Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Few Brief Reviews

Before I start, I'd like to say hello to the visitor from Harvard University, whoever you may be. :)

Wall*E - Finally rented the DVD this week, and am suprisingly disappointed. I guess all the rave reviews raised my expectations a tad too much. Didn't enjoy it anywhere as much as I did Ratatouille and Finding Nemo. But there were definitely a few classic scenes - like the one with Wall*E and E.V.E. escaping from a diagnostics lab with a renegade group of defective robots in tow.

Surf's Up - This one's much much better. Probably not a box-office behemoth compared to Pixar's films, but the script is super-smart and full of inside jokes, coming fast and furious and delivered beautifully by the cast, led by Shia LaBeouf. That boy just excels at everything he does.

27 Dresses - Also disappointing, despite the leads, whom I really like. Guess the plot was too thin to sustain the 2-hour running time. The last 30 minutes REALLY dragged.

Made Of Honor - I thought this Patrick Dempsey flick was pretty good actually. Never mind the lukewarm reviews, my personal taste in movies has been taking some strange detours of late. The only complaint I have is the slapstick bits, which I found unnecessary.

Perfect Stranger - Yes, the one with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis, which was skewered by critics. I enjoyed it. Thought the acting and script were decent, and there's a nice twist at the end which I never saw coming. Give it a try.

Breaking Dawn - Book 4 of the Twilight series is picking up speed in the mid-section. Just got whacked with 2 major plot developments, and considering how blase I am about most storylines, these gave me major adrenaline rushes!
L, for your benefit, I'm talking about Jacob's imprinting, and the horrific birthing scene ( not suitable for young readers ).

I smell a sequel on the horizon. Who needs Midnight Sun when you've got RENESMEE? :)

It's gonna be 2009 in another 3 days. May you all have a great New Year celebration - I'll be at home watching television. :D

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Special Greeting

... to the regular visitor with the Google headquarters IP address.

Not too sure how you stumbled upon my blog, but thanks for reading.

I just think working for Google is so cool. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review Of Twilight

Note to L: No pictures this time. :)

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

How should I begin this? Like all Twilight readers, I had expectations. Did the film meet the minimum requirements? Well, yes and no. Is the movie good or bad? Err, a bit of both.

First, the not-so-good parts.

1) Overall production

Not anyone's fault, I suppose, considering the skeletal budget. But the generally scruffy look of the movie does tie in with the small-town setting ( population: 3120, talk about depressing ) and provides a realistic rendering of sleepy / cloudy / perpetually wet Forks, Washington and its no-frills residents.

Still, I've seen indie films which feature breath-taking cinematography, so money isn't always the main issue. Maybe the Twilight crew meant for things to be this way, who knows?

2) Director Catherine Hardwicke

For me, she's a large part of the problem ( but that's just a personal opinion ). Aside from the horrifying script ( to be discussed later ), the direction fails in many respects. Camera angles in the forest scene gave me vertigo ( meant to be dramatic, but looked more like a soap opera ); many of the sequences ( especially the short ones ) feel extremely staged ( sure, it's a movie, but the trick is to at least make it SEEM real ); and worst of all, the chemistry between the 2 leads is sorely lacking ( more on that later ).

3) The script

It's been said that author Stephenie Meyer loved it, but I can't imagine why. So many important elements have been left out, it would be impossible for someone who hasn't read the book to fully appreciate the multiple plotlines.

Bella's fascination and infatuation with Edward is never fully explained. Neither are Edward and Carlisle's personal histories, which I found riveting. Jacob, who's a major character in the novel, merely flits in and out of scenes, and the day he spends with Bella in La Push - where they establish the foundation of a very strong friendship - is truncated to a mere 5 minutes, with him relating a Quileute legend.

Bella's visit to the Cullens' home leaves out many details, in particular, a huge painting depicting the Volturi in his study. Edward's first acknowledgement of his immortal status ( which took place in his Volvo ) is transplanted to a dark forest -- I hated it. And the meadow scene - my favourite from Twilight - was similarly scaled down to a short segment of silence with the couple lying on the grass staring at each other.

Most of the Cullen siblings are given only a few lines of dialogue, which is a great pity since they're fully fleshed out in the novel, with each possessing a complex personality and ability. The villainous vampires come across as token bad guys at best, with Bella's hurried evacuation from Forks a blur of activity rather than the intricately planned escape Meyer described.

Yes, I have a lot to complain about script-wise. The main problem is attempting to stuff too much into the allotted 120 minutes running time. If they'd taken a chance and extended the film another 30 - 60 minutes, I think it would've worked much better. Director's cut for the DVD release, perhaps?

4) Kristen Stewart

I honestly expected more from her, and was extremely disappointed.

Even though I can't stand Bella's damsel-in-distress routine in the novel, I do believe in some measure of accuracy in a film adaptation.

Stewart's performance is stiff. She tries to act tough, but just comes across as wooden. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I WANTED her to be a lot more needy. How else would audiences be convinced of Bella's unconditional love for Edward? She looks at co-star Robert Pattinson like he's any other normal guy. Nothing even close to Meyer's long-winded accounts.

Now, the bits worth praising.

1) Robert Pattinson

He does a fine job here. Since I watched the movie with my mom ( she's just as curious as I am ), and we've seen a lot of Pattinson's TV interviews, she kept whispering to me throughout the show about how "different he is in real life".

I couldn't agree more. Never mind the garish make-up -- the performance alone is worth the ticket price. Here's a guy who's perpetually laughing and full of nervous tics when he appears on talk shows. As Edward Cullen, he broods, looks absolutely miserable most of the time and speaks in a completely different voice.

