Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maleficent


Much like Frozen, I am amazed by the way the fairy tales were spun away from the more direct approach that follows its very origins. The bedtime story of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty was given a new touch when it is decided that characters ought to have a slight after-taste in the meaning of a change of heart. The tagline is spot-on on the get-go by informing movie-goers not to believe the fairy tales or the story book.

And I bet that most of you can’t get your eyes off the devilish look portrayed by Angelina Jolie. Her piercing cold green-eyes  with her high cheeks and cachectic veneer is more than enough to convince anyone out there that she means more than just business. It wasn’t until the truth of human greed befell her and fantasy belied the truth behind her lover that she began to adopt a more wicked expression. And that is where things start to become interesting. With years of acting packed under her belt, Jolie is a far more convincing actress than any others. The revelation wasn’t that obvious to me until the critical moment when the prince failed in his true love’s kiss and a check on the watch showed that the film is nearing its’ end. I had to admit that I was in fact caught offguard and that is what makes the movie tick with so many raging reviews on its screenplay.

Movie Rating:- 9/10

A Time To Kill, John Grisham


Just completed the final chapter of this novel and am thoroughly overwhelmed by the author of this legal thriller. It was only a few days back when I finished the sequel to Jack Brigance’s law adventure, Sycamore Row that I made it a point to go through the origin of his legal roots by pondering over A Time To Kill. The reflection on the case at hand is sufficient to stir the local populace into their own heated debate. Carl Lee Hailey was indicted and arraigned for the murder in cold blood of two whites - Freddie Lee Cobb and Pete Willard after it was revealed that they participated in the kidnapping and raping of his ten year old daughter, Tonya. Leaving her for dead in the barren kudzu-infested mole-hill, the local blacks who were fishing nearby were kind enough to carry her home after managing to coax her out of her father’s name. Carl Lee decided to take matters into his own hands after witnessing for himself how physically traumatised his sweet sole daughter had befallen to harm. Armed with an M-16 coupled with an experience of a Vietnam Tour, he premeditated the event and planned everything right down to detail before hiding himself in the janitor’s closet in the courthouse. The shooting commences with much laughter akin to insanity of that from Carl Lee when the officers were bringing both Cobb and Willard from the courthouse back to jail after their arraignment before Judge Noose.

The whole ordeal was ravaging to say the least. The epic battle fought between District Attorney Rufus Buckley (prosecutor) and defendant Jack Brigance was filled with spite and hatred with plans to outwit and outsmart each other that it would keep you in attention for the second half of the book. Grisham felt it insufficient to leave out the gory details of the side-happenings and thus created digressing subplots that concerns out-of-court matters. These would entail the death threats, harmful malicious deeds of cross-burnings in the house of jurors, kidnapping of Jack's new law secretary and arson which comes as the collateral package of the subject matter. I do understand the oxymoronic intent to utter that these subplots might have digressing desires but yet has so much relevance to the whole affair. Then again, it does allow one to keep his eyes off the court for a few chapters and focus on the lives lived outside, the realism of danger lurking around the corner. The novel touches on a lot of other things and it isn’t that hard to pick up; that matters concerning desegregation were still at its novel best in the Ford County where opinions are split between liberal and conservative.

I particularly enjoyed the courtroom drama during interrogation and cross-examining as it allows readers to pick the brains of the higher intellect (ethical law practitioner and shysters included) that partakes in the battle per se. And Grisham ensured his fans out there that nothing is too challenging in his novels as they do serve as quick reads with much legal jargon kept in check and explained with simplicity such as to aid understanding. I find it just right to quote his character Ellen Roarke on this matter that the words contained in the deliberation of certain definition are within two syllables and are nothing too difficult to comprehend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sycamore Row, John Grisham


My first legal thriller book which I approached with much trepidation seemed for nought when I soon got enthralled with the adrenaline-gushing pace set by Grisham. It is no mystery to me now that he has won so many #1 best-selling legal thriller books ever since he penned his first novel, which so happens to be the prequel to Sycamore Row; A Time To Kill.

Though most of the hidden agendas seem to unravel by itself precociously and you could as well anticipate the ending (which is no big secret by the way, thus no surprises there), it is the suspense that is weaved around the characters that would get you into a captivating tight-fitting race to finish the book and take a glimpse as to how the court-room drama is fought out (and that's where it got real ugly - I thoroughly enjoyed how Booker Sistrunk experienced his own downfall away from his native land). In that latter regard, Grisham is second to none as he regales his readers in a genuine battle that pits Jake Brigance into his second fight against a horde of shysters led by the more senior and veteran lawyer - Wade Lanier. After all, isn't that all his readers are yearning for when it boils down to the very foundation of the book's genre - a heated up courtroom brawl with a hot-headed but equally fair presiding judge?

