Saturday, February 17, 2007

Prepare Yourself

It's gonna be a long one.

So I've finally found some time to write after, let's see, 3 weeks (!).

Much has happened, as you can imagine. Here's a quick rundown.

The "pesky MO"

( Quoting someone else, not myself, mind you )

This incident was the first of a few recent disappointments.

First, his only defense was that the "animosity" is a purely personal one. Huh?

Second, he didn't offer any form of apology. But hey, I didn't expect one, knowing what I know about this person.

Third, his family background ( if sources are correct ) hasn't done much to inculcate good work ethics. Pity.

Anyway, we continue to work in close proximity, and I've made it clear that there's zero personal element involved, with a couple of highly placed seniors reinforcing his need to buck up.

Funny how a certain female magazine featured him in last year's 50 Most Eligible Bachelors spread ( I didn't read it, but my MOs told me about it ). My opinion of this publication has never been good, but it's definitely plunged to a new low following this incident.

It Never Pays To Speak Up

At least not when a certain patient's irate middle-aged male relative thinks it fit to yell at a young female doctor who just happened to be sitting nearby minding her own business ( i.e. me ).

He spent 5 minutes rudely berating one of our senior nurses, before turning to me and asking, "How can you, as a doctor, allow this to happen?" I proceeded to reinforce a statement made by the nurse, hoping to inject some objectivity into the situation, but instead got a huge earful about my "attitude", before he demanded my name and threatened to quote me to "the minister" ( whoever that may be ).

I felt baited, and he was clearly hoping I would snap and sabotage myself, but I just coolly replied that I was merely stating a fact and that any personal assumptions he made were purely his own decision.

Luckily, the doctor-in-charge of the patient ( an associate consultant ) came over to placate him. Yeesh, how the heck did I get into this mess?

But I'm definitely not sorry about defending our nurse, who's one of the best around. Patients and relatives are too pampered these days, barging into the ER with unreasonable expectations fuelled by the media and our eager-to-please administrators. As one character on the TV series "ER" once told a resident who got scolded the same way I did: Don't feel that you have to apologize. This is a hospital, not a restaurant.

When will they realize that we're working our asses off and doing the best we can? Try sweating it out for a week down here before you pass any judgement.

Books In Contrast

Excellent: John Berendt's The City Of Falling Angels, which I finally completed after 4 strenuous months. Not an easy read, but hugely satisfying. Berendt's last novel was Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil ( a top favourite ), and his 2nd novel in 10 long years has been worth the wait.
Combining a journalistic tone with insightful characterizations, this work of non-fiction based in Venice is superbly entertaining -- as long as you're patient and attentive to its intricate details.

Reviews often mention The Rat Man Of Treviso, who tailors poisons according to the regional tastes of his victims. But I much prefer the quirks of the eccentric Ralph Curtis of the filthy rich expatriate Curtis family which owns the grand Palazzo Barbaro. Just get a load of his phone's voice recording: "You have reached the Earth liaison station of the Democratic Republic of the Planet Mars", and his application form for houseguests ( which requires a print of the right big toe instead of a normal signature ). This kook has his own Starship Barbaro located within his apartment, complete with space suits, a life-size plastic female in a lacy black bikini, and a Moon Room where he conducts regular "liftoffs" while blasting cassettes of actual Apollo rocket missions from a boom box.

If this doesn't intrigue or amuse you, you're obviously not human.

Another highlight is his in-depth coverage of the internal political turmoil surrounding the Save Venice foundation, specifically between top dogs Larry Lovett and Bob Guthrie. This fascinating study into how even the strongest friendship can degenerate into a bitter feud is a valuable lesson for anyone who'd care to listen. And it is to Berendt's sole credit that a story which spans 40 pages in teeny-tiny font never loses steam, thanks to his ability to enthrall with beautiful, almost lyrical prose, transforming even the most routine conversation into a breath-taking work of art.

Will I be 40 when his next book is published? If nothing else, at least I'll have something to look forward to in my old age. Haha.

Shameful: Thomas Harris' Hannibal Rising. I may go so far as to label this the literary equivalent of Basic Instinct 2. It's that bad.

I've read all the other novels in the Hannibal series and found them quite enjoyable ( Hannibal being the best of the lot ). This prequel, however, really sucks. I agree with Life! reporter Ong Sor Fern, who lamented the travesty of attempting to psychoanalyze Dr. Lecter and provide a reason for his murderous nature. She's absolutely right -- Hannibal's inscrutability is key. Nobody knows why he kills, which makes him all the more terrifying. Breaking him down into little puzzle pieces destroys everything he's ever stood for ( something along the lines of "I kill because I LOVE IT ) and irritates severely.

