Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Year In Review

As 2006 comes to a close, I realize it's been an exciting 12 months. Here's a brief rundown of my thoughts on an eventful period. :)

Great Memories

Two vacations within 4 months of each other made for quite a rush, but if you've never been to Bavaria or Tokyo, you're definitely missing out.

Met a bunch of great people -- natives and tourists -- ate way too much, and totally love the many different cultures I experienced.

Thank You Guys

To P, for an unforgettable stroll through Salzburg, filled with music, humour and harmless flirting ( haha ). You may say you're Spanish, but I'm still convinced you're 100% Italian. :)

To G, for a beautiful evening which exceeded even my highest expectations. You're quite the cook!

To K, for accomodating my requests every single time, just because you care.

To C, for your spontaneity and -- ahem -- admirable courage(!) during lunch in Hakone. But my parents like you, so no harm done. Hope you'll visit us in Singapore soon. :)

And finally, to M, who unknowingly and radically changed my perspective on so many levels, and who also provided a classic European moment by blowing me a kiss from beneath my room window one balmy evening. I wish you well, and who knows, if Fate permits, perhaps our paths will cross again someday.

Favourite Albums of 2006

1. New Vintage - Peter Grant

Hands down, no contest. I'm still blasting it in the car, and getting goosebumps every time. This guy is going to be a huge star. Just give him time.

2. Continuum - John Mayer

Completely blew me away with a sudden shift in musical direction. Bold, explosive, and sexy as hell. Come to Singapore quick!

3. Awake - Josh Groban

Another breakthrough recording which bodes well for this young man. Has taken a huge step forward and is guaranteed a long career ahead.

4. Mr. A-Z & Tonight Not Again - Jason Mraz

His latest is trademark JM, but the latter -- a 'live' concert album -- takes the cake. I dare you to listen to his stage rendition of Absolutely Zero and resist loving this guy.

5. Catching Tales - Jamie Cullum

A tour de force for Sinatra in sneakers. 7 Days To Change Your Life is astounding.

Best Concerts of 2006

1. Jason Mraz

Wah lau, without a doubt. The best I've EVER seen, actually. 2 hours of earth-shattering talent, wit, flawless vocals, with nothing more than a guitar and a few bongo drums for backup. Meeting him in person is now one of my missions in life.

2. Jamie Cullum

Superb jamming and an awesome medley of hip-hop hits. Put him in the Esplanade the next round.

3. Chris Botti

Another fellow who deserves to grace the Esplanade stage. Classy, gorgeous and works nothing less than magic on those trumpet keys.

4. Rockapella

A rousing debut, with many more concerts to follow, I'm sure. Word of advice -- don't waste your money on the Swingle Singers.

5. Robbie Williams

Well, the show got cancelled, but if he'd come here as planned, it would definitely be on this list, so this one's for you Robbie. :)

Favourite Films of 2006

1. The Lake House

Don't ask me why I love this so much. I just do.

2. The Devil Wears Prada

So excellent Meryl Streep is now my favourite actress of all time. ( Used to be Michelle Pfeiffer, but she's disappeared for a while. )

3. Brokeback Mountain

Surprisingly affecting despite the explicit scenes.

4. March Of The Penguins

An amazing piece of work.

Wish I had a #5, but I really didn't watch that many movies this year, and even fewer great ones.

Favourite TV Shows of 2006

1. Grey's Anatomy

I know what I wrote in my reviews in the you-know-what-publication, but comparing Season 2 of Grey's with that of House, there's no question who the victor is. The eclectic group at Seattle Grace Hospital ( which, interestingly, shares the same acronym as my workplace, hint hint ) may not be as quoteworthy as Dr. Gregory House, but they more than make up for it with sincerity, some really solid acting ( remember Katherine Heigl's heart-wrenching scene where she begged what's-his-name with heart failure to undergo a transplant? ) and - yum - Patrick Dempsey have turned the series into ratings gold, hitting the #1 spot when Season 3 debuted a few months ago.
Too bad TR Knight, who plays George O'Malley, is gay. But I still love him. :)

2. Numb3rs

Sorely underrated but one of the best shows I know of. Rob Morrow remains sexy 10 years post Northern Exposure ( rent it if you can ), while David Krumholtz melts my heart with his earnest smiles, soft brown eyes and (gah) honey-smooth voice. If only my Maths teachers were this cute.

3. Prison Break

Cheesy beyond cheesy, with giant loopholes everywhere. Yet immensely watchable, in no small part because of the enigmatic and delicious Wentworth Miller. If prison inmates were this good-looking, I wouldn't mind being their doctor either. :)

4. Supernatural

Another cheesy series, but again, extremely addictive because of the leads. Jared Padalecki is a perennial fave of mine ( being a Gilmore Girls alumnus and all ), while Jensen Ackles continues to grow on me during moments of pretty competent emoting. I also really like the guy who plays their dad ( but haven't learned his name yet ). This dude also had a recurring role on Grey's Anatomy, as the heart transplant patient Katherine Heigl's character falls for. He made me cry -- no small feat, I can tell you that!

5. Entourage

Ahhh, Jeremy Piven, you are the best reason to watch this show. From your speed-talking to your anxious tics to your head-spinning double / triple-crossing schemes, Ari Gold has become a legend in TV history. I hope you win another Emmy in 2007.

6. Nip/Tuck

After depressing me no end in Season 2, it has returned better than ever, with a serial killer on the loose, Sean's son suffering a mental breakdown after discovering his ex-lover was a transexual, Christian fighting a whole truckload of personal demons, and the addition of a Spanish colleague with bisexual tendencies to a troubled practice.

I like dark, twisted tales, and this is definitely top of the line. :)

Things I Look Forward To in 2007

1. Passing the exit

-- mostly so I don't have to &*^%$$# study anymore.

2. Visiting the US

-- intend to spend a mini-fortune on this trip, so let's make it a good one.

3. Charity work

-- has been in the pipeline for way too long, so I hope to make this a reality once and for all.

4. Partying a little

-- St. James Power Station and The Cannery look promising. But a return to the old watering holes would be good too.

5. Writing more

-- stay tuned...

So enjoy NYE, and here's wishing all readers a wonderful year ahead. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Season's Greetings!

I can't upload e-cards here, so click on this to sample a whole chunk of them and get your festive spirits up. :)

It's hard to believe that the year is ending yet again. Not as eventful as 2005 ( nothing can ever beat the whammy combo of Michael Buble, Peter Cincotti and Patrizio Buanne! ), but there were definite moments in 2006 ( Jamie Cullum, Westlife, 2 great holidays, a fistful of - ahem - interesting men, heh heh! ).

I'm always grateful for my parents who, apart from making so many sacrifices these past 3 decades, continue to earn my admiration and respect -- most recently for gamely navigating the Tokyo subways with me and actually loving it! They've sped down the Dart River in Queenstown, trudged through glacier territory, traced the paths of the LOTR cast and crew, walked miles and miles through numerous other countries yet kept pace with me with ease. Plus, no-one has ever successfully guessed their ages -- a huge compliment, IMHO.

Then there're my relatives and friends, some of whom have shared my deepest secrets and helped me through a few of the darkest moments of my life. What would I ever do without you all?

And of course, let's not forget the wonderful people at a certain ER, who work their butts off everyday but always find a moment or two ( usually when we congregate in the pantry ) to share jokes and bond through grouching. Ranks disappear and the chaos outside is forgotten, as we spend a few precious minutes relaxing and remembering that hey, we're bloody human too.

Last but not least, a special hug for my cat, who turned 9 just a few months ago. He remains my best pal, with an eerie knack for knowing when I need him most. We've been through so much together and he's never disappointed me once.

Find me a guy like that and I swear I'll marry him.


Have a blessed X'mas, and as always, my sincere thanks for reading.

Monday, December 18, 2006

X'mas in Ginza Posted by Picasa

Shibuya Madness - check out the crowd Posted by Picasa

Mickey & Friends Posted by Picasa

World Bazaar Posted by Picasa

Have Yourself A Merry Little X'mas Posted by Picasa
More Photos

Before my laptop mouse goes insane again. Note to self: pass exit, get pay rise, buy new computer to replace ancient 6-year-old model.

Oh yeah, and I still use dialup. The way I see it, why spend unnecessarily when you've got easy access to broadband at work?

In the spirit of X'mas, I've decided to post a few festive pictures.

Picture #1: Ginza district

Due to weather conditions, it was cloudy so the colours are significantly muted. Still, small X'mas trees lined the pavements, and you can of course see the famed Mikimoto Pearl store sign in plain view.

Not as celebratory as our wonderful Orchard Road though.

Picture #2: Shibuya

My favourite! Packed to the brim with young and old alike, all rushing around like mad lemmings, especially at the crazy 6-way traffic junction. Lots of neon, lots of noise, and the shops are just mind-boggling. Ate at a superb restaurant somewhere -- we just walked randomly and stopped when our stomachs told us to. Served delectable yakitori ( the sauce! ), shabu-shabu cooked in a heavenly spicy soup ( ahhhh! ), and a hot plate of some omelette-vegetable concoction ( perfect! ). All for less than S$20 per head.

