Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cow and Bungle

I suppose it would be very non-pc of me to suggest that some kind of extinction event were to happen that just targets chavs; but frankly that's what I'd like to see. Some kind of The Stand like flu event that just affects the section of society that need a sign on the toilet to tell them they're facing the wrong way; the section of society that stands around open mouthed looking at some riddled with sugar BOGOF in a supermarket, while people who want to just get on with things have to do slalom impersonations just to be able to keep on track. To be totally honest with you, I could write a list and it would be a long list and the list would include people like one of my brothers; but they should all die and leave the planet to people that actually give a shit. To people who are courteous and conscientious; people who have manners and are aware of the world and its occupants and what they are doing.

Now, breathe.

***

Someone, probably God, must have a really twisted sense of humour, having fucked me over for two weekends on the trot. Last weekend, I had a chest infection, this weekend, the mother of all cold viruses. The wife reckons that after 5 months of not smoking and not having so much as a sniffle, this is my body's revenge, which, if my 'everything bad comes in 3s' theory is correct, then I'm going to be diagnosed with diabetes next week or something is going to happen to prevent us from going to Leicester next weekend!

***

I've been watching this US medical drama called Off the Map for the last 6 weeks. It's basically a bunch of American doctors stuck in the Amazon rainforest (except it's filmed in Hawaii using the old Lost sets) The wife gave up on it because she just didn't find it compelling enough and thought it terribly formulaic; I, on the other hand, decided it had enough about it to warrant further examination. However, after 5 weeks, I came to the conclusion that it was a bit like watching Casualty back in the early 1990s, guessing who was going to be sick and who was going to die. Every week, it was one unexpected death or one martyr like moment mixed with a quirky ailment cured by some rainforest plant or medicine man. You could almost set your watch knowing someone was going to die.

But this week, faced with no pharmacy (emptied in a robbery) and with viral meningitis and an appendicitis, both of which need drugs they didn't have, it was refreshing that both patients survived. The quirky subplot involved a young girl bitten by a parasitic insect who needs a simple course of antibiotics (which they don't have, because of the robbery) to prevent her from developing deadly heart disease which will kill her by the time she's 25, but whose mother is reluctant to let her go to the city hospital because she earns money for the poor family working in the market. In the end, the appendectomy, the meningitis and the young girl are all either sorted or are on the way to being sorted and all are put on a helicopter to take them back to the city. The first thing that went through my head was how refreshing it was that no one died this week; the second thing was wouldn't it be funny if the helicopter crashed killing all on board.

The helicopter crashed.

In many ways it just followed the same old formula, but remarkably, in other ways, it changed it completely by killing all of the patients off rather than just one of them. The problem is that during episode 5, I was about to turn it off and give the series up, but thought I should persevere; after all, it isn't some SF or horror series that I appear to be hooked on, it's just a medical drama - normal TV. I'm not sure what constitutes 'normal' in this show, but I don't think I'm going to bother watching it any longer. It needs something else other than death to keep me watching and with this it seems that death is the only denouement the writers can think of.

Coincidentally, about 18 months ago, we were just about to give up on another TV series when something happened at the end of the third episode that made us stick with it for a bit longer and now it's a must see piece of TV. I'm talking about The Vampire Diaries, which I'm happy to say was also highlighted by The Guardian recently as one of the current must-see US dramas. It, as I have said many times in the past, is bonkers television; it's everything Twilight wants to be, but falls at every hurdle. I even concluded that it's the 2011 version of Buffy, with it's smart dialogue, likeable supporting cast and unexpected twists and turns.

The main problem with Buffy was that towards the of the show, well, actually during large chunks of the show, the most annoying thing about it was Buffy Summers herself. Yes, she was lovely eye candy and without her there wasn't a series, but her supporting cast became far more interesting and you cared far more about them than you ever did her. I don't know if that was purposeful or just a strange quirk, but for me it was the absolute truth.

