Friday, October 29, 2004

Sylvester Sim is through to the next round :)

Enough about that then. Change of subject haha. :P

O Captain, My Captain

A fond farewell to a certain surgeon who just left for HMDP. A wonderful mentor during my surgical attachment 3 years ago, he taught me well and always had such confidence in my abilities ( even though I felt I didn't deserve that kind of trust sometimes, haha :)). This guy pushed me into my first solo appendicectomy, let me suture the omentum ( even when I told him it was okay for me to "just serve as a retractor-holder, really" ), and once even ordered me to stay on the staff office's sofa and "REST!" while he went into the OT to remove an appendix when it was actually my job to do so ( I was post-call that day, and not feeling too well, I recall ).

He was also a close confidante and a good, good friend. Well-known and well-loved by all who've had the privilege of working with him, life will not be the same without his dry humour, immense generosity and calming presence ( "Don't worry, RELAX. Get 2 chest tubes ready. Call the blood bank for 4 pints stat. Prep the OT. DON'T PANIC." ) Really cool dude. :)

And of course, he's the inspiration for my blog title. When I first decided to start this site, I dedicated its website address to Kevin Spacey ( hence "spacefan" without the "Y" ), and decided on the title without hesitation, thanks to this surgeon's almost-daily intonation of " ** ( my initials -- he never called me by my full name ), IT'S A ZOO I TELL YOU!" ( usually reserved for bad calls, ward rounds or operating lists ).

Have a good year abroad, stay safe and healthy, and most importantly, have lots of fun ( not a problem, I'm sure )!

Hack, Cough

I've been hit by a kid-bug yet again. The flu this time, and it's making its rounds within the MO population. One guy just recovered, then I got it, followed by another female doctor. 2 straight days of oversleeping, honeyed brews and comic-reading later ( was too concussed to absorb actual novels ), I'm feeling better, thank goodness. Changing hospitals come Monday, and not a moment too soon. I'm fully convinced that being in KKH ( or within a 100-metre radius ) will render you susceptible to the invisible germ-infested sphere surrounding the building. Bet the police officers in the adjacent station would testify to that.

Anyway, the next batch of MOs is extremely shorthanded, which doesn't exactly bode well for waiting times and night shifts. Don't ask me how this manpower problem came about. I gave up on deciphering such mysteries a long time ago. But apparently, The People Upstairs aren't very sympathetic towards my current boss's predicament. "Long waiting times aren't a by-product of fewer doctors, but of inefficiency." Huh??? Not too long ago, I was on morning shift with 2 fellow MOs. The 3 of us are consistently the top 3 scorers in the department in terms of patient loads, with a peak rate of 5 minutes / patient for uncomplicated cases, which works out to 12 patients / hour, give or take a few. So we were seeing at an overall rate of, let's say, 25-30 cases / hour, together with a senior doctor ( whose rate I can't estimate ), and the queue was STILL raging full-steam at a constant backlog of approximately 10 waiting. Everytime we cleared a handful, another crop would show up. And for total nonsense, like "cough, flu", "fever for 1 day", "fell 1 week ago, requests skull Xray" and the like. And these people aren't that easily disposed of either. The parents ask a thousand questions about even the simplest of conditions.

"The symptoms will last about 3-4 days," you recite like a spinal reflex for the &*^%$ umpteenth time.
*incredulous look* "Oh IS IT? You mean, he won't recover by THIS AFTERNOON???"
*resist strong urge to slap said parent*

Yes, best not to put me in the paeds ER. Not too good to have a violence-prone doctor seeing you. :)

Laying Off

Believe it or not, I've completely stopped watching...

Survivor: Vanuatu -- because all the hunky men got voted off. Boo.

The Bachelorette 2 -- because it's getting lame lah.

All those cable TV series, like The Grid, Carnivale, etc. -- gimme Angels In America! And that other one with Alan Rickman in it!

In-theatre movies, even the ones I'm really keen on -- nothing personal, "Sherman". I just can't find the time or energy anymore. And fighting weekend crowds makes me nauseous. DVDs rock. :D

Life Of Pi by Yann Martel

Didn't have time to talk about this till now. Finished it earlier this week, and found it very enjoyable, probably because:

1) I'm an animal-lover
2) I love Martel's writing style
3) it's one of those rare works of fiction that enthralls till the very end, and provides a highly satisfying conclusion

Vividly detailed yet never dull. Encompasses all 5 senses yet seldom overloads. At turns horrific and endearing, hilarious and depressing, always mesmerizing. It's been a long while since I last came across a novel this delicious -- think the last one was Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil in, let's see, 1998. Fantastic.

Right. Another day beckons. Think I shall go watch bits of Troy again. ( DVD costs only $29.90 ) Adonises in togas. Yum. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Guess Who I met just before dinner at a nearby coffee shop today? :D :D :D

It happened so suddenly I'm still having some trouble letting it sink in. :)

The usual post-call blur, coupled with an urgent hunger, often leaves me oblivious to my surroundings. But running an errand at the mall this evening turned out to be a fortuitous event!

Had just dropped off some laundry, and was tapping my feet while waiting my turn at the SAM machine, when lo and behold, I spotted a guy who looked very familiar. Man, he's a dead ringer for Sylvester Sim! But I could be hallucinating.