Pictures #3-#5: Tokyo Disneyland

You may see a resemblance to some pictures in a certain publication due for circulation in the near future. But you simply can't beat Disneyland when it comes to the festive period, especially X'mas.
I smiled so much my face hurt. And the single day we spent there was hardly sufficient to fully enjoy the whole place -- we gave Disneysea a miss as a result of time shortage.
Will most definitely return, but not sure when.
Believe the horror stories about the Hong Kong version, and just stick to Tokyo ( if you can't see the original parks in the US ). It was a lovely experience from beginning to end, even though the crowds were massive.


CD recommendation for you, though brief.

Josh Groban's Awake is the latest album to spend time in my stereo, and having followed his career since his debut 4-5 years ago, this is by far his boldest -- and best -- work yet.

Besides mixing his usual Italian / Spanish fare with more mainstream English songs, fans will easily pick out a shift in tone -- lighter, more pop-friendly -- and a willingness to REALLY experiment -- collaborations with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Herbie Hancock, among others.

My fave tracks are all crammed into the last third of the disc, starting with #10 ( theme for Romeo & Juliet ), followed by the beautiful African-flavoured Lullaby and Weeping, a jazz/rock/bluesy Machine, and bonus songs Verita and Awake.

The title track has been repeated ad nauseum in my car, and I've yet to tire of it. An original piece by Josh, it is both tender and poignant. Terrific lyrics, a haunting chorus, supplemented by one of Josh's most nuanced performances ever. Just listen closely as he sings "So keep me awake / to memorize you / Give me more time / to feel this way / We can't stay like this forever / But I can have you next to me / today". Major goosebumps. :)

Lunch beckons.

Apologies to those I had to cancel on last weekend. Lousy flu kept me from consuming alcohol and gorging my brains out with friends. Looks like I'll be socially challenged till my exam is over next month. Not taking any chances.

But after that -- heh heh -- that's another story. :)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Feasting In Ginza Posted by Picasa

Nabe Heaven Posted by Picasa

Genghis Khan Munchies Posted by Picasa

Despite all the crazy shifts, the exhaustion, tension headaches, gastric pains and occasional doubts about whether my salary is worth all this pain and suffering, there're occasional moments when everything makes perfect sense.

Yesterday was one good example.

Conducted a 90-minute tutorial with a group of medical students currently rotating through our department, and surprise surprise, I actually had fun doing it. :)

Very animated bunch, enthusiastic and genuinely interested in emergency medicine. Attentive and knowledgeable, with quite a number of questions tossed my way ( even though I expected them to be half asleep since my session was preceded by a heavy ECG tutorial ).

When I asked how many are considering emergency medicine as a future career path, one guy answered, "Quite a lot actually". Some expressed disappointment that multiple appeals to the powers that be to extend the posting beyond its brief 3-week period have come to naught, but a few did appear interested in returning for electives. They even had queries about which Part I and II exams to take!

Following that fulfilling morning, I spent my night shift with 5 students who joined me from 9pm to 8am. Lots of energy, extremely helpful, keen to learn and very sensible. We even had a short tutorial at 3am on subarachnoid haemorrhage ( cold case from a few months back ). I tired out early -- major prawn parade, don't our elderly folk sleep anymore? -- but their high spirits never seemed to wane. Just wish we could've had a few major resuscitations for their benefit. But guess they should drop by on Mondays and weekends in order to experience ER madness in its purest form.

All I can say is: Thank you. I needed that little boost. :)

Another Thing

Shattered Glass, a film based on the true story about Stephen Glass ( a young reporter formerly at prominent political magazine The New Republic ) proved to be unexpectedly good. Produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, it stars Hayden Christensen ( Anakin Skywalker dude ), who does a decent job portraying an eager-to-please personality with a dark side ( pun fully intended :)).

However, I prefer to highlight his co-star Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Stephen's editor, Charles Lane.

Previously seen in The Man In The Iron Mask ( John Malkovich's son Raoul ) and Boys Don't Cry, he's much more prominent in this film, and turns in a compelling, memorable performance, for which I understand he received quite a few critical accolades as well.

It's been 3 years ( Shattered Glass was released back in 2003 ) and Sarsgaard hasn't hit A-list status yet, but like John Cusack ( my 2nd fave actor after Kevin Spacey, another non-A-lister ), he'll have no problems securing great roles and building up his fanbase. I'm definitely a new Sarsgaard groupie. What a terrific actor.

Last But Not Least

It's time to really get down to studying. 6 weeks. Arrgh!

But a fellow registrar's festive mood is proving contagious, so next weekend's drinking session with department colleagues is in the pipeline. Followed by a long-awaited dinner with JC classmates the next day.

Oh yeah, maybe I'll finally meet Mr 747 and pass him that World Cup jersey I promised, heh.

Tokyo Part 1: Food, Glorious Food


Photo #1: Our first lunch, at a restaurant in the Ginza district. Everything's in Japanese ( including the eatery's name ), but I can tell you that if you walk along Ginza Street from the train station past Mikimoto Pearl and spot Harry Winston on the opposite side, just walk a little further and you may stumble upon this place on your left. It's got a cardboard sign out front, and leads down a flight of stairs to the main area below. You must remove your shoes, but they've got these beautiful lockers with individual keys. That's about as much detail as I can give you.

Anyhow, this feast offered EXCELLENT Udon, tempura that melts in your mouth, and the best sushi I've ever tasted ( the seaweed wrap is just the right consistency ).

Price of meal per person: S$10-15 ( in the Ginza area! )

Photo #2: A traditional hotpot Nabe set, with the freshest ingredients ever. The portion was huge, and it took us an hour just to cook everything in a stage-wise manner. The broth is a super-tasty miso soup, rich in flavour yet low in salt content ( none of us developed any thirst post-meal ).

Location: Jap restaurant in the executive tower of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. No English name available, but there's a Nabe set display at the entrance so look for that.

Price: S$60 thereabouts. But bloody worth every penny. :)

Photo #3: Mouth-watering hot stone Mongolian-style cooking at a posh eatery near ( not within ) the Four Seasons Hotel. Went there as part of a guided city tour. The tour wasn't great, but the lunch more than made up for it!

Darn, I can't remember the name of the place. But the food was FABULOUS. Again, superb meat, cooked in a special sauce which is so fragrant my mouth began to water before I tasted anything. Just wish we could've had seconds, but no such luck.

Price: no idea -- included in tour fee.

Had many other delicious meals on a daily basis, but these are the ones that I snapped pictures of. I just ADORE Japanese cuisine.

Next post: images from my strolls through Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku. I kinda like the Tokyo subways too. :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home sweet home.

Time flew a little too quickly for my liking. And I'm due back at work tomorrow. Sigh.

However, Tokyo was extremely enjoyable. More details in a later entry, but to cut a long story short, the subway is freaking crazy, I'm totally awed by the peak hour traffic ( human, that is ), great food practically oozes from every street, Disneyland is absolutely magical, and I'm one of the lucky few who got to see Mt Fuji in all its snow-capped, unclouded glory ( woohoo! ).

Culture-wise, I have to say it wasn't as "flowery" as I expected ( based on stories told to me by friends who've been there ). Maybe it's because of the weather -- freezing by my standard -- hence the paucity of daring dress sense among the locals. I did, however, witness the occasional nut with the barely-there mini-skirt ( one of which offered an excellent view of white panties on the escalator ), loads of leather boots and stiletto heels which can double as deadly weapons, and a large chunk of heavily made up schoolgirls at a McDonald's outlet in Shibuya ( but they were very nice and helped me figure out how to work the kooky soap dispenser in the toilet ).

Anyway, I've realized how pathetic it is to be able to catch the latest film releases only when I'm travelling. So I recently managed to watch the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lake House, The Devil Wears Prada, You Me & Dupree, and Superman Returns ( you'll be amazed how early Krisworld starts, so be sure to turn it on even when the plane's still climbing ). Also caught North Country and The Corpse Bride at a certain countryside hotel ( because they had ZERO English channels, yeesh ).


Didn't like the Pirates sequel. Someone please tell me what the heck happened at the end 'cos I fell asleep.

Superman Returns was o-kay. Still prefer the originals ( I and II especially ).

You, Me & Dupree was entertaining, but essentially fluffy stuff.

North Country is terrific.

The Corpse Bride is excellent.

The Devil Wears Prada is superb. Simon Baker is gorgeous in this movie, yow. :)

The Lake House is sooooo bloody good I bought the DVD today. ( A few of you probably consider it dumb mush, but I have a very soft spot for Keanu Reeves and think he did a wonderful job here. )

Other important updates:

The latest season of Nip/Tuck is on Channel 5 every Monday at 11pm. Super-dark, super-twisted -- I love it. :)

AXN is also showing reruns of seasons 1 and 2 in the same timeslot. But they repeat at 3am in the morning, in case you want to set your timers.

Reruns of Numb3rs ( the best episodes ) air Tuesdays at 11pm ( AXN ). Must not miss.

