24 November 2008

I Hear the Train A-Comin'

Friday (21 November 2008) I kept my appointment with my GI clinic at U of L Hospital. They were typically overbooked, so I was delegated to one Dr. Lauren Briley. She spent the first two minutes apologizing for shuttling me around doctors and explaining the whole thing, to which I kept responding, "I'm fine with it." The truth is, when you visit a clinic and not a doctor's private practice, you really shouldn't get too excited about seeing different doctors at different times. It's part of the nature of the thing, and to be honest, I had only met the guy that passed me on to her once, anyway.

Until this October, when I was admitted to Norton Suburban for a couple of days with an obstruction, none of my GI's had been women. While I'm certainly above stereotyping, I also have to say that if these two are any indication, I actually prefer them to men. At Norton, I was seen by Dr. Shiela Rhodes, and she and Dr. Briley both exhibited the characteristics I look for in a physician--interest in whtiiI had to say about my condition, decisive action when a clear picture emerged and a dash of compassion. They would never make it as surgeons, who generally must be required to be condescending and self-absorbed, but they're wonderful GI doctors.

Anyway, Dr. Briley agreed with me that Imuran isn't cutting it and it's time to move on to biologics. I'm supposed to get a TB test and the usual blood work in the next week or so, and then I return to see her on 12 December. What sucks is that the social worker through whom I will be applying for financial assistance to pay for the Humira took off this entire week and was already out of her office when I finished seeing the doctor on Friday. That means it won't be until Monday (1 December) that I'll even have a chance to get that paperwork going. Still, we're hopeful that I'll have my first Humira injection by Christmas.

I also reached the point where I knew it was time to do something about being depressed. I've dealt with depression for years, and for a while several years ago I was on Zoloft (after a deflating experience with Celexa). I'm not governed by popular opinion, but there is something disconcerting about telling a perfect stranger you think you need to be on an anti-depressant. Maybe it's a stygma that will die with my generation, but I'm still not fully comfortable discussing such things generally. (Yeah, I realize that's all in a public journal; just move along.)

To her credit, Dr. Briley's response when I asked about a Crohn's-friendly anti-depressant, she simply began consulting her electronic pharmaceutical guide. That was about the most sensitive thing she could have done for me, and I intend to let her know that I appreciate her doing that when I go back in December. So, by New Year's I should be feeling the effects of Humira and Prozac. Hopefully, this means I'll start actually feeling better, too.

16 November 2008

Film: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench as "M"
Theatrical Release Date: 14 November 2008
Date of Screening: 15 November 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, and Some Sexual Content)

Favorite Line: "When someone says that they have people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole.  Lots of people say that.  Florists use that expression.  It doesn't mean that they have people in the bloody room!" - M

Daniel Craig returns as Ian Fleming's James Bond in Quantum of Solace, a direct sequel to 2006's Casino Royale.  And when they said it was a sequel, they meant it--the film starts roughly ten minutes after the end of its predecessor.  Bond works his way up the food chain of Quantum, the SPECTRE-like organization behind the events of Casino Royale.  Along the way, he uncovers a plot by faux environmentalist Dominic Greene to engineer a coup for a military general in Bolivia in exchange for a seemingly worthless chunk of land.  Everyone speculates that Greene is after oil, and no one bothers to consider that he is instead working to dam up water.

Historically, Bond films have always flirted with reality but have sidestepped real issues; according to many environmentalists, water resource management may well eclipse energy as our leading concern in the 21st century.  Ian Fleming's stories always sought to show us the hidden danger of a seemingly useful operation, and the idea of a world leading environmentalist conspiring to engineer a drought for profit is certainly up there with men like Hugo Drax in "Moonraker" (who created a rocket in the name of defending England, with the intent of instead levelling London).

What we had all heard going into the film was that it eschewed the Bond formula, that it had the shortest running time of any Bond film and that it ran at a quick clip.  Most importantly, though, the buzz on QoS (its Bond-fan shorthand) was that Bond would work through the aftermath of the events of Royale.  Previous "This one's personal" Bond movies are a mixed bag--often the death of an ally has simply been an escalation of violence along the way rather than effective character-developing storytelling.

Daniel Craig has spoken the classic line, "Bond...James Bond" once in his two films--it was the final line of dialogue in Casino Royale.  Nor has his Bond continuity included a Miss Moneypenny or Q.  For that matter, if they ever reintroduce the latter, they ought to consider calling him (or her) "S" instead, because the only technology present have been items commercially produced by Sony.  What matters, though, is that Quantum of Solace manages something that too many moviegoers may not appreciate: the 22nd film in the series proves that James Bond is not defined by the Bond formula.

Quantum of Solace's run time of 106 minutes makes it the briefest 007 outing to date (previously, the shortest was Tomorrow Never Dies at 119 minutes), and saying that it moves quickly is like saying Michael Phelps can swim.  When the end credits began to roll, my freinds and I were able to count three scenes in the entire film that we thought may have lingered for perhaps as many as five or ten seconds.  Was this an example of catering to an increasingly short attention span, or was it simply the style of storytelling favored by director Marc Forster?  Ian Fleming's original novels rarely reached 200 paperback pages in length and were meant to be read on a train.  That being the case, then, Quantum of Solace does perhaps the best job of the entire cinematic series of conveying that sense of working quickly while disbelief is suspended.

