Saturday, April 30, 2005

Warning: Venting Session Ahead

If you aren't interested in what I have to say about Peter Cincotti or Constantine Maroulis, then please, skip to my last entry made on 28th April ( containing a review of Peter's Singapore showcase, among other things ) .

To quote characters from Peanuts and Sherman's Lagoon...


Two reasons:

1. I missed the opportunity to meet Peter Cincotti in person!

As you know, the 2 men guarding the entrance to a billiard room within Thumper absolutely refused to help me get autographs, despite my explanation regarding Peter's statement otherwise ( during his Class 95 interview ).

The person who eventually took my CD covers directly to Peter spoke to me on the phone yesterday, telling me 2 things - (1) that Peter immediately obliged with signatures, and (2) ASKED TO MEET ME!

I believe his exact words were: Is *** ( my name ) still around? Can you bring her in so I can meet her?

Unfortunately, since I never even thought I'd be granted this chance, I left shortly after passing the CD sleeves over, without leaving my phone number ( only provided my home address ). *smacks forehead*

Funnily enough, even though they must've assumed I'd driven home or something, I was actually just 5 minutes away from the hotel, having supper at The Tanglin Club.

When I heard what transpired that night, I swear I felt my heart literally sink all the way down to my left foot ( it was that specific, haha ). There was some mild concomitant aching chest discomfort as well. And this happened just before I started my afternoon shift. No idea how I got through the next 8 hours. :/

I'd been so ready with burning questions about his career, musical preferences and acting experiences.

- which Sting song is his favourite? the usual pop / new-age / rock offerings, or his treasure chest of jazz pieces( such as Moonlight, Windmills Of Your Mind, variations of his own classics on the concert CD All This Time, plus a new track from the Red Hot and Rio album )?

- so what's Kevin Spacey like? ( given the chance, I probably would've asked a million other things revolving around this guy, heh )

- what other songs will he be recording for his next album? ( with a promise to keep the information to myself if required, of course :))

- if possible, I would've definitely asked if he could play a piece for me on the piano, just so I can see his technique up close ( didn't get a full view of the keyboard during the show itself ). Have always resented my small hands, which make octaves quite the challenge. Peter's got very long, tapered fingers, and with his height and all, the grand piano actually looked dwarfed by him, and his hands were flying across the keys like it was just another walk in the park, la-dee-dah. ( So I identify better with Jamie Cullum, whose size matches mine, haha. )

Anyhow, no point fretting. On the bright side, I did get to see him perform ( a huge treat!), managed to secure autographs ( will describe them once they arrive in the mail ), am tremendously touched by the fact that Peter asked to meet me even though he must've been quite exhausted ( a very nice gesture :)), and again, have been the lucky recipient of a few random but significantly life-changing acts of kindness.

Maybe you can meet him the next time he comes down to Singapore, the insider reassured me.

I sure hope so. Will cross that bridge when I get to it.

2. Constantine Maroulis got booted off American Idol 4

I was so shocked by the news I almost dislocated my jaw. Constantine was obviously a hot favourite, both with the judges and millions of viewers. Not only is he a consummate performer who never fails to wow us each and every week, the cheers emanating from the audience were always the loudest whenever he appeared on-stage or took his turn to sing during group numbers.

I'm with you on this one, Paula. Her tears reflected the emotions felt by all his fans, myself included. And she's absolutely right - this happens EVERY season, from Clay's undeserved runner-up position in AI2, to LaToya Jackson's early exit in AI3. With Scott Savol safe - in spite of a terrible performance which mauled Luther Vandross's Dance With My Father beyond recognition - American Idol isn't a singing competition anymore, but has instead become a voting competition.

Sadly, we won't get to see Constantine strut his stuff no more, at least on the AI stage. But with his band releasing their album very soon, and a big fanbase from his Idol stint, hopefully SOMEONE will take a shot and hand him a recording contract.

Constantine has what it takes to be a star. All he needs is the chance to develop his potential, make it big, and prove the American Idol voters wrong.

I, for one, am behind this guy. I will order his CD from Amazon if need be. And you can bet I'll be at the AI4 concert should it ever come down to Singapore. :)

The Less Depressing Stuff

Indeed, there are Angels & Demons tour packages in Italy. Very expensive, but price isn't an issue for me as long as the experience is worth every penny. Would much rather spend the dough on something profound as opposed to materialistic pursuits like, say, a flashy car, branded goods or makeovers. My best life experiences have NEVER involved money, so you won't be seeing me with a new vehicle, a different hairstyle or designer togs anytime soon. :)

Arrested Development: watch it.

Currently screening on cable's Star World Channel 18 every Thursday at 9:30pm, this Emmy Award-winning comedy series revolves around a family so dysfunctional they make the Royal Tenenbaums and the Addamses look normal. Jason Bateman - a fixture from my childhood days in front of the goggle box - plays the long-suffering 2nd son who also seems to be the only sane member of the entire clan. Throw in a crazy mother, a mean sister, 2 kooky brothers, a jittery son who has a crush on his first cousin, plus a totally unscrupulous dad who insists on running the business from prison, and you've got the perfect cocktail.

