Author: Michael Brown

Same Song, Second Verse

I’ve been reading a book, Lost in Shangri-La, A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Great stuff. I would like to submit for your consideration the following passages on the aboriginal inhabitants of the Baliem Valley in New Guinea and their penchant for incessant war:

“When compared with the causes of World War II, the motives underlying the wars were difficult for outsiders to grasp. They didn’t fight for land, wealth or power. Neither side sought to repel or conquer a foreign people, to protect a way of life, or to change their enemies’ beliefs, which both sides already shared.

Read the rest

Red Fog Rising

When an eye doctor goes blind, there are no special dispensations or exemptions. He does it just like everybody else–one eye at a time.

My recent self-diagnosis of a retinal tear in my right eye took a colorful, and ominous, turn on July 4th. I was driving around Huntsville when a blood vessel which crossed the area of the retina that was treated with laser burst open like a uncapped oil well. No black gold or Texas Tea, Jed, just blood.

It started with a single red ribbon which began to flow upward from my inferior visual field. Other scarlet streaks soon joined it, each dividing into tributaries and tendrils which filled my clear field of view with smoky-red smudge.… Read the rest

Tokens: Small Word, Big Show

Tokens: don’t be deceived by the smallness of the word.

Reminiscent of a tiny, plastic disc–stand-in currency–used to make some small purchase, or a gesture made for the sake of appearances, the word takes on a richer and deeper meaning in the context of that delightful mixture of music, mirth and musings that is the Tokens show, Lipscomb University professor Lee Camp’s “Prairie Home Companion”-like, live radio-style brainchild. The show, now a widely-recognized thread running through the fabric of the Nashville entertainment scene, is no counterfeit coin.

Tokens transcends mere entertainment, ascending instead to the level of education, even enlightenment.… Read the rest

Physician, diagnose thyself

I consider myself a better than average ocular diagnostician. Whenever my technician or an intern comes into my office and tells me a patient’s history and describes the patient’s signs and symptoms, I usually know what is wrong without even looking. I am like Carnac the Magnificent, only with a white coat and head-mounted ophthalmoscope instead of a cape and feathered turban.

In my head, I generate a list of three to four possible diagnoses and rank them according to their probability. If it is my technician, I tell him what I think is most likely going on and perhaps ask him to perform another test or two and then dilate the patient’s pupils.… Read the rest

The 947th Signature

If there is one question that animated my efforts and drove me to spend the hundreds of hours of research necessary to write this article in The Arkansas Times (be sure to read the Author’s Note, as well), it is “Would I have signed?”

If someone had asked me in 1957, in the early days of the American civil rights movement when passions were rising to fever pitch, to put my name on the line for desegregation and make one small step toward integration, would I have signed?

Bottom line, I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of: Nine hundred and forty-six Harding students, faculty and staff did, and I’m proud of each and every one of them and thankful for the progress that my alma mater has made since those difficult days.… Read the rest

May Day, 1971

Another May Day has come and gone without dancing around a Maypole. But there was a day. Oh yes, there was a day. . . .

It was May 1st, 1971, and I was in 3rd grade at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia, site of many an early childhood nightmare memory. We were all gussied up in our spring best for the school’s annual May Day celebration. My teacher Mrs. English, a dour schoolmarm with wrinkled skin who believed that Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was an elaborate NASA hoax, paced and frowned from the sideline.

All our parents were there, too, not just the stay-at-home moms, but also the dads who somehow got the day off from their jobs even though it was the middle of the week and were now standing there with their space-age Bell & Howell 8mm home movie cameras ready to capture the moment.… Read the rest

How Mary Nell’s Handbell Got Saved

Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?

I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.

We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.

Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest

alabama brown and the raiders of lost youth

i’ve been in guatemala. i saw around 100 patients and my partner did about 50 eye surgeries. our ortho guy who went with us did a lot of great stuff too. “the lame walked and the blind saw.”  it was a great week, until. . . .

we finished up and went for an expedition in the rainforest. it was very primeval, just like avatar, only the people were coffee-brown, not blue, and they didn’t have those long, braid thingies hanging down.

the little children wore loincloths and performed perfect-10 swan dives into the river off a large rock of ages.… Read the rest

A Major Breach in the Britches, Leap Year 1972

Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.

It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.

“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…

The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests.… Read the rest

Coefficient of Friction

A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.

Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”

I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest

Ten Thousand Words

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

“Ten Thousand Words” –The Avett Brothers

In a perfect world, each of us would have both a personal trainer and a personal editor; the former for our obesity, the latter for our verbosity.

I’ve seen America fatten right before my very eyes. As a grunt on the front lines of primary health care over the past 25 years, I know first hand the effects of increased sedentary lifestyles and the “cornucopia” of processed and fast foods available at nearly every turn with just the swipe of a credit card.… Read the rest

Ocular Prophylatics–A Salute to “BCGs”

I first heard the term “Birth Control Glasses” or “BCGs” in the early 1990s when I started practicing optometry with the US Government. I was around 30 years old, married, with two sons and one on the way. Fortunately, I had already “spread my seed.”

Because if I hadn’t, I feel sure that merely touching those brown, butt-ugly, godawful, googly-eyed monsters would have struck me impotent. When I first laid eyes on them, I understood immediately why a whole generation of young men had dodged the draft and sought refuge in Canada.

For decades, military-issue eye wear has been as much a rite of passage for new recruits as screaming drill sergeants, 5:00 AM PT and MREs.… Read the rest

Robert Rex Meyers: Student, Soldier, Professor, Preacher, “Heretic”–My Friend

Robert Rex Meyers was born in 1923 and raised by loving and devout parents on a three hundred acre farm in the eastern hills of Oklahoma near Henrietta. From an early age, he would rise early in the morning and plow the land, sowing seeds in the rich, moist earth in much the same way he would later plant ideas in the fertile minds of eager students. He studied the Bible and was baptized by a traveling black evangelist named R.N. Hogan in a small, fundamentalist Church of Christ, but it was his full-bodied immersion in the deep waters of natural revelation, the whisper of God in the rustling of wind-kissed leaves and the fragrant incense of meadow grass, that would eventually set his heart aflame.… Read the rest

21-0; That’s Mighty Fine Opium

For those of you still smarting and aggrieved over the fact that an “undeserving” team like the Alabama Crimson Tide was allowed into the BCS Championship Game and then, wonder of wonders, actually won the thing, making this two titles in three years (Can you say, “Cam sandwich”?), then perhaps you can take some consolation in this: It really wasn’t that much fun for me.

What with the extra hours I’ve been working lately (and the resultant fatigue), having two good friends die in the past week, and all the moaning and yakety-yak coming out of Stillwater and practically every other corner of the country over the past six weeks, I hardly took any pleasure or interest in the game up until the time that I turned on the TV Monday night.… Read the rest

Homeless Hank’s Christmas Miracle Turkey

I smelled it long before I saw it. You’ve seen those cartoons where the character catches a whiff of a powerful, pleasant odor and suddenly rises off the ground, borne along by the fumes like a slave in chains. That was me, right before lunchtime a couple of days ago in my clinic.

I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. I’m used to the pungent odor of burned popcorn coming from the break room microwave, but this was different; more like Sunday brunch at the Ritz. It was deep brown, slightly crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, seasoned with just the right amount of rosemary, garlic and basil.… Read the rest