Dressed in ordinary denim jacket and jeans, the only thing that really stuck out in the crowd milling around us was -- you guessed it -- his hair. :) Even though he recently dyed it back to a more, err, natural shade, the shaggy do set him apart immediately. With his lack of distinguishing facial features, however, I found myself eyeing him at length for a few minutes before confirmation occurred.

An SUV carrying a group of young adults came to a halt at the traffic light just beside him. A window rolled down, revealing a grinning female. She said something, and Sly took a few steps toward the vehicle. Words were exchanged, he waved in recognition, then the car zoomed off.

I couldn't believe what I'd just witnessed. Or who I was looking at. Aaaaaaaaaaaa!

I poked my mom so hard she thought I'd just seen my ex ( heh heh ).
"What?!" she protested.
"Look!" I gesticulated wildly, almost whacking a passerby in the face. "That's Sylvester! Sylvester from Singapore Idol!"
"Are you sure? What makes you think that?"
"Some fans just stopped to talk to him, and he acknowledged them! It's the same hairstyle! It's him!" I was losing it. :P

"I HAVE to go and say hello," I stated matter-of-factly, and before any hesitation could get the better of me, I strode across the 10 metres separating us, and came face to face with my favourite Singapore Idol finalist.

He was staring straight ahead. Waiting for a friend probably.
"Excuse me," I began. His head swivelled in my direction. "Are you Sylvester?"
The smile appeared instantaneously and easily. Friendly. Perhaps a little shy as well.
"Yes, I am."
I started to ramble. "Hi! My mom and I are huge fans of yours!" ( point at my mother who's still next to the SAM machine ) "We've been voting for you since the beginning, and hope you'll win the competition!" Blah blah blah, I forget the rest of it.

Somewhere after the 1st sentence, he stuck his hand out and I took it. His grip was firm, his palm dry and cool. Direct eye contact, and genuine gratitude in his gaze. A man of few words, he kept saying "Thank you" over and over again, before I bade him farewell and returned to my earlier task. A quick recap for my mom, then I practically shoved her over. Ever the good sport, she gamely introduced herself, then spent the next few minutes conversing with him. What song are you singing next week? Do you live around here? We predict you, Olinda and Taufik will be in the top 3, etc. Answers to the above: Big Band theme( song title not known yet ). No I don't live in the neighbourhood, but am here to meet some friends. Thank you so much for your support. I'll do my best not to disappoint you.

Another handshake, my mother back at my side, then he's gone.

It was a case of unbelievable timing, and amazing odds. Who would've ever thought I'd meet this guy here? Today? And aargh! I was dressed like a slob, I didn't comb my hair before leaving the house, had no makeup and wore glasses! Plus, I probably had a whole colony of dark rings around my eyes, ack.

No regrets though. It was a terrific experience, and I'll never walk past that particular spot and look at it the same way ever again. :D

Darn it, now I can't sleep.
It's Official

5am. Last night shift of the rotation -- thankfully -- and I realize: after 5 years of back-breaking postings, I've found one I actually HATE.

With a vengeance.

Not because of the people I work with, of course. They're a great bunch. No, this takes the whole crappy cake because I've finally reached breaking-point, and at just the right moment too. Don't think I would've been able to handle another night after this proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Surprisingly, counter to my previous runs of bad luck -- my last night shifts in any department are infamously BAD -- I was greeted with small queue numbers, and a slow trickle of patients starting at precisely 1am. And the kids ( and parents ) I've seen so far were pretty nice as well.

Things came to a head about 30 min ago, when -- after the initial consultation with anxious parents of a crying 6-weeker with no abnormal physical findings and a normal urine test -- I strongly recommended admission to evaluate the infant's recurrent bouts of crying. ( Better safe than sorry is our motto. Especially when anyone less than 3 months of age is involved. )

But noooo. Let us try to feed her first, doctor, then we'll let you know. Unbeknownst to me, they went to the triage nurse to recheck the baby's temperature, which turned out to be somewhere around 38 degrees Celsius ( it was 37.7 on arrival at the ER, and 37.5 at home ). Before I could screw my head on the right way -- I was really exhausted, due to some disrupted sleep earlier in the day -- the mom and dad stormed back into my room, lambasted me for failing to pick up the fever ( despite my earlier advice to ADMIT THE KID ALREADY ), then demanded to speak to the consultant. Fine. We paged her, and I left for my locker to glug down half a litre of water at one shot. Watch for the complaint letter.

Looking back, ever since housemanship, I've been through quite a bit of hell. Paeds, general surgery and internal med as an intern, followed by gastro, haemato-onco, cardio, ortho, 2 adult ERs, another cycle of surg and int med, before landing in the children's ER. Despite all the suffering -- long hours, high stress levels, at least 2 episodes of burnout, HO/MO duties -- I've never actually detested any of my rotations. I may not have been the happiest in some of them ( for various reasons ), but I definitely never sank this low in terms of morale.

It's the screaming, isn't it? I keep asking myself. All those sick babies bawling their eyes out, and the older ones putting up gargantuan fights over something as simple as a b****y throat exam %^&*^%$. Or maybe it's the parents, and only the parents. Anxious yet defiant. See my child first! But don't admit him! Hello, is anyone home?!?!

