Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's A Kind Of Magic

It's been an exciting week. :) And it's only Thursday!

Patrizio Buanne's concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, 22nd February 2006

As you know, I adore this fellow. Not as much as I love Clay Aiken, Michael Buble and all the jazz guys, but considering how few of these "semi-operatic" albums I gravitate to ( didn't enjoy Il Divo at all, but I suspect they're a lot better 'live' ), Patrizio ranks right up there in this particular genre.

Just 6 months after his last visit here for a lovely showcase, he's back for a full performance, with an impressively large orchestra and a wide repertoire comprising favourites as well as new material.

After a rather lengthy opening speech by Gold 90FM DJ Brian Richmond ( who may have been buying time for a ??tardy Patrizio ), things finally got off to a 15-minute late start. Following an instrumental version of Il Mondo, the tall, dark and handsome Italian strolled out to belt Man Without Love in pitch-perfect vocals.

Let me just congratulate the sound team from last night. I sat right behind the console but hunkered down a little so their lights wouldn't bother me, but kudos to them for an unbelievably fantastic job. I've attended loads of concerts at this venue, but yesterday's acoustics were absolutely beautiful. Patrizio's voice blended seamlessly with the orchestra without ever being drowned out. It was so crystal clear I could pick out every single lyric. Except for one second of mild feedback whining, the whole thing was perfect.

As for the man himself, ahhh, words fail me. Nah, of course I'm kidding. :)

Clad in an outfit which looks identical to what he wore during his Singapore stopover, Patrizio has remained just as slim, and just as charming. Initially a tad bowled over by the gorgeous interior of the hall ( and I quote, "Wow" ), he quickly warmed up to the appreciative audience, launching into a string of crowd-pleasers like Come Prima, On An Evening In Roma, Parla Piu Piano, Il Mondo and Che Sara.

With the odd improvisation and spine-tingling glory note, plus some sexy Latin dance moves ( check out that unexpected spin! ), he was definitely on a major high, even "accidentally" leaking the location of his hotel in case anyone was interested in a post-show party, heh. :)

New material included his cover of Dean Martin's That's Amore, which starts of in the usual slow-waltz style, then snaps into a toe-tapping swing with a big band riff. ( Yow! ) Then there's his goosebump-inducing impersonation of Elvis Presley on It's Now Or Never ( preceded by O Sole Mio, on which the Elvis tune is based ). And get this, Patrizio plays the guitar like a pro! I did not expect him to whip it out and strum the strings with such skill. And he sounds EXACTLY like the late King of Rock 'N Roll. I kid you not. My mom, who's always been a huge fan of Elvis, couldn't stop beaming. And for just a few minutes, the entire concert hall was filled with a voice that did the King 100% justice.

Patrizio also sang Quando Quando Quando ( recently done by Michael Buble and Nelly Furtado ), and later proffered another new piece from his next album ( due in August ) -- a soothing Napolitan song which will no doubt be a big hit.

However, the evening wouldn't have been the success it was without his effusive personality. Rest assured that Patrizio is the same whether on stage in front of thousands, or with a small group of people in a nondescript room. I still remember how he kept talking to my mom and I about Italy when we met him last August, and so he did yesterday, even giving the reason that "I'm Italian so I like to talk a lot". He also did a "Michael Buble" -- ie. literally jumping off-stage ( no stairs provided ) to walk up to the back of the hall to shake hands and pose for pictures, but only after stating strictly that "no touching allowed" ( to pacify the security staff ). He came right up to the row we were sitting in, but we were somewhere in the centre, so I didn't manage to squeeze out to the aisle to say hello. But he did perch himself on the ?wall ?barrier just in front of us, and leaned in to shake hands with the sound guy, so I got a good look at him. No photos, sadly, 'cos the lighting people lacked the sense to switch the lamps on during Patrizio's little walk. A Caucasian guy behind me shouted, "Turn the lights on!" but to no avail.

