Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cutting Back

It's not as if there isn't substrate. Daily, many times over, in every medium, there are noteworthy items which range from amusing to infuriating. I could write non-stop, posting dozens of times daily, and never run out of material. But, other than a personal release point, what good does it do?

I wish I could stop caring, because there's no way I can change a damn thing, even on a tiny scale. How much easier it would be to turn it all off, stop paying attention. That, I can't do. Sadly. I have a need to know what's going on. But it ought to be possible to come to grips with the fact that there's nothing I can do about it; certainly not by blogging.

I've mostly stopped watching the television talking head shows. Do they even try to illuminate issues? The opposite, more likely. Because illumination doesn't get viewers. Day after day they trot out the same people to assume their roles like putting on a neon jacket. Experts in nothing but parroting a point of view. Spinners. When was the last time Chris Matthews had an economist talking about the economy? Au contraire. Always the pundit, the same Democratic or Republican strategist, whatever the topic; knowing isn't required. Just spouting, taking a predictable position, playing their role, over and over, enlightening no one, adding nothing new.

Our politics are deeply broken, and it's not because we don't care. It's because it's just the way we like it. We prefer to have our views reinforced, not challenged. We want to get pissed off at the other guy, not to listen. We prefer our O'Reillys and Hannitys and Becks. We like that they foment hatred. Because hatred is a great substitute for and is a hell of a lot easier than thinking. If I've never convinced my disagreeing readers of anything, they've convinced me: everyone is dug in. We're doing it to ourselves. We're not just circling the drain: we're paddling with both hands and kicking like dolphins.

So what's the point? Nothing. Nothing is the point. There's nothing I can do except to accept that there's nothing I can do. I need to find something better to do with my time.

I'm hoping to resurrect Surgeonsblog. Reading some of my stuff there, and the comments, makes me realize it served a purpose, added value, if only a little. Not so, here. It won't be easy. Finding subject matter here was just a matter of waking up every day. Over there, I have to dig a little deeper, into fizzling memory banks. There's much to say about health care politics, but that'd be like what I was doing here: ranting with no hope of making any difference. If I can once again find ways to share the world of surgery, to let readers learn some things they didn't know, that would be good. Make me feel good. This blog has started to make me feel bad.

So we'll see. But probably not here.


  1. I will miss you. I've been a faithful reader since the beginning and your insights, your wonderful writing style and your steadfast refusal to pander were refreshing. You gave me hope that there are still some people out there who know how to think. I loved Surgeonsblog too, so it's back to that I go! Thanks for everything.

  2. I was starting to wonder where you'd gone without a post this week. I've enjoyed your insights on things over the past few months. I first started reading your other blog about a year ago, and I look forward to when you start posting again there.

  3. Either way, here or at the other blog, I hope you keep blogging. I thoroughly enjoy your posts here, if only because it is comforting to see that there are rational people who think the same way I do and the world hasn't yet been entirely taken over by insanity. I thoroughly enjoyed Surgeonsblog too, so as long as you keep writing somewhere I won't be too disappointed :)

  4. What Katie said. I'll read pretty much whatever you transmit into cyberspace, Sid. At some point I'll read your book, too. Actually, maybe I'll do it sooner rather than later. After all, one of your colleagues went after me with a knife last week... I'd like to know what motivated him to do that.

  5. You are a talented writer and have truly made me think more deeply about many issues. "Whither thou goest..."


  6. Interesting way to put it, Sid, since I visit your site for just such illumination. It's been refreshing to read a reasonable, intelligent person's thoughts on current events. I've enjoyed your writing since about halfway through Surgeonsblog, and pick up my copy of Cutting Remarks as often as I can (with three kids under 7, it's not very often).
    I look forward to Surgeonsblog, but want you to know that your writing on current events will be missed, and you've often helped me make sense of what's going on in the world.

  7. helped me make sense of what's going on in the world.

    Thanks, Carlos. Maybe all is not for naught.

