Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Norman Rockwell


A few weeks ago, NPR did a feature on an unusual reunion and an interview with the youngest attendee, who was 57 years old.  What makes the reunion unusual is that all the attendees were at one time from Stockbridge, MA, and all were subjects either of a photograph taken by Norman Rockwell or had literally sat for one of his more than four-thousand paintings.

Most of us, “of an age” relate to his work through his covers of the Saturday Evening Post but before and during that episode of his life, he did regular monthly cover art for the Boy Scout’s magazine, Boy’s Life.  For his more than fifty years work for that magazine he was awarded the Silver Buffalo.  Other works of note include:

·         Popular Mechanics covers


·         Calendar art, including The Four Seasons

·         The Four Freedoms, two “from” and two “to”

·         A self-portrait to honor his 75th birthday year

·         Several Civil Rights subjects including, Problems We All Face about school integration

Freedom of Speech
·         Apparel, including a tie titled Breaking Home, the original selling for $15.4 million

·         Several film-related projects including one original each in George Lucas’ and Steven Spielberg’s collections

He actually did not begin to use models for his art exclusively until 1943, when a fire destroyed many of his apparel items and forced him to emphasize portrait art.  He did actual portraits of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson as well as a 1969 portrait of Judy Garland.

He was not recognized as a serious artist until relatively late in life, although his influence was vast and across the board.  He died in 1978 at the age of 84.

Problems We All Face
I have a niece who has embarked on an ambitious task; to pint one painting a week, with a Yoga theme.  To date she is on week 33 of year five.  While she might have to pick up the pace to match Rockwell, she might do that as she is expanding her art to include apparel, note cards, stationary, and other items; all Yoga related.  You can check out her site at her web page: www.smallcloudshop.com.   Theresa Hutch is one of eight daughters of my sister-in-law who lives right on Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The variety of the girls, women now, actually, would make for an interesting story.  Theresa is probably the most artistic, but her siblings have demonstrated flair for writing, equestrian therapy, community service, music, mathematics, language, and sales.  There are probably other talents which have escaped me. Certainly a diverse and talented family.

In my next Post, I will share an exhibit that Mary and I attended at the Los Angeles County Museum of art: featuring Guillermo del Toro.  I think you will find it interesting, and I hope you will join me.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Cursive

Recently my grandson celebrated his twelfth birthday.  Mary and I picked out an appropriate card and as usual each penned a short note to celebrate the occasion.  We were surprised when he opened the card and said to our son, “I can’t read this.”

It turns out that in his school they no longer teach cursive.

My son isn’t concerned commenting, “My penmanship was always a little suspect anyway.” Others I have shared this story with also point out that the exercise of writing will be phased out as voice recognition improves.  My wife’s concern as to how they will sign anything prompts a response that few signatures are recognizable anyway.  No one seems overly concerned that the only weak point in my grandson’s development is small motor acuity (which is developed in learning handwriting).

And it may be more isolated than I think.  Another friend, with a similar-aged child in the same general school system says his son’s school still teaches “handwriting”.

I was reminded of several other periods in my life when major changes in education were predicted to have cataclysmic negative effects.

About 25 years ago there was a major change in secondary education: specifically, Fine Arts practically disappeared from the curricula.  Mary graduated with a degree in Fine Arts and is one of the best-rounded persons I know.  I expected that we would never see books or film that reference the classics, and yet the Coen brothers, not known for their high-minded intellectualism, came out with O Brother Where Art Thou?  Screen credits for story went to Homer.

As the years have gone by, there are many other examples that show the curiosity of the creative mind that have kept the classics alive and an inspiration to current and future generations.

Well before fine arts became unnecessary, I was concerned when Latin was no longer taught in schools.  Mary and I both had at least two years of Latin.  One thought at the time was that Latin provided a foundation for understanding the English language.  I helped in spelling too.  As a matter of fact, I have a better-than-average vocabulary and, while in high school, went to the Regional finals in Spelling competition.

But my older son was in a vocabulary class in high school, taught by a teacher who changed her name and still writes as Elizabeth George.  His vocabulary probably exceeds mine.  As time has passed I find it increasingly difficult to work the phrase “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” into any normal conversation.  Maybe Latin wasn’t as important as I thought it was.