Seinfeld it ain't - I just got my hands on the 3-season DVD, yes! - but it's witty, cerebral entertainment, and shouldn't be missed.

The Amazing Race 7 draws to a close.

The 2-hour finale will air this coming Wednesday on AXN Channel 19 at 8pm. Rob and Amber are still in the top 3, aargh! I used to like them a little, but seeing their antics on Amazing Race has made me lose all respect for this duo. They pass nasty remarks, they always use local guides to find landmarks ( while other teams do this on their own ), they could care less if your jeep overturned and the cameraman suffered a concussion. Boy do I hope they DON'T win this competition. Even host Phil Keoghan doesn't seem to like them that much.

And speaking of hosts, I'd just like to say that Jeff Probst from Survivor is looking mighty fine these days. Okay, enough about that. :D

Am now ploughing through the latest collection of Sherman's Lagoon comics, titled A Day At The Beach. I seriously think it's the funniest one so far, with over-the-top stunts, e.g. Megan and Sherman hurling javelins at beach apes ( aka humans in swimwear ), Hawthorne going on even crazier business ventures ( aka conquer-the-world rampages ), and best of all, the discovery of a parallel universe on the other side of the lagoon.
P.S. To M, who lent me his earlier Sherman books, I promise to return them ASAP. So sorry about the delay.

Having a Saturday off feels... strange, somehow. I don't particularly enjoy being free on weekends, 'cos I don't even go out most of the time, due to a combination of irritation ( I hate crowds ), paranoia ( do you know how many bugs are floating around out there? ) and practicality ( movie tickets cost a lot more ). I planned the May roster such that I'd have only one weekend off, but the consultant thought I needed another one. Oh well, more time for me to veg out at home then.

Seems a HMDP attachment can't be sliced into 2 6-month postings. It has to be either one half-year rotation, period, or a full-year's stint in one fixed location.
I'm torn, aargh! But if I can convince my anxious mother to loosen up a little, my top choice will be New York City, death-inducing winters be damned. Shh, don't tell her I said that. :)

Last but not least, read this. Clay, we're so very proud of you. :D

Time to go practise the piano again. Playing for church service tomorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pictures Don't Do Him Justice :) Posted by Hello

One Degree Of Separation Posted by Hello
[ It's 5:45am - man, this intractable insomnia is killing me, aargh. ]

Let me explain the captions above. :)

Peter Cincotti's Showcase at Thumper 27th April 2005

Yes, believe it or not, I managed to worm my way into this very exclusive event, thanks to a combination of thick skin, sincerity, and the immense kindness of strangers.

The experience has accomplished the following ( for me at least ):

1. Fulfilled my wish to see the Fab Four male jazz musicians in person - namely Robbie Williams ( 2001 ), Michael Buble ( 2003 ), Jamie Cullum ( 2004 ) and Peter.

2. Provided a night - though short - of absolutely top-notch entertainment.

3. Proven that photos can indeed be VERY deceiving.

Moving on to point #3 quickly ( so I can get it out of my system, haha ), Peter in the flesh is just... GORGEOUS.

All this time, I assumed he looked like a young boy - if you've seen his CD covers and heck, even the promo pics, you'd agree.

But in real life, he is quite literally a giant, with strikingly mature good looks despite his tender age ( 21 ). He exudes lots of confidence, class and understated sex appeal, and that smile - guaranteed to melt hearts. :)

If I sound gushy, then you're mistaken. I'm just plainly stating facts. I'm almost 10 years his senior, so I view him more as a nephew of sorts ( he seems too young to be my brother even, heh ). But when he first stepped out on the stage, I was dumbfounded .

Okay, moving right along. :)

Thumper is a rather small pub located adjacent to the Goodwood Park Hotel carpark, but features a cozy atmosphere perfect for jazz - as opposed to the Aquadesiac where Jamie Cullum performed ( that glass staircase is a recipe for frequent falls, I tell you ). The event was very well-organized, unlike the Jamie showcase, which felt more like a perpetual state of ordered chaos. This time, I got to sit through the whole thing, with an excellent view just 3 metres from the piano. Free flow of drinks and appetizers, without having to foot a penny, woohoo!

Peter wore a simple black-jacket-and-pants-with-white-shirt ensemble, just like the one in that picture up there ( randomly picked from the Internet, since the really beautiful ones aren't downloadable, for whatever reason, but I will provide links for those later ).
Nothing flashy at all, but he still looked like a million bucks. Certainly the mark of a true star, eh? :)

The 6-song set lasted perhaps 40 minutes in total, beginning with St Louis Blues, then followed by Some Kind Of Wonderful, I Love Paris, Sway, On The Moon and a preview of a song for his next album ( the title of which I can't recall because I was scrambling for my camera for last shots ).

One of the great things about jazz is how the album and "live" versions just never sound the same. This goes for everyone, from the Fab Four to all the legends before them, and even Norah Jones.

So Peter and his trio of bandmates jammed joyously, adding colour and finesse to the songs, easily doing acoustic variations of strings-heavy pieces like I Love Paris and On The Moon.

