Monday, April 21, 2008

Random Musings

John Lloyd Young's Blog

Read the early archived posts today, which were quite fascinating. JLY started blogging about 15 months before Jersey Boys premiered on Broadway, and it's interesting to see the contrast between his pre- and post-JB lives.

However, certain things have remained the same: his unwavering love for all things Broadway ( be it musical theatre or plays ), a wide ( and ever-expanding ) circle of friends, a passion for performing, and an unlimited appreciation for his fans.

There's a nice entry from January 3rd 2005, about the passing of Law & Order veteran Jerry Orbach ( better known to the younger generation as the talking candelabra Lumiere from Beauty And The Beast ). JLY's recounting of Orbach's grace and kindness is most inspiring.

Also, a funny post from November 20th 2004, about "survival jobs" like ushering and typing. The struggles of a young actor in the cut-throat American entertainment industry is familiar to many, but I find it quite surreal since I've seen JLY in person, and can't imagine how such amazing talent could've been missed for so many years.

Tom Cruise: Legend or Liar?

Am currently glued to Andrew Morton's unauthorized biography of the star, which is keeping me up at night... when I should be sleeping (!).

But what can you expect when the subject matter is super-juicy, the research impeccable, and the writing excellent?

I've never read any of Morton's previous work ( though my mom has good things to say about his Princess Diana exposé ), but have become quite a fan despite finishing only 2 chapters so far.

I've only covered his childhood and teenage years, but you can already see a pattern emerging -- that of a cocky little boy pampered by his mother and 3 sisters yet ill-treated by his father, who later developed an aggressive streak at school, and shamelessly fooled around with countless girls.

However, Morton highlights certain negative traits even at this early stage, i.e. an almost pathological affinity for lying. Quotes from interviews are debunked repeatedly by school acquaintances, friends and even relatives, with one ex-girlfriend pointedly remarking, "Don't let that smile and those teeth fool you. He can have a really nasty streak."

I have no idea why the book isn't on sale here, or why Amazon doesn't ship to Singapore ( assuming previous reports remain unchanged ). Again, my sincere thanks to L, who gamely carried the heavy tome back for me in her luggage. :)

More updates next time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Broadway Junkie

That's what I've turned into, thanks to the musical recordings kindly purchased by L on my behalf, which I've been blasting non-stop everywhere I go these past couple of weeks.


Believe it or not, I watched the original film version eons ago as a child ( it didn't have any singing ) and found it hilarious. Funny how it's been successfully translated into a musical format on the stage and, more recently, on film yet again, featuring Hollywood stars John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Marsden, Queen Latifah and Zac Efron.

[ My long-haul flight from New York to Singapore flew by very quickly, thanks to repeat viewings of the movie on Krisworld. :) ]

You can check out the track listing here. This is the Broadway cast recording, not the one from the film ( the former is tonnes better ).

All I can say is, it's the perfect antidote for any bad day. Combining a high-spirited mix of '60s rock 'n roll / Motown / gospel genres, infectiously upbeat melodies, ingenious lyrics and fabulous vocals, the album came at a huge steal, thanks to the US$10 special offer at Times Square's Virgin Megastore. The sound quality is top-notch as well.

Standouts include Welcome To The 60's, Run And Tell That!, and of course the big finale You Can't Stop The Beat.

My personal favourites, however, are Without Love and I Know Where I've Been.
The former is a joyful proclamation of young ( i.e. idealistic ) love, beautifully written and sung by the leads. The lyrics deserve special mention. A sampling:

"Without love
Life is like the seasons with no summer
Without love
Life is rock 'n' roll without a drummer

Like a week that's only Mondays
Only ice-cream never sundaes
Like a circle with no center
Like a door marked "Do Not Enter!"

Darlin' I'll be yours forever 'cause I never wanna be
Without love"

The latter, on the other hand, is a poignant piece about racial discrimination.

"There's a dream in the future
There's a struggle we have yet to win
And there's pride in my heart
'Cause I know where I'm going
And I know where I've been

There's a road we must travel
There's a promise we must make
'Cause the riches will be plenty
Worth the risk and chances that we take

There's a dream in the future
There's a struggle we have yet to win
Use that pride in our hearts
To lift us up to tomorrow
'Cause just to sit still would be a sin"


Spring Awakening

I passed the theatre for this show multiple times but didn't buy tickets. Now I'm regretting it, argh!

It won a fistful of Tony Awards, including Best Musical for 2007, and I can totally understand why.

But I must admit, I probably listened to the CD at least 5 times before I started to love it.

Track listing here.

I am not kidding when I say I ADORE this album. Never mind the depressing plot / subplots / lyrics. Again, it is a work of genius in every sense of the word.

In stark contrast to the deliriously happy Hairspray, Spring is angry, bitter, even occasionally vulgar.
But it's also so ^&*%$#@ good! :)

A potent melting pot of everything from rock to pop, from head-banging numbers to haunting love ballads -- it's currently taken up residence in my car stereo, with no plans to leave anytime soon, haha.

