One Ear on the News

Gawande and Williams

One Ear on the News

Gawande and Williams

One Ear on the News
An email conversation about the news of the day.
March 22 1999 10:14 AM

Gawande and Williams




Here's what you missed at the breakfast table. Natty had cereal, I had toast. I built a fire and, as usual, smoked up the kitchen. "Make the smoke go out!" Natty shouted, coughing. I opened the door to let some air in, and Sunday's unread papers blew on the floor. I tried to scan the "Book Review," but Natty wanted Bulldozer. As we read about backhoes, I turned on the radio to hear NPR. "What is that noise?" Natty demanded. "I want songs." I turned it down and kept on reading, one ear on the news.

"Dump trucks are enormous and strong ... "

"Special envoy Richard Holbrooke is headed to Belgrade ... "

"Excavators are used to dig deep holes ... "

"Shakespeare in Love was the big winner ... " 

" ... to pick up things and smash up rocks."

" ... the horrible thing about genocide is you can't prove it."

Genocide? I tried to catch the place. Rwanda? Kosovo? Guatemala? There was also something on Kevorkian. Sorry, I missed that, too. Do most people get their news in these disembodied snatches? I did hear that a cyclone named Vance (Vance?) hit the Australian outback and they're worried about sheep stations and Aborigines. So much for nothing bad ever happening to your homeland. Also, there was something about bears sleeping for five months without losing muscle tone. Scientists think humans might be able to do the same. No more aerobics!

Atul Gawande has written about medicine for The New Yorker and Slate, is a surgical resident in Boston, and is a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Marjorie Williams is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.