His stillness is the perfect foil for Bella's insistent prying. And while Stewart remains relatively unaffected, Pattinson's intense stares effectively convey the depth of Edward's love for Bella.

What struck me most is how adult Pattinson looks, compared to his mostly teenage co-stars. He was probably 20 - 21 years old when he filmed this, but there're a couple of scenes where he appears almost 30. This is one of the things that works well for the story, since Bella is 17 when she meets Edward, who's 108. The physical discrepancy is key to their relationship, and I fully approve of it. :)

I hope Pattinson stays on for the rest of the Twilight saga films. Recasting Edward would be a disaster as far as I'm concerned.

2) My favourite scene

Surprisingly, it's the baseball game in the forest clearing. I didn't enjoy Meyer's account, but it looks great on the big screen! And Muse's Supermassive Black Hole is the perfect track for this sequence.

Best of all, you get a glimpse of each Cullen's personality. I've just finished Book 3, so Jasper is really growing on me. :)

Final verdict: 6.5 / 10

While some readers - like L :) - may prefer not to see the movie, I fall into the category that usually wants to see film adaptations, mainly so I'll have a reason to grouch about it afterwards, heh.

I will definitely catch New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn when they're released. Hopefully, a new director will result in a better end-product. Make sure you keep Robert Pattinson on the pay roll!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Only 1 More Day To Go

I just love YouTube. :)

Twilight opens here Thursday. Am all ready to catch the first morning show, free of charge thanks to my stash of movie vouchers.

It's easy to understand all the hype surrounding the film. Here's part 2 of the Tyra Banks interview, featuring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner ( the latter plays werewolf Jacob ). I'm no teenager, but found myself laughing nonetheless!

The one Pattinson did with Jay Leno is also great. He's full of good humour here, almost giggly at times, and fellow guest Heidi Klum proved to be quite a sidekick with her witty jokes. I just don't understand what's up with that hair of his. The person who styled it just before he got on-stage must be cursing, haha.

New scenes have been added as well, most importantly the pivotal one where Edward saves Bella from being crushed by a schoolmate's van. Makes much more sense than the author's lengthy discourse in the book.

D.I.Y. New Moon trailers are flooding the Net -- obviously not actual footage from the sequel, which HASN'T EVEN BEGUN FILMING YET, HELLO. But you have to give the fans credit for their creativity, as long as you can get over the cheesy prose ( grammatical errors a bonus ) and shots from The Covenant.
There's even one for Book 3, Eclipse, which is surprisingly good.

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers has been raving about the movie, so I'm confident I'll enjoy it ( he liked Wanted too ). Like I've mentioned before, Stephenie Meyer's weak writing practically guarantees the film adaptation will be superior since it omits most of Bella's mushy love-sick obsessions.

Am in the process of finishing Eclipse before moving on to Breaking Dawn, while juggling countless other commitments. Will be glad when I'm done with the series so I can get some sleep, heh.

A review will follow soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Year In Review

It's been another marvelous one. I'm starting to worry that things go downhill at some point, but for now, I'm enjoying myself. :)

Aside from the usual annoyances ( mostly work-related ), it's been great in many other ways. I visited a country so rich in history and culture it was a truly magical experience; I made lots of new friends from across the globe, caught a truckload of great concerts and got to meet Peter Cincotti again; plus, I've made significant progress in my career, scoring firsts in a few areas.

I've also kept in touch with old acquaintances, especially those I met through blogging. And 2008 was a bumper year in terms of excellent books, films and TV shows!

Last but not least, a new addition to the family in the form of a beautiful cat, whom I already love dearly.

The Year Ahead

There's much to look forward to. July will include a long holiday to a region I've dreamt of for years ( France is now out of the equation as I refuse to interact with the Paris Fashion Week and Tour de France mobs ). Haven't quite decided whether to divulge my destination just yet, but it's probably going to be freezing.

September will allow me to return to Sydney, this time for a medical conference which I'm very excited about. I hated my last trip to the city ( mostly because I came down with food poisoning during my 2 days there ), so I intend to soak in the sights and sounds during this 2nd round. A dolphin-watching cruise is a must for me. :)

Then there's The Bridge Project's staging of The Winter's Tale, of which Kevin Spacey is a collaborator. I'm wondering if he'll be curious enough to visit Singapore during its run here. Long shot, but not impossible.

Will also be hosting a professor from Mt. Sinai Hospital during his HMDP visiting expert programme. I met him once last year in Manhattan, and can't wait to see him again. He's internationally renowned but so humble and friendly. I have no doubt he will be a huge hit with the local medical community.

Back To Normal Programming

Rented a few DVDs recently, of which 3 deserve special mention.

The Other Boleyn Girl, which stars Natalie Portman ( Anne Boleyn ), Scarlett Johansson ( Mary Boleyn ) and Eric Bana ( King Henry ) completely skewered the novel, taking severe liberties with everything from the sequence of events to dialogue and characters. The main problem lies in squashing 600 pages of political intrigue into less than 2 hours of Hollywood cheesiness. There is nothing redeeming in the film adaptation, which suffers from wooden acting, a laughable script, poorly executed scenes and a lack of continuity ( e.g. Mary's second husband, William Stafford, is never given a proper introduction, appearing from out of nowhere to propose to her ).
Obviously, the book is 1000 times better.