As per Italiano tradition, he kissed a few women's hands, distributed roses and thanked audience members in Mandarin, Malay, Italian and French. But a young Westerner in the front row ALMOST stole the show from right under his feet when he did a very competent chorus of Il Mondo ( woohoo! ). Even funnier still was how, when Patrizio attempted to take the mike back, this dude ( who looks like he's in his 30s ) hung onto it for dear life, resulting in a tug-of-war which was hilarious. :D

Despite expressing a public appeal to the organizers to let him do a post-show autograph session, it didn't happen, and many crestfallen fans left empty-handed. Even contacts within the recording company couldn't get around the situation when I asked if a friend's friends had any chance of getting signatures.

So I'm grateful for the privilege last year. And I wish Patrizio great success for many years to come. :)

American Idol 5 -- The Best So Far

Ever since Clay Aiken bowled everyone over in Season 2, I've been pretty bored by the likes of Fantasia, Carrie and Bo. Constantine Maroulis was very promising, but ( at least according to rumour ) got himself booted off when his band decided to release their album to cash in on their ex-lead singer's fame.

This year, though, is proving to be a smorgasbord of talent.

Here's a complete list of the last 24 standing.

I will admit that I'm usually partial to male singers, but last night's list of gals was more than delectable. My top picks include:

1. Ayla Brown -- this 17-year-old high school basketball star who secured a college sports scholarship is gorgeous, mature, humble and boasts a US Senator for a father. She's got a strong, rich tone and admirable voice control, knocking Christina Aguilera's Reflection miles out of the stadium.

2. Katharine McPhee -- another very beautiful young lady, whose mother is a vocal teacher. This girl has so much charisma and the camera just loves her. With translucent, flawless complexion, a winsome smile, and loads of showmanship, she had the chops to cover a Barbra Streisand piece and do it really, REALLY well. Wow.

3. Paris Bennett -- only 17 and already a pro. After causing jaws to drop with her Billie Holiday impressions, she went ahead with Gladys Knight's Midnight Train To Georgia and infused it with a mixture of awesome vocals and disarmingly youthful energy and charm. Whether she makes it to the final 3 or not, she's got a successful career waiting for her.

And now, for the lovely, lovely guys. :)

1. Ace Young -- he sang I'm In The Mood For Love during his 1st audition, and two of my most vivid memories are (1) his honey-smooth voice, and (2) those bedroom eyes. Hey, I have hormones too. :)

Through the weeks, he's proven that he's much more than just a pretty face, and demonstrated savviness in his song choice last night ( George Michael's Father Figure, which is a classic, and guaranteed to raise anyone's temperature -- unless you're a zombie ). Simon Cowell praised him for it, and another nice memory I've got stored away is (3) his beautiful hands, with those long, tapering fingers. Watch him closely and you'll know what I mean. :)

Million-dollar smile filled with sincerity and just a tinge of bashfulness. All the judges agree he's got "the X factor", and boy does he have tonnes and tonnes of it. He can just stand there and ooze sex appeal. He may very well win this competition.

2. Taylor Hicks -- lest you think I only root for the handsome ones, here's something to prove you wrong! When I watched him at the Las Vegas audition, I literally got goosebumps. This didn't happen with Ace, believe it or not, but it certainly did with Taylor. Much of it is about the voice, but it's also about the personality and the passion. I've loved music all my life ( a fact my ex never discovered, or at least didn't bother to ), and one of the things I now absolutely insist on in any guy I spend time with is that he feels as deeply about it as much as I do. It can be about anything from classical to rock to pop to jazz to R&B to alternative, but ultimately, truly great music is all about how it affects you.

And Taylor affects me in a BIG, BIG way.

He's effortless with the singing, so it's his unique style that captures the senses. He did Sam Cooke and Ray Charles in Las Vegas. Last night, it was Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was a song I wasn't familiar with, but it was technically gospel, and he did an amazing job which Simon complimented simply but significantly.