Granted that most of the story do appear a little contrived in certain ways; yet it doesn't seem to interrupt the flow which was brilliantly defined and outclassed by Grisham's manifold capabilities in his story-telling wit. So tense was the progression that it had me by the teeth. Chances of me reading his other novels are high against all odds of other commentaries denouncing his formulaic thoughts and poor plotting finesse.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Exhausted Housemen


Letters to editorials of the newspapers by disgruntled doctors isn't something new. Just about a week or so, another of such article has come to light (see above picture) which has led the public to think for themselves whether is it really genuine that doctors are indeed exploited up to an extent that they are bordering on exhaustion. This goes against the dictum that the ratio of doctors to patients are now approaching the desired goal of 1:400 in the peninsular. Browsing through comments made by my more senior colleagues, one can easily draw a line between two sides of the coin on their differing opinions. The more typical and standard reply would be one that junior doctors are allergic to and urge the veterans not to regurgitate them as though bilious material is one that is foreign to the gastrointestinal tract and need to be purged every now and then when circumstances arises. These 'back in my days' comments uttered either way, be it in an avuncular or in a cavalier manner would grip the necks of the juniors like a tight knot that they would resist in any either way to be relieved of them. In fact, I did have my fair share of being given such comments by my senior colleagues when I was still a house officer. Knowing for a fact that such comments are considered, up to an extent, belligerent to their feelings, and having read much of the previous articles, I try my very best to alter the phrase prudently, lest feelings get hurt should one decide to forgo the circumspect manner of being generous and sensitive to roiling emotions.

It is extremely unfortunate for the Exhausted Houseman in Ipoh to be subjected to such burgeoning workload alongside indecorous hours that put them in a situation where they begin to experience all sorts of challenges that are thrown into their way. It is commonly understood that an exhausted intern would not be able to perform adroitly and Robin Cook knew this pretty well a long time back in the 80s. Never heard of him? Well... you should grab this book in the near future and have a go at it when you are much freer and at your own time and pace. It's entitled The Year Of the Intern, published in January 1973 (thank God for e-books!). Minus the sexual escapades and quickies that the intern is privileged in getting (which is elucidated in slight detail that may not be agreeable with most people, though I have to admit it does make for an interesting ploy for some) in between his on call duties and off call free times, the workload has always been the same, if not, increasing over time. It doesn't really take a rocket scientist to extrapolate and break it down to you in facts and figures as to why this is so. The Earth's population has been remarkably exponential in its growth so unless you're into some kind of an evil scheme in one of Cook's books or that the world is indeed suffering the consequences of Dan Brown's Inferno's stratagem in plateauing the world's denizens, then I'm afraid you've just got to keep your socks on with the ever increasing workload that will never cease to stop.

But that's me being mean in a literal way, and I do apologise should any of you feel the slightest hurt that tickles your emotion which is at present in deep turmoil. And I mean it in a sincere manner. I've been in your shoes before and I'm not going to acquaint you with the melodramatic nuances of what happened back in my days lest some people decide to brandish me with harsh uncouth words that is all but unnecessary. The former sentence calls up the ideal phrase of working smart as well as hard, though more so of the first rather than the latter. Devising a diligent scheme and subsequently adopting it in your work is not a crime, but is seen as something that not only eases your formulaic work, yet it does even allow you to hand it down to further junior generations for the betterment of all. One of my fellow house officers did a gem of a thing when he decided to apply an investigation flow chart for one such particular department which was previously non-existent and we all applaud his ingenuity for doing so. It is in fact what he had learn from one of his erstwhile posting some time back. And as time goes by, more and more data are added and revised into the flow-chart to make it more presentable and it eases everyone's life a great deal especially that of the house officers all the way up to the consultant level. Some medical officers whom I know devised plans that are equally comparable in their resourcefulness. Certain medical ailments with multiple investigations and clinical findings that changes over time are made into a tabulated format that mimics the flow chart system. This not only allows for easy access to previous documentation of the patient's complains but it allows the disregarding of having to flip through an encyclopaedic volume of the patient's old file to find whether a certain blood investigation has been taken and whether a repeat is due in the next couple of months depending on when it was last sent. No doubt, there are many other ways that you could think of in making your working life as comfortable as possible without overlooking your assigned duty.

But having put into writing all there is to say about my mind, I'm not discrediting the Exhausted Houseman from his complains with regards to the prolonged insufferable hours that he has to contribute for the functioning and running of the medical healthcare system. We all do this once in a while, some more than others, while some lesser than others in order to keep the department hunky-dory. Perhaps he's displeased over comments made by his senior colleagues? Could it be the inflections that resides within the intonation by his senior that resembles indifference or haughtiness? Or was it the fact that he's not been given the rightful attention that he needs in order to address his concerns in wanting to make a change for the better in the system? I do have to admit that certain senior characters do adopt a slightly more autocratic approach in handling agendas and the imperious traits might have brushed off on the poor junior's shoulders where he is already at wits end trying to pull things together and staying afloat. In whichever manner, I've learnt that there's always a way to go around it in order to placate whatever that is implacable and to discern from what is the right way from that which is not that right. Always remember to maintain your composure...

