Monday, February 13, 2017

Take Your Kids To The Dentist!

I'm sitting at home recovering from some oral surgery.  Last August I lost most of the teeth on my lower left due to a rampaging infection.  The surgery is the first of several to remedy that situation; in about a year or so I may have fully recovered what has been lost.

When I was a kid -- this was in the late 1950's/early 1960's -- my parents only took us kids to the dentist when we were in pain.  And I hate to say it, but our dentist wasn't a very good one.  He was not current with treatment.  His drill was powered by a foot treadle, not electricity.  He still used mercury to make amalgam fillings.  He would occasionally leave cotton packing under the fillings which would cause more trouble down the road when the cotton started to break down.  He was terrible.  A lot of his "work" had to be re-done, often more than once, once I was an adult.

Consequently I have a mouth full of fillings and root canals.  Cut ahead to the present day, when the best treatment for my Crohn's Disease involves severely suppressing my immune system.  Short version: I am very prone to infection.  Because my teeth are already "dead" thanks to root canals, I had no idea I even had the infection in my jaw until a lot of damage had been done.  (I feel so crappy most of the time anyway that it really did go unnoticed, and because the involved teeth had no nerves, I had no pain until the jawbone itself began to sustain damage.)  There was no other recourse; the teeth had to be extracted.

This was last August; it's now February and the bone has healed enough to begin preparation for dental implants.  This will take another few months to heal; then the implants can be screwed into my jaw; more months to heal; posts will be installed in the implants and the gum will be reshaped to accommodate crowns; finally, when that heals I'll get crowns and be able to chew again.  It is going to cost us thousands of dollars.  With luck it will all be over before something bad happens to me on the other side.  Which I have no doubt it will, eventually.

My lovely wife had marginally better dental care than I did growing up.  She at least had regular checkups, but grew up in a community without fluoridation of the water supply.  So she also has a fair number of fillings and crowns, although not nearly as many as I do.  So when we had our daughter, we both agreed that proper, regular dental care was a must.

My daughter started seeing our dentist every six months once she turned 4.  She has never missed a checkup.  She has complied with all of his recommendations regarding fluoride and treatments.  It was not always easy; we did not always have dental insurance and often had to make financial arrangements with the dentist in order to maintain her care.  But we managed.

She is 24 now, and has never had even a minor cavity.  Her only dental trauma was an impacted wisdom tooth.

She has a perfect smile.

I know that not everyone has the financial wherewithal for regular dentistry, but I can't stress firmly enough how important it is to make it happen.  It will save your kids thousands of bucks and countless hours of pain down the road.  There are programs and dental colleges and dentists who work pro bono if you can't afford it.  Look into it.  Find something.  Do the leg work.  Don't put it off.

Treat yourself to a perfect smile from the people you most love.  It's totally worth it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night"

The Green Lantern Oath.  It still resonates with me.  Especially now, because I believe my country is experiencing a pretty black night right now....

Clearly, one of my great childhood influences has been the character of Green Lantern.  I can't say why the character speaks to me.  I tried to explain it a little in the blog description.  As a kid I knew that I could never be a Superman, because I was not rocketed to Earth from another planet and had no inherent alien ability to change the course of mighty rivers or bend steel in my bare hands.  And I knew I could never be a Batman, because I was not an orphaned billionaire with access to all kinds of research and development hardware that I could use in my personal war on crime.  But I could be a Green Lantern.  He's a space cop.  He works on the side of the good guys.  His particular good guys are ancient alien immortals who figured out how to channel willpower into a force for good.  They invented a ring that can turn that willpower into reality.  Anything you can think of, you can make with a Green Lantern ring.  You can fly; you can breathe in space; you can build or make anything you can imagine out of the green light of willpower.

The only things you really need to be a Green Lantern are to be able to use your willpower, to overcome your fear, and to be The Right Guy.  The right guy (or girl) in the right place at the right time.  What a brilliant, amazing, empowering idea for an eight-year-old boy to wrap his mind around.