The best song of the evening? Definitely Sway, which incidentally is the only one taken from his debut rather than the latest album, and is responsible for propelling him to superstardom in the US. Most people prefer Michael Buble's uptempo cover, but Peter's slow-and-sizzling interpretation - complete with whispery vocals and measured piano solos - beats the competition hands down. Last night's version was no exception, but sounded even more terrific in a "live" setting, maybe because watching him sing it right there in front of me made it so much more exciting. :)
But halfway through the song, the improvisations started, beginning slowly at first, then escalating into full head-banging, foot-stomping rhythms for maybe 3 minutes, before winding down nicely into a mellow finish.

It wasn't till he'd played the last note that I realized I'd been holding my breath for who knows how long. Now THAT'S what I call really good jazz. :D

There were a couple of downsides though. First, the set was a little short. But according to the emcee - none other than Denise Keller from MTV and Eye For A Guy - Peter and gang were on a tight schedule and had to leave for San Francisco the next day. Apparently, that's why he didn't oblige with an encore. Well, let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

Second, getting an autograph presented hurdles of colossal proportions. Sure, he sounds like a nice, affable person in media interviews, but his management team is really something else. Perhaps I'm just not good at sweet-talking them, but having met people in similar professions on previous occasions, the two men I encountered last night were just plain rude.

However, I'm happy to report that I managed to solve this problem very speedily. Some things happen for a good reason, and thanks to a combination of a few events, including an email read by Class 95's Jean Danker to Peter during a Dinner Jazz segment interview, his very public reply ( in which he PROMISED to grant ME an autograph, inviting me to walk up to him and just say the word when I attend the showcase ), and again, the kindness of strangers ( A and G, I'm forever indebted to you both! ), the autograph did materialize ( though I didn't get the chance to meet him in person ).

Still, overall, it was a great show. Peter is an accomplished pianist, sings well, clearly loves what he does, and tries his best to be friendly ( though I suspect jet lag and an unforgiving schedule tainted last evening's behaviour just a tad ). The event was also further marred by technical problems ( a faulty mike stand, screeching feedback that caused Peter to cover his ears and grimace at one point ) and a large crowd of talkative people at the bar behind me ( hello? anyone with manners in here? ).

To his credit, Peter exhibited some measure of good humour at one rather awkward juncture. After finishing Sway, the mike stand disintegrated, and the feedback problem surfaced. But once that was sorted out, he cheekily asked us if he could take it from where they left off, launched into the closing chords of Sway, waited for us to applaud and cheer once again, then went into his intro for On The Moon.
"This was all planned, by the way," he laughed. Ah, there's some wit in him yet. :)

Did I like the performance? You bet.

But is it the best I've seen? It depends. There's no doubt at all that Peter is fast on his way to bigger things. He's got tonnes of talent, has the quadruple-whammy advantage of not only playing an instrument extremely well, but also singing, composing and arranging his own repertoire.

However, based on all the performances I've seen so far, my favourite is still Jamie Cullum, for the following reasons. His showcase in July 2004 lasted a whopping 90 minutes. He was a lot more chatty and energetic, obliged with a few encores, and even jumped into the audience ( and shook my hand - still vividly remember THAT! :)). Watching his concert DVD, Live In Blenheim, it's obvious that he gave his blood and sweat in the Aquadesiac that night, and that everything he did wasn't just for show. And for that, he has my eternal support and respect.

Hopefully, we'll see Peter Cincotti back on our shores in the near future, and this time for a proper concert in a nice venue, with NO-ONE talking in the background, ahem. If you'd like to know what THAT'S like, check out this review from a UK show. Front-row tickets are a must!

And In Other News...

Eye For A Guy 2 is back. As usual, the men are the main draws, but I must say Denise is a hundred times more tolerable than the very ditzy, Singlish-twanged Rachel Lee.
I spotted my favourite in the pilot, believe it or not. Howard, the irrepressible and boyish clown, looks set to be the winner. Now why can't I meet guys like that? ;)

American Idol 4 this week sprang a Clay Aiken surprise. He didn't perform, but was seated in the audience - and didn't get mobbed? how can?! ( just kidding ). He's gone back to his brunette / redhead roots, but looked a little tired. Poor thing.

Constantine will always be my pick for the Idol crown. He didn't do so well this time, I admit - what song did he sing anyhow? - but he has the X factor. Truckloads of it. That's what sells records. And that's all that matters.
Anthony also did a great job, as did Vonzell, who's running circles around dull little Carrie Underwood. If there has to be a female in the final 2, let it be V and not C.

Just finished reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. Primarily because I intend to read its sequel, The Da Vinci Code, and figure out what all this hype is about already. I did enjoy Angels, and will probably like Da Vinci as well. Brown's character development suffers from a kind of over-achievement syndrome ( c'mon, a Harvard professor who swims 50 laps a day and can outmanouevre an entire college polo team on his own? not to mention a physicist so beautiful and brilliant she doesn't have a boyfriend? ). But thankfully these hiccups are nicely balanced by the really good bits - the high-brow stuff. I'm not a history buff, so I'll probably need to find out how much of what Brown wrote is fact or fiction. But since I'm heading to Italy in July ( and missing the JCI accreditation exercise, HA! ), I'm hunting for the opportunity to visit all the sites listed in the novel - Vatican City and the Pantheon are already in the itinerary, but I want to see those Bernini sculptures, especially the one with St. Teresa, heh heh.