Gotta get some shuteye now. More updates next time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review of Rockapella's concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, November 15th 2006

For more info on the group, drop by their official website.

In a nutshell:

1. It was awesome!

2. I love the crowd!

3. Chris Botti should've performed here instead of the Victoria Theatre ( sorry it's a major grouse of mine ).

More Details

I went to the show with no expectations whatsoever, and came away with only the highest regard and admiration for this quintet of hugely talented musicians.

The performance kicked off to a rousing start with an upbeat number which I assume is one of many of their original compositions. Of course, being a newbie where this group is concerned, I'm unable to tell you the titles of these songs, which were scattered throughout the evening.

However, I will say that they're all very enjoyable, with catchy melodies and sincere deliveries.

Hence, I shall comment mostly on the covers, which IMHO were EXQUISITE.

Having grown up listening to many of these classics ( you name 'em -- The Drifters, The Temptations, Ben E. King, Sam Cooke -- thanks 100% to my mother, whom I consider a foremost authority on truly good music ), I found myself grinning from ear to ear as the night progressed and the guys wheeled out hit after hit after hit.

Early in the repertoire, Stand By Me made an appearance, to the audience's immense delight ( that's when the whooping and cat-calling began :)). John K. Brown's gorgeously rich tenor vibrato soared to the heavens, and I especially love how he chose to lighten his tone during the 2nd "darling" in the line "so darling, darling stand by me" ( most versions I've heard usually belt that word from beginning to end ). The overall a capella arrangement was flawless, with just the right mix of soul and doo-wop. Coupled with the grand yet intimate venue ( I can't stress enough how much I LOVE the Esplanade ) and soft lighting ( a dim stage with dark luminous blue hues ), the piece was just positively... magical.

The very next song lifted my spirits even further, as curly-haired redhead Kevin Wright did his rendition of Under The Boardwalk. Kevin, by the way, is my personal favourite in the group. His voice is higher-pitched than John's, but I'm totally blown away by its quality and control. ( It was mentioned that one of the guys appeared on Les Miz on Broadway -- can someone confirm whether it's Kevin? ) His performance of this Drifters classic was pitch perfect and divine.

Lead member Scott Leonard is also a terrific singer, but he definitely excels at winding the crowd up and proved to be the main joker of the group, amusing us with his account of a trip to Chinatown, even managing to be understood when he said "Happy to meet you" in garbled Mandarin ( heh heh! ). Plus, he's clearly the most exuberant dancer of the bunch, never missing a step or showing any sign of fatigue even after the show hit the 2-hour mark.

Then there's George Baldi, who's well-known for being one of the original members of an ensemble which later became Boyz II Men. He's Rockapella's equivalent of Barry White, all deep booming bass and smooth grooves. He put his vocals to good use on Motown numbers, but surprised us all when he demostrated amazing range with a falsetto performance of Dolly Parton's ( or should I say, Whitney Houston's ) I Will Always Love You. Excellent stuff! :)

Last but not least, we have Jeff Thatcher, the self-professed "Mozart of spit", whose energetic mouth drumming kept things moving at a swift pace. Although he didn't speak a word ( kinda like Teller in the magician duo Penn and Teller ), his personality still shone through, especially during a solo bit that had me wondering how the heck he breathes through all that beatbox-ing.

As you can see, they're all very accomplished. Other noteworthy performances include covers of My Girl, Up On The Roof, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Wonderful World ( the Sam Cooke piece with the famous "don't know much about history" lyrics ), Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Do The Hustle.

Humour was a major feature throughout, with a hilarious skit involving a hapless couple in the audience. John Brown came strolling towards the back of the auditorium then shook hands with a gentleman seated a couple of rows behind us ( seems the 1st of the tiered rows is a lucky position -- Patrizio Buanne stopped by during his concert too :)). He asked the guy to stand up, and when he did, John took his place and began to flirt with his female companion, to loud cheers from the crowd. Haha! She was a good sport and obliged when John invited her on-stage. Perched on a stool, she calmly answered questions about her profession, then got a 3-song serenade of Motown tunes, lucky woman! The Rockapella dudes had a ball vying for her attention, with John kneeling beside her and placing her hand on his head, and George using his baritone to full use. The best attempt came from Scott, who pushed the others aside then gyrated his guts out while she stood, laughing and blushing. And I absolutely adore the part where Scott pretended to lead her off-stage then stopped and began to sing the opening verse to Ain't Too Proud To Beg, which states "I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go". Did anyone catch that? :D

The 2nd half got really rowdy towards the end, and the fellows happily granted us not 2, not 3, but FIVE encore songs! The best of the lot, I think, was the calypso number with a light Jamaican flavour. Beautiful!

There were 3 standing ovations, and they promised to return very soon for another show. I didn't stay for the autograph signing session though, being exhausted from a long day, but I will certainly go see them again.

If only they'd performed a few Christmas songs. Would've liked to hear their versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, In The Still Of The Night, and ( wooo ) O Holy Night. Perhaps they can do some Broadway the next time round? How about On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady ( my all-time favourite song from a musical )?

Thank you for a great evening. Rock on, guys!


I leave for Tokyo this weekend, and am being inundated by numerous recommendations and purchase requests.

Am greatly looking forward to it! Poster arrived today -- looking good. :)

One Last Thing

I meant to write about this last week but never found the time.

Anybody recall a Sunday Lifestyle feature article about how local women in their 30s and 40s find it difficult to get dates / mates?

I personally found it derogatory and biased. Who did this reporter talk to???

Let me state, for the record, that there are MANY single women who are perfectly happy living their lives without a ball and chain called "a relationship". Within the medical profession alone, there're successful surgeons, paediatricians, ER physicians, internists etc who travel the world and engage in some really hip pursuits without griping about how lonely / incomplete they feel ( they don't, by the way ).

If you're financially independent, emotionally secure and lead a fulfilling life sans boyfriend / husband / offspring, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that and who cares what society thinks?

And by the way, I suspect only Singaporean / Asian men consider age a disadvantage. Westerners have a much more favourable view of older women, which I certainly appreciate.

Singlehood has its privileges. Settling down doesn't mean you have to settle. :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Europe Continued: Dolomites Territory Posted by Picasa
Special Announcement

Just doing my part to help drum up support for the Singapore Medical Association's collaboration with Club Rainbow.

Called the Rainbow-of-Hope Doctors' Pledge, proceeds will help fund a new Club Rainbow Family Care Centre and efforts to extend support to more than 500 needy children.

One of the highlighted perks is double tax exemption. And you can donate via cheque or credit card ( the latter allows for accumulation of points ).

Just bear in mind that there's a deadline -- 15 November ( next Wednesday ).

Response has been encouraging, but the medical community can certainly do better, and no amount goes unappreciated.

So... hope you'll find it in your heart to make a contribution to this worthy cause.
Just download the form, fill it up and fax it to the number provided.

Thanks. :)

Ahh, Venice

Did I mention that I was really disappointed by the place when I visited last year?

But reading John Berendt's exquisite memoir, The City Of Falling Angels, brings back fond ( if grime-covered ) memories, and only because Berendt is a writer of the highest class.

He remains at the top of my list of favourite authors, and for good reason. I admire his dedication ( he's churned out only 2 novels within the past decade ), and always find myself smiling or chuckling at his uncanny ability to capture human quirks with an ingenious choice of words and a flair for great comedic timing.

Highly recommended, but not when you're cramming for an exam. ( Yikes, haha. )

Tokyo Awaits

Itinerary settled.

Poster being printed.

I'm darn excited.

Photos once I return.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Delayed Response

I wanted to blog about this when the hoo-ha first erupted, but that didn't happen.

However, after receiving an email care of my alumnus' mass mailing list -- and exchanging a few mails with the person who sent it -- I'm compelled to pen a few thoughts.

With regards to the RJC girl ( whose name I shall leave out, but I'm sure you know who I mean ) whose venomous retort to a fellow blogger's entry caused a national uproar and also got her dad into hot soup, I have this to say:

I read the original post last night.

Considering my ample experience handling nasty people -- in person and on the Internet -- I was still shocked and dismayed by her tirade, which some might consider bordering on lunacy.

Such cruel and unnecessary insults are understandable in certain situations, but this was totally out of line.

I felt my heart sink lower with each new paragraph, and wondered how such a bright young lady who hails from an upper middle class family can make such a colossal mistake.

Narcissism? Arrogance? Looks like it.

Elitist self-righteousness? Hey, she said so herself.

I guess the most accurate description of her post is "disturbing", and on so many levels.

Such anger! Such malice! In one so young!

The email also included a list of her academic accolades, which are indeed impressive. But look how she's utilized her smarts -- to belittle someone so terribly, and show no remorse for her actions. She writes very well, but alas, has turned the beautiful English language into an ugly weapon of destruction.

And what of her father's initial defence? I don't grudge a parent's need to protect his kid, but doing so blindly -- there's absolutely no justification for that. You only end up conveying the wrong message and inculcating the wrong values. Whether he realized this himself or was pressured into retracting his statement -- I tend to favour the latter theory.

