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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
January 6, 2011

Every Day Is Special

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.


Strokes, Scott Pilgrim

Of all the strokes I've read about, I have to rate the one I just had (on New Year's Day) as dull and second-rate on the danger-and-debilitation metere -- precisely the kind of stroke you want to have, if you have to have one at all.

The small blockage deep in my right-brain caused numbness in the left side of my lips and tongue and in my left hand and foot. The numbness left my limbs on the first day, but remains in my now-much-bitten lower lip.

As I write this, nearly three days later, I can report that my speech is unimpaired, I can walk (though I have a tendency for my left leg to buckle and I bump into walls and doorframes, and keep knocking my toothpaste tube off the left side of the sink.

I can even type, though at about a quarter of my former speed, because the fingers of my left hand don't quite land where I expect them to, leading to lots of G, Z, and R when I mean to type B, A, or E. It's the corrections that slow me down.

I've only fallen down once, because I was stupid enough to try to balance on my shaky left leg while putting on my pants.

All I have to do now is play a lot of videogames with left-hand controls so I can get my brain to wire new pathways for my eye-hand coordination, and practice walking, and make sure I hold onto things when I walk (I have a nice collection of canes -- and finally a use for them!)

But just so you know, I'm not going to be out on the road driving for a long time. I think people as wobbly as me have no business driving.

And the fact that much of my sense of taste has turned up missing will only help my efforts at weight loss.

My wonderful hospitalist at Moses Cone, who never once talked down to me or pretended to know more than he did, has me taking Plavix and a mild blood-pressure-reducer.

My wife is helping me take my weight-loss seriously -- yes to the brilliant tabouli from Mediterraneo, no (temporarily) to the equally brilliant barbecued-pork sandwich from Cook-Out.

Loco for Coco, I'll miss you! Unless you get more dark chocolate nonpareils in.

I compare my stroke with the others I've known. My grandfather's first stroke paralyzed him (except for speech), and he lived that way for the last year of his life. My uncle's first stroke wasn't completely debilitating, but his second one made him noncommunicative for the last years of his life.

Mine was definitely kinder to me than theirs were.

My friend Chris's stroke hit him out of nowhere -- at least I had heredity to warn me, and atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure to set off alarm bells, so I knew exactly what was happening when the left side of my tongue went numb while I was brushing my teeth.

Chris's stroke made him blind in one eye. The vision slowly came back, which is the good part. Loss of vision terrifies me, though -- at least with all my typing clumsiness I can see the errors and fix them.

So look, if you're as stupid as I was and you haven't lost weight and got your blood pressure down after ample warnings, I highly recommend my stroke over all the others I've seen or heard of.

I don't mean to brag, but the blood vessels in my brain picked their blockage carefully -- enough to get my attention, enough to keep me from doing book signings or teaching college for a while, which cleared out my schedule, but not enough to keep me from writing books or talking to people.

I hate it that I've disappointed and/or annoyed so many people, especially my would-have-been students this semester at Southern Virginia. But at least I can concentrate on fulfilling all my book contracts without distraction. (Does one of my publishers have a voodoo doll with a strand of my hair in it and a pin going right to the center of the head?)

I solemnly promise not to croak with any of my book series unfinished. Though I may miss a column or two or six in the next few months.

And bumping into walls can be kind of funny to the people around me, so I'm adding to the entertainment of my family.

*

Over the holidays, we all settled down to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on DVD. The promos for this movie last summer made the movie seem like it might be mildly entertaining but missable. It looked like dumb comedy.

In fact, it's sharp satire, a weird-and-wonderful treatment of a semi-slacker's life as if he were in a comic book or a videogame. It's not that he has superpowers, but some of his new girlfriend's ex-boyfriends do, and, just as in a videogame, when he fights them he suddenly has completely inexplicable martial-arts skills.

Michael Cera, who plays the title role, is completely wonderful -- a lively personality even when he's dead-panning and a likeability that persists even when he acts like a jerk. Think of him as the geek version of Romeo and you'll be right on.

The movie has a strong moral center -- Pilgrim is held to account for his jerky choices (e.g., taking on a new girlfriend before breaking up with the old one). But the movie also has a sharp eye for satire, though I don't know how much of this comes from the original graphic novels (by Bryan Lee O'Malley).

I loved the Vegan ex-boyfriend whose devastating superpowers come from the purity of his veganness, so he can only be defeated by tricking him into eating dairy.

By the end of the movie you're glad that real life isn't like this -- and also kind of wishing that it were.

Look, I can see why the studio did such a lousy job of promoting this movie that it flopped at the box office -- there's no way to communicate how clever and funny and surprising and smart is it. You just have to see it.

If your sense of humor begins and ends with Will Ferrell or Jack Black, this movie would be wasted on you. Likewise, if you only like movies that make you feel smarter than your friends, forget it -- Scott Pilgrim is accessible to just about anybody under the age of 70 who still has a sense of contemporary culture.

This movie is not in contention for any Oscars this year. It doesn't even try to be a "great film." But it's a good movie the plows new and fertile ground, and I hope that people like me who missed it in the theaters will now make it a hit on DVD, so that the people who made this movie can get the funding to make more.


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