Monday, December 18, 2006

Doctor, Strange.

Well, a bit going on, and time to write about it, because I have come down with the markedly unmasculine-sounding condition of pre-patellar bursitis, or "housemaid's knee".

And the sad thing is I originally damaged caused this through kicking a football around, and last night aggravated it boxing, but it's not called "he-man's knee", is it?

So. Another rewarding day at work - by eleven seventeen, two people had threatened to sue me and another two had burst into tears in my office. The legal threats come thick and fast, more thick than fast, usually from people who can't afford bus fare and will be getting big lawyers onto me as soon as they get off home detention. Today's patient-doctor interaction contained the following gem, about fifteen minutes into the consultation with the woman whose life I had ruined*.

Her: "And I was perfectly happy before you took my benzos away!!!"

Me: "I'm sorry about that, but one hundred milligrams of methadone a day, plus a fifty-tablet bottle of 5 mg valium every three days is too dangerous. You could overdose and die."

Her: "Overdose and die? I've been doing this twenty years and I'm not dead yet"

Me (with restraint): "Plus the bottle of Jack's "every now and then"... if you die it looks really bad on my resume."

Her: "I'm as healthy as a friggin bull!"

Me: "You have no spleen and only one lung. You've got more surgical steel in you than a bloody cyberman. Two years ago you took two packets of nurofen and codeine on top of your pneumonia and you were almost pronounced dead at Florey..."

Her: "You've ruined my life!!!!"

Me: "I'm sorry that you feel the treatment isn't working for you, but if you want, I can refer you to Central instead. They have really smart doctors there, people there who are experts in treating your kind of problems."

Her: "Pity we don't have any smart doctors like that here, we've only got you."

Me: "Yeah, well, for some reason the smart doctors don't want to come out to Mordor and see my clients."

And so on, with the utterly unterrifying threat of legal action hovering over my head like a pink, fluffy vulture on a bit of elastic. I will be seeing a lawyer about this woman, but that will be when it's a coroner's case, in which case I will be fairly comfortable explaining why I did not take her medical advice when prescribing for her.

Plus Christmas is a difficult time for a number of our clients, thoughts of family, that kind of thing.

Anyhow - as I do when I am edgy, and I've been a bit edgy lately, I've been thinking about science fiction, fantasy, superheroes... particularly the latter. I don't know why the idea fascinates me, I don't read much of the stuff lately, only the good stuff, and like with a lot of things lately I've been becoming more and more interested in the ideas behind the stuff, the history, the implications.

Some of this stuff is fairly basic - the disproportionate amount of superhero ideas (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the FF) that came out the minds of Jewish immigrants to America, for example. Born to noble parents, set adrift in a tiny vessel, developing superhuman powers as he matured to protect his people from aggressors - somewhere in Superman is Moses.

The access to advanced science and technology - not all of them, of course, but before there were superheroes there were science heroes: people like Thomas Edison, who was the star of "Edison's Conquest of Mars", thirty years before Superman, and Doc Savage, Man of Bronze.

But I was thinking about the disproportionate number of superheroes who have no fathers - and whether there could have been superheroes without the absence of those fathers. The father of Jerry Siegel (the writer who came up with Superman, and thus everyone else) was shot and killed when Siegel was still in junior high. And then you look and see that Superman's parents died with Krypton (but not before saving him), Batman's died literally so that he may be reborn, and Peter Parker/Spiderman's has a mysteriously vanished father and almost immediately deceased surrogate father, Uncle Ben.

For Bruce Banner/the Hulk, there is no death of a father involved in the superhero's genesis, in the event that enabled the character to become a superhero (a creature who often combined the strength of an adult with the appetites and thinking of a child). The closest thing to a father is the hostile General "Thunderbolt" Ross, an extravagantly moustached man who bellows and roars and sends wave after wave of tanks and military men after the misunderstood, enraged, childlike but ultimately invulnerable Hulk.

And you also wonder about those boys, being brought up by more religiously orthodox parents, finding a new religion of technology and individual achievement and wealth and freedom in the new land, the New World, and abandoning the synagogues for the street corners.

The loss of another Father.

And obviously there's more going on than that. There's the whole idea about putting on the mask and thus becoming unseen, almost invisible and thus free. There's the fascinating evolution of the superheroes - and here I'm quoting someone else from a newsgroup I used to visit -

how Superman went from being a rabble-rousing
anarchist figure to a tame Establishment figure
who tells children to eat their vegetables. It's how
the dark and deadly Batman was tamed into a
proper law-enforcement officer who told children
to obey their parents. They went from being
fascinating characters with a whole world of
potential to being perfect, boring people who
hang around all day just so other people can
look up to them.

Anyhow. Fascinating stuff. The book I am about twenty pages into is called "Men of Tomorrow" and the tagline is Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book. Interesting stuff, particularly the almost painfully accurate and tender way he describes the birth of geeks, an entire subculture and personality type birthed by Amazing Stories, the first science fiction magazine. He describes the time when, for the first time "... a generation of misfits (was) given a choice other than complete withdrawal from the world or indentured servitude to it. They were given another place to go." If you are a geek or an ubergeek, or you know one, parts of this book will make you wince.

