If you read only one blog full of ranting and raving about sports (local and otherwise), movies, TV shows, miscellaneous pop culture, life and other assorted flotsam and jetsam, make it this one!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Another Health Update

Picking up from where I left off here:

Yesterday, I completed my six-week radiation treatment at the Cancer Center at Aria Torresdale. Every day, Monday through Friday, I showed up and got zapped. Most of the time I was in and out very quickly, but there was a stretch of a few days about halfway through in which there were issues (either with their machine needing a replacement part, or emergency cases being sent from the main hospital to the Cancer Center). One day I had to wait over 90 minutes. Last two weeks or so were an absolute breeze. Once a week I saw the radiation oncologist for a brief checkup, including looking into my mouth for signs of thrush...thrush! Heh. Everything has checked out fine, though.

Here I am on the table. They were kind enough to take a pic for me. I thought it might be weird but it seems I'm far from the first person to ask. The mask on my face was molded prior to my first treatment. It's snapped into the headrest and is designed to keep my head and face aligned properly, as the radiation is focused on very specific targets.

On the chemo end, I had issues with the chemo oncologist's staffers and/or the pharmacies dispensing my chemo pills (sort of described here). After getting all of that corrected, I took the chemo pills daily. Again, I saw the oncologist (or physician's assistant in a couple of cases when the doctor was on vacation) weekly. They took blood at each visit to check my cell counts. Again, everything has checked out fine. I am, for now, finished with the chemo pills for a while.

I'm very happy to report that throughout this time I've had no nausea or vomiting. That in itself has made my life much easier. Nor, to my knowledge, did I have any short-term memory loss. As far as I can tell, my level of forgetfulness hasn't changed. I mean, the t-shirts shown at the end of this post were both purchased before the health problems began. However, my hair did start falling out. It was pretty short to begin with once I finally got a haircut to even out the shaved-for-surgery part with the rest of my hairline, but when there was hair on my pillow two days in a row I decided it was time to keep my head shaved for a while. I'm sure you've seen various pics on my social media already, including the one where I compared myself to Lex Luthor, but I thought of another one, which is a better match because of the facial hair and glasses (and cancer diagnosis, too). Separated at birth?


The next steps come towards the end of September. I have followups with the chemo oncologist on September 23rd where we'll set up the next round of chemo. The general plan as I understand it now is to increase the dosage I take, but I'll only take it a certain number of days rather than on a daily basis. On the 30th I go back to the radiation oncologist. Between the two, we'll have to determine the time I get my followup MRI. I saw the neurologist last week and he said that they have to let the treatments work through my system so the followup should be about 6-8 weeks after the last treatment. The other day the chemo doctor said that it should be 2-3 months. (Two months is about eight weeks, of course.) I explained how I felt that, when I was originally thought to have had a small stroke, it took new symptoms and hospitalization for me to get a new MRI in June. I feel that had I had one in May, when I initially followed up with a neurologist, the tumor would have been found sooner. So when I go on the 23rd I will be very clear that I want the MRI done as early as possible. Eight weeks from yesterday is October 23, so I'll want it done very close to that date, if not earlier. After that I'll visit the neurologist again and I guess I'll have a better idea of my long-term prognosis.

On my diabetes situation: I had the A1C test done again in mid-July. My A1C score (8.4 or 8.6, I forget exactly, back in April during my first hospitalization) was down to 5.7 -- barely above the level where you are considered NOT at risk of diabetes. I'm still on the diabetes meds and watching my carbs. Maybe, with the passage of time and continued good results, I'll be able to get rid of those meds as well, but even if I don't, that's okay. My weight is down to 225 (undressed, add about 5-6 lbs. when I'm fully clothed) and I am comfortably wearing pants with a 40 waist. I've been as high as a 48, and was at 44 prior to April. I swear, at some point if I try on pants with a 38 waist and they fit, you will hear my screams no matter where in the multiverse you are. And even if I stay where I'm at, the fact that I am being careful with the carbs but still having some of the snacks I like (portion control, people!) makes me feel confident that I will never again that much weight. I've gotten rid of a lot of my larger clothing and will do some more in the coming weeks. (That reminds me: I have to get new dress slacks soon. Shorts weather won't last forever.)

So now my schedule is completely free until the 23rd. I can travel (well, depending on the cost) again! That is, unless I get called back to work, of course. If I do get called back (which isn't guaranteed; it depends on how many jobs are available and how many ahead of me choose to return, as I'm last in seniority) it shouldn't be within these next couple of weeks. I'm a bit torn. Part of me wants to be called back right away because the other two times I was hired it was after everyone else started and I had to be trained/retrained on my own (or I basically read the stuff myself) and it made doing the job more difficult for me in a lot of ways. On the other hand, if they don't call me back I can finally file for unemployment at the start of October.

