Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them."

When last I typed about my health, I had returned from the ENT appointment no closer to an answer for what's going on. He'd said that my thyroid was functioning normally and that what was going on with my exhaustion was due to some other issue and left it at that. In the interim, I decided to get the blood test that measures the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to be sure that I wasn't borderline hypothyroid (what the doctors call "sub-clinical".)

My doctor's appointment was this past Wednesday. We talked a bit about the thyroid issues and he was surprised the specialist didn't have blood drawn for the TSH as it's necessary so he ordered the test. We also talked a bit about other possibilities, the first one of which is chronic fatigue syndrome, which is being reclassified as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, symptoms of which include sore throats, fevers, sweating, muscle and bone aches and pains, brain fog, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty breathing, etc. All of the symptoms are things that I've had, but would only vaguely grumble about as I pushed forward with my plans or with whatever it is that I had to do, like most people would. The symptoms are vague and could be anything. And, honestly, if it weren't for the fact that my thyroid makes the lower part of my throat look a bit like Mickey Mouse (noticeable when I swallow), I would still simply be working through it instead of working through it with a possible help in the future.

The lab got my results back Wednesday night and my doctor sent me the interpretation the next morning: my TSH levels are normal. So now, it's time to get down to brass tacks. ME is one of those things you can only get to by ruling other things out. My doctor suggested I try 3 mg of melatonin and light therapy and last night was my second night using this stuff. Please note that, in very simple terms, melatonin isn't a sleeping pill, it's a hormone that helps your body relax and realize that it's time for sleep. If you're going take it, talk to your doctor first as taking it without really needing it can really mess with your internal clock and cause you even more problems.

The following are my experiences with it so far so I have a record and maybe it'll help someone else.

About 20 minutes before I plan on going to bed, I take a dose of melatonin and I'll read for a little while. Shortly thereafter, how long after I couldn't tell you, it feels like things are going off in my brain. I'd say that it's probably what synapses firing feels like, even though synapses are constantly firing in one's brain, you just don't feel it. I'll toss and turn for a while and eventually fall asleep. I wake up as I always wake up, it feels a bit sudden. Something, again, tends to "go off" in my brain and says "WAKEYWAKEY!" and I generally can't get back to sleep after that, no matter how tired I am.

Now, light therapy is a new one and seems a bit weird. I have a HappyLight next to my bed that, once I've given up the fight for more sleep, I'll turn on and then curse the world because it's bright as shit, especially with my room being tomblike in its darkness.

Do not taunt HappyLight.

It's also used to battle Seasonal Affective Disorder (the HappyLight fights SAD...Artax needed the HappyLight, Atreyu...). That's something I don't have as I LOVE the fact that it's not constantly sunny here in Portland. It's part of the reason I moved here. My eyes don't hurt when I leave my house...unless the sun is beaming right into my door, which does happen.

My doctor described the effect of a light box as sort of a shot of mild adrenaline. I've had shots of adrenaline before, thanks to my asthma, and that's not the feeling I get from this thing. My eyes feel more open after a ten-ish minute session with it, but I don't know that I feel any more awake. Or happy, for that matter, but who is when they have a bright light within two feet of their face for ten minutes in the morning?

So, now it's the sort of "wait and see" phase, where we do stuff, wait and see what happens, and then either keep it or try something else. As for the thyroid, there's no explanation for why it's enlarged, I just have to go back every year and get a new ultrasound and a new TSH panel to check on it. That said, we're eliminated the thyroid as being the cause for my malaise, which is great, and can move on to other things and help me feel better!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

PIFF 38 -- WYRMWOOD (movie review)

I started to post about WYRMWOOD on my Facebook when I realized that what I had to say was going to be TL;DR for that medium.

WYRMWOOD is an Australian zombie film based on a short that was made in 2012.

The short film looked like Max Mad mixed with Land of the Dead, both of which I happen to love. Kick ass!

Fast forward three years and check out the trailer below.

Picked up by IFC Midnight for distribution, WYRMWOOD tells the story of  Barry, a mechanic who wakes up in the middle of the night and in the middle of a zompocalypse. He's able to get his wife and child out of the city, but they end up randomly turning as they head out to help Barry's sister Brooke, who - unbeknownst to them - was captured by the military and is being kept in a roaming research truck to be experimented on. There are a passel of characters added on to add to the body count and the run time and the film first focuses on an Aboriginal man named Benny who is relegated to little more than comic relief for the majority of the runtime until the end. When I saw him, I was hoping they'd gone for an Aboriginal take on the zombie phenomenon. Alas...

Firstly, huge, huge kudos to the filmmakers for persevering and getting to make their feature AND get distribution for it. I know how tough it is all around so congratulations to them. I also have to say that it seemed like the audience I saw it with at the Portland International Film Festival enjoyed it.

Now, on to the review.

This part is a bit subjective, so please keep that in mind. I love zombie movies. I've been studying them since I was a kid. Their zombie design was great, but anatomically speaking, protruding brows indicate that the ghouls have been around for quite a bit, at least a few months. WYRMWOOD takes place over the course of less than 48 hours. If the zombies are decaying that fast, Barry, Benny, Brooke, and the rest of the characters need but to hunker down for a week and Bob's your uncle, the apocalypse is over until someone is born with blood that isn't A negative (the central conceit as to why the living characters haven't magically turned is that they have A negative blood, which is extremely rare, I'll revisit this later) or they die with the brain intact.

The zombie rate of decay aside, the film's timeframe is extremely unrealistic when you consider how quickly the characters not only become accustomed to the living dead, but build intricate mechanical tools for battle and some also go utterly bonkers. A few simple sentences could've removed the action on screen from day zero of the apocalypse and made it more plausible. I know that words like "plausible" and "unrealistic" seem anathema to a review about a zombie movie, but what makes a film -any film - work is a level of believability or reality. Classic zombie films like George A. Romero's Dead Cycle or THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (though that one has flaws that could be its own article, and I LOVE that film) work because there is a certain level of reality that bolsters the unbelievability of the story. This is true of any film regardless of genre or genres.

This part is super subjective so take it or leave it, but I'm a bit tired of zombies not having human eyes. Putting contacts into their eyes without medical reasons (like clouded eyes or petechiae) might look cool, but they take away the allegory of them being us and makes it more easy to kill them. Should it be that easy? Where is the moral dilemma?

Revisiting the A negative blood thing, which is inventive: how is it that the army guys who aren't A negative had the foresight to not only wear ventilator units the entire time, but also had enough time to build intricate electric motors? Barry and Benny had one other person to help them kit out the truck which I still don't think could've been done in the amount of time the filmmakers allowed. And they made a gigantic, accidental leap in logic to realize that the zombies were manufacturing some sort of fuel in the daytime. (By the way, for gasoline at least, it's not the liquid that's flammable, it's the fumes coming off of the liquid.)

At this point, I should say that lot of the plot points are fun: I like the subplot with the sister, the ghouls as gas idea, and the Max Mad aspects.

On the technical side... I was constantly thrown out of the film by the cinematography. It looked like it was shot entirely with a 50mm lens on a DSLR that was not connected to a monitor and the focus set to auto and while IMDb doesn't give lens information, the page does say that, yes, it was shot on a Canon 5D. The focus was all over the place, even in scenes where there was very little action, and the movie on the whole felt like it was shot by several different people. Even the colour grading was different throughout.

That said, everything else about the film on the technical side was great. The acting, the lighting, the sound, the effects, the truck...great stuff! But the plot felt too slick and I didn't really care about the characters. Overall, while I was disappointed, I'm looking forward to seeing what else the team behind the film come up with and I hope they get their next film rolling very soon.