I can't WAIT to hear what he sings next week.

3. Will Makar -- aka William Makar, aka "Seth" ( the nickname my mom and I picked for him, 'cos he strongly resembles Adam Brody, who plays a character named Seth on "The O.C." ). Whenever he appears on TV, I just can't stop saying how adorable he is. It gets really bad to the point where my mom has to tell me to shut up. But it's true -- he IS adorable, yet immensely talented at the same time.

Boasting a boyish yet powerful voice that can soar on pieces like Bridge Over Troubled Water, he delivered a high-energy, pitch-perfect performance of a Jackson 5 favourite. Mixed reviews from the AI judges, but I'm confident he'll make it to at least the final 12 of the whole lot.

4. Kevin Covais -- the baby of the group who could give Josh Groban a huge run for his money. I sometimes find it so mind-boggling how certain individuals are blessed with the most amazing pipes, a few of which are so unexpected, with Kevin as a prime example. This little boy has a heart-melting tenor vibrato and almost never goes off key, no matter how tough the song. Undeniably the most well-loved in the entire gang, he's also a big favourite with the judges, who sang his praises and encouraged him to work harder to loosen up and show off his personality more.

This guy picked Brian McKnight's One Last Cry for his television debut. You gotta give him bonus points for that!

5. Patrick Hall -- another of my hot favs. Not much footage of him in the earlier stages, but his rendition of Bread's If during Hollywood Week had all the makings of a star. Not conventionally handsome and still a tad stiff on-stage, but give him a power ballad and you'll see the magic unfold. If I could vote, I'd make the call.

6. David Radford -- I rooted for him early on because of his strong jazz foundation, but he's got some work to do if he intends to stay in the running. Rather hyper-excitable during his performance of Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but this guy can be trained, and it'll be interesting to see just how much he can develop himself as the weeks wear on. If nothing else, he's a very good-looking fellow. Who knows, he may take John Stevens' path if he makes an early departure, so it's still a win-win situation.

No medical discussions today. Instead, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that:

1. CSI ( Las Vegas ) is back on cable. Season 6 airs every Wednesday night at 10pm on AXN Channel 19, with repeats later in the week. Eric Szmanda ( who plays Greg Sanders ) has a new haircut. Yeah, that's my little tidbit for ya. :)

2. Numb3rs Season 1 is having a full re-run daily at 7pm on the same channel. Pilot episode aired last night, so don't miss any more of this terrific series. I'm going to run out of videotape very soon.

Time for a little night reading ( ie Atul Gawande's Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science ), then off to bed.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Life's just a continuous line of hurdles. Another one down, 10 million more to go.

March is going to be hell.

To everyone who's emailed but received no reply as yet, I humbly beg for your forgiveness. Seems you all asked a few common questions, so:

1. I will be tied up indefinitely. No chance of a dinner, drinks or toilet break.

2. I can't find the time to watch Brokeback Mountain, but thanks for the invite.

3. I'd love to hear more about the Mayo Clinic. Next coherent email, I promise.

4. Great job on the latest SEMS newsletter.

In Other News

Decided to put the US trip on hold. Need a proper holiday break. And soon. Thus, a switch to tour Switzerland, Bavaria and Austria this July. Looking forward to Mozart's 250th anniversary celebrations. :)

Another ST headline worth laughing over: the day the feature titled "Bed shortage problem solved" came out, one A&E closed and informed us there were FORTY patients waiting for beds, so we couldn't transfer their old cases back ( ie. ambulances diverted so these landed on our doorstep ). A certain super-bug which made the news early 2005 has also recently hit another hospital ( not that the ST has even mentioned it, hmm ), which makes for some pretty interesting scenarios.

So please, don't believe everything you read, ok?

