Thursday, September 17, 2015

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan (2015)

An Amazon Review: 
Best book on surfing I have read. Yes, he does veer from surfing to explore other aspects of his life, but it all weaves together so seamlessly that it holds the reader's interest throughout. As a contemporary of Finnegan, I found the descriptions of beach life and surfing from his childhood and early adolescence very nostalgic. I felt envy at the experiences he had exploring now famous waves around the world when they were still mostly unknown. This is a masterful piece of writing. His descriptions of the experience of riding a wave are unparalleled in my experience. The personal dimension he brings to the tale, both the people he meets and the conflicts he goes through, brings the story to life. This is a page-turner. I was sad to come to the end.

DJE:  This book is an absolute keeper.  If you are interested in surfing or the surfing life, you will enjoy this.  Barbarian Days is literature, not a sophomoric tale.

Here are Excerpts

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Do No Harm

by Henry Marsh

You are invited to spend some time with Mr. Marsh, an eloquent neurosurgeon who escorts us into his operating theater, his parent's home as his mother lies dying, interminable maddening administrative meetings in his NHS hospital and to accompany him to Ukraine where he has volunteered as a surgeon for over 15 years. You'll share his triumphs and suffer the sadness and humiliation of his mistakes and failures.  His war stories are captivating; as are his anecdotes about his family, his education and his jousting with the bureaucracy of the English National Health System (the NHS).  Brief book review and large number of excerpts on OJCPCD.

A fine documentary, The English Surgeon, profiled Henry Marsh (you will need to scroll down if you check the link).

Friday, July 10, 2015

In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts

This is from the author, Gabor Mate:

I've written In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts because I see addiction as one of the most misunderstood phenomena in our society. People--including many people who should know better, such as doctors and policy makers--believe it to be a matter of individual choice or, at best, a medical disease. It is both simpler and more complex than that.

Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it. 

Addictions, for the most part, develop in a compulsive attempt to ease one’s pain or distress in the world. Given the amount of pain and dissatisfaction that human life engenders, many of us are driven to find solace in external things. The more we suffer, and the earlier in life we suffer, the more we are prone to become addicted.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Knockeing on Heaven's Door

By Katie Butler

Butler and Her Parents

This is an honest, sobering look at what awaits so many elderly people and their caregivers, who are often family members.  It is also the story of a Medical-Industrial Complex gone wild:  doing things to people for economic gain.  Expensive procedures that have serious unintended consequences are, unfortunately, the rule.  For a variety of reasons, many physicians perform lucrative tests and interventions that do little to improve patients’ well-being.  Death is seen as the ultimate enemy, yet we all will die.  How one dies is important, yet this is not considered often enough.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door is the story of a singular family.  All families are unique.  The narrative is memorable, but there is much more.  Butler discusses American medicine and its domination of patients and families, and suggests ways we as patients and family members can try to protect ourselves.  It is also a wake-up call for physicians to try to change our behaviors from running profit centers to being caregivers in the true sense of the word.

These notes may help some of you who are too busy to read the entire book, however, should you do so, you will find much more to interest you.  I learned a lot by a fairly careful reading of Katy Butler’s book, much that will help me as a son, a caregiver and a physician.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chasing the Scream

by Johann Hari

Mount Hope May 23, 2015
I am sitting at Mount Hope on a cool clear day. The vista is beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky and the air is filled with birdsong. Here are some excerpts taken from the introduction to Johann Hari's remarkable book.

Lady Day
"How do we react to addicts and the war on drugs? We all know the script. Treat addicts and drug users as criminals. Coerce them into stopping. This is the prevailing view in almost every country.

Hari used to think that way but has changed his mind. He now argues instead for a second strategy – legalize drugs stage by stage, and use the money we currently spend on punishing addicts to fund compassionate care instead."

The journey that he took to research and write this book took him across nine countries and 30,000 miles and it would last for three years. The story is a compelling read.

Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. There is a very different story waiting for us when we are ready to hear it. Pick up this book and read.

Johann Hari's Ted Talk: Everything You Thought You Knew About Drug Addiction in Wrong, June 2015.

Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)
Harry Anslinger: Bureau on Narcotics "godfather."
Billie Holiday: Jazz singer hounded to death by Anslinger
Arnold Rothstein: NY drug/alcohol lord
Chino Hardin:  FTM drug dealer turned activist/reformer
Leigh Maddox:  Policewoman/lawyer who once stalked addicts and now he workswith LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Sherif Joe Arpaio: Arizona reincarnation of Harry Anslinger.
Prisoner number 109416 (Marsha Powell): small time drug user and victim of Arizona "justice" system.
Gabor Mate:  Family physician from British Columbia who is helping drug addicts on the front line.
Bruce Alexander: a psychologist at SFU in Vancouver. He worked on a Rat Park study that showed it's the environment which creates addicts not biology.
Bud Osborn: An addict and an activist who organized the Downtown Eastside drug users and got them recognition and respect.
John Marks: Liverpool psychiatrist who ran a drug prescription clinic and saved many lives until the British government disbanded it.  He self-exiled himself to New Zealand.
Ruth Dreifuss as president of Switzerland, she approved the establishment of drug distribution centres.
Jose Mujica: The anarchist president of Uruguay who implemented legalization of many drugs.
Mason Tvirt: Activist in Colorado who spearheaded that states campaign to legailze marijuana.  He fought against Hickenlooper -- the CO governor.
Tonia Winchester: An attorney who led a successful campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Washington state.

The author, Johann Hari, did a masterful job here.  When I looked at his Wikipedia page, I was surprised to learn some disquieting facts about him - but feel they only make him a more scrupulous reporter her.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Amy Tan on Lyme Disease

This is a sobering and compelling pathography by a world-renown author.

I used to brag that I never got sick. I rarely came down with colds or the flu. I had health insurance for catastrophic illness and only used it once, for surgical repair of a broken leg, the result of heli-skiing, the sport of a vigorous and fearless person.

But in 1999, all that changed. I learned what it is like to have a disease with no diagnosis, to be baffled by what insurance covers and what it does not, and to have a mind that can’t think fast enough to know whether a red traffic light means to press on the gas or hit the brakes. I have late-stage neuroborreliosis, otherwise known as Lyme Disease. The neurological part reflects the fact that the bacteria, a spirochete called borrelia burgdorferi, has gone into my brain.

Read full article: SLyme Disease: How A Speck Changed My Life Forever

Image from the article

Missoula (2015)

Krakauer's book, Missoula, is focused on the most common type of rape:  non-stranger sexual assault.  While it reports from a Montana college town, Missoula's rape statistics are about average for the U.S.

The book has been criticized which is not surprising, however, I have read it twice and find it convincing and sobering.  Alcohol seems to be an almost-constant factor.  Alcohol, jocks and naive students -- female and male.

This is a hugely important topic and Missoula is an important introduction.  Probably, everyone in high school, college, or with children at these stages should read it.  Educators are another important audience.