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. :)