Late to the Commie Party

One of the greatest new developments in pop culture over the past five years is the ability to binge watch television programs. This viewing pattern shift hit us just at the right time–we don’t watch as many programs as we used to and we’ve gotten far more selective on films we see in theaters. (I remember about 10 years ago, when it seemed like I had appointment television almost every night of the week, with most nights having multiple shows. My Tivo got quite the workout back then. The change away from this habit is partially due to the rise of reality television, but also an unwillingness on my part to invest in programming when the network could pull the plug after half a season or so.)

This pickiness has led to an opportunity for my wife and I–spend our free nights and weekends binge-watching programs, particularly ones that got great in their second or third seasons. It does lead to you deciding what camp you are in with respect to streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu–each has its highlights and not everyone wants to pay for all three. For years, we were Netflix only, and I will always subscribe to Netflix as a way of saying thanks for more Arrested Development, Bob & David, and the Marvel series. Plus, my wife and daughter love Orange Is the New Black. I also sometimes watch their older network series, particularly The X-Files, Parks & Recreation, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On that last series, no one has watched it (and its spinoff Angel) as much as my oldest daughter. I think she has watched each series all the way through four or five times, each with a new friend. She wanted to introduce each of them to these shows–she was serving as Joss Whedon’s personal Pied Piper.

There’s a number of other shows on Netflix that people rave about, yet we’ve never watched when they were originally on TV. Chief among these are The West Wing and Friday Night Lights. Until recently, you could have added House of Cards to that list, but we have now watched the first two seasons of that show. We would have kept going on that, as well as the second season of The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (which served as a comedy sorbet any time the machinations of Frank and Claire Underwood got a little too much to take), but we’ve taken an Amazon-related detour.We never had Amazon Prime until recently, but it has opened up our binge-watching possibilities. Both my wife and I had heard so many raves about The Americans that we’ve decided to dive right in. What a great choice–all the plaudits are well deserved. The show really threads a needle, getting the viewer to root for Russian spies. That might be the most surprising anti-hero movement since The Sopranos. Getting to know both the Russian spies and the golden boy of the FBI leads to a nice programming balance. We are already seven episodes into Season 1, and I’ve heard the next two seasons get even better.

After we get through The Americans, Amazon gives us some additional binge possibilities, including Hannibal, Deadwood, Veep, The Man in the High Castle, Transparent, Catastrophe, and Justified. (The last one is a bit of a stretch–I have actually seen Justified all the  way through, but I want to make others watch it as well, and I’d be happy to see it again. I guess that makes me an Elmore Leonard or Graham Yost pied piper).

So what do people think? Is our list of binge candidates solid and complete, or are we missing some great possibilities? And of the ones we haven’t seen yet, what should be our next priority? Just don’t suggest getting fresh air and sunlight–no one wants to binge that.


Bruising Your Groin (for all the Wrong Reasons)

I suggested that I may be willing to discuss my recent medical misadventures in more detail if that was what people wanted to hear. Well, the response was overwhelmingly positive–100% of the readers that chimed in expressed interest in hearing more about my recent surgical procedure!

(Truth in advertising department–one person replied and said that they’d be willing to read anything I wrote. So for you that struggle with math, one affirmative out of one response is 100%. I’ll take it, particularly as it was proof that someone read my last blog.)

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I spent the beginning of last week in the hospital for a cardiac ablation. My doctor had recommended it back in January after an echo cardiogram showed that one of my atrium valves had grown in size, which would increase the probability of future arrhythmia episodes. An ablation would attack the problem, bring down that probability, and perhaps eliminate the need for medications. I tried to  put it off for some time, particularly as I had a major deadline at work (one we hit although I will not be there to see the fruits of that labor), so it was scheduled for April. I had to check in on Monday when they did a TEE, a procedure in which they stick a camera down your throat to check for any blood clots before the ablation. Luckily you get put out for that as well, but not before you get to gargle some disgusting liquid to numb you first. After I woke up from that procedure, I had an MRI on my heart so they could get a sneak preview of the region for Tuesday’s 8AM surgery.

Checked into my room with nothing to do until the next day. I was fairly confident about the ablation, even though they had to give me the standard “complications can include death” speech. That hit my wife more than it hit me. However, laying on a hospital bed with twelve hours to can lead to the mind wandering into unpleasant briar patches. If only I had something to distract me. TV was not that successful, but thankfully the hospital staff had something in mind to prevent me from dwelling on the upcoming procedure…

If you haven’t been in the hospital lately, congratulations! But I also thought I would mention that you are assigned a nurse and a technician. The latter is mostly responsible for checking your vitals every few hours. On Monday night, my technician checked my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature about 8PM. Everything was normal. An hour later, a second technician came in to tell me he was assisting the technician assigned to my room. He also informed me that he’d be coming back soon to “prep” me for the surgical procedure, and that prep involved shaving my chest (ok) and groin (I knew it was coming, but it is not anything you are truly prepared to have done, particularly by a stranger–unless that’s your thing). After he came back, he helpfully explained that the chest had to be shaved in case they needed to use the defibrillator paddles on my chest. Remember earlier when I said that I wasn’t worried about the procedure? Hearing the term “defibrillator paddles” has a way of spiking fear–every time they are used in a medical television or movie situation, there’s nothing laid back or fun about the application of the paddles. Visualizing someone yelling “CLEAR” as they tried to shock my heart back into performance was concerning to say the least.

Thank God I had the humiliation of being shaved from shoulder to knee to keep me occupied! The one I didn’t get was he also shaved my armpits. That created a bit of razor burn, but not as bad as the razor burn on both sides of my groin area. This led to a “funny for everyone but me” situation. When I was in recovery after the procedure and the nurse there was checking the area of incisions, she noticed the razor burn. She asked me who had shaved me there and expressed anger that he had created the bumps and cuts. That should have been enough, but she proceeded to call over several other nurses and technicians to show them the poor shaving job–or more simply put, to show them my groin. Each made a point of agreeing with her that it was too bad–hopefully referring to just the razor burn and not my genitalia.

That was not the last indignity my groin would suffer. After getting out of the hospital, the area around one of the incisions started to develop a purple and red bruise. I was told this might happen and it was nothing to cause alarm. I was frustrated though that if my groin was going to be this black and blue, I’d have hoped to have a little more fun getting it in that shape.