Thursday, 28 February 2008

60,000 Light-Year Checkup...

Been neglecting things in the blog dept. lately, sad to say.

However, in my defence (defense to any North American readers), I've had a thing or two on my mind of late, chief among which is the medical I've just taken.

*********

I'm a bad patient.

I'm the first to admit it, I hate being unwell - argonite poisoning is not fun.

But with one thing and another, I'd been feeling a bit 'meh' for a while, so I decided to book in for a full-spectrum physical and health screening.

Which I did. It was a difficult phonecall to make, but I am, of course, the mightiest of men.

I got the appointment letter and schedule - the whole thing would take about three hours on a Monday morning, and they'd check everything - blood, heart, liver function, prostate, you name it. An action-packed adventure I'd be just as happy to leave to the JLA or the Avengers.

Joking aside, I'm not too proud to admit I'm a little out of shape and could stand to diet (a bit). And eat the right things. And get a little proper exercise.

Anyhow...

I arrived with 10 minutes to spare and checked in at reception. The place was decorated in pastel shades of green and pink that some designer probably had three-word names for and charged accordingly. But for all that, it was unlike any other hospital I'd ever been in - more like a hotel, really, only with nurses. Worked for me.

A young woman, her manner cheerful, took my details or, rather, confirmed them from the file in front of her. Her name was Trina, and she cheerfully explained the process to me.

First a blood sample, followed by an ECG and chest X-Ray, then a sit-down with my doctor. I'd also get a voucher for breakfast, which was welcome, not having had anything for over 14 hours. All I had to do was take a seat outside in reception and listen for my name.

Okay.

*********

Phlebotomy is a funny word. I had neither idea nor desire to know what 'phleb-' meant, but '-otomy' usually indicates the removal of something, which is never good.

My name was called, and I was ushered into the Phlebotomy (I do so like that word - I think I'll say it again - Phlebotomy) Lab, by an attractive, fiftyish lady who introduced herself as Jackie and explained that she would be relieving me of some blood. Not quite Ingrid Pitt, but hey...

Although the mightiest of men, I flinch at sharp objects entering my body, and the sight of my own blood is not among my favourites. So I chatted amiably with Jackie as she sucked (not literally, I stress) the vital fluids from my arm.

Next was the ECG. Trina gave me a form with some notes on it and pointed me down a corridor, where I waited with some other patients, some resident, some transient, to hear my name called.

When it was called, it was by a stunningly attractive young woman whose name I didn't get, who led me to a partitioned cubicle where she urged me out of my shirt before attaching around a dozen adhesive pads to my (insert adjective here) upper body. After attaching leads to each and admonishing me to not move, she left, presumably to give my heart a chance to settle down and not compromise the test.

A printer attached, apparently, to me, fed out a seismograph-style sheet that presumably told whether I was lying or capable of destroying whole cities, and I thought I was done.

Sadly not. The pads still had to come off.

Tha stunningly attractive young woman returned and plucked them smartly from my torso. To a normal human, this would present little trouble. However, as a Hero of Neptune, I've evolved a slightly more hirsute body style* so one can imagine the hilarity that ensued.

After the ECG, it was X-Ray time. I was conducted by yet another young woman to the Radiology Dept., passing the intriguingly-named Nuclear Medicine Dept. on the way.

The X-Ray lab contained a machine (with laser targeting scanner) that would not have looked out-of-place on the Death Star, and an operator with all the warmth of a natural disaster. I removed my shirt as directed, stood against the scanner as directed, hung from the monkey bars as directed, replaced my shirt as directed and returned whence I came, relieved.

After a short wait, Trina came to get me and ushered me to where my doctor waited.

He introduced himeself and put us on a first-name basis.

I liked that; many doctors, it has been my experience, prefer and expect a certain level of deference and respect for their profession, and, if you're not an M.D., you're little people.

Not so with this man. We chatted about my medical history and that of my family, then got on with things.

There were:
  1. Eye test (not bad)
  2. Hearing test (left ear a bit weak)
  3. Kidney function and liver test (nothing to indicate problems)
  4. Cardio-pulmonary test (seems okay)
  5. Lung capacity test (bloody good, If I say so myself)
  6. Prostate exam (I prefer not to comment)
  7. Reflex testing (Ka-pwiiiinngg)
  8. Height/weight evaluation (BMI - meh)
not necessarily in that order.

It was, overall, an exhausting morning, with a lot more work than I'd been expecting. I did manage to have breakfast, though, so that was okay...

At the end of it all, anyway, it appears my blood pressure may be slightly high (job stress, probably), I have a slight touch of dermatitis on one shoulder and I could stand to lose a few kilos.

But not too many - I am after all, the mightiest of men...

*for interplanetary travel, you understand...

Sunday, 10 February 2008

On The Bookstand...

