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!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Update: The Avastin Is... #cancerisabitch

So I had my followup MRI two weeks ago. I called the next day to get an appointment with my neurosurgeon...

"The first available appointment is on March 1st with Dr. Liebman."
"I don't know that person."
"Well, Dr. Barrese is no longer with his practice."


The first time I saw Barrese he commented that he had joined so recently that he didn't even have new business cards yet. And just like that, the guy who performed my second surgery is apparently gone.

Fortunately, it appears I won't be needing a third surgery just yet. Today at the oncologist's office the nurse practicioner (I saw her instead of the doctor for some reason) said that the newest MRI looks good. There's no real difference from the previous one and no evidence of a new tumor yet. I won't need to add a second drug to the Avastin treatments at this time. For now, life goes on as scheduled.

P.S. To finish the title of this post: ...working. :)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Yet Another Delayed Movie Post

Maybe I need to hire someone to write blog posts for me so there aren't these gaps between posts. Anyone want the job? Keep in mind that I can't afford to offer you actual compensation so you'd be, in effect, an unpaid intern. The good news is that some of these are Oscar nominees so if I work really hard this will be posted before the awards are given out.

Three late-year releases took on serious events in different ways. The Big Short tried to inject humor into the story of the 2007-2008 financial meltdown caused by Wall Street shenanigans and the federal government's failure to regulate the financial industry, with wry narration and interludes where celebrities explain financial concepts. The most-discussed of the latter is actress Margot Robbie in a bubble bath (playfully sexy if you're into women in bubble baths). Amusing, but ultimately what happened is still too confusing, and it fails to enlighten or enrage viewers into pressuring politicians to prevent another fiscal disaster. My grade: B-minus.

Concussion is much more earnest. The National Football League would have you believe this movie is a menace to the sport's existence. The real menace: the fact that as more and more players are discovered after their deaths to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), parents may not allow their kids to play the sport, meaning the pool of talented athletes dries up. The NFL need not worry. The movie didn't have much impact. It's a good movie, but gets a demerit for depicting an incident involving ex-Eagle Andre Waters -- who killed himself and whose autopsy found he had CTE -- that didn't occur in reality. Despite Roger Goodell's awful record as commissioner, players beating women and children, killing dogs (and people, for that matter), fighting in bars, etc., and all the concussion worries, TV ratings and revenues continue to rise. The money will ensure the kids keep playing football. Unlike some of the financial institutions bailed out in the aftermath of the events in "The Big Short," the NFL may actually BE "too big to fail." My grade: B.

By far the best of these three is Spotlight, about the Boston Globe's 2001-2002 investigation into the cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese of sexual abuse by its priests. The film focuses not on the crimes themselves, but all the work the editors and reporters do to get the story published, even as their work on the project was temporarily derailed by the September 11th attacks. The film is superbly acted all around, and the story is so compelling. Yet it also makes me a little sad. Good investigative journalism requires dedication, passion, a desire to fight to find the truth -- and resources. Sadly, the state of the newspaper industry is such that we're going to see fewer and fewer reports such as this, unless the NFL wants to finance it. My grade: A-plus.

As for the rest...

Sisters was a little disappointing at first, even though Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a winning duo, playing sisters throwing one last party before the house they grew up in is sold. It took quite a while into the film before I started seeing the humor in it. My grade: C-plus.

Joy is carried by the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence in the title role, telling the story (with some embellishments, naturally) of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, among other items, becoming a QVC mainstay and a wealthy woman in the process. The film is really uneven, though. My grade: B-minus.

The first film I saw that was released in 2016 is Hail, Caesar!, a comedy with an mostly all-star cast from the Coen brothers set in the 1950s, when the Hollywood studio system still ruled, where "fixers" (in this film, Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin) keep scandals such as pregnant, unwed starlets and homosexual actors under wraps. (Oh, the 50s! The era the GOP nuts want to take us back to!) It drags a bit at times but is mostly entertaining, especially the film-within-the-film segments. Do not miss the song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum and a bunch of guys in sailor suits for a film called "No Dames!" My grade: B-plus.

Next time I do a film post: Deadpool!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Art Institute Building...

1618-22 Chestnut St. Not sure how I didn't look up at this before. From the article I read, it's art deco. I like. The same article said the lower three floors are becoming an Old Navy. Meh.

P.S. I posted something to this blog! Yay!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Brief #cancerisabitch Update

So I'm still doing the Avastin treatments every two weeks as I mentioned in my last post and have to schedule an outpatient MRI for this month to see if it's helping stop the cancer from growing. But in addition, my chemo oncologist at Aria put me in touch with a doctor at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine.

There's a clinical trial of a vaccine that would basically bolster the immune system to fight the cancer cells in my brain. The Penn doctor said she feel it's very likely that this will be approved by the FDA based on the results so far. In order for me to be part of the trial they obtained my pathology from my surgeries -- particularly the slides containing bits of the removed tumors, which they have to test for the presence of a genetic marker targeted by the vaccine. It will take up to two months to get the results.

On a more disconcerting note, the facial twitching that set off this whole odyssey? On Saturday evening, after months of facial peace, the spasms returned. Unlike every prior incident, this time the left side of my face spasmed on and off for about 90 minutes. It would settle down briefly and start back up again, over and over. I went to the emergency room and they did a CT scan of my brain, which showed nothing worse than what it did before.

A possible cause: that day I slept in late and didn't take my first daily dose of meds until about 3 pm. This included Keppra, the anti-seizure med they put me on in April for these "focal seizures." But I'm skeptical because I've been on these for months. I wouldn't think a half-day delay would have had such a drastic effect. It had me worried.

After too much waiting for the test results on a bed/gurney that was ridiculously uncomfortable to lie on, I was ready to leave. The doctor said that although the CT scan didn't show a possible cause, I could stay overnight for observation if I wanted. I declined. Nearly five hours in the ER was enough. There hasn't been any twitching since. If it does happen again, then I'll really worry.