  8. Thanks, S'Norm. I notice Amazon raised the new price (ie, lessened the discount). As if it were more valuable. But you can get them new and used for about the price of a stamp, and I hope you did. If you like it, prior offers still stand.

  9. You know what I'll say: join the revolution. Look into the material forces of reality and society, find your lever and fulcrum, and change the world. You're saying here you have nothing better to do, so why not change the world?

  10. Who Cares!!! Your Blog pounds more Ass than Barney Frank during a holiday weekend on Fire Island. Only reason people even check it out is for my cogent nuggets of wisdom. Go back to your "Surgeon's Blog" ewwwww like Surgery's SOOOOO intersting, hmmm honey, Sid has a gripping essay on the "Bilroth I vs Bilroth II" debate... So go back to your Paciffic Northwest Latte's smoke a bowl of Medicinal Marriage-wana and tell us the one about your first appendectomy again... Good Riddance Sir!!!!!!!!!!!


    P.S. I'm using reverse psychology

  11. Well, Frankie, I was going to mention a couple of my specific negative commenters; if I had, I'd have said at least you often made me laugh, which I appreciated.

  12. I haven't read the comments yet because I just want to exclaim "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY YOU HAVE MADE ME!!!!! SURGEONSBLOG!!! WOOHOO!!!! :)

    You have a life time of memories that I am sure are not fizzling.

    I know how you feel about the news. Perhaps for different reasons and sometimes the same.

    Dr S..I am really and sincerely upset that congress wants to allow the torture photos published. I do not need a talking head to tell me how bad that is. I get it. What good would it do... what noble purpose would it serve to release the photos? What gain is so much better to release them than protecting the lives of our sacrificing soldiers? I hope and pray to God that President Obama will not let them do it.

    This is not a party issue. This is an American issue and we need to stand behind our military.

    And what do you think of rev wright's disparaging Jewish remarks?

    Now that man is an embarrassment to Christianity! I am not saying he doesn't do good things... but boy is he bigoted and inflammatory.

    Jesus was JEWISH. He never denied his Jewish heritage. This country is founded on Judeo-Christian ethics.

    And I am asking a sincere question. I ask it because I very much believe we need to be supportive of Israel. If this pastor and President Obama were so close... Do you think he holds the same anti-semitic views? Of course you don't know..none of us do. We'll see it in foreign policy I suppose if it is a problem. I more don't believe it... but I can't help feeling concern.

    And for gosh sakes! David Letterman! What is WRONG with that man? And WHY are Sarah Palin's children open season for the most vile supposed humor.

    If I were either daughter's mother, father, relative...i would've been HORRIFIED to hear his disgusting comments and he didn't even have the decency to apologize.

    I was grateful to hear Barbara Walters come out against it stating children should be off limits.

    Joy Behar (sp?) What a poor excuse for a woman or human being...condoning/excusing it (she's not the only one) because Sarah had her daughter and baby with her during the political season. C'mon! ALL candidates have their families with them. You support your family.

    I am sick and tired of people trashing the kids and his slutty stewardess comment about Palin...equally disgusting.

    I was glad to see 1 feminist stand up for them.

    But where is everyone else? The silence is deafening.

    What did these young girls do to deserve that?

    When are people... just every day good people going to stand up and say enough? What about respect?

    And some people have already been trying to link the right to that museum killing because of some sick nazi type.

    DO you think that is fair? I don't believe you do or would.

    Any decent human being would be appalled by such violence and hate regardless of part affiliation.

    I don't recall anyone linking conservative right people to the violent people until last few years. That is soooooo WRONG, insulting, hurtful, frightening, possibly dangerous if it snowballs and is a lie of the most heinous kind. No one should tolerate such venomous lies.

    And about the financial concerns... I don't recognize this country and can't believe all that has taken place financially.

    Okay..i'll stop rambling.

