small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Saturday, February 08, 2003
I watched O Brother, Where Art Thou?, another Coen Bros. movie, today. I liked it more than Raising Arizona. The hero, Ulysses Everett McGill, is a thoroughly appealling scoundrel with the gift of gab, great heart, and human vanity and weakness. And the folk music soundtrack is great fun.

I also watched Disk 2 of Elizabeth R. This is an entertaining series, not a great one, but it continues to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of British history. I'd heard of the Babington Plot, for instance, but was vague on the details. Queen Elizabeth is not treated very sympathetically, which is reassuring for my notions of historical plausibility. The monarchy is such a thoroughly undemocratic institution that it can hardly help but corrupt the morals of those whom it favors.

Friday, February 07, 2003
My hand feels better. I'm just taking my regular pain medicine now (albeit in a double dose). I only itch a little under my splint, and I try not to think about that. I'll be glad on Monday when I can get my hand out of the splint for at least a little while, though, and I hope they'll put something lighter on when they see how it's doing.

I've read only one book since the operation, since it's hard to hold a book open wit one hand. The Duke of Uranium by John Barnes is an entertaining adventure novel about a young man on his first mission of interplanetary intrigue, but it's a little too obviously the first novel in a series. (For one thing, there's a prologue that's pointless otherwise.) Barnes has always struck me as a tremendously talented writer, but one who doesn't always go to more trouble than he has to, so he sometimes publishes work with a bit less heart and brilliance than he's capable of.

Tonight's movie was Topsy-Turvy, a period piece about the composition of The Mikado. I noticed when I was watching Elizabeth R that at times it was too much like actors in costume on a stage. Topsy-Turvy seemed more real, to better evoke the spirit of the past. An entertaining movie which I recommend.

Yesterday I watched A Hard Day's Night and Revolutionary Girl Utena disk 4. I saw A Hard Day's Night at the DC Filmfest a few years ago, and it came as a surprise to learn that the Beatles were funny. I had heard that the Marx Brothers were funny, that Monty Python was funny, that Jack Benny was funny, even that the Three Stooges were funny, but somehow nobody had ever told me that the Beatles were funny. In case you're similarly deprived in your educational background, let it be known: the Beatles are funny.

The Revolutionary Girl Utena disk comes from the middle of the second major story arc, which so far I find less compelling than the first. Part of the problem is that the duellists have less personally at stake in these stories, and so the duels are less interesting. In the first arc the course of the duel was always determined by the nature of the underlying conflict, which made them more interesting. Also, Utena seems to have less growth to do in these episodes, at least so far. Still, there was the surprising return of an old character in an unexpected context, and some variety in the final fight on the disk, which gives me hope that the series has some surprises left.

Come to think of it, I watched A Hard Day's Night on Wednesday, and Raising Arizona yesterday, but I'd rather not retype. Raising Arizona was a good movie, as all of the Coen brothers' work is, but not my favorite. As my stamina is flagging, that's all I'll say about it.

Before that, I watched The Oscar Wilde Collection: Stage Right, which has BBC productions of An Ideal Husband and Lady Windemere's Fan, both very well done.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

My hand surgery was yesterday. Dr. Gunther performed a joint fusion on three fingers on my right hand and a 'soft release' of the index finger (which means that he straightened the finger as much as he could without doing anything drastic). He told me just before the surgery that he might need to graft some bone from my hip, if he couldn't get enough good bone from my fingers.

The anesthesiologist decided she couldn't do an axillary block (sp?) because I couldn't move my arm far enough for her to get to the nerve, and she didn't want to use general anesthesia because I'm hard to intubate, so we agreed to use a local anesthetic, ketamine, and a sedative. Ketamine was what they used during my first surgery, and you may remember that I was able to straighten up more afterwards. So we thought it would be interesting to see if the same thing happened again.

I was in the operating room for about four hours, so we think the operation took something over three hours. The local was very effective; until they started putting stitches in, I couldn't feel my hand at all. Unfortunately after a couple hours my arm started to hurt because of the tourniquet. The anesthesiologist gave me more sedative, but that only helped a little bit. It was another thirty or forty minutes before they were able to release the tourniquet. I groaned and moaned periodically to let them know it still hurt.

Earlier in the operation I felt them digging into my hip. I thought the local they'd given me there must have been pretty effective, but I was expecting it to really really hurt when it wore off. I was glad they'd at least taken the bone from my right hip, since I sleep on my other side. But toward the end of the operation they made a comment which made me realize they hadn't used any bone from my hip after all. Apparently it was a hallucination induced by the ketamine.

After the operation they kept me in a recovery area for forty minutes before letting me get dressed, take any pain medicine, or go to the bathroom. (They offered to give me pain medicine through my IV, but then they would have wanted to watch me longer.) Eventually they moved me to a room where I could go to the bathroom and get dressed. They also gave me some crackers and ginger ale, and I got my mother to sneak me some Vicodin. After another half-hour they finally let us go, although they wouldn't let me walk out of the hospital, even though I felt fine.

Right now my entire hand, including the wrist, but not the thumb, is immobilized, but Dr. Gunther will be unwrapping it on Monday and hopefully replacing it with a removable splint. (I asked if I could see my hand before they wrapped it up, but they couldn't manage it.) He also wants me to start physical therapy on Thursday. I can wiggle my fingertips, which my mother finds more impressive than I do. I'd have been more surprised if I had lost that function.

I can get out of chairs, go to the bathroom, type (slowly), eat soup with a spoon, and put a DVD in the DVD player. I can't make food, pour drinks, or get my painkillers out of the bottle with a non-safety cap. There's still a little pain, but I'm going to try to get by with just my regular pain medicine starting tonight.

So far I've slept a lot, watched some TV and DVD's, and eaten bits of this and that. Aside from having this heavy thing on my hand, I feel pretty good. But I'll be glad when it's all over.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Last night I finally watched the PBS Stage on Screen production of Waiting For Godot that I recorded, er, last year. A little too slow and somber, I thought--Waiting For Godot is meant to be funny, the profundity can take care of itself.

I saw Waiting For Godot live once, on a dark and stormy night. In the middle of the play, there was a loud crash of thunder and the theater went pitch black. Out of the darkness I heard a plaintive voice: "What do we do now?"; and a reply: "We wait." Shortly thereafter the lights came on, and it was a few days before I realized it was a brilliant ad lib, not part of the play.


My joint fusion operation takes place in a few hours. Blogging may be sporadic for a while, but I'll try to post an update in the next few days about how I'm doing. My right hand will be in a splint for the next three weeks, but I'm hoping that I'll at least be able to use my thumb.

There was much excitement yesterday, when the hospital called saying I needed to see my neurologist to get a neurological assessment done. It takes several months to get an appointment with my neurologist, so this isn't the sort of thing you like to hear at the last minute, plus when I called last week to see what sort of a note I needed him to write, they told me the anesthesiologist had spoken with him and it was all taken care of.

Four hours and many phone calls later, they called back and said that everything was fine. As near as I can tell, somebody finally talked to the neurologist.

Monday, February 03, 2003
Last night's DVD was Behind the Sun, a Brazilian movie about a pair of feuding families caught up in a never-ending cycle of vengeance, because they're both obsessed with honor and really, really stupid. It's a pretty movie, but dumb. Not recommended.


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