For the most part things have gone so smoothly, and I'm even getting things in order (such as getting my comic books boxed up, all of my personal papers organized, getting rid of some of the crap in my basement, etc.). Due to a combination of the structured schedule (radiation every weekday at noon) and, to some extent, my meds, I have become one of the things I abhor the most: a morning person. :) That has helped me in the above-mentioned tasks and given me more time to get to more movies, a few Phillies games, and other local excursions.

Again, I can't thank everyone enough for the kind words, wishes, prayers, thoughts, vibes, jokes, etc. They are very much appreciated.

Just one last thing, because this has truly, beyond everything else, angered me.

I had 30 radiation treatments. 30. THIRTY times I had radiation being zapped into my body. And NOT ONCE, in all that time, did a spider show up and bite me. Not once!


Friday, August 28, 2015

City Hall Courtyard

The compass mural in City Hall Courtyard was recently restored by -- who else? -- the Mural Arts Program after years of being worn down by foot traffic and the elements. These pics really don't do it full justice. If I could get to one of the windows on an upper floor inside City Hall...

My Sports Tees And Miscellaneous Caps, Part 4

Time for another chapter. And something embarrassing if you get to the end. Let's start with caps. Other that the first cap, this entire post is an all-Phillies edition.

From the Hockey Hall of Fame. Pretty sure this was from my epic trip in August-September 2004 to Montreal and Toronto for the World Cup of Hockey (an Olympic-style tournament, won by host Canada that year), but possibly I bought it on a later trip.

This is old. The Phillies added the blue cap option to their uniforms for day games in 1994. The defending NL Champs lost their first two games wearing them and the players were up in arms. Some fans didn't take kindly to them, either, although they sold rather well. The compromise for the players: they'd only wear them on weekday "Businessperson's Special" afternoon games. I think it's a nice-looking cap, but the jinx theory (final record: 1-6) won out.

You can probably guess that this was a giveaway item.

Aaron Rowand will be remembered forever for this catch and his comment a day or two later in reply to a question about the famous Ricky Watters "For who? For what?" quote when Watters short-armed a ball to avoid being hit in his first game as an Eagle.

The Flyin' Hawaiian! And a rare Harry Kalas home run call in which he did NOT use his famous "Outta Here!" Victorino, no ka oi!

Just looking at the condition of this shirt, it's very old. Steve Carlton's first year as a Phillie, 1972, when he went 27-10 (including a 15-game winning streak) for a team that only won 59 games, was what got me interested in baseball.

Greg Luzinski. The Bull. What a hitter in the mid-70s. Then injuries and slumps took their toll, but at least he was part of the 1980 World Series Champions.

Roy Halladay! First of three. This one was something the MLB Players Association did to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.

This one might have come from a store like Walmart or Kmart or something.

On this night, the Doctor was definitely in. In the middle of the glory days, when it seemed like multiple World Series wins were the Phils' destiny. Sigh...

...and speaking of World Series wins...

 ...and finally...the right pic turned out a little blurry. It commemorates All-Star games hosted by the Phils as well as some of the NL and WS championships through 2010.. I wanted it badly but it took a while to be marked down to a price I was willing to pay.

There is only one problem with this t-shirt:

I somehow ended up with TWO of them. The exact same shirt, even the same size. And I only discovered this the other day when I was choosing the t-shirts for this post. I have no idea how this happened!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quick Review: Amy

Amy Winehouse, gone way too soon, and the worst part is that her death didn't have to happen. Using never-before seen footage as well as interviews with people in her life (for better or worse), Amy documents her early life, career and, ultimately, her demise. And to see how so many people in her life used her, or otherwise utterly failed her -- her father, ex-husband and manager, in particular -- is heartbreaking. If there is such a thing as karma, they will someday, somehow pay for their transgressions. Her drug and alcohol abuse turned her from an incredibly talented singer-songwriter into a target for comedians and the paparazzi. I left the theater angry that we can no longer hear her voice. There should be a class for any young performers who are either attracting attention, on the verge of potential stardom or have gone the route of American Idol, The Voice, etc., and said class should consist almost entirely of this documentary. My grade: A.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Quick Reviews: Gift For Ricki's U.N.C.L.E.

Fun with post titles...

