Monthly Archives: September 2006

A movie worth watching

Ever since college, I’ve found the increasing importance of stories to be a theme of my life. For one particular colloquium session in the Honors Program, we read a book called The Call of Stories. (Of note, the session was lead by the particularly warm and hospitable wife of the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.) Although I don’t remember much about the book, what I do remember is that our writing assignment following the discussion group was to write about books that have impacted us. I wrote about A Tale of Two Cities. This was one of my first instances to begin to think of stories for more than their entertainment or historical-folk value. The nature of fiction unfolded as I began to encounter the power of myth, instruction, and reflection in stories.

That said, I also appreciate a movie about stories. I had the pleasure this drizzly post-call morning to finish watching Big Fish. What a great movie! I’d seen it a few years ago in the theater, and my only regret about renting it is that for just 5 or 6 more dollars I could have bought it.

Without spoiling it, the movie is about a son who is searching to better know his dying father–a father better known for his scintillating tall tales than frankness. The stories, in a sense, become who his father is, and vice versa.

A couple moments in the film I particularly enjoyed: Thanks to Tim Burton’s fantastic directing with a bent toward the fantastic, the potentially overly sentimental ending instead treated the viewer to a light-hearted and humorous moment between father and son.

Also I can’t help but mention the bathtub scene. Nothing racy here; just remarkably well done. And finally, I had to laugh when Will leaned over to push the nurse “call” button at the hospital. The button was positioned on the wall, such that an ailing patient would have to reach a few feet over his shoulder to summon aid!



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My book list

In spite of staying (relatively) busy with residency, I’m trying to make a habit of reading more. Who needs television? (Except, of course, for my two official shows, The Office and Lost, returning this fall on September 21 and October 4, respectively.)

I have a few novels to recommend from this spring and summer. Actually, I’m just going to list all of them, and a few highlights from each.

Old School by Tobias Wolff. A Jewish boy’s senior year at a northeast boarding-prep school in the early 1960’s. In itself, a “celebration of literature,” according to the first editorial reviewer on And one of my favorite lines from the book, appropriately captured by a spotlight reviewer, is in reference to the narrator’s dream of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Frost and Hemingway: “My aspirations were mystical…I wanted to receive the laying on of hands that had written living stories and poems.” I enjoyed the compact, elegant prose in the book; a sort of spare writing style. I thought, however, that the last forty pages or so were an odd-fitting ending to the book.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran. A tale of a nine-year-old’s loss & recovery in the aftermath of September 11. I most enjoyed the quirky perspective of a kid and the tender father-son relationship portrayed in the book. Drawbacks, for me at least, included the book’s toeing the gimmicky line with its use of color, illustration, and text-art. The parallel narrative of the grandparents was also strangely disjointed and disturbingly sensual.

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. A rising political star is haunted by secrets from the Vietnam era. Part murder mystery, part modern commentary. Rather dark, but if you like Tim O’Brien… The editorial review notes that the use of quotations from fictional newspapers mixed with actual reports create “a mélange that lends the novel an eerie sense of verisimilitude.” Does this guy take himself seriously?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I bought a pocket-sized copy several months ago at Half-Priced Books for a dollar or two. It became my subway reading material for a few weeks this summer. Years ago I’d picked up the book, but quit reading after 20 or 30 pages, because–this is hard to believe now–it was boring…the pages were filled with women talking about balls and the like. After my second encounter, however, I consider it one of the funniest classics I have read! And Elizabeth almost became a friend, so to speak, on my daily subway rides. Amazingly sharp & quick to see ironies and pretense, she is at the same time consistently polite. This book will probably garner its own post in the near future.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I’m only 100 pages in to this book my brother gave me, but it’s proving to be a quick and interesting read on the history of, well, nearly everything. I enjoy the way Bryson puts “common” scientific knowledge into the historical context of the discoveries as they were made. Already I’ve read about origins of the universe, the construction of the solar system {“…with Earth reduced to [the size of] a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant (and about the size of a bacterium…)}, and the British Geological Society.


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In remembrance: 9/11/2001

New York City, September 11, 2006

This day began as beautiful as that day five years ago. Cool, clear, amazing September day.

From the papers, I knew that throughout the city there were observances. Names read. Moments of silence. Somber music in the parks. Visits by dignitaries.

For me, however, it was another work day–a Monday–as usual. Busy enough, nothing too stressful. It wasn’t until my late afternoon run across the George Washington Bridge that I had some time to reflect on this city and the world that are different places than they were five years ago. As big as the events were that day, and as big as the events are that have taken place since, I couldn’t help but wonder how we will look back on these years ten, twenty, thirty years hence. In what way will they shape that history that has yet to be written? Will those 3,000 lives lost fit into some larger meaningful picture, of what we hope will be sacrifices for freedom?

On the Hudson River, a tugboat guided a gargantuan barge far beneath the bridge on which I ran. I noticed the hues of the sky’s blue as it faded into the clear horizon miles and miles to the north. Gray and purple clouds floated in a smattering across the sky. I saw the Jersey shore with its steep tree-filled banks. To the south, the densest part of the most crowded city in America lay in distant rest. Manhattan, quietly basking in the afternoon sun, balanced around the Empire State Building.

But most memorable, as cable after cable raced behind me, was the flag hanging in the arch of the western tower of the bridge. I’d seen it from a distance; it could easily be spotted from miles away. But as I jogged closer, the size of it was what pressed onto my mind’s eye. Easily 60 feet wide and 100 feet long, I imagined how many eighteen-wheelers it could cover. It billowed over the bridge in the cool eastern wind.

As I came closer, a helicopter circled far above. I wondered if the pilot could spot me–a solitary runner–dwarfed beneath the American flag. And this is the picture I will carry as I remember this day. Yes, the world changed shape on September 11, 2001. Yes, an narrative is forming as the rudder of history swung a new direction. But I’d like to take a moment this day not to simply solemnly remember the number 3,000, but to think that beneath the vast banner of American freedom are individuals who died that day…from this vantage point, each is not much more than a speck beneath that unfurled flag, but every one is far from forgotten.


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A new sleeker Mulberry Street

My regular readers will probably notice the subtle change to my blog. It was time for something fresh.

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Ah, autumn

My favorite season has definitely arrived to the northeast! September marks the beginning of this great time of the year, and my birthday just so happens to be today.

I was assigned to a genito-urinary room today where we did three robotic radical prostatectomies. (see sample pictures below) Ironically, the urology resident’s birthday was also today! She was turning thirty, I, twenty-eight.

A picture of a robot-assisted operation. This is not a prostatectomy, since that would be a very high-riding prostate. Also, given that the patient’s arm is over the sterile drapes, I suspect this is a staged photo.

This is what the surgeon looks like during the case.


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Rising to preeminence

Type in saw, mulberry, and street into Google’s search engine. The blog of yours truly is number seven on the list. Unfortunately I’m competing directly against Dr Seuss’s book.


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How to contact me

Mulberry Street Public Service Announcement

I’ve added an e-mail address,, to my profile so that readers who may not know my regular e-mail address can still contact me.

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