Oh yeah, I haven't explained the "one degree of separation" caption.

You know the term "six degrees of separation", right? About this hypothesis stating that everyone can be connected to one another through a minimum of 6 others? Well, last night, seeing Peter Cincotti in person, and knowing he acted with Kevin Spacey in the Bobby Darin epic, Beyond The Sea ( Spacey spotted Peter in a club gig and approached him to play a secondary role in the film ), I felt truly privileged. It's a giant step closer to my favourite actor of all time, and that, my dear readers, is my early 30th birthday present. :D

Before I end off, here're the links as promised:

Peter Cincotti's Official Website - photos galore.

Ermenegildo Zegna - more gorgeous pictures, including those of fellow new face Diego Luna, yum.

It's 7:15 am. Time to have breakfast and try to stay awake for my shift later, haha.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Next American Idol Posted by Hello

The ?guy? in my life :) Posted by Hello

Double Ahhh Posted by Hello

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand Posted by Hello
Whoa, the photoblogging thing works! :D

Get Ready For...



And this!

Would've included this as well, but it's already halfway through its run.

Oh well, I'm going to its last show. Looking forward to it. :)

Other Updates

1) Another day off tomorrow. Time to hit the town, woohoo!

2) We have around 5 medical students doing electives in our department. Impressive number indeed. One guy - the oldest, I believe - has appointed me his mentor by default ( as the consultant in charge of him isn't working this week ). So I basically have a personal phlebotomist, haha.

No, I'm just kidding. This fellow - let's call him A - is conscientious and enthusiastic. Takes good history, shows a lot of interest in everything we do, takes notes ( bonus points for that :)), and has developed a comfortable rapport with me so teaching is more of an informal rather than a stressful process.

He hasn't made up his mind about specializing yet, but let me tell you this though - he certainly LOOKS like the surgical type.

Draw your own conclusions. :)

3) Good movies I watched this week: Jeepers Creepers 2 ( awesome! now if only they had an arcade version of it! ) and Flatliners ( creepy, but hey, where the heck are the defibrillator pads and endotracheal tubes? )

4) Waiting to catch: Kingdom Of Heaven. Special preview documentary will be screened on cable Channel 58 this Sunday at 8:30pm.

5) I will say this again: Constantine HAS to win this year's American Idol competition. His performance of the Bee Gees' Nights On Broadway this week brought a HUGE smile to my face. And he looked fabulous in that disco get-up, yow. :D
I'm sad to see Anwar go, but that's the way audiences voted, and I just hope Constantine's fans won't let him down, 'cos this guy absolutely deserves the title. Come to Singapore please. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'm Sorely Disappointed

Not with the government's decision - was there ever any doubt? - but with our politicians' defensive arguments.

Was this the best way? The only way? They say yes.

I disagree.

Enough said.

Watch For It

Just read an excellent article due for publication in April's issue of the SMA News.

And I really mean EXCELLENT.

Will update this blog the minute it's available online.


There are days when I truly detest being female.

18th April was one of them.

Hormone surges, pain score 10/10, with 3 more hours left in a busy 8-hour shift.

My 2nd day off in 3 weeks. I couldn't have asked for better timing. :)


Thanks to all that oestrogen, perhaps. :/

I was hit with a tsunami of negative emotions yesterday.

Something about the human condition, and all its flaws. How, as one quote goes, "We're born without anger." yet inevitably develop great propensity for cruelty, malice, greed, vice and sometimes, perversions of the most horrific nature.

Two World Wars and a slew of other equally devastating battles. Genocide in Africa, the Holocaust, Nanking, Tiananmen. 9/11, Oklahoma City, Tokyo, Madrid.

Columbine. James Bulger. Child killers on rampages across Japan and China.

Paedophiles masquerading as Catholic priests. Children in America kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by convicted child sex offenders living down the street. Others in France willingly sold by their parents to similar monsters in their neighbourhood - in return for a carton of cigarettes.

Civil suits in local courts revolving around soapy water trickling from one driveway to another. A grown man mocking an autistic boy.

Nuclear arms proliferation in Korea. China-Taiwan and China-Japan tussles.

And yes, more casinos will come - Thailand, Japan, Korea. Time magazine reported this months ago, and it's never wrong.

Never mind about the state of the world, where homeless children sleep on the floors of dirty train stations in Indonesia, or become drug-addicted sex slaves in Cambodia. Where Indians scrounge for scraps alongside well-fed vultures, and haul human excrement for a mere few cents a day.

The rich would rather pour their billions onto card tables, roulettes and horse races. The not-so-rich do the same in the hopes of hitting the big-time, no matter how remote their chances.

It's never going to stop. It will only get worse. And nothing can be done.

A Touch Of Heaven

Cable's Hallmark Channel 17 is screening the TV version of Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

I didn't like the book, but the small-screen offering is actually very good.

Repeats will be telecast later in the month, so check your catalogue.

Reading the novel may help a bit as well, as certain elements aren't fully explained in the televised version, yet are vital to proper understanding of the story.

Which brings me to the last part of this rather depressing entry.