Definitely, Maybe - I borrowed this at a friend's recommendation ( L, you may recall mentioning this to me previously ), and ended up liking it quite a bit. Although Ryan Reynolds isn't one of my favourite actors, he delivers a very satisfying performance as a political campaign manager with a young daughter, recalling 3 past romances in the form of a bed-time story.
What elevates the film above run-of-the-mill fluff is the script. At one point, a couple discusses the concept of soul-mates, and how, in many instances, it isn't who you meet that matters, but when you meet. Because if you're not at a point in your life where you're ready to commit, nothing will happen.
I totally agree.

There's also a scene where Reynolds' character does something for one of the women -- a small gesture, but extremely significant because of its underlying meaning. Again, something I completely identify with, although no guy has succeeded in really blowing me away with such an act... yet. :)

Martian Child - this one, I highly recommend, especially if you're a diehard John Cusack fan like me. He's been taking on more emotionally demanding roles recently, with electrifying results. I last saw him in tortured mode in 1408 ( a so-so film at most ). Martian Child, on the other hand, is a real treasure. I don't know how faithful it is to the novel it's based on, but the script is warm and witty, the actors perfectly cast, and the scenes expertly directed.
Cusack turns in one of the best performances of his career ( quite close to Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything ) as a widow who adopts a troubled young boy and manages to make a breakthrough. What I find interesting is how Cusack has such wonderful chemistry with kids even though he has none of his own. I also suspect his private life has undergone some turmoil in the past few years, as evidenced by a more haggard look and some major emoting in his latest projects.
The scene that really got to me is the one where Cusack's character's old dog suddenly drops dead. He sits on the bed, dazed for a few seconds, then breaks down and sobs helplessly. If you watch the movie, you'll understand that he isn't just crying over a pet, but over his beloved wife as well.
I also enjoy the bits where he shares the screen with his real-life sister, Joan. The two of them have appeared in many films together over the decades, and the mutual affection really shows.
He's just so terribly underrated. Wish he'd win an Oscar and show them all.

Before I sign off, my perspective on Prof. Lee Wei Ling's Sunday Review piece about medicine being a calling, not a career.

I always enjoy reading her opinions, because let's face it, she's the only doctor in Singapore who can whack the profession without fearing any repercussions. And speaking from personal experience, I agree with many of her comments.

Still, I expect laymen to form certain judgments because of the way her remarks are phrased. It seemed to me that she was targeting those in private practice, whether it's the abolishment of the guidelines on fees, or the triumph of greed over integrity.

I've heard numerous stories over the years, and nothing is ever that clear cut. Not everyone leaves the public sector for monetary gains alone, although a large number do. Many are driven away by intolerable working conditions -- long hours, lack of recognition, slow career advancement, sparse training opportunities. When one becomes disillusioned, sometimes the easiest way out is private practice, where you can be your own boss and feel better just by earning lots more money. It isn't necessarily selling out, but what your threshold for suffering is.

While there are those who think nothing of fleecing ignorant patients so they can purchase that flashy new sports car, others end up returning to public hospitals after a few years following a change of heart ( I know a few of these doctors ).

In Prof. Mohamed Khadra's book, Making The Cut: A Surgeon's Stories Of Life On The Edge, there's a chapter about a surgeon who started out as the best in his discipline, only to spiral out of control in later years. He couldn't cope with his packed schedule, causing serious complications and handling them with a cavalier attitude. But it wasn't just about making more money. He merely pushed himself too hard and didn't know when was enough.

I know one such surgeon, once a highly regarded expert in his field, who became overconfident and picked the wrong patient to cause post-op complications in. Suffice to say, he was promptly demoted, then left for a lucrative private setup, only to cause more complications thanks to the lack of regulation ( unlike the anal M&M rounds public hospitals are obsessed with ). A friend of mine became a guinea pig of his and ended up bleeding out a few days later, requiring a week of hospitalization ( Changi General ) and a massive clean-up of the mess this once meticulous surgeon left behind.
I don't know how he could've deteriorated this badly -- after all, my own mother was treated by him 10 years ago, with superb results. It's just really sad.

Other examples of black sheep in restructured hospitals? If you know how to suck up to the right people and cover your tracks, you've got it made. I see it all the time -- MO trainees who miss diagnoses, refuse to see my referrals and give me attitude, getting awards for being outstanding in their chosen disciplines. Err, didn't that guy miss a cord compression last week, which I overrode and admitted? Where's the accountability?!

Then there's an oncologist who's won awards and gives great soundbites to eager reporters, going on about doing good for humanity, blah blah blah. I only recall him once telling me that the greatest motivation for his research is getting a patent and making money from it.

Just yesterday, one of my consultants asked me, "If you could do it all again, would you be doing this?" as we fought the never-ending battle of clearing the post-holiday weekend crowd. I hesitated for only a split second, answering with a resounding "Yes". He didn't seem convinced, and I don't blame him. But I was telling the truth, and even my own reply surprised me. I suppose there's some masochistic streak egging me on, but for now at least, it's also an indication that I made the right choice, and I only hope it can sustain me for the rest of my career.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Really Short One

1) Congratulations to Jason Mraz for getting a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year!

Although I think it's for the wrong song ( I'm Yours ). Love For A Child is so much more deserving.

2) A YouTube clip of an interview Robert Pattinson did with Tyra Banks. Go to the 2:35 mark if you'd like to see the highlight of this segment ( won't spoil it with a description here ). It's even better than the one he did with Ellen DeGeneres! My mom was so tickled by this. :D

3) My new cat arrived 2 weeks ago, and has been an absolute joy to me. We adopted him from SPCA, he's a few months shy of 3 years old, and HUGE. I get breathless picking him up, but he shares many of my previous cat's traits, most notably crawling up to my pillow and cuddling next to my neck / shoulder.

