November 2008

Literary Modernism; The Struggle for Modern History

Literary Modernism; The Struggle for Modern History, by Jeffery Perl ★★★★
Typically, I detest literature courses. I started out wondering what possessed me to listen to this series. The first lecture didn’t fare so well. Then, the professor started to connect with issues dear to my heart. I don’t know exactly where Prof. Perl is coming from, but he does a masterful job of concealing his own personal orientation. The discussion evolves are a set of poets in the twentieth century, including D.H. Lawrence,  Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Willam Carlos Williams, and Gertrude Stein. Perl spends a lengthy period discussing the movement in the 1920s and 1930s to abandon the concept of language being capable to act as a means of communication. He discusses the various camps of classic vs. neoclassic modernism, and how these poets all moved as a group in certain areas. They all were communist supporters in the 1930s and supported either the movement of Hitler or Mussolini, followed by post-war despair in their writings. While these poets remain the ideal of intellectualism of the twentieth century, it seems to me that they are self-contradictory. They deny that words could convey meaning, yet they use words to convey those meanings. Their intellectual arrogance refuses them a mirror on their own folly. I certainly won’t run out to buy any James Joyce or T.S. Eliot, but there is a high probability that I will re-listen to this series, approaching it from a slightly better attitude toward some types of literature discussion. Perl is a compelling teacher, and quite knowledgeable, thus is worthy of a hearing or two.

Paganini: Complete Chamber Works

Paganini: Complete Chamber Works, Misc. Performers ★★★★★
This was a budget set of the works of Paganini, but the performances were definitely not budget. It did not seem to be “complete”, since the 24 Caprices and other works were missing. Most of Paganini’s chamber music represented here also included the guitar as one of the instruments, which seemed to be quite effective. The sound was forward and crisp, giving you a sense of presence. All in all, this was quite delightful to listen to, and deserving of 4-5 stars.

Two Days that Ruined Your Healthcare

2 Days that Ruined your Health Care, William Waters III, MD ★★★★★
I had started to type up a paper for publication documenting my frustrations with the health care system when I received this book in the mail. After reading it, I realized that Dr. Waters had discussed half of my contentions with the system. He is a nephrologist that practiced in the Atlanta, Georgia region for a number of years, and remains an academic type at Emory University. The two days are 1) 02OCT1942 when congress voted to allow employers to deduct health care premiums from employees’ taxable income, and 2) 10APRIL1965 when LBJ signed the Medicare law into existence. Owing to those events, Waters shows how the government then had the ability to slowly take over health care. This has led to government control of all aspects of health care, regulated by politicians and bureaucrats who do nothing about daily health care delivery determining minute policies that regulate your behavior and practices in the office. The book details how government intervention has led to increased prices for health care, now making most health care expenses out of the range of the average citizen. He finally discusses the role of health savings plans and other solutions to the system. My only disappointment with the book is that he omitted several other important factors that are also of great importance, including 1) the loss of morality in the profession (most doctors would not take the oath of Hippocrates anymore), the loss of purpose in our profession, 2) the crass commercialization of medicine, starting when the AMA caved into the Feds in the 1970s to the issue of physician advertising, 3) the litigation scene forcing increased costs, regulation, and costly physician behavior, and 4) increasing demands and expectations of many patients resulting in a health care fantasy that progressively forces all the other above problems. Eventually, patients will get what they are willing to pay for… just take a close look at health care in England or Canada. I disagree with Waters in that I do not see health care in the US as being in a state of being able to be fixed. It is time for physicians to quit being sacrificial lambs to the system, let the state have their healthcare, and hope that a better system could possibly rise from the ashes.

