Jan 25

BroadwayInBox
Broadway in a Box
I offer two sets of reviews for this set. There is a reason for this. I often post reviews to Amazon.com, and when I post positive reviews, the responding commentator (of my review)  will usually identify the review as helpful. If I post a negative review, I will receive generally an “unhelpful” ranking. Negative reviews from me often receive feedback that comment on my stupidity. It would be like being called an idiot for preferring chocolate by a vanilla aficionado.  This current review has two sections so that my review  may be received differently based on where one lives. Desperately desiring only favorable feedback on my reviews, I decided to write two reviews. The first review should only be read by those who live in New York City, would like to live in New York City, or who do not live in NYC but have an “I ♥︎ NYC” bumper sticker; if you fit this category, do NOT read the second review. If you do not fit this description, don’t waste your time on the first review and read only the second review.
First Review with New Yorker sentiments ★★★★★
The Broadway musical is a reflection of New York at its best, with the glamour, delight, and gaiety that exemplifies New York. In this most delightful collection of musicals reflecting Broadway plays from most the 1960’s and 1970’s, we see the charm that has brought such acclaim to Broadway. These recordings are a delightful collection of the best of the best that Broadway had to offer in those years, and are the original recordings of each of the musicals contained there-in.  A visit to New York gives one the electric excitement of a dynamic city. It is to this city that we owe much of the cultural innovation of the last century, and from Broadway that a true gift is given to the rest of America. A amalgam of Vaudeville, Tin-Pan Alley, and Big Band Jazz styles in contemporary settings offer a musical feast for the ears. To New York we owe our culture. They tell us what to buy (Madison Avenue), how to save (Wall Street), how to think about current events (NY Times), what to eat, how to live, and what to enjoy in music. And to Broadway we owe a perfect reflection of Americana, music that is truly American. The only thing missing in this box is the video, which would have been nice to go along with the sound track. It is a bargain and well worth the enjoyment of listening to many times over.
Second Review with Rest of the US sentiments ★
The Broadway musical is a reflection of absolutely the worst in American music, including its obscenity, its triteness, and its failure to resurrect the listener from the slums of abject boredom. Its theme of boy-girl love (or sometimes boy-boy/girl-girl love) dominates nearly every musical.  The music itself could have been written by a trisomic Mongoloid—if one simply writes a nonsense talking script and then generates a singsongy tune to accompany it, you have most of what is found on these CDs. Very little reflects true creative genius. But this is so typical of New York—vacuous glamour with a presumption of greatness. There was very little in the vocal performances to be admired. The frequent use of singing children does not provide rivalry to the vocal greatness of the Wiener Knabenchor or die Thomanerchor. Adult voices were not pleasant, especially female voices which were raspy and quite irritating. How any group of people, let alone a whole megalopolis of people, could tolerate this rubbish defies imagination. Some musicals, like “Chicago” were just plain obscene. Others, like “Hair”, attempted to make light of the radical Hippy movements of the late 1960’s through a love fest to the Hare-Krishna New-Age Jesus amalgamated religion. Certain musicals would probably have never made popularity if they weren’t “fixed” by Hollywood — this is especially true of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. The contents of this box with brief comments are as follows…
Disc 1: Annie (Original Broadway Cast) – raspy little kid sings “they’ll love me tomorrow”, but what about today?
Disc 2: Anything Goes (1987 Lincoln Center Theater Cast) – ho-hum. Obviously, anything does go in NYC.
Disc 3: Cabaret (Original Broadway Cast) – NY envious of Berlin pre-war decadence. Jolly right, ole’ chum
Disc 4: Camelot (Original Broadway Cast) – Came little. Ho-hum
Disc 5: Carousel (1965 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) – June is busting out all over!
Disc 6: Chicago (Original Broadway Cast) – Sewage, not fit for Chicago
Disc 7: A Chorus Line (Original Broadway Cast) – ho-hum
Disc 8: Company (Original Broadway Cast) – super ho-hum
Disc 9: Fiddler on the Roof (Original Broadway Cast) – yea, ok, the Jews all left Russia and moved to NYC, wishing to be rich men. We know that already.
Disc 10: Guys and Dolls (1992 Broadway Cast) – c’est ennui. Can’t anybody in NYC compose an interesting story line script?
Disc 11: Gypsy (Original Broadway Cast) – hyper ho-hum
Disc 12: Hair – I didn’t realize that Krishna was hairy. Looks like the age of Aquarius is already over. With global warming, NYC will have the age of Aquarium.
Disc 13: Hello, Dolly! (Original Broadway Cast) – desperately needs Satchmo
Disc 14: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Original Broadway Cast)- deserves an Oscar for the worst script ever
Disc 15: Into the Woods (Original Broadway Cast) – a failed attempt to improve on die Gebrüder Grimm
Disc 16: The King & I (1964 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) Not sure why Yul Brynner and Hollywood decided to tackle this one.
Disc 17: Man of La Mancha (2002 Broadway Cast) – it is no wonder that Hollywood didn’t tackle this one, it’s an impossible dream.
Disc 18: My Fair Lady (Original Broadway Cast) “super-sexist” and would never be tolerated by today’s standards. Read Pygmalion instead.
Disc 19: Oklahoma! (1979 Broadway Cast) – Jed Clampett also had a beautiful morning once in Oklahoma, but immediately left it for Beverly Hills
Disc 20: Oliver! (Original Broadway Cast) – Little orphan Oliver! Male version of Annie
Disc 21: Show Boat (1966 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) – Broadway subtly engaged in self-adulation
Disc 22: The Sound of Music – The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but Broadway is definitely NOT in the hills. Still trying to solve the problem of Maria
Disc 23: South Pacific (Original Broadway Cast) – New York’s method of making a bloody war romantically beautiful, n’est pas? Nous aimons les guerres!
Disc 24: Sweeney Todd (Highlights) (Original Broadway Cast) – Sweeney Who? This musical actually has highlights?
Disc 25: West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast) – Why couldn’t Leonard Bernstein just stick to conducting the NY Philharmonic? Amazing that somebody that sells themselves as the great professor and philosopher of music and adorer of Noam Chomsky could deliver something so trite. Bad music, bad script. The Beatles did better; the musical “Yellow submarine” far exceeds anything in this show. Compare Bernstein’s “America” with Rammstein’s “Amerika” and Rammstein will win handsomely.
First, Bernie attempts a half-hearted mess “everything is free in America” are some of the first words… spoken like a true liberal on welfare

