Friday, September 30, 2016

One Step Forward

And two steps back.

Well at least that's the eerie feeling I get sometimes when it comes to the byzantine Borgias. Just when you complacently think you've got them all figured out, these perplexing provincials abruptly snatch the Oriental rug from beneath you... just because they can.

Although cordial invitations to their family events have been regularly delivered to Netherfield for my perusal, it didn't actually occur to me that I was part of a select coterie of acquaintances. Foolish move on my part of course. Even Charming Calvin would have thought so. So when I replied in the affirmative for a weekend dinner with his family, I naturally assumed that the convivial occasion would be open to all.

Madame : Pray tell who is this paltry creature that you have brought before us. 

Since Diffident David happened to be in our esteemed company, we naturally included him in the invitation since I couldn't see how I could get out of the event without bringing him along. After all, David had been dragged along to one of the previous Borgia family soirees so he wasn't a complete unknown to her. Surely I wasn't expected to peremptorily eject the hapless fellow from the moving carriage.

Though I could clearly see Madame Borgia did. Rather than have him spoil the sanctity of her soiree, perhaps better to have him viciously crushed under the very wheels of my carriage. However once milady came to the appalling realization that a relative stranger had been added to the party, she immediately rescinded the proffered invite! Quelle horreur!

Calvin : Now she would prefer it if we had dinner separately. 
Paul : Separate the two of us? 
Calvin : No, I'm to join your party. They will have their own dinner without us. 
Paul : What a sacrifice!
Calvin : Seems like it is. 
Paul : So it was alright for me to join your family dinner but bring a guest and all's undone?
Calvin : Yes. 

Goodness what has happened to social etiquette! Apparently the Borgias have seen fit to overturn such antiquarian notions of polite society protocol rather than sully their weekly family dinner with an undesirable alien.

David : Perhaps they weren't feeling terribly social this week.
Paul : That's where you're wrong. Obviously they were unfeeling this week. 

Though I was quietly horrified by their shockingly boorish behaviour, still I was somewhat mollified by the fact that at the very least Madame Borgia still counts me as family. Sort of anyway, perhaps that revolting far-flung relative you simply can't get rid of.

Paul : I'm quite flattered that she thought of inviting me. 
Calvin : She probably thinks you're gonna barge in anyhow so she might as well just invite you.
Paul : That's also quite true.

Apparently she knows me well, at least up to a certain point. Such a wanton display of egregious behaviour in my severely judgmental presence would be the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a mad, raging bull. Madame Borgia immediately realized that her abrupt revocation of the invite would have me flinging my hands up in outrage - which is how she later made a sadly fumbling attempt to mollify us with a paltry overture.

Madame Borgia : Well, the friend may come for dinner but he shall have to sit with the servants outside. There's just no place at our select table. 
Paul : ...

Sometimes it's better to remain silent lest words we can't rescind fall heedlessly from our lips.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Stern Uncle

The past week has certainly been quite the ordeal for Charming Calvin - having his unfamiliar niece and nephew thrust upon him for the brief duration followed by his own redoubtable mother