Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spyhopping whales in Santa Cruz

I was walking on West Cliff Drive just the other day with a friend when we saw the same two 'spyhopping' whales that you'll see in this link to a story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The Sentinel story implied that the whales were here primarily for the food.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You might consider reading these next

(this is my scratchboard illustration of Mephitis Mephitis, whose noxious spray can render dogs temporarily sightless.)

First of all, stumbling upon this link to an interview with Tom Waits was an unexpected boon. Plus, it's nice to hear that someone's car is messier than mine, and that he apparently like Valencia hot sauce, although my brand is Tapatio. A couple of other things. It's unnerving when I read a very good book that came out a while ago without me knowing about it. One prime example is Bernard Cooper's The Bill From My Father, as good a memoir as I've read in a long while. It has poetic compression, heft, authenticity, the whole shebang, and it doesn't try to gussy up the grouchy inscrutable dad at the center of the book. Books I also enjoyed recently: Gerry Hadden's new nonfiction work, Never the Hope Itself (I even blurbed this one! Take a look at the back cover next time you're browsing in a book store), which is a foreign correspondent's tale and an alluring ghost story set mostly in Haiti and Mexico. I also liked Jonnie Hughes' new one, On the Origin of Tepees, a meme-centric look at human creativity, manifest destiny, extinction, tent design and more. I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Sullivan's The Thoreau You Don't Know, a feisty take-down of received notions about America's most brilliant transcendentalist grouch. This book made me take a second glance at just about everything I've read about the man, including EB White's endearing but cutesy take on Thoreau. Oh, and here's one more. You've got to pick up Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson. Tell me if that isn't the best opening chapter you've read in a long time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

True Fiction radio

I'm going on True Fiction Radio in less than an hour. I'd better start driving to the studio now in case I get a flat tire or run into traffic. (or both.) My reading and my talk with Richard Stockton will soon be available as a podcast on iTunes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Something old, something new

I'm going to do a podcast soon in which I'll read something old (well, not that old -- it's something from The Cactus Eaters, involving a possible case of mistaken identity and a dirty knife) and a very small section of a work so brand-new it doesn't even have a name just yet. Will post that link when it's ready.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Scott Williamson sets speed record on Pacific Crest Trail

Exciting news, and this is the first I've heard about it. Thanks to my brother, Phil, for sending this in. Scott is the most prolific PCT hiker ever, and he's even yo-yo'd the trail (southern to northern terminus, then northern terminus to southern terminus in one sustained effort) on more than one occasion. Amazing accomplishments, to say the least.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If you guessed "Anton Chekhov," you were correct

Anonymous has won the contest. Thanks for all the people who sent in -- although now I'm wondering if only one person sent in, but did so many times. Incorrect answers included Jesse James -- who is not a novelist -- and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dr. Abraham Verghese speaks out about bedside visits and i-Patients (PLUS: see if you can guess the identity of the guy with the mustache).

OK, sharp-eyed Cactuseaters readers. Let's see if you can guess the identity of the mustache-wearing guy in the photo projected on the big screen behind Dr. Abraham Verghese. If you think you've got the right answer, send me an email, and if you're the first one that comes in, I'll put your name in my blog. The original version of the story included a dead giveaway, but I removed it just to make it more challenging for you...)

Anyhow, here is the link to my story on Dr. Abraham Verghese. I have an alternate and much longer version that goes into (much) more detail. If you'd like me to post that longer version as well, send me an email. Otherwise, you know I'll forget to do it. By the way, I should point out that he broke down barriers between himself and the audience by making his presentation as informal as possible. Instead of hiding behind a lectern, he walked the stage, facing the audience the entire time, and never consulting notes of any kind until the very end -- nearly 45 minutes into the presentation. I've never seen anyone pull off such a thing before with the sole exception of Malcolm Gladwell, who lectured note and Teleprompter-free, and in great detail, when he visited Columbia University some years back.

(photo by Steve Kurtz.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dr. Abraham Verghese in Santa Cruz

How many people do you know who can remove a human appendix, and then rush home and crank out a bunch of really good sestinas? How many people do you know who can write smoothly paced novellas while waiting to be called up to perform brain surgery? Not many, I would guess. The successful doctor/successful writer hybrid is one of life's enduring mysteries. You'd think it would take a lifetime to reach eminence in just one of those professions. But that hasn't stopped such physician/authors as Anton Chekhov, Oliver Sacks, Richard Selzer, Ethan Canin, or, for that matter, Abraham Verghese, who is visiting Santa Cruz today to give a lecture and visit students. The title of tonight's sold-out lecture: The Art of Medicine In The Era of Homo Technologicus.

I always want to know: how on earth does anyone have time to be a writer/physician, or even have time to learn how to do both? At the risk of blogging about something with gravitas and import, and therefore interrupting and perhaps compromising my flow of ideas about cookies shaped like banana slugs, and candy bars with weird faces on the wrappers, I'm going to change gears for a moment and write about Verghese's visit to campus today. I'm interested in the topic of his speech tonight -- the importance of patient care and empathy in an age in which technological advances can create a gulf between doctors and patients, who often complain that they are being treated like diseases or diagnoses instead of actual people. But I'd also like to know more about the way he draws from sympathetic imagination in his writing (his latest book is the bestselling novel, Cutting For Stone) as well as his medical care. I'll post the link when the story's done.