    Surgeonsblog...Yay! Let us know. :)

  13. BTW - you can still rant here when the urge strikes. It is cathartic. :)


  14. Dr. John Baldwin FACSJune 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    Please let me comment from a near 75-yr old surgeon's perspective, who is an intimate friend of Dr. Sid Schwab. At opposite poles in the political spectrum, religion, gun rights, and right to life issues, we have somehow maintained ultimate respect for each other's views. We both are VietNam vets, he a Purple Heart recipient, I a Bronze Star soldier...each an American servant of our own kind, surgeons not shooters, but firm in the belief in an America as "good". Both of us have had that shattered, not just by VietNam and a fifteen year waste of beautiful kids and horrendous expenses, but by dishonesty in the highest places...from the White House, and by both "Parties" to our respective communities, as have you all. We each have hoped for a renewal of American values in the new administration, and at this writing, it is, at least for me, too early to decide. My instincts are wary, my vision of the future is obscure. We face dangers both at home and abroad, the least of which is the rogue nuclear attack, the greatest of which is domestic American inattention and complacency to the dangers. Witness our teens, of which I have one, who are asleep to the dangers around us, as I suppose they are entitled, but in 1943, they were Waist gunners in B-17s over Schweinfurt, and MEN. Sid Schwab immersed himself in this melieu of contradictions and threats, and honestly, I told him, this is not "good for you".
    My dad at 85, having seen the Wright Bros to Hiroshima to Moon Landing, said, "You can't change it; sit back and consider it entertainment, or it will drive you crazy." He was right. The split-screen debates on CNN and FOX will drive you nuts. You can yell at the tube but it doesn't respond. Try History Channel or Discovery on "The Most Dangerous Catch", or NFL channel or just read a great book such as M*A*S*H by my departed combat surgeon friend Richard Hooker (Amazon) or chill on Sid's favorite Saphire Bombay listening to Beethoven's Seventh. Remember, YOU CANNOT CHANGE IT. YOU CANNOT CHANGE MINDS. You will only drive your own mind "OUT"....and it is not worth it.
    To you Sid, old Friend...take the break. Your are: intelligent, incisive, polite, firm, relevant, informed, accurate, stubborn and most often correct. You changed few minds, but stimulated many to think. What the future holds for all of us is out of our hands, and although we vote, we are simply pawns. Love your family, hold your kids, take each day as one new challenge and never, ever give up. Thank you Dr. Schwab for your dedication and thought, innovative creative pictures and text. Your groundwork and precision is intense. We will miss you but somehow, we send you off to better and more self-fulfilling projects for your own self-preservation. Thanks...JB MD
    (A UCSF surgeon, VN Vet and loyal Sid follower, but quiet on the blogs.)

  15. I thought the blog well worth reading, for a reasonable opinion as opposed to most media;
    however the comment threads must have been disappointing.

    I will keep reading Surgeonsblog, no doubt.

  16. Hell, I'm gonna' be honest with ya to the point of being rude. I think you're being a sissy, bailing out like you are. I think Norman hurt your feelings last week with that comment about this being a "low traffic blog". I enjoyed reading what you had to say because it usually affirmed what I was thinking, but I really am glad this comment thread didn't turn into an, "aww Sid, please don't go, wah wah wah."

    While this blog was good, in the end I'm sure you're a better medical blogger than political commentator. But I wouldn't give up blogging here because you don't change anyone's mind. How selfish is that? I guess that's the surgeons' personality in you. Is it not worth doing if it isn't saving lives, like some dramatic systolic anterior bowl trachea reversal in the OR?

    I enjoyed this place because it was kind of like an old barber shop, where all the stuff barred at the bar (religion, politics, war, etc) could be discussed, and the participants could even be playful with it (Frankie).

    So my bottom line is that you should stop bitchin' and get back to work. But if you choose to ignore my advice, I'll see you over at the other blog anyway.

  17. Mike: good comment. Actually, it's because I concluded the writing was self-indulgent, not that it didn't change any minds.

    I do like the barber shop analogy. A lot. Might have to think about it. I'm not entirely sure I can maintain momentum on Surgeonsblog, but I will address your femoral artery question at some near point.

