Thursday, August 26, 2004

3 Down, 1 To Go

Very quick post here.

1) I'm alive, haha. :P

2) The good news: I cleared the MCQ paper and the 2 vivas. So now it's just the clinicals left, which will happen this Saturday afternoon. Crossing my fingers. :)

3) I'm excited about this one! The August issue of the SMA News is now available online, and this is the inaugural theme issue centred around Women In Medicine. Fantastic stuff, and check out some of those gorgeous photos of our consultants! :D

4) Don't forget to drop by The Lingual Nerve sometime. The number of recent entries suddenly exploded over the past week, and looks like there's a lively debate going on over there. Aargh, darn exams! I've got to get back into the whole melee once I get the chance! :P

The next time I post, hopefully I'll be in possession of a Part 2 qualification. Thanks, everyone, for your well wishes. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Kebabs, Anyone?

An article covering PM Lee Jr. in the August 23 issue of Time ( Asia ) magazine had me in stitches -- no mean feat considering the amount of stress hormones circulating in my body at the moment. I liken it to the act of skewering a piece of meat with a stick. And it's tasty too. :P

Written by Simon Elegant, it offered a much more balanced overview of local sentiments compared to -- in Elegant's very accurate description -- "the pro-government Straits Times" ( heh heh :D).

Other gems:

(1) "... a poll ... a few days before he took office purported to show that 83% of respondents believed Lee was the right man for the job."
-- this, of course, alludes to that front-page article by ( a-heeeerrrrrrm! ) Chui Mui Hoong, which painted a super-optimistic ( albeit biased ) picture. C'mon, the survey was done over the phone, for pete's sake!

Question: So, do you think Lee Hsien Loong will make a good PM?

Respondent: ( I wonder if this conversation is being recorded? I wonder if they'll use this against me one day when I'm up for the post of CEO of some big company? I wonder if my kids will ever get into university -- if I tell them what I honestly think? ) Err... OF COURSE!

(2) "Now 80, the elder Lee remains in his son's Cabinet with the newly invented post of Minister Mentor."


(3) Quote from Cherian George ( former news reporter, if I'm not mistaken ): "Individual Singaporeans are far more vocal and are getting their views across to the government much more. But the minute they appear to represent some kind of organized dissent, then it's back to the old days."

(4) Social activist and former nominated opposition Member of Parliament Sinapan Samydorai is "unconvinced". "They've been trying now for years to get us to believe in his kinder and gentle side, but it's all just spin."

Now, this is the kind of fair reporting I'm looking for. I've only highlighted the bits that we never get to see in the local paper. The article actually provides quite a bit of detail from many different perspectives, but the point is: our newspapers don't even bother to give other viewpoints the space they deserve. Sigh...

And by the way, I really could do with less ( or better still, none at all ) of Lee Sr. in the media. Especially on the front page. Sure, he's done great things for our country, but he retired from the leadership position 14 years ago, and is way into his 80s. Why not relax and enjoy his old age, and let us get to know our new PM a little better, instead of insinuating himself into the headline every other day? Do you see George Bush Sr. grabbing media attention, even though his son holds the most powerful political post in the entire world?

Singapore Idol

The final 30 have been chosen, and my hopes remain high. :) Some of these youngsters can SING.

And to all those annoying detractors out there who say Gurmit Singh lacks class and the judges are unoriginal and rude, well, you're entitled to your opinion, but Gurmit is my favourite local host anytime, and I admire the judges' abilities at blunt criticism. Lots of Singaporeans exhibit overconfidence and lack of respect for the older generation. If you want to appear on a show as public as Singapore Idol, then for goodness' sake be on your very best behaviour, and at least have some insight into your own capabilities. Our panel of judges is a lot less forgiving than Simon Cowell. And if you watched World Idol, you'll realize that Simon's a pussycat when compared to that guy from Poland -- who, by the way, made one female Idol winner say "I hate you!". When December comes round and the 2nd installment of WI is due, I hope Singapore sends Dick Lee. :D

Olympic Fever

So far, I've missed all the "live" telecasts of the games that matter, namely Ronald Susilo's demolition of the top-seeded Chinese badminton player, and Li Jia Wei's many wins thus far. But not today. Today, at 5pm, I will be glued to my TV set watching her bid for the table-tennis finals. Good luck!