And every track is terrific. Every single one.

Personal faves? Of course I have a few. :)

Hard rocking ones: The B*tch of Living, Totally F*cked, Don't Do Sadness, And Then There Were None.

Slow ones: Touch Me ( the best! ), The Word Of Your Body ( gorgeous! ), Whispering, The Guilty Ones, Left Behind, and Those You've Known.

Pop pieces: The Mirror-Blue Night, I Believe, and The Song Of Purple Summer.

That just about covers the whole album. Like I said, the entire recording is chock full of gems.

I especially like the way some of the songs are interpreted -- there're wonderful violin solos, Brit-rock inflections ( Blur kept popping into my head ), and the leads are truly fantastic.

A YouTube clip of the cast's Tony Awards performance can be viewed here.

I'm now going through the last CD, i.e. Wicked ( about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz ). It's a far cry from the other two, done in a more "traditional" manner, with soaring choirs and operatic vocals. But it definitely rocks! Will write a review next time.

Movie Rundown

Picked up a few VCD rentals this week, including Enchanted, Beowulf and Atonement.

Thankfully, I made good choices this round ( took home a few duds in the past ), and just finished Beowulf, which I greatly enjoyed. I know there were critics / fans who complained about the accuracy of the interpretation of whatever medieval legend it's based on ( I don't really care ). Speaking from the perspective of a total ignoramus, it was a really fine piece of work, with solid storytelling and superb visual effects. Highly recommended.

I also like Enchanted a lot, and for many reasons. The leads have wonderful chemistry, with Amy Adams cracking me up with her ditzy antics, James Marsden showing off his comedic and vocal skills, and Patrick Dempsey using his doe-eyed Look Of Lurve to great effect. The plot's rather silly, but the music saves it from sinking into cheese hell, thanks to the legendary Alan Menken, who penned classics for The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin.

Am gonna watch Atonement after this. Lots of people tell me how fabulous it is, so I've got high expectations here. If it's anything like The English Patient ( one of my all-time Top 5 favourites ), I may just buy the DVD for my collection.

Other Updates

Clay Aiken's releasing a new album! Titled On My Way Here, it will be out in early May, and there's a video for the title track on Amazon. His voice is still as spectacular as ever. Sounding good, Clay! :)

David Archuleta's now in the Top 6, yes! He's been picking excellent songs this past fortnight, first with Robbie Williams' big hit Angels, then with the inspiring When You Believe from The Prince of Egypt. I appreciate the fact that he relates to pieces with positive messages, instead of singing about love, love and more love. Keep it up!

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 7 is now being shown EVERY NIGHT on cable's Starworld Channel 18, with repeats the next morning at 11am. The L&O series ( the original, plus SVU and Criminal Intent ) is IMHO the cream of the crop where crime dramas are concerned, and Season 7 has already upped its game by featuring stories that are much more controversial and emotionally distressing than its predecessors.
This has been ongoing for at least 3 weeks now. Tune in so you won't miss any more episodes!

Just got HOD's approval for my HMDP attachment next year, and I'm ecstatic to be returning to Manhattan, woohoo! Now to get all the paperwork out of the way... :)

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Reprieve

Have been writing dark-ish entries lately, and it suddenly occurred to me that I haven't posted pictures in a while. If you're not interested, you can either scroll down or go somewhere else. Exercise your free will, people! ( I still sound pissed don't I, haha... )

Here's a very nice shot of David Archuleta from his memorable performance last week ( Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Memories ). Definitely his best so far!

Rumours are circulating that his father is quite a control freak who puts a lot of pressure on the boy ( considering the big winnings at stake ), and allegedly yelled at David during a rehearsal, reducing him to tears.

Of course, I'm in no position to speculate, but it would be naive to dismiss such reports completely. As the saying goes, there ain't smoke without fire.

More from the U.S.A.

Don't know why I let this fizzle, but here're a few of my favourite pics from California.

Here's a sight that made me pretty ecstatic for the following reasons:

1) I stumbled upon it totally by chance ( passed it en route from my hotel to Rodeo Drive )

2) It is none other than the world famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which caters to Hollywood celebrities of all shapes and sizes.

More recently, it admitted Owen Wilson to the psych ward after he attempted suicide, almost killed Dennis Quaid's newborn twins with a whopping dose of IV heparin ( a really bad medical error for which the hospital is getting sued ), and welcomed Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry's baby girl a week or two ago.

It's actually quite an ugly building, and I regret not walking into the lobby and seeing how far I could go without being stopped ( heh heh ). Looked pretty quiet the afternoon I strolled past, but still, it's something I was happy to have caught a glimpse of.

Here's the super-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, where believe it or not, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre sit right next to each other ( I didn't know this until I visited the place ).

