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it's all about the dope

I had a big weekend planned: Giants game tonight with my brother, then tomorrow night a friend was taking us to the Berkeley Rep, and finally Sunday the last game of the Giants' season with Neal. Right now only the last of those events is a possibility.

My brother came by and got the tix for tonight's game ... he's going without me. He called around 4:15 and said he was on his way from Walnut Creek. I got the tickets out and waited for him to come. About half an hour later he arrived ... and as he used the bathroom, I realized I didn't have the slightest idea what I'd done for the previous 30 minutes.

I'm not even sure this blog post is about reality.

stones in my passway

Will try to get a few details down here, although my brain is addled.

Had a routine follow-up exam scheduled with my doctor yesterday morning, and I was actually looking forward to it, since my recent lab results and general healthiness (including the loss of 35 pounds) meant nothing but good things. However, I woke up feeling poorly, with an ache in my lower back and some minor overall shakiness. I mentioned this to the doctor, but made what in hindsight was the mistake of emphasizing several times that the lower back pain was the only symptom that said “kidney stone.” The doctor made some other connections (a lot of what I said suggested some kind of flu), and we left it at that.

On the way home, though, one symptom was getting a lot worse: the back pain. And after I’d been home for awhile, the conclusion was clear. I took a couple of Vicodin we had lying around, and the “pain on a scale of 10” went from about a 6 to more like a 2 … but an hour later, it was worse still. So Robin came home and drove me to emergency, where the pain was at least an 8. They gave me some medicine I never remember the name of, then a bit later pumped me full of morphine, did a cat scan, found the stone, and sent me home with more Vicodin and a bunch of advice.

One more thing we forgot was to ask for nausea medicine, since I don’t tolerate opiates very well when I take a lot of them. So I spent most of last night vomiting. We’re getting something for that today. The pain isn’t as bad today so far … the Vicodin seems sufficient.

There was one very sweet part of the story, if such is possible when talking about kidney stones. At the end of his work day, our doctor got to thinking about me and decided to give me a call to see how I was doing with the “flu.” He called up my chart on the computer to get the phone number, only to find that I’d been admitted to emergency with a kidney stone. Damned if he didn’t stop by to see me on his way home. Nothing special in that, I suppose, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from him (he’s Robin’s doctor, too). And it is the exact opposite of most people’s opinion of Kaiser, that it’s an impersonal place.

Now I have to go barf.

no doubt

I often wonder why I write about television so much here, when so many people tell me some variant of “I don’t watch TV, but I read your blog.” But I think I might have an explanation.

If you aren’t watching TV, and I am, then I have something to say that you won’t already know. I’m almost obliged to jabber!

I came to this realization in a backwards fashion. I have written more about politics in the past than I have of late, and the reason I don’t write as much about it now is that I assume we all already know anything I might offer. I could post links to important stuff, but you have already seen that stuff. I could do a rant, but those are dime-a-dozen. I don’t have anything particularly original to say, I don’t know of any under-publicized websites worth your attention … there’s nothing for me to write about.

Ah, but television, with an audience that doesn’t watch it … now anything I say will at the least be something you hadn’t heard before.

Truth is, though, I’d trade every reader I have if they’d all just go watch The Wire. Nothing will ever appear on this blog that is as good as The Wire.

studio 60 and a little bit of house

I am a very big fan of Aaron Sorkin. Having said that, I prefer that he uses his light touch to illuminate modern relationships in the modern workplace, and am not as fond of him when he clubs us over the head with Big Points. Thus I found Sports Night to be a better show than West Wing, because the former, while not immune to the occasional posturing of this or that character, was ultimately more about the characters than the posturing, while the latter, while certainly full (in the Sorkin era, at least) of intelligent characters in an interesting setting, had a lot more of the posturing (in part because of that setting … if the President of the United States can’t posture, who can?). (Although one of my favorite movie presidents is Jeff Bridges in that awful movie The Contender, because you could see the joy in being president, every time he ordered something to eat just because he could.)

OK, I got lost in the parentheses there. My point, if I’ve made one, is that Sports Night was Sorkin at his best (light, even funny, but with serious undertones on the level of character) while West Wing, a very good show, too often featured Sorkin at his not best (serious undertones in CAPITAL LETTERS).

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip looked to be Sorkin at his best, since it takes place, not in the political arena, but in a television studio where a late-night comedy show is produced. It’s Sports Night meets SNL, not West Wing meets, uh, West Wing.