Reasons ERs Always Lose Money

1. MOs LOVE to order blood tests.

I wasn't in a good mood yesterday. When an MO came up to ask me about an abnormal blood result, I learnt that the test was done "because the patient is old". Presented with a complaint of knee pain, later diagnosed as osteoarthritis, so the bloods were clearly not warranted. The MO in question is a very nice chap, but after 3 months in our department, I had to tell him off.

Same goes for x-rays. Senior ER physicians review all abnormal radiological reports, so I've come across quite a few doozies -- patients ( especially those involved in road traffic accidents ) who get zapped from head to toe for the slightest pain, EVEN if there're no deformity, EVEN if there's full range of motion, sometimes EVEN when there's no definite trauma. The x-rays cost $300, the patient gets discharged, and pays a measly $80 for the whole consult. So the radiology department earns big bucks, the A&E foots the bill and gets interrogated on why it exceeded the department budget, while the MOs get away scot-free.

2. Patients LOVE to get poked and irradiated.

Earlier this week, I saw a fellow with a well-known history of atypical chest pain. Followed up at the National Heart Centre because he has hypertension and regular complaints of chest discomfort, but stress testing always came up negative, and the cardiologist didn't think an angiogram was indicated.

So he comes in yet again for "tightness in my chest". Completely atypical variety, ECG pristine, but I decide to put him on our chest pain protocol for good measure. Since he's been in and out of our ER many times, I only take Trop T levels and forgo the usual FBC, renal panel, CXR set.

"Aren't you going to x-ray me?" he asks, sounding a bit miffed.

"Err, no. I don't think you need one," I reply.

"What?! But I ALWAYS get a chest x-ray each time I come here!"

"I know. But the x-rays were ALL reported as NORMAL."

"So you're really NOT going to x-ray me?" ( starting to sound fed up )

"That's right."

"Well, I WANT an x-ray."

"Well, I'M the doctor, and I'M not going to order one, because you DON'T NEED IT."

We stare at each other. He is NOT pleased.


The thing I've noticed about Singaporeans is how they expect a definitive diagnosis during the very first consult with a doctor. If you explain that you're not sure and need to investigate further, they then assume that any blood test or x-ray or scan will miraculously yield the answer they've been searching for. If you tell them the results are normal and refer them to a specialist clinic, they start to freak out. "Huh? You mean you don't know what's going on? I thought the blood test / x-ray / scan will reveal everything!"

On a few occasions, I decided to ask where they got such an idea from. The answer: their polyclinic or family doctors.

I'm not pointing fingers here. These are truths based on actual interviews.

"My GP / OPS doctor told me the hospital can do a lot of blood tests to find out what I have."

"My GP / OPS doctor said I can come here for a FULL-BODY CHECKUP. TODAY."

"My GP / OPS doctor assures me I can have an OGD / colonoscopy / MRI - heck even brain surgery - TODAY."

It's bad enough we have to entertain loads of frivolous referrals to the ER on a daily basis ( e.g. a patient with Bell's palsy sent to us for "??Bell's palsy", a potassium level of 5.1 with normal creatinine and a history of ACE-inhibitor ingestion, a haemoglobin level of 13, "floaters x 10 years", "itchy throat", "itchy ears", etc ). It's worse when we have to bring these patients back down to earth and explain that our specialist clinics' appointment slots are filled to the brim and no, they can't be seen by a specialist that very day because what they have isn't urgent.

Sometimes, when I get realled ticked off by a particular referrer's stupidity, I just tell the patient point-blank that the referring doctor shouldn't have sent him/her to the ER because there wasn't any need to. And I don't bother to defend the physician when the patient becomes furious. I cover up mistakes most of the time, but if the referral clogs up our queue and demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of basic management, I think it's only fair that the responsible party is highlighted.

Anyway, I'm getting really tired and want to take a walk in the nearby park, so I'm gonna stop here. No idea when my next entry will be so drop by the other links to get your usual dose of angst, haha. :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Short

Rather time-challenged, but figured I'd post something while I'm logged on doing work of some sort.

