Monday, September 27, 2010

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

The Groundhog Day premise of is what lured me in for this novel. I saw movies with the same theme and was curious on how someone can translate it into writing. A task I think she did really well in.

The story is simple and complicated at the same time. A girl relives the same day over and over again and realizes that the slightest change in her action can amount to paramount consequences. Kudos to the author for keeping things interesting all throughout the 7-day rewind. Each day is a conundrum of places, people and events and it's up to Samantha Kingston to figure out the perfect combination to step out the quantum loophole.

The only thing that disappointed me is the ending. Fine, it is climatic (sort of) with all the characters crowding up the place for maximum public drama. However, I was expecting a certain character to have a more heroic, more self-sacrificing role than what transpired. But then, it is a finale that most readers will be satisfied with.

THE CARRIE DIARIES by Candace Bushnell
Before Carrie Bradshaw hit the big time in the City, she was a regular girl growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut. How did she turn into one of the most-read social observers of our generation?

The Carrie Diaries opens up in Carrie's senior year of high school. She and her best friends -- Walt, Lali, Maggie, and the Mouse -- are inseparable, amid the sea of Jens, Jocks and Jets. And then Sebastian Kydd comes into the picture. Sebastian is a bad boy-older, intriguing, and unpredictable. Carrie falls into the relationship that she was always supposed to have in high school-until a friend's betrayal makes her question everything. With her high school days coming to a close, Carrie will realize it's finally time to go after everything she ever wanted. 

In a nutshell, the writing is fine, the characters are likable at best and the plot is so-so until you get to the end of the book. And then a big gaping question will pop into your head right after reading the About the Author page: What's the point? What was the point of the hours and nights you spent perusing the pages of the novel. Nothing ever happened to the character. Then you realize that there was no plot at all. Just some random scenes and a teenage love story trying its best to pass up as a viable story.

I've never read Candace Bushnell's other books nor is a fan of the Sex and the City TV franchise but, from such a well-known author, I expected a lot more. Sorry, but the best adjective I can give about this novel is 'childish'. And what's worse, it's a traitor book, capable of luring you in it's world but then spits you out without any satisfaction at all.

So with those two YA Novel breaks, I think I'll get back on track and exercise a few neurons by reading something else more substantial. Enter The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It was exactly one year ago when I woke up and found our world submerged in meters of muddy flood water. Never did we imagine it would reach our house (the highest one in probably the highest street in the area), but as everybody now knows, Ondoy wasn't a normal storm and the flood it brought wasn't the normal Oh-crap-my-shoes-are-going-to-be-wet flood but, unfortunately, terrifyingly, it was the Oh-my-God-we're-all-going-to-die kind.

Thousands of different stories, all happened at the same time, all told with fervor and incredulity afterward.

I've already told my story so it would be redundant to repeat them here. Although after reading my own posts written 12 months ago, I still can't believe all the miraculous coincidences that brought about us surviving the worst flood Metro Manila and neighboring provinces has ever seen.

This is my story. What's yours? And more importantly, do we really want to remember them? Aside from the horror and lost assets, I do think there are lessons to be learned from this catastrophe. It's like a Mother Nature spanking session. And heaven forbid, we've truly been bad boys and girls throwing garbage in rivers, cutting off trees and ultimately destroying the world we are living in. She needs us to learn from our mistakes and formulate measures to prevent it from happening again.

So, one year later, have we learned our lesson? Or are we facing another punishment, maybe this time complete with whips or rock salt / munggo seeds ready to be kneeled on?

Credit: Photo by Icegene.

Friday, September 17, 2010

So you just graduated from college, pinned that university nursing pin on your left collar, passed the board exam and pledged to God, BON and Nightingale that you will spend your life in purity and practice your profession faithfully. You undergo a myriad of trainings and seminars, First Aid, BLS, IVT, because it is considered mandatory nowadays and most hospitals will not allow you to 'work' for their institution without  expensive training certificates.

You pass your resume to several hospitals, use to your advantage every backer you and your parents know. After a couple of weeks of waiting, you get restless, bored and depressed from being an unproductive member of society. You are already considered a young adult. You're supposed to be doing something with your life.

You consider applying for call center jobs just to earn money, but your brand new PRC license, 4 years worth of nursing education and Nightingale's spirit floating in the air beside you like a Safeguard commercial stops you from letting go of your registered profession altogether. Mainly because there's nothing else left to do, you decide to file and volunteer for a hospital. You try to delude yourself that you are training, but inside, you know that  what you are doing is offering your services for free.

