Playing Doctor: Herbal Medicine in a New World Economy

20 02 2009

By Jill Ettinger

The car that hit me was going about 40 mph. The driver sped up as he neared the intersection; the glare from the early Colorado morning sun blinded him. He never saw my 5’6” frame curved around the wheels, gripping the handlebars of my aluminum Trek road bike passing in front of him. I saw glimmers of steel, bumper, and tire before I rolled up on to the windshield leaving it pressing towards his lap as he slammed on the brakes. I still don’t remember hitting the pavement, but my right hip has never forgotten, even almost eleven years later.

As I was lifted up onto the stretcher, I could see my shoes lying silently in the median between a flurry of early morning traffic, and the people who had carried me to the side of the road still watching in horror. The fork and front wheel of my bike had been completely severed from the rest of the frame. I could see the pieces scattered beside the crowd as the ambulance doors closed. The medic was cutting off my clothes while talking to the emergency room via two-way radio, “Possible right hip fracture, left and right ankle fractures. Trauma to head and neck….” I could hear him clearly but the shock had me feeling distant, a million miles from what was happening.

In the emergency room I finally began to feel the pain. It was limitless. X-rays revealed not one broken bone. The doctors were shocked. (I assured them it was my healthy vegetarian diet that gave me super-elastic resiliency.) My grandparents were now sitting with me, my Grandfather chiding me about how I ruined the very best golf game he’d ever played in his seventy-some years that morning. I had been so lucky, unlike my bike.

As gashes and bruises were being cleaned and bandaged, one of the doctors came into the room I had been moved to. They had noticed something unusual on the x-rays taken of my chest. Lymph nodes were highly enlarged and quite visible. Normally they should not show up on an x-ray. These were the size of half dollars. “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the most common cancer for your age [25]. We’d like to do a CAT scan while you’re here, to get a better look.”

Read the full article on Reality Sandwich.

Adventurous Listening with Lal Meri

13 02 2009

By Derek Beres

For better or worse (for better and worse), Indian music and instruments have been consumed by producers worldwide, resulting in everything from horrible “world lounge” and “chill out” compilations and jazzy fusions citing McLauhglin and Miles Davis as references (while sounding nothing like the innovators and their inventiveness) to inspired organic and electronic auditory and cultural explorations. When I hear tablas emerge from an overproduced, hygienic drum program, I cringe. When done right, the unique two-drum set makes for adventurous listening, arousing a specific sound without the blatant advertising of so-called exotic rhythms.

The Los Angeles-based trio Lal Meri, whose self-titled debut drops on Six Degrees in a few weeks, does it right. I’ve been a fan of two of the three participants: vocalist Nancy Kaye, who released two albums previously under the name Rosey, and Carmen Rizzo, producer and technician of Persian electronica labelmates Niyaz. In fact, it is probably that project, headed by the unearthly singer Azam Ali, which fueled Rizzo’s creative drive with Lal Meri. (The name is derived from a Sufi folk song.) Kaye was an easy choice for collaboration: her dusty, hearty and soulful voice lends itself to a variety of musical styles; her poetic flourishes offer depth to the gorgeous inflections of her voice.

The third component—Ireesh Lal—I was not aware of, but his trip-hop pedigree is obvious given the album’s tasteful, down- to mid-tempo beat selection. Wherever the three come from — they converged as a result of friends suggesting friends sending MySpace links and so on — they meet in a beautiful and thoughtful space; their songs are musically rich and yet sweet, subtle and tasteful. There are pop sensibilities (the melodies on “Give Your Light,” the entire landscape of “Sweet Love”), but not without an edge (the tabla-driven “Bad Things,” the light dancehall push of the oud-inflected “Take Me As I Am”). Pooja’s folksy vocal help on “Mausam” bring a bit of devotion to the mix; the sound reminds me of an electronified Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay or Shubda Mudgal.

After a few spins in my yoga classes, the album gets a big thumbs up. It’s one of those records that work in many situations, under many circumstances. The producers even pull off something normally taboo in my musical tastes: electro-jazz. The addition of trumpets over beats rarely work; here it does, and well. Placed in a soundscape that includes santurs anddrones, the palette they work from features abundant colors—introspective, songs of seeking, communal. Lal Meri isa refreshing album from three people open to see what their union would bring, and where it will take them. From the sounds of this debut, far.