I'm reading a number of books at the moment - I find I usually have several on the go at any one time. But you know how it is; a hardcover or TPB can be awkward unless you're someone who carries luggage everywhere, and since I don't, I find the inside pocket of my coat is the right size for a small paperback.

So whether at home, on a bus or plane, in bed or in the bathroom (but you didn't need to know that) my reading needs are covered.

On the list at the moment:

The Manchurian Candidate (Richard Condon, 1959):

A cracking political thriller from the author of Prizzi's Honor. Subsequently filmed in 1962 by John Frankenheimer and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, it tells the story of Sgt Raymond Shaw, Korean War hero and Medal of Honor winner, who is, unknown to him, a Soviet sleeper agent and assassin intended to change the course of US political life, and Ben Marco, Shaw's CO, wracked with recurring nightmares of events that put the lie to everything he knows about what happened in the war.

Having seen the movie countless times before discovering Condon's novel, I was impressed by how faithfully Frankenheimer stayed with the story. In reading the novel I can easily visualise Laurence Harvey as Shaw, with Angela Lansbury as his scheming mother and James Gregory as the ambitious but inept Vice-Presidential hopeful Johnny Iselin. Sinatra was excellent as Marco, even if at odds with Condon's description of the man, but no less effective for all that.

The edition of the paperback I have has Denzel Washington as Marco and Meryl Streep (looking uncannily like Hillary Clinton) as Eleanor Shaw, on the cover, from the 2004 Paramount remake. I would amend the IMDB reviewer's comments by saying "A competent,if [pointless remake]"

Captain America (Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting) Omnibus Edition:

Collecting the work of writer Ed Brubaker (one of the best writers in comic books today) and artist Steve Epting, this tome (700+ pages) collects the first 25 issues of Captain America as written and drawn by this creative team. As a DC rather than a Marvel, I picked up Civil War and Captain America #25 on spec and was, in a very real sense, stunned.

So much so that I decided that the price was worth the gamble for the hardback edition.

It's f**king excellent. If you're not necessarily a fan of Captain America but remember his exploits from the day, buy this. Brubaker (the most consistently-good writer of comic books today, to my mind) tells an excellent story, more than ably complemented by Epting's artwork.

I've been following Daredevil on a regular monthly basis and can see myself moving more towards the House of Ideas in coming months if this is the quality of writing to be found...

Gas City (Loren D. Estleman, 2007):

Set in a fictional milieu, this is a departure for Estleman, whose stories take place identifiably either in Detroit or the Old West. Gas City tells the story of Frank russell, police chief in a city where organised crime means just that: crime is organised in a ten-block square section of the city and policed by the Mob.

Russell's been paid to turn a blind eye, but when his wife of many years dies, he finds himself re-evaluating his life, ideals and priorities.

Fallout ensues, told in Estleman's inimitable style.

To any hard-boiled PI fans out there, I highly recommend the Amos Walker series - one of the absolute best since Chandler.

The Big Clock (Kenneth Fearing, 1946):

George Stroud is an editor at the publishing company run by Earl Janoth. When Janoth, incensed that his mistress has been having an affair with another man, he kills her in a fit of pique, then assigns Stroud, his best reporter, to find out who the other man is, ostensibly to pin the killing on him.

However, Stroud is the other man, and finds himself in the position of tracking down George Stroud.

The story was filmed twice, with Charles Laughton and Ray Milland in 1948, and in 1987 as 'No Way Out' with Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner, a version that added a political element.

The book's a bit of work, but I'll get through it eventually.

Ab$urdistan (Gary Shteyngart, 2007): Misha is the son of the 1238th-richest man in Russia, a 325lb American trapped in a Russian's body, who yearns for a new life in the Bronx with his Latina girlfriend, but whose hopes are put on hold following the killing, by his father, of an Oklahoma businessman.

I bought this book based on the prologue, which cracked me up. I had to put it to one side when I bought the Captain America omnibus, so I haven't gotten too far into it, but I'm encouraged to continue, so I shall.

Lawless (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, 2007): Tracy Lawless is an ex-soldier with a past, who escapes the Army to discover what became of his kid brother, Ricky, by infiltrating his gang on the eve of a major score. He becomes involved with Mallory, a dark-haired beauty who also had a history with Ricky.

A noir story in every sense, Brubaker's story is ably captured by Phillips's art, depicting that part of the city you don't want to go in daylight, let alone the night, where most of the action takes place. The book collects episodes 6-10 of Brubaker's 'Criminal' series, and is published (on this side of the Atlantic anyway) by Titan.

Honourable mentions include Jumper by Stephen Gould and Lady Yesterday by Loren D.Estleman - a man could do worse.

Until next time,

Incredible, out.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Dustin - Ireland's Eurovision Hope?

The Eurovision Song Contest has been held, since 1956, between the member states of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

It is an international cultural event broadcast simultaneously to the competing nations and beyond, giving it a potential global audience.

Traditionally, the show is hosted by the country that won the contest the previous year. The 2008 event will be held in Belgrade, Serbia.