  18. JB: a pure JB comment, pure gold. I'll respond privately.

  19. Any Y'all wanta read some REAL writin, my Blog aint goin anywhere... Someone's gotta do it, and I don't have that cushy social security to live on like Sid...REAL writin, like Hemingway and Twain used to do, and if you're not satisfied, the next post's free.


  20. Hey Dr S -I'm sorry for bringing up politics in a post where you state your hanging it up for awhile. Ha! Kind of ironic though because usually I just come in, read..wince and sigh while reading and leave..and now I choose to say something... not that I haven't cause I did... but was way more of a lurker.

    I hope you are enjoying retirement. where you live is like a little bit of heaven on earth.

  21. Seaspray: For the record, I winced at pretty much everything you wrote. I'd respond line by line, but after what I posted, why?

  22. I hear you DR S. I understand.

    But... I also learned some things and didn't disagree on everything you said... just so you know.


    btw...I like that barber shop analogy. :)

    You have a good friend there in JB. :)

    Oh and I feel like we are powerless to make a difference... but I hate resigning myself to that.

    I have been thinking about taking a break from all news and actually want to...and then start feeling drawn in like a moth to flame. But I wonder if it hurts the human body to get a steady diet of all the negativity, frustration, anger and fear. I think it can.

    I know the left scoffed at the tea parties... but democrats were involved too.

    Even if you disagree with their reasoning... I do feel we need MORE regular...every day citizens speaking out.

    They are supposed to work for us.

    Our power is our votes. If they think they will be voted out... seriously think that... then they will listen.

  23. Sid: your commentary here is more thought provoking than 9O% of what I read anywhere else. Please reconsider your decision.

    You may feel that you make no difference, but the fact that people resist changing their hearts, does not mean that you do not make them think or point them toward change.

    Hearts change slowly, but they can and do change. People have a hard time emptying their cups to make room for a different drink.

    We have a saying in Aikido: If you add clear water, to a cup of tea, one drop at a time, eventually the cup will be full of clear water.

    You and people like you, provide that clear water Sid; do not be discouraged or saddened, cups are slowly refilling because of you.

    It is not your job to see if the cups are full in your time; it is only your job to keep clear water coming - a drop at a time.



  24. Eugene: well, now there are two nice images: the barber shop, and the drops of clear water into the tea. I almost wrote something today... reading about the wingers hoping Ahmadinejad wins because if the other guy does it makes it look like Obama's diplomacy could work. Image hoping for that kind of failure, at the risk of our very existence.

    I saw it both as the proof of what I've said about the right wing, and of the fact that nothing can change that sort of mind.

    But drops of water... in a barber shop, maybe... I'll see how silence sits for a while.

  25. Sid, those sort of minds might never change, but they are losing their power to beguile and mislead.

    That's why the right wing is collapsing and losing at the polls; the pain they caused the country is finally making people think.

    People are seeing through the lies and fear mongering - In the words of the bible: "The scales are dropping from their eyes".

    That is directly attributable to people like you, who shine the light of truth and conscience into the dark places of the heart and mind.

    There is a wonderful line from the Tea House of The August Moon:

    Sakini speaks:

    Pain makes man think, thinking makes man wise; wisdom makes life endurable.

    You are wise Sid; endure and persevere.


  26. Message to Frank Drachman...Frank your comments clearly illuminate Sid's commentary...what a contrast, but it makes me realize how correct Sid is about most things. Sid I will keep a lookout for your 'thoughts'..Take a vacation, spend more time with the family and limit blogging to once a month or less. You do have an effect, although it may not be evident. We all touch people in a way at times that we do not know. We all find strengths in different ways. Who will I read now?

  27. Crazy Health Train...
    Great Pair of Blogs ya got goin thats still a Virgin waitin for its first comment to pop the cherry, the other one praising former Senator Tom Daschle's nomination to head HHS... whats next, the Hindenburg Explosion????? Maybe you can let us know who won Truman/Dewey....