Now, Vampire Diaries has the same problem. The main character is arguably the most annoying and dislikeable in the show. Plus to make matters worse, the actress is in a dual role. Nina Dobrev plays both Elena Gilbert and a vampire called Katherine whose lives are connected, entwined and inextricably linked. Dobrev's characters have to be in it otherwise there wouldn't be a series, and for the last six weeks or so of season 2, she has been nothing more than a peripheral character and subsequently these weeks have been the best episodes of the entire series.

It is a show with sparkling dialogue, interestingly diverse characters, unexpected twists and turns, a sense of humour and more than a knowing wink and a nod to the aforementioned Twilight. The problem is that Dobrev's characters are now very much back on centre stage and I fear that this will mean a drop in quality. I know there are people out there who have given this show a chance, but ultimately given up thinking it's vacuous and facile. Well, it's worth watching purely for Ian Somerhalder's Damon, undoubtedly the best vampire since Spike and over the course of the series the character that you tune in every week to watch - he's the real star of the show. But also, its worth watching out for Caroline Forbes (played by Candice Accola) - really nothing more than a bimbo supplying blond sexiness during the first series, who during the second season has developed into an unbelievably brilliant cast member - I won't tell you why in case you decide to watch it, but she's like this show's Nina (from Being Human).

It's a show that has vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks, immortality rings, ancient vampires who are in many ways completely different from the main vampires and a real arsehole human. I'm pretty sure there's going to be a few more weird and wonderful new creatures introduced over the next few years, but it wouldn't spoil it if there weren't. It's the kind of thing I'd recommend for a box set treat.

If I had to choose between this and Fringe as my favourite TV import at the moment, I'd struggle to pick one over the other. However, if you don't want horror or weird and wonderful SF, you need to watch the US version of Shameless. It is arguably better than the UK version and that's a big and bold statement. It's like Paul Abbott has had the chance to do it all again, but this time he's cut all the shit out and just left the excellent elements of the first 4 series. Plus, I believe it is considerably more risqué than any of the UK episodes and that surprises me, but could be why it feels so much better.

***

I met with the spinal surgeon on Wednesday. He offered me an operation but I turned him down. There has been an improvement in my back and leg since December and I want to see if it improves any more.

We talked about medication and I'm coming off the tramadol and going back to co-codamol; I'm going back on amitripyline and we're going to review the situation in May. He was pretty straight talking and made me feel better about my 'temporary' disability. He sympathised with me about crap GPs, ridiculous disability laws and weird nerves. He feels that I should see an 80% recovery from the prolapsed disc, but I'll probably struggle to avoid pain especially when I walk any distance or exert myself too much.

He also told me to be honest with myself about my spondylosis. The MRI indicates that it's been there for a few years now, but my big pain and bone problems started about 5 months ago; shortly after I stopped smoking cannabis. The thing is, most of my friends have known that I've smoked drugs for the last 32 years, with barely a break; but for the benefit of possible work colleagues and other people, I've been disguising the fact in this blog; suggesting that I stopped 9 or 10 years ago. I've got into enough trouble because of blogs without admitting to something that could lose me my job. This was because I didn't want 'outsiders' to know of my drug habit and I didn't want it to be used as an excuse for any mistakes I might have made. The thing is I don't smoke it now and there's a direct correlation between me stopping and the amount of pain I've been in; something that both my GP and my surgeon have agreed about. My lungs might be better, but my bones ain't.

Many people have suggested I return to the drug; maybe eating it or smoking it neat; but the problem is I'm an addict - not of cannabis but of nicotine and I know that if I started ingesting pot in some form, I will eventually go back to smoking it and that invariably means I'll end up mixing it with tobacco and that's something I'm not going to do. Being addicted to nicotine is as bad as being addicted to alcohol or heroin. I always used to suggest that I had a dependence on cannabis; but that was the nicotine talking; the only difference in my life now that there's no cannabis in it is the pain. I smoked the stuff for 32 years, by the time I stopped, I'd forgotten what it was like to be stoned; it was a medicine and nothing more. I didn't realise it until I stopped taking it, but I actually don't want to start again even if it does mean less pain and more mobility. Funny that.

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