Oh I know. Let me put my finger on it right now: it's the past-midnight consults. That has GOT to be the clincher. I did 3 nights in 7 days last week, and 2 this week. Phenomenally bad. No rest. One fever after another. Countless lengthy explanations. And worse, the need to constantly speak in a high-pitched, soothing tone to both patient and family, even if I can't stand their antics.

*kid kicks me in the chest* "Oh that's okay. Just hold him tighter, mummy, all right? Good!" *force a smile even though I'm SO tempted to tie someone's arms to the bed*

Or tonight's prime example:

*kid sticks a styrofoam piece of his toy airplane up his nose, then screams the hospital down even before I put the forceps inside to retrieve it*
"Don't cry lah. I haven't even put anything inside yet! See? I'm still holding it! Why don't you look up at the ceiling? Oh, what's THAT? A dolphin? Or over there! Aren't those stars?"
At 2am in the morning, this sort of thing grates on my nerves. I try to understand the child's perspective, and granted, his parents are very nice people. But honestly, I can't take any more of this...

I was never built for paediatrics. And never will be.

Wow. I actually miss seeing adult patients. Even the NS boys. Major reality check, haha. :)

Since I'm on the topic of worst posting, let me provide the answer to the Best Rotation question. It's a bit of a tie between General Surgery and Orthopaedics, even though I've never been inclined towards either as long-term options. Rather, I enjoyed these because they were the best among my ward postings, with short morning rounds, speedy clinics, high patient satisfaction, and protected post-calls. The welfare and camaraderie provided are well-known, so I don't have to mention something that obvious, I hope. :D
Plus, I got my first A grading in ortho. A huge surprise, and very much appreciated till this day. :)

Just 30 minutes more before my break ends, then it's back into the fray. Only 2 1/2 hours to go before I say bye-bye to nights in the paeds ER. Shall celebrate with some sinful feasting later today. :P


Friday, October 22, 2004

Marathon (Wo)Man

Suspect I'm stretching myself a little thin. But surprisingly, I haven't felt this invigorated in... well... I guess eons.

With the recent whirlwind of activity -- both social and work-related -- the accompanying exhaustion has been somewhat tempered by a constant flow of relative highs; the frowns eased by enjoyable evenings spent with a variety of fascinating people, the prospect of hitting my 3rd decade of life tinted an almost rosy pink by a few "calculated risks".

I cannot say this enough: aside from family, good friends are essential ingredients to a happy life. Catching up with an RGS classmate who still calls you by that almost-forgotten nickname; a hurried yet intimate meal with my oldest pal; emails and SMSs from various sources, filled with good wishes and the occasional cheeky sarcasm; last night's highly enjoyable dinner with 3 fellow ER physicians whom I deeply admire and respect... is it some freak coincidence it's all happened within the last 3 weeks?!

Then, there are The Other Fascinating Characters. One, a roguish fellow who's almost done it all, and whose penetrating stare often prompts me to avert my eyes in case he somehow manages to extract some deep secret from within the very depths of my soul. The second, a colourful personality with numerous God-given talents and an enigmatic discrepancy between his behaviour towards me at work and outside of it. The third, the quietest among the three, and also the most unfathomable: someone who bares his heart to strangers, yet keeps choice portions of his life story hidden to those he knows.

Time spent with two of the three followed -- at least from my limited experience -- conventional practice. Discovering similarities first, followed by differences. After all, isn't it always the former that draws you to say yes to the invitation, and the latter that makes you keep saying yes thereafter?

The last, however, is the complete opposite. Differences first, similarities later. Refreshing in a way, but occasionally a little too obvious for my liking -- especially since the former seem to vastly outnumber the latter.

Still, at this point in time at least, it is this very last character who holds my interest most effortlessly, and whose mind and heart I would very much like to explore in greater detail ( that is, if he doesn't coil up like a startled hedgehog first ). In my younger days, when push came to shove, I stepped up to the task with great fervour. A lot of good that did me, heh heh. :) Well, not anymore. If the past 10-15 years have taught me anything, it is the lesson of Patience, and the simple virtue of Waiting. If it happens, it happens. If not, I have no doubt he'll make some lucky woman out there very, very happy.

Or maybe I'm just getting old. :)

Have found a new jazz singer to gush over. He's featured on a swing compilation album I bought yesterday, and sounds like a cross between Peter Cincotti and Michael Buble. The song "Miracle" almost did me in. If you want to see me reduced to a stuttering idiot, try playing it in my presence. :D

Enough emoting for one day. Time to nap in preparation for my night shift -- the last of the posting, YES! No more 3am fevers and crazy parents!

Monday, October 18, 2004

I just had The Worst Night Shift Ever ( at least for this current rotation ).

After two 4-hour-long naps, I'm still reeling from the after-effects of 9 hours of continuous talking, thinking and ( worst of all ) pacifying. Singaporean parents have a nasty habit of showing up at the ER past midnight for even the most insignificant complaints. But nothing beats the mindset that accompanes this insanity -- pure paranoid psychosis. For the LAST TIME, 37 degrees Celsius isn't a d*** fever! 38 degrees WILL NOT harm your kid! IT'S A B****Y COLD, D****T! ( Am refraining from my usually obvious swearing, after a particularly effective church sermon yesterday. :))

At 3am in the &*%^$# morning, there were -- count them -- 25 patients still waiting. The afternoon shift had already left -- even though many of them stayed back at least an hour to help us out -- which left 3 MOs and 1 registrar to hold the fort till 8am. The crowd finally cleared at around 4:45am, but even then, the trickle never ceased. Fortunately for me, I got off at 6am, or else I would've probably ended up hitting someone ( likely a patient or a parent ).