    Frank, and its "Drackman" not "Drachman"

    Got my Summer Book Club Selections Up, not to late to sign up!!!

  28. Sid, I haven't been here for many days. Reading your message today has caused me to comment at 5:35 AM Saturday morning.

    I reached my 70th birthday milestone on May 31st. None of the other decade anniversaries have had this much impact on me. We had some unanticipated family developments which have given me some rare insights into my life. This has been achieved by my husband's diligent work on two magnificent series of family photos (all permanently backed up to other media) of each of us in our former years. It's been about a three month project!

    I have had a profound involvement with the Internet since the early 90s (even using WordPerfect for many years before that). My list of causes on radio and in print include stepparenting, non-custodial mothers, grief counseling for children who have lost their mothers, grandparents who have been denied access to grandchildren, plus all the old topics such as abortion, the death penalty, gun control, wars, religion, bussing to achieve racial balance (big time subject for years in Boston), sexuality and of course, a parade of authors of books to whom I gave lengthy exposure, even when I did not particularly agree with the topics.

    When the Internet came along, I joined in forums and chat rooms. Then, I migrated to Dejavu and Google forums. That was in the mid to late 1990s. From 2004 to 2008, I contributed to the under the name Radio_Lady. In August 2008, I started my blogspot. All of that seems interesting, and I did learn quite a bit.

    What comes out of this is the fact that I am now in the September of my years, as the song says. These golden days I hope to live at least as long as my dearest husband, who will be 75 this month.
    That can only occur if I manage to outlive most of my ancestors.

    Grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, mother and father were stricken with heart disease, severe back problems, atherosclerosis, pancreatic and breast cancer, and two aneurysms.
    My natural grandmother tried to abort her sixth child and died with blood poisoning in her late 20s. I've been able to document the deaths ranging from the ages of 43 to 76. In one wand of hope, my mother's younger sister just turned 85, but she is the model of good health, trim, exercised, but frail.

    Tonight, we watched the movies "Last Chance Harvey" and then followed it with "Henry Poole Was Here." Neither was rated that highly, but they did remind me that life is short, and I've gone about as far as I can go. My days of oration to thousands of people -- with the hope of really changing minds -- are truly over. I just want to talk about movies and plays, and not even necessarily WRITE about them! So, I will probably dabble for a while on my website, primarily with movie and play reviews, required by the studios in exchange for free tickets. Ultimately I believe I will withdraw from the writing aspect completely. We are in a flurry of travel -- Lake Tahoe in August 2009, Sydney, Australia in October, Las Vegas in December, Hawaii in March 2010 for possibly three or four weeks, NYC in May, maybe Spain or Prague in the fall of 2010. It is breathtaking how much this guy loves to travel.

    My husband has suggested that I put together a talk on my unusual life's journey to give the speech to groups who hire speakers. Actually, I'm getting to the point where I even bore myself! So, I'll give just a bit of thought to that!

    Right now, I just want to wish you all the best. I'll keep you on my blog's lists of interesting blogs. If you do re-start your surgeon's blog, I hope it will be a refreshing change from politics.

    Warm regards,

    Ellen Kimball in Oregon

  29. Jesus Ellen,
    do you ever Shut Up???


  30. This decamping behavior -- how typical of a Lord Jeff!


    I would love to see you get a part-time gig on a political blog like Hullabaloo.

    See you at Surgeonsblog!

  31. Wishing you a belated Happy Birthday Ellen! :)

  32. SeaSpray, thanks so much for your kind belated birthday wishes.

    Nice to know you on-line, and hope you are having a good summer.

    We're in PDX for the next couple of months, and then to Lake Tahoe, CA with our doctor son-in-law and grandson. It's going to be the THREE GUYS and GRANDMA show at the resort.

    While there, I'll visit with my mother's younger sister, now age 85, all alone in the world in northern California.