A key plot twist in The Gift was somewhat spoiled in the trailer. This seems to be happening more and more, and I find it a terrible way to sell a movie. The good thing about this movie, at least, was that there were twists following it. Married couple Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall) have relocated to Los Angeles because of his new job. While shopping they run into Gordon (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote and directed it), aka "Gordo," a (barely remembered) former high school classmate of Simon's. Gordo begins dropping by their home unannounced, usually dropping off gifts. Robyn thinks he's just socially awkward while her husband thinks it's creepy. Things begin to deteriorate. As I said, there were a surprising number of twists and turns that kept me entertained to the end. But the reveal in the trailer, that Simon knows more than he lets on, took away some of the thrill. Plus, Simon -- even at the very start -- comes off as kind of a dick anyway. My grade: B-plus.

Then there's Ricki and the Flash -- which is, sadly, not about this guy...

...but about Ricki, an aging rocker (Meryl Streep) who left her family to take a shot at stardom and ends up playing a regular gig with her band, The Flash, at a little bar in California and working checkout at a market. Then she's summoned home to Indianapolis by her ex (Kevin Kline) due to a crisis involving her daughter (Mamie Gummer, Meryl's daughter). This just strikes me as a vanity project so Meryl and her daughter could play mother and daughter, and so Meryl could sing (both classic stuff and modern hits such as "Bad Romance" -- Meryl does Gaga!) It has some good moments but it's pretty predictable fluff that all wraps up in a neat little bow at the end. And if I'm being honest...which I am, so why do I need to say that? I blame Simon Cowell for saying it on "American Idol." I got it from him. Anyway, I'm rambling...the best acting in this film was done NOT by Meryl but by Rick Springfield, as Ricki's bandmate and would-be lover. My grade: C-plus.

As for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the big-screen adaptation of the TV series which ran for four seasons from 1964-68, my big question is...why? A TV series that hasn't been in prime time in nearly 50 years is made into a movie and fell well short of the rather modest box office predictions. Did the studio really think anyone under, say, 40 (to be generous) would go and see this? It's set in 1963 and features, just like the TV show, a team-up of American (Henry Cavill) and Soviet (Armie Hammer) spies to thwart a nuclear threat from Nazi sympathizers.

Pick your favorite tag line:
a) A Brit playing an American and an American playing a Russian!
b) Superman and the Lone Ranger save the world!

It's not a bad film. It breezes merrily along, the banter is witty, there's some action and some humor and the boys look good and eventually learn to trust each other. I just can't wrap my head around why it was necessary. My grade: B-minus.

The El Rides Into The Sunset

Another repost from the photo blog...

This was taken from the Allegheny station of the SEPTA Market-Frankford line on 11/04/11 (on the crossover between the eastbound and westbound sides).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Paparazzi Got Baldy!

Found this on page four of last week's PGN...note the handsome bald gentleman perusing the photographs on the table...

And, because paparazzi...

(Oh, and in case you're not keeping up on Facebook/Twitter, I'm currently shaving my head since the radiation treatments and/or chemo pills led to my hair starting to fall out.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Downtown From Ben's Bridge

Another post moved from the photo blog. A pic of Center City from the Ben Franklin Bridge, taken during the Walk for Hope, a fundraiser to fight cancers affecting women, on 9/23/2012. I walked that year in honor of Mom. I guess I have to do one of these walks for myself now...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sunset After Showers

Larger versions of what I posted on Instagram earlier. Some showers and a brief bit of thunder had moved through. Once the rain was finished, I went to pick up some prescriptions and noticed the sky. I took the first pic at 7:01 pm before I got to the pharmacy. The second was on the way back, at 7:19 pm. Click on each pic for the larger versions. No filters or other editing other than a little cropping.

Two notes: 1) I am still going to move posts from the soon-to-be-defunct photo blog over here, so expect some links soon. 2) I need to do a better job of sharing these photos right away. I have so many photos that are just sitting on my hard drive or in the cloud. So, again, expect more links soon.

Quick Review: Vacation

I saw Vacation a week ago, but didn't quite know how to feel about it. I know it comes from the National Lampoon series of films starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold, but I've never seen any of them. I was aware of the general plot and a few of the jokes of the original. In the new one -- which is a combination of a remake, sequel and reboot, a tricky thing to pull off...wait, I have it: it's a resequeboot! -- Griswold son Rusty (Ed Helms) takes his wife (Christina Applegate, so good at comedy) and their sons on a road trip to Walley World in California, essentially recreating the trip he, sister Audrey and his parents took years before. So I decided to watch the original (unfortunately, just an edited version on basic cable) and compare and contrast. Maybe you may think that's unfair to the new film, because why shouldn't it be judged on its own merits? Well, too bad. My blog, my rules!