Eddie, the protagonist in this tale, experiences 5 different heavens in his journey, each created according to the 5 key people's personal liking.

If I ever have the choice, my idea of heaven would be one ( or all, haha ) of the following:

1) My 3-week holiday in the UK back in 1994.

It wasn't anything about the place really. Rather, it was about the people, the time, and the experience. I was young and eager to see the world. Filled with innocence and enthusiasm, the trip opened my eyes to the endless possibilities available. Even now, I can still feel the wind in my hair as I cruised down the River Thames. I can hear the majestic chiming of Big Ben, smell the musty scent within the Royal Albert Hall, hear the falling rain as I stood shivering in Edinburgh.

I remember Laura, the sweet 18-year-old bespectacled American who bonded with me like a long-lost sister, and who is now married with a beautiful infant daughter. To this day, the fact that we still correspond after last seeing each other more than a decade ago never fails to amaze me.

And how can I ever forget Chris, the quiet 21-year-old Australian from Melbourne who sponsored his grandparents' vacation to England? We lost touch a long time ago, but he always lingers on in my memory. The long black coat, short brown hair, sky-blue eyes framed by the longest lashes I have ever seen, and rare yet winsome smile. The nights we sat at the same table for dinner, when he would launch into his beat-box routine or hum dance tunes as I cluelessly nodded in appreciation. The day he trailed me to a bench outside a post office in the Snowdonia National Park, finally settling down just inches away and introducing himself. Or the afternoon on Loch Lomond, when he lounged on the top deck of the ferry, oblivious to the freezing wind, yet fully aware of my presence close by.

An eternity spent here would definitely work for me. :)

2) My other 3-week holiday - in New Zealand

I'm torn between the two, but love them both equally.

You guessed it: faithful readers may remember a glorious afternoon spent by the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Have already made plans to return to that very spot sometime in the future. Alone or with a loved one is totally beside the point. :D

Another choice moment: Lake Matheson near the Fox Glacier town area - a tranquil, absolutely gorgeous nook which few tourists know about. Return trip also definite. :)

3) Something a little simpler

Barring the usual spend-your-entire-afterlife-with-family-and-friends scenario, if I can't have any human companions, then the cat will do.

He turns eight this year and gets more affectionate with each passing day.

My friends are all so wrong. There IS a guy in my life. :)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Looks Like It Backfired

If you read the Forum Page lately, you would've seen a prominent letter written by an even more prominent person, making assumptions about something that doesn't really fall into said person's specialty. ( Well, sure, there's some overlap, but still, did the comments really have to be aired in our national paper? )

Interestingly, out of the 3 published responses in today's edition, only 1 was in agreement ( and extremely short ). The other 2 practically blasted the hell out of the abovementioned's arguments, with one so skilfully worded I couldn't help grinning at the cleverly veiled sarcasm in its concluding sentence.

In the uproar that followed, the feature article has statements from those whom this person's assumptions encompass, strongly refuting the hurtful remarks and expressing outrage at the implications made.

As for the person at the centre of it all, no apology was offered ( so typical ), with the reply that the assumptions made are based on decades of experience.

All I can say is, I used to respect this person, but it's hard to continue doing so after this inappropriate crossing of boundaries. But that's just me.

Looks Like It's Coming

Oh please. Does anyone actually give a hoot about the government's decision regarding the casino?

If you have any measure of intelligence or common sense, you would've known that our politicians have been priming us for its arrival from the word go.

The saddest part of it is, I heard from an inside source that during a closed door meeting with religious leaders, a key figure showed zero interest in the proceedings, and offended quite a few of the other attendees.

Isn't it heartening to know that we have such upstanding characters directing the course of our nation? ( Not a compliment, by the way. )

On to less depressing stuff...

Constantine: My Man

Finally, he's officially tipped to win the competition ( quote from Paula Abdul, but who really cares about her when Simon described his performance as nothing short of "astonishing" ).

Doing the universally loved and immensely challenging Bohemian Rhapsody might have killed anyone less able, but Constantine - forever decked out in a jacket and long scarf - rocked his socks off and hit those high notes with a mix of adrenaline overdose and sexy cheekiness, before mellowing in the last few seconds to a soft, pitch-perfect falsetto.

I will always adore Clay Aiken, but Constantine is fast becoming an AI favourite for me. :)

The other top 3 this week:

Anthony - he's back! Although his cover of Paul Young's Every Time You Go Away isn't his strongest performance to date ( that would be his rendition of an Elton John song a few weeks ago ), at least the judges cut him some slack this time round. I've always said he has a great voice, but needs work on using it to his advantage, ie. changing his style to suit the song, refraining from showing off his vibrato at inappropriate places, etc. Take a page out of Clay's book - the guy has such powerful vocals, but knows when NOT to use them. Let's hope Anthony can improve on his technique. And soon.

Scott - Does this shock you? :) Yes yes, I'm not above admitting certain things, and even though I don't want him to win the competition, he did an admirable job this week ( and I'm not biased by the fact that he chose a Hall & Oates piece, haha ). His almost-flawless cover of She's Gone wowed us all - even the duo, who were seated in the audience - and if he continues to pick the right songs and do them well, he may get to the final 3.

