I struggled with my Washington City Paper review of The Lion, a strong, brief one-man musical play by the singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer. This was a case where learning about the circumstances of the show's creation—as one is wont to do when writing about art—made me like it less in hindsight than I did the moment the performance ended. Is that fair? I'm still not sure. You can read my attempt to work through my consternation while still giving the artist his due here.
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My review of physician Ryan McGarry's documentary Code Black is up today at The Dissolve.
This was one of those instances when what you already know about a subject can color your perception of a film. An ex-girlfriend of mine is a physician who did her residency at a country medical center 65 miles west of the one documented in Code Black, and we lived together during those years, 2000-2003. She was at the hospital all the time, and I became well acquainted with her classmates, who were exactly like the young doctors whose voices McGarry features: idealistic, accomplished, adventurous, easily bored. Many of them had done other things before medical school, like working on a fishing boat in Alaska or spending a few years as a forest firefighter. One of them was a nun who swore more crudely than any Marine I’ve ever met. They were all friendly, and I found them all intimidating. I was in awe of them.
We’d met when I was working as an editor for the American Medical Student Association’s magazine. AMSA was lobbying hard for a single-payer healthcare system in those days.
After that, I earned my living for many years writing proposals for several health-care companies. So I am very familiar with their rhetoric about how patient care is what matters most to them -- and with the reality that their shareholders are the only people they really care about.