Sadly, this is now a common local trend. Parents think their offspring can do no wrong and let their kids run amok, wreaking havoc with wild abandon.

Just last week, my mom and I encountered such a set of errant parents during lunch at a neighbourhood shopping mall. The toddler scooted around like a rabid monkey, knocking into my chair multiple times, before deliberately shoving a wooden statue and toppling it over, missing our table by mere inches.

The parents' reaction? A gentle admonishment, ZERO apology.

My mother -- a retired teacher and ex-head of discipline -- then commented that the child was "very naughty". This obviously hit a nerve, since the boy's 30-something father proceeded to launch a screaming, vulgarity-infested rant.

I chose to speak up as well, but everything I said fell on deaf ears. The man's wife soon joined the fray, shocking me further by spewing Hokkien swear words while her son sat in her lap.

They clearly had no defence. For every objective criticism we provided, they replied with irrelevant insults. They showed no respect whatsoever despite my mother's revelation of both our professions, and only offered a reluctant apology to the restaurant's proprietor when I commented that they failed to do so.

Some of the disgusting remarks hurled at us include:

To my mother:

1. So what if you're a teacher? You're old! What do you know?

2. By the time my son starts going to school, you'll be dead.

3. Just watch out, next time your own grandson will be a failure.

To me:

1. Doctor? &^%%^*$!

2. Mind your own %^$&*@ business!

Sigh. This is why I prefer to stay home these days.

On A Happier Note

1. I survived yesterday's HORRIBLE night shift. Record number of NS men trolling for MCs, police cases brought in for medical exams, drunks, a freak accident at a fire station, and an endless line of fast atrial fibs ( thank goodness the cardiologist on is a veritable saint ).

2. Wish I could review the large number of CDs / DVDs I've recently purchased, but due to time constraints and exam / conference preparations, I have to shorten these to brief summaries.

Robbie Williams' Rudebox is his best since Sing When You're Winning. Best track by far: the psychedelic Lovelight, which MUST be blasted no matter what.

Other notable songs: Rudebox, Viva Life On Mars, She's Madonna, Never Touch That Switch, The 90's.

Great cover: Kiss Me - follows the grand tradition of Erasure, but a Google search didn't reveal any direct links. Very retro, I love it. :)

Patrizio Buanne's Forever Begins Tonight is his 2nd release following the successful debut The Italian. More covers of well-loved English classics ( Always On My Mind, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me ), with a couple of co-written originals, and the obligatory smattering of traditional Italian pieces.

Favourite tracks: Maledetta Primavera, Malefemmena, Bella Bella Signorina ( the last one's a superb big band swing fest ).

Noteworthy covers: Angels ( first done by Robbie Williams ) and Let's Make Love ( originally a duet between Faith Hill and Tim McGraw ).

This guy's versatile, no doubt about it.

Other recent buys:

Matt Dusk's Back In Town is a pleasant surprise, considering a rather lacklustre debut with Two Shots a couple of years back. He's found his forte in uptempo swing and big band numbers, and even does a few competent Broadway covers to boot.
Still getting through the CD, but Learnin' The Blues is really good.

The Ten Tenors' latest release is available in stores. Haven't played it yet. Review to follow.


Patrizio Buanne has a concert offering recorded at a Roman amphitheatre. Looks promising.

Chris Botti's massive performance with the likes of Sting, Gladys Knight, Jill Scott and Paula Cole has been added to my box. Will write more once I watch this.

And Barry Manilow has a Las Vegas show featuring performances of pieces from his 50's album.
( Yes, I adore Barry very much. It's okay 'cos I'm a woman. :))

TV News

The Apprentice has returned, better than ever.
Nothing beats seeing high flyers reduced to quivering mounds of jelly. But hey, that's life.
p.s. Tarek the Orlando Bloom lookalike is mighty appealing.

Survivor: Cook Islands got off to a good start with the Asian team winning the first challenge. Nowhere as controversial as most made it out to be, but it's nice to see more racial diversity this time round.

Whew. Enough for today. Have a good week ahead.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sleek & Smooth

Thank you, Jill Alphonso, for a terrific review in Life! today.

You know how fed up I get when reporters get it wrong.

So I didn't manage to post my own take before the paper's version came out. Blame it on a 9-hour AST session yesterday, followed by another hour meeting with the STC panel. Didn't realize sitting for prolonged periods would cause massive leg pain. Postural venous pooling, I reckon.

Anyhow, I digress.

Review of Chris Botti's Concert, 25th October 2006 at the Victoria Theatre

What can I say -- it was excellent!

My only complaint is the choice of venue. Have always envisioned Botti gracing the stage at the Esplanade Concert Hall, 'cos the VT ( IMHO ) is a little too old and musty for such a class act. My last visit to the place was, ohhh, 12-13 years ago, I think -- back when I was in the RJC Chorale and we held a Broadway-themed extravaganza for 2 nights ( with resident Straits Times journalist Goh Chin Lian stealing the limelight with his solos ).

I digress again. Apologies.

In case you're wondering, Botti looks exactly like his photos. Meaning he's very blonde, strikingly handsome, and very very slim.

Striding out in a sharp ensemble comprising a pin-striped suit and sky blue shirt, he launched straight into Embraceable You, filling the auditorium with his signature mellow tone. I always emphasize how deceptively easy it all looks and sounds, when it's the exact opposite. Perhaps this isn't so evident on his concert DVDs, but the immense effort required to hit those high notes and hold them forever is very obvious when you watch him 'live', as his face flushes pink then returns to normal once he takes a breath.

Together with his amazing band -- Billy Childs on the piano, OMG! Didn't expect that! -- the next 90 minutes were pure heaven, transitioning effortlessly between soft ballads and all-out jam sessions, covering the gamut from mainstream fare to legendary Miles Davis pieces.

Songs include numbers from his 2 latest releases -- When I Fall In Love and To Love Again -- which was a smart move since this is his first solo performance here and audiences are still warming up to him. But he also took a few giant leaps of faith with hard-core improv compositions like Flamenco Sketches and Relativity.

Favourites of the evening? Of course I have a few. :)

What'll I Do is always a pleasure. Although he did a duet with Paula Cole for his album, the purely instrumental version is equally mesmerizing. He gave a brief yet insightful intro before he began, describing how Irving Berlin ( who wrote the song ) used to defy musical convention by composing only in the key of C major. He then added his own take on this unusual habit, nicely commenting how this only served to enhance Berlin's ability to pen some of the most beautiful melodies known to date, and how simplicity should never be deemed a disadvantage.

My Funny Valentine was terrific. This brooding Miles Davis classic is perfect for Botti's own quiet style, and he sportingly serenaded a lucky lady in the front row, extending his hand for a friendly handshake before and after his performance. I happened to be sitting in the 6th row -- and on the correct side! -- so I had an excellent view of him the whole time. Absolutely magical.

A Thousand Kisses Deep was an unexpected surprise. I used to lump it in the muzak category, but his 'live' version is galaxies away from what you hear on the album ( of the same title ). Opting for more drums and bass, the pumping tempo builds up in the second half, with some cool jamming thrown in. Botti let his band take turns with solos, but kept rhythm by bobbing his head as he stood at the side. Loved it.

Closing with Frank Sinatra's One For My Baby, One More For The Road was very apt. This is one of my all-time faves ( Robbie Williams does a flawless cover, check out his Royal Albert Hall DVD ), and Botti really captured the essence of its melancholy. It was just him and the piano, which is exactly how it should always be done. Fabulous.

What you didn't read in the paper, however, is Botti's many anecdotes scattered throughout the show. For example:

He flew into Singapore direct from NYC that very morning, before playing for us that same night. Despite the inevitable jet lag and fatigue, he remained unfailingly friendly and blew his guts out for us. Really admire that.

He did a humourous bit about Google, which had us in stitches. Something about how, if you type words / sentences which don't exactly make sense, the search engine will automatically ask "did you mean...?". So he joked that if you type "we went out and she never called back", Google will ask "did you mean she dumped you?", and mentioned how ( true or not ) he found his drummer by asking Google "who's the baddest ass drummer in the world?".
All this, delivered in an almost deadpan fashion. Botti's quite the standup comedian. :)

Last but not least, he talked about an early gig with the late, great Sinatra, and how he almost passed out when the latter complimented him on a trumpet solo during a rehearsal.

Botti comes across as sincere, though slightly reserved. He very clearly loves what he does, and you can tell from the excitement in his voice whenever he recounts an unforgettable experience with a jazz legend, or relates how he first fell in love with the instrument.

His band members also deserve worthy mention, especially guitarist Mark Whitfield who is piping hot on the strings. I was most delighted with his short solo on Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely, which literally popped out of nowhere and gave me goosebumps.

Drummer Billy Kilson, on the other hand, truly is "the baddest ass drummer in the world". Personally speaking, he's definitely the best I've seen! There was a solo on Relativity where he did stuff that defies all laws of physics. Astounding.