Will Cut For Food

Dr. Mike Brown was the anesthesiologist, and we got the team together for a photo of my last elective case at St. Samaritan Hospital. I am still performing smaller procedures at our surgery center, but have refused to take any further hospital call at GSH and so am restricted on performing elective cases at the hospital. That’s okay with me, but their underwhelming friendliness and willingness to accommodate to my particular issues induce a reluctance on my part to ever return. Who knows? There are always locum tenens, the Franciscans (another hospital group in our region), or possibly focusing primarily on mission work. Meanwhile, it is a little slower at work since I am not taking on the huge cases, and elective hospital cases that I see in the clinic are fed to my partners so that they are busier with paying cases.
I’ve been saying goodbye to many patients and will miss them. One patient had a total esophagectomy by me, followed by a major colon resection, and is alive and well ten years later one of my miracle patients. He used to drive a beer truck, and would always ask me for a beer. His first comment whenever I’d walk in the room was “&*^#@!, hurry up, I don’t have all day!” So, the last visit I gave him a few brews to take home.

Bicycles… Another Mike Brown is my bicycle consultant, and he has ordered my Steelman bicycle. I am waiting anxiously. I will probably get a cheap Rennrad (road bicycle) in Düsseldorf in January to get around with. Perhaps later in the year, I could return to do the Rhein or pop down into France and do the Alpes d’Huez (yea, mon!!!). Meanwhile, I did the almost unthinkable. I always thought that I would be totally safe with my bicycle mounted on the trainer in the garage. Well, three weeks ago, for some unknown reason, the back wheel flipped out of the trainer, and completely wrecked the back wheel. I had to completely replace the back wheel. Schade!  So, I am back pumping on the cycle. I must be the only person to ever have totaled a bicycle while on a trainer!
I’m ready for the year off. I can’t wait to touch base with Herr Doktor Herbert Feucht in Krefeld. I’ve always enjoyed visiting him. Hopefully, I could be a little more independent in Düsseldorf and thus be forced to speak German. With Herbert, he usually talks English to me and spoke about matters when we were out. So, I’m cramming my German right now, while also teaching myself the Sanskrit of the Bengali language (much slower progress!) and a few Bengali words. Bengali definitely is an Indo-European language, and I can see similarities in many words, such as numbers.
Our (Betsy and I) only significant activity was a trip to Maui for a Wilderness Medical Society meeting. I didn’t really enjoy Maui. It’s expensive and crowded. I find that it is hard for me to just lay out on the beach and get any serious reading in. So, we didn’t lay on the beach or at the pool even once. We did get around the island a bit, and that was enjoyable. While in Maui, we learned that we now have a little Commie Pinko freak as president. I wasn’t really crazy about McCain and so voted for neither McC nor BHO (I wrote in Ron Paul), and do not feel that mine was a wasted vote. But, I was still a little disappointed about the election. BHO’s presentation at the Democratic convention would most appropriately be called the apotheosis of BHO. Later, schoolchildren would sing songs worshipping him on television. Older folk of all intensities of skin pigmentation on television would lapse into trances of rhapsody for their savior and redeemer from the capitalistic pig, a behavior is more fitting for a Pentecostal church service than a political rally.  It really seemed like BHO was competing with the Almighty as #1 of the Universe.
I was even more dejected by the vote in our state to approve physicians’ ability to help a patient commit suicide. You don’t need a physician to do that. Any dimwit can figure out how to kill themselves swiftly and cheaper than a physician. It just isn’t our role to assist in killing. So, I am a bit leery about even practicing medicine in our state anymore. Now that we have seen the death of Hippocratic Medicine, I am left frightened by what will take its place. Medicine no longer has a definition as to its goals. Is it to simply prolong life? Is it to maximize the profits of the pharmaceutical firms? Is it a means of giving the State control of the most personal aspects of our lives? Is it entirely a utilitarian function of maintaining maximal functionality of the States’ citizens?
I am left thinking about St. Basil the Great. Basil the Great of Caesarea (in Asia Minor) was one of the Cappadocian church fathers in the 4th century, one of the brightest theologians ever of the church, who also started the first hospital. Sick people were left out in the woods to die by getting eaten by wolves—certainly a convenient way of dealing with the sick! Basil decided to re-incorporate the sick back into society through the use of hospitals.

