley).

» Honoring Purity-of-Vision Vs Playing to Mainstream Values

The artist (creative person) is able to present a vision (script) in any number of ways. A more-creative person will have more options at their disposal than a less-creative person. (This seems obvious, no?)

And one of the more common points of creative interpretation is found where the artist cleaves more strongly to the purity of the vision .. or one that is designed to please a larger audience. (Because mainstream values might be offended if you stray too close to purity-of-vision.) Hard-core Film school students call this, "Selling out to commercial values."

When I saw that the reviews were not so great, I naturally wondered why. I mean, with the no-holds-barred commitment and dedication that actors like Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton bring to the lead roles (whatever it takes), and Ridley directing .. you have craft-talent-potential that is pretty close to unlimited.

And with the likes of John Turturro and Ben Kingsley playing key support roles, the director has quite the dedicated talent-palatte to work with, no?

Ridley is 78. Who knows how many more good years he has left? So everybody wants to get in on a Ridley Scott-Free production while the getting is still good. He is already a directing legend among many discriminating movie-goers.

I am not saying that either Ridley or the writer cleaved more closely to creative decisions that honored the creative vision, no. Or that they shunned creative decisions that might play better to the masses.

Rather, I am saying that, if Ridley Scott feels good enough about the creative decisions that were made in the crafting of this film .. good enough to dedicate it to his brother Tony .. then it doesnt much matter what anybody else thinks.

» Conversations With a Rock (Or a Bush)

Perhaps my favorite scene was where they have someone spying on Moses, as he is talking to God. And it looks, from the perspective of this person who is hiding behind some bushes .. it looks like Moses is talking to a rock. Like he is having a full-blown conversation with a rock.

And how they portray Moses as slowly losing his marbles .. which Christian Bale portrays so well. That is almost his signature talent, no?

I really appreciated how they did that. How they portrayed that. I would have never expected that .. but it definitely spoke to me.

» The Lingering Evocative Parallels

The thing that lingers on after this film is over .. are the parallels between the treatment of the Hebrews by the Egyptians .. with similar treatment of parts of our society today .. here-n-now.

Particularly the scene where they raided the grainery. After which they line them up and let them have it. You know. The obvious parallels.

» Sublimely Gorgeous Visuals

I am a visual person. I am visually stimulated (like most men) and I very much appreciate an artistically designed scene that is well-shot. There are some scenes in this film that are so gorgeously shot that you have to stop the DVD and go back and watch them again.

I am talking about some of the scenes with Moses' wife. And some of the scenes at night with smoke and candle lighting. (No electricity in Egypt a few millenia ago.)

» The Exercise of Power & Authority and Other Depressing Ironies of Life

A line that hit me particularly hard was delivered by pharaoh himself, while he is lying on a bed .. when he said » "It's one of life's more depressing ironies .. that the men who crave power .. are best-fitted to acquire it and least-fitted to exercise it."

(All of the Pharaohs, I would imagine, probably knew a thing or two about the exercise of power and authority .. seeing how they were considered livings gods.)

Having spent some 6 years in the military and double that much in large military-like organizations .. I have had countless opportunities to observe power in action. The power of authority. Observed at work in people. Exercised in ways both good and bad. And from all different angles .. from the top and from the bottom and from the sides, both inside and out.

» The Corrupting Effects of Power

I find the subject downright fascinating. And it is not difficult to see the corrupting effects of power. This is a thread that you can pull on that goes back to the very first city-states. Maybe further.

The corrupting effects of power is not a one-time thing .. but rather slowly insidious. It works on you and you can even feel it working on you at times. I could go on ad nauseam. So dont dare me.

But you yourself certainly know the ugly thing that it can turn into .. when power and authority is placed into the hands of someone who craves it a little more than is healthy.

This is something I'm sure you know about well enough. Not something that you need me to elaborate on. It is probably something that you learned at a tender, young age. (The later in life you learn this lesson, the better.)

We are really talking about the exercise of authority. And the things that go along with such exercise .. things such as responsibility and competence (and the lack thereof) and even ruthlessness. Alliance-building. Reputation. (Which is based on past achievements.)

I can see this tangent forming right before my very eyes, encouraging me to continue. The most enthusiastic encouragement that you could imagine.

But we shouldnt get on the roller coaster unless we are prepared to ride that bad-boy all the way to the end. And this is something that I am not prepared to do right now.

You could probably boil-down the topic of management into these two functions:

  1. setting up your people for success (your view looking down the hierarchy)
  2. keeping your bosses out of trouble (your view looking up the hierarchy)

Both of which require a degree of insight and foresight. And tact (which I have worked on very hard .. mostly by biting my tongue).

I dont want to get into a treatise on management; I merely want to convey a brief feel for my understanding of the topic.