Work's been a lot more tolerable since I got him. :)

Will write more next time. Dinner awaits.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Continuation

Egyptian Culture

A few snapshots of a whirling dervish and a belly dancer, who performed during a Nile cruise dinner at the Khulkhal Arabian Restaurant.

The food was slightly above average, but the entertainment was nothing short of excellent, especially the Folkloric
Tanoura show “Spin Man”( aka whirling dervish ), which features 30 to 45 minutes of continuous
mind-boggling twirling.

Tried uploading a video clip but think the file size is too large. Sorry...

The restaurant was packed to the brim that night, and the atmosphere a mixture of rowdy and celebratory. However, I couldn't help noticing their waiters -- all in their 20s, clean cut and remarkably handsome.

One in particular stood out, mostly because I kept catching him staring at me from across the room. There was a moment that was almost like something out of a movie, but only my mom knows what happened. :)

Twilight Book 2

Is tonnes better than its predecessor. Writing's still mediocre, but at least the plot has improved significantly, though nowhere as satisfying as a good Harry Potter novel.

No surprise about its huge weekend box office haul - almost US$71 million - kicking Quantum Of Solace off the top spot. Reviews are mixed so far, but probably won't deter me from seeing the film and forming my own opinions ( critics panned Wanted, but I LOVED it ).

Lots of great interviews on YouTube, like this one from the Ellen DeGeneres show.

3 more weeks to go before it hits local theatres. Yeesh.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Michael Feinstein's The Sinatra Project

Here's a link to his official website.

I actually own one of his albums from a few years back. Bought it out of curiosity but found it dull -- something I attribute to an obscure repertoire and a rather lethargic delivery.

After avoiding his CDs for long enough, I succumbed and sampled this new release at my favourite music store, and have completely fallen in love with it.

Although the title is designed to draw Sinatra fans, the arrangements are vastly different from the originals, with a number of songs which were recorded but never commercially released.

There're classics like Cole Porter's Begin The Beguine and George Gershwin's I've Got A Crush On You, plus lesser known gems such as There's A Small Hotel, Fools Rush In and It's All Right With Me.

Many are done in the big band swing style which I adore so much, but even the slower ballads are exquisite, thanks to masterful performances by Feinstein. He sounds nothing like what I remember from that earlier album, showing off a rich tone, unbelievable lung power and heartfelt emotion in every word he sings.

Huge personal favourites include Begin The Beguine ( one of the best versions I've ever heard ), Exactly Like You, The Song Is You and At Long Last Love ( all wonderfully spirited and playful ).

However, the track I've been putting on constant repeat mode is #10, How Long Will It Last. A duet with China Forbes, it brings to mind the grand musicals of yore, when love was described as a many-splendoured thing.

Interestingly, this song immediately made me think of Twilight ( I'm not obsessed, just engrossed :)). I'm serious - just take a look at the lyrics to see what I mean:
[ I've indicated who sings each line to help enhance the experience ]

[male] My dear, there's no concealing that you've won my heart
[female] Still, I have a feeling that someday we'll part
[M] Will our affair soon break up and fade like the dawn?
[F] Will I some morning wake up to find you are gone?

[M] Though you hold me in your arms tonight / Will tomorrow bring the same delight?
Though we love each other / How long will it last?
[F] You are like a burning flame to me / Will you always be the same to me?
Though I taste your kisses / How long will they last?

[Both] Whatever you may do / This heart of mine is true
I'll still believe in you / though ___ will pass??? [ sorry, having trouble with this line ]

[F] With you happiness and bliss appear
[M] All my troubles seem to disappear
Yet my constant fear is
[ Both ] How long will it last?

L, tell me if you agree with my assessment! :)

Got my hands on the Twilight sequels - all 3 of them - today. Have already started on Book 2, which is much better than the juvenile Book 1. Addictive stuff.

Have been bombarded by the film's publicity blitz as well, all over local cable's E! Entertainment and CNN's Showbiz Tonight. Am surprisingly enjoying it a lot, especially snippets of various interviews with Robert Pattinson. He looks hilariously frazzled in every single one of them, cracking jokes in that crisp British accent, lamenting how he can't find a girlfriend ( err, right ), singing co-star Kristen Stewart's praises before getting flustered and laughing uncontrollably, even dodging rumours that he proposed to her on the movie set ( she doesn't deny it, but inserts a disclaimer that "everyone got a bit nutsy", so I guess that qualifies as a yes, though it was probably meant as a gag ).

The movie teasers already demonstrate a lot of on-screen chemistry between the two. Would be kinda nice if it spilled over into real life eh? I'm rooting for them. :)

A final update before the weekend. Plans to go to NYC have been derailed by forces beyond my control. But the upside to this is (1) I can go ahead and get a new cat now ( maybe two, who knows ), and (2) I plan to head to France and London next June, with the hope of seeing Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic if possible.

Recovered from the initial disappointment very quickly, which is great. Thank you, Mr. Spacey, for helping with that. :D

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. Jackman!

It's official -- the Australian hunk has earned his first Sexiest Man Alive title. Very well-deserved. :)

A quick look at the rest sharing the Top 15 spots revealed a few hits and misses ( my personal opinion, that is ).

Worthy: Daniel Craig, Jon Hamm, Javier Bardem, Robert Pattinson ( yes, the Twilight guy ).

Not worthy: David Beckham, Michael Phelps, Joshua Jackson, Zac Efron ( who's known to be extremely vain and uptight about his "carefully ruffled" hair ).

There're a few other choices that I can't comment on, since they're not prominently featured on local TV or on the big screen. I'm hoping cable will screen Gossip Girl soon, as I've heard good things about the series ( Ed Westwick's from that ).