With my entire post-call day gone in a hazy flash, I'm now trying to salvage the hour or two I have left before forcing myself to go to sleep in preparation for the 8-4 shift tomorrow. This sucks.

Still, at least I had a really good Saturday evening. :)

The Klazz Brothers and Cuban Percussion Concert ( 16th October 2004 at the University Cultural Centre )

Website: www.

Another one of those impulsive decisions, thanks to a friend / colleague who told me about it about a week ago. As you can guess, it wasn't sold out. We were 3rd row centre, which proved to be a huge advantage.

By the way, the UCC is one heck of an ugly concert venue. A show of this calibre deserves better, but sadly, violinist Maxim Vengerov was already booked at The Esplanade that night.

The Klazz Brothers and Cuban Percussion troupe comprise 3 Germans ( pianist, bassist, drummer ) and 2 Cubans ( on congas and timbales ), blending classical and jazz with infectious Latin beats to delicious effect. Hearing them for the first time was an out-of-body experience!

Seated only a few metres from the stage, we had unobstructed, close-up views of the stage and musicians. The Forster brothers -- pianist Tobias and bassist Kilian -- were on the left, drummer Tim Hahn in the middle, and Cuban percussionists Alexis Herrera Estevez and Elio Rodriguez Luis to the right. From the moment they started streaming out one by one ( led by Hahn ) to add layer after layer to the intro of their opening piece ( can't provide the specific title at the moment, sorry ), I knew the next 2 hours were going to be special.

This is one of the very best concerts I've ever been to, and worth every single penny. Who would've thought classical and Latin could mix so well? From Mozart to Brahms to Schubert to Beethoven to Bach to Bizet, the thrills came fast and furious as the audience clearly recognized the opening bars to each piece, applauded enthusiastically, then gasped at the sheer artistry of their improvisations. A work by Mozart became a hot Mambo number, Chopin's Tristesse Etude a sensual rumba, Beethoven's Fur Elise a festive salsa, and the beautiful Pathetique Symphony ( which literally took my breath away ) a dreamy combination that easily conjures up images of smoky dance clubs. Familiarity with the original works can, of course, work for or against you. In my case, it was the former. And for that, I give full credit to the band's impeccable interpretations of these otherwise conservative compositions.

As for the jazz element, it comprised less than half of the entire repertoire, but was no less enjoyable. George Gershwin's Summertime stands out for its upbeat tempo and hot percussion. And during the encore, Charlie Chaplin's Smile made an unexpected appearance during a medley ( which, by the way, also included a Brahms lullaby :)). So cool :D

Lots of interaction with the audience, mostly via bassist Kilian's frequent commentaries and subtle yet hilarious jokes ( e.g. "People say we always play only famous pieces, so here's a REALLY OBSCURE Beethoven number, which NONE OF YOU know." They launched into Fur Elise next. Haha! )

Even though the other band members didn't speak during the concert, they were equally friendly in various ways -- flashing smiles, gyrating animatedly, encouraging us to clap along, grabbing a few people up on stage during the encores and joining them for a Rockettes-style routine. This extended to the post-show autograph session, and I've got a nicely posed photo with the German fellows to prove it! :)

But don't for one second mistake their music for light classical jazz. It definitely helps if you're a musician yourself. My friend is proficient with string and wind instruments, and I play the piano. We both detest the likes of Bond ( 4 scantily clad girls whose "skills" make my hair stand ) and my friend says the 12 Girls Band ( a group of overrated Chinese women wielding everything from the pi-pah to the erhu ) have successfully ruined the genre of traditional Chinese music.
The Klazz Brothers, thankfully, do none of the above. There's ample credibility since they're all extremely talented ( Tobias, especially, is a joy to watch on the ivories ), and they've got a keen ear for what works and what doesn't. In less able hands, the delicate process of fusing classical with Cuban might have been disastrous, but they've managed to take well-loved pieces and actually improve on them. Purists may howl at the blasphemy of it all, but I consider it a fitting homage.

Another highlight would definitely include Tobias' original composition, titled Ballad No. 1, which he played solo during the 2nd half of the show. My jaw dropped during that performance! Initially a simple melody, it gradually escalates to Liszt-Rachmaninov proportions, defying laws of physics, yet executed so perfectly that every single note was crystal clear and wonderfully in sync with the the one preceding it. Flying arpeggios, whizzing chromatic scales, and exquisite technique -- it's gonna be on their upcoming 3rd album, so you MUST give it a listen!

Standing ovations greeted their encores and curtain calls, followed by a long line of autograph-seekers thereafter. With a promise to "return next year", they posed for a few pictures ( mine included, yay :D) then left, exhausted yet pleased. I've been playing their CDs in my car ever since. Come back soon, guys! And thanks for a magical evening!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Mortal Thoughts

A nod to the late Christopher Reeve in a fellow blogger's recent entry has sparked this one, though on an entirely different note.