Except so far, Sorkin seems to taking Studio 60 into serious mode from the start. There are all the Sorkin trademarks, which I welcome because he’s so good … the talking-while-walking, the clever repartee between intelligent people, the true-to-life relationships. But the background of the show is more like Sports Night than West Wing. These people aren’t saving the world, they’re making a comedy show. And when Sorkin pours on the juice, as if to say “this episode of our comedy show is of massive importance to the human community,” he’s not just falling victim to his worst tendencies, he doing so in a setting where it doesn’t make sense. At least Bradley Whitford worked for the President in West Wing … here he just works for a network television executive. The bombast isn’t as effective.

Studio 60 is a pretty good show, has the makings of a very good show, and even if it’s poor Sorkin, I’ll like it. And I know it’s early in the game. But so far, Sports Night is still the best show Aaron Sorkin has done.

Meanwhile, in a House addendum, I think I’ve come up with the focus for the piece I’m going to write for the BenBella book (at least if they OK it). I noticed it tonight more than usual. On House, we have one of the great characters in television, acted by a man at the top of his game. Yet it often seems as if the people making House don’t know what they’ve got. The show is extremely formulaic, stepping outside the formula maybe once a season … as if the creators thought “no one will watch a show with an asshole at the center, we better give them a standard doctor show to cover up the asshole-ness.” They also have a low opinion of their audience … they don’t let us figure things out for ourselves, they beat us over the head with stuff. So tonight, House had an autistic patient, and he identified with the kid, and Hugh Laurie was great as usual. But then the show would stop every 3 or 4 scenes so that other characters could say to each other “I think House sees himself in that kid.” Nowhere was this more evident than in the show’s touching moment at the end, when the autistic kid gives House his video-game machine. Laurie lets us know, without words, what the scene means, and even hard-hearted fellows like myself get a lump in the throat … and then, instead of fading out, they have to give Wilson a line that explains the touching moment, cheapens it, and makes me feel like a dope for being touched in the first place.

east bay story, with richard beymer as "lon"

I could probably save a lot of cyberspace if I just came up with a shorthand way of getting through these semi-annual threads. What to call it, though? How about "Lon Simmons"? Lon is beloved of both A's and Giants fans, so he's a good icon for this. Every six months or so, I'll offer up a blog post, call it "Lon Simmons," and leave the body of the text blank. Everyone who sees it can fill in that blank space with the following, which I'll post one more time here for reference purposes:

Steven: It broke my heart when the Giants lost to the Angels in 2002, but next to that, nothing broke my heart more than finding out how much A's fans hated the Giants and their fans. I will never forgive them.

A's fans of my acquaintance: You are wrong, we are A's fans, we rooted for the Giants. Don't exaggerate.

Steven: You need to walk a mile in my shoes on this one. Take my word for it, you are naive if you think I'm exaggerating.

A's fans of my acquaintance: Chill, dude. Can't we all just get along?

OK, remember now, every six months when you see a blank message titled "Lon Simmons," the above is what you're supposed to recall.

(I confess I'm a little wary of this, because Lon's getting old, I hate to imagine it but unless he outlives this blog, which is certainly possible, then one day I'm gonna have to post a message titled "Lon Simmons" that has nothing to do with the above. But that message won't be blank, so you'll be able to tell the difference between that one and the "Steven Rants" one.)

(Now I'm imagining a scene in a movie. It's a gang movie, kinda like West Side Story but without the sappy parts. For the whole movie the two gangs, we'll call them The Giants and The A's, fight turf wars. Then one day, an elder who was the one person able to walk on both sides of the war passes away ... we'll call him "Lon." Both gangs attend the funeral service, and the cops are there, too, worried about violence. But then the leaders of the two gangs (played by George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn) meet in front of the open casket and realize that their old mentor has one last message for them. They turn around to face the crowd, and slowly shake hands as "The End" comes onto the screen.)

(How it would actually play out: the two gangs each try to outdo the other in the size of their memorial flower arrangements in honor of the deceased. The Giants gang says "we were here first ... Lon was ours before you were even born." The A's gang says "we have actually finished first, unlike you ... and Lon was ours when that happened, not yours." The Giants gang tries to leave to go rumble with the Dodger Gang (played by the Brady Bunch), but the A's gang will have none of it ... they want this to end right then and there. A massive battle begins, and the camera pans upwards into the heavens. The last shot is of Lon Simmons, sitting at the right hand of God (played by Roy Steele). God is laughing as Lon tells his 34th bad joke in the last ten minutes. "The x-rays came back negative," Lon says as the credits roll. "Aren't all x-rays negative?")