Opera Interludes

My subject is the instrumental music that occurs during a scene or between two. Excluded are overtures, preludes, and ballet music. Sometimes the distinction between an interlude or intermezzo and a prelude can be precious, but if the music below is called an interlude, an intermezzo, or in one case a meditation I accepted it…

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Church Scenes

I recently wrote about the last few minutes of the first act of Tosca, which is set in a church – Sant’Andrea della Valle. There are other operas which have scenes in a church or houses of worship, five are presented below. Giacomo Meyerbeer was a German composer who tried to follow the style of…

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Haydn Piano Trios

No great composer wrote as much music as did Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The quality of his music as as great as its amount. So vast is his output that it’s hard to count them. He is famed as the father of both the string quartet and the symphony. He wrote 68 of the former and…

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The Lack of Effect of Influenza Vaccination on the Elderly

The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published online a study of the effectiveness of influenza vaccination on the likelihood of subjects 65 and older being hospitalized or dying. The study’s objective was: “To determine the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in reducing hospitalizations and mortality among elderly persons by using an observational research design that…

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Drinking Songs

Opera and alcohol are frequently paired. Accordingly, here are some drinking songs. I’m using the term loosely. Most would fit under this appellation, but some do not and not all the selections are from operas. They are presented in no particular order. If randomness works for quantum mechanics, it’s OK here. First is likely the…

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Mad Scenes Not By Donizetti

Donizetti’s Lucia Di Lammermoor is the poster girl for operatic lunacy. She’s been going mad for close to two centuries with no letup in sight. She should be an honorary member of the American Psychiatric Association; she’d fit right in. She’s probably got her own ICD 10 code. But opera has many other examples of…

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World War 2 Photos

The photos below were found in a box after my mother died. They detail part of her brother Nat’s service in the US Army during World War 2.  I know nothing more than what was written on the back of some of these pictures. They were about 60 years old by the time I saw…

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Operatic Laughter

There’s a lot to laugh about in opera, some of it intentional. My subject is not situations that are funny, rather it’s situations in which the characters laugh. Here are a few; doubtless, you can think of others. I’ll start with Adele’s Laughing Song from the younger Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Adele, the Eisenstein’s maid, has…

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On Persistence

This article is the 1000th published here since the site went live in December of 2007. I don’t keep track of this sort of thing, but the computer does and I couldn’t help noticing that the previous one had number 999 attached to it. So, big deal! All this proves is that if you’re persistent…

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New (2019) Cholesterol Treatment Guidelines

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have released new guidelines for the management of elevated blood cholesterol levels. These guidelines focus on LDL-cholesterol. They are summarized in the figure below which can be enlarged by clicking on it. They were published in a short article in the JAMA which is appended…

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The Met’s House Tenors

The definition I’m using here is this: A Met house tenor is one who has sung at least 500 performances in leading tenor roles with the company. Thus, comprimario singers are not included. Using this rule there are only six tenors who qualify. They are listed below in the order of their birth followed by…

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Dr. Donald W. Seldin, ‘intellectual father’ of UT Southwestern, dies at 97

Dr Seldin died April 25, 2018 at the age of 97. I was one of thousands of physicians whose life and career was shaped by this great man. The article below is the tribute to him that was published by Southwestern Medical Center, the institution that he devoted his life to and which was shaped…

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New Blood Pressure Guidelines – Think First

The press with an assist from the American College of Cardiology is trying to drive the American public crazier than it usually is. Here’s a quotation typical of those floating around the media: “Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure under the new guidelines issued Monday by heart organizations and the medical community. The…

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How Go Completely Crazy in 25 Easy Steps

The first thing to accept is that you don’t have to do anything crazy to go completely crazy – a series of rational small steps will get you there. A to B seems at least OK. The same with B to C, all the way to Z. Twenty five rational, or semi-rational, steps and you’re…

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Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease is a disorder of hemoglobin production secondary to an alteration in the hemoglobin gene on chromosome 11.  Specifically, there is a single amino acid substitution in “adult” β A -globin (Glu6Val) stemming from a single base substitution (A→T) in the first exon of the human β A -globin gene. The abnormal nucleotide…

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Ostracism and “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”

Ostracism was an interesting feature of the Athenian democracy, if you can call a city-state which granted the suffrage only to adult male land owners a democracy. About 30 to 50 thousand of about 300 thousand Athenians were eligible to vote. Unsurprisingly, democracy in Athens lasted little more than a century. Ostracism derives its name from ostraka,…

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The Vulture Has Landed

I’ve been out of the country for a few weeks, but am now back (see below for the gruesome details). Thus regular posting will resume. First the important stuff.  If you take a cruise bring your own salt and a shaker. No cruise line I know of has decent salt shakers. They tend to use…

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Life Expectancy in the Elderly

Americans have a lower life expectancy than people in other developed countries. This lower longevity has been often used to disparage medical care in this country as being inferior to that of other similarly advanced nations.  Such an accusation is made acute by the high cost of American medical care – the highest in the world….