I got to thinking about mortality a lot this week. Not just about death in general, but specifically my own. There comes a time in all our lives when dying hits a little too close to home, so to speak. It creeps up on you --e.g. the odd grand-relative's passing -- then before you know it, you've lost a whole bunch of aunts and uncles, your parents hit their 60s, and you start contemplating whether to check your blood glucose and cholesterol levels ( my turn's this Sunday at an NKF event, heh heh ).

But for me, reality bites most when celebrities start dropping like flies.

10 years ago, River Phoenix, that golden boy of the 1990's who would've been Leonardo DiCaprio's toughest competition, collapsed from a drug overdose outside The Viper Room. Barely into his 2nd decade of life, with an Oscar nomination under his belt and a well-received turn as young Indiana Jones, his star had never shone brighter. From gritty performances in Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho, to heartbreaking roles in Little Nikita and Running On Empty, the premature snuffing-out of such a promising life hit me hard. I was only 15 or 16 at the time.

Over the years, so many others have followed that I can't recall most of their names offhand. Childhood favourites, however, always touch a sensitive nerve -- John Ritter, John Candy, etc. How I will miss them.

But Reeve... he has always had a special spot in my heart. Superman was one of the first films I ever saw, and thanks to him, I found out what a crush is at the tender age of 6. The fact that he wore leotards and a cape held no significant meaning at the time. :)

13 years ago, when he met with that terrible accident, everything almost came to a complete standstill for me. And over the past decade, as the once athletic giant slowly shrivelled in his wheelchair, I realized how quickly time had flown right by us.

Earlier this month, my mother heard on TV that Michael J. Fox, who's suffered from Parkinson's Disease since his 20s, is now experiencing intractable tremors despite aggressive medical treatment. Like Reeve, Fox is a childhood favourite of mine. I grew up with Family Ties, watched every single episode of the Back To The Future trilogy multiple times, memorized lines from The Secret Of My Success, applauded his more serious works ( Casualties Of War ), and forgave his mistakes ( Life With Mikey, The Hard Way, Doc Hollywood ).

A fierce advocate for stem cell research ( like Reeve ), he was prominently seated beside Teresa Heinz Kerry at the 3rd US Presidential Debate, looking slightly haggard but still extremely boyish. I couldn't help wondering when his time would come. And as an extrapolation, mine as well.

During dinner with a friend the other night, I was told to "live my life to the fullest" before it's too late. An outdoor enthusiast who's done so much more than I could ever imagine for myself, he couldn't believe his ears when I related details of my own boring life. And with my 30th birthday looming ( June 2005 ), I do realize I've missed out on many opportunities, partly because of parental anxiety, but ultimately, I think, a result of my own fears and insecurities.

Is it too late to change old habits, I wondered. At the moment, the answer is, sadly, yes. Family commitments deter me from commiting random acts of outright recklessness, but things may very well change once I'm beholden to no-one. Although my mother always says she'll turn in her grave should I choose to go down this path after her demise. Guilt trip, aargh!

Still, on deeper reflection, I admit I'm content, restrictions and all. I'm grateful for parents and relatives who love me unconditionally, for old friends whom I can always depend on, for a successful career with exciting opportunities, a botched relationship that terminated before it had the chance to imprison me in an eternity of misery. I treasure every moment I spend with my parents, every holiday we take together, and all the wonderful places we've visited as a threesome. I revel in the joy of weddings, even if my own seems a distant dream. I soak in every experience, be it a great piece of music, a tasty morsel of food, or (ahem) holding Jamie Cullum's hand within my own. :D

My car shakes on a daily basis as I blast my hi-fi, I get chills every single time I eat an ice-cream sundae, and nothing -- NOTHING -- makes me happier than an afternoon at home with a good book and my beautiful cat on my lap ( excluding all the usual mushy stuff, that is ). Missing out on the really good things in life? Methinks that's a matter of opinion. :)

Although sometimes, routine can be a dangerous thing. Having lost touch with the going-out concept for the past 5 years, I'm finally taking a plunge of sorts, and have started hanging out with different people who appeal to me in different ways. So far, it's been rewarding, and I'm grateful that these friends ( I hate the word "dates" ) have given me their time and attention, yet refrained from making demands on my personal space. It's been the total opposite of the first and only relationship I've had thus far. If only I'd known better all those years ago. :/

Life is short, but mine's been a happy one so far, and hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Besides, I think I've still got a few surprises coming my way -- whether good or bad, I welcome them. In the end, I think the trick to facing mortality head-on is being happy with the time you've been given, instead of the regretting the things you missed out on. On that count, I'm pretty sure I've already won. :)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Review Of Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow

Boy it was good! :)

**spoilers ahead***

My companion for the show indicated that reviews in the US have been less than favourable, but we both ended up enjoying it nonetheless. The question of how far I trust Life! reporter Ong Sor Fern's opinions came up, to which I replied: Quite a lot. Turned out to be right. :)

3 words best epitomize this amazing piece of work: Dare to dream.

Kerry Conran, the film's extremely talented writer and director, has created a universe that is -- to put it simply -- astounding. Blending live actors with eye-popping CGI effects, the movie's numerous dreamscapes of New York City and Nepal left me gaping in awe.