Vonzell - Finally, a female! Out of the remaining 3 gals, V is now my favourite to make it to the finals ( though I doubt that it will actually happen ). Good song ( Let's Hear It For The Boy - catchy and well-known ditty ), lots of positive energy, and marked progress in technical prowess.


Definitely Carrie and Nadia, who chose weird pieces and bored me severely.

Anwar sings well, but hearing his rather sharp, nasal voice week after week is starting to get on my nerves. Don't think I can listen to an entire album if he ever records one. But I do think he should do a Broadway musical.

CSI: New York

... is easily becoming my new TV addiction.

This week's episode featured not one, but two, fascinating cases, and quite a few quoteworthy statements, among them:

Lab technician: Looks like the perfect crime.
Stella ( played by Melina Kanakaredes ): There's no such thing.


Mac Taylor ( played by Gary Sinise ): Have faith in the evidence.

What I like most, I reckon, is the slower pace of the NY series. CSI: Miami constantly frustrates me with its way-too-fast and a-little-too-easy investigative methods, where they go on wild-goose chases for 3/4 of the show, then bam! for some strange reason, they catch the murderer within the next 5 minutes.

The Las Vegas team still boasts good writing, but NY may surpass that very soon. Slow and steady, guys. Now that's what I like. :)

CSI Comics: Serial

Highly recommended whether you're a fan or not.

Though in black and white, with a few writing glitches ( thanks to the grossly overrated Max Allan Collins, whose self-penned intro reads like a major blowing-my-own-horn session ), the graphics are pretty decent, and the story relatively absorbing and well-developed.

If this whets your appetite for Jack The Ripper and serial killer fare, I suggest reading John Douglas's Journey Into Darkness ( examining the creation and progression of notorious serial killers ) and The Cases That Haunt Us ( which features a chapter analysing the Ripper murders ).

I Spoke Too Soon

Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven is a let-down, to put it nicely. My comments in the last blog entry were based on the initial one-third, but halfway through the novel, I started to get a little irritated, and by the last third, was flipping pages and reading only the dialogue bits.

Could've been a lot better than it actually is. Too bad it wasn't.

Medical Stuff

May have to be cut down on this site, due to a recent appointment which involves sensitive issues. Am seriously considering starting another one - completely anonymous, with greater freedom to express my opinions - but unfortunately, very very few friends will be provided with its address.

Nothing personal. Just self-preservation. :)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Penguin Parade

Somewhere within the depths of Singapore's largest hospital is a computer bearing a cleverly altered picture from the upcoming cartoon, Madagascar.

Very well-done, I must say. :)

Four nights ago, I dined with the culprits - sorry, I mean GENIUSES :D - at Brewerkz. Joining us were 3 others, all originating from a surgical department I recently worked in for a short spell.

Although I was the sole ( and I quote ) "flower" among the group of thorns, it was a great night out, filled with tasty food, lots of laughter, and much-needed catching up. More than half the guys are married - three with young offspring - while the rest are in long-term relationships.

The reason I bring this up is because, in spite of good reasons for dispersing early, EVERYONE stayed past 10pm, adjourning to another part of town for dessert, even contemplating a trip to a video arcade at one point.

I may not have looked it, but I REALLY wanted to go to the latter. Maybe blast a few spaceships, enter the Datona rally, or shoot my way through The Lost World and House Of The Living Dead. Perhaps next time then. :)

Thanks, dudes, for a very nice time. Keep in touch!

Just My Imagination?

I'm a bit dense where flirtations are concerned.

Partly because I've become extremely suspicious after being badly burnt.

Partly because I'm pathetically inexperienced where the intricate workings of male-female mating dances are concerned.

But yesterday, I think I caught the whiff of a possible "line".

It came during a case discussion in the ER. A few specialties were called upon to help manage the patient, and I presented the history to X.

If I'm wrong, then I do apologize. But I've noticed X before on many occasions, and get the impression that the opposite is also true.

As I spoke, he had a very, erm, interesting look on his face. Halfway between mirth and forced seriousness. The kind of look I give a guy when I'm affected by his mere presence. The kind of looks I've received on a few prior occasions, but which never progressed any further ( apparently because I "don't encourage them enough" - right, so it's MY fault, is it?! ).

X-rays and a CT were ordered. Shortly after, we spoke again about a list of criteria, the details of which were a little hazy. I expressed contrition for making a mistake, and he replied with a joking remark about not minding because it gave him the opportunity to come down and see me.

Opinions, anyone?

I know next to nothing about X. Hopefully, that exchange wasn't inappropriate ( I'm single, but what about him? ). If it was, then tsk tsk. If not, then err, thanks for the compliment? :)

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

Picked this up at a Popular Bookshop sale. A real page-turner, and highly recommended for both Christians and non-Christians. A proper review to follow soon.

CD Reviews

At last! My first day off in 2 weeks has allowed for some recovery ( in addition to terrific ER shifts post-VRE scare, heh heh ).

The Ultimate Hall & Oates Collection

This $13.90 double-disc compilation from China has fabulous sound quality, and features close to 40 of their greatest hits, ranging from bluesy soul on the first CD, to their best works on the second.