After months, even years for some, you find yourself again inside the busy bustling world of vital signs, charting, IVs and orders. It's amazing, fun and intoxicating. You meet new people, make friends with colleagues, learn new things and do procedures you were never allowed to do. You feel like you are now part of the health care system and not anymore just a nursing student trailing after her clinical instructor. You feel empowered, able and competent.

Add to that, you get to help people in one of the worst days of their lives. You feel like you're doing something right and selfless, probably for the first time in yours.

But then weeks, months, even years pass. Hospitals after hospitals will accept but never seem to hire. The initial bliss of having something to do and somewhere to go gradually dies down replaced by fatigue, burn out and this vague feeling of uncertainty. What am I doing here? How long will this go on? What's in it for me?

You start to question your purpose in life. Do you really want to be a nurse? If there's a better opportunity somewhere else, one that does not involve being an RN, would you take it? Should you take it?

With the current condition of nurses in the country these days, are you really waiting for a better tomorrow, when tides change and employment will be available once again, or wasting your time and energy being voluntarily used by these multi-million institutions, all of which can't seemingly afford to hire you even though it is fairly obvious that they need more skilled manpower? In fair trade, what company in their right mind will pay for nurses if hundreds of others are willing to work for them for free?

I once read an article referring to nurses as heroes of the current generation. Then someone commented on how self-righteous that was to call one's own profession as heroic. He then pointed out that it is called a job and not some superhuman feat of self-sacrifice. 

I think, it could only be called a JOB if you're getting paid for what you are doing, and not the other way around. Caring for the sick is probably not as noble as dying in Bagumbayan for your own country but it has a degree of altruism not seen in just about anyone.

I think the majority of the population is too selfish, too human to spend their days and years serving humanity with not much in return.

To be or not to be, that is the question.

If you took up Nursing just because your parents says so or you envision yourself in the middle of  glitz and glamour, strutting the streets of L.A. or London without much effort to get there, then this profession is not for you. If you can't handle carrying out orders for the majority of your professional life and if the weight of lives on your shoulders seems too much to bear, then don't do it.

But if you got into this profession in your own free will, without the lure of gold coins and fancy lifestyle, if the universe of health care and medicine just inspires and amazes you, then please, for all our sakes, continue what you are doing now and show the world there are still people like you who was born to serve and make  this country, and eventually the world, a better, more caring place.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Volunteering in a tertiary government hospital in the OB-GYNE Ward will open one's eyes to the chaotic but endearing world of a woman's uterus and all the things connected with it. Oh, and babies, lots of babies. An OB nurse might not sound as hard core as, say, an ER or ICU nurse with their constant stab wounds, GSWs and Code Blues but it takes a special kind of health care practitioner to survive the OB floor. Believe me.

An OB nurse in a government hospital must always be on her toes. From the never-ending stream of mothers and their newborns coming in from the delivery room and operating room, it's easy to get lost in the chaos. (Really, in relation with the Dengue epidemic reaching record-breaking proportions, you would think pregnancy is communicable too.) She must have the strength and presence of mind to handle literally hundreds of patients, 2-4 patients per bed, who have just given birth to another human being a few hours ago or is gearing up for a major surgery later in the day. She must be willing to do hard work, lots of it, to get through the shift.

She must be understanding. Most of her patients are in pain, uncomfortable and with a crying, needy newborn in their arms. There are patients who request for painkillers right after you've already given it to them. There are those who complain of things, both real and imagined, and for a nurse who is currently catering to hundreds of bodies, it is sometimes exasperating to hear superficial concerns with no effect whatsoever to the patient's health and well-being. But empathize and look into those problems, she must.

An OB nurse must be tactful. It's not easy being around the smell of lochia and disinfectant combined all day long. The relentless crying of hundreds of babies just cannot be taken as music to the ears if heard on hours end and the sight of blood stains on gowns and bedsheets are not pretty to look at especially after one has reminded, even pleaded, for these mothers to please maintain proper hygiene while in the ward.

She must be non-judgmental. From mothers who already have ten children and counting but doesn't want to be ligated even though the family can barely pay for the hospital fees to 15-year-old teenage mothers who obviously have not planned having a baby this early in life, it's hard not to let personal prejudices come out and occupy one's thoughts. But still, she must treat each patient equally without discrimination nor malice.