Exam Fever

You may not hear from me for the next week or so, due to the fact that my Part 2 starts on Monday. Time passes so quickly when you're having fun. But when you take extended leave to study instead, time whizzes by and you feel like crap to boot. What's more, I don't even have a day to rest once it's all over. Saturday's the clinicals, then by Sunday afternoon, I'm back at work doing a 5-12 shift. I suppose I could've done what a fellow trainee did -- take no-pay leave and tour Europe ( though I would've opted for the US ) -- but hey, that's life. :/

In any case, I've already targeted Switzerland and Austria for mid-2005, followed by NO-PAY LEAVE LIKE IT OR NOT for a whole month in mid-2006, during which I will treat both my parents to a cross-country trek through North America. Might visit some friends ( Lingual Nerve gang, look out! :)) and of course, all the major medical schools. :D
And since I'm in a whimsical frame of mind, I can always fantasize a little about bumping into my favourite celebrities while I'm there: Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Tom Hanks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger...
Not forgetting, of course, CLAY AIKEN. :P

Okay then, time to return to Earth. Adios amigos -- for now! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Horror Movies Don't Even Compare

Maybe having so many tutorials this close to the exam isn't such a good idea. I suppose it could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you discover your areas of inadequacy and quickly make the necessary amendments. On the other, it also causes you to wonder just what else you DON'T know, dammit!

Today, for example, we were presented with a contraption none of us has ever seen before, but which is apparently "the new standard of care" in the emergency medicine circle. Diaphoretic-palpitation-inducing moment right there.

What's more, I'm starting to experience the Law of Diminishing Returns big-time. Studying is becoming a real chore, and on a few occasions, I found myself staring at the same word for a prolonged period of time, unable to force myself to proceed any further. Aargh!!!


Thank goodness for the Olympics, with its in-depth coverage of my favourite events, namely diving, gymnastics and swimming. My newest craze? None other than badminton, solely brought about by Ronald Susilo's dazzling victories ( 2 so far ). Watching him defeat his German opponent today, I realize that he's actually really really good at the game. Very focussed, with admirable precision in his drop shots. Let's hope he makes it to the finals at least. A silver medal would be a huge boost, though a gold would make him an instant legend. :)

Last Friday's episode of Nip/Tuck was probably the last of the 1st season *sob* but it packed a big punch in its hilarious ending, even allowing bad boy Christian Troy to redeem himself, albeit in a roundabout, potentially awkward manner.
Quoteworthy line?
"We're not murderers. Plastic surgeons have a bad enough reputation as it is."
( heh heh! )


Read Doc Shazam's post and readers' responses on The Lingual Nerve, titled What's Happening?

More disappointment will follow on this Thursday's installment of Singapore Idol, complete with angry scoldings from irate judges.

Back to my books then. Maybe I should take some beta-blockers, hmm. :/

Friday, August 13, 2004

Quickie Post

Being on extended leave apparently offers no protection against headaches, ugh.

A New PM For Singapore

Much is being made about this historic event, and although I have many opinions on it, I'm not stupid enough to make them public. :) Interestingly, the swearing-in ceremony was broadcast "live" over CNN as well last night. That was probably the high point of the evening for me, haha. :D

I will say this though: PM Lee, congratulations, and I sincerely hope you follow through with all your promises, especially the one on welcoming diverse views and robust debate.

The US Presidential Race Heats Up

If you want a truly rigorous political battle, this'll get your heart pumping ( though not as effectively as, say, the Taiwanese Parliament meetings, which are like the Asian version of the World Wrestling Federation, heh heh ). Just caught George W. Bush on Larry King this afternoon, fending off criticisms about everything from the Iraqi invasion to his restrictions on stem cell research. I drifted off at certain points, 'cos let's face it, Bush Jr. is a rather dull character, and I firmly believe a national leader requires some measure of charisma in order to make any real impact ( local politicians have a long ways to go in that aspect, though one particular minister -- a friend's brother -- is, in my opinion, the most likeable and watchable of the lot :) ).

Laura Bush appeared as well, seated silently next to her hubby, and fulfilling no role in particular, except maybe that of "supportive First Lady figure". She seems nice enough, but has no political background whatsoever, and glaringly demonstrates lack of strong opinions or intelligent input when questioned by King. In addition, she submissively clams up whenever Bush rudely interrupts her mid-sentence on quite a number of occasions.