12 November 2008

Trailer Response: "Quantum Of Solace"

Originally published 30 June 2008

After waiting all year for anything official from the forthcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace, Sony has finally complied and put up the first trailer on Moviefone.com today.  I've watched it thrice already, and it appears to me that it's less Casino Royale II and more Casino Royale Again.  We all knew that QoS was going to be a direct continuation of CR; there is a sense from the trailer, though, that we're going to get much the same film this time, however.  M chastises Bond about setting out for revenge; laments, "I thought I could trust you" and orders him grounded....  It's fine for M and Bond to not be on great terms all the time, but it seems that ever since Robert Brown took over the role in The Living Daylights there's been an increasing amount of almost hostility between the characters and a lot less mutual respect.  Fleming's M and Bond got on fairly well; Bond found his boss a bit of a social bore, yes, but would have gladly gone to hell and back for the guy.  For his part, Fleming's M had nothing but respect for Bond's talents and abilities and made sure not to waste them, or to risk Bond unnecessarily.  This cinematic trend of a lack of any kind of relationship between them has gotten tiresome, and it's sad to think that Tomorrow Never Dies is the only entry in the Bond series since 1987 in which the relationship is pretty consistent with Fleming's world.

Having said all that...the rest of the trailer appears to be about what we had in mind for this picture.  It opens with Mr. White (the guy Bond tracked down just before the credits rolled at the end of CR) being interrogated, baiting Bond.  The rest of the clip is a quick montage of Bond-on-the-run-again set to the aforementioned M-doesn't-trust-Bond-and-wants-him-restricted voiceover and ends with a shot of Bond hoisting an assault rifle as he walks across what appears to be the desert.  Looks fun, looks intense, looks...like the last movie.

I know I sound disappointed with this trailer, and the only reason I actually am disappointed with it is because of the emphasis on the Bond/M tension about which you've already grown tired of reading me complain.  I am greatly relieved that, from the trailer at least, they've kept the tone of this film consistent with its predecessor and haven't gone Roger Moore on us.  No outrageous gimmicks, no slapstick humor, just good ol' fashioned gritty spy stuff.  It remains to be seen, of course, how Fleming-esque the film actually is, but it appears to be a candidate for Bond "best" lists.

Thanks, JOEM

An article arried in the most recent publication of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has calculated the cost to employers of having an employee with Crohn's disease.  The study took into consideration everything from short term disability costs to absenteeism, from hospitalizations to out-patient emergency room visits.  Want to know how much costlier us Crohnies are?
Annual medical expenses for Crohn's disease patients were $18,963 versus $5,300 for a matched comparison group. Ulcerative colitis patients' annual medical expenses were $15,020 versus $4,982 for the matched comparison group.
That's just for having Crohn's or colitis.  Now, add in surgery and those figures become unimpressive altogether.
Annual medical costs for patients with a gastrointestinal surgery were $60,147 for patients with Crohn's disease and $72,415 for patients with ulcerative colitis.
I would love to know why us Crohnies are more expensive than colitis patients except in the case of surgery.  The only thing I can figure is perhaps, since colitis is strictly located in the colon (whereas Crohn's can present literally anywhere along the digestive tract) that the colon is slower to heal and/or some Crohn's patients need surgery in more resilient areas?

Regardless of why there is a differential, what is plain to see is that no human resources director will read this information and want any part of hiring a Crohn's or colitis patient.  I cannot fault the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for publishing these findings, nor can I fault the authors of the article for conducting the research.  The facts are what they are.  Still, as a Crohn's patient who has been out of work entirely too long already, I cannot help but wonder what impact these findings will have on the already limited employment opportunities available to my digestively challenged brethren.

Note: Clicking on the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine title in the first paragraph will link you to a Market Watch article detailing the findings of the original article.  Medical trade journal articles are not regularly made available to the public, so this is the best I can do for those who would like to review the information for themselves.

04 November 2008

Baseball & Presidents

The polls have just begun to close on Election Day 2008, and I am just now getting to this little curiosity of mine.  I wondered during the World Series what relationship, if any, might exist between crowning the Major League Baseball champion shortly before voting a president into office.  The World Series began its modern incarnation in 1903, near the end of Theodore Roosevelt's first term of office.  While 1904 was an election year, the second annual World Series was boycotted by the New York Giants.  This year, then, marks the 100th anniversary of the first time that a World Series was played during an election year.  You can look up the particulars for yourself, but this is the relationship between leagues and parties winning their contests:

Major League Baseball
American League: 17 wins
National League: 8 wins

Presidential Politics
Democratic Party: 12 wins
Republican Party: 13 wins

By Combination
American League & Democratic: 7 wins
American League & Republican: 10 wins
National League & Democratic: 5 wins
National League & Republican: 3 wins

As the polls roll in, it bears noting that the 2008 World Series was won by the National League's Philadelphia Phillies.  Just sayin'.

Edit: Democratic nominee Barack Obama has won the 2008 Presidential Election.  The revised totals now read:

Major League Baseball
American League: 17 wins
National League: 8 wins

Presidential Politics
Democratic Party: 13 wins
Republican Party: 13 wins

By Combination
American League & Democratic: 7 wins
American League & Republican: 10 wins
National League & Democratic: 6 wins
National League & Republican: 3 wins