Last but not least, a short mention about Botti's bassist ( I think his name is Mark Kelly, but don't quote me on that ). Skilled, of course, but I realized when he appeared on-stage that I actually spoke to him before the show, when I happened to pass by the backstage entrance and bumped into him taking a break outside. I asked if he knew someone I was looking for, and he said no, but was extremely polite and couldn't stop smiling. Nice chap. :)

And yes, I did get Botti's autograph, thanks to a kind lady who helped me out.

Here's hoping he'll return very soon, for a bigger gig at the Esplanade.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


It's been a rough week.

Am I entitled to be PO-ed when one of my MOs can't differentiate between an upper and a lower motor neuron facial nerve palsy?

And I quote: "Dr. spacefan, LMN 7th should SPARE the forehead right?"


An MO who's been with us for 6 months, whom I assume has attended our many tutorials ( which include ENT and neurology modules )?

I've had medical students who can diagnose a Bell's palsy from across the room.

And I'm told that this particular MO is a trainee, no less ( but not in emergency medicine, thank goodness ).

Never mind all that -- s/he also failed to perform an otoscopy to exclude Ramsay-Hunt.

And is notorious for going AWOL during shifts. I personally caught this person hiding in the MO room a couple of times. ( And there's another one who pulls the same stunt regularly. )

Let me just say a few things:

1. I wonder how the STC chooses trainees.

2. An MO who cannot diagnose Bell's palsy -- especially after 6 months in the A&E -- should repeat the posting as punishment ( but of course, none of us wants to be saddled with this person so it's better to let him/her go ).

3. From now on, anyone I catch slacking off during busy shifts will get blasted.

Is it just my opinion, or are our juniors becoming more complacent nowadays?

When I was a house officer, I didn't even dare to bother my MO unless my patient was on the brink of death. I skipped meals and toilet breaks to clerk cases and finish changes. Unlike current trends where MOs are kind enough to help do discharge summaries, summarize old notes, see new admissions on their own and even set plugs.

In my day, I knew of NO-ONE who had the audacity to switch off their pagers / phones while at work.

Imagine my horror when, during an Internal Med posting in 2003, I encountered a few HOs did just that, with one fellow remaining completely uncontactable ( and physically missing from all the usual call rooms ) while covering MICU ( I was the unfortunate MO that night ).

That was the first ( and so far the last ) time I ever yelled at a junior, in addition to lodging formal complaints with his supervisor and the consultant in charge of HO matters.

Don't make me do it again.

On the upside, we received 3 new MOs last week -- 1 HO-turned-MO who's out-of-phase, and 2 who just finished NS. If you're reading, let me just say that you're all excellent, and doing very well despite being so new.

Am hoping to recruit at least one of them as an emergency medicine BST. :)

Not in the best of moods right now, for various reasons. Thought I could catch The Prestige, but couldn't find the time. A colleague from the ward formed erroneous opinions about a case I managed, then refused to hear my side of the story when I gently attempted to explain.

Hello, I had 2 cardio cases to admit -- one of whom went to high dependency; the incident occurred during a shift changeover; I resuscitated the guy, ordered the necessary bloods and x-rays and reviewed them, contacted the relevant specialties, then handed the case to my colleague and informed the nurse in charge. There were 3 senior doctors ( non-A&E ) swarming all over the patient, and I'm told there was "insufficient support"?

Of course I tried to relay all this information across, but alas, I was interrupted within the first few seconds, and decided to give up and give in.

Time to move on. Chris Botti awaits. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's Been A While...

Just gives you an indication of the schedule differences between "the mother ship" and "the other place".

Okay, so there's also the issue of "the pesky firewall".

But still...

So, much has happened these past 2 weeks. Am currently caught between a rock and a few hard places work-wise, with a poster to prepare, a headache-inducing travel itinerary, an hour-long tutorial to deliver, an exit exam to contend with, ASM admin duties to cover.


Anyway, I've discovered that I really suck at time management. TV, books, housework, grocery shopping and marketing always take priority. Not to mention a recent spate of medical appointments ( not mine ). Oh yeah, and an ever increasing share of church commitments.

Still, life remains good -- exhaustion notwithstanding.

Caught up with various friends, including an interesting morning tea chat with someone who provided some juicy news about a certain thorn in my side. Funnily enough, however, I didn't gloat as much as I thought I would ( or should ). I actually felt a little sorry for the person.

But a surgical reg -- who's now a consultant -- once assured me that what goes around comes around. Never imagined it would come true one day. Pretty cool. :)

In other news...

Continuum - by John Mayer

This is the latest CD to make its way into my stereo, and I'm ecstatic about the fact that I've hit a full house with my 4 recent purchases ( the other 3 being Clay Aiken, Peter Grant and Shayne Ward ).

I have 2 of Mayer's earlier releases, but this is definitely his personal best. So far! Who knows what more this amazing talent is capable of in years to come?

And for the record, his looks have no influence on my appreciation of his music. ( Although you have to admit he's one attractive chap. And his stage presence -- hypnotic! )

Just read the reviews on Amazon and you'll know what I mean. Sure, I enjoyed Room For Squares and Heavier Things, but despite his success with hits like Your Body Is A Wonderland, Back To You, Bigger Than My Body and Daughters, my personal favourite had always been the EXCELLENT 83 ( track 7 on Room For Squares ).

With Continuum ( which tellingly omits Mayer's picture from the cover -- a great career move, IMHO ), I guarantee you an entire album of 83's. Yes, it's that good.

Things kick off to an upbeat start with the reggae-influenced Waiting On The World To Change, which features whimsical yet poignant lyrics. For example:

"now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change"

This is followed by the melancholy I Don't Trust Myself ( With Loving You ), and a New Age-y Belief ( do I detect a tinge of Sting in the chorus? ).

Gravity is a lovely slow blues ballad ( picture yourself in a smoky bar with Mayer fronting the small stage ), while The Heart Of Life takes a sweet turn with its homey guitar solos and minimal bass / drum accompaniment.

Other songs worth mentioning are Slow Dancing In A Burning Room ( sizzling hot ), Dreaming With A Broken Heart ( moving ) and I'm Gonna Find Another You.

The latter ( aptly arranged as the last track on the album ) provides a beautiful climax, meshing tender vocals, blues, rock, soul and jazz in a perfect cocktail blend to help listeners wind down after a sumptuous feast.

The melody may sound deceptively simple, but so do many of music history's best-loved classics.

Example of some fine songwriting:

"You might have your reasons but you will never have my rhyme
I'm gonna sing my way away from blue
I'm gonna find another you"

Favourite tracks? I have two.

One's a Jimi Hendrix cover ( and in case you're wondering, I've never heard the original version ), titled Bold As Love.

To be honest, I kinda hated this the first time I heard it, but realized that if I blast it on the player and pay attention to the words, it becomes quite a head rush.
The guitar solos are AWESOME!

Get a load of the lyrics:

"Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted,
They quietly understand
Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready,
But wonder why the fight is on

But they're all bold as love, yes, they're all bold as love
Yeah, they're all bold as love
Just ask the axis

My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war and
Ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring,
But very unsteady for the first go round
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact Im trying to say its frigthened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from, eh,
Giving my life to a rainbow like you

But, I'm , yeah, Im bold as love
Yeah, yeah
Well I'm bold, bold as love (hear me talking, girl)
I'm bold as love
Just ask the axis (he knows everything)
Yeah, yeah, yeah"

Now all you need is some weed and a pipe. Haha. :)

Best Mayer original though, goes hands down to Vultures.

Superb in every way, from the bluesy melody, to the smooth transitions between the lower and higher keys ( Mayer has a gorgeous falsetto ), and those unbelievable lyrics:

"Some of us, we're hardly ever here
The rest of us, we're born to disappear
How do I stop myself from
Being just a number
How will I hold my head
To keep from going under

Down to the wire
I wanted water but
I'll walk through the fire
If this is what it takes
To take me even higher
Then I'll come through
Like I do
When the world keeps
Testing me, testing me, testing me"

There's some Eric Clapton greatness in there. No doubt about it.

Trust me and buy this.

Robbie Williams Rocks!

I don't care what anyone says -- I spotted him as a potential star way back when he was in Take That ( also predicted great things for Justin Timberlake during his NSync days ), and am totally devastated that he's cancelled the rest of his world tour and won't be performing in Singapore as planned.

Still, I got a good dose of him during a 2-hour viewing of his A Close Encounter concert recording ( cable's Starworld - if you missed it, tough! ).

This guy is such a consummate performer I absolutely love him to bits. Brought back a load of terrific memories from his 2001 stopover ( where I screamed myself hoarse, heh heh ).

But the most interesting thing about him is how he clearly sounds so much better 'live', especially with the less popular songs. This is most obvious when he does mildly obscure tracks from Escapology and Intensive Care.

Of course, when he belts those famous anthems ( Angel, Better Man, Rock DJ, Millennium ), that's when everyone ( including this viewer ) gets a major adrenaline rush. :D

He's got a new CD coming out, which I have every intention of getting when I have the opportunity. Titled Rudebox, the music video of Lovelight is already airing on MTV, and Robbie performed the title track during his recent tour.

Both mix disco with hip hop and some soul, with catchy tunes and lyrics not heard since his multi-platinum Sing When You're Winning album.