It all boils down, at the end of the day, on how words are uttered, strung together and spoken in a way deemed professional where a tinge of melodious tactfulness is entwined within a purpose of getting things done. This is not to say that one should kowtow and forgo the courage to speak altogether or spice up their words with unnecessary obsequiousness that may reflect you on the wrong spectrum up to the point of being labeled a sycophantic parasite. Learn to channel your thoughts and ideas in a proper manner. Do it the ideal way to earn respect in the rightful way and you'd be surprised as to how your colleague's approbation of your personality would follow effortlessly.

My dear Exhausted Houseman, it is not wrong to pen your thoughts. Do not listen to people who disparage you from doing so. But remember before your ink touches the paper that the pen is mightier than the sword. It has over centuries and eons stirred up war that ravaged and plundered villages, towns, cities and metropolis without so much of lifting of one's finger from the desk. Likewise it would stir emotional attributes that may not agree with what you say and thus resulting in animosity, acrimony and unwanted resentment. You are not encouraged to keep your thoughts to yourself of course, but filter them wisely, deftly and appropriately. Ask yourself what could be a better or more constructive way in approaching and removing the ramparts right before your eyes before hitting it all away and earning nought. Most importantly, take the challenge with utmost equanimity and let not these adversity best you of your aplomb.


The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan


I am always intrigued with the appearance of this book each time I walk into a book store and somehow, while I was browsing in MPH at One Utama for a book to read the week before, I bumped onto it yet again. This time, the anticipation won over and I decided to re-read the synopsis again before deciding to pick it up for casual reading to occupy me for the week after I return back to Sabah. As I thumbed through the first ten pages of the book, I knew in an instance that this would serve as a complicated read. The emotions and critical observations exuded by Lulu and Violet alone would keep your fingers crossed that you won't become utterly confused later on. That amidst the varying oddly named Chinese courtesans and their array of maids to whom possesses their own prominent characteristics would add on the brunt before you know it. Amy Tan has that sort of prose that keeps your excitement in check but before you know it, her long-windedness would more than settle upon your eyes and make you hasty to just finish the whole thing. But haste not, lest you get entwined with even more perplexity.

Reading through the lengthy fifteen chapters of the novel reminds me of the style that is much akin to that of Khaled Hosseini's 'And The Mountains Echoed' for it brings back memories on how the story is put based on the varying characters' perspective of events, circumstances and consequences. Each main characters are dedicated with a chapter, some appears to be continuous while some were divided up to rub on the anticipation as Tan digresses from the future to the past. It is fascinating to be drawn into the world of Shanghai in the early 20th century where Amy paints a hurried picture of a pristine town that is heading towards industrialisation and modernisation. The influx of the Western culture alongside the introduction of the opium trade came hand-in-hand with the more sensual business of courtesan houses where rich folks are oft seen making business and signing contracts with their Chinese counterparts. This amidst the life of the courtesans and the entertainments that follow forms the very basis of the book.

To degrade the level of courtesans to mere provision of sexual entertainment would be churlish especially when the book entails the more higher classes of cosy boudoir where your wild dreams would come true in a way that follows after a lengthy session of courting and 'marriage'. But that's not the main drive for the book's foundation although some of these scenes were unavoidable to forgo mentioning. The bestseller as one would soon find out primarily focuses on women; and in particular their rights, their confusion with love, their strenuous relationships, their faults and weaknesses that allow them to fall prey to cheats and lies in exchange for the betterment of love and a richer life. And Amy has that skill in her in sewing the intricacy of relationships between men and women of varying generations that spans across as many as four to five in the Valley of Amazement. She grants you the experience with the contortion of lies that were sold as half-truths and as well as the heartache suffered by the courtesans as you lap in the virtues, characteristics and personalities of various men with distinct agendas.

The novel has a clear trait in outlining the typical foresight of men's behaviour that has remain unchanged ever since the beginning of the world. That their primal instinct desires after carnal pleasures would drive them mad is in itself a challenge to see how Amy weaves it into her story-telling capabilities. Not all men were as overt as the most of her characters as you would realise. Take Loyalty Fang for example and that of Edward (who is a business friend of Loyalty) and compare them to Perpetual and Fairweather. The character of Lu Sheng would take some time to unfold which in a sideways glance made for an interesting side-plot. His chemistry with Lucretia Minturn and subsequently her daughter Violet Minturn and grand-daughter Flora Ivory was a progress of sorts that would touch on the very subtle ends of enlightenment.

The summation of this book would be for nought if one could not grapple with the convoluted relationship that many would simply attribute them to a significantly messed up affair. Then again, this book isn't for anyone, and it definitely isn't meant for casual reading as I have planned out before.