Does anyone here read Script?
I was somewhat concerned when I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker that depicted a group of our Founding Fathers, wigs, quill pens and all, gathered at a table where one of them turns and asks rhetorically, “Does anyone here read Script?”  What if my grandson can’t read the Declaration of Independence?  Luckily, I found a copy of it and the Constitution, perhaps sent to me by Khizr Kahn.  This is printed in block letters.  Whew!

In my next post I will share some recent and not so recent facts I have found on Norman Rockwell.  I think you will find it interesting.    

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Children of Cancer Patients

The other day in the Chemo Bay I visit a couple times a month, I found myself between two older ladies, one who was anxious as to how her 3-4 year-old granddaughter would react if she lost her hair and one accompanied by her grown daughter and a friend, who had lost her hair and proudly wore a bandana celebrating the 4th of July.

As their conversation roamed through how to shop for a wig and how much they cost and, more importantly who was the best wigmaker in this area of wealth and opulence, I found myself remembering my niece who was diagnosed with recurrent breast cancer some ten years ago.  At the time she was young, late thirties, drop-dead gorgeous, and contending with, not only her cancer, but a husband who seemingly had enough of her cancer foolishness.

On the heels of that memory, I was reminded of a presentation by Eva Grayzel at an AADA Leadership Conference I attended with Mary.  Eva was a Broadway talent in the true Chorus Line model, who probably would have been lost in the Ensemble credits had she not contracted Oral Cancer, one of 6,000 who die each year of 40,000 diagnosed in the United States.

Ms. Grayzel gave a very inspirational and informative presentation that included how her case management was delayed and her case misdiagnosed.  She was asked to present at an annual conference for the ADA but was quietly moved to the background because the ADA was involved with a newly launched diagnostic tool and was more interested in a campaign to promote it than in linking oral cancer incidence to something that might have a preventive component, namely a vaccine.

I asked her why the numbers of oral cancer patients per 1,000 population in the U.S. had not changed since Mary’s grandmother was diagnosed in the 1950s and she said we are not very good at recognizing affected people early.  We also are seeing a new cause; unprotected oral sex with multiple partners with resultant infection by Human Papilloma Virus.  This has now become a cause celebre for me.

She also said that her daughter, a tweener at the time as I remember it, blamed her (Eva) for at least three years for “Catching cancer”.  It turns out that this is not an uncommon response of children, who believe the world centers them for each event. And the patient is partly to blame for the weakness that causes the cancer and the changes that may occur.

That was likely the condition that Jackson Hunsicker was attempting to combat when she enlisted several topline fashion photographers to highlight the beauty of being bald in her book, Turning Heads    If you get or read the book you will find my niece on page 50, by far the most striking model in the book.

My sister-in-law graciously donated a book to my chemo bay and I saw to it that both the women mentioned above read it.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it has become extremely popular, on display with the magazine and a quick read, since it is essentially all pictures.  Thank you, CeCe.  I’m sure Julia is very pleased.

 

In my next post I will share with you the surprise Mary and I had at our grandson’s twelfth birthday.  I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Northeast Passage

Northeast Passage vs. Suez Canal
A couple weeks ago, a press release from the Russian press announced the commissioning of a multi-billion dollar nuclear icebreaker.  The backstory was in the accompanying phrase that essentially said, “This will put an end to the American embargo.”

Why might that be?

For several years I have attended a seminar in the Bay Area by one of my Alma Maters, The Naval War College in Newport, RI.  About three years ago there was an interesting presentation on the unintended consequences of the U.S. Fleet decimation.  In particular, they mentioned that we no longer had any useable Hospital Ships, because we can airlift casualties in shorter time to U.S. hospitals and we have limited resources in Germany now.  Another casualty has been icebreakers, of which we have only two, old, conventional ships that rotate between the yards, the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Aside from the fact that icebreakers used to provide a billet for a dentist, why should that be of importance?  The answer is that the ice in the Arctic is going away. 