Now, Rammstein will tell you what Amerika is really all about…

The late 20th century has produced exemplary music. Unfortunately, it has mostly come from eastern Europe. The West in their godless decadence has lost any ability for true creativity. Once entertainment is stripped of meaning, it becomes nothing more than a hedonistic bacchanalia that  fails to offer to an audience anything of lasting value. Comparable musicals that show more class include a) the Strauss musicals, including Die Fledermaus, in spite of the falsetto of Prince Orlofsky, the music and story line are funny and memorable  b) the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, which had horrid story lines and scripts, made up for by reasonably good music. Even such mushy schmalzy musicals (operettas) such as those of Lehar (Land des Lächelns, e.g.)  has minimally very impressive music in them. The only thing that the Broadway musical does well is to truly reflect contemporary Western culture. To that, the listener should hear and weep. I gave away this series to a good friend so that he could also do a little weeping. He’ll probably sing along to the recordings while in the shower.
If you’ve read this far and you are of the group that lives, loves, or belongs in New York, then clearly you’ve read too far. Shame on you. I suppose you read other people’s mail. You probably even support the NSA (and Obama) reading everybody’s mail. But, I’ll give you some advice that you can take to your friends on Broadway. Try a merger of Broadway with Hollywood. Here’s an example: merge a war musical and a war film. You can take South Pacific and The Sands of Iwo Jima. Once you have John Wayne hunkered down on the beach the first night on Iwo Jima, as evening sets in, have him suddenly stand up and start singing “Some Enchanted Evening”. The Japs can come out to provide the orchestral background, and the wounded soldiers beside John can sit up on their stretchers and offer the oohs and aahs. Once the soldiers reach the summit of Mt. Suribachi and they get ready to raise the flag, the John Wayne is joined by Jane Fonda (in her Barbarella outfit, but military green to match the Duke) and they sing Bali Hai with all the same words, but substituting “Iwo Jeem” for “Bali Hai”. For another merger idea, one can merge two Broadway musicals. Take the West Side Story. . . in the middle of the song “Maria”, some nuns can come out and start singing “How do you solve a problem like Maria” from the Sound of Music. Later, during the duet “Tonight, tonight, tonight may be the night”, Annie comes out singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow, just wait ’til tomorrow”.  Mel Brooks could have a feast on Broadway shows.