Many of the scenarios are basically the same. Both Griswold families have encounters with strangers that end up in their losing money and having their already-inferior vehicles wrecked, both include a stop to visit family, both feature ongoing encounters during the trip with young women. But there are tweaks: for example, while Clark gets attention from a bombshell (Christie Brinkley) in a convertible, in the new film it's Rusty's shy older son James (Skyler Gisondo, who's actually pretty good) who is infatuated with a girl his own age. BTW, the gag that involves a new version of Brinkley's drive in the convertible is brilliant. Too bad it was given away in the trailers.

For me, the new Vacation usually, though not by a large margin, fell a little short of the original in terms of plot. Still, the new one started more slowly but got stronger during the second half. One major failure that lowers my grade a bit: both Chase and D'Angelo appear near the end of the resequeboot (can we make my new word viral, please?) but he gets some funny stuff to do and plays a bit of a role in helping Rusty and family get to Walley World. She gets maybe a couple of inconsequential lines. I think one was "Oh, that's too bad." Tsk. Let's hope that in 30 years, when James Griswold takes his family on the very same trip, Christina Applegate gets more do to in her cameo. My grade: C-plus.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Sports Tees And Miscellaneous Caps, Part 3

A mix of shirts and caps, mostly pretty old. In fact...

...this may be my oldest cap, even older than the Hare Jordan/Air Jordan cap from my last post. I worked here from 1987 to 1991. Each year they held sort of a company picnic-type event on their grounds and I'm pretty sure it was during one of these events that I got this. Haven't worn it in forever, but maybe I will soon?

...and these shirts (official locker room editions from the 1993 NL East and National League Champions) are almost 22 years old! The first one looks it, from the sweat stains on the neckline and armpits. I have an idea of getting a clear (unwrinkled) picture of the logo and having a new shirt made.

I can't remember exactly when or how I got this. I'm guessing it may have been part of some TV-related prize package I won. This is the latter-day PRISM logo, not too long before it was finally shut down. Here's the network's Wikipedia page if you don't remember (or weren't born yet) when PRISM carried some Phillies, Flyers and 76ers games for many years before Comcast Sportsnet was created, or if you just want to see the old logo.

For a short time there was a Spencer's Gifts on South Street. When the store had its going-out-of-business sale I stopped in and bought this for, at most, $3.00. Why? 1962 is my birth year and I am both vintage and an American Classic.

I stayed at this hotel off the Las Vegas strip in 2006. Not sure if I was given this as part of some promotion or if I actually bought it. It's since been renamed. Not a bad place, other than being off the strip.

This is my newest cap, bought recently at Dick's Sporting Goods when I was out in the sun and desperately needed a cap to keep the sun off my recently opened-up skull. Some of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project, obviously.
And finally, my three Chase Utley t-shirts. He's hitting .500 since coming off the disabled list recently, and he could be traded any day now. What I'd do in the off-season is dump Ryan Howard -- release him if no one wants to trade for him, and when Utley is a free agent after the season (and assuming he's healthy the rest of the season) I'd see if he can be enticed back to the Phillies at a reasonable salary to play first base semi-regularly and a few starts at second. I doubt it will happen, though...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Daily News Unveils 2015 Sexy Singles. YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

(HAHAHAHAHA! Clickbait headline, suckers!)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I failed to write about the annual Sexy Singles feature in the Philadelphia Daily News for the last two years, but I did save the information from both the 2013 and 2014 editions. So let's run though the numbers before we get to 2015, where something interesting finally happened. (YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT...never mind.)

2013: 26 singles. A slight increase in...no, wait, wait...I'm sorry, it's actually 25 singles. For the second straight year they included someone who stated she was in a "committed relationship." I'm sorry, Daily News, but what part of "committed relationship" don't you understand? If you're "committed" you aren't available, which means YOU. ARE NOT. SINGLE. Anyway, of their 26: four came from local TV/radio, three worked at least part-time in the fitness industry, three people appeared in movies, TV shows and an off-Broadway production of "Dreamgirls," a Playboy centerfold, and three "pro" athletes: a member of the Philadelphia Union, someone from an "Ultimate Frisbee" team and a woman from...the Lingerie Football League. When you want to watch serious football as much as I do, you head to the LFL, right? So, 14 of 26 non-"regular people." But we had, apparently, after a four-year drought, LGBT representation. It's not blatantly stated but the woman in question "organizes women-oriented Stimulus Production parties for the LGBTQ community." So I counted her.