Kudos to St. B. Is it no wonder that Christianity took the world by storm, without force and without might, but rather by its’ adherents simply being obedient to Christ and being servants of others? Lord, give me both the wisdom and caring heart of St. B.
Finally, thanks to Dr. Middelmann for noting some German grammatical errors on the blog site. I’ve hit the one-year mark for my blog/web page. My children, who inspired me to start a blogsite, are no longer diligent at maintaining their blogsites. Facebook has kind of stolen the show. What next?

Manon: Massenet

Manon, Jules Massenet, starring Natalie Dessay and Rolando Villazon  ★★★★★
Manon is the story of the slow destruction of the life of a young lady. It is a story that also has been done for the opera by Puccini as Manon Lescaut, though Massenet definitely has a more convincing storyline and more delightful music in this opera. The staging for this production is somewhat austere, though a similar recent production utilized an off stage-1950’s Los Angeles theme structure. Dessay commanded this opera with superb vocal control as well as near-perfect acting. This opera is a definite must for the opera-lover, and this version would certainly fit among the top performances to date.

Die Fälscher

Die Fälscher, (The Counterfeiters) ★★★★★
This movie is reportedly based on a true story, of the life of a man who was caught making counterfeit Deutschmarks in the pre-WWII era. Being a Jew, he ended up in a concentration camp, at first forced to do menial labor, until his talents were noted. Toward the end of the war, the Germans attempted to flood the British and American currency with counterfeit bills, produced by an operation in one of the concentration camps using a large contingent of highly skilled Jewish craftsmen. Various sabotage techniques kept the production of American dollar bills delayed to nearly the end of the war. This is a tale of extreme wit to accomplish one’s survival with death close at hand, and yet not being an accomplice to the Nazi war effort. A suspenseful thriller, it is quite engaging from start to finish-definitely worth seeing. The soundtrack is in German, but there are English subtitles. Even Betsy enjoyed the film but was depressed all day after seeing it!

Inside Islam

Inside Islam, Reza Safa ★★★★
Seeking further insights into the Islam mind, I decided to read this book, which was written by a former militant Shiite Muslim who converted to the Christian faith. Safa takes a fairly even-handed approach, going light on his Muslim brothers and sisters, which speaks of the inconsistencies of the Islam faith that drove him to Christianity.  I appreciated the book because it was not only easy to read but contained a tone of writing that left you feeling you talking directly to Reza. What he says seemed to be coming from his heart and emotions, rather than just an emotional diatribe or intellectual comparison of the Islam vs. Christian faith. He was especially able to address the Christian hypocrisy which seems to rule in the West. Apparently, he has Pentecostal leanings. I take it, he now is living  in Norway. His English is superb. His heart for reaching out to Muslims is contagious.

Ka’anapali, Maui 31OCT-06NOV 2008 – Wilderness Medical Society Conference

This was trip number two to Maui, this time staying in the Lahaina area at the Westin Hotel. Our first trip was ten years ago, with three of the children (Sarah was in Great Britain) and we stayed in Wailea. The last trip was with the Pierce County Medical Society, of which I am no longer a member, and this trip was with the Wilderness Medical Society. Much of the extra-curricular classes with the conference were Scuba related, though I did not bring my scuba gear or even my flippers. In fact, this is the first beach trip where I never sat out on the beach in the sun nor got in the water. Too bad. I was able to get a moderate amount of reading done, as well as resting up. Our last day was relatively free, so we decided to see some of the sites of Maui. First, we drove to the top of Haleakala, which is the 10,023-foot tall mountain on the main portion of Maui. It is still an active volcano, a shield volcano, in contrast to the composite volcanoes that are most common in the Pacific Northwest. A shield volcano is developed mostly by lava flows, rather than the explosive eruptions of the composite volcanoes, such as what we saw with Mt. St. Helens.

The last two photos are near the summit, and then at the summit of Haleakala, and the first two are looking eastward toward Hana, from the near summit.

After getting down, we decided to visit the Iao Valley, a short hike up a creek on the eastward side of the NW peninsula of Maui. Our hotel was on the other side of the peninsula, just north of Lahaina. The odd peak that you see behind me is called the Iao Needle, which is supposed to be a phallic symbol of the natives. Hmmm….
So, here are views from our hotel….