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Jan 22

Paganini means “little pagan” in English. Some of his compositions are impossibly hard to play. Here is a tune that you’ll recognize, played by a single person.

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Jan 20

CuttingForStoneCutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese ★★★
This book is about two identical twin boys, Marion and Sheva, growing up at a mission hospital in Ethiopia, whose mother died at the time of birth and father disappeared at the time of birth. Verghese weaves a complex maze of incidences which lead to the ultimate fate of each of the two boys. The setting is quite historical, in that it speaks of the epoch of Haile Selassie and subsequent revolution, which influenced events of the two boys. Eventually, the father is identified as a world famous liver surgeon in Boston. The book is written in either third person form, transforming into first person form of Marion as time goes on.
Reading the first third of the book had me quite excited as to having discovered an excellent novel. It went downhill from there. Verghese elaborates on some coming-of-age scenes with the boys, and other sexual escapades which seemed to dominate the author’s thinking. Too many incidences occur which are beyond the realm of reason. The father, Thomas Stone, writes in Africa the leading textbook of tropical medicine, only to become the world’s authority on partial liver transplantation. Right. Shiva skips medical school, and becomes the world authority on urovaginal fistulae. Marion becomes the head trauma surgeon at a New England hospital. Marion’s youthful girlfriend leads a hijacking of an airliner, only to find herself wandering aimlessly in the US. The original realism which decorated the first half of the book is lost completely in the second half. It was as though Verghese had become bored with writing and had to create imaginative ways to end the book.
This is a book that is perhaps slightly autobiographical, in that the author was born in Ethopia, with Indian connections and finally moved to the US in order to become a doctor. Thus, much of what he describes about the life and land of Ethiopia in the first portion of the book was wonderful.  His description of third world hospitals is quite accurate and brought back many memories. His idea of god is one giant Hindu Ethiopian Mary-oriented Catholic Muslim god who works in a random fashion, and extracts punishment or delivers favor in a quid pro quo mixed with arbitrary manner. This book is best read by reading the first ⅓ to ½, and then skipping to the last several chapters to find out what happened to everybody.
 

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Jan 20

MagnessHolyLandHoly Land Revealed, taught by Jodi Magness, Teaching Company video ★★
In anticipation of a return to the Holy Land, I purchased this video. I was quite apprehensive, as the Teaching Company has a tendency for any series under the category of “religion” to be taught by liberal professors. Jodi was not only hyper-liberal, but also did not offer what the title suggests would be the topic. It would have been better titled as Holy Land archaeology or Holy Land history rather than Holy Land revealed. I assumed that she would delve into the Holy Land itself, discussing the geography, cities, archaeological digs, etc., but ordered in a historical fashion. Instead, the main video was not of the land itself, but of her in the classroom teaching. She was placed on a large square rug that, like a good obedient puppy, she never leaves save for one time, where she got her right foot about ⅔ the way over the edge of the carpet. I wondered if the Teaching Company had a hidden cattle prod that shocked her back onto the rug at that point.
Magness offers the richness of an archaeologist that has frequently dug in Israel. She spends an entire talk on her dig that revealed the toilet habits of the Qumram community (?), and much related to the Roman Masada ramp, which actually was quite interesting. Much of her talk oriented more around history than the land itself, which did not seem to be the topic suggested by the title of this lecture series.
Magness shows herself as a typical liberal, in that she easily holds extra-biblical materials, such as the writings of Josephus, as more credible than Scripture itself. She seems to delight whenever archaeology might suggest something contrary to Scripture, such as the dating of Herod’s slaughter of the children, or timing of the fall of Jericho. Sadly, she is unwilling to explore the controversy in these areas, but presents things as cut and dried. She is a perfect example of claiming that her scientific quest is “open-minded” and yet is hell-bent on proving a hypothesis, let all of the evidence be damned. Scripture over time has proven itself irrefutably infallible, about the only thing that one can safely hang their hat on, regardless of the storms and assaults of man. Archaeological evidence is highly subjective, the theories for interpretation of the data are constantly changing, and the evidence is often contradictory, leading to strange and obtuse theories to explain away the contradictions.
I learned some history in this presentation. I also learned a few interesting facts about the “land” itself. It wasn’t a totally worthless series, though it did not offer what the title and lecture subjects suggested that it would cover.
 