Plus, the writing is ridiculously bad, with sentences like "In the water was Lady Murasaki. The Lady Murasaki was in the water." and "Hannibal looked at the lodge, and the lodge looked back." Was Thomas Harris high on something when he wrote this?

I didn't finish the book, and strongly advise against reading any of it.

Amazon Treasures

Every single item ordered has arrived ( within 2 weeks, woohoo! ). Here's a quick review of a few of them:

Taylor Hicks' self-titled album

Great stuff! Love his smoky voice, showcased well in a compilation of rock, blues, pop and soul. Tracks are mostly mid- to fast tempo, but he shines most on the slower pieces, like Wherever I Lay My Hat, Places I've Been and The Right Place. But if you crave some true-blue Taylor, you'll love Soul Thing, a self-penned composition which boasts high energy, fun lyrics and super vocals.

John Mayer's Inside Wants Out

Beautiful may be the best description for this 2000 acoustic release which features only 8 tracks, but more than makes up for it with Mayer's stripped-bare performances. Although subsequent chart toppers No Such Thing and Back To You are included, his best work lies in obscure pieces -- some of it never commercially released -- like Victoria, Comfortable, Quiet and Love Soon. Still, I love Neon the most, so that's my personal fave on this album. The guitar bits really rock!

John Mayer's Any Given Thursday

This 'live' concert was recorded in Birmingham, Alabama. Lots and lots and LOTS of cool jamming, including a wide repertoire ranging from Your Body Is A Wonderland to My Stupid Mouth to 3x5 to City Love.
Best of the lot: Covered In Rain -- a dreamy ballad; Message In A Bottle -- a cool cover of a Sting piece; Why Georgia -- rollicking bass; 83 Medley -- another fave of mine from his Room For Squares album, given a rich texture here, complete with some mischief ( note the inclusion of verses from '80s hits Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Let's Hear It For The Boy ); last but not least, Neon -- 10 minutes of pure heaven!

My Funny Valentine: Sting At The Movies

Trust the Japanese to come up with this ingenious idea to compile Sting's numerous soundtrack contributions into one comprehensive collection. To the uninitiated, many of his best recordings were never included in his commercial releases, so unless you intend to purchase every soundtrack he's ever appeared in, this is the next best thing.
A sampling: My Funny Valentine ( from "Ashura" ), The Windmills Of Your Mind ( "Thomas Crown Affair" ), Until... ( "Kate and Leopold" ), All For Love ( "The Three Musketeers" ), It's Probably Me ( "Lethal Weapon 3" ), Moonlight ( my personal favourite, from "Sabrina" ), and My One And Only Love ( "Leaving Las Vegas" ).

Notice the disproportionate number of jazz pieces. There are 18 songs in total, costing US$46. Worth every cent.


American Idol 6 zoomed through Hollywood Week in 2 episodes, with 24 finalists due to perform in 4 days' time. Sundance Head failed to impress but was cleared for takeoff ( don't really understand how ). Chris Sligh is now my pick to win, though the girls may take the crown yet again ( they all look eerily alike, except Melinda Doolittle, the backup singer with a powerhouse voice ). Still, nothing to shout much about this year. Yawn.


After a shaky pilot, episodes 2 and 3 have gained momentum, especially with the introduction of Sylar, a scary faceless anti-hero worthy of the Supernatural brothers' full attention. Favourite characters: Peter Petrelli ( Milo Ventimiglia from "Gilmore Girls ) and Niki the Internet stripper ( played by gorgeous Ali Larter ). Japanese fellow who keeps yelling "Hatta!" -- okay lah. Indian academic searching for his missing genetics professor dad -- cheesy. Other than that, I'm hooked. :)

Before I end off, a short summary of a few recent VCD rentals:

Scoop: Woody Allen is now officially the most annoying person ( not just actor ) I've ever encountered. Scarlett Johanson is more moronic than ditzy. Hugh Jackman, you have my sympathy.

The Black Dahlia: Disturbing. Pales in comparison to Brian de Palma's early masterpiece, "The Untouchables".

Miami Vice: Boring. Gong Li's accent is horrendous. Wonder if she's going to skewer Hannibal Rising.

Little Miss Sunshine: Why was Abigail nominated and Paul Dano ( who plays her tortured older brother ) overlooked?

Nacho Libre: I've always adored Jack Black. Now, I also adore short, fat little Mexican friars. :D

Have a prosperous Lunar New Year. Over and out.