Did a quick People search - don't think James McAvoy made it this year. Darn...

I subscribe to the magazine. Can't wait to get it in my mail. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Early Impressions Of Twilight

The novel... of course.

Before I begin, though, a link to the official movie site.

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

spoilers alert

I did say I'm fascinated by the vampire folklore, but my exposure has been mostly limited to films and TV.

Books-wise, I currently count maybe 4 such novels that I've read so far -- Bram Stoker's Dracula ( a must-have ), Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire ( long-winded but superior to the movie adaptation ), one more with a title and author I can't even recall ( wasn't very good, obviously ), and now, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

After a single weekend, I'm at page 360, and eager to pen my thoughts prior to hitting the finale.

First, to answer the more straightforward questions:

1) Is it as good as everyone says it is?

I find this a tough call. On one hand, Meyer is not a strong writer in many ways. Her vocabulary ( for someone with a college degree in English literature ) is rather lacking, but then again I have to consider the fact that the story is told from Bella's perspective, and she's a 17-year-old high school student, so what should one expect?

However, having just completed Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which is "narrated" by a pubescent girl, the language difference is massive. I don't think Mary Boleyn was that sophisticated, but Gregory's style is 100 times more graceful, with much more complicated plotlines and extremely compelling dialogue.

Twilight, in comparison to something like that, doesn't stand a chance. Although I agree it's hardly fair to hold the former against the latter, considering the markedly different genres and target demographics.

On the other hand, it's been such a long time since I've spent a whole afternoon and hours past bedtime glued to a book, defying exhaustion and choosing this over a much-needed nap. I've even brought it to work so I can continue when the shift quietens down -- now that's never happened before.

After beating around the bush, do I have a final verdict?

In terms of writing style, no, it isn't as good as I thought it would be.

But the story and characters are pretty special.
More on these later...

2) What irks me?

As mentioned earlier, the writing is a little lacklustre. Though a college grad, Meyer has since become a full-time homemaker with 3 young children to care for. During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, she admitted to balancing her infant on her lap while typing out the manuscript. Little wonder the prose came out this way. :)

In the first 250 pages, I was immensely irritated by her repetitive use of certain words, e.g. beautiful, gorgeous, grimaced, smirked. I found it unnecessary to hammer home the point that YES, Edward Cullen is drop dead gorgeous ( pun intended ). Meyer's breathless descriptions about his runway model looks started to grate on my nerves, and this wasn't helped by Bella's infatuation, which I found childish, in view of her supposed superior intelligence ( she's in an advanced class back in her hometown, reads Chaucer, listens to Debussy, and is a whiz at English and Biology ).

The high-tension scene where Edward saves Bella from being crushed by a van ended up confusing me, as I struggled to understand the sequence of events and eventually failed to make sense of it.

Also, Bella's awkward clumsiness kept getting played up at every opportunity, with her tripping all over herself and accidentally crashing into or whacking people during gym class.
And yet, despite all this, she gets pursued by 3 popular boys AND catches Edward's eye.

A bit melodramatic, no?

However, I pressed on...

3) What was the turning point?

Chapter 13: Confessions ( page 260 ).

This, IMHO, is the novel's brightest spark, keeping me up late on Saturday night.

I actually started my reading session a couple of chapters earlier, but got a bit of a jolt when, in Chapter 12, Meyer placed Bella in her bedroom, listening to Chopin nocturnes as she attempted to sleep before a pivotal outing with Edward the next morning.

I happened to be plugged into my Discman that instant, enjoying music from a new classical artiste I'd recently discovered -- a young Polish pianist named Rafal Blechacz. Guess what he specializes in? Chopin preludes.

I literally froze when I read Meyer's words, coupled with Blechacz's album blasting in my ears. Eerie, man.

Anyway, I've gone off track a little. Chapter 13, for me at least, turned the whole experience around. After 25 pages set in a meadow of wild flowers, featuring a no-holds-barred conversation that explains almost everything I needed to know, I found the initial annoyance I felt dissipating completely.
It really was quite remarkable.

4) What comes next?

Unfortunately, the following chapters don't measure up to number 13. There's a high-speed baseball game in a forest clearing that perhaps aims to be Quidditch's equivalent, but again, Meyer's writing fails to convey its power and exuberance ( JK Rowling's first 3 Harry Potter books are truly spectacular in this respect ). Predictably, a group of villains is introduced to spice things up. The usual plot tricks.

5) Will the movie be better than the novel?

I strongly suspect so. The actors handpicked for the lead roles have good acting credentials. I can't say that Robert Pattinson ( who plays Edward, and is best remembered as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter 4 ) fits Meyer's mould to a T, since he isn't that conventionally handsome. But I believe he has the depth and personality to make the character his own, perhaps even surpassing the author's vision and fan expectations.

Kristen Stewart suits Bella very well. Let's hope she does a good job with the acting part.
I've seen short clips of the scene where Edward first saves Bella's life. Doesn't seem to match what the book depicts, but that's okay.

There's also a sneak peek of a bedroom scene ( got this in my DVD of Penelope - which stars James McAvoy :)) where Edward jumps out Bella's window with her on his back -- don't recall reading about this in any of the chapters. A bit of screenplay tweaking?

Then of course, there's a big fight scene, and lots of lovey-dovey bits where the two protagonists get intimate ( but remain chaste ) with each other. Should be very interesting.

6) Will I read Book 2?

If I can get my hands on it, then yes. Took me a while to obtain a rental copy of Twilight, and Books 2 and 3 are currently unavailable. Will stop short of buying them, since my conscience won't allow it, heh.

