Showing 341 - 350 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The beautiful Polish student, Marie Sklodowska (1867-1934) (Greer Garson), is the only woman graduate student studying physics in Paris. She attracts the attention of her kindly professor by fainting in class. A father of two daughters, the professor realizes that she is both brilliant and poverty-stricken. He offers her a paid research project, and, without revealing her sex, arranges for her to occupy space in the laboratory of absent-minded Professor Pierre Curie (1859-1906) (Walter Pidgeon).

At first, Curie is annoyed by her presence, but he soon realizes that she is immensely gifted. When she decides to leave Paris (and physics) after standing first at her graduation, Curie is horrified and clumsily proposes marriage to stop her. Their union will be based on respect, reason, and physics, he claims, and she accepts. With his support, she embarks on an obsessive project to isolate what, she realizes, must be an unknown element in the compound pitchblende--a substance that emanates rays like light.

Four years of intense labor with few resources, inadequate facilities, incidental child-bearing, the threat of cancer, and many disappointments lead to the isolation of a minute quantity of radium in 1898. The Curies share the 1903 Nobel prize in physics with Henri Becquerel. Their future seems assured, but tragedy soon strikes: the distracted Pierre is run over by a horse-drawn cab and dies instantly.

Madame's grief is powerful, but she recalls her husband's prophetic words and returns to work. In the final scene, the elderly Madame Curie, now twice Nobel laureate (1911 chemistry), delivers an inspirational lecture on the promise of science to help "mankind" by curing and preventing disease, famine, and war.

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Adrift on an Ice Pan

Grenfell, Wilfred

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Easter Sunday April 1908, at St. Anthony on the tip of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Grenfell is summoned sixty miles south to a boy with osteomyelitis who had been operated two weeks earlier. "The people had allowed the wound to close," he said, and the lad needed immediate attention to save not only his leg but his life. Grenfell set out with his komatik (dog sled) and his eight best dogs. "A lover of dogs, as every Christian man must be," Grenfell writes how each was as "precious as a child to its mother."

To save a few miles, he takes a short cut across a bay, but the ice breaks up beneath him, his komatik sinks, and one dog drowns. He and the other dogs climb out of the water on to an ice pan, which drifts out to sea in an offshore wind. In the cold and solitude, he decides to stab three dogs with a small knife, stifling their cries and struggles with his numb hands. He skins the animals for their warm hides and assembles their frozen legs into a flagpole from which he waves his tattered shirt.

After a day and a night on the ice, he is rescued by "five Newfoundland men . . . with Newfoundland muscles in their backs, and five as brave hearts as ever beat in the bodies of human beings." On shore the frostbitten and snowblind doctor is greeted with tears and rejoicing. Many feared he would be lost. But, he says, he had not been afraid in the face of immanent death; he felt merely regret for lost opportunities. And the sick boy? Two days later he was brought to hospital by boat, operated, and cured. Grenfell closes his "egotistic narrative" by describing the brass plaque dedicated to the memory of the three sacrificed dogs: it proclaims "not one of them is forgotten before your Father which is in heaven."

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The Blindman's Song

Rilke, Rainer Maria

Last Updated: Jun-08-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem, written in German, appears in both German and English in this and other versions. Those who understand German may feel that something has been lost in translation, inevitable for rhyming poetry. Nevertheless the "endless outcry" of isolation and bitterness is well expressed. This blind man is totally unresigned to his condition; "every day I despair." He feels himself uniquely cursed. He mocks those who are sighted for believing that THEY might be special and he is contemptuous of any kindness shown him: no one can understand how he feels.

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The Torch

Penfield, Wilder Graves

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Although he could be a court physician in Macedonia, Hippocrates has returned to the island of Cos, at least temporarily, to take over his dead father's practice. He is summoned to the villa of a wealthy citizen to consult on the fits of a daughter of the house. Using precise clinical observation, he diagnoses hysteria instead of epilepsy. Then, he relates the girl's psychological problems to the neglect of her selfish and adulterous mother, Olympias, who prefers her handsome, athletic, but rather dense (and as it turns out, illegitimate) son, Cleomedes.

A marriage is to be arranged with Cleomedes's obsession, Daphne, the exquisitely beautiful and intelligent daughter of a physician from Cnidus. But Daphne falls in love with Hippocrates, and he with her. In between solving clinical problems, including a real case of epilepsy, a botched abortion, and a broken hip in his own grandmother, Hippocrates is led along a tangled path of intrigue, seduction, and false accusations.

A fire destroys the medical library of Cnidus, killing Cleomedes, who, for once in his life had risen to heroism in attempting to save an invalid woman and her son. When the newly orphaned child reveals that Olympias and her old lover have committed arson, Olympias leaps from the highest wall to her death. Hippocrates is now free to marry Daphne. Adopting the child as their own, they return to the island of Cos.

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Ship Fever

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In early 1847, the young Quebec city doctor, Lauchlin Grant, struggles to extract a living from his boring practice and pines over his childhood sweetheart, Susannah. She is now the wife of a prominent journalist, Arthur Adam Rowley, who has charged Lauchlin with her care, while he travels in Europe to report on the ghastly potato famine in Ireland and his predictions for its effects on immigration.