Robbie's back, even stronger than before.

I can't wait. :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Chris Botti's Coming To Singapore

You know, considering how many times I've been spammed by SISTIC, I'm quite miffed that they failed to highlight this. I mean, why the heck would I give a hoot about concerts for kids, hip-hop contests and what-not?!

THIS, my friends, is one class act.

I have at least 5 of his albums ( maybe more ), and consider him one cool cat.

First learned of him when I discovered Sting ( another hot dude ), and have been a fan ever since.

Known for his pure, mellow sound and a laid back ( though skilfull ) delivery, Botti hit pay dirt with his 2 most recent albums - When I Fall In Love and To Love Again - which feature covers of jazz classics and numerous mesmerizing duets with the likes of Michael Buble, Renee Olstead, Sting, Gladys Knight and Paula Cole.

I can only imagine how magical experiencing Botti 'live' will be.

Doesn't hurt that he's tall, blonde and blue-eyed. :)

Good seats still available, but be prepared to empty your pockets. Don't miss this.

A Few Other Random Musings

[ this bit is being entered at 4:45am during my last night shift at "the other ER" ]

Feeling a pang of nostalgia. Will miss this place, yet am also eager to go home. I hear it's hell back there. Morale a bit shaky. Let's see if I can change that. :)

Cat's at the vet for a short while. Couldn't eat for 3 days and we finally figured out that it might be a gum infection -- some major freaking out after chewing on his biscuits provided the diagnosis. If you haven't seen a cat freak out before, it's quite a sight, believe me.

MOPEX is out. Seems a few of our MOs are staying on, and I don't recognize any of the new names. But then I've been out of the wards for ages so no surprise there. Anyhow, each batch never fails to produce its fair share of star pupils and black sheep. As long as there're more of the former compared to the latter, we're safe.

Can't believe I forgot to mention Prison Break.
Just started airing on local TV a week ago, and I'm hooked. Not because of the plot, which has its moments but is chock-full of gaping loopholes. Not because of all the beefcake characters strutting around ( I prefer men who have some sense of personal grooming and less muscle, thank you ).
IMHO, there's only 1 good reason to watch the show, and this is it.

First, I'm fascinated by his personal history. Funny how he looks distinctly Caucasian despite a mixed lineage. Like Mariah Carey - whose music videos he appeared in. Coincidence?

Second, he's obviously got a brain. Princeton English lit grad, no less.

Third, he's got charisma. And guess what, my mom said it before I did. Astute woman, she is. :)

More specificially, he translates well on-screen. He doesn't do very much, to be honest, but every time he stares ( and he does this a lot ), whether it's out of fear, anger, amusement or introspective contemplation, you can't help but pay attention. This is one actor who never goes over the top, and I find it very refreshing, especially when his calm demeanour only serves to up the tension score.
This week's episode was a fine example, with a few nail-biting scenes involving run-ins with several violent personalities, a fatal stabbing and a blood-curdling toe amputation - sans anaesthesia. Miller's expressions never escalated beyond a barely perceptible flinch or mildly alarmed stare, but boy was I on the edge of my seat.

Kudos also to the terrific supporting cast, who seem to be enjoying their roles thoroughly, especially the scrawny fellow who plays the serial rapist with a young inmate trailing him like a lovesick puppy. Creepy.

Miller's 34, though I initially thought he's in his mid-20s. So now I don't have to feel guilty. Haha.

Another TV appearance I'd like to mention is Chris O'Donnell on Grey's Anatomy. ( Sorry about the campy pics on Wikipedia. You might like to try this link instead. )

Now you have to understand that I've been a fan of his for 12 years now, ever since watching his inspired turn in Scent Of A Woman. I ain't fickle, so I tend to remain eternally loyal to those I admire, unless s/he does something absolutely evil and / or unforgiveable.

Chris O has maintained a blemish-free record thus far, so I'm thrilled to see him wrestle Meredith Grey away from swollen-headed, greedy Derek Shepherd, who can't decide if he prefers his wife or his young intern. Tsk tsk.

By the way, this subplot about cute vets is quite accurate. Have met a couple of those at the hospital where my cat currently resides. But that was years ago and they've since moved on to start their own practices. But yeah, these entities exist, heh heh.

Last but not least, a short review of Shayne Ward's self-titled release, which I've already gone through a few times. ( Track listing on Amazon )

I hate how he's being marketed, with the glossy glam pics and boy-band-y look. Sometimes, winning an idol search alters people's perception of an artiste, rendering him / her somehow less talented.

This is the image projected by SW, no thanks to too much makeup and a cheesy CD cover shot. The songs range from mushy ballads to R&B and epic choir-filled numbers, all very radio-friendly and doing very well on singles and album charts.

However, I still find myself spinning the disc over and over again, for one reason: the voice.

Interesting how I'm savouring 3 different albums which feature 3 very different vocal styles and qualities all at the same time. ( Haven't gotten to John Mayer's Continuum yet -- that should add another spicy ingredient to the mix. ) Like Clay and Peter, Shayne also possesses power and pizazz, performing vocal acrobatics with relaxed ease, transforming mediocre songs into things of beauty.

Good examples include That's My Goal, Stand By Me and Over The Rainbow ( wait for the last part where he does a slow, long scale progression then ends with a glory note -- fantastic! ). Of all the covers, I like Back At One the most, purely because it surpasses the original and resulted in me actually enjoying it ( never really cared for it much in the past ).

I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but if you're thinking of purchasing the album, try to sample it first, or at least have some idea of what he's about ( I got my exposure from MTV - the video for Stand By Me is really good ).

Before I sign off ( and play Book Worm on Yahoo :)), I'd just like to post lyrics from Walk Away -- originally done by Matt Monro and covered by Peter Grant on New Vintage -- and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which has been sung by Roberta Flack, Celine Dion and George Michael.

I'm a late bloomer where jazz is concerned, but with its recent revival in the form of new artistes who hail from younger generations, I realize that my love for the genre isn't solely based on its timeless melodies or wildly diverse styles.
Rather, it's the way emotions are conveyed, with words so simple and subtle yet overwhelmingly intoxicating when used in the right combinations and coupled with a gorgeous melody.
Songs today - with their overt sexual overtures comprising indispensable nouns like "sex", "hump" etc - leave me cold. Give me an oldie anyday.

Walk Away ( excerpts )

Walk away, please go
Before you throw your life away
A life that I could share for just a day
We should have met some years ago
For your sake I say
Walk away, just go.

Walk away, and live
A life that's full
With no regret
Don't look back at me
Just try to forget
Why build a dream that cannot come true
So be strong, reach the stars now
Walk away, walk on.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face ( excerpts )

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies, my love,
To the dark and the empty skies.

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
And felt your heart beat close to mine
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love
That was there at my command.

If you haven't heard either song before, go to That CD Shop, grab Peter Grant's New Vintage and George Michael's Songs From The Last Century, and prepare to be hypnotized.

This was a long entry. Thanks for reading this far and have a good weekend. :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Couple that with air-pumping fists and some boucing on the sofa and that's pretty much how my mom and I reacted when the latest Singapore Idol was unveiled last night.


My mom clocked in 50 votes while I was at work. I'm just glad those 30 bucks didn't go to waste, heh.

Thought Hady turned in 3 spectacular performances Sunday evening. George Michael's Freedom is a huge fave of mine, and he looked cool and sexy doing his thang on stage. His follow-up -- Chaka Khan's Through The Fire -- was heartfelt and vocally gorgeous. Love his glory notes, wooo.

As for the official Idol single, You Give Me Wings, the song itself kinda sucks ( cheesy title and lyrics, so-so melody ), and Jonathan Leong didn't do well with it at all. But when Hady took his turn ( whether he was smart enough to sing it last is anyone's guess ), his rendition was obviously 10 times better than Jon's.

I was moved. Honestly.

My mom turned to me after he finished and said we should vote 50 times. Didn't actually think she'd do it, but I'm glad she did.

Music Review: Peter Grant's Debut Album

Man oh man, I absolutely LOVE this CD.

Sorry, Clay Aiken fans -- I have the highest regard for Clay but his latest effort, though enjoyable, doesn't hit me the way Peter Grant's does.

Anyone who loves jazz -- especially if you're a fan of crooners like Michael Buble -- and appreciates young talent, should most definitely buy this. Today. Now. Stat!

Hearing it on a plane is nothing compared to blasting it in the car or on the home stereo or Discman. I already know he can sing, but now that his voice is crystal clear, without a pesky jet engine vibrating nearby, the effect takes my breath away.

Used to do track-by-tracks for albums I'm crazy about, but age is catching up with me, and am also quite time-constrained, so I'll just do an overview.

Things to note:

1. Peter has a BEAUTIFUL voice. Stops-you-in-your-tracks beautiful. Slows-your-heart-rate-and-lowers-your-blood-pressure beautiful. Makes-the-whole-world-look-rosy beautiful. I kid you not.

Sounds like a cross between Robbie Williams and Michael Buble. Only he's much much younger but equally or perhaps even more polished.

