Books of 2019 – Number 4 – War Hospital – A True Story of Surgery and Survival by Sheri Fink, MD

 

 

War Hospital – A True Story of Surgery and Survival by Sheri Fink, MD

Publisher: Public Affairs in 2003

429 Pages

I just finished my fourth book for the year in my quest to read 52 books this year. I am enjoying the extra time that I am putting into making myself step away from other distractions and giving my attention to words.

Sheri Fink’s non-fiction work, published in 2003, is an incredible telling of what happened in the city of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War – a horror that raged from 1992–1995. Fink’s work focuses on a warzone hospital and the individuals who worked there. She writes of the paths that led the heroes of this story to the hospital. She describes how they learned the practice of war medicine in real time. Reading about the hospital’s day-to-day, you see the doctors and nurses suffer horrible losses, and work through grisly conditions. The physical, mental, and emotional toll is brutal. At the book’s end, only during the horrific massacre that took place in their village and threatened everyone, do the doctors, nurses, and others leave.

At its conclusion, Fink poses questions about the presence of humanitarian workers in such situations. Do such services provoke a false sense of normalcy and security? What is the responsibility of the medical professional when there is clear violation of anything resembling humanitarianism? Are expectations of neutrality for medical professionals the right stance?

I remember watching the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. It was a beautiful venue amidst picturesque mountains. People sat at sidewalk cafes drinking coffee and wine. Ten years later, those mountains sheltered snipers, foragers for food, and refugees trying to find a safe place. The Olympic stadiums were in ruins and marked by warfare. It is hard to believe it can happen. This book made me understand what happens when it do

Bright Spots Because of Joe

 

This blog has always been a fun place for me. When I was doing it consistently, I was happy to have a space to write down some of the things that I was thinking about, experiencing, and liking. I liked the creativity of it and the practice of writing that it offered. I have struggled with the time it takes to keep it up in a way that is meaningful, but I am ready to take it on again. I am inspired by one of my favorite writers out there.

Joe Posnanski used to write about sports for the Kansas City Star. He brought exquisite language to beautiful and not so beautiful sporting events. He wrote with a depth and enthusiasm that I loved. Career decisions moved him out of Kansas City several years ago, but I continued to follow him and his words. Recently, I became a supporter of his blog on Patreon. This means that for $3/month, I get to read Joe’s words. It is among the best money that I spend. It’s not the only place to find his writing, but it is a wonderful experience. (If you do not know him, you will understand what I mean just by reading one of his tributes to baseball legend, Buck O’Neill, or his article about taking his daughter to see Hamilton.)

In his writing, Joe has done lots of series over the years. On his blog recently, he posted his newest series: “Every day I can, I will give you 300 words on someone or something that has brought me happiness (and, I can tell you in advance, that I have a broad definition of happiness). I’m hoping this will be a nice little bonus for JoeBlogs readers, a little day brightener.” He is calling this his Happiness Hall of Fame. I can’t wait!

Joe has inspired me to do the same thing on my blog. If my blog makes me happy, I should use it. If I like to write and want to write better, I need to write. If I want to focus on what is good and what makes me happy, this could be a way to do it! I am making my new commitment.As often as I can, a short little bright spot – right here.

Special Effects by Tech N9ne (Album of the Week)

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Album: Special Effects

Artist: Tech N9ne

About: 24 tracks; 78 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJRBlogging

Dan has once again chosen an album that has stretched my music listening zone beyond its normal boundaries. Tech N9ne has been kind of a smile in our family since the kids were in high school and Tech referenced Ali’s high school in one of his raps. While his name was a household one here, I could not tell you a Tech N9ne song if my life depended on it, nor would I be able to pick his music of any musical lineup. After the week of listening to the 24 song long Strange Effects, I can recognize some of what is going on with this guy.

24 songs is a long freakin’ album! But it is not a straight-forward 24 songs. He is all over the place with style. There are conversations (one that is the voicemail from a friend telling N9ne that it would probably be the last time that he would hear from him, and then a repentant apology for his drama the next day). There are lots of guest performances who all bring their own sound and style to their tracks. This album is quiet and gets loud and gets angry and gets sad and gets playful and gets dirty and, and, and.

The album’s first song, Aw Yea?/Intervention is a straight on rap that was released several months before the album itself. On this song, and a few others on the album, his rap is backed by a beautiful choir. This time they sing Audire Domine – Latin for Listen, Lord. He hits his God hard for some answers – invoking everything from Bill Cosby to Ferguson to Boko Haram. I hear a combination of anger, confusion, frustration, and pleading. About this song, he said in an interview It’s called ‘Aw Yea? / Intervention’ because I need one after seeing all this shit over the years. I let it all loose in one song.”  That song ends with him screaming that even after all of the stuff he has put out there for God to answer to, the most important question hasn’t been asked. That question is “What about my mama?” – referring to the recent death of his mom.