    My aunt is the brilliantly intellectual mother I never had and a former college English professor from Maui, Hawaii. My mother was older and more beautiful, a terrible competition. Mom married at 18 and I came along at 19. Mom never finished college.

    For my aunt, I'm the delightful professional daughter with grandchildren she never had. Her preemie daughter developed schizophrenia in her early 20s, a beautiful girl who has never married or had children. My cousin woman is now in her 60s. I haven't seen her since she was 19, the gorgeous Maid of Honor at my 1963 NYC wedding.

    My aunt and I fill in each other's life spaces.


  33. Ironic that you get the most comments when you tell us that you're going to stop this blog. :-(
    I'll miss reading it - I've always admired your writing and shared many of your political opinions. Didn't enjoy the comments all that much and can see why the blog started to make you feel bad. So just keep us posted on where to find more of your writing. I'm sure some of us will follow to the new/old site. Enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

  34. Yes, I for one would be happy for you to stop this particular blog.
    You do it well, I think--(I read it, don't I?) But I would rather see you freer in your mind and time to

    Laugh when you can.
    Light a candle, as it were.

    I do worry that you are tearing yourself down as you engage your mind deeply with the ills of our society. Not being an actual friend, or even an acquaintance, I have not presumed to express these sentiments until now, when it seems more appropriate.

    As I struggle with a mid-life crisis of sorts, one thing I have come to think is that it is not given to most of us to influence many people simultaneously over a short period of time. We change the world in profound yet limited ways, one person at a time.

    I will enjoy reading whatever you decide to write, especially about surgery. But even if you post nothing more, I will still remember you.

  35. I think sometimes we think we aren't making a difference when in reality we are planting seeds. Sometimes we will see them grow and sometimes not... but that doesn't mean they wont take hold and grow at some point.

  36. Dr Bean: what a nice comment. Thanks.

  37. I am sorry to read that you intend to leave CTTC-While I have not always agreed with your positions, I liked that they were well articulated and reasoned. I also sensed a bit of therapeutic value for you personally. Writing about politics is draining-I doubt that we will ever see politicians from either side focus on anything other than saying/doing what it takes to get elected. Alas, the hope of Rodney King (Can't we all just get along) is just too large a request for most Americans.

    Americas political process' will change, like we are adapting the metric system-an inch at a time.

    Can the Surgeons blog become a forum for debate on healthcare? Americans need to understand from a physician's perpective what health care reform could be, should not be,

  38. Thanks, Tom. I have written a few pieces at Surgeonsblog on health care reform, the most recent of which is here.

    I'd like to get back to where Surgeonsblog began, ie a place to share the life and craft of a surgeon, but I guess I still have a little ranting to get past first.

  39. Sid, I for one will be sorry if you decide to leave political punditry to others. You're one of the places I come to find out what I would have known about already, had I been paying attention closely enough.

    So, while you and I agree on just about everything, you've functioned as a kind of older, more astute and sophisticated cousin who's kind enough to help the younger members of the family keep up. (I have no idea what our respective ages are; it's a metaphor, damn it.)

    But I can certainly see how all of it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I just spent the weekend over on some nutty preacher's hateful website, trying to point out why advocating armed insurrection and the vigilante murders of abortion doctors from the pulpit is a Bad Idea. With no success, I might add, unless being called an evil apostate counts.

    So I'll go with you back to Surgeonsblog if that's what you decide, though I'll miss the barbershop and the endless cups of diluting tea.

  40. Thanks, Leigh. I've enjoyed your input.

  41. I've enjoyed this blog, but i'm looking forward to read some Surgeonsblog again.
    (Anyway, like some of the previous commenters wrote, I'll read anything you blog).

  42. I will miss you here, Sid. You were a bright spot, thoughtful and generous. I will move over to surgeonsblog so I still get some Sid. Goodbye for now.

  43. ...repeating things over and over, like the mantras of moronic messiahs...
    ...drilling them into our dull minds, and we repeat and repeat...

    Are we talking about Zombie movies, or the American electorate?
    And is there a diffence?


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