Hilary Clinton was the polar opposite, and I hear Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards aren't pushovers either. No prizes for guessing which type I prefer. :D

Singapore Idol Shenanigans - The Sequel

Wednesday night's 2nd episode was yet another barrel of laughs, with a colourful montage of contestants mauling Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly", a girl whom Dick Lee described as "goat-voiced", and the very memorable Banana Man -- a young fellow wearing headgear topped with a bunch of cloth bananas, and jiggling away to some really weird song that I suspect he composed. Absolutely bananas! ( pun intended )

This installment also featured a few extremely rude youngsters, one of whom called Dick Lee a "dickhead". Tsk tsk.

The highlight, however, was a Malay guy who belted out Clay Aiken's cover of "Solitaire" -- and very competently, might I add -- in tribute to his late father who passed away only a few weeks earlier. Touching stuff.

In Life!'s letters section today, an irate reader called SI host Gurmit Singh "a clown" lacking Ryan Seacrest's charisma and charm. Err, I personally don't find Seacrest that great actually, and take issue with the "lack of charisma" statement. Gurmit, in my opinion, is one of our country's finest hosts, and establishes fantastic rapport with people wherever he goes. I can't think of anyone better for the job, and seeing him on the show is a huge bonus. So there.

10 Days More...

Time passes too quickly when you're on leave. 1 1/2 weeks to go, and we're all starting to feel it. But I've got a wonderful support group in my fellow trainees, and we share a good laugh every time we attend tutorials. Looking forward to going out for drinks after our exams. :)

I'll post again in a few days' time. Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Singapore Idol Rocks!

First off, let me just say what how pleasantly surprised I was by the fact that SI is actually a lot funnier than its American counterpart. Last night's pilot had me in stitches, and I haven't laughed this hard since a priceless episode of Nip/Tuck last month ( the one where Christian Troy was hunting down his stalker ).

Anyhow, the next installment airs tomorrow at 8:30pm. In the meantime, check out the forum. ( The official website address doesn't seem to work. )

Classic moments popped up every few minutes: the mainland China guy with operatic training but attempted to sound pop ( and failed ), then bawled his eyes out in Gurmit Singh's arms when he got rejected; the dude who announced he was going to sing "Clay Aiken's Somewhere Over The Rainbow", then launched into Somewhere Out There ( d-uh ); the girl who sang while flicking some hand-held bell-thingies, prompting Dick Lee to comment that she sounded "like a bunch of cows going to get milked" ( hahaha! ); the nut who literally whispered George Michael's "Careless Whisper", then humbly told the incredulous judges that he was "self-taught" ( William Hung-wannabe alert! "I have no formal training whatsoever..." ). But the star, hands down, was Lemon Tree Guy, a bespectacled, slightly chubby 20-something who came up with his own dance routine for the already Ah-Beng song, sending the audition panel ( and the entire TV audience ) into fits of convulsive laughter.

Judges-wise, watch out for Dick Lee and Ken Lim, whose barbs come fast and furious. Lim, in particular, always looks black-faced, unlike Lee who delivers criticisms with a smile. "Sounded like Mandy got into a car accident / has diarrhoea," he shoots at the hapless contestants' renditions of the Barry Manilow favourite.

The Idol franchise, as a rule ( set by its producers at Fremantle media ), have a strict format that no-one is allowed to deviate from, so don't be bothered by the huge similarities it shares with American Idol. I, for one, am completely supportive of this move, and seeing the Idol logo bearing the word "Singapore" gave me goosebumps. The final will be held on December 1st a the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Marking my calendar in case I successfully get tickets for that!

Sex And The City - A Second Look

Okay, I've figured out how to get through this show without gagging -- it's easy: just concentrate on the guys instead of the gals. Watching the most recent episodes, I thoroughly enjoyed the male characters parading through -- Nathan Lane as a homo-turned-hetero, a bald-and-sweaty Jewish lawyer who somehow manages to snag the affections of socialite-beauty Charlotte, some familiar-looking biker dude whose name I can't recall filling in as Carrie's new beau, and last but not least, the legendary ( and very cute ) Mr. Big.