When I first discovered Green Lantern, I was indeed an eight-year-old boy.  I was not allowed to buy comics.  I did not get an allowance -- my parents didn't believe in giving kids an allowance, not even to reward chores -- and all the money I earned from my paper route went straight into my parents' pockets.  Seriously -- all of it.  Every penny.  Since my dad worked on Saturdays and my mom wouldn't (or couldn't) pay for a sitter, she would bring me with her when she went to "get her hair done" at the local mom-and-pop "beauty parlor" (which was literally in some nice lady's parlor, but never mind.)  My mom was not the only one who brought her kids with her, so the beautician had a basket of comic books for kids to occupy themselves while Mom had her head under a hair dryer the size of R2-D2.  The comics were a pretty mixed bag.  There were Archie Comics (including Archie's Pal Jughead, Betty and Veronica, Little Archie and Archie's Pals 'n' Gals), some Disney Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics, and a handful of whatever National Periodical Publications were on the rack at Carlino's Drug Store that month:  Batman.  Superman.  Detective.  And Green Lantern.

The first Green Lantern comic I read was number 4.  "The Secret of Green Lantern's Mask Revealed!" and "The Diabolical Missile from Qward!"  It blew me away.  I was immediately hooked.

Today a similar brand-new comic book from DC costs about three bucks.  As you can see, back in 1961, it cost a dime.  From this point on I lived the Great New Jersey Lost Quarter Hunt.  I walked with my head down so much that my parents were convinced I was depressed.  (Well, I was, but that's another story, and it's not why my head was down.)  I was looking for lost change in the gutters of Raritan, New Jersey.  Shortly after my first Green Lantern comic, the price went up from 10 cents to 12 cents, which meant that for a quarter I could still buy two comics and a piece of penny candy at Carlino's.  Sure, I had to sneak the comics home because my mother was convinced that comic books were responsible for everything from gang violence to moral turpitude, but it was still totally worth it.  Like most kids, I tried to hide the books under my mattress and like most moms, mine found them when she changed the sheets and promptly threw them away and gave me a lecture.  It didn't matter.  In a few days I had found or scrounged another quarter and blew it on a copy of Green Lantern, a copy of Justice League of America (because Green Lantern was a member) and a piece of Bazooka bubble gum.

For some reason, I have never lost my fascination for the character.  I have pretty much every Green Lantern toy and action figure ever made, including some pretty high-end ones aimed at adult collectors such as myself.
(My favorite:  Cloth uniform; alternate heads...set me back a cool 70 bucks.)

I also have a fair amount of Green Lantern paraphernalia, including a "working" life-size replica of his Power Battery.  (See, the gimmick with Green Lantern is that his powers come from that ring given to him by the Guardians.  But the ring only holds a charge for 24 hours, after which it has to be recharged with a Battery, which looks like a GREEN LANTERN.)  When the price came down to below $300, my lovely wife finally relented and I brought home this baby:

She relented even further and lets me keep it in the living room.  And yes, I occasionally light it up by touching a GL ring to it.  (Whether or not I recite the GL Oath is my business and my business only.)

And then there are the rings.  Yes:  rings, plural.  This is my current favorite:

It's reasonably subtle, and fairly dressy, and I can get away with wearing it in public without most people noticing.  Just my little secret.

So in spite of the fact that I only rarely use this blog to talk about GL and pop culture, I think I'll keep its title "Citizen of Oa," and the colors, and the artwork by the great Howard Chaykin.  

And don't be surprised if every now and then I comment on the comics.  :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Shining Some Light

It's no secret that I think that we have come into some pretty dark times.  We have a new administration that seems to be using the Nazi playbook.  In just a couple of weeks, orders and bans have come down from on high that make no sense at all to any right-thinking American.  The defenders of the new regime call those of us who are concerned "snowflakes" and worse.  And I won't lie; I have been hideously depressed, all the while on hold for my senator's voice mail, but hideously depressed nonetheless.  It has been enough to affect my health, which has suffered a rapid and surprising decline.  There are days when it's all I can do to go about my normal business.

One aspect of that "normal business" is what I do on Thursday mornings.  Y'see, new comics are published and available every Wednesday.  I give the hustle and mayhem of New Comics Day a miss, and instead I pick up my books on the following day, Thursday.  There are less people in the store and a better chance of a nice conversation with the person or persons behind the counter, most of whom I am proud to call my friends.