And lastly, an obituary, reproduced from the British Medical Journal, 11th of November, 2006:

"Dr Donald Duck.
Donald Duck trained in medicine after a brief foray into civil engineering. After a year as general practice trainee in Skye he moved with his wife to the Medical Missionary College at Ludhiana, where he learnt Urdu and Hindi...."

Bizarre: imagine being wheeled in for that emergency surgery and soneone says "Don't worry, Mrs Smith! Your tumour is being removed by Donald Duck!".

Having said that, I've certainly known a few Dr Goofys.

Anyway, thanks for listening,

*Not Sarah, another one.


Blogger Camilla said...

Wow, that was fascinating! I had no idea about all the superhero/father stuff. The book you're reading sounds great too.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

So the November obituary means I can't say my doctor is Dr. Donald Duck? Quel dommage.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

isn't the doctor of our beloved leader Herr John Howard, called Doctor Murder or Dr Killer?
Don't forget the ObGyn Dr Seman, Dr Orso (pronounced Ortho) the Orthopod, etc...

Your latest reminded me of a patient who came in wanting the usual*, after coming off about 10 days of speed use (by prostituting his partner to pay for the last few days of it - I was treating her for some anal acquired injuries)... He walked out without signing the bill (he was getting bulk billed anyway), sat in the car for about 5 minutes seeing if anybody came out after him... He couldn't understand later when he needed more of the usual, why I didn't want to see him? He was honestly puzzled.

* 1-2 from group A, 1 from group B, 1 or 2 from group C
A = temazepam, lorazepam, diazepam, nitrazepam, oxazepam, zolpidem
B = morphine, methadone, propoxyphene, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, buprenorphine
C = antidepressant to help with speed crash, or maybe even some antipsychotic to help with the Morgellan's syndrome

2:50 PM  
Blogger lauritajuanitasanchez said...

I've thought about the absence of parents in Disney movies (but haven't really thought about it in Superhero lore). I was bothered by the fact that I was showing my children all of these movies about kids with dead/absent parents or only one ineffective parent (Cinderella, Snow White, Bambi, Little Mermaid)...and I've come to the following conclusion. You can't go out and have great adventures when there's someone taking care of you, feeding you and making you go to bed by 8.

I suppose Batman, Superman and Spiderman couldn't be so awesome if they had to go to family dinner on Sundays.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Juanita J. Sanchez said...

Right on, Laurita! Well said.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Danny said...

Dr Donald Duck...I remember reading about him!

The Hulk. Well, yes, at first Banner was written with no reference to his parents, unusual really as every superhero had parents. But not Doc Banner. Then in the 1980s either Barry Windsor-Smith or Bill Mantlo (depending on who you believe, personally I think it was Mantlo, but Smith now claims that Mantlo stole his ideas after he (Mantlo) saw pages from an unpublished graphic novel that he (Smith) was going to produce) retconned the character and established that Banner's father was an abusive little man who regularly beat his wife and eventually killed her in a domestic dispute. Thus the pattern for supressed rage was there from the start.

Peter David took it to the next level when he combined all the multiple personalities that existed within the mind of Banner (several Hulks and Banner himself) in around issue #377. Classic stuff.

The death of a parent is a common theme in the creation of a superhero. A lot of it does come from the likes of Siegel and what he went through, but more of it comes down to giving the character motivation. Spider-Man sees his Uncle Ben shot and then goes out to devote his life to bad stories and fighting crime. Batman sees his parents shot and devotes his life to punsihing criminals, as does The Punisher - after the 'mob' kill his family he kills them.

Even the 'pure' Captain America's original motivation was to enlist because his brother was killed at Pearl Harbour. I think it was Roger Stern (I'm happy to stand corrected) who fixed that by retconning it as a memory implant designed to confuse the Nazis after many people pointed out that the character was created, and thus appeared, months before Pearl Harbour. His true motivation lay in the fact that his mother had died and he had no family.

Motivation is a big thing. With the characters I'm now creating I, for the life of me, can't work out any motivational reason as to why the main guy does what he does, other than he likes doing it and likes doing the right thing. The secondary character has all the motivation in the world though. Still, I'd love to see the day when we have a character who has the most basic of motivations: he likes to beat the crap out of people. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. As complex as a bowl of Weet-Bix.

Let me know when you've finished reading Men Of Tomorrow - I'll put you on the path of several other books you might find just as interesting. Men Of Tomorrow is a damn good book, even if it does have some historical flaws (but then what book doesn't?).

7:18 AM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Are you sure it was housemaid's knee not clergyman's knee

7:25 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Interesting ideas. I'll have to pick up this book. Thanks for the tip.

Just started reading your blog... hope you come back soon and that all turns out well.

2:22 PM  

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