Ireland has participated since 1965 and has won on seven occasions, making us the most successful contestants in the history of the event, which has produced such international stars as ABBA, Lulu and Celine Dion, among others.

This year, however, due to a poor finish last time, Ireland has to pre-qualify in a semi-final to be held in the days before the actual contest.

This is the face of our potential contestant:

Dustin the Turkey.

Broadcaster, pundit, presidential candidate (no kidding!), used-car salesman, rockstar, builder - all of these are labels that can be attributed to this cult figure.

Born at an early age, Dustin first came to prominence as the prize (for finishing last) in a golf tournament. However, as his Wikipedia bio states, he turned out to be "...not only still alive, he also had a North Dublin accent and his own building company."

Dustin became a co-presenter on long-running childrens' TV show 'The Den', outlasting all of the human presenters before finally earning his own show.

Showing an interest in politics, Dustin voiced an aspiration to run for the Presidency. On the basis that there's nothing in the Constitution specifically banning a turkey vulture from attaining the highest office in the land, many people entered Dustin's name on their ballot paper (thereby spoiling their vote) as an indication of dissatisfaction with the human candidates - or maybe they really wanted him as President. Personally I'd have liked to see the footage of the state visit to the Vatican, or perhaps the White House...

In any event, Dustin has since become synonymous with a vote for 'None of the Above' (think Brewster's Millions, but with feathers, a North Dublin accent and a propensity for pouring tarmac over your lawn 'so you can get another car in the driveway, Squire').

When not keeping a low profile at Christmas or avoiding the US in late November, Dustin can be found in the recording studio.

Under contract to EMI, who boast such other luminaries as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen in their catalogue, Dustin has released no less than six albums, in many cases featuring duets with established musicians such as Chris De Burgh, The Dubliners, Joe Dolan and others.

Dustin is not slow about acknowledging those whom he has influenced - here, for example, is a nod to U2:



Powerful.

But it is his announcement to take part in Eurosong and, hopefully, the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest that has literally taken the media by storm.

Six artists will compete against each other on February 23rd for the right to represent Ireland at the qualifier in Belgrade and hopefully to progress to the final. The winner will be chosen by popular vote (web, text) which gives the ebullient turkey a clear advantage.

Criticised by so-called serious musicians for lowering the tone of the contest with his entry, "Irlande - Douze Pointe", Dustin stated that he had considered dropping out 'for almost a whole second'.

Could 2008 herald a record-breaking eighth win for Ireland?

One turkey could hold the key...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Guinness

As a self-respecting Irishman, my drink of choice is Guinness.

Brewed less than two miles from where I'm sitting, it's arguably the most recognisable beer brand in the world, in part due to the incredibly imaginative ad campaigns mounted by the owners, Diageo.

This is the latest - bizarre but cool:



Guinness, ELO and Donald Sutherland - doesn't get better than that...

Apparently, Names Have Meanings...

It's Sunday afternoon here, and pissing rain.

While I wait for the Scotland - France match to start, I've been stumbling around the web, and I came across this:

Apparently, names have meanings.

What Captain Incredible Means

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily.
You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind.
A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.
You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.
You have the classic "Type A" personality.

You are influential and persuasive. You tend to have a lot of power over people.
Generally, you use your powers for good. You excel at solving other people's problems.
Occasionally, you do get a little selfish and persuade people to do things that are only in your interest.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.
You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.
You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.
You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.
You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something.
You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense.
You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are balanced, orderly, and organized. You like your ducks in a row.
You are powerful and competent, especially in the workplace.
People can see you as stubborn and headstrong. You definitely have a dominant personality.

You are full of energy. You are spirited and boisterous.
You are bold and daring. You are willing to do some pretty outrageous things.
Your high energy sometimes gets you in trouble. You can have a pretty bad temper at times.

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.
You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.
Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.


Kind of covers it...

ThingsTo Do On Monday Nights...

When I'm not eagerly anticipating Becca's latest Movie Quotes Quiz, I can usually be found, on Monday nights, crashed on the couch in front of my TV, channel-hopping.

However, that's all going to change next Monday, 'cos my writing class is starting up again.

Interplanetary hero stuff aside, I like to write, and I've been trying to complete a story for a long ti- many ye - a while now.

When I'd painted my character into a corner for the nth time, I decided I needed to step back from it and try and learn about plot and character development, pacing, that sort of thing.

So I took an evening course, the result of which was I actually finished a story.

It ran to 18000 words, so it's a bit long for a short story but short for a novella, but I was just happy to be able to put an end to something.

The other thing was that I enjoyed the course. Ordinarily, I'm not a joiner, but this was something I looked forward to, so I'm glad it's starting up again. I enjoy the diversity of ideas that a single writing exercise can produce, and I find I enjoy the discussion that follows.

We'll see what Monday brings, and hopefully I'll be home in time for the Movie Quiz...