The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: November 10, 2018
Welcome to Brunch this Saturday. Snowflakes have been in the air ’round these parts this week, and although I took pictures like the one above just last weekend, now brown and gray are beginning to dominate nature’s color palette. With no baseball to buoy my spirit, a guy could get depressed. Thankfully, I have you — my friends — to share coffee and conversation with on this frosty November morning. Snacks today courtesy of The Far Side.
To get the conversation going, let’s begin with a few questions to bat around the table…
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Questions of the Week…
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A Special Remembrance Day…
The agreement between the Allies and a vanquished Germany required the latter to leave all occupied territories in Western Europe within two weeks and surrender 5,000 guns, 25,000 machine guns and 1,700 planes.
Big Ben sounded in Parliament Square to ring in the news as thousands gathered in Westminster and outside Buckingham Palace roaring in celebration, sparking three days of jubilation across Britain, with members of the public climbing the lions in Trafalgar Square and tearing down advertising hoardings appealing for investment in war bonds to burn on bonfires.
In the House of Commons, the prime minister, Lloyd George, concluded his address with the declaration: “I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came an end to all wars.”
Here are some photos of traditional poppy displays in England and beyond to celebrate the end of one of the most pivotal wars in modern history.
The First World War killed fewer victims than the Second World War, destroyed fewer buildings, and uprooted millions instead of tens of millions – but in many ways it left even deeper scars both on the mind and on the map of Europe. The old world never recovered from the shock.
• Edmund Taylor
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Computers coming between us…
As a hospice chaplain, I use a laptop computer to document my visits and do other work-related tasks. Our nurses and some of our other clinicians carry their laptops into homes and other care settings, and in many cases this is necessary and appropriate. But, as a chaplain, I have never felt comfortable having my computer open during a visit. Eye contact, body language, and paying attention in the strongest ways possible is essential to my work. I can’t allow myself the distraction of a computer between my patient/family and me.
Dr. Atul Gwande, one of our best writers about medical care in our day, has written an article in the New Yorker called Why Doctors Hate Their Computers, in which he says that many doctors are feeling more and more trapped behind their screens.
My hospital had, over the years, computerized many records and processes, but the new system would give us one platform for doing almost everything health professionals needed—recording and communicating our medical observations, sending prescriptions to a patient’s pharmacy, ordering tests and scans, viewing results, scheduling surgery, sending insurance bills. With Epic, paper lab-order slips, vital-signs charts, and hospital-ward records would disappear. We’d be greener, faster, better.
But three years later I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me. I’m not the only one. A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient—whatever the brand of medical software. In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks. And these tasks were spilling over after hours. The University of Wisconsin found that the average workday for its family physicians had grown to eleven and a half hours. The result has been epidemic levels of burnout among clinicians. Forty per cent screen positive for depression, and seven per cent report suicidal thinking—almost double the rate of the general working population.
Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers.
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50 years ago in music…
Two landmark albums were released fifty years ago, and now commemorative editions are available to not only remind us of the great music but also to take us behind the scenes so that we can learn about how these musicians plied their craft.
In late May, 1968, the Beatles convened at guitarist George Harrison’s English country home with an extraordinary body of raw materials for their next album. The so-called “Esher demos” — 27 songs taped on Harrison’s four-track machine — were at once stark and full, solo acoustic blueprints already outfitted with signature flourishes: double-tracked vocals; John Lennon’s raindrop-arpeggio guitar in “Dear Prudence”; the future guitar solo in “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” hummed by Paul McCartney.
There was evidence too of tension and estrangement: Lennon’s jagged rhythms and aggressive cynicism (“Revolution,” “Yer Blues”); McCartney’s determined optimism (“Blackbird”) and almost mutinous cheer (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”). In his Appalachian-ballad draft of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Harrison pointedly censured his bandmates, singing “The problems you sow are the troubles you’re reaping.” He dropped the line in the final version. His dismay in the song remained.
Those recordings, issued in full for the first time, are the dominant revelation in the 50th-anniversary expansion of The Beatles. At 30 tracks on two LPs and dubbed “The White Album” for its blank-canvas sleeve, it was the group’s longest, most eclectic and emotionally blunt record – an admission of frayed nerves and strained bonds in the zigzag of garage-roots rock, delicate balladry, proto-metal fury, country ham and radical experiment. The “Super Deluxe” edition of The Beatles has even more. In addition to the demos and a new remix of the album overseen by Giles Martin, son of the late producer George Martin, there are 50 tracks of the work in progress – outtakes and sketches; roads not taken and songs left behind – across the summer and fall of 1968.
Even diehard Hendrix fans have probably lost track of how often the guitarist’s 76-minute opus Electric Ladyland has been reissued. It was the first and only of his three albums to hit the top of the Billboard charts after its October 1968 release and remains not only his best-selling work, but his most influential and critically acclaimed one.
Books have been written about the disc, but suffice it to say that Hendrix not only freed himself from the tightly constructed song structures of his first two sets, but also included more of the myriad influences that ran through his music. It was also the first time he had complete creative control — at least musically — over the final product. From deep-blues jamming (the quarter hour “Voodoo Chile” never lags) to stoned out psychedelic space-rock (13 mind-expanding minutes of “1983 … [A Merman I Should Turn to Be]”), jazzy improvisation (“Rainy Day, Dream Away”), politically edged rockers (“House Burning Down”), pop-crunchers that could have been on his earlier discs (“Gypsy Eyes,” “Crosstown Traffic”), and even a few he didn’t write (Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”), bassist Noel Redding’s somewhat incongruous bit of UK glam, “Little Miss Strange”), this was Hendrix’s most expansive and personal statement. It was also the last studio album he’d live to see released.