Was telling L earlier today about how Twilight has been stirring up some memories for me. I may be twice Bella's age, but many of the novel's themes and a few of its memorable scenes made me reminisce about people I've met in the past, places I've been and things I've done.

They made me smile at times, and caused my heart to ache at others. Amazing how a fictional work filled with teen angst can have such an effect on me. There's hope after all. :)
Catch the trailer and various clips here.
I can't wait to see it at the cineplex. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ahh... :)

After my streak of disastrous shifts, I'm relieved to have survived a really REALLY great call.

Unusually quiet for a Wednesday, but also, a huge thank you to my terrific team of MOs, and my capable and hardworking registrar.

The one that appeals to me most is Johnny Depp. I've been a fan since his 21 Jump Street days -- although he was quite an Ah Beng at the time. Went through a bad boy period in the '90s, but has evolved nicely into a family man, box office star and, best of all, accomplished actor who can do just about anything.
Forget about his weird fashion sense at award ceremonies. With the right stylist ( usually for photo shoots ), he looks like a million bucks ( see picture ).

Robert Downey, Jr. is also a big fave. Am going to add him to my Top 10 actors list soon, once I figure out who to kick off. He's a long shot for Sexiest Man Alive, but should be somewhere in the Top 5, thanks in large part to his fabulous lead role in Iron Man. I much prefer him in drama mode -- e.g. Zodiac -- but there's no denying he's one good-looking dude.

Daniel Craig's a great choice, but not a strong contender given his short Hollywood history and British background. Has a non-American ever garnered the title? I think not, but correct me if I'm wrong.
Still, he's one of the few blonde actors I actually like ( don't ask me why I gravitate towards brunettes ). No-one can quite wear a suit the way he does. :)

Hugh Jackman - possible, but not one I'm rooting for ( though I like him a lot in Someone Like You, with Ashley Judd ); Michael Phelps - bleah ( gold medals aside, he doesn't seem very intelligent ); Justin Timberlake - lacks substance; Will Smith - consorts with Scientologists, enough said; Christian Bale - too dour; George Clooney and Brad Pitt - not worthy of a 3rd win; Leonardo DiCaprio - too pudgy; David Beckham - no man with a squeaky voice can be considered sexy, helloooo.

People mag should have 2 categories: older and younger Sexiest Man Alive winners. The latter may include the likes of Shia LaBeouf and James McAvoy, no?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Get Ready To (G)Rumble

Am basking in a well-deserved break, after stressing myself out these past few weeks over a project proposal for MOH. Had to forgo a visit to the cineplex to catch Quantum Of Solace ( am very PO-ed about that ), and discovered a lone strand of silvery white hair on my scalp this morning. My second, I believe.

Also worked 4 days straight over the weekend and Monday, which wore me down considerably. Not just because of the incessant ambulance diversions - at times every hour, on the hour - but due to the unbelievable number of super-sick patients we saw.

However, we made a number of good saves, which helped defuse the exasperation I felt.

In one case, my registrar was astute enough to suspect a rare but life-threatening condition in a young woman with severe dyspnoea. A bedside ultrasound confirmed the diagnosis, upon which we rang the relevant specialist, Dr. X, for an urgent consult. Dr. X then proceeded to interrogate the MO who made the call, asking what model of ultrasound machine we use, what views we obtained, whether we're CERTAIN it's what we think it is, etc. Obviously Dr. X has no regard for ER physicians' skills in this area.
So when Dr. X brought a nifty portable U/S from the ward to repeat the scan, I stood beside the patient to wait for the verdict, which was grudgingly given but confirmed our initial findings. The lady was then whisked to the ICU for an urgent procedure.

And FYI, we did the scan using a 5-year old relic of an U/S machine, with a probe that's been dropped so many times the image has degenerated into an almost unintelligible haze.

But we still made the diagnosis. :D

For the 2nd patient, it was a suicide attempt which caused severe airway compromise, confirmed on a bedside nasoendoscopy which I performed. The MO-on-call for the department we were admitting to irritated me with the first words she uttered, "Are you a nurse or a doctor?" - in a haughty tone, might I add.
This necessitated a need to pull rank, which I did, explaining the patient's CRITICAL condition and need for immediate attention. Instead of saying, "Okay, I'm coming down now", she decided to bombard me with queries about the extent of the injuries, how the patient was found, etc. I mean, what difference does it make, if I TELL you to come down STAT?!
Another medical junior who thinks the ER is full of idiots, I suppose.

I cut the conversation short, told her to "come down now and SEE THE PATIENT", and hung up on her.
The anaesthetist was then called, a registrar who PROMPTLY came to the resus room, no questions asked, and pushed the patient to the Emergency Operating Theatre for intubation within 5-10 minutes.
Now THAT'S what real medicine is all about.

In the final case, another resus patient came in febrile with abdominal pain and active bleeding. She had just been discharged from the ward earlier the same day. While my registrar attended to her, the MO assisting made a call to the relevant specialist team, speaking to a fellow MO - let's call her Dr. Y - upstairs. I happened to be sitting right next to my stressed-out MO at that moment, and heard him stammer while presenting the history and physical findings.
It was easy to tell that Dr. Y was giving him a hard time. One of the first things he told her was how ILL the patient was - actively bleeding, hypotensive, just discharged from Y's ward that morning - but she kept asking a slew of questions, refusing to come down and do something pro-active.

After 3 minutes of eavesdropping, I asked my MO to pass me the phone.

Me: Hello, this is Dr. spacefan, A&E [ my rank ].

Dr. Y: Oh, hello.

Me: I believe my MO has informed you that the patient is hypotensive and actively bleeding. I don't see a point in asking him so many questions, can you come down now to see her? If you need more information, you can look it up in the computer discharge summary.

