Entry for February 28, 2007 — Molars and movies

Friends, I hope you're having a better week than I have. Yesterday (Tuesday, 27 February 2007), I had a dental appointment to deal with some tooth decay. Unfortunately, after spending an hour under the drill, I was sent to another doctor for the beginning of a four-hour root canal. Adding insult to injury is the fact that it will cost yet another $1,500 beyond what my insurance will cover.

First a little background. I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate that were repaired when I was a baby. My uvula was used to repair the roof of my mouth, and my front two teeth hang separate from the rest of my upper jaw. Even after speech therapy in junior high school, I find my own speech too nasal to enjoy listening to when I've been recorded.

After several operations, I eventually had a bridge with a removable partial plate installed in 1986, about 20 years ago and after my senior year of high school. Each upper tooth was ground down to a stump so that it could be capped. That period before college was also noteworthy because I visited my mother's side of the family in the Philippines that summer.

Since then, I've had relatively few dental problems other than the wearing down of my bottom teeth by the titanium and porcelain bridge on my upper ones. Until now, that is.

Yesterday, my dentist cut and removed the coverings from two teeth, but found that the decay on the No. 2 molar (counting from the back of the right side) had advanced too far. He said that if my insurer had authorized treatment sooner, I may not have needed the expensive, painful, and lengthy root-canal procedure, in which the nerve of a tooth is removed rather than expose it to infection. It's one more reason to dislike the bloated health care and insurance industries.

Anyway, I've scheduled the second two hours for two weeks from now, when I'll have to miss yet another day of work and cancel another D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains" fantasy game. At least my dental health is being addressed, and friends and co-workers have been supportive.

On a lighter note, on Friday, Feb. 23, Janice and I watched the SciFi Channel's latest rebroadcast of "Special Unit 2." She's fond of the comedic science fiction/horror series of the 1990s, one of a handful that briefly followed the success of "The X-Files," such as "The Chronicle" (and one could argue, the "Men In Black" movies).

On Saturday, we took the commuter rail into Boston to meet Ben P.S., who was up from Maryland for the day to conduct a seminar on science writing. We mainly hung out at the Copley Place and Prudential Center shopping malls, partly to avoid the cold weather and partly to stall for time so that Bill K., another college friend of Ben and new father Cliff Y., could surprise Ben at lunch in the Pru's excellent food court.

We had a pleasant morning catching up on one another's work, musical preferences, and families. Janice and I then bought some DVDs, books, and other novelties on Newbury Street in Back Bay. I hope to get to "Pandemonium Books & Games" in Central Square, Cambridge, in the next few weeks to show my support for the struggling role-playing retailer.

On Sunday, I played "City of Heroes" in the morning with Steve M.R. and Thomas K.Y. (David I.S. and Kim A.G. were traveling for work, and I didn't see Dave's sister Shari online). Some of our superheroes have become quite experienced at navigating the virtual city, but we have to be careful not to devote too much time to the computer game.

That afternoon, I drove up to Thomas' condominium in Lexington, Massachusetts. We ate lunch at a Korean barbeque restaurant before watching "The Illusionist" and "The Prestige" on DVD. As other reviewers have noted, both magician mysteries take place in the late 19th century and feature solid production values and casts.

"The Illusionist," starring "Fight Club's" Edward Norton, "Dark City's" Rufus Sewell, "Sideways'" Paul Giamatti, and "Seventh Heaven's" Jessica Biel, had the more straightforward narrative. The Central European accents were distracting, but the more romantic plot was ultimately solvable.

"The Prestige," starring "Batman Begins'" Christian Bale, "X-Men's" Hugh Jackman, the great Michael Caine, and ingénue Scarlett Johannson, also had cameos by rocker David Bowie and "Lord of the Rings'" Andy Serkiss. Like Chris Nolan's "Memento," the story unfolds in a nonlinear fashion, and the deus ex machina is a big one. The destructive obsessions of the main characters were interesting to watch, however, so I'd give "The Prestige" an 8 out of 10 compared with a 7.5 for "The Illusionist."

I raced home Sunday night to watch the Oscars. I was pleased to see "Pan's Labyrinth" win some Academy Awards, but I haven't screened most of the other nominees. The fashions of the actors on the red carpet were somewhat subdued from previous years, IMHO. I plan to go to the theaters for Frank Miller's "300" and the computer-animated "Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles" in the coming weeks.

Tonight, Dexter V.H., Byron V.O., and I will continue evaluating virtual desktops for role-playing. Although the face-to-face D&D3.5 session has been postponed, play by e-mail has continued, led by Greg D.C. Fortunately, I'm caught up on recent genre television, especially "Heroes" and "Veronica Mars," even if I haven't been following the revisionst "Battlestar Galactica" closely.

My reviews of recent comic books will have to wait, but in the meantime, take it easy, and brush often! -Gene