The last photo is of a famous boat that was built in 1978, that traveled from Oahu to Tahiti, to prove that the Polynesians were able to do that. It was repeated several years later in the same boat, using only the guidance of the waves and stars.
Finally, I would be remiss to not include a photo of Betsy and I had a cheeseburger at Cheeseburgers in Paradise in Lahaina.

Betsy also tried to hook up with a Swiss dude in Lahaina, but things fell apart quickly, and she decided to stick with me after all.

The Heart of Evangelism

The Heart of Evangelism, Jerram Barrs ★★★★★
I was given this book since it is currently being used for the Sunday School class at church. At first, I was reluctant to read the book. I had heard Jerram Barrs speak in the past, and he definitely was dreadfully boring. This book is everything but boring. Barrs is definitely a better writer than he is a speaker. Jerram comes out of the L’Abri movement of Francis Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential people in my life, influencing my thought quite profoundly during my college years. Jerram addresses the issues of talking about your faith to other people, not like any other “evangelism” text I’ve ever read so far (which is really not many). Throughout the book, one can see the thinking of F. Schaeffer coming through, though with Barr’s distinct style. Schaeffer speaks of pre-evangelism, but Jerram gives concrete meaning to the term. He especially emphasizes the nature of Christ’s teaching while on earth, which though harsh with Pharisees and those who are self-righteous in established religion, was as gentle as a lamb and never insulting, demeaning, or harsh to the “man-on-the-street”. Through it all, Jerram emphasizes that it is not our skills of persuasion that lead people to faith, but rather the Holy Spirit working in peoples’ lives.

Who Told You That You Were Naked?

Who Told You that You Were Naked, Victor Schlatter ★★
I first met Vic Schlatter in 1969, when he had come home from furlough to the mission field. Vic was an energetic, and very magnetic personality, with a tremendous amount of smarts. Before becoming a missionary to the New Guinea Waola tribe, he had worked at Hanford as a nuclear chemist.
In this book, Vic covers some of his pet peeves, including media bias, organized religion, feminism, political correctness, and the new world order. He does this in a quasi-historical fashion. Vic is not very straightforward in his writing, putting on paper more the ramblings that would happen if he were speaking to you. All of his writing is laced with constant dry humor, which keeps you reading. Vic seems to have two special theses that he always driving home.
The first is the “Aristotleanization” of organized (and unorganized) contemporary religion. I remember him speaking about the influence of Aristotle on the church even in 1969, so, he hasn’t gotten this off of his mind. Unfortunately, he doesn’t define exactly the nature of this influence, and I remain hard-pressed to understand. Certainly, we can blame Thomas Aquinas. But we also have to blame Plato, who, through Plotinus, was a heavy influence on Augustine, and thus the rest of Christendom. Vic tries to “de-Greek-ize” Christianity, which is, unfortunately, an impossibility since even the New Testament writers were heavily influenced by their Greek world. As an example, Paul, John, and Peter write instructional letters to various churches, which was unheard of before certain Epicurean philosophers. It is a mistake to define orthodoxy as strictly abiding by a Hebrew mindset.
So, Vic lapses into his constant and persistent rhetoric regarding the superior and transcendent nature of the Jewish. Now, I certainly have an appreciation for Jews and have many good friends who are also Jewish, but I don’t view that as making the person any more special than any other race or color of the skin on earth. I certainly hold that it is possible that in an age to come, a special relationship with God is again formed, but certainly don’t see that in the current age. Indeed, the Jews are living outside of the Covenant of their own Scriptures, and so stand condemned by God.
I met Vic recently at a funeral of a mutual friend and inquired of his eschatological stance. He seemed to reject dispensationalism, yet his book still seems to drift toward a style of post-tribulational dispensationalism, though he never mentions a Millenium. Perhaps his absence of clarity is Vic’s attempt to “de-Aristotle-ize” and to “Waola-ize” himself. Certainly, his view of the anti-Christ seems to drift from classic dispensational teaching. I would have liked to pick Vic’s mind more as to his true stance. All in all, I found Schlatter’s book entertaining but not terribly informative.