Dr. Y: Uh, okay, can I have the patient's IC number?


Dr. Y: Okay, I'm coming down.

Me: Thank you.

After placing the handset on the receiver, I turned back to my PC to continue typing.
My MO leaned towards me and whispered, "Thank you, Dr. spacefan."
"Next time, don't let anyone bully you," I replied. "When a patient is critical, be firm and make the doctor come down immediately. If you have any problems, get an A&E senior to help you."

It's only the 2nd week of the MO changeover and I've already intervened in 2 instances of unprofessional behaviour. Hospital core values my ^&*%$@

On A Lighter Note

Here's some movie hype I'm caught up in. Will be acquiring a rental copy of the novel later this week.

Vampires fascinate me. Anyone remember the TV series Dark Shadows starring Ben Cross? Also highly recommended: The Lost Boys -- something I've watched countless times since childhood, and still never tire of.

Another great film I watched on HBO last week - Recount, starring Kevin Spacey. Check out this great scene, one of many in a truly excellent account of the 2000 Florida elections disaster.

Spacey is, as always, superb. He gracefully juggles the role of campaign manager Ron Klain, playing leader, confidante and take-no-prisoners ruthless.

The best part isn't featured on YouTube - a few minutes alone in an office, where Klain takes the pivotal call from Al Gore, with the latter advising him to stop fighting and let Bush win. Spacey breaks down but camouflages it with a forced, steady voice. He implores Gore repeatedly to change his mind, but the decision is final.

Bravo, Mr. Spacey. What a powerful delivery!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Photo Break

...before resuming work on an admin project this Sunday morning -- how depressing is that...
Here's one taken during an afternoon felucca ride on the Nile River.
As described on Wikipedia, it was indeed quiet and relaxing, with the gentle breeze propelling the boats forward, and the warm weather causing a significant amount of blissful lethargy.
Thankfully, I was kept awake by a stimulating conversation with a NASA engineer, as we discussed topics ranging from the U.S. Presidential elections to Hurricane Gustav and medicine.
And you'll be happy to know that the Nile doesn't stink, unlike the waterways of Venice ( at least the narrower ones ).

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Brief Summary

The U.S. Presidential elections culminated in the outcome I was praying for. I'm a supporter of the Democrats ( have to divert my interest somewhere, since the local political scene is pretty much dead ), and haven't been this excited or elated since Bill Clinton clinched the position in 1992.

I have great hopes for President Obama, and am confident he will endeavour to make good on his promises.

Mad Men finally premiered on local digital cable this week. Verdict on the pilot episode - fabulous! It's easy to forget how the past was actually much more decadent than the present, before health warnings, political correctness and feminism intervened. All the characters smoke like chimneys in every scene, and the amount of male chauvinism, sexual harrassment and multiple forms of discrimation sends me reeling.

But in a good way. :)

Lead actor Jon Hamm is the new Patrick Dempsey -- only much better-looking and a lot more interesting.

Thank you, Starhub! Now if only they'll bring Gossip Girl to Asia. It has to be superior to 90210 -- caught the premiere recently and find it intolerably insipid. No-one on that show seems able to act.

Have completed Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl. Took me 6 weeks of late-night reading ( couldn't give up my TV fare to make extra room ), and have gotta say it's definitely one of the best novels I've read in a really long time. In fact, I think the last book which captivated me this effectively was John Berendt's The City Of Falling Angels, and Berendt happens to be my unrivalled favourite contemporary author ( the other being Thomas Hardy, who hails from a different era ).
Am always happy to discover a new writer whose works I can enjoy at leisure.

Michael Crichton's death came as a shock when I read about in the papers this morning. Together with the fact that he's been married FIVE times! The only Crichton novel I've ever read is Disclosure, 'cos the rest kinda sucked. Agree with critics that he isn't a good writer, but somehow, his ideas make for cool screenplays, though not always good films ( i.e. Congo ).
Still, his direction of Coma ( based on Robin Cook's most famous book and starring a very young and gorgeous Michael Douglas ) was most skilful, and his best creation, the TV series ER, remains unsurpassed in terms of writing, acting and realistic resuscitation scenes.

May you rest in peace.

Weekend's going to be busy. Damn mouth ulcers are killing me. Bloody stressed out, argh!

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Quick Entry

Caught Avenue Q last night ( preview performance, heavily discounted ticket prices ), and have this to say:


Was initially concerned about the Asian cast ( this being a Broadway import and all ), but the actors proved to be of an extremely high calibre, especially the 2 leads ( 1 male, 1 female ). I'm sorry I don't know their names, 'cos I didn't buy a programme, but the guy plays Princeton and Rod, while the lady plays Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut.

Get ready for an evening of irreverent humour, sans political correctness and subtlety. With songs titled If You Were Gay ( one of the best on the list ), Everyone's A Little Bit Racist, Schadenfreude ( listen for the punchline about Germans ), and The Internet Is For Porn ( the funniest of them all! ), this is one helluva rollercoaster ride from beginning to end, truly Sesame Street's evil, demented twin.

By the intermission, I guarantee you will find a personal favourite character ( mine's Rod - a Republican investment banker who's tormented by his homosexuality ), and laugh about the show's many hilarious antics ( Bad Idea Bears, a graphic puppet sex scene, and numerous corny puns ). I especially like the way they announced the intermission -- won't spoil the surprise here, but you'll be tickled pink. :D

My heartiest congratulations to the S'pore Repertory Theatre, who put up a jolly good show. Now if only they'd bring Jersey Boys and Spring Awakening to the Esplanade ( the latter has, sadly, closed its doors in NYC, apparently due to the economic recession ).