[ And no, I am not willing to sell my soul to the company store. Tho I have rented parts of it from time to time. The Dog calls this "the march of the living dead." ]

But this is why pharaoh's quote jumped out at me and seemed to slap me upside the head.

"True that, Mr. Pharaoh," I said. "I can see that you have insight into men."

Pharaoh's quote » "It's one of life's more depressing ironies .. that the men who crave power .. are best-fitted to acquire it and least-fitted to exercise it."

I have actually addressed this topic before .. from a slighty different perspective. But the gist is the same. And fuck it it wasnt evoked from another film directed by Ridley Scott. (Is that a coincidence?)

This is one of the reasons why I liked being a contractor. Because, as a contractor, you gotta be performing every day for your masters or you are gone. You could be fired at any time .. for pretty much any reason.

There is no resting on your laurels. Not for very long, anyway. [ I almost wrote 'resting on your laurens.' Ah, now wouldnt that be nice. My ego is convinced that she moved back here to the left coast in order to be closer to me. Is it just me, or is she not a total hottie? A total smart hottie. Speaking of which .. have you seen this? Ooh, I just caught your whole deal for the Iowa caucus. Very nice. It was an excellent stream, too. High quality. No glitches. Anchor action. You make it look so easy. Effortless. A natural. I was impressed. You obviously have excellent social skills. That felt very twenty-first century. What a great team. Are you back in New York now? ]

And this aspect of being a contractor makes it more difficult for the corrupting influences of power to corrupt you .. as a boss with authority over your peeps and influence with your bosses above you.

The whole intention and purpose behind the construction of the US Constitution .. was to devise and design a way to incorporate checks and balances .. on the corrupting influences of power.

Both the English and the French had long-observed the problems associated with their monarchies.

Is not the theme of the corrupting effects of power behind, and central to, the epic high-fantasy classic » Lord of the Rings? (1937-1949) .. the second best-selling novel ever written.

Everybody loves a good story, no?

I have spent considerable time and energy, over the years, studying the topics related to management and leadership.

It wasnt that I had any burning desire to be in charge of other people .. quite the contrary, because the management of other people brings with it a myriad of problems.

Rather, it was the thought, the belief, the conviction that » "Surely I can do better than this inept piece-of-shit."

My intuition proved accurate. Tho I worked hard at it, and certainly made my share of mistakes.

» Citizenfour

Speaking of the insidious corrupting influences of power and DVDs that I really wanna see .. the next DVD that happened to come in the que .. was Citizenfour, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary last year. [ Reviews » certified fresh. Trailer. ]

Which I have started watching.

Wow. Double wow. I actually stopped it shortly after I started watching .. and lit some myrrh incense .. and walked around the room for a minute. And said a little prayer.

Because watching it felt like I was treading on holy ground. [ A theme from the movie I watched previously. ] You can feel how much people have sacrificed (their whole lives, in some cases) in order to make this film happen. I doubt most people can really grasp the magnitude of the implications.

When I first heard that Citizenfour won the Oscar for Best Documentary, I suspected that the Academy was flexing its political muscle. But now, I was able to see (and right quick) that this is an impressively crafted piece of work. Everything about it. (I could go on ad nauseam.)

The crafting is actually at a level with the subject matter itself .. which is saying a lot. Because, it's a lot to grasp. You can feel the weight of the implications heavy on you.

It kinda blows you away .. I mean, you are seeing this stuff, but it is still hard to believe. The leaders of the Intelligence community sitting there and bald-faced lying to members of Congress. (And nothing happens to them.)

I actually had the feeling that a (mere) Academy Award does not do justice to this documentary-film. I dont think I've ever had that feeling before with any other film.

This documentary speaks volumes about the state of our nation. Actions speak so much louder to the we-the-people than any presidential election-year rhetoric.

The testimony of our Intelligence leaders before Congress (supposedly our representatives) reminded me of that old joke » "How do you know when they're lying to you? .." [ Answer: You can see their lips moving. ]

The thought occurred to me while watching the DVD » If you are gonna wait for the government to come thru for the average citizen .. then you are gonna be waiting a long time, my friend.

The way that Snowden and Poitras and Glenn Greenwald often didnt know from one day to the next how things were gonna go .. how they were making it up as they went .. that came thru loud and clear .. even tho we now know how things turned out .. they didnt have the advantage of hindsight, like the viewer does.

Making it up as you go .. that is almost the very definition of avant garde. And in many ways beyond mere artistry, they were indeed out there on the bleeding edge. It must've been electric. [ The Federal Reserve knows a little about the avant garde. ]

Edward Snowden is even more intelligent than I thought .. this comes thru from the film. His grasp of things, of both the big picture and the small, is obvious.

The level-of-skill required to pull off something of this magnitude .. and the execution itself .. that is an impressive thing.