Haven't heard anything quite this exquisite since first experiencing Michael Buble at Great World City's That CD Shop. That was in 2003.

The first song, Joanna, is a wonderful example of just what Peter's capable of. Starts off mellow, but quickly escalates to full-throated belting, with goosebump-inducing high notes and a rich tenor vibrato.

He's only 18, but sounds much older. The quality of his vocals hints at formal training, but I might be wrong. In any case, he's a force to be reckoned with.

2. GREAT GREAT GREAT tracks to play over and over again if you're inclined:

- Joanna
- Walk Away
- On Days Like These
- Didn't We

--> all highlight Peter's astounding vocal ability. Very romantic and angsty. Nice orchestral arrangement which further enhances the overall effect.

- Spooky
- Girl From Ipanema

--> these have a palpably sexier feel. Vocals are significantly huskier, with a couple of growly bits thrown in. I know Peter's young, but I still get pretty worked up by his deliveries. ( Yes, he's that good. )

- Best Is Yet To Come
- I Saw Her Standing There

--> Big band swing extravaganzas. Glorious!

- The More I See You

--> currently my personal favourite, and repeated to death on my stereo. Michael Buble did a big band cover, but Peter's uptempo cha-cha ( sounds like MB's Save The Last Dance For Me, if you're wondering ) is fun and infectiously happy, yet never falters in vocal quality. Fabulous.

Looks-wise, he's still very much a geeky teen. Not drop-dead gorgeous like Peter Cincotti, but it's too early to tell so give him time to build up a fanbase and develop his musical abilities further.

I personally think he's got a successful and long career ahead of him.

Highly recommended. Please buy it.

Tokyo Redux

This, by the way, is the title of a chapter in Anthony Bourdain's insanely entertaining A Cook's Tour, which I'm slowly savouring as a daily breakfast ritual. ( No free time for reading otherwise, but I've finished quite a few novels this way in the past, so it works for me. )

Have paid up my registration fee and confirmed my plane tickets. Just got bombarded by an MO in my department, offering numerous suggestions on must-not-miss activities.

That, plus another friend's gushy email, and Bourdain's effusive writing, and I'm practically raring to go.

Just hope the weather isn't too cold / wet / windy. And no typhoons please.

Think I'm going to really enjoy this trip. :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ah, Life

I'm just wondering where I'm going to find the time to complete every single task on my ever-lengthening list.

Someone please clone me.

Still, the Tokyo trip is confirmed, and a friend who's a connoiseur of all things Japanese has been emailing me tips on what to do while I'm there. Sounds good. :)

But have to study for exit. Argh.

CD Review: Clay Aiken's A Thousand Different Ways

It's been a while since I last blogged about one of my favourite singers, but his new album is REALLY GOOD, and since I have a few minutes, here's a quick rundown.

14 tracks in total -- 10 covers and 4 original songs.

Not doing a track-by track this time. May end up repeating myself since most of them are terrific. Will just highlight a few points.


Overall, the selection comprises profoundly tough pieces requiring powerful vocals and strong delivery. Many were first recorded by veritable superstars so you'd better have loads of self-confidence and ability before even contemplating a cover.

Clay picked quite a few whoppers -- Without You ( first done by Air Supply, later re-recorded by Mariah Carey ), When I See You Smile ( Bad English ), Everything I Do ( I Do It For You ) ( Bryan Adams ), I Want To Know What Love Is ( Foreigner ), and Broken Wings ( Mr. Mister ).

I grew up listening to these songs on the radio, and have a few of the albums too. So yeah, I'm familiar with the material.

Do Clay's interpretations do them justice? Most of them do, but a couple don't.

Great covers include Without You ( super-duper glory notes ), Broken Wings ( Clay makes quite a convincing rocker, and the new-agey feel is pretty cool ), Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word ( different from Elton John and Richard Marx's versions but equally good ), Every Time You Go Away ( Hall & Oates ) and Right Here Waiting ( slightly faster rock tempo ).

Okay covers: When I See You Smile, Because You Loved Me ( Celine Dion ).

Not my cup of tea: Everything I Do ( I Do It For You ) -- the violins get on my nerves, and think the key should've been a few notches lower.


Lonely No More was co-written by Clay. Another rock ballad type of song. Growing on me slowly.

A Thousand Days is probably the least favourite of mine where originals are concerned. Melody isn't that strong.

Everything I Have is quite good. One of the few quiet, slow love ballads on the disc, reminiscent of Measure Of A Man from his debut album in 2003. A tad mushy, of course, but I prefer to just sit back and enjoy Clay's beautiful voice, which shines brightly thanks to minimal accompaniment.

These Open Arms, IMHO, is the best of the lot. Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child, no less! Once Clay hits the chorus, the goosebumps start popping up. This is definitely a rock anthem, and the vocals soar to the high heavens. Pity they couldn't drag it out a minute longer. The whole thing lasts less than 3.5 minutes, which is way too short.


Will this win any music awards? Certainly not. Because the industry loathes covers, thinks Clay is a wimp, and tends to favour hip hop / R&B / rap artistes.

However, I feel that he's matured musically over the years, and displays undeniable talent ( and guts! ). I love his song choices ( notice how many hail from the '80s and '90s ) and the interpretations are marvelous.

The album may have benefited from more originals, but I'm certain he'll release another CD sometime in the near future, so hope this happens next time round.

His new look? I like it. Not many pictures in the CD sleeve, but it doesn't matter to me since I care mostly about his music and had my fill visually during American Idol season 2.

Will Sony BMG PLEASE bring him to Singapore for a concert already!?!?!

P.S. Young British jazz sensation Peter Grant's album is available in stores. After months of fruitless searching, I found it at -- big surprise -- a Sembawang Music outlet blasting Canto-pop at a shopping mall. Mighty interesting.
Haven't popped it into the player yet -- spinning Clay's disc right now. Review will follow at a later date.

Preventive Measure

This fellow's talent for sucking up knows no bounds.

I guess some people never change.

Recently learned of his exploits at an AST course, during which he made a beeline for a certain well-known personality in the local medical circle.

The well-known personality related this during a closed-door meeting a few days ago, oblivious to my connection to the person.

A suggestion was made, to my immense horror.

A member of the administrative panel who was present, and who's privy to my connection, tossed concerned looks at me from across the table.

On the way home, we discussed my options. It was clear that I should say something.

So I dropped my esteemed colleague a late night email, and received a response the very next morning.

Suffice to say, someone's efforts at impressing have come to naught.

Also doesn't help when someone's sibling has a rather unsavoury track record.

Thank you for believing me and taking my side.

Return Of The Native

And just like that, 2 months have flown by in a flash.

Am due to return to the mother ship in a week, and to be honest, I'm extremely homesick.

Granted, I was frustrated, cranky and exhausted over there. But we're essentially in the same boat and share frequent laughs over the hopelessness of it all.

I've enjoyed my time here. The people are nice, the working environment pleasant, the training programmes laudable.

But I'm eager to fly back to the nest. Hang out with the gang and gossip, pig out in the pantry and catch snippets of CNN and HBO when the situation allows, trade punches with the surgeons and cardiologists who've been so wonderfully accomodating.

Stress ulcers, tension headaches and varicose veins? Bring 'em on. I'm ready. :)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Keep 'Em Coming

Have received a few emails to the Google address ( ). Thanks for the feedback! Hope to hear from more of you in the future.

Trip #2

Tokyo, to be exact. It's my first overseas medical conference, and just received notification that my abstract submission has been accepted.

Which leaves about a month to organize the presentation from scratch, yikes.

On top of studying for the exit, arranging tutorials in between crazy shifts, revamping our MO training programme, teaching ACLS, helping with an upcoming Annual Scientific Meeting, writing / editing for the SMA News ( frantically fending off writer's block after finally coming out of a major slump ), attending multiple committee meetings, fulfilling church duties, spending time with family and friends, finding opportunities to relax with my swimming, novels and TV shows AND finish my household chores.


I guess it's always easier to do this in stages instead of going cold turkey. First, cut down on TV consumption ( have sworn off Lost, Criminal Minds, Commander In Chief, Desperate Housewives ). However, I've also become hooked on Entourage, Inside The Actors Studio and The Office. Upcoming new series Prison Break and the next season of The Amazing Race do not bode well for my post-dinner schedule either. ARGH!

No cinema-going until I exit -- that's one resolution I'm finding suprisingly easy to adhere to.
But I also have a fistful of free DVD rental vouchers to redeem from Video Ezy. Need to catch up with Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Miami Vice, Nacho Libre, The Host, etc.

The one thing I won't compromise on, though, is time spent with family and friends.

Just went to the zoo a week ago with my cousin's wife and 2 beautiful girls, aged 10 and 6. Had an absolute blast! It's been 5 long years since my last foray to the place but my favourites -- the polar bear and penguins -- have remained the same.
However, this outing was significantly more enjoyable, because I got to share it with the 6-year-old, who couldn't remember squat from a zoo visit when she was 2, and was essentially seeing everything for the very first time. We camped out at the polar bear enclosure for close to a half hour, plastering our faces to the glass window so we could watch him dive to the surface again and again. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I highly recommend that you haul yourself down and take a look for yourself. An article in the paper appeared the day after, reporting on high stress levels in the bears. Our zoo may not be allowed to import any more Arctic creatures from now on, so don't miss this chance ( unless you'd rather visit zoos overseas ).

Another attraction you shouldn't miss is the Fragile Forest, which didn't even exist 5 years ago. The map is deceptively vague, offering only descriptions of its inhabitants when, in fact, visitors can get swamped by 4 extremely friendly and inquisitive lemurs all at once!
Imagine our delight when we were greeted by these gorgeous creatures, which bounded up from behind then leapt onto the railings we were leaning on, allowing us to pet and feed them, even striking poses for the cameras! I've seen lemurs loads of times on nature programmes on cable, but getting up close like this was truly awesome. ( These animals apparently don't smell, even though I fully expected them to. They do, however, pee at will, so beware! )

We've got a Night Safari trip planned this December. Recently discovered that it's only 20 minutes by car from my home. Excellent. :)

If you're wondering if this is yet another night shift, you're absolutely right. Quiet so far. Hope nothing happens for the next 3 hours.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Drum Roll...

Congratulations Hady and Jonathan!

Is this an eerie duplication of the last Singapore Idol finals or what? I.e. 2 guys, one Malay, one Chinese, even the same hairstyles...

I've always betted on these two since the beginning.

And I say Hady will win.

His rendition of Desperado was very moving. Love his voice. Love his stage presence. Love his taste in music.

p.s. Yes, I decided to vote. Started last week in fact. My mom pushed me into it. Says she'll split the phone bill with me, haha. :)

October Theme Issue

It's gonna be a whopper, and just read an article submission which will blow your brains out.

Stay tuned...

Music News

September 18th -- Clay Aiken's highly anticipated new album will be in local stores a day before its release in the US. Mark your calendars!

Other CDs I need to get my hands on:

John Mayer's Continuum -- when are they going to bring him in for a concert already?!

Shayne Ward's self-titled effort -- typical boy-band look and sound, but he definitely has a voice. Stand By Me is fantastic.

Lots of work to plough through. Till next time.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

4 Cool Cats Posted by Picasa

Doncha Wish Your Boyfriend Was HOT Like Me?  Posted by Picasa

Mark Posted by Picasa

Nicky - aka Irish PM's Son-In-Law Posted by Picasa

Here's Shane Posted by Picasa

Saving The Best For Last - Kian ( sigh :)) Posted by Picasa
A Great Show! Review of Westlife's Concert 8th September 2006 - Singapore Indoor Stadium

This entry comes a little late ( considering my propensity to blog immediately after concerts ), but I make it a point to stick to the "gold standard", i.e. at least post a review before the papers do, 'cos I get no kick from reading those ( too short, a tad critical, with only 1 mediocre photo caption ).

So here's my version, but NOT recommended for non-Westlife fans, so proceed at your own peril.


Lead singer Shane Filan said it himself: It's been 5 years since their last visit to Singapore.

But they're thrilled to be back, and judging from their delighted laughs and grins upon being greeted by wild squeals from a capacity audience ( estimated 6,000-plus ), these Irish lads still have "it". LOADS of it. :)

The show started at 8:30pm, with their trademark piece Flying Without Wings ( which American Idol Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard covered during the finals ). Dressed in white outfits, the guys were lean and stylish, delivering pitch-perfect vocals and polished choreography with relaxed ease.

For the next hour, the hits came fast and furious, ranging from more recent songs ( Hit You With The Real Thing, Colour Your World, Amazing, She's Back, You Raise Me Up - from their latest Face To Face album ), to older fare ( perennial faves Swear It Again, Mandy, Seasons In The Sun, Queen Of My Heart, When You're Looking Like That, Hey Whatever, Uptown Girl ).

From the word go, people were up on their feet, screaming and cheering their hearts out. Those in the first few rows stormed the barricades and had to be told repeatedly to return to their seats. However, those with first-row tickets were allowed to stand in prime spots just 6 feet from the stage, with unobstructed views for superb photo-taking opportunities.

And I was one of them, baby! ( Hence these be-ooo-tiful shots I've uploaded for your viewing pleasure. :))

Highlights Of The Evening

1. Uptown Girl

In contrast to the fast pop version we're used to, the boys did a cool swing cover last night, complete with top hats, tailcoats and canes.

2. Billie Jean

Believe it or not, Westlife channeled MJ quite competently during this surprisingly good bit. If you think it's cheesy, you're obviously not a fan, so TOUGH!

3. The Hip Hop Medley

The good thing about the lads having aged 5 years is how they've matured and become lots more comfortable in their own skin. Sure, they've always been accomplished performers, but even when they did medleys in the past, they involved "safe" material like oldies and famous pop songs, etc.

But last night -- wooohoooo -- they did ( take a deep breath ) THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS' DONCHA, ROBERT PALMER'S ADDICTED TO LOVE ( which you may have heard Jonathan Leong cover during this week's Singapore Idol ), and JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE'S SENORITA.

And they were EXCELLENT! Even I didn't see that coming!

The dancing was top-notch, the singing very credible, the energy pumping.

And boy are they sexy *fanning myself as I write this* :D

4. Up Close And Personal - Part 1

Standing so close to the stage afforded great opportunities for observing their body language. By all accounts, it was evident that the guys were having tonnes of fun up there, and demonstrated lots of enthusiasm with their antics. They came right up to the edge, gamely waving at us and bestowing gorgeous smiles as we aimed our cameras. They put everything they had into those dance moves, even head-banging and hip-thrusting at one point ( mostly handled by lone single heterosexual Kian ). They hardly broke a sweat, effortlessly singing ballads with nary an audible pant even after just finishing an aerobic workout during the previous number.

And they clearly had the crowd eating out of their hands, from directing the microphones our way during Senorita and Swear It Again, to getting the entire stadium to yell their lungs out during a deafening competition between "those in the back" and "those in front" ( I personally think those in front won :)).

Friendliest of the lot? Hands down - Kian. He couldn't stop laughing and grinning throughout the whole concert, and posed for our pictures the most times.

Crowd favourite? Without a doubt - Shane. This was most obvious on numbers where each guy took turns to sing. Each time Shane took the mike, everyone roared. Even now, he still gets flustered by the adulation. Awwww.... :)

Least friendly? I would say Mark. But it's hard to tell, 'cos he also appeared tired, so maybe he wasn't feeling well to begin with. Still, he's improved significantly since their first gig here about 7 years ago, when he kept going off-key during his solos and made my hair stand on end. He used to be my personal fave, but now that he's revealed he's gay, I've switched to Kian.

Most pleasant surprise? Nicky, of course. Considering his ties to the Irish PM, plus all the fame and fortune Westlife's accumulated over the years, I would've expected him to be a little arrogant or standoffish, but he couldn't be nicer. ( More on this in Part 2 below. )

5. Up Close And Personal - Part 2

Due to a very last-minute twist of fate, my mum and I were granted backstage access to a meet-and-greet with the lads.

But don't get too excited! There were approximately 50 fans in total, and we entered in batches of 10, with only 5 minutes spent in the room before being politely ushered out.

Definitely felt like a factory processing plant, but I understood the time constraints involved, and was already immensely thankful for the chance despite not having won any contests or any insider pals to pester. ( The lady who got us in is a complete stranger, and the Brit who came to fetch us at the entrance - think he's part of Westlife's entourage - was an absolute dear. :))

So what do I recall of the event? The very first person I saw as we entered was Kian. Already prepped for the concert, he had some makeup on and was dressed in a white jacket and pants.

I distinctly caught my breath at the sight. Kian can be described, in a word, as an ADONIS. He is just SOOOO BLONDE, and SOOOO FAIR, and ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLY CAN-DIE-AH GORGEOUS.

Even my mum was taken aback -- Kian's her favourite and she KNOWS he's good-looking, but she wasn't prepared for what she saw in the flesh, up close!

We were at the tail end of the line of 10, and seated at a huge ellipitical table were ( from left to right ) Kian, Nicky, Shane and Mark.

Official photographers stood at the door, while a few other minders lingered on both sides.

We were asked to stand behind the guys for a group shot. My mum and I were both right behind Kian, which we loved, haha. :)
As we positioned ourselves, Nicky ( who, by the way, is married to the Irish Prime Minister's daughter ) leaned back in his swivel chair and turned his head left and right to smile and look at each of us. Thought that was a very nice gesture.

After the picture was taken, Kian turned and said, "If you've got stuff for us to sign, put them over here." So being closest to him, I stepped forward and passed him my items ( 2 CD sleeves ).

I wasn't even certain if there was any time for a short conversation, so I just left it at that and moved over to Mark's side to collect the autographs once they were done. As I took them from Mark, I smiled and whispered "thank you", to which he returned with a smile.

Just before I left the room, I asked if I could take a photo of the fellows and was granted permission.

But I won't be posting that on the blog. Private property, and I feel a bit possessive about it! :)

Enjoy the pictures!