 

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Jan 20

GoreckiStringQuartGórecki String Quartets, performed by the Royal String Quartet ★★★★★
If you prefer to listen to pop/rock music, you will truly detest these pieces, as they are not easily accessible. The music is complex, challenging, and multi-layered. It is not 12-tone music, but definitely does not hold to a given key as your typical tonal composition. Unlike much 20th century music, which is nothing but noise, Górecki succeeds in accomplishing a convincing piece of music. The quartets fit the style of Shostakovich, though definitely having the personal sound unique to Górecki. The performance is very well done, and the recording comes across as sharp. This is not music for everybody, but seems to suit my taste quite well.
 

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Jan 19

NielsonViolinConcNielsen Violin, Clarinet, and Flute Concerti, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, directed by Kees Bakels ★★★★
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) was a Danish composer best known for his symphonies and violin concerto. These lesser pieces certainly are no less great than Nielsens’ symphonies, even if less performed. These concerti all use the solo instruments in a unique way, that doesn’t overwhelm one with the solo piece. None of the solos seem to be demanding virtuosic pieces, but are pleasant insertions into a well-fitting orchestral accompaniment. I am not a Nielsen fan, though I find that these pieces were quite pleasing to get to know. Naxos offers superb recordings, and for the price are quite worth it.
 

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Jan 19

BachOrganAlainBach Works for Organ, performed by Marie-Claire Alain ★★★★
I have multiple recordings of the Bach organ works, including that found in the complete sets of Bach works by Brilliant and Hänssler, as well as the complete organ works by Walcha, Hurford, and Preston. Alain has recorded the Bach works for organ three times, this being her last complete recording. She is a formidable Bach interpreter, and her recordings of Bach’s organ works remains among the best loved and most sought out. I would certainly agree with that, in that she delivers a depth of feeling in the works that is noticeable. The technical aspects of her performances are also quite superlative. Each of the Bach interpreters in my collection offer something different to the Bach organ works, which make them complementary. Perhaps the performances that stand out the most are the Simon Preston recordings, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I could not say that any one series is best, and if a person were to seek out a single performance set for their collection, I would not not suggest any recording as better or worse than any other; you won’t err with any set of Bach’s organ works. Bach has a style distinctly different from other contemporary composers, including a style that is more demanding, more use of the pedals, and a better cohesion of musical statements than others. If all we had from Bach were his organ works, he still would remain a most remarkable and exceptional composer.
 

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Jan 12

SecretThoughts
 
Secret Thoughts, by Howard Clark, MD ★★★★
H.S. (Howard) Clark is an anesthesiologist at the hospital where I work, and he had been in the process of writing novels for a lengthy period of time now. This novel is a suspense thriller with an anesthesiologist, Paul Powers, as the detective, trying to solve a mystery of cyanide poisoning, leading to the death of a number of people, including a colleague of Powers, Valdimire Zhazinsky, who was a radiologist. As the mystery plot thickens, Paul is soon branded as the main culprit.  Paul departs on an international whirlwind effort to clear his name and to identify the real killer. I will not give the entire plot away. The text is not lengthy even though the book is thick since it is printed in rather large type, and so can be read in 1-2 evenings. Howard does an excellent job of keeping the action moving and keeping the reader in suspense.
One side story relates to the experimental use of a hypothetical drug picafentanyl, which puts people to sleep (like the real drug, fentanyl, which is commonly used in surgery). The problem with picafentanyl is that is secreted by the breath, and thus, when used, puts everybody in the room asleep. Though this novel kept me well awake, the next time Dr. Clark starts to put me to sleep in surgery, I’ll suspect that he might have been popping a bit of picafentanyl.
 

