Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playbill Reverie

We recently noticed that there was to be a Premier of a play called Smokefall, which had a small ensemble cast of five including a familiar name, Orson Bean.  Mr. Bean and I have a history; although it turns out I was more aware of it than he.  As we prepared for the play we read reviews from Opening Night and retold the story of how I met Orson Bean.

Orson Bean
At the time I was a young Navy Dental Officer assigned to his first ship and living a high life in port at St. Thomas.  I had asked for the name of a nice restaurant and made my way inland to the top of a hill and a place with a fantastic view.

I was alone, being new to the ship, and was having a drink when I struck up a conversation with Orson Bean, who at the time was often  a hilarious guest on the Johnny Carson show.
Did I mention this was in 1965?

Mr. Bean had an entourage of about 10 and when their table was called he graciously invited me to join them.  I sat next to him and his second wife Carolyn who was with him, essentially on their honeymoon.  During the course of the evening he told a joke that I not only remember and tell to this day; it also made page 183 of my book “Harnessing a Heritage”.

In addition to the honeymoon thing, he was also in rehearsals for a musical based on the film “Never on Sunday”, called Illya Darling.  Mary and I were living on the East Coast at the time (when I was in port) and made our way to Broadway to see the play that opened in 1967.  We asked and received permission to go back stage where I paid my respects to Orson.

We were not so fortunate this last weekend but hope that a friend of ours who works at the Segerstrom might have delivered my book and got an autograph on the vinyl Cast recording.  My unexpected backup came when Orson, who lives now in LA, came out after the performance to find friends.  I was able to corner him for a quick autograph and a comment, “St. Thomas!  That must have been 50 years ago.”  Forty eight actually, and one wife removed.
Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy

Mary was checking her collection of about 60 Playbills from Broadway shows we have seen in our past trips to New York.  And was sharing with me her memories of some of the plays.  Of note were Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in The Bridge Game, Tommy Tune in My One and Only, Sammy Davis Junior in Stop the World, Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed, Judd Hirsh in I’m Not Rappaport, Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich in Death of a Salesman, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, Julie Andrews in Victor, Victoria and Angela Lansbury in Sweeny Todd and Patti LuPone in Gypsy.

We have indeed been blessed and enriched by Theater, and I have also been blessed by the number of plays I’ve performed in, many of them very good.  I was fortunate to start attending plays at any early age when my mother took me to Chicago to see, among many, Damn Yankees.

Mary and I went to see Billy Elliott the day after Smokefall and were pleasantly surprised to see the number of young attendees.  The energy of Elton John’s score was infectious and the closing with everyone in tutus was perfect.  Several of the young girls in attendance were posing in their tutus in front of the Billy Elliott billboard.

I’m sure they will have their reverie moments when they reach my age.

My next post will be a little whimsical as I share how my house has made it to a Walking Tour.  Please come visit.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oral Cancer

Eva Grayzel
Several events recently have caused me to rethink Oral Cancer.  First, April is Oral Cancer Awareness month, then, Roger Ebert died from a Parotid Gland lesion that took the typical quality of life path to a lingering death.  There was a story on NPR about two very large-population, longitudinal studies that seemed to indicate a limited value in screening for oral cancer as an effective means of reducing death.  Finally, there was a presentation by a truly amazing speaker and oral cancer survivor named Eva Grayzel, who spoke at the annual Leadership Conference of the Alliance to the American Dental Association.

early squamous
I was Mary’s guest at the AADA conference and asked Ms. Grayzel why the per capita death toll from oral cancer has not changed since Mary’s grandmother died from it some seventy years ago.  For instance, this year 8,000 will die, many more than from cervical or mammary cancer: a frightening statistic.  Even more alarming is the fact that an increasing number will have none of the common risk factors: tobacco use, alcohol problems, or even exposure to ultra-violet radiation.