Jamie Cullum Live In Singapore

If you haven't bought tickets yet, shame on you. ;)

He's THE jazz performer to catch. Yes, Michael Buble's terrific, and Peter Cincotti is gorgeous to watch, but Jamie has unbelievable energy, and never fails to blow my mind with his on-stage genius. I've watched his performances at various televised events like a Ray Charles tribute, the Swarovski Fashion Rocks concert, and the DVD special of his Blenheim show. However, in person, this dude is electrifying.

Don't forget how he turned a simple showcase in Singapore in 2004 into an impromptu 90-min full-throttle extravaganza, despite the small venue and free tickets ( handed out to industry execs and contest winners ). I thought he went the extra mile with that effort, and can't possibly imagine what's in store at the Singapore Expo come April.

Will I be meeting him in person? Umm, yes, actually that's been arranged. Heh heh. :)

American Idol 5 - The Hot Picks

Patrick Hall -- a skinny 27-year-old who sang "If" during the next round of auditions in Hollywood. Beautiful voice!

Kevin Corvais -- 17-year-old bespectacled nerd, but with pipes that exceed Josh Groban's. Wow, wow, wow.

Taylor Hicks -- prematurely grey-haired 29-year-old from Alabama who gave me goosebumps when he auditioned in Las Vegas, singing Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come, followed by a dead-on ( pun unintended ) impersonation of Ray Charles. In Hollywood, he wowed the judges yet again with his powerful, unique tone. Lots of stage presence too. Even Simon Cowell couldn't help smiling.

Katharine McPhee -- lovely brunette with an equally mesmerizing voice. She has amazing lung power, with an ability to sing multiple verses without taking a breath, plus hitting all the high notes effortlessly. Most impressive.

The Buried Secret Of M. Night Shyamalan

If you have cable, please check your HBO listings for the next repeat telecast.

I found out AFTER catching the movie that reviews were absolutely dismal across the board, but I dunno, I really loved this film, still do, and would be happy to put it right up there with my personal Top 5 favourites.

It's probably best that I don't reveal too much -- spoilers ++ -- but hey, I'd love to discuss its merits and de-merits with anyone who's interested, so post a comment if you've seen it.

I will say this though -- I found it compelling, hilarious and downright spine-chilling at times. That, in itself, has got to count for some excellent film-making, don't you think?

Strange Email

Someone asked me to submit an application for upcoming auditions for a horror film being shot locally. It's called Stay & Die ( catchy ). Yeah, like I'm interested. The title needs reworking.

More ER Issues

To follow in the next post. Frustrating beyond frustrating.

Straits Times Boo-Boo

Been meaning to write about this, but forgot ( that's how much attention I pay to the paper, haha ).

Anybody recall a piece they did about TTSH's "first in the region" handphone system for all its doctors? They made a huge thing about it being a pilot effort, how no other hospital does it, etc.

Erm, do any of the reporters realize Singhealth did the same thing at least 6 months ago?

Tsk tsk.

I guess this is what happens when the reporters have no friends in the Eastern cluster. Heh heh heh.

Last But Not Least

I finally ordered something from Amazon, hah!

Got a cool Chris Botti CD titled To Love Again, featuring fantastic duets with Sting, Gladys Knight and Michael Buble ( the last sings Let There Be Love, which turned me to mush ).

The other is Peter Cincotti's Live In New York DVD. It sounds like a concert recording, but actually isn't. It's more of a collection of music videos, but has Peter banging the piano on a NY street near his old neighbourhood, with his band and a few extras close by. I enjoyed it, of course ( great music, nice setting, Peter's mega-watt smile :)), but am still hoping for a proper 'live' concert release in the near future.

In the meantime, will eagerly await his next album, due out mid-2006. Hope he includes the cover of Cry To Me. It will blow your socks off, I guarantee it.

More this weekend if I find the energy.