I'm blessed in that I am able to really indulge my comic book habit.  I usually leave with a good-sized stack, and sometimes I don't get through them all before the next Thursday.  That happened to me this past week.  Now like any collector/reader of comics, there are favorite books that I have to read right away (hello, Walking Dead!) and there are some that I save for the "right moment" (whatever that might mean.)  Two that I usually save for later are Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.  This past week the latter title, issue #13, really saved me.  As Green Lantern so often has throughout my life.

I don't know when it was written, or if it was put together as a subtle response to the election, or if it was just fortunate happenstance.  The story is called "Heroes" and it was written by Robert Venditti.  It's on newsstands now, if you're interested.

At first I thought it was just what comics readers know as a "fill-in" issue.  It doesn't advance the current storyline, and it stands alone as a story -- in short, it fills in a gap while the regular creators get caught up with their work.  There is one quote from the issue that really got me:

" The evils of the universe are many.  Threats old and forgotten worm their way back.  Threats new and fearsome arise and stake their claim....  Evil occurs, and it's evil things that do it.  They want you to be afraid there are too many of them.  That there is more evil than good.  Many people think that way.  Because fear is easy.  It's instinctual.  You don't have to think about fear.

"I could've done what was easy...lived the rest of my life afraid.  Instead...I made the far more difficult decision.  I pushed my fears away.

"It's called will.  Will isn't instinctual.  It's never easy.  But will chases away fear and rage and greed.  It inspires.  Illuminates.  Shines through the dark where evil things hide.  But will needs help.  You have to choose it.

"Keep it your hearts and evil can never win.  You can be a hero."

Nothing has given me as much comfort since this whole nightmare began as this little graphic story has.  Not even knowing that we tightened our belts here at home as much as we could to donate to refugee and ACLU and NAACP causes.  

We can all be heroes.

But we're going to have to choose to make it so.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Naming He Who Shall Not Be Named

From now on, I will only refer to him as "Trumplethinskin."

That is all.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Let the Record Show" by John Pavlovitz

I am reprinting the entirety of John Pavlovitz' excellent column here, now, simply because I could not have expressed my feelings today any better that this.  The only things Mr. Pavlovitz says that would not come out of my own mouth are his comments on faith and Jesus.  Otherwise, I'm with him 100%.

My crappy health does not permit me to march today in protest to the Trump presidency, but at least I can share this.

The entire column can be found at

Let the record show that I did not consent to this.
Let it show that I did not vote for this man, that he did not represent me, that I did not believe he was deserving of being here, that I grieved his ascension.
Let History record my objection to him, to the ways he humiliated women and vilified Muslims and threatened protestors and disregarded people of color.
Let it record my repulsion at his tremendous cruelty, his lack of compassion, his contempt for dissension, his absence of simple decency.
Let witnesses mark down my disgust at the way he boasted of infidelity, at how he ridiculed a disabled reporter, at the way he attacked female opponents for their appearance, at the way he marginalized immigrants.
Let the record show that I looked on with disbelief as he spent countless early morning and middle-of-the-night hours following the election on social media, broadcasting a steady stream of petulant, insecure, incoherent messages instead of preparing to do a job he was ill-equipped for and seemingly not all that interested in.
Let the record show that I watched him assemble a Cabinet of billionaires and bigots, of people woefully unqualified to steward our children, our safety, our healthcare, our financial stability—and that I was horrified by it all.
Let History record my grieving at the racism and bigotry and homophobia that characterized his campaign, marked his supporters, and is evident in his assembling Administration.

I do not believe he is a man of faith or integrity or nobility.
I do not believe his concern is for anything outside his reflection in the mirror.
I believe he is a danger to our children.
I believe he is a threat to our safety.

Right now I am worried for my country, concerned for our planet, scared for the future of my children, and greatly saddened that 62 million Americans seem okay with all of this.
Not at all.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 In Memoriam

Not "in memoriam" of the actual year 2016 -- that is an annus horribilis that is best burned to death, locked in a trunk, and dumped overboard into the Marianas Trench.  I just wanted to leave a note about many of the people who influenced me who died in 2016.  This is only a partial list, at best, of all we lost last year, which somehow makes it even more sad.