The whole area was positively swarming with people, and I had a great time strolling around the open area outside the Chinese Theatre, 'cos that's where major celebrities' cemented handprints are displayed. These are sometimes switched around ( with newer ones put in and older ones taken out ), but I managed to see those from the cast of Harry Potter and Ocean's 13, among many others.

You can walk all over these things, which was kinda fun. At least they're not put in glass cases for you to gawk at from a distance.

A shot of the Walk Of Fame from a sidewalk angle.

Boy was it hot that day! We were drenched and dehydrated.
There're a lot of shops nearby, selling everything from fast food to souvenirs to CDs / DVDs and such. I believe Jimmy Kimmel's TV studio sits right smack in the middle of all the action, though I didn't have the chance to try for tickets to a recording ( one of the disadvantages of travelling with parents who don't know who Jimmy Kimmel is ).

Last but not least, the beautiful Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Oscars ceremony.

I was really awed by this structure, which is truly magnificent when you stand before the entrance staring up at those shimmering gold letters as they bask in the blinding sunlight.

Our guide took us to the lobby area, where we gazed at the long flight of carpeted steps leading to the theatre's interior proper. The pillars on both sides are pretty special - they feature the titles of all the Best Picture winners from the year the Academy Awards first began.

Our tour group had a lot of fun with the so-called treasure hunt, as we walked around searching for our year of birth in order to find its corresponding Best Picture. It was pretty cool. :)

Another thing I recall is a publicity blitz for the TV series Dexter, which was premiering its 2nd season. There were loads of young people dressed in white overalls splattered with fake blood, handing out free DVDs of episodes from the 1st season - and I didn't take any of them! Argh! I shouldn't have walked so fast dammit.

Anyway, I'll try to post more another time. Just taking a break from life for a moment. Have already booked my next holiday ( for September, woohoo! ).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bravo, David Archuleta!

A BEAUTIFUL performance this week, of Dolly Parton's moving Smoky Mountain Memories.

It brought tears to my eyes with its poignant lyrics, soaring melody, and of course, David's amazing voice.

He really should record a Christian song album one day ( depending on his American Idol contractual terms, should he sign on with them ).

*spoiler alert*

Ramiele Malubay is out, with Brooke White and Kristy Lee Cook rounding out the bottom 3.

I'm predicting David A and David Cook for the finals.
Carly Smithson and Michael Johns may fight for #3.
Jason Castro will be kicked off soon if he remains complacent.
Let's see if I'm right.

Interesting Read

Thanks to a friend for bringing it to my attention.

No-one knows what we're doing at the A&E level, and it's easy to blame us for problems that appear to be direct results of our alleged "mismanagement".

This couldn't be further from the truth. The lodgers aren't technically the A&E's problem, but the hospital's. As such, the hospital should take steps to find solutions and clear inpatient beds.

Furthermore, A&E departments all over the country have implemented new work processes to minimize admissions ( e.g. observation units, vetting of admissions by seniors ), but we still can't stem the tide where lodgers are concerned, 'cos there's a persistent shortage upstairs.

I obviously can't comment about the internal workings within my institution. But I feel it's important to let the public know that the A&E isn't sitting on this, and that some of the work has to be borne by others as well.

Can a hospital pride itself on being "JCI-accredited" if it flouts guidelines on patient privacy, safety and medical management? When will a brave soul ( or even better, a few brave souls ) say "to hell with popularity and making pots of money" and do what needs to be done?

There's been a major surge in patient attendances this week. I did 2 calls in the past 5 days, and had to work non-stop during both of them ( usually, seniors can rest for a few hours once things settle down ). I've noticed a significant number of people coming in the middle of the night, for complaints that are (1) minor - meaning they can wait till office hours, (2) protracted - i.e. been around for days / weeks even, but the patient decided to come to the A&E at that unearthly hour for a check-up, or (3) MC-related - they're already awake ( doing who knows what ) and came early to beat the peak-hour crowds and get medical leave quickly so they can go home and sleep.

May I remind you all that manpower during night shifts is skeletal. At my department, there're only 5 doctors on call between 12mn and 8am, at least 3 of whom are medical officers. We're expected to handle all the resuscitations, as well as the critical care and consultation cases. When we're preoccupied with resus patients, the other queues understandably pile up. That's when patients and relatives start complaining, since they have no insight into the inner workings of a busy, shortstaffed A&E.

Put more doctors on night shift, you say? Give us more medical officers then. We don't have enough to go around as it is, and a nunber of them aren't even deemed efficient or safe enough for night shifts. The senior doctor pool is also being roped in to do more nights to make up for the MO shortfall -- a wise move since seniors make faster decisions and can attend to ill cases with minimal backup.

Sadly, morale in the department seems to be at an all-time low, with frequent MCs among the MOs and constant exhaustion all around. These just add to the whole problem in a vicious cycle pattern. I'm getting really sick of it.

Anyway, that's just me grumbling. We all know things will probably stay like this unless someone powerful steps in, takes our concerns seriously, and implements some major changes.