This duo is unbelievably versatile, swinging smoothly from '80s retro ( Method Of Modern Love, Downtown Life, Possession Obsession ) to rock ballads ( So Close ) to pop ( Out Of Touch ) and mushy love songs ( If A Promise Ain't Enough ).

Now if only they'd come back here for another concert.

Classics In The Key Of G

The predecessor to Kenny G's latest Duets album, this is a beautiful disc featuring greats like Summertime, The Look Of Love, Desafinado, What A Wonderful World, The Girl From Ipanema, Stranger On The Shore, and Over The Rainbow.

Most versions are over 5 minutes long, but very well-arranged. My personal favourite - his breath-taking collaboration with sweet-voiced Bebel Gilberto on The Girl From Ipanema.

Don't stop your CD player immediately after the last song though. I discovered a bonus track right at the end. What a treat. :)

At Last...The Duets Album

I heard one of the songs - I Like The Way You Move, done with Earth, Wind And Fire - on Class 95's morning show the other day, so this disc must be making a few waves eh?

From LeeAnn Rimes belting Everything I Do ( I Do It For You ), to Brian McKnight crooning Careless Whisper, and Daryl Hall's sexy cover of Baby Come To Me, the vocal offerings are top-notch.

The purely instrumental ones, however, are even better.

David Benoit's relaxing piano accompaniment on a lovely rendition of Norah Jones' Don't Know Why is my favourite, while Arturo Sandoval's joyful trumpeting on At Last blends seamlessly with Kenny G's gruff saxophone.

At the rate I'm buying CDs, I'm going to run out of storage space very very soon. :D

American Idol 4 - The Final 8

Scott Savol is safe - again!?!?

No comment. Sigh.

My list of the top 4 this week:

Constantine - He's now officially my pick to win this competition. This year is the white guy's turn, 'cos if you notice, we've already had winners from the white-girl, black-girl and black-guy categories. He did My Funny Valentine in a slow jazz simmer, and almost drove Paula Abdul out of her mind. This guy has "star" written all over him.

Bo - He never fails to rise to the occasion, this time doing a lively version of Corner Of The Sky. He hasn't wowed me yet, though.

Anthony - I don't care what the judges say. He has a wonderful voice, and sang Climb Every Mountain very well.

Nikko - His elimination from the group is tragic, because he's definitely better than Scott ( where are his fans coming from??? ). His choice of song - One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story - may have been less than inspired ( Josh Groban did a much nicer cover ), but the memory of him blowing all our minds with Sisqo's Incomplete remains vivid, and I'm very sad to see him go.

I still don't like the gals. Can you tell? ;)

Gonna veg out for the rest of the day. Next off's in 10 days' time. Argh.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

CSI: New York

( Don't think a spoiler alert is needed, right? )

The sponsors didn't screen the pilot. Don't ask me why, but they decided to show a later episode instead. One involving a young man whose murder was solved more than a decade later. Rather slow, but I'm a big CSI fan, so of course, I had no complaints.

Gary Sinise as team leader Mac Taylor is a good choice. Stern-looking yet kind and even-tempered, he joins the illustrious ranks of William Petersen and David Caruso in heading terrific casts populated by relative unknowns.

The New York spinoff has its own unique atmosphere - a natural progression given Las Vegas' flashy excess and Miami's decadence. NY boasts a more subdued tone, filled with dark, smoky alleys and equally dark, sombre suits ( indeed, almost all the investigators are decked out in full jacket-pants-and-tie getups ). Cool. :)

Melina Kanakaredes from "Providence" hasn't aged a day since her Sydney Hansen role. Not much in terms of acting chops in the episode I caught, but I'm hoping to see more in the future.

Favourite character? Oh yes, I have one from every series. :D

The original CSI: Eric Szmanda who plays the irrepressible Greg Sanders.
CSI: Miami: Definitely Rory Cochrane, the droll Tim Speedle aka "Speed".
CSI: New York: Get a load of Carmine Giovinazzo, who plays Danny Messer. It's probably the glasses. :)

Catch the TV premiere on AXN Channel 19 Tuesday night ( 5th April ) at 9pm. CSI: Miami's 3rd season will be returning soon on Thursdays. Add these to the 5th original CSI season on Wednesdays and I've got a whole lot of blank video tapes to buy.

P.S. I didn't win the CSI: New York set visit. Darn.

Review of Rainer Hersch's Borge Again at the Jubilee Hall, 2nd April 2005

Before I begin, here's his website.

And for the record, I haven't laughed this hard since - let's see - probably Seinfeld ( and even HE isn't as funny as Hersch ). :D

I went to this without any concrete expectations. All I knew was that there would be classical music played on a piano, with a comedy routine thrown in. From the looks of it, it would be a one-man show, with few stage props, i.e. very minimalist.

And I was right.

This being the first time I've ever been to Jubilee Hall, I was struck by the decor and the relatively small size of the auditorium. But it turned out to be a plus, 'cos a larger venue would've probably ruined the whole thing anyhow.

The stage setup was simple - single grand piano, a small table with a few items, a few spotlights, and the usual maroon-coloured heavy curtain as a background. With literally the bare necessities in play, it was up to Hersch to carry everything else.