While the fact that the Polar Bears are losing their hunting grounds is of little consequence unless you are a young boy sitting on a remaining ice flow wondering if you are going to be a Polar Bear breakfast, what is means this that the ice, which restricts passage of the Northeast Passage and more importantly the North Sea as it borders Russia in 2013 allowed for passage for more than three weeks, when ten years previous it had been open for about one week.  With icebreaker assistance that could be tripled or even quadrupled.

Use of the Northeast Passage chops about 23,000 miles off the Suez Canal passage.  This has great economic advantage for both China and Russia and both are greatly increasing their presence and influence in the region.  The major savings is in fuel and the construction of nuclear icebreakers is an intentional investment in ships that can remain on station without assistance for longer periods of time.

The Peabody, out of Beluga
What has slowed the process in the ensuing years is the fact that Russia’s major export is oil, which has decreased dramatically in value and need by the rest of the world. If Russia could open trade markets in Europe and China could cheaply increase its influence in Africa, the game might truly be changed.

Interestingly, the Passage is a two-way street with Germany going in the other direction.  Most of the previous icebreakers have in fact been German, including their own nuclear ship, The Peabody.  With Great Britain’s Brexit, it will be interesting to see if Europe desires to increase trade outside of the EU.

It will also be interesting to see what the next President is inclined to do about rebuilding the U.S. fleet.  Our present policy with our naval presence being treated with open disdain by both China and Russia would argue that something needs to be done.

In my next Post I will offer observations on children of cancer patients and the effect that cancer treatment of parents and grandparents have on their lives.  I hope you will join me.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why Change Is So Difficult

I keep a list of subjects I may write about on my BLOG and, for the most part that has proved a reliable source.  However my thought this week on Why Change is So Difficult was drawing on my memory of a sometimes-presenter on NPR, a Sociologist and perhaps, Psychologist who speaks on the Morning Show about once a month, Shankar Vedantam.

Alas my memory failed me, and although he has a longer presentation of imagery and how it affects results in our lives, I’ll draw on my own experience for the subject regarding Change.

I have some experience with change.  In addition to fifteen major moves and about 18 different duty stations while in the Navy for 26 years, I worked for six different companies in the Health Insurance industry, three of which I was terminated from; twice because of M&As and one because of an economic adjustment.  None of them was particularly stressful, most because of a military pension from those 26 years (plus five in the Reserve while preparing for and going to Dental School).

I’ll give you my list of six tools to make Change Acceptance easier:

1.       Anticipate change:  Every industry evolves or dies and we must modify our position or find ourselves redundant at best.  In my case, during the navy I sought increased education and eventually was selected to take a Sabbatical year at the Naval War College.  Contacts and confidence were easy byproducts of that year.  In the corporate world, I took evening classes to eventually get an MBA.  I became self-taught in Windows Office components, and became active in several Trade Association, travelling top several venues to participate in committee work that helped define what was a” Dental Director”, and gained me a reputation as someone who was current and who asked Good Questions.

2.      When change happens be quick to adapt: My second corporate job ended after a little more than a year when the company had to demonstrate fiscal soundness to get Reinsurance from Lloyd’s of London.  My salary was too inviting a target, but the afore-mentioned contacts meant my feel never hit the sidewalk.  I spent my two weeks working with my Assistant to help her met the challenges and this gained the respect of my team and resulted in an extra week’s employment.

3.      Prepare for Change:  Although this may seem similar to Anticipate, the subtle difference is to have a Strategic Plan and develop the Tactics necessary to meet the challenges.

4.      Build on Your Strengths:  We all are unique (didn’t your mother tell you that you were special?)  Just find your uniqueness and develop a plan to fit it positive into your job or occupation.  I believe my strengths include, I write well and do presentations well, so I volunteer for tasks that use those skills.  I am less proficient in delegation and have found it valuable to become a mentor to someone who may replace me someday, assigning them responsibilities that assist both of us.

5.      Develop Confidence:  There is nothing wrong with a realistic assessment of what you have accomplished.  It offers objectivity in assessing your worth.  One of my bosses once told me I should shop m y talents every couple of years to see what others think my worth might be.  My mother passed on the axiom, “He who doesn’t toot his own horn, may go tootless.”  I have always felt that lesson had some merit.