Lastly, an OB nurse must have patience. From nagging relatives to patients who won't buy nor take prescribed medicine, one will encounter all kinds of people in the area. There are mothers who don't know what to do with their first-born to those who don't care if their baby falls off the bed or die of breast milk aspiration, these are the situations a nurse must be prepared to take care of.

The medications and interventions might be the same for most patients on the floor, but it's the stories and personalities one meets in the ward that makes each day interesting. Handling unique circumstances with grace and dignity while maintaining that of the patients is not an easy task but it is what truly makes a great OB-GYNE nurse.

Monday, September 6, 2010

There's this scene that always enters my brain whenever I think of the words Piano + Romance. It's the scene from the Korean (Yes, Korean, NOT the sell out American version) romantic comedy My Sassy Girl. It is a story about a mediocre guy falling in love with a girl he can't seem to put his finger on, much less handle.

I first watched this movie when I was in high school, still speculative if it was really as good as they said it was since I've never really been fond of Asian movies. And let me tell you, it was.

Since then, I fell in love with the piece that the lead female character played on this auditorium scene where she, more or less, demanded the guy to trick his way past the guards of her all girl's school to give her a rose in front of hundreds of people inside the auditorium. He didn't know that she could play the piano and was scheduled to perform that day.

Canon in C is a derivative of Pachelbel's classical hit, Canon in D. In my opinion, it loses it's strictly-classical property and makes it a much more mellow and sentimental piece. It is a joy to hear and play. Even after years, this still remains as one of my favorite pieces.

I omitted the trill part in the middle of the piece because I wanted to retain the lullaby quality of the music which I think the sudden trill shatters upon impact.

For those who have stumbled upon this site and have miraculously watched the video, thank you. You have made my day.

It takes a good book and an equally good movie version of the novel to make this blogger feel satisfied with both and not rant about how a film version is a poor representation of a literary masterpiece (e.g. The Other Boleyn Girl) or the special effects in a movie may trick the population into thinking that the novel is worth the read (e.g. Twilight). 

Atonement, both on screen and written version, tells a dazzling story about two lovers torn apart when a 13-year old accused her sister's love of a crime he did not commit and therefore changing the course of several lives.

Reading the novel, I was transfixed by the power of Ian McEwan's words. The lyrical display of a pre-teen's feelings of superiority of things she could not possibly have understood leaves one breathless and itching to dive into the page and take matters in his/her own hands. I think, the character of Briony Tallis is the epitome of what could happen if adults and the world continue to insist that sex and relationships are off limits to everyone below the age of 20.

The only criticism I could think about the novel is that it seems to digress sought after scenes. It feels as if just when the story is picking up and the air is thick with excitement, the scene gets cut and before one knows it, it's 5 years later and one is in a completely different and unfamiliar setting. But that's maybe just the author trying to prove his point on how powerful he really is being able to control the reader's emotions with his prose.

I did not have any expectations with the film version, although I think if I had any, it would have exceeded most of them. I loved how it stayed true to the pages of the novel, barely altering scenes to make it more cinema-audience friendly although it's a pity that they cut off numerous scenes from the war which I think would look amazing on the big screen. The production team probably had budget issues and it's understandable.

It reminds me of one of the things I like best about writing stories and creating your own world:

You don't ever have to worry about how much it would cost to blow up a building or have a spaceship land in the middle of a football field. You just have to know how to write about it.

Back to the movie, I think the music is just plain gorgeous. It takes the film to a whole new level because of the magnificence of the score. The ingenious use of typewriter clicks and the melodious violin strings just blows me away. Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy didn't do that bad either. Both presented their character with realism and with genuine affection for each other that it's easy to believe in their love story and get swept up in it. 


Even having read the book, after watching the movie, I realized I had missed a crucial event, so even I was surprised by the ending. The film made clear what was ambiguous in the book, and for that I am thankful. All in all, it is a pleasure to have lived through the lives of Cecilia, Rob and Briony. We can only imagine the truth.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hopeless romantics and emo kids rejoice. Here is the breakup song of yesteryears made popular again by Juris's melancholy voice and that other guy's guitar strums. It's romantic, it's depressing, it makes you want to vomit out your lunch with all the emo-ness, but it makes for a good piano piece.

This is the first cover I've done using guitar chords. Certainly, it is the piece that made me realize that I can stand on my own and doesn't have to be ever so reliant on music sheets. Major yay.

And yes, I am aware of the crooked angle of the camera and how fat my arm looks in the video. I'm sorry I've ruined everybody's appetite. End scene.
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