William Christopher.  Debbie Reynolds.  Carrie Fisher.  Richare Adams.  George Michael.  ZsaZsa Gabor.  Alan Thicke.  John Glenn.  Ron Glass.  Dooky Chase.  Florence Henderson.  Gwen Ifill.  Leon Russell.  Robert Vaughn.  Leonard Cohen.  Janet Reno.  Arnold Palmer.  Darwyn Cooke.  Edward Albee.  Gene Wilder.  Gloria DeHaven.  Garry Marshall.  Elie Wiesel.  Anton Yelchin.  Gordie Howe.  Muhammad Ali.  Alan Young.  Morley Safer.  Prince.  Doris Roberts.  Merle Haggard.  Patty Duke.  Garry Shandling.  Pat Conroy.  Harper Lee.  Vanity.  Abe Vigoda.  Natalie Cole.  David Bowie.  Glenn Frey.  Alan Rickman.

If I missed one your favorite influences, please, please don't hesitate to leave it in a comment.  Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Remembering Carrie Fisher

2016, that horrible, horrible dumpster fire of a year, is not done with us yet, apparently.  Today we lost Carrie Fisher, who suffered a heart attack on an airplane over the Christmas holiday.  Today it was announced that she had died.  Today it seems like the entire world is mourning Princess Leia. Maybe it's because of the success of the first stand-alone Star Wars movie, "Rogue One."  Maybe it's just because Carrie was such a memorable icon, whether in her white dress and buns or her metal bikini and ponytail.

When I think of Carrie, though, I don't think of "Star Wars."  I think of "The Blues Brothers."

See, back during my acting career (such as it was) I got to work as an extra on the Chicago set of "The Blues Brothers."  I was in the crowd during the finale's concert, and I was in the crowd dodging the cars during the chase scene in the mall.  I got to meet most of the principal actors at the craft table.  John Belushi kept mostly to himself.  Dan Aykroyd was very nice and very genial, always making sure that the little guys were doing OK.  And Carrie was simply hilarious.  She always had a story, and seemed to always be laughing.  While I did not meet her formally, like I did with Dan, I was usually in the group she was telling stories to in between takes.  There were a fair number of "Star Wars" nerds among the extras even then, and Carrie was always willing to oblige with a story, usually one at her expense.

I do remember that Dan gave her the Heimlich Maneuver one day when she was choking, and I heard that they became engaged shortly afterwards.  I can't speak to the truth of the second part, but I know he saved her from choking.  I also found out long afterwards that part of the craft budget went towards the purchase of cocaine for the principal actors.  I couldn't say who indulged, but I'm sure most of my readers have their own opinions.

My favorite words from Carrie herself:

So in respect for her wishes, let me say that today Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

One of my daughter's Tumblr friends, who blogs under the name "princess-slay-ya" had this to say, and God, do I wish I had written it myself (but be warned, some language is not safe for kids/work) --

"It's hard to imagine moving foward without Carrie Fisher, but her legacy will remain even if she is not physically with us.  She was someone who went through shit in life and still came out of it a princess.  We all may never star in one of the most famous movies of all time, or be award-winning authors, or help write one of the most famous Star Wars movies of all time, or be able to tweet with emojis in witty and hilarious ways, but we can all still be like Carrie.  She survived, she thrived, she owned who she was.  She was just as much of a rebel as Leia is.

"We can carry on with Carrie's legacy by loving ourselves and fighting for ourselves and being the kind of people that Carrie would be proud of.  Whether it be writing that story you've been dying to tell, or looking in the mirror and saying, 'this is my body and I fucking love it!' or just simply getting up in the morning again and again and keep moving forward.  She would want to know that she is survived by a legacy of boys and girls who give no fucks and who fight for themselves and who were inspired by everything Carrie gave to the world.

"May the Force be with you."

I would like to end with this Tweet from K O'Shea:  "Fight on the front lines.  Strangle fascists with the chains they would have you wear.  Be a motherfuckin' general."

And as for 2016 -- I hope you die, and it hurts, and you suffer while you die.  For Carrie, and for Richard Adams, whom you also took from us today.  Burn in Hell, 2016.  You abomination.