September 2008

Works of Igor Stravinsky

Works of Igor Stravinsky, Conducted by Igor Stravinsky, mostly with the Columbia Symphony ★★★★★
I purchased this set with trepidation since I really didn’t like the works of Stravinsky. I didn’t feel that they connected in the same way that Prokofiev or Shostakovich did, that it was just bombastic noise. I couldn’t resist the price of under $50 for 22 CDs all conducted by Igor himself, so, I felt it worth having in the collection. The recordings themselves are old but quite excellent. I did not hear any hiss or record scratch, the stereophonic components came through quite clear, and the sound was very forward. I turned out that I was able to connect with these performances unlike any other that I’ve heard of Mr. Stravinsky. True, some of his pieces were quite odd or weird. The Wedding is a very unique piece that tends to grow on you the more you listen to it. It sounds a bit like oriental music, which is somewhat characteristic of a lot of Stravinsky’s works. His chamber music was completely delightful. The sacred music was most enjoyable, though some of it included spoken narrative, not exactly designed for casual listening. The Opera Rakes’ Progress had a very strong “Gilbert & Sullivan” touch to it; it happens that I really can’t stand Gilbert & Sullivan, so I didn’t like that piece. The Lamentations of Jeremiah was quite ingenious though different from anything I’ve heard before. Stravinsky creates some sonorities that tend to work well in that piece. All in all, this is a very affordable set for someone looking beyond Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

Reich: Different Trains

Different Trains, by Steve Reich, performed by the Kronos Quartet ★★★
Reich is an interesting composer, in that he provides minimalist music while maintaining a tonal system. There are several works on this album, the first being a set of three pieces, before, during, and after the war, which has electronic music and speech combined. It has a fascinating approach that doesn’t lead to the tediousness or monotony of a Philip Glass or other minimalists. This is not exactly an album to rush out and buy unless you wish to dazzle your friends with the bizarre. For twentieth-century exploration, it could be a quite enjoyable album to hear.

Abba: Gold

ABBA, Greatest Hits ★
This was purchased for Diane on return from Deutschland, and I finally got around to listening to it. Abba was popular in the 1980s, being a Swedish group that made it well in the West. They were re-popularized with the musical Mamma-Mia. I’m not sure why they were popular. Their music is quite boring. It manifests a total lack of creativity. It was unendurable to hear the whole album, as every song sounded the same. Now, maybe the mistake was that I listened to Abba in the midst of hearing a Stravinsky compendium, and it is not right to combine street music with the music of genius. All the same, I don’t think I’ll hear the album out again, or buy any more Abba albums—one’s enough.

Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur

Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, Manfred Mai ★★★
Manfred Mai is a children’s author and writes about the 8th-grade level, so is quite easy for me to read. The other text of his that I have read was the History of Germany and was quite enjoyable. This was easy to read when Mai was writing, but he includes numerous excerpts, of which multiple writing styles were employed, proving to be a serious challenge to my ability to comprehend. He also spends a little too much time with modern authors—I would have preferred more attention to the classic German literature. All in all, the book was informative, and a decent survey of the breadth of literature in the German tongue.