Though their appearances are brief, they're nevertheless delicately drawn, exuding their own brand of likeable charm, complete with quirks and personal hang-ups. My main interest, though, revolves around the John Corbett character ( what's his name again? ) from earlier seasons -- described as a very sweet man who ultimately gets dumped by Carrie. Corbett may be better remembered as sensitive, brainy radio DJ Chris in Northern Exposure ( LOVED him in that! ), or Nia Vardalos' husband in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Oh well, there's a Sex And The City Season 5 marathon tonight. Looks like I've got something to do once I finish studying for the day. :)

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Cry Freedom

I'm officially on study leave, woohoo!

After 2 weeks of crazy shifts interspersed with revision tutorials and attempts at reading my textbooks while half-asleep, I now have 14 days of complete rest before the MRCS (A&E) Part 2 commences.

And come to think of it, I might have unwittingly sabotaged myself at work recently: bringing either my study texts or even the occasional jazz CD for some easy listening during shifts automatically casts some Blasted Curse. Today, for example, in an effort to convince myself otherwise, I got through 3 Michael Buble songs before all hell broke loose, and I ended up with a tally of 40 cases in 8 hours. Glad that's over...

I'm currently reuperating from Potent Kid Virus Part Trois ( did I spell that correctly? re-minisce? ): a rather mild flu virus that gives me nocturnal nasal congestion and an early-morning sore throat. What's more, when I thought I couldn't possibly wash my hands any more frequently for fear of tearing my skin off, a toddler decided to cough in my RIGHT EYE today while I was trying to see her throat. She was spiking a 39.7 degree Celsius fever. *gulp*

Anyhow, I haven't posted in more than a week, so this is gonna be long. Sorry.

Review of The Village

*spoilers spoilers spoilers*

Verdict: I really enjoyed it.

I know, lots of people have become either disillusioned with or even more enamoured of M. Night Shyamalan's offerings over the past few years. Obviously, I belong to the latter camp. :)

After his major whammy of a thriller-with-a-twist, The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has become one of the few Hollywood directors who has the honour of being able to carry a movie on his own, regardless of who he casts or what the film is about. Top stars fight to work with him, and if the opening weekend gross of The Village isn't proof enough ( more than US$50 million big ones ), this guy is a force to be reckoned with.

So does his latest effort warrant such box office success? In my humble opinion, I'll just say: It's definitely an excellent movie, and the theatre receipts are merely proof that audiences know how to appreciate a good thing when they see it.

But what exactly makes The Village the exquisite piece that it is? Shyamalan is the maestro of intimate scenes. Of tweaking an innocuous sequence and making it come alive with layers of emotion. Of helping us relive the rare Scary Movie Moment time and time again without having to resort to special effects or cheap tricks. And most importantly, of imaginative plotlines and that all-important ingredient that draws us all into the cinema: The Big Twist At The End.

This film has all of the above. I don't think it surpasses The Sixth Sense, but it certainly comes a close second. Elegantly sketched characters, beautifully nuanced performances from some of the greatest actors around, tender moments weaving seamlessly with terrifying events, the unexpected yet ultimately satisfying finale. A veritable tour de force.

I especially admire Shyamalan's skill at building up momentum. The mystery unfolds slowly but surely. Two young women playfully spinning on a front porch as they sweep it clean, then practically freaking out when they spot red berries growing nearby, almost falling in their haste to bury it in the garden. As you will discover later, the colour red holds a dreadful significance.

Similarly, whisperings of Those We Do Not Speak Of permeate throughout ( kinda like the repetitive "Tea? More tea?" lines in The Avengers, or You-Know-Who mutterings about Voldemort in Harry Potter ), adding that little chill that creeps up your arm or down your spine. Nocturnal dares among teenage boys, the ring of fire bordering the enclave (complete with nightwatchmen) and a nail-biting foray into the woods round up the eerie mood.

In the midst of this, however, lies a love story between a quiet boy ( Joaquim Phoenix in yet another chameleon turn that will hopefully earn him a second Oscar nomination ) and a blind yet headstrong girl ( Bryce Dallas Howard -- a lovely debut performance emanating class and natural likeability ). Their scenes together are breath-taking to watch, the subsequent heartbreak almost unbearable. A movie like this is so hard to come by.

The Twist came from out of nowhere, and despite my valiant efforts to think up every single permutation I could possibly fathom, I failed miserably at even coming close to the eventual conclusion. Same thing happened when I read Jeffrey Deaver's Twisted. How do they do it?!

Shyamalan's got 2 projects in the pipeline: another original writing-directing effort, and the movie adaptation of The Life Of Pi. Think I'd better read the novel after my exams! :)

CD Reviews Of...

Renee Olstead's self-titled debut album:

Got this after hearing her on Class 95's Dinner Jazz segment, and it's absolutely gorgeous. No wait, SHE'S absolutely gorgeous. :) Red hair, green eyes, beautiful smile. And only 15 years old, wow.

But don't be deceived by her cherubic features, or those typically teenage-y liner notes. This gal has a voice that is reminiscent of the great, late Ella Fitzgerald, sprinkled with some Norah Jones smokiness and Natalie Cole sass.

Choice tracks:

Summertime -- Fantasia Barrino's cover on American Idol 3 doesn't even come close.

Taking A Chance On Love -- sweet and utterly perfect.

A Love That Will Last -- David Foster's haunting composition tailor-made for her flawless vocals.

Midnight At The Oasis -- a mature, sexy rendition.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do -- a duet with Peter Cincotti that almost sent me through the roof. I kid you not. IT'S THAT GOOD. :D

Anyhow, visit her official website for more info. And pictures for the guys, ahem. :P

Keane's Hope And Fears

This might strike some of you as rather odd, since I usually go for jazz or pop, and this UK band doesn't really fall into either category.

I credit their Everybody's Changing music video with the conversion. The song's been growing on me for a while now, thanks to repeated airplay on MTVAsia. Sampling the CD sealed the deal.

Theirs is a nice blend of piano, infectious tempos, and catchy melodies which sound almost anthemic. I don't understand the lyrics at all, but the overall tone reeled me in immediately. A little like Abba and U2 on the faster tracks. Some Beatles on a slow one.

Choice tunes:

Everybody's Changing -- naturally :)

Somewhere Only We Know -- pounding intro. Great for waking up in the morning.

Bend And Break -- very enjoyable rock piece.

Sunshine -- the one that reminds me of The Beatles. Beautifully done.

I love to blast this in my car, though my parents make me switch to Renee Olstead when they're sitting next to me. :P

TV Updates

Strong Medicine

I tuned in because I was interested in the female perspective of the medical drama genre, but ended up totally disappointed. The main reason: Whoopi Goldberg playing Dr. Lydia Emerson, who's supposedly some world-famous expert in women's health and has people hyperventilating wherever she goes. This is obviously an ego trip, 'cos Goldberg is executive producer. But c'mon, she's about as convincing as Mariah Carey in Glitter. Completely unbelievable.

The other characters also suffer from inadequate charisma. Janine Turner from Northern Exposure is very pretty, but that blood-red lipstick gets on my nerves.

Gilmore Girls

My favourite chick drama is back! This year, Rory starts at Yale and meets a potential beau, while her mother Lorelai sets up a new inn and finds new love. I never tire of this show. :)

And guess what? The other day, my mom said my conversations with her strongly resemble the machine-gun rattlings of Rory and Lorelai. Hmm, I'm inclined to agree. :D

Singapore Idol

Be prepared for analyses from yours truly starting tomorrow when the first episode airs. Trailers have been hilarious, especially the one where Dick Lee tells one tone-deaf hopeful "That rose in your pocket must be artificial, because you would've killed it." Har har har!

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Some contestants are actually quite impressive, and if this turns out NOT to be a big joke, I may try to wrangle tickets for the finals come November. Watch this space!


How can I possibly forget this gem? The plot may border on the implausible at times, but there's no denying that the characters are lovable mainly because they are so severely flawed. Unlike Strong Medicine's perfect, saintly docs, Sean McNamara survived an extra-marital affair, Christian Troy a dark childhood and multiple one-night stands, and both share the secret of a body-dumping incident, not to mention removing breast implants containing cocaine as a "personal favour" for a psychotic drug dealer.

If this isn't compelling television, I don't know what is. :P

It's getting late. Time to chill out by watching Primal Fear, aka the film that launched Edward Norton's stellar career.

And before I sign off ( with a promise to post more regularly now that I'm on leave ), Ralph Fiennes has just been named as the actor who will play Voldemort in the upcoming Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire. An inspired choice indeed!

Goodnight, and have a great week ahead.