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Statins For the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

The use of statins (drugs which lower blood cholesterol) for the primary prevention of CV disease has been controversial since the drugs became available almost 30 years ago. Primary prevention is the prevention of a disease which the patient does not have, eg a stroke or a heart attack. Secondary prevention is the prevention of…

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Daisy For President

Can a dog run for President of the United States? The answer is an unequivocal yes! Let me quote the Constitution: No person except a natural born citizen , or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adaption of this Constitution shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall…

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The Genetically Modified Organism in Your House

Vermont in a spasm of enlightenment has mandated that all genetically modified foods sold in the Green Mountain State be so labeled. According to numerous polls 90% of the population of the USA thinks this a good idea. This is the same concerned and informed group that by an 80% margin supports labeling food that…

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Cosmosapiens – Book Review

Cosmosapiens by John Hands Subtitled Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe, John Hands’ book attempts to explain the origin of the universe and our place in it; and he does so in less than 600 pages (about a quarter of a million words) including many tables and figures. Amazingly, except for a stumble towards…

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Verdi Chords

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas is his use of chords to resolve or punctuate the moments of greatest emotional and dramatic tension as his story reaches a crisis point. This simple device would seem within the grasp of almost any composer, but Verdi’s use of it is unique. Below are five…

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What Can You Do to Maintain Good Health?

The FDA just banned trans fat. The American Heart Association issued a statement that the move would prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year mirroring that made by the CDC. Where this number came from is a mystery. I suspect they made it up after a series of extrapolations from metabolic data to epidemiological conclusions based…

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If You Are a Homicidal Maniac Press 1

Earlier today I called USAA. They’re my insurance company. I’ve been with them since before the big bang. Back then you could pick up the phone and a familiar voice would answer, “This is Phyllis at USAA.” And I would reply, “Hi, Phyllis, this is Neil. I got a new car; please change my coverage.” And…

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A Serious Bird

BOISE, Idaho — Albertson’s LLC said Monday that it has agreed to acquire The United Family, a privately owned chain of 50 supermarkets based in Lubbock, Texas, operating under three banners. Supermarket News Sept 9, 2013 This is really very simple, but I’ll do my best to make it complex. Groucho is a Yellow-Naped Amazon…

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No Second Acts in American Confectionary?

OK so the world has been going steadily downhill for last 5774 years. The trouble began with food which will eventually be my focus. But first a few disjointed musings. Most of our problems result from misdirected attempts to make things better. There are few Iagos in the world. This (the desire to do good…

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Doing Nothing – New Revised Edition

A new Edition of Doing Nothing has been released. It can be purchased at Amazon as either a paperback book or in a Kindle edition. Go here for more details. Below is a new review of the novel: Kurtzman, Neil DOING NOTHING CreateSpace (708 pp.) $23.35 Paperback $9.99 e-book January 6, 2012 ISBN: 978-1461096535 Kurtzman’s debut…

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Second Law of Thermodynamics Held Unconstitutional

A deeply divided Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held the Second Law of Thermodynamics to be unconstitutional. In a decision released Monday the 4th of July, the first time the court has ever met on the nation’s birthday, the court ruled that the law violated the due process section of the 5th amendment. The case (ACLU v. Cal…

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Una partita a poker

Talk to any theater person and he’ll tell you that the second act curtain should descend on the show’s strongest scene. Nobody was better at ending the second act than Giacomo Puccini. With the premiere of the Met’s revival La Fanciulla del West less than a month away, I thought I’d present a few versions of the opera’s second act finale. This the scene where the…

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George London

Bass-baritone George London (born George Burnstein; 1920 – 1985) was born to naturalized American citizens who had emigrated to the US from Russia. His parentage likely explains the fluency he exhibited in Russian roles, most prominently Boris Godunov. Born in Montreal and raised in Los Angeles, his vocal talent was soon recognized. He toured the US…

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How Many Doctors Are Needed to Run a Hospital?

When I was a resident physician the chief of cardiology often argued that there should only be two departments in a hospital – medicine and trauma. I’ve often thought about that view over the ensuing decades as the number of medical specialties proliferated like mushrooms after a downpour. How many specialties would be needed if…

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False Positive PCR Tests For COVID-19

I got tired of writing about the problem of false positive tests for the coronavirus, so I gave up. Now the New York Times has suddenly become aware of the problem. When a PCR test is run the virus is amplified in proportion to the number of cycles run. Typically 40 cycles are performed. Thus,…

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Doing Nothing Doing Nothing: "Doing Nothing by Dr. Neil Kurtzman takes us through the education of Richard Grollman, from his first day of medical school through his last day as chief resident on the medical service of a busy city hospital. Through his experiences, the reader is taken through a wonderful journey as we see the highs and lows of his life during his “education.” One is taken through the trials of medical school and the challenges faced during residency. This story examines the human side and art of medicine. This is a wonderful book that would be appreciated by most people, but would be greatly enjoyed by physicians who can certainly relate to Richard. It is reasonably priced and very well written. It is very difficult to put down. I would recommend this book without hesitation." - JASON LIFSHUTZ, M.D. › More ...

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