Doused in a perpetual golden shade, the "sets" couple 1920's noir with an almost comic-book-ish look, such that even the human players resemble cartoon characters. Add some potent intrigue, classic couple banter and massive ( I mean, MASSIVE ) battles, and you've got a great way of spending 2 precious hours of your life. :D

The first action sequence -- where Sky Captain expertly manoeuvres his way around a legion of giant marching robots -- immediately brought back memories of my childhood / teenage years. Back then, I spent quite a bit of my time sequestered in the video games room of a golf club ( while my parents were off doing something else ), playing everything from The Battle Of Midway to a whole slew of spaceship-blasting arcade offerings. ( At 20 cents a pop, I became quite the expert. :)) Watching this film got me pretty excited. Guess I never really grew up. :P

Ong Sor Fern mentioned a few non-specific "insider references". Well, I have no idea what she meant exactly, but from my standpoint, this movie shared similarities with Romancing The Stone ( the stranded-in-some-jungle-chopping-through-the-brush-while-bickering scene ), Indiana Jones ( scattered action shots ), Star Wars ( the epic battles rock! ), and The Lord Of The Rings ( looked a lot like Rivendell, if you ask me ).

Now we get to the cast. And what a cast it is: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie make up a dream team if there ever was one. All fine actors in their own right. Absolutely gorgeous. And great on-screen chemistry.

Law and Paltrow last starred together in The Talented Mr. Ripley. While he sported a tan and a perpetually white wardrobe in that movie, as Sky Captain ( what a name! ), Law wears his bomber jacket and aviator's cap with dashing aplomb, complete with boyish gung-ho attitude and just that little bit of insecurity ( ie. when he keeps hounding Paltrow's character about whether she rigged his engine -- watch in order to find out the whole story :)).

Paltrow, who plays the equally gung-ho reporter, Polly Perkins, has never looked more beautiful. A modern-day Grace Kelly, she oozes class and spunk, combining droll humour ( whenever she sarcastically utters witty one-liners in response to Law's harried remarks ) with sweet wistfulness ( that scene where she keeps staring at Law with half-closed eyes as they pore over a map has more charge than any of the usual bed romps ).

Jolie, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise as Lieutenant Franky ( short for Francesca, go figure ) Cook, a courageous pilot who proves instrumental in Sky's mission and love life.

The script, in my opinion, was terrific. Never mind the main plot ( a little over-the-top at some points ). No, the real magic lies in Sky and Polly's tenuous relationship, and the undeniable attraction and affection therein. They fight, they parry, but at the end of the day, Sky did paint Polly's name on his beloved plane ( although you can't see it unless you spot its reflection -- upside down -- in a body of water ), and Polly still gets jealous in spite of herself.

Considering the last movie I saw in a cinema was Spiderman 2 in June, Sky Captain is a wonderful return to one of my favourite activities. Money well-spent. Go see it!

Singapore Idol

Unfortunately, Sly didn't do well this week. Disco isn't his strong point -- obviously -- and he slaughtered "Let's Groove". Not his fault, of course. I'm still gonna vote for him. :)

Watch out for Olinda and Taufik though. These two are proving themselves in the versatility category. The latter has the advantage of good looks and smooth vocals, but Olinda consistently outshines him with her powerful voice and bubbly personality. Only thing is, she isn't pretty enough, which could limit her fanbase.

Oh well, good luck to the 3 of them. Everyone else sucks. Pleeeeeaaaaase, get rid of Christopher! :/

The Apprentice

Now I can say it: Bill Rancic won, woohoo! All thanks to Carolyn, one of Trump's close advisors, who fought tooth and nail for the guy, and managed to sway The Donald her way. Really gotta admire that.

On a related note, I recently found out that my posting appraisal ( at a previous rotation ) was rather unfair. I already suspected someone else got the higher grade ( I got the 2nd highest ), but finding out who this "someone else" is really got to me. I never argued over the grade I received, because I reckoned whoever got the best result must've deserved it ( there were a couple of other MOs who worked really, really hard ). But knowing this other person -- who, in my opinion, didn't work as hard as some of the other MOs, but had the "advantage" of being extremely chatty and ingratiating towards his seniors -- deprived another MO of the top grade just because the department found him more likeable... grrrrrrr.

Never going back there again.

Okay, moving on.

James Galway Is Coming!

Just parted with a couple of hundred bucks for this. *sniff*

But it's worth it. Birthday present for my mom, who loves his music. And a treat for myself, who grew up listening to him.

Night shift later. It's been absolute hell lately. Not looking forward to it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Can I Pick 'Em Or Can I Pick 'Em?

Looks like wild card viewers' choice Sylvester Sim is on his way up the ranks. And if you've been following my blog, you would remember that I spotted him very early in the competition. So proud of myself. :)

He did a great job of Elvis Presley's Hounddog -- he gave it a rock 'n roll / soft rock / heavy metal take. ( You have to watch it in order to know what I'm trying to describe. ) Blew me away!

Following last night's performances, here're my top 3:

1. Sylvester
2. Olinda
3. Taufik

Christopher Lee and Jerry Ong need to be eliminated quickly before they turn this contest into a complete farce ( it's already cheesy enough as it is ). Maia isn't too bad, but she lacks class, and is a dubious role model ( call me conservative, but that's my opinion ). Daphne and Leandra? Sweet, wholesome girls, but need more training for their voices and stage presence. David Yeo remains in the running, but he hasn't done anything truly dazzling yet.