Her answer was that our dentists and dental staff are not yet aware of the subtleties of early recognition and are too quick to advise, “Come back if it doesn’t get better.”  My take is a little different.

When the ADA made detection its primary focus several years ago with a great advertising campaign and Ms. Grayzel as a speaker at the Opening Ceremonies of the Annual Meeting, the expectation was that more dentists would do more thorough examinations and might get paid for it because there were two new diagnostic aids on the market.  Dr. Oz felt this was true and a few years later did a show trying to do just that.

But it didn’t work out that way.

More important, and we didn’t realize it at the time, an insidious causative agent was coming on the scene: a relationship between the HPV virus and oral cancer.  Knowledge of this has not immediately resulted in implementation of some possible safeguards.  For instance a vaccination for HPV has proved controversial because of the links to the sexual transmission of HPV.  I recently saw a compelling video targeted to the susceptible young population.

The celebrity of some of those who contracted oral cancer may also pump up the volume of public demand for thorough, screening.  Michael Douglas, Blythe Danner and Jack Klugman have made videos trying to increase public awareness of the threat.

Another promising possibility is Salivary Diagnostics, which I am told is only months away from a $30 test that will identify markers of cancer that is ACTIVE, not just pre-disposition markers.  The test won’t tell you where the cancer is but will certainly improve the chances of early detection.

One of the more interesting findings about cancer screening by dentists and staff is that many patients don’t know the exam was performed.  And fewer yet demand that it be done.  I was surprised at the comment of one dentist at the AADA presentation.  He said he felt the insurance company’s failure to pay separately for screening limited the number of screenings performed.  I would hope not, but if a salivary test was effective, I would believe the insurance companies would gladly pay for that procedure.  It might even be paid for as a medical, rather than a dental procedure.

In the meantime one of my dentists, a Periodontist is offering patients a chance to sign on for a screening service additional to the observation screening done my most dentists at the examination appointment. I assume it involves one or both of the diagnostic tools seen on Dr. Oz.

Next post will share with you a recent trip to plays Mary and I have seen in years past.  I’ll title it a Playbill Reverie.  Please come visit.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter Parade

Easter snuck up on me this year, to a point where the Easter Bunny only found four eggs at See’s, our California candy store, and they were Divinity, not the Rocky Road, Butter Cream or Mayfair favored by the family that hunts for baskets in our house.

Well what can you expect from a holiday that has no fixed date; in fact bases the date of the holiday as the first Sunday following the full moon after the Spring Equinox?  This can vary from mid-March to mid-April in the current calendar.  We sometimes forget that the Resurrection happened when we had an earlier calendar.  I find the whole subject of calendars interesting. One of my favorite jokes deals with the fact that this year marks the 5684th year of the Jewish calendar and the 4721st year of the Chinese calendar.  Which means there were 973 years when the Jews had to do without Chinese takeout.

But I digress.

When I finally remembered that Easter was coming I found myself humming and even singing some of the Irvine Berlin tunes from Easter Parade, the 1948 film starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.  The image of the top hat, bonnet, and actual parade down the Manhattan streets reminded me of my youth, when we all had something new to wear for Easter.  At brunch this year I realized that, although we all were finely dressed, it was not the occasion for apparel that it was when I was young. That got me wondering why.

Easter Parade - 1900
The custom of new clothes for Easter goes back a long ways, somehow tied to the Resurrection itself, with white or a bright Pastel being the predominant choice of color.  The New York Parade, which began as an event where church-goers would travel from church to church to see the garlands of flowers marking the holiday, dressed in the latest fashion, became a popular ritual near the turn of the last century, with the less fortunate gathering on the curbs to see what the wealthy were wearing.

In my case it was an occasion to buy something new and nice to wear when we shed our winter overcoats as spring emerged from the Iowa winter.  Mary remembers pretty much the same.  So perhaps it is that we have no serious change of clothes in our California climate.  Or maybe it is that we have become jaded to anything new, since we buy clothes more or less from need rather than from choice, choosing from a change in style or size rather than from occasion.