That loss of mother comes through in many parts of the album in some extraordinarily beautiful ways. He uses choirs and sweeping loops to back his grief and anger. There is one song, Wither, that is a magnificent virtual tour through music styles. It starts out with almost a folksy sounding acoustic section that then rams into rap that plunges into hair metal screaming. Another track that I loved was Dyin’Flyin.’  It has a classical piano underscore that is joined by violins and that chorus again. Over this virtuosity of sound, he raps about the fall of his fanbase as they accuse him of selling out. Again, it sounds like a prayer – an ask for an explanation – a plea for peace.

Over on his blog, Dan had more fun listening to this album than I did. He laughed and bobbed his head along to some of the songs that I probably skipped through. We hear the same things different ways. That is what makes this fun.

If you take the time to listen to Special Effects, you hear the breadth of this man’s talent. I would not have listened to it ever, had Dan not chosen it. I am never going to be comfortable with some of the songs that Tech N9ne or most rappers produce. I don’t like the brutal and overly-sexualized images of women. I have no comfort with songs full of language that I think needs to not be used. That is not going to change. But if I take time, I can listen and hear the other. This album has a great deal of the other. It has soul, and classic, and rap, and gospel and heart.

Next Up: Rihanna’s Anti

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Hold My Beer, Vol.1 by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen (Album of the Week)

Hold my beerAlbum: Hold My Beer, Volume 1

Artists: Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

Year: 2015

About: 10 songs; 39 minutes

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

This is a 5 hook album. It was somewhere between Austin, Texas and Kansas City, Missouri that I made a connection with Hold My Beer, Vol 1. For me, it is a well known truism that gas stop convenience stores on any road trip offer the flavor of the territory. They have been the source of many of my favorite post cards that highlight the stereotypes that you may expect of whatever location you are in. It’s not mean-spirited, but more boastful – we are what we are, darn it!

Anyway, this one particular stop had a rotating rack of CDs labelled something like “regional music.” Within that rack was Hold My Beer, Volume 1 by Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers. I pulled that one out to have a look (hook # 1 = catchy title). The cover was pretty great too (aka hook #2): stark landscape, single building, two guys (one with a guitar case; one with a satchel) looking like they are skedaddling someplace. The reverse listed the 10 tracks, which also piqued my interest (hook # 3 catchy song titles: Reasons to Quit, Standards, Hangin’ Out in Bars, It’s Been a Great Afternoon). So what did I do? I put it back in the rack and got back in the car and off we went. Sometimes I just am not reasonable.

Regret immediately set in. I should have bought it. About five miles later, I put that baby in my webstore shopping cart and brought it into my library. I regret that I did not make the purchase from the store. They should be supported for putting some interesting music choices out there. I hope I have learned my lesson.

So how is the album? This, readers, is your classic Texas country album. This is Tom T. Hall and Waylon and Buck Owens and Charlie Rich. This is fiddles, steel pedal guitar, honky tonk piano, and lots of picking  and twang. They are songs that you can follow the lyrics like a Jimmy Buffet song, and you get a flavor of who these guys are. Even if this music is not your bottle of beer, it would be difficult to listen to this and not want to sit down and here these guys exchange stories. Where do you hear someone so pleased with who they are and what they are that they openly declare:

Well we’re not sure how we got here

But somehow we stuck around

Some days I feel like we can fly

And some days I think we’ll drown

I guess what they say is true

All you need is one good friend

And in the next life, we wanna be ourselves again

I don’t know either Randy Rogers or Wade Brown, but apparently they have substantial solo acts and this collaboration is their labor of fun. It sounds as much. This is one of those albums where you hear the smiling as these two guys and their band play. They tackle all of the classics: telling the record man to take his ideas and shove ’em, tagging a know it all boss as a certified S.O.B., and being able to turn a morning with a first class hang-over into a great afternoon (hook #4).

Oddly enough, in reviewing the album, Dan found out that Randy Rogers will be in Kansas City next week and he put the date on our calendar. Turns out that Dan likes these guys as much as I did. He nicely associates what we heard on this album to what we saw with our own eyes in a honky tonk in Austin.  

Just as our last album was not my jam but I could open up my ears to it, this one was the same. These good ol’ guys hooked me (hook #5). They also made me ready for another road trip of  discovery.

Next up: Special Effects, by Tech N9ne

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Return of the Tender Lover by Babyface (Album of the Week)

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Album: Return of the Tender Lover

Artist: Babyface

About: 9 songs; 42 minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

Dear Babyface – Good lord, man! What is the matter with you? Dan chose your new album, Return of the Tender Lover as our album of the week and I have been shaking my head in disbelief since. I have spent the last several days listening and I did a little fact checking. I read that you waited ten years to put out an album, and I can understand why. How is anyone going to feel good about themselves after having listened to this? Sure, I feel like I have a pretty good thing going on with my man, but compared to you? Forget it! For one thing, I don’t get the feeling that he is always on the verge of giving me a Standing Ovation every time I walk into the room. You wrote a whole song about it!

I suppose it helps that you do acknowledge that there are moments when you have had to fight for this exceptional love of yours, but that just goes to makes you even more amazing. You aren’t going to throw in the towel when things get rough. As you sing on Fight for Love, you’re making sure that your woman knows that there is no giving up.

Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Prince – I hear all of those guys in this album. What you have wrought with this new album is a time machine back to the days of smooth jazz and velvet voices. I want to be that cynical person who says bah! to your lines of sugar, but then I catch myself smiling foolishly as I dance in my chair when you and El DeBarge (!) sing about how just holding hands is akin to walking on air when you are with your boo. Just stop it!

As I write this and think about it, maybe I can’t chide you for putting this album out. Maybe it is your way to help the other dudes in this world who don’t have your mad romantic game. I think that what we have here is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Every man in a relationship should come up with an amazing lip-sync performance of one of these tracks. They then need to bring it out after sharing that candlelight dinner with their honey. I know that Dan could do an awesome job with Something Bout You. Who wouldn’t have a smiling swoon over something like that.

You are my favorite obsession.

Sometimes I can’t even see, no.

Because we got this connection, love.

Without you I just can’t even breathe, Lord.

Cause I adore you! Place no one above you.

I live my life for you.

I can’t help but love you, awww baby!

Unfortunately, Babyface, Dan did not quite warm to what you were selling, and I do not expect that scene to play out over my Valentine’s meal. In fact, he was a little harsh to you. According to him, your album reflects: No rhyme is too tortured, no metaphor is unwelcomed, no sentiment is too trite to be smeared over with honey and stuck into a smooth melody and shipped out. Your girl might need to give you some extra lovin if you go over and read his whole review. Ouch!

But for me, Babyface, you win. You have a pretty special thing going on with your lady, and thanks to my Exceptional sweetie, you brought some good old fashioned, goofy romance into my ears this week. I wouldn’t pick it up myself, I probably won’t come back to you, but it was a week I will remember.

Yours,

Robin

Next Up: Hold My Beer by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

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Fast Forward by Joe Jackson (Album of the Week)

Fast forward

Album: Fast Forward

Artist: Joe Jackson

About : 16 tracks; 1 hour 12 minutes

Released: 2015

Pick: Deliberate Obfuscation


Joe Jackson came into my life when I was a college freshman. His Look Sharp debut album was sung aloud to over many beers in our college pub. Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street ... No one could sell a snarly pop, new wave song like Joe Jackson. You heard his sarcasm clearly and he was brilliant. Sixty-one year old Joe Jackson, on his new album, Fast Forward, has lost some of the snarl, but he still throws out some brilliant pop on this album. This peripatetic album of sixteen songs was recorded in studios in New York City, Amsterdam, Berlin, and New Orleans. In each location he builds a band to accompany his distinctive vocals and piano playing on four tracks.

The New York series opens the album with the title track Fast Forward. This is six minutes of great stuff. It abounds with confusion about what the heck is going on in the world, but it has almost a smiling acceptance of bewilderment. It is the first indication on this album that the snarl of older days has softened, but it is not gone. If this is the best of times or if it’s the worst / There’s some difference of opinion out there / Everyone is a genius / But no one has any friends / Or is it the other way around?

Every song on this album has some snippet of lyric that I want to include in this review. He is just so smart, plus clever!

The second set of the album was recorded in Amsterdam. Aside from the track “Far Away” that opens with a young boy’s solo, this portion of the album may be my favorite. A Little Smile is full of lovely orchestral strings and pulls out pure sweetness in its message. This section also indicates that he has had some lady learning. This comes through in songs like So You SaySo you say, and I agree, you’re a prize, but not for me. And finally, Joe Jackson’s version of optimism is defined via the track Poor ThingJust think of the millions and millions of horrible things that can happen, that happen each day / but on we go / there must be a few million chances that just a few things could still turn out OK. That is weirdly hopeful, right?

Next up is Berlin, which to me, sounds most like early JJ. There are tracks that sound garage bandy and some that are more bluesy. Anger comes through on the incredible If I Could See Your Face about cultural differences. This section also has Jackson’s rendition of a German cabaret song, Goodbye Jonny that fits so well into this section and this album. This all just makes you realize what a smart curator of music he is.

On his blog, Dan pays a lot of attention to what JJ is doing musically that he does not understand. There is something to say about that since Jackson certainly has the gift of being a trained musician who clearly thinks through his sounds. I think that as he spends more time with this album, the album as a whole and not the techniques will be something that he can enjoy more.

The final section was recorded in New Orleans. Jackson says that he was thinking of NOLA when he wrote Neon Rain, the section’s opener. This song has some classic New Orleans shout backs with some rain and thunder thrown in. The track Keep On Dreaming, I think, includes the best example of New Orleans instrumentation. I hope that it also reflects Joe Jackson’s promise to his fans: Keep on singing til I get it right; Keep on swinging till I get it right / Keep on thinking til I get it right/ Keep on drinking till I get it right / Keep on dreaming til I get it right / Even if I never get it right. I actually see him achieving all of those things in this album and if it isn’t quite right in Joe Jackson’s mind, I am perfectly fine with that. That just means that there will be more to come.

Next Up: Babyface: Return of the Tender Lover

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