More Pictures

From the Temple of Luxor, by far the most beautiful of all the temples we visited in Egypt.

The columns are massive, as you can see, covered entirely with intricate hieroglyphic carvings. Every single one of them -- amazing.

Interesting how my photos are orange-hued, compared to the grey shade on the Net.

It was a balmy evening the day we dropped by. One of those moments that make you fully aware of life's many splendours, and mankind's astounding ingenuity.

A Treat For David Archuleta Fans

Singing a BEAUTIFUL hymn -- ahh, he should really consider releasing a Christian song album ( after doing a Christmas recording, that is :))

His debut LP will be released November 11th. And yes, of course I'll buy it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Retrospect

I hate these moments, when I get crabby about work.

Blame it on the endless parade of drunks brought in by ambulance, thanks to the "kind" souls who stumble upon these fellows and decide to dial 995.

Interestingly, many of tonight's patients belong to the older age group ( including the alcoholics ). But the sober ones actually have legitimate complaints, requiring admission and urgent intervention. Being often stoic, I can't blame them for swamping our ER in the middle of the night, after trying to endure their symptoms for as long as possible.

Of course, a significant proportion of the crowd hails from ambulance diversions, which are becoming a daily routine in recent months. I don't know what the heck is going on over there, and I'm obviously not at liberty to whack my colleagues, but there's clearly a problem, and I can't help wondering what's being done to solve it. Is this going to continue for all eternity? Have some mercy on us, for pete's sake.

Night shifts these days involve handling social ills rather than real medical / surgical emergencies. It's as if Singapore's become a festering cesspool of alcoholics, manjas and thugs. On any given early morning ( 12 midnight to 6am ), we see people so drunk out of their minds it's positively shameful. They strip, they spew vulgarities, they piss on the floor, spit at medical staff and police officers, come in bloody from fights, usually accompanied by friends who are equally wasted and kick up a major ruckus in the ER.

And they're supposed to be doing this all in the name of fun?!

I'm sorry, man. The only time I got anywhere near the definition of "drunk" was back in my GS MO days, when I had too much Long Island Iced Tea for my own good and had trouble driving home. Since then, I've made it a point to moderate my alcohol intake. That's the sensible thing to do, right? Why is it so difficult for these twerps to understand this? Where's the thrill in puking your guts out or feeling like crap? Yeesh.

There's also a rising trend in PSY cases among young adults. Depression, panic attacks, stress reactions, you name it. It's okay if they need someone to talk to or an early referral, but I can't stand it when they try to be funny. For example, I recently saw a young man who repeatedly presents with chest pain, for which numerous tests ( including TMX and echo ) have been performed, with normal results. When he returned one evening with the exact same symptoms and a completely pristine ECG, I reassured him that he was okay and could be discharged. He then became angry and accused me of trying to get rid of him. It took me 20 minutes just to pacify the guy, while the patient queue got progressively longer.

At times like these, I wonder if I'll still be doing this %^&$ work 10 or 20 years down the road. Emergency medicine is one of those rare specialties where even the most senior consultants still do night shfits. I'm starting to feel ancient, not sure if I can take any more of this.

But then I think about ward rounds and clinics, and the ER begins to look good again. :)

Anyway, I recently attended to a young lady with severe epigastric pain who failed to respond to multiple medications, despite a soft abdomen, normal vitals, bloods and x-ray findings. When I wanted to admit her, I called her husband to update him ( he was at work ), but was told to wait for him to come to the ER 2 hours later so he could talk to his wife and see if she could be discharged. She was in so much pain she shed tears, and I relayed this information to him, to no avail. I gave him the 2 hours he requested, but when he failed to turn up on time, I marched back to the lady, told her I would admit her as long as SHE granted permission, and she begged me to send her to the ward.
Turns out she was incubating an acute surgical condition and subsequently went for emergency laparotomy. I could've admitted her sooner if I hadn't decided to wait for her spouse. Won't make that stupid mistake again.

Got an earful of attitude from a ward MO the other day, when I called to ask a simple question about whether to admit to one department or the other. Granted, I only identified myself by first name, not by rank ( I do that only when calling doctors who are known to cause trouble ), but this guy spoke to me in a sarcastic tone, even though I didn't even ask him to come down to the ER or accept an admission. I later consulted my friend, who's this MO's registrar, and was told that the MO gets compliments from patients. Hah! Why am I not surprised? There're lots of doctors like that, who treat patients like royalty and know which senior arses to kiss, but trample all over those who don't directly impact their career prospects. I've met enough of such hypocrites to develop a thick skin ( and ample amounts of bitterness ), But I have a very good memory where such encounters are concerned, so you've been marked, pal.

This warpath mode has been building up for a while, though unleashed only now. I suppose last week's Sun Festival helped lighten my mood significantly. Too bad the effects have worn off so quickly, heh.

It's times like these that make me miss the carefree days of my youth. As I write this, I'm playing the soundtrack to Beyond The Sea on my PC, with Kevin Spacey singing a verse from Once Upon A Time:

"Once upon a time
The world was sweeter than we knew
Everything was ours
How happy we were then
But somehow once upon a time
Never comes again...."

It's extremely sad, yet also comforting in a weird way. But I've long realized that happiness entails an active search which, in my case, extends far beyond work. How can I possibly define my existence through patients, when there's travel, music, film and exquisite prose to occupy my thoughts?

Maybe someday, I'll hit the jackpot with a personal project, and bid medicine farewell. Till then, I shall rant periodically, for your reading pleasure. :)