And he did just that in the most superb manner. :)

His solo performance lasted a continuous ( whopping ) 75 minutes - without intermission. He didn't drink any water, never stopped talking, never forgot his lines, and kept the momentum racing along with remarkable ease.

Of mixed British and German descent, he joked that "I'd like to take over the world, but am too polite."

His punchlines came fast and furious, from digs at the Welsh ( "You can't beat them at Scrabble. They look down at 7 consonants and think "I've won." ), his wife and yes, even Singaporeans, to side-splitting spoofs of the late, great composers.

There are just too many ingenious moments to recount, but I can tell you he covered lots of ground, including Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Offenbach, Rachmaninov, with smatterings of Glenn Gould, Andrew Lloyd Webber, ABBA, and even The Monkees ( with an alternative interpretation of their song involving Saddam Hussein - priceless! ).

He mixed and matched well-loved melodies, combining Mozart's Turkish March with ABBA's Money Money Money, inserting Ode To Joy into The Entertainer, and turning one piece upside-down thereby transforming it into yet another renowned classic.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, these were his own creations. I haven't mentioned his Victor Borge routines yet!

Hersch's show is titled as such because it is an homage to the Danish pianist-comedian. I've personally never heard of Borge before ( perhaps in passing at most ), so learning about his fascinating history was both educational and enlightening.

If it sounds vaguely dull, then let me reassure you that it was anything but. In fact, I laughed the hardest at Hersch's Borge impersonations, in particular 2 segments concerning "phonetic punctuation" and "language inflation". The first substitutes punctuation marks with extremely funny sound effects, while the latter converts words like "wonderful" and "forefathers" into "two-derful" and "five-fathers". You get the idea.

Hersch obliged with a reading of Shakespeare to illustrate phonetic punctuation, and practically brought the house down with uncontrollable guffaws. I don't even know how to describe the scene to you, but the entire hall of otherwise sensible, composed adults turned into wobbling pillars of jelly with tears streaming from their eyes, if you can imagine that. And when he did the Queen ( as in the Queen of England ), I suspect a few of the older folks might have lost control of certain bodily functions.

Another memorable moment came at the end, during an ingenious finale that "translates" opera into English gibberish. Hersch frantically flipped a stack of large cards with special lyrics printed on them, and you have to agree that all that Italian warbling really does sound exactly like what he wrote on those cards - they flew by so quickly, but I do recall something about buying beer and brothels and Nivea and Bogota and - yet again - Saddam Hussein. More wiping of eyes. :)

I've got his "live" CD recording ( of his own routines, not Borge's ) playing in my car at the moment. Most of it is stuff he never introduced during his Jubilee Hall show, so this is a huge bonus. On my way to work this morning - and feeling rather poorly as my car broke down at the Raffles Hotel last night and I didn't get home till after midnight, PLUS the fact that the roster had a last-minute shuffle and my off-day disappeared somewhere - I started to convulse with giggles at a traffic junction along Grange Road during a certain segment, and probably alarmed the driver of an SUV next to me ( "What the bloody hell is that weirdo laughing at?!" ).

Ah, that got me through the crappy shift all right. :)

I've got Hersch's personal autograph ( with my name on it, yeah :)), and he's such an amicable chap even off-stage. Very chatty, never stops cracking jokes, and truly, truly talented.

No word on when he'll return for another performance. But if he does, I'll be sure to mention it on my blog, and ask you readers to go watch him. It's an experience no-one should miss out on.

Frustration 101

Well, it felt awful earlier, but writing about Hersch's show has dampened the effect somewhat, haha.

'Tis the season of irritating incidents, thanks to:

1. Clueless relatives who don't know ANYTHING about their father's / mother's medical condition.
Typical responses: Don't you have all that info on your computer? You're the doctor, YOU tell me. He has a "heart problem" - what exactly I have absolutely no idea. Errr, I THINK he has cancer...

*Excuse me while I yank out a clump of my hair*

2. Annoying relatives who tell you one thing and then do the exact opposite.
Typical scenario: "Oh, he needs admission is it? But he's the sort who hates staying in hospital. Please don't force him to if he says no."
Then after the patient tells you he wants to be discharged and signs the AOR form, the same relatives come running to you begging, "Oh PLEASE don't discharge him! We know he doesn't want to stay, but won't you PLEASE admit him?"
Me: "Err, but he's lucid, and capable of AOR-ing."
Them: "Yes we know that, but we WANT you to admit him."


3. ( This is a recurring problem, but I don't think I will ever get over it. ) Singaporeans who take ZERO responsibility for their own health. They:
(a) don't know what meds they're on,
(b) have no idea what tests were done,
(c) expect you to know all the details, as if you're clairvoyant ( heck, if I were, I wouldn't have chosen this career - just kidding )

Forced to trace old notes today ( due to a combination of clueless patient and family, and computerized records that don't extend beyond 3 years ), I read entries from a clearly frustrated fellow colleague, who documented in great detail all the advice and education dished out to said patient and family, TO NO AVAIL.

Precisely why I like the ER. Frustration - yes. But at least it's transient. You don't see the same people day in and day out ( even the regulars have to go home the next day, or get kicked upstairs ), and once your shift is over, the patients get handed over and you get on with your own life.

Nothing beats that. :)