And Laura Poitras .. I dont see how anybody could watch this film and not come away with a sense of awe for her multi-facted skill-set. I put her up there with Mother Teresa.

If I were king, wherever she went, for the rest of her life, she would go straight to the front of the line. She's wasted enough time waiting around for stupid shit at airports.

It was very cool how they had the airport logs on her. That must have brought a degree of vindication. "Hey, look what I got. Does this look familiar?"

The shit is on .. that came thru loud-n-clear in the film. The shit is on in a big way.

Tho .. I must say, that I find it curious that Citizenfour came right after Exodus, Gods and Kings in my que.

I mean, my Netflix DVD que is by no means dialed in very tightly. I just moved up to the top the titles that I really wanted to see.

And the two movies seem to go together far better than I ever could have imagined. The corrupting influence of power .. still at work today.

Soderbergh is the executive producer. He does the coolest stuff.


» Radiation tri-blade » If I dont post anything new here on the homepage for a while .. I start to get emails. "Dude, are you okay? Havent seen any new radness lately."

Yes, I'm okay .. which means something totally different after treatment.

Now, "okay" means, "I am still a cancer-free cancer survivor."

They are going to give me another PET scan at the 1-year out point (next month). And that is a biggie. A big deal.

So I am kind of in training for that. You know.

My surgeon is seeing me every month and I go back to Moores in March to see my radiation oncologist.

My surgeon drew for me at our meeting last week the graph of Survivors vs Time .. and it falls rather steeply until about the 2-year point .. at which point it nearly levels off.

So .. it is clear to me that the cancer survivor wants to get to that 2-year point. Very clear.

At this point, 10 months out, I can definitely feel that "the screws" are looser. Like you are driving a Caddy instead of a Porsche.

And I seem to get fatigued much more quickly. And once I get fatigued, it takes me longer to recover. So I try not to overdo it. But overdoing it is not difficult to do.

One time I pushed it pretty hard .. just to see where my body was at in the recovery process. So, even after I was tired, I kept pushing it. Cuz I was curious as to how much I could take.

Oh, dude, my ass was sucking serious windage for two weeks afterwards. Actually, it wasnt until two and a half weeks later .. that I felt normal again. (In retrospect, that was clearly a stupid thing to do. Very stupid.)

The weight seems to be stuck around 150. I have to make myself eat. Not much of an appetite. I know that I am hungry when I start to get lightheaded. Because, then I will eat and feel better.

Speaking of loose screws .. sometimes, when you dont hear from me, that does not necessarily mean that I am not writing. But rather, I am simply writing someplace else.

Out here on the homepage feels kinda naked and exposed. But to do really good writing, you need to feel ________. (I will get the right word later)

And we humans are learning creatures .. by definition, almost. And as I learn new things, then I can go back and either edit or add to what I have already written.

I would be lying if I said that I didnt feel like Proust was looking over my shoulder right now, sporting wood even, at the possibilities that writing technology offers today's writers. Because he loved to go back and edit old work.

And I dont mind telling you that I can hear, quite often, the voices saying that what I am doing is cheating. A form of cheating. A cheating writer. (Is there anything worse?)

But no, I am not cheating I tell these voices (.. tho first, I make sure to look around any make sure that nobody can see me talking to myself). I am simply making use of the technology that the twenty-first century affords me.

And yes, I can be such a sneaky-shit sometimes. A sneaky-shit of a writer.

When I was reading about how Hemingway would compare himself to the greats of his era, I thought, "What an ego."

But Bukowski said, "If you're gonna go, then go all the way. Dont fuck around."

Now, the phrase "go all the way" could mean different things to different people. And if you care to venture a stab at Bukowski's inner-most thoughts, then be my guest.

But to me .. going all the way means that [ drum-roll, please ] you look-see what manner of technical and artistic achievements have been wrought so far .. by the most muscular .. the most technically and artistically muscular ..

.. and you try to not only do what they did [ as a form of paying homage ] but also to go beyond them. Just as we-today expect future generations to take things to the next level beyond us.

I could get off here on such a tangent .. that I might not ever find my way back.

But my point is that .. we look and see what they did, and we analyze it, and the writer will ask, "What did they say?" (the essence of)

And then you throw down their thing with your own twenty-first voice.

It does not really matter what anyone else thinks or says .. only that it is a true-valid-honest attempt .. and that you have done your best.

So, in order for me to do my best, I need to go back and edit and add to some of these older entries. And that's all I will say for now, and that I am okay.

But there seems to be an algorithm of sorts in play .. where the farther back I go, the edit needs to be increasingly cool.

Often I will just go back to create a linkable title .. at the exact spot where I want to set the link, and even with the exact wording.

So there is a weaving of sorts going on. Which tends to make a document tighter and stronger and more durable.

And you need to remember where you put each of these points of reference.