Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Colonoscopies save Lives

There's been some great buzz lately on the success of colonoscopies: they have cut the death rate of colorectal cancer in half.

Click here for a recent New York Times editorial on the subject. 

Here in Stamford, the Tully Health Center has an excellently staffed and beautifully designed endoscopy center.

Check it out!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Night at the Movies: The Artist is a Delightful Movie

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo who 
co-star in The Artist 

I finally caught up with The Artist at our local Avon Theater and what a delight it is!

It is hard to explain why a black and white movie with virtually no audibly spoken words (although there is a lovely musical accompaniment) should score so high in an era that emphasizes sound, color and spectacle.

I will try to touch on the subtle, yet overt magnetism of the movie.

First, there are the two main actors.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) heralds the end of the silent movie era. He is a Hollywood silent star movie performer in the late 1920's just as sound movies are being introduced. He is suave, debonair, immaculately groomed with a flair for dancing. He will soon be eclipsed by the new sound medium because of his unwillingness to adapt to it.

At the beginning, he accidentally meets his co-star Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo); she is an admiring fan who bumps into him under the marquis of a movie theater where one of his movies is making a debut. There is an instant attraction between the two;  she morphs into a movie extra, then is 'discovered' and becomes a star in the new world of the talking motion pictures.

She is lithe, energetic, light on her feet with a winsome smile. In short she is captivating.

As her star burns bright with her getting leading roles in the 'talkies', George's success diminishes. His marriage falls apart and there is no demand for his 'silent' acting.

Yet the magnetism between them is strong.

Early on, there is a heavenly scene where the couple join each other in dance even as they are constantly
changing partners. Each time they dance together, there is a radiant magnetism.

Though his life is in the decline, Peppy sticks with George through his severe depression and attempted suicide; she even revives his career by having George be her dancing partner in the talkies.

The movie ends with the couple dancing together, which is reminiscent of the marvelous Fred Astaire- Ginger Rogers duo.

It's a great movie. I urge you to see it--if you haven't already done so.

This movie is slated to win many Oscars.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day: A Day to be Thankful

What is the true spirit of this holiday?

School kids love it because they have the whole week off as part of a midwinter recess.

Car dealers and large retailers love it, too. They can use the whole week to blast their sales messages under the banner of red, white and blue including images of Washington and Lincoln. 

Originally, the holiday was intended to honor our first President George Washington who was born on February 22.  However, later on it was felt that Abe Lincoln should have his birthday, February 12, celebrated as well. 

In 1971, Congress designated the third Monday of February as a federal holiday; however, several states continued to honor the two presidents on their respective birthdays. 

Today, it seems as if the term Presidents Day has stuck. And so we have the option to celebrate this day to commemorate the lives of all 44 of our leaders!

I believe the essence of this day is that we live in a stable democracy--a system of government whose leadership is fixed for at least four years. 

We are living in a world which has seen such leadership turmoil. 

First came the Arab Spring uprisings bringing down the governments of Khadafi and Mubarak, which will hopefully bring stable democratic governments to Libya and Egypt.

However, we hear of  the daily violence and bloodshed under the Assad government in Syria in a internal war that seen over 5,000 Syrians killed. 

We Americans have a duty to show our appreciation to our country and its peaceful system of government under the leadership of our President. 

God Bless America on this Presidents' Day and everyday!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Socrates: A Man for our Times by Paul Johnson

What makes Paul Johnson's Socrates palatable is the author's knack for distilling with clarity the essential beliefs and actions of the great philosopher.

It is well known that Socrates never committed his ideas to writing. So, it is from the dialogues of Plato, the writings of Aristotle and the observations and testimonies of others that we attempt to construct what Socrates believed.

 Just how reliable can this method be?

Johnson underscores (one might say, unlocks) some of the underlying principles and character traits of his subject. Here, they are.

1. Socrates (469 BCE-399 BCE) loved to wander the streets of Athens and conduct question and answer sessions with its individual denizens--its "tanners, metalworkers, shopkeepers, water sellers, hucksters, barrow folk, scribes and money changers." One answer then elicited another question and so on. This Socratic method or dialectic he loved to employ; he probably had a pleasing personality with charm so his efforts were fruitful.

It was Cicero who succinctly pointed out that "Socrates was the first to call Philosophy down from the skies, and establish her in the towns and introduce her into peoples homes and force her to investigate ordinary life, ethics, good and evil."

2. Socrates as a citizen of Athens fought in the battles that helped to protect her interests. He was at the siege of Potidea; during the Athenian retreat from this port, his wounded aristocratic friend Alcibiades commented on Socrates' courage in saving his life by standing over him and fighting off the enemy.

3. In a culture that worshiped many deities, Socrates firmly believed in one divinity. It was the voice of this single god that constantly inspired him and guided him on his life's mission. He believed in the separation of the body and the soul.

4. He firmly espoused the belief that revenge has no place in the system of justice. The law of retaliation simply did not exist for him. In fact, Johnson believes that Socrates may have been the reason an order to execute all the adult males in Mytilene (on the island of Lesbos) was overturned at the last moment.

5. He had an unwavering devotion and respect for the law--even if it meant compromising his safety.

6. He believed that women should be allowed to develop their minds and skills to realize their potential.
(According to Plato, he is said to have been greatly influenced by Diotima who used the Socratic method to educate him)

Johnson spices the book up by using Socrates's positions to draw parallels to modern day thinkers as Bertrand Russel, Richard Nixon, Churchill and others.

The book is a great read. Enjoy it.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

These Balmy days are to be enjoyed

A Groundhog emerges from his hole

We are enjoying a very balmy winter this year.

 Temperatures hover in the 40's and 50's and there's hardly a cloud in the sky. One feels that springtime is around the corner. 

However, this week is usually the snowiest week of the year!

To top it off, last Thursday, Groundhog Day, indicated that we have another six weeks of winter to look forward to.  (Indeed, the groundhog did see its shadow.)

So who should we believe? 

On the one hand, meterologists are forecasting continued mild days; on the other hand, the groundhog says we still have winter on our hands.

I think the best advice is to make the most of these days. Enjoy them, get outside, soak in some sun. Let's see if we can continue to enjoy the blessings that are coming our way.

Have a great day and week, all!
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