2014: Still at 26, but none in relationships, and not only did we have another lesbian, unlike the previous year, it's definite! Mostly. She was quoted as saying, "I'm 90 percent into women, but I'll take a Viking boy with a beard and some tattoos any day." Ooooookay, then. Moving on: three from local TV/radio, two members of the Philadelphia Wings (again, a team that's no longer around), five part- or full-time fitness/model types (including one who is a model/actress -- but aren't they all?), a manager/agent for athletes and performers (close enough for me), someone who is (or was) known as "America's Foot Doctor" and makes TV and radio appearances, a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and rapper Schooly D. 14 of 26 non-"regulars."

After the jump: 2015 -- and my nomination for a Sexy Single!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Daily News Sexy Singles: My 2008-2012 Comments

ex-Eagle Curtis Marsh
Sexy Single 2012
Before I get to 2015, I think I should summarize the last few years' posts on this subject. So I'm writing this first, and the second part will arrive later.

The first time I ever wrote about the Philadelphia Daily News' annual "Sexy Singles" feature was in 2008, their 6th year. It was for the Outsports.com blog. The tie-in was that one of their choices was a Philadelphia Eagle, Todd Herremans. He's no longer an Eagle, and he's also no longer single. But I got to expound on the feature itself, pointing out that the 30 selected singles (over 500 names were submitted by readers that year) included a proliferation of people in the fitness industry (personal trainers, gym managers) as well as six employees for local TV and radio stations -- a full 20 percent. As I wrote then, this was "undoubtedly providing lots of free promotion for the paper on their stations. (Or does it really mean that a full 20 percent of beautiful single people work for TV and radio?)" That made for a total of seven local celebrities out of 30, or 23.3 percent.

I did note that there was a gay man among the 30. I also noted: "On a 'favorite single' poll at Philly.com Herremans is currently in 7th place among the men. The gay guy is in last place with just 9 votes. Ouch."

The following year, I wrote on the Outsports blog that for the second consecutive year the list included an Eagle, Stewart Bradley. But I saved my criticism for this very blog, which was a little over a month old at the time. In 2009 there were 37 singles, and 10 were working for TV and radio stations, up seven percent from 2008. They also selected Davy Jones of the Monkees, who lived part-time on a horse farm far, far away from Philadelphia. I wrote: "The paper promotes it as a 'diverse group from all walks of life' and adds, 'Who knows? This could be the year you meet that special someone. And you'll have the Daily News to thank.' As if 99 percent of us would ever have a chance with these celebrities, pseudo-celebrities, pro athletes, models, etc." 12 of 37 celeb types, just a shade under one of three.

My 2010 post was titled "No Gays, No Eagles." The two pro athletes this year were lacrosse players (from the Philadelphia Wings, no longer in Philly). Still, of the 35 singles, 5 worked in local TV/radio and there was a "reality" TV competition show contestant. 8 of 35, just about 23 percent celeb. However, there were another 14 who were trying to become celebrities -- including shopping a TV pilot, graduating from broadcasting school and trying out for "The Amazing Race." And with no LGBT representation (at least openly -- often there's no specific mention of the type of mate a Sexy Single is looking for) for the second year in a row, I referred to the 9-vote polling result I mentioned above: "Maybe that scared them off. That, or I guess everyone in the local LGBT community is either in a relationship or not very pretty."

Quick Review: Fantastic Four

Well, another Fantastic Four reboot turned out to be a dud. The Fantastic Four is one of the Marvel properties not under control by their own (as well as Disney) movie studios. 20th Century Fox still has the film rights. This issue hasn't stopped most of the X-Men films from being at least pretty good, but FF turned out to be almost schizophrenic in tone. Whether due to scenes deleted from the script before filming, or re-shoots after -- you can find the reports of the issues with the studio and director Josh Trank if you care -- there are times where a little wit and humor tries to make its way in, only to be smothered by the gloomy reboot of how our heroes got their powers and how they're treated afterwards (in this iteration, the evil forces known as corporate greed and the United States military are heavily involved). That would be pretty shabbily, until they're needed to save the world from Doctor Doom, and how that happened was pretty shabby as well.

Besides that, there was a lot of stupidity over the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. It basically went like "OMG YOU CAN'T CAST A BLACK GUY AS THE HUMAN TORCH!" Yeah. In 2015...and 2014, when he got the job. (The cast, including Miles Teller, Jamie Bell and Kate Mara, is pretty much wasted, thanks to the script.). Mara, decidedly not black, is Johnny's sister Sue. And what harm was done? None. But I was bothered by one thing. The film also featured their father, played by Reg E. Cathey, an African-American. I thought to myself, early on, "This is nice. They're not making it an issue." A few minutes later it had to be explained, as conversation turns into plot exposition, that Sue was adopted. My grade: D-plus.