March 7th, 2014


Dystopias -- Real and Imagined

We went to the movies on Wednesday afternoon -- a wonderful bright blue sunny afternoon. Our theatre of choice was Celebration Woodland, the second run multiplex in the Jack Loeks chain. Don't go there very often.

Indeed, this is the first to Woodland since I got the handicapped parking sticker. Outside, it's a bit of a fail. Not quite 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon, only four handicapped spaces, all full. And no door opening buttons? Come on, this is not an old complex and it's 2014. Inside it isn't bad. Theatre 13 has a single door which leads you onto the mid-deck, which has three pairs of seats and wide spaces for wheelchairs and foot up armrests. I rolled in with my walker and plunked down in the center pair of seats -- right in front of the only other people in the theatre at the time. Adequate seats, terrific view.

The movie we really wanted to see was 12 Years a Slave, but it's not playing anywhere we could find. Just like the run up to the Oscars. So we caught up on another movie we'd missed.

The Book Thief [PG-13]
Celebration Cinema Woodland Theatre #13 2:05pm 2x$5.00

This film starts out very white. Clouds. An overhead view of a European steam train wending its way through bright white snow. An overhead view of a 1930s car driving through a stark white countryside, you can barely see where the road is. The car enters a crowded neighborhood of cobblestone streets. We briefly see inside the train. Someone dies and is buried. The story finally begins.

It's no secret that the narrator is Death. Does that make this genre? Spec fic? Fantasy? Not necessarily. Death is mainly an observer. He is curious and confused about people, not particularly an agent in what transpires. But this movie is really about the love and humor and strength of people -- our "book thief" Liesel, Rudy, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Max, the wife of the burgermeister.

Mrs. Dr. Phil has read the book, I have not. She reports that the movie is faithful and does no damage to the story.

I mention dystopias in the post title. I wrote about the Divergent trilogy the other day. It's situation and violence is man-made, and not real. Living in Stuttgart, Germany, in WW II was a real dystopia, also of man's making. We rarely see the ordinary home front inside Germany in film.

And Nazis. The big bad bogeymen of the twentieth century. They terrorized everyone, including their own people. Including their own children. It is frightening to see schoolchildren singing about the hatred of other people, bullying each other, burning books. Wearing the swastika on their school uniform.

And yet... people were willing to risk everything to help those demonized by Hitler. Having never lived under such conditions, I have no idea what I would have done -- I fear I would have done what was needed to survive. Not particularly heroic, but there you are. A soft, privileged first world life.

Like Kate Winslet in The Reader, one wonders how widespread illiteracy was in prewar Germany. And fascinated by the power of books.

The cast is superb. Everyone is perfect, I found no wrong notes by anyone. The kids are outstanding. Geoffrey Rush is a joy to watch, the cinematography exceptional. The banter and lighthearted accusations are spontaneous, believable. And people have depth. They don't have just one note. Well, except for the cowardly bullies.

I cannot imagine living like that. Which, I suppose, is why films like The Book Thief are important, even if they are small and quiet films. I've seen the Blitz in London portrayed dozens of times. It's hard to be on the ground side of the bombing of Stuttgart -- those are Allied planes and bombs. But then war, even when enthusiastically embraced at first, isn't fair.

HIGHLY Recommended

Trailers: Only two trailers of note. On the cute end is Disneynature's Bears about... bears. Specifically a mother and her two cubs. Then there's the grittier Gimme Shelter about a teen abandoned by an unreliable mother and exhausted by the being in The System. Until she meets James Earl Jones (who looks to be a preacher connected to a foster house) and gets pregnant, in some order.

Dr. Phil

Borg For A Day

Or two.

Two of my errands had to do with the same thing -- the ONE instance of a heart arrhythmia that I had when I was very sick in the Butterworth ICU back the first week in hospital, May 2013. They slapped me into the cardiac ICU for a day or two and put me on a bunch of heart medications. Which I am still on. Of course the cardiologist doesn't want me off them. I do -- especially the blood thinners which have made me SO cold this winter. Their logic was that I needed to be on them because of my previous cardiac history. What cardiac history? Oh, no? No -- does that change anything? Uh, no, we want to keep you on the drugs for about a year. Why? Uh, because. So why did you care if I had a cardiac history? (crickets) (Technically, there's more, but you can see where I'm going with this.)

Anyway, back in December or so, we scheduled a chemical heart stress test for Spring Break -- to determine the ACTUAL status rather than rumor and innuendo. The coolest part is that this is an outpatient nuclear medicine procedure that uses technetium, an element that was a pesky hole in the middle of the periodic table for a long time. Element 43, the lowest numbered element with no stable isotopes.

Last Friday they called and said that I needed to come in before Wednesday's procedure and get a portable heart monitor for 48 hours. So I got that on Monday afternoon. I had electrodes stuck on me for some two months in the hospital, hooked up to a wireless transmitter that tucked into a pocket of my hospital gown. For the record, the only abnormalities detected was when one of the electrodes came off.

I told the tech he was going to have to shave around the contact areas or the electrodes would never stay on. He did on two of the five patches, but not enough. You can see where this is leading. The data recorder was programmed to shutdown after 48 hours. You could put it in your pocket, really?, but I opted for the neck strap. They gave me a storage box and five replacement adhesive pads. Also a sheet to record any events I would have. Oh yeah, I don't have those, do I.

The plan was no food or drink, other than little sips of water, for 24 hours prior to the Wednesday 10am appointment. The wires were uncomfortable and the unit hanging from my neck smelled of disinfectant. I kept a shirt on to sleep to try to keep the wires and electrodes in place.

Before I went to bed at 3:15am Monday/Tuesday, one of the pads had already come off and glued itself to the shirt. A second pad had to be replaced on Tuesday. The first site needed a second replacement Wednesday morning at 11.

Of course by then it was all moot. A call late in the afternoon on Tuesday had to cancel the procedure because their one tech was sick. Since they have to order the nuclear medicine a day or two ahead, wonder if it got wasted. Anyway, we were out on Wednesday because I had to take the monitor back and Mrs. Dr. Phil and I got a play date because she'd already arranged the time off.

No doubt the data from March will be no good in May or whenever I reschedule, so I'll have to go through all this again. With all the snow and snow-ish days, I am not taking more time away from class.

Meanwhile, the ol' heart keeps time... time... time...

Dr. Phil