6.      Security: This last was easier for me than most people, with my military retirement.  I moved from that second job to my third with a 20% decrease in salary but within two years was salaried higher than from company two.  My father always told me that if I worked hard and showed my employers value, the money would follow.  I believe this is generally true.  I made a goal to be “debt-free in 2003” and since then have accumulated significant wealth, in a cyclic economy.  I have now retired three times: once from the Navy, once from WellPoint (when they were bought by Anthem) and once from my consulting job with a Medicare Alternative Plan. Now unemployed for the first time since I met my wife some 57 years ago, I still get calls for consulting projects.  They don’t pay much, but they keep me current in the industry, as well as giving my life some purpose.

So, I hope some of this sagely advice will make sense in your lives.  My next Post (which I hope I have not covered in the three year’s data I lost) will discuss what is happening with the Northwest Passage as Global Warming opens the sea lanes.  I think you will find it very interesting.  Please join me.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Commencement

Shirt reads "Class of 2015"
A recent cover of The New Yorker magazine caught my attention and caused me to have a few memories.  In one of those things that happen, I found it difficult to do the research I expected; specifically, to chronicle this year’s Commencement Addresses made by President Obama and offer an opinion as to the why and where he chose those opportunities.  Even more specifically, what he addressed at Howard University and this year’s Military Academy.

I did find and listen to the address he made at Howard.

Howard was the first college started to offer college-level education to what were then called Negros.  It was founded only two years after the end of the Civil War and has enjoyed a stellar alumni including the first Black Nobel Prize winner and first Federal judge.  Although he mentioned the diversity of the present University, and a glimpse of the crowd showe3d several white faces, I felt he missed an opportunity to stress that, choosing rather to show how the graduating class of 2016 was in a position to effect change better than any preceding class.

My very white, Boston-suburban-raised nephew is a graduate of Howard’s Dental School.  He has always seemed proud to be so-distinguished.

The most positive message that the President made was an appeal for the graduates to vote.  Only 25% of college students voted in the mind-term election of 2014 and slight less than half that number voted in the Presidential election of 2012.   While not being negative about reaction groups like Black Lives Matter, he did point out that all positive change requires compromise and a strategy, rather than a reaction.

Sometimes I think we want this more than he does.
Coincidently, as Salutatorian of my high school class, I was able to also give an address, which opportunity I used to reflect on the sacrifices made by our parents in getting us through high school and, in my case, fairly well prepared for college.  Subsequently I was able to make several similar speeches during my 26 years in the service, the major one being my Change-of-Command speech from El Toro Marine Air Station where I was the XO and later CO.  I chose the locale to compare the people who had supported me to the crops we saw all about us: oranges, which grow year-round and require very little care, others to the strawberries, fragile and sweet, the picking of which is an investment in the value other people reap.  And finally, the artichokes, which require several years care before they bear fruit, and the fruit itself generally of a class my father always distrusted; namely, any food where there is more left when you finish than when you stat.  People who require that care and patience are a special and long-remembered class.

I had a friend who was in attendance that day tell me 10 years later, it was the most memorable speech he had ever heard.

So, I am very tolerant with Commencement Addresses and wouldn’t criticize either the choice of school or subject matter and I rather enjoyed the 45-minute presentation by the President at Howard.  I had hope for You Tube to have the one at the military academy, which I believe was the Air Force Academy.  My recollection is that one phrase he used was that this graduating class was the first in twenty years that would not have to go to Afghanistan or Iraq.  Ironically, within a week he sent 1500 service personnel to Iraq.

NPR has a sociologist who reports regularly on studies I find interesting.  A recent one explored why some people have more problems with change than others.  Having just lost the third job of my career when an M&A made me redundant, I’ll explain why I seem to have adapted well and why.

 

I hope you will join me.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commencement_speech

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Life's Lessons Learned from Food and Food Service

Recently, I have been doing more of the cooking at our house and I was ruminating on my fairly long history with food and food service and what are some of the lessons I have learned.  Perhaps you have not thought about it, but let me give six examples: three each from Food and Food Service.