In Memoriam

This week, I received the shocking news that one of my special mentors in Surgical Oncology passed away. Dr. Michael Walker was a fellow for the year that I did my internship, and then stayed on as an attending, and serving as an advisor for me. He was one of my favorite attendings, and very influential in getting me to go into surgical oncology. A quiet and private person, he was patient, kind, with excellent bedside manner, very bright, and most exemplary as the kind of doctor that I myself wanted to be. Michael was quite physically fit, ran all the time, and never had much fat on him. He worked hard, and that got him a position at Ohio State. It was an e-mail from Dr. Das Gupta that informed me of his death. My heart goes out to his wife Lee. Dr. Walker will always be remembered with pride by me.
The only person that ranked higher than Mike, in my opinion, was the professor, Dr. Das Gupta, who still remains the greatest doctor I’ve ever worked with, ever, and there were many greats.
Of all of my mentors in Surgical Oncology, Dr. Henry Briele remains the most quoted. Cut! Cut! Cut! Today! were repeatedly screamed at me in a sharp, staccato fashion, with me gasping in frustration, worried about cutting the wrong place or the wrong thing. We always used these large blades that looked more like sabers, which I continued to use until they became unavailable.  I still say Cut! Cut! and Today! to others in the operating room, and there are countless techs that have heard of Dr. Briele, even though they have never ever met him. Another favorite quote…I’ll have the electrocautery turned way up, and then say, “If they didn’t want it to go that high, they wouldn’t have made it go that high”.
Well, I can go on, but I’d do a disservice to my real hero, Dr. DasGupta.  I don’t quote him much, except something he told me when I was taking too long to close a mastectomy, “If you keep up this pace, you’ll never make it downtown”. Dr. DasGupta will be proud to know that my average modified radical mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy (and completion axillary dissection) rarely takes more than 60-90 minutes. I’ve gotten faster, but also much more precise in my surgical technique.
I decided to do surgical oncology research since the surg onc docs seemed to be the most intelligent and caring surgeons in the residency program. When they criticized, it wasn’t just to make you miserable-they were actually trying to teach you. On the very first day of research, Dr. Das Gupta sat Dr. Tate and me down in his office, asked Peggy the secretary to turn off the phone, broke out a very expensive bottle of Port, and offered Dr. Tate and myself a good cigar. We were his boys. He was our boss. We called him “the Boss”. The only other thing we ever called him was “Scooby”, from what a patient called him once. Dr. Das Gupta once was asked by a patient whether he was German since his name had “Das” in it. I believe that his response to the patient was something like, “yes, I’m from VERY east German!”. My favorite quote of Scooby was to let a patient know that they got better “in spite of us”. Dr. Das Gupta was, more than anybody else, responsible for me getting a Ph.D. He has always been my superior, but also my friend. It is nice to be able to occasionally still ask him for advice or direction. A few years ago, Dr. Das Gupta made the news because he apologized to a patient after making an operative error. The national news lauded this as a unique and unusual form of behavior for a physician. Yet, this honesty and forthrightness were taught to me by him from my first day on service with him.   There is no person in all of Surgery that I would be more proud to call my mentor than Dr. Das Gupta.
The lead photo is of a surgeon from Cameroon who was visiting Puyallup. I shall be spending some time next year in Bangladesh, so am now actively trying to teach myself Bengali. It’s hard. I may also spend some time in Africa with Ngoe in Cameroon. My hope is to find the best fit for myself or be able to be available so that I could spend 3-6 months every year overseas.
I am unfortunately persistently agonizing over the absence of respect that is given to the older surgeons by our hospital. I keep getting the feeling that they want to get rid of me, yet, when I give them a firm statement that I really, really am leaving, they come running like lapdogs, trying to make amends and promote unity. Today, the Lord Grand High Executioner informed me that I cannot go on courtesy privileges, finding of any loophole possible within the text of the hospital bylaws to refuse me courtesy status for two months while I cover my service but not actually take hospital calls. He finally agreed that he would pay me for call, but, my price is not cheap. I am not a well-worn whore. Several days ago he send me a letter reprimanding an order I placed in a chart. I had a patient on whom I did major and serious abdominal surgery, and she remained with an unusually prolonged ileus. Finally, one day, I walk into the room, and, rather than vomiting on me, she begged me to get her an iced Cappuccino. YES! She opened up! I promptly ordered “Iced Cappuccino, i po qh prn”. Two months later, I get this lengthy reprimand stating that the hospital simply could not provide the cappuccino, so I made the hospital look bad. Oddly, nobody ever spoke to me, or called me to inform me that the order was unfillable, but that alternatives were possible. I would have personally walked over to the hospital and purchased her an iced cappuccino. Unbelievable paperwork was generated by nursing, dietary, and then administration over an iced cappuccino order. Dudes, this goes on all the time. It’s sad to see the “caring” profession to be the least caring people of all, especially those that try to protect the patient from the “uncaring” doctor.
I fixed the “comment” device, as it wasn’t working well. Please feel free to leave comments. I’ve also included reports of some more bicycle rides, movies, music, and book reviews. Sometime soon, I’ll leave more detailed note of our future plans.

Stockhausen: Mantra

Mantra, by Karlheinz Stockhausen, performed by Bevan, Mikashoff ★★
You can call this music post-modern serialism, but a more accurate category would be -weird-. It is music that works, is fascinating, and certainly demands some talent to perform, but is best used as a CD that you would give to somebody that you find to be putridly disgusting, but are obliged to buy them a gift. It’s not something that you would just throw on for pleasure listening. If you look at the ratings that this CD received on, there are a lot of 5-star reviews. Stockhausen has his devout followers. Like some post-modern composers, it is NOT noise. It is different. The performance is with two pianos and electronics. I’m not sure, but perhaps the electronics were used on the pianists. This is not the first album to purchase for a smaller collection of classical music. For my collection, it is a must. Some day, my great-grandchildren will whip out Mantra, and view it like Beethoven’s 9th. Until then, I’ll leave it neatly stored in its shelf space, awaiting those great-grandchildren.

Die Zauberflöte: Karajan

Die Zauberflöte, WA Mozart, 1980 Berlin Performance with H. von Karajan ★★★★★
Heavens to Mergetroyd! I’ve just reviewed a Zauberflöte by Karajan, so why another? Well, they are two totally different performances. The Zauberflöte report below was produced soon after the war, one of Karajan’s first recordings. It is very emotional, sung with greater contemplation and emotion. Conversely, the recording itself is not of today’s standards and sounds like a recording in a box. This recording, now performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker, has brilliance, as though you were sitting in the room with the orchestra and singers. It is performed to perfection, a flawless representation of Mozart at his best. The singers are the best of the best, and every solo or ensemble is impeccable, brilliant, and delightful to listen to. I once owned this performance years ago and got rid of it, giving it to Alan Segall, the kids’ piano teacher. There was something about the performance that somehow didn’t click with me. I’m not sure what I didn’t like about the piece, except that I was searching for a particular performance, one that was the first recording of the Magic Flute that I had ever heard and this one wasn’t it. Well, I have it back now as a cherished member of my record collection. Die Zauberflöte holds a special corner in my heart since it was the first opera that I had ever heard. I was living in Portland, going to college, and two girls from the mid-west, Deb and Amy, suggested we go to an outdoor performance of this opera, held up in Washington Park in Portland, Oregon. It was a beautiful setting, overlooking the city and Mt. Hood. Male hormones may have been a small factor in me enjoying the opera, but it was an unforgettable experience, and I’ve been into opera ever since. If you had to get just one recording of Die Zauberflöte, this would be it. Turn it up and let it rip. One little issue about this recording—I’m not sure why they needed to put it on 3 CDs. It doesn’t matter when you immediately rip it to mp3 like I do, and then listen to it on iTunes. True, they included all of the spoken dialogue, nice (for me) since I can understand the German.

