Friday, May 20, 2016

Dreaming In Darkness.

Dreaming In Darkness.

Here is a basic question for you and don’t worry it is an easy one. Where do we dream? The answer, fundamentally, is that we dream in darkness.

Think about that for a moment. When you close your eyes, the world effectively goes black to you. On a base level, our minds are cut off from one of our primary senses and we surrender it over to its own devices as we began to shut down our body’s systems to allow everything to rest/recuperate.

And on some level, it is in that ethereal plane of void and shadow that some of our most vivid and bright moments are born. We call them dreams, but in truth they can be anything from unconscious fragments of thought, memories to unresolved fears and worries. My point is that is where some powerful parts of ourselves are born.

I know something about this, because if anyone is qualified to talk about such a subject; I am. Over the course of my life I have done so much sleeping. And not in the way you might expect.

As many people familiar with me are aware I suffer from two neurological conditions known as Narcolepsy and Cataplexy. Directly because of this I had to go for years before we had an accurate diagnosis or appropriate treatment. I’ve spent weeks and even months in a perpetual state of sleep.

While in any of these events, I could sometimes hear things around me and at others was lost to dreams. It is said, by both experts and those who suffer the shackles of sleep or plagued by the demons of dream (both are expressions I have used to inject some degree of humor into the discussion of my condition) that those with this problem tend to experience far more vivid and intense dreams.

While others might only dream while in the confines of their beds, we can involuntarily fluctuate in and out of REM sleep just walking around. We have no control over when we choose to drift off to sleep, let alone when we will awaken. Long story short, I can go from wide awake to deep sleep as rapidly as a light switch can be flipped.

I mention all of this as a matter of perspective. Two days ago, my son collapsed in the check out aisle at a local grocery store. Within moments I was packing him out to our vehicle. We had believed he suffered from a form of seizure and had been treating him accordingly. So, after the designated time had passed and his situation remained unchanged, we administered his emergency medication and called an ambulance.

By that evening my son couldn’t stay awake and it was decided to transport him and my Wife 4 hours by ambulance to a children’s hospital. The next day tests were being done and he spent the majority of the day asleep and unresponsive. In time, a neurologist reviewed his data and stated that this was not a seizure that he was suffering from.

All manner of thoughts and questions now flood through my thoughts. But at the core is the fact that, these doctors have admitted that they believe my son might share my affliction. This point leaves me conflicted.

It is terrifying beyond description to be frozen inside your body and unable to react. It is also a nightmare to awaken in a fright unaware of where you are or what is going on, especially if you suffer from paralysis via cataplexy or the like. To know that my child now might be experiencing the same thing pains me. And yet, it is a foe I already know…

In addition to this whole ordeal, our oldest son was airlifted last night as well to the same hospital with my Mother escorting him. There has been some debate regarding the authenticity of his symptoms but regardless they have to take it seriously when a child, even a 16 year old one, complains of numbness, tingling and loss of use of his legs or lower back.

In the meantime, I am confined to my home, trying to care for my two daughters and coordinate things from here as best I can. In many ways I feel as if I am trapped inside some terrible dream and unable to affect any impact on the real world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger.

Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger.

For the record; I have to be completely honest here. As a child, I grew up living primarily through the lens of my own vivid imagination. And, as a scrawny little guy who suffered from an array of physical and mental problems it was no surprise that out of all the various superheroes out there that I would become enamored with one who started out in a similar fashion. I adored all things military and even strived to enlist only to be denied due to my health. All that aside, there was something special at the core of the character that I could see and have held dear ever since.

So, when Matt Forbeck reached out for anyone willing to review his latest work I happily volunteered. Upon discovering it wasn’t one of his typical novels, I didn’t mind as much. But, the second the words; “Captain America,” were mentioned, I was sold. And, let me just say; I was not disappointed.

Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger is a 200 page hardbound comprehensive guide to the history of one of Marvel’s most iconic figures. It is written by award-winning author, game-designer, Father of 5 and Marvel expert/fan Matt Forbeck. The book spans the long running history of Captain America, details many of his foes, friends and highlights note-worthy events/storylines. While written as a title for young readers (9-12 years old), it manages to be enjoyable to children of all ages.

The artwork in this book alone is worth the price on the cover. Entire pages are devoted to some of the most memorable moments from Cap’s career. Gorgeous two-page spreads are littered throughout like candy for the eyes. And, at every turn we are presented with classic panels taken right from the very pages of his exciting exploits.

Beginning with both the origins of the character’s creation and his fictional background we are given a foundation of who Steve Rogers is. And, lets I forget there is one monumental element that must be pointed out; Stan Lee himself wrote the forward for this book. The book moves on to track (almost) every element of Captain America’s run through the comics up to the present day. There is so much detail here to delight a fan and interest even a casual reader. Nothing is presented in such a way to be confusing to a young reader or someone unfamiliar, yet is done so in such a way that it doesn’t feel watered down or cheapened.

A whole wealth of information is also to be found, on not just Cap, but also on his many allies, enemies and supporting characters from over the years. Each character is given a detailed dossier on who they are, how they interacted with Cap and some of the more important story arcs they are a part of.

Every decade of Cap’s time is broken down into its own section to highlight key issues and stories that happened – including important developments to Cap both behind the scenes of publication and on the pages. A comprehensive timeline lists every major event to transpire throughout Cap’s long history in chronological order can be found early on in the book. Not only is there a contents page to guide you from the beginning but a remarkable index exists in the back of the book to help you painlessly sort through the pages for references to a character or event with key entries highlighted in bold.

The book is a gold mine of information that is a joy to simply read through. Even if you have yet to see the movies or recently watched them there is so much insight to be found by giving this book some time. You will not regret it, I can guarantee it.

Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger scores 5 amazing alternative shields for Cap, out of 5 in my book. Give it a try and let’s compare notes. You might just learn something that will change the way you see the character in all his many depictions…

*Special, Spoiler-Free Note: There is a lot they have gotten right in the movies that nobody may have noticed, especially recently. Have Fun!