My yardstick: picturing the Singapore Idol winner together with all the other World Idol contenders ( may very well include Fantasia Barrino this year, since Ruben Studdard's chance has come and gone ). I think Sylvester's versatility and unique look will stand him in good stead. Not to mention that unbelievable voice that contrasts so starkly with his overall appearance. Olinda may also wow the judges if she matures sufficiently -- and loses some weight. But Taufik may just fade into the background, unless he too makes a drastic transformation mid-way through the competition.

Oh yeah, must remember to vote for Sly after this. Heh heh. :D

Edwards Rocked!

I absolutely loved the Vice-Presidential debate, though I'd expected more sparks. Cheney, ever the unflappable opponent, stood his ground and lobbed some sarcastic remarks on and off, but you gotta give Edwards some credit for remaining steadfast yet diplomatic in his rebuttals.

There were some personal attacks -- albeit delivered in rather benign manners. E.g. Cheney's previous involvement with a company that, according to Edwards, did business with so-called rogue nations; and Edwards' less-than-satisfactory attendance record at Senate meetings. These issues weren't directly defended, but with regard to Cheney's insistence that the VP debate was the very first time he'd ever met Edwards, the Kerry camp released a photo less than 2 hours after the event, showing Cheney and Edwards standing side by side at a Prayer Breakfast a couple of years back.

Wooo, major boo-boo, Mr. Vice President. :)

Polls have shown varying results so far. Some have Cheney in the lead, others Edwards. In conclusion, we're back to square one -- a neck-and-neck race with no clear-cut outcome at this particular point in time.

The 2nd US Presidential Debate takes place tomorrow at 9am, on CNN ( Singapore time ). I'll be post-night, but you can bet I'm gonna try to watch it. :)

I Have A Question ( Well, Two Actually )

1. Whatever happened to the PAP's promise to address the opposition party MPs' queries regarding why they weren't invited to PM Lee HL's swearing-in ceremony at the Istana? Right now, the only thing I read in the papers is the ( rather childish ) exchanges between Chee Soon Juan and the entire PM ( past and present ) population. Enough already...

2. Why didn't we have an election for the PM post this year? ( And why hasn't anyone protested the fact that we didn't? )

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

To the very good friend who bought me this book, I apologize in advance.

In all honesty, I couldn't bring myself to read the novel. Not because of the subject matter, but due to the fact that its writing failed to engage me. I realize it's a bestseller, and has received terrific reviews for its inspirational story content. But having read Schindler's List a decade ago, that account still resonates strongly and The Hiding Place failed to suppress any of that, which made it impossible for me to appreciate the latter in any significant way.

But please don't take my word for it. :)

Germs: The Ultimate Weapon
-- by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad

I got this at Sunny Bookshop, mind you. That place is a veritable treasure trove. :D

With my interest in disaster medicine -- including terrorism and biological warfare -- this tome is right up my alley. Spanning the globe -- the Soviet Union, Iraq, Japan -- and boasting a crackling pace and sharp editing, it promises to be a tasty read. More to follow at a later date.

And last but not least,

Welcome Back, Re-minisce!

He's probably wincing as he reads this, but the dude from London is home ( his second home, as he puts it ), and will be joining the ranks as an overworked, underpaid Singaporean doctor sometime soon. Good luck! :)

Time to catch 40 winks before dinner. Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Short post. But important! :)

A Little Bit About... US Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards

The VP debate is less than 24 hours away ( it airs on CNN Oct 6, 9am, Singapore time ), and I gotta say: it's very exciting. Definitely lots more exciting than the Presidential debate, and media watchers are also in agreement that this event could cause a major shift in the polls.

Edwards has been keeping a rather low profile since his nomination. Some even suggest this move is more of a strategic one, especially with circulating rumours about Kerry's fear of being outshone by his younger, more articulate, and far more telegenic running mate.

You decide. Check this link for more information and photos.

Go, Edwards! :)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

*cue Urgh theme music*


I'm on night shift, BUT it's my official rest-time, so let's hope "someone" realizes this. :)
It's been a rough 6 hours so far, and the patients keep on comin'. I have no idea how I'm going to stay awake during church service later this morning. And I'm serving as pianist some more. :/

How The Mighty Has Fallen

Vioxx, the wonder drug that took the medical community by storm at the turn of the century, has been pulled off the market due to significantly increased risks in heart disease and stroke.

My initial reaction: absolute horror. Mostly because I, like many others in my profession, have prescribed it on many occasions in the wards and clinics ( though very rarely in the ER setting ), and am fully aware that many patients LOVE it. "It's fantastic!" they always tell me. "Nothing else worked before, but this one got rid of all my pain like magic!"

There's been some major scrambling going on a global scale, as doctors frantically contact patients and authorities send word out to the media. Guess Vioxx is joining the ranks of HRT and who knows what else in the wonder-drug-with-possible-long-term-complications category.

If there's one sure thing in medicine, it's that nothing is ever for sure.

LOTR: The Return Of The King

I've been watching the DVD these past couple of nights. Good memories. :) I remember catching it in the cinema the week after returning from New Zealand in late December 2003, how much I missed that beautiful country, how NZ truly epitomizes Middle-earth, how Tolkien's epic tale came to life during the LOTR tours in Queenstown and Wellington, and most of all, what an amazing film this is.
*pauses to wipe some Viggo-induced drool off the floor*

Gilmore Girls

I've neglected to post reviews of the 3rd season, even though it restarted on local TV more than a month ago, after a long hiatus during the Athens Olympics.