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Jan 12

Secretprovidence
 
The Secret Providence of God, by John Calvin, Edited by Paul Helm ★★★★★
Castellio met Calvin while Calvin was in Strasbourg, and later followed him to Geneva, where he served as Rector in the College of Geneva for several years. He eventually parted ways with Calvin,  generating very strong anti-Calvinistic statements. This book is a response to Castellio, in the form of an open letter back to Castellio in response to a letter which Castellio sent to Calvin, and is also found in this volume. In Castellio’s letter, fourteen articles are presented of objections to Calvin. Calvin in return goes through each of these articles, all of which state in various ways that Calvin’s theism promotes God as the author of evil, and thus make evil and good ethically alike, since they both come from god. Calvin’s rebuttal is firm, and anchored in the notion of a secret providence of God, whereby He even uses evil to promote the ultimate good, but in a manner which does not make God the author for sin. This debate is not an idle historical quibble, but relates to much of which splits Christians today, but was the backbone of both the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the Reformation. Thus, it is worth a reading. Calvin presents his argument in a manner that would never be found today, calling Castellio a dog and a pig. His very last statement was “May God restrain you, Satan. Amen”. Sadly, there are a few among us that feel that since Calvin could use such literary technique, they are also justified in calling their opponents dogs or pigs. Paul Helm provides an insightful introduction to the book, and the translation is quite readable.
Calvin
 
Where did he ever get that hat?

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Jan 07

LloydNyhusLloyd M. Nyhus, MD, FACS, Surgeon, Mentor, Visionary for 20th Century Surgery, by Michelle Rapaport with Donald Wood, MD, FACS ★★★★★
This was a delightful book to read because it was a part of my own personal history, as I had trained under Dr. Nyhus. Dr. Don Wood, of whom I had also gotten to know well, does a wonderful job of outlining Dr. Nyhus’s life from childhood to his death. Certainly, as one of the best known and great surgeons of the 20th century, this book was well due to Dr. Nyhus. My office still contains signed versions of the textbooks that he had published, and it was an honor to have trained under the man.
A book of this sort certainly could not contain many of the little things that made Dr. Nyhus a delight to work under. Every summer, we had a Department of Surgery picnic, for which I was in charge about 4 of the 8 years I was in Chicago. These were delightful events, for which I always made sure we ordered some Weisswurst for Dr. Nyhus. He would also have all of the surgery residents over to his house for a backyard picnic once a year, which was special. I always appreciated when he would randomly pick me to attend dinner at the University Club for a distinguished visiting professor. Nyhus had a delightful knack for making the residents feel like his boys.
This book is not a history so much as a tribute to Dr. Nyhus. It is written like an Egyptian pharaoh would write a history, in that it was not inclusive of the struggles and challenges of life at the U of Illinois. Nyhus, as the Delta/TWA professor of surgery was gone so much, that even though I was on his service a number of times, only operated with him 3-4 times in the total five years of my residency. Bombeck had several heart replacements, and in spite of that, was a chain smoker of such a serious degree that he rarely could tolerate more than 5 minutes scrubbed with me in the OR before he needed to step out for another smoke. Donahue was an attending than one never turned their back on.  Levitsky was blind as a bat, and very pompous. I shan’t be too negative. Olga Jonasson was technically the best surgeon of the group, and a delight to train under, even though she was as tough as nails. Dr. Abcarian was just an all-round wonderful surgeon to work with. Dr. Das Gupta was ultimately the best of the best of the whole bunch in my estimation, being a role model for me of excellence both in the operating room and in the laboratory. I usually end up calling myself a Das Gupta trained surgeon. Dr. Wood was in Das Gupta’s division of surgical oncology, and was one of most special attendings for me, in that he was not only a competent teacher and surgeon, but an example of the Christian faith in the world of academic medicine. There are many other surgeons under Nyhus that were not mentioned in this book that were true pillars in the residency, such as Drs. Nelson, Barrett, Sharifi, Briele, and Walter Barker, to name a few. Das Gupta, Wood, Abcarian and Jonasson deserve the highest honors in the grand scheme of things, though they would be too modest to admit that.
Regardless of any shortcomings, and they were minor, I consider it an honor to have trained under Dr. Nyhus. This book is a well written tribute to a man who could assemble a diverse bunch of surgeons to make without a doubt the best surgery residency in the world during the 1970’s and 1980’s. I feel blessed to have been a part of that experience.
 

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