Friday, January 27, 2012

the case for piracy: bad movies

That's it: I'm illegally downloading all my movies from now on. (Well, maybe not The Hobbit.) The last two movies we saw in the cinema were so bad, we wanted to throw ourselves off the Ayala fourth floor balcony for having paid P160 each to see them.

Second to the last was The Immortals, a film so concerned with its color palette that it forgot it was supposed to have a STORY -- you know, one that actually makes sense? Even Aivan, who can forgive a two-star plot if it is told in four-star battle scenes, left the movie theater shaking his head. Somebody stop the pseudo-Greek myths, please.

We actually had high hopes for the movie we watched yesterday afternoon. Haywire had a respectable supporting cast -- Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas -- and it was an action movie. How bad can it get, right?

(Romantic comedy-slash-action movies are another thing altogether. I still can't get over how bad Killers was.)

Turns out it can get really bad. You need to get through a third of the movie before you figure out what's going on, and then it never really achieves believability. If I were truly a heartless criminal, why wouldn't I just bomb the journalist's safehouse and shoot the girl? Stuff like that happens all the time, and no one need be wiser. The limp plot and the minimalist score -- in the one action movie that truly needed the prop of loud sound effects and pulse-racing music -- had us all in a stupor at the end.

"Taasa pa sa adlaw uy," the ticket attendant sighed as we passed him on the way out.

"I'm just gonna go to the bathroom and bang my head on the wall," Aivan said.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's more fun in the Philippines!

I love the new campaign by the Department of Tourism!

The positioning is clear, the slogan easily rolls off the tongue, and the logo is a visual treat. I also love how anyone can take "It's more fun in the Philippines" and run with it to different directions -- a brilliant strategy, considering the limited tourism budget and the unlimited enthusiasm of Pinoys for social networking.

Of course I immediately went to work! Below is just some of the stuff that I came up with:

Children playing in the lovely Boracay beach (2011)
A long stretch of white sand in Bohol (2009)
Aivan traversing a hanging bridge in Loboc, Bohol (2011)

And, really, if I can do it, anyone can. It is more fun in the Philippines!

an inside look at the medical profession, from an almost-outsider

All the times people have asked me why I haven't gone into residency training, all the times I've thought of writing about it and telling people to just check out my blog...and someone beats me to it.

For a bit of balance, read the Comments section -- predictably, it is a mash of people who agree quite vigorously, people who think the article has valid points but respectfully disagree with its conclusion, and people who think the author is the world's biggest a**hole. (Maybe it's a good thing I didn't write it first, eh?)

People have different ideas about it because we all value different things in different ways. For some people, any sacrifice is worth it, just to see the smile on a patient's face as he goes home healed -- no doubt about it, these are the people who should be in the medical field.

Personally, I'm not too bothered with the prospect of losing friends -- I'm the type of person who can still call a friend a friend even if I only see her every other Christmas -- but I can relate to pretty much all the other reasons:

  • No time for loved ones? Check. Your loved ones will understand, mind you...but that's not the point. I feel that relationships, even the strongest ones, need to be nurtured, protected and valued. I don't think, to be quite honest, that a happy patient is worth a lonely husband or an unattached kid.
  • Getting to the point of disliking your patients for stealing your life? Check. You could be getting your precious few hours of sleep, and still some people will text you, call you, or knock on your door. When you're dog-tired and super-stressed, how could you not resent such intrusions into what little life you have left?

  • Dubious remuneration...well, that depends. If you are reasonably good at what you do and have excellent PR skills, you probably won't have to worry about money. If you don't have too many scruples, the opportunities for earning will be endless. (I know a gastroenterologist who scopes practically any patient with a mouth or a butt hole, and I know obstetricians who are C-section trigger-happy.) There will be "rebates" and "tie-ups" and whatever else they call bribes these days. And, really, even if you're pure as the driven snow, the fulfillment you will earn from practicing medicine will keep you from constantly comparing your income to that of your peers.

I have a few reasons of my own, too, for not going into residency training and, eventually, clinical practice. Some will seem trivial, but all of them are true. Here they are, off the top of my head:

  • I don't function well without sleep. I just don't.

  • Small talk is not my strong suit. When I'm not with friends, I tend to keep to myself and think my own thoughts. PR requires a lot of effort on my part. I can smile at patients and engage them and really be genuinely interested in their lives...but I can only do that for a short period of time before my internal battery gets drained.

  • I can't kiss ass. And I don't want to. The more someone thinks he's a god, the more I tend to stay silent and sullen...not a good thing in a profession where a lot of people have delusions of divinity. Oh, yes, there's a lot of politics in medicine!

  • Work-life balance is really, really important to me. I don't want to end up hating my source of livelihood, but that is a very real possibility if, by devoting so much of my life to medicine, I end up not being able to do the things I really want to do.

It's easier for me to walk away, I think, because being a doctor isn't a childhood dream; it's more like a vocation that didn't work out the way I thought it would. Also, I'm not a guilt-tripper. Also, I'm good at a lot of other things. Also, with the exception of my family, I don't much care what other people think.

I've come across people who think that doctors who don't go into clinical practice have some sort of moral disease. I tried to think of an appropriate adjective for this point of view and "narrow-minded" was the nicest and mildest. A person can have many talents, and fulfillment can come in many forms.

Why should a person stop searching for what he's really good at and what he really wants to do with his life, just because he went to med school? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might have made a good medical man, but he touched so many more lives by writing Sherlock Holmes. And there are so many ways of making a difference. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both smart enough to be doctors, but they both did their own things, and now the foundation they set up are saving countless lives across the globe.

Doctors who love what they do and wouldn't trade it for anything else should, by all means, stay in the profession. But if you're a doctor who feels, somehow, that the clinical life isn't for you, don't be afraid to do something else. It's your life.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

you reap what you sow, but only 2/3

Here in the Philippines, almost 1/3 of a hardworking person's income can go to taxes.

When you're a kid, you're told to study hard so you can get a good job so you and your family can live a comfortable life. No one ever tells you that you get to reap only a little over 2/3 of what you sow.

One can argue that a person keeling over from the gut punch of her taxes is much, much luckier than the person scrambling to find his next meal. And that's true. 

But still. One-third! How is that fair?

Sunday, January 1, 2012


If every morning you wake up and find yourself still alive is a new chance to start fresh and live right, imagine what a whole new year can do.

Instead of resolutions, I'm going to make wishes:

  1. I wish for A to find a job that he loves and will love him back. 
  2. I wish for L to finish her thesis and move on to better and better things. 
  3. I wish for M and P to find peace with each other, let go of all the negativity, and be able to find unconditional love and support from each other. 
  4. I wish for B to be healthy and happy, good and strong, kind and brave.
  5. I wish for my OF sufficient wealth and wisdom.
  6. I wish for all my other LO all the things that they need.
  7. I wish for peace, justice and prosperity for my C.
And for myself? I can think of many things, but mostly I just want to be happy.