I was a late-bloomer to the food service industry, probably because we had no fast food when I was growing up (my oldest son worked at a McDonalds when he was sixteen).  I found my way when I was in dental school and (finally) twenty-one.  I worked as a bartender in three different venues, each with its own set of life lessons: a summer resort, a Country Club and a Japanese Restaurant owned by a Milwaukee German.  Life’s first lesson was:

·          Communication:  In any service industry the key to success is learning to be a good listener.  It is what gets you tips and promotions.  Most good communicators initiate a conversation, but they do so with a question.  In airports I often use, “Are you going home or away from home?”  That opens up all sorts of topics: what they do, where are their children, vacation plans, etc.  Sometimes it even opens topics I’m more interested in, like “What do I do?”

 

·         Dependability:  Across generations, one thing has not changed about Food Service.  Employers and fellow-employees appreciate it when they can depend on you showing up on time and ready to work.  That is a life-lesson that is harder to see in the normal workplace and may explain why when I left the Navy as well as when I left the corporate world, there was a hefty check for unused Vacation and Sick Days.

 

·         Apparel is not a bad word: My younger son used to kid me about my Navy uniform and how I carried that habit along when I joined the Corporate world, but perhaps that is because his uniform is shorts and a collared shirt because he teaches Physical Education to grades 4 through 8 in a warm climate.  But, although what is considered acceptable “business attire” has changed dramatically since I joined the Corporate World, what has not changed is the “branding” of what is acceptable by wearing what the bosses are wearing.  In my case that explains why in my closet I once had five Hawaiian shirts, many Ryne Spooner, because the boss had just purchased a Dental Plan in Hawaii, or why I still have five pair of suspenders, excluding anything formal, because my bosses were visible in demonstrating they were a Union Shop.  Now, working when I do, mostly virtual, I wear Dockers or shorts depending on the weather and a collared sport shirt with a light sweater.  I also take myself out for lunch on Bosses’ Day.

Life’s Lessons learned from Food is a little harder to categorize, but I would choose:

·         Consideration.  I have gravitated into doing most of the cooking, gathering recipes more from Epicurious than from the dozens of cookbooks we have accumulated over the years, but recognizing that when I was out of town Tim and Mary often made a Tuna Casserole, I found a recipe for same and will adapt it to Fresh Ahi-Ahi I can get at the Farmer’s Market and make it tomorrow.  Working with food and food groups like Slow Cooking and The American Institute of Wine and Food, I have learned that we all continue to try new foods as out tastes and incomes change.

 

·         Experimentation: Building on that thought, I am watching my grandchildren discover new foods and my 15 year-old granddaughter discover food preparation.  Our moist recent sojourn into the different was a trip for Mongolian Barbeque, which we regularly did as a family when I was stationed in the Philippines and the boys were sixteen and twelve.  My 12 year-old grandson, a notoriously picky eater, seemed to enjoy the meal, probably because his dad helped him select the contents of his bowl.  That same dad was a child who ate everything placed in front of him, consuming so many yellow vegetables and fruits as an infant that he developed jaundice.  So, we were surprised when he looked at eggplant Mary prepared and said, “No, thank you.”  We encouraged him to try just a mouthful, stopping short of the Jewish mother’s admonition, “just hold it in your mouth.  It will feel good.” But he remained resolute saying, “I’ll throw up.” We persisted and he did indeed take a mouthful…and proceeded to throw up.

 

·         Organization:  The most valuable lesson I have learned cooking food is the value of organization.  Tim no longer reminds me that I said we would eat at seven and it is now almost eight. The secret is that not only do I do my chopping before I start to cook, I also do my measuring prior to starting.  I learned this from watching the chefs at cooking demonstrations Mary and I went to for about 1 ½ years.  They were also my inspiration to buy good cutlery and to regularly sharpen the not-so-good paring knives I use.  A fringe benefit of cooking organization is that I find out what ingredients I need to adjust or substitute for before I start to cook.  As a Manager and Director in both the Navy and Corporate worlds I gradually learned the value of organization.  It just took me longer than it would have, had I been more immersed in food preparation at an earlier age.

So, I encourage any of you who are not already active in Food consumption and preparation to adapt the skills I have learned from my experience through the years.  Perhaps, if our society had Universal Conscription into the food industry for a year, we would be more polite and caring, and maybe even better organized.

In my next Post I intend to look at a custom our Presidents have: speaking at Commencements, and what we might learn from that.  I hope you will join me.