Easter Parade - 2007
In some ways I think that is a shame.  Dressing for Easter made the celebration more special somehow.  And dressing up with new clothes was just one of the traditions.  There was the Easter meal: ham when I was growing up, later lamb and now, with at least one of my relatives, traditional turkey.  Hunting for the baskets, of course, and coloring eggs (how else would you know which basket was yours?)

But less and less the parade.

In 2007 there were close to 50,000 spectators in New York.  This year less than 7,000.  Whether it is less envy of the wealthy, greater variance in class distinction, younger money, or a desire for anonymity of the privileged class: something has changed the dynamic.

Still and all, the songs from the movie are ageless.

In my next post I’ll revisit a longtime topic of interest, since it seems to be getting a lot of recent press.  Come visit for a current look at Oral Cancer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I read last week about a 17 year-old from London who sold an app to Yahoo for tens of thousands of dollars.  Its value apparently lay in the fact that it was a means for streaming breaking news on a 24/7 basis and this would encourage the Smart Phone user to be an advertising target for someone interested in the demographic who downloaded it.

It got me thinking of how the app market has grown so fast and permeated so deeply, so quickly.  I recently upgraded my PC to a Windows 8 version, which is app driven, although I continue to use the standard Windows screen and a mouse (albeit wireless).  I do use apps on my iPhone 5 and my iPad and find some more useful than others.  Urban Spoon, for instance finds me restaurants when we travel.  TripIt coordinates all those travel segments and keeps them handy as well as reminding me of deadlines.  One I thought I would use a lot is called Find My Car, but the GPS system is a little awkward to use, especially while walking in unfamiliar territory.

I follow March Madness and NBA/NFL/ATP games and matches through apps.  I synch my Apple products through the iTunes store and rent movies from there also.  I have a neat app for golf courses that cost a bit, but helps me with distance and maps to choose the right club.  I learned to use Evernote (before it was hacked) and freed myself from notepads and even handouts at most meetings I attend.

I’m not a big gamer, but did go through my Angry Birds phase, as have most of my friends.

No one appears immune from app-dependency.  My younger son challenged both of us to search our memory for the name of a movie actor rather than Google it or look it up at IMDB, just as an exercise.  It took longer, but was rather satisfying when the name popped into my head.  That son has only had his iPad since Christmas, but is practically a fanatic by now.  His most recent discovery was an app called Hey Tell, that works like a ship-to-shore radio to another or others who share the app; sort of a voice rendition of texting.

He is much more into music on his phone than am I, although I have Hulu and Pandora.  I prefer the afore-mentioned films or even books, which I read on my iPad when I have the time, inclination, battery power, and permission from the flight deck to use a power device.  I also use some quirky apps; such as RhymeZone or, my favorite, Translate.  That app is fantastic.  My then 8 year-old grandson came home from school sharing his name in Swahili.  I asked if he knew how to say “My name is…” in Swahili and he did not.  Bringing up the app I found the phrase translated into 100 languages, including Swahili.  More the wonder, touching the speaker icon, a voice pronounced it for me.

I was thinking of apps that would be helpful to me.  One that comes to mind would prevent me from impulse buying in Trader Joes; reminding me that I have three jars of Green Thai Sauce at home, all dangerously close to reaching their sell-by date.

Or one that would remind me, before I make the 18 step descent into my garage that my keys are still on the hook and that my keyless-starting car will not start without the keys in my pocket, no matter how familiar I think I should be.

I’ll have to find me a bright 17 year-old Londoner.

Come to think of it, I saw an ad on television the other day that seemed to indicate you could start your car and its heater while still in the airplane, providing you with a cozy drive the minute you reached the parking lot.  Maybe all I need is the name of that particular one of 300,000 apps.

I was reflecting on the changes in Easter since I was a boy.  My next post will help remind you.  I hope to see you then.