In Anticipation

Like the weather in my region, I’m in a holding pattern.  I haven’t felt the need to write much lately.  I’m recharging my psychic batteries, reading, dreaming, and waiting for it to get warmer and dryer so I can enjoy more outdoor activities.

last eval

It’s been a few weeks since our guide dog trainee Spice went off to college.  She passed the medical and behavioral exams.  After a review of the fertility rates of her maternal ancestors, the organization decided she wasn’t likely to produce large litters.  So she’s been spayed, and is recovering before she begins the ten phases of final training to be a guide.  We will get reports as she completes each phase.  The dogs can still get career-changed at any point from here on, so we are waiting before committing to another puppy.  Mary will be volunteering at the county Humane Society shelter, and we’ve decided to join a larger guide dog club in a different town, one where we can work with an increased variety of dogs and trainers.

There’s no consistent formula for raising superior dogs any more than there is for proper child rearing, except for emphasizing ways to reward correct behavior and withhold reward for missteps.  I don’t respond at all well to negative reinforcement – getting punished for doing the wrong thing.  Some individuals do, but it only provokes rebellion from me.  Since I understand this is one of my character traits, I try to live and work where the psychological environment is one of encouragement rather than competition.

In my bad old younger days I implemented retributions against people who I perceived had done me wrong at work.  I helped some get fired by not coming to their deserved defense, and ensured that others failed to receive well-earned promotions.  It was small-minded, fear-based behavior, and I’ve paid for it.  Those past actions haunt me sometimes.  The regret I carry over it helps remind me to keep trying to be more open and act in consistency with my best intent.

Flu season is beginning to plateau.  The deaths of a couple of well-liked local seniors and an unimmunized child scared people into taking action.   We sold out of the shots.  Yes, even though it’s unlikely, you can die of the flu.  I’ve also had a large increase in orders for chest x-rays.  Some who had the flu waited until their immune systems were overwhelmed by pneumonia, which in medicalese we call “infiltrates”.  I can easily accept that some people prefer herbal remedies and non-western medicine.  What I dislike is that too many refuse to even take a day off their jobs until they drop in their tracks, by which time they’ve infected some of their co-workers and customers.  It doesn’t work to try and ignore viruses.  They weaken your natural defenses, and other infections pile on while you’re fighting them.

Most of my patients who aren’t ill have made poor risk vs. benefit choices.  Here are some easy rules you can follow to avoid injury (all based on true stories):


1.)  Don’t operate power tools before you’ve had your morning coffee, and if you use them after sunset, turn on some lights.

2.)  If you are over 50, stay off ladders.  Gravity will not forget, and if you fall you will break something.  Pay someone under 30 to do it.  They will bounce.

3.)  Lift with your thigh muscles, not your back.  Doing it wrong once is enough to change your life forever after.

4.)  If you perform the same motion repetitively for decades, you will pay.

5.)  If you choose to drink alcohol or take drugs, stay in one place until they wear off.  Don’t go driving, shopping, walking the dog or out on the boat fishing.  Even bathtubs can be dangerous when you’re altered.

Because Mary is a Writer’s Guild member (WGA), we get screener DVDs of current films seeking awards in writing categories.  They don’t send us many “kaboom” movies or raunchy comedies.  We get films that are more character-driven, script-reliant and independent productions that want the votes.  Winning awards can increase ticket sales, and even though to viewers like me movies are an expression of the art of storytelling, they are a serious, pragmatic business for those who make them.  American films don’t get the kind of government support for the arts or tax breaks that other countries provide.

I agree with critics who have opined that current films seem to have trouble providing clear endings.  They stop, but they don’t finish.  Or they try to invent ways for viewers to keep the story moving forward in their minds after the onscreen show is over.  Spielberg’s film Lincoln is about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, banning slavery.  That’s obviously where the film should end, and there’s a perfect shot of Lincoln sauntering down the hall into soft focus after the difficult passage is won.  Instead of that emotionally satisfying “ta-daaa”, you must sit through both a subsequent montage about the assassination AND a flashback to Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address before the movie lets go.  To me, that’s an indulgent, mistaken approach that diminishes the power of an otherwise brilliant work.

By contrast there’s Ang Lee’s amazing film adaptation of  “Life of Pi”.  That story has broader philosophical dimensions, a degree-of-difficulty disadvantage in comparison to narratives where this event follows that in logical sequence.  By the end of Pi, you aren’t sure what actually happened to the main character, or if any of it happened.  Pi’s re-telling of his life is full of short stories where events occur chronologically, each impossible or embellished or both, yet believable because they are told and shown with conviction.  Like Scorsese’s Hugo, this is a production that employs exuberant, well-chosen, computer-enhanced cinematic techniques to present miraculous things onscreen.  It’s great in either 3D or 2D.  The movie helps open the audience to reflect upon our need to believe in stories outside and beyond the direct observation of the world.

I prefer to believe in all of our stories, especially the impossible ones.  I could never have predicted the things that have happened to me, and I’m imaginative.  I wonder what will come when the rain is over?


Filed under Cinema, Ethics and Morality, humor

10 responses to “In Anticipation

  1. Hi Michael-
    Has Spice’s leaving been tough? Or is it the weather? It’s has been “cold” here – not the very brisk cold where you are, but cold for us.

    Have you heard about Looking for Sugarman or something like that – a documentary. I want to see it. Who do you think deserves an Oscar in film and in documentaries.

    • The weather has been more depressing than Spice’s leaving. She’s doing great, so we’re happy. I know nothing about Looking for Sugarman, but I’ll investigate. All the nominees deserve an Oscar. It’s a remarkable, exceptional year for great films, every bit as good as 1939 (the geek’s choice of best year ever). I liked every Best Picture nominee I have seen, from Argo to Lincoln to The Hobbit to Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook. Unfortunately, we aren’t Academy members, so I haven’t seen the documentaries.

  2. galenpearl

    I am glad to get a Spice update. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I am looking forward to seeing Life of Pi. I liked the book very much and the previews look beautiful.

    • You’re welcome! I’m told the film is a bit less ambiguous than the book, but the movie was quite open-ended to my eyes. I would be interested to hear your reaction. The DVD comes out in March.

  3. Boy, you covered a lot of ground in one blog post. Thanks for the Spice update. I feel like I know and love her, too!

    I have not seen Lincoln and, based on your thoughts, will probably wait until I have a long night at home to watch it and a big bowl of popcorn. I did not particularly like or dislike Life of Pi, but I know I am in the minority here.

    Thanks for the tips and chuckles on how to avoid injury. All true! 🙂

    • Heh heh, I do try to put it all in the crock pot. I also enjoy having the feeling that everyone’s good wishes for Spice are helping propel her toward a purposeful future. Lincoln’s a great narrative tale, with superior performances. It will be satisfying to see it whenever you do. I’m just a nit-picker about form. Glad you enjoyed the tips! Thanks, Debbie.

  4. Margie

    The nail through the finger x-ray – is that a power tool story?

    • Yes, though that is not the x-ray of my patient. I’ve taken pictures of a number of nail gun vs hand incidents, also power saw, band saw, drill press – all caused by being tired or not having enough light to see by.

  5. Pie

    Drunk or otherwise, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a power tool. There’s a reason why you pay professionals to use them. And I like to retain full use of my hands until death.

    I don’t have access to the right satellite channels, so I won’t be able to watch the Oscars this weekend. I’ll find out when it’s all over.

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