Even as Rowley's letters are read at home, waves of starving Irish land at Grosse Ile in the St. Lawrence River where thousands are ill or will sicken of ship fever (typhus), and die. Lauchlin is called to help at the quarantine station. Of the hundreds in his care, he rescues only Nora. Having lost her family, Nora decides to remain as a nurse, because she is now immune.

Lauchlin sees Susannah only once more, learning that she too cares for victims of typhus, which is also ravaging the mainland, despite the quarantine. He senses her unspoken love for him and, filled with an inner peace, returns to Grosse Ile, only to contract typhus and die. Nora takes the doctor's belongings to Susannah's home, hoping to meet the woman whose name he had mumbled in his delirium. Instead, she finds Susannah's newly returned husband dreading the loss of his now dying wife.

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Summary:

A journalistic account of the CIA-funded experiments in "psychic-driving" of Dr. Ewen Cameron at Montreal's Allan Memorial Institute in the 1950's and early 1960's. Cameron investigated "treatment" for various forms of depression, consisting of high-dose electroshock (Page-Russell variant), heavy sedation, and the repetetive playing of patient's or the doctor's recorded voice.

Many patients did not respond; some were destroyed by the technique. Particularly moving is the story of Mary Morrow (Chapter 9), a physician-patient whose career was damaged by her experiences. Cameron held the most prominent positions in professional psychiatry; he died unscathed by his questionable research and in pursuit of yet another goal, a mountain peak.

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Parasite

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Feb-05-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On surface, this metaphorically endowed poem details the life cycle of a tapeworm, beginning as a tiny resident in the "protective slime" of mucosae, eventually outgrowing the host, and overrunning the environment as it attains a "philosophical dimension / in which it's the only form of matter. . . . " The parasite shrinks again into "little spores of embecile agreement" which wait for another chance, another cycle of growth and power. The parasite metaphor works beautifully for a wide variety of social and political phenomena the poem does not identify.

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The Embroidered Towel

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A young doctor, just graduated, arrives at the country hospital to which he is assigned. He is fraught with anxiety because of his inexperience, especially when he meets the seasoned feldsher and midwives, who sing the praises of his predecessor. During the night his first patient arrives: a girl who was caught in a brake (a machine for threshing flax) and is now mangled and near death. No one expects her to live. The feldsher whispers, “She'll die now.” Yet the doctor feels compelled to try to save her, despite his ignorance. He amputates a leg, he continues treatment, the girl hangs on. Eventually she recovers. The new doctor has established his reputation in the district.

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Called Out

Mojtabai, A. G. (Ann Grace)

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel relates how a catastrophe involving strangers perturbs the lives of people who live in or near the site where the disaster occurs. The event is an airplane crash; the site, the small town of Bounds, Texas. Told as an inner monologue by each person who either witnessed the crash, or became directly involved in its aftermath, the well crafted narrative weaves back and forth among a widowed postmistress into whose field the plane falls; a priest who is questioning his calling and who administers last rites to all of the victims; a skeptical newspaper reporter; a reclusive young man who ghoulishly hunts souvenirs in the wreckage.

The postmistress hovers between dismay at the ruination of her field and curiosity and concern over the far-flung surviving relatives who come to visit the site long afterwards. Her thoughts are filled with memories of her husband and of the evolving relationship with her married son. She ponders that before the crash, ". . . seemed like I'd lived in a fishtank. "Then, "something shattered" and ". . . the whole world poured in."

The priest keeps the church doors open to strangers, including mourners from far away. This runs up the utility bill, drawing criticism from the parish council. So shaken is he by their small-mindedness and by his vocational doubts that he cannot say Mass. The reclusive souvenir hunter, who pocketed a body part, a hand, from the crash site, is haunted by ". . . that hand against my hand . . ." The newspaper reporter feels compelled to re-visit the scene months later.

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A Small, Good Thing

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story concerns the death of a child and failures of communication. Scotty, an eight year old, is hit by a car on his birthday. His mother had ordered a birthday cake but "there were no pleasantries between" her and the baker. Scotty is hospitalized, unconscious, and the cake is forgotten. Dr. Francis reassures the anxious parents that all will be well when the boy wakes up.

The baker phones the parents’ home in the dead of night (when he does his baking) because the cake hasn’t been picked up, but they can’t figure out who he is or what he wants. At the same time the doctors and staff can’t and won’t answer their questions about why Scotty isn’t waking up. Dr. Francis comes to the hospital to check the child, looking tanned, meticulously dressed, as if he has just been out for the evening- he has a life outside of the hospital, but the parents have none. When they do run home, separately, to take a break, the baker torments them with his mysterious late-night calls. Their confusion and isolation deepen. The child dies-"a one-in-a-million circumstance."

The mother finally realizes that it is the baker who has been calling and tracks him down, enraged. She unleashes all of the anger which she had been unable to express to the doctors. The baker is stunned to learn about the child’s death; he begs forgiveness and offers them warm delicious cinnamon rolls. "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this" and they are comforted.

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