Honegger: Symphonies

Honegger Symphonies, with Charles Dutoit, Bavarian Radio Symphony ★★
This was a reasonable performance of the Honegger symphonies. I can’t say that I’ve really acquired an appreciation for his works. I realize that I used to have a problem with many other composers, like Mahler, who I thought was just making noise. Eventually, Mahler sounded organized and likable, then very likable. Honegger doesn’t do that for me. After multiple hearings, his music remains noise. Maybe someday I’ll get it? At least I tried…

06 SEPT 2008 Crater Lake Loop from Diamond Lake, 48 Miles, 5100 ft elevation gain

My intention was to do the loop around Crater Lake. I was with my son-in-law Andrew Flanagan and a long-standing friend from church in Portland, Aaron Hughes.

Andrew is enjoying a cup of tea, and Aaron showing off his fine selection of Odwalla bars.

Later, Aaron helped me make our favorite camping food, sauerkraut (Weinkraut aus Deutschland) with Polska Kielbasa. It’s easy to make and tastes great when out camping. So, on to the bicycle ride. At first, we were all going to drive up to the crater rim, and then cycle the 33 odd miles around the lake, thinking that it would be fairly flat, even ride that we could complete by noon. I met several touring cyclists, a man, and wife who appeared in their late 50’s, and informed me that the ride from Diamond Lake where we were camped up to the crater rim was about 18 miles, but fairly easy to do. So, Andrew and I started out first, expecting Aaron to follow 1.5 hours later by car, cleaning up the stragglers. I made it to the rim, 19 miles and 2500 ft elevation gain just when Aaron arrived with Andrew. We then parked our car and headed off counter-clockwise around the mountain.

We soon realized that most people did the trek, either by car or bicycle (and there were many bicyclists that we encountered), in a clockwise fashion.  About 8 miles in, Andrew was slowing down a little, so he encouraged Aaron and me to keep going, and then to pick him up in the car later once we finished. Later, Aaron was beginning to feel the hills and decided on a slower pace. I was to also pick him up after reaching the car.

I wish that I could say that everything went well afterward, but not quite. When I pulled away from Aaron, I noticed a large slash and bulge in my back tire. I knew that my tire was in serious trouble and that I had about 12 more miles to go. I made it about 6 more miles and then heard the tire blow out. There was a large rent in the tire so I knew that it was completely unfixable. Unfortunately, I was going in the opposite direction of most of the traffic. So, I started walking with the bike. I was a bit horrible in my bike shoes, and I completely destroyed the cleats, but I made it about 2-3 miles, where I was able to get a pick-up to haul me the last 3-4 miles back to the car. I was then able to load my bicycle and go retrieve Aaron and Andrew, both of who continued to make significant progress. So, it was bittersweet. The weather was beautiful, and I was feeling great, in spite of the 5000 ft + elevation gain. But, I didn’t formally complete the loop. That means that I must return someday to formally do the whole loop. It also taught me to consider carrying a complete tire with me of such trips like these, since you can fold the actual tire up into a small space to carry it.

Just Keep Pedaling

Just Keep Pedaling, by T.E. Trimbath ★
This book is the story of some dude who works for Boeing and lives in Seattle, who takes the autumn off to ride his bicycle diagonally across America. With a 1 week interruption because of a broken bicycle in Oklahoma, and a year interruption in Pensacola, Florida because of the depletion of funds, he finally makes it to the Florida Keys and then back home. There are many aspects of his trip that I thought was a touch bizarre. He undertakes this entire venture on a bicycle very poorly designed to do this trip. He rides the interstate highway system preferentially. He limits his nights only to motels/hotels and eats at most fast-food restaurants. The account of his travel is told in an awkward fashion, corrected only when he recalls the Florida leg of his venture–each day is started by an e-mail note for the day, and then reiterated in a slightly more expansive form in his general narrative. Thus, you were constantly reading the same account twice over. Better editing would have eliminated that problem. The final insights that you achieve from such an adventure are somewhat skewed by the odd nature in which he did cross-country bicycle travel. His insights are helpful in telling you what helped make the trip a success, and how the overarching principle was the need for determination to endure in a bicycle saddle for months at a time through the extremes of weather and traffic conditions. His personal style does add to some pleasure to reading his tale, but this book never really gave me the insights was was looking for in deciding whether to perform a similar venture.