The most major plot twist came in the form of Jesse's return. You know, Luke's dark, broody nephew? Anyway, I speak as a huge fan, so don't worry if you can't understand anything I'm writing right now. In any case, following a year of silence after leaving town without informing poor Rory, he came back to get his worn-out car ( don't ask ), and bumped into the poor girl, who obviously hasn't gotten over that traumatic incident.
Their meeting is extremely heart-breaking, but that's not my main point.

My point is: Jesse really reminds me of someone I know. Someone who doesn't read this blog, thank goodness. :) We worked together as house officers, met up on and off thereafter, and still keep in touch after all these years. He doesn't look like Jesse, but has his own dark broody looks and personality. He used to drive the nurses wild, which caused him quite a bit of distress, though I had a fine time using that to push his buttons, haha. It's been a while since we saw each other, but with my exams over and a recent SMS exchange, I may soon get a chance find out if he's changed at all. Wondering if I should mention his passing resemblance to Jesse. He's definitely going to be annoyed, but it'll be just like old times. :P

Break's over. Sigh.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Where does all that time go?

Following yet another delay in posting, below is a quick recap of the past week (or two).

The US Presidential Debate ( September 30, 2004 )

My thanks to cable TV -- in particular, CNN, woohoo! -- for letting me watch this in its entirety. A riveting 90 minutes of accusations and rebuttals ( and some major squirming on President Bush's part ) made for compelling television. Topic of the day: foreign policy and homeland security -- admittedly very sensitive stuff, given 9/11, Iraq, and all that tip-toeing around North Korea.

Ultimately, however, substance played a secondary role to the event, if post-debate media coverage was any indication. Reporters almost gleefully played and replayed Bush's little ( though significant ) gaffe over a comment he made on his reasons for invading Iraq, ie. "They attacked us.", to which Senator John Kerry calmly replied, "They never attacked us.", followed by Bush's huffing-and-puffing "Of COURSE Iraq never attacked us. I know THAT!". Talk about a comedy of errors. :D

Polls show Americans agreeing that Kerry outperformed Bush on this one, but the latter is still in the lead in terms of overall support. Still, it's anybody's game, and my money remains locked on the Kerry-Edwards team.

Keep your calendars marked: Vice-Presidential debate Oct 5, 2nd and 3rd Presidential debates Oct 8 and 13 ( from what I could gather from CNN yesterday, but I could be a little off, and bear in mind that "live" TV telecasts occur HERE on Oct 6, 9 and 14. )

Singapore Idol

Again, Sylvester Sim did his fans proud, with a soaring rendition of He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Other worthy contenders include Olinda and Taufik ( the latter possessing a voice that is ripe for the R&B genre ). Jerry Ong -- who squeaked through his performance -- and Christopher Lee -- who practically slaughtered You're Still You ( Josh Groban would NOT be happy ) -- managed to stay in the finals ( sacre bleu!!! ), while pretty girls Beverly and Jeassea ( initally tipped to emerge the victor, believe it or not ) got booted off.

Major shocker, that one.

The Apprentice

Did Nick deserve to be fired? Amy, yes, but I'd always thought Nick excelled while Kwame often faltered. Oh well, as long as Bill is safe, heh heh. :)

The final assignment has begun, and even though I know the eventual outcome, I'd love to see how one beat the other in order to secure his dream job.

In a nice plot twist, past players were brought back to aid the 2 finalists in their tasks, in particular, the snobbish yet totally useless Omarossa, who quickly put her skills in ignoring problems in favour of a good time to wonderful use. A college education and working in the White House obviously don't automatically endow you with leadership qualities. Heck, she isn't even a team player! Ah, how I love to hate Omarossa. :P

Mike Gayle's Turning Thirty

Just finished this terrific novel last night, and true to the many glowing reviews, it's extremely enjoyable. Not the laugh-out-loud-a-la-Dave-Barry type of book, but effectively gets under your skin and into your psyche male-confessional, peppered with insightful anecdotes which any "thirty-person" or "turning-thirty-person" can definitely relate to, and lots of lovable characters involved in complicated ( ie. very human ) situations.

The theme of friendship permeates throughout -- a topic very close to my heart, as I count among my good mates a large majority of my junior college class. Reading Gayle's words brought back loads of heartwarming memories, and even now, we can always get together for a meal or drinks, and talk like we'd never been apart. No judgements, no embarrassment, no holds barred. Political opinions, dirty jokes, frank criticisms -- you name it, we say it.

But out of all the gems in this tome, the one question that struck me is this: When did you first become a full-fledged adult?
We all know age is a poor indicator of emotional maturity. Some of us hit it early, others much later in life. My personal experience: when my mom almost went blind and I was faced with the possibility of a life turned completely upside-down ( for many reasons ), in addition to assuming the role of parent, after almost 3 decades of being the child ( yes, I admit it now :)). Weathering that rough patch definitely made me stronger, pulled the whole family together, and brought me back to Christianity. Looking back, if I could've changed anything during these past 2 years, I probably wouldn't. Imagine that. :)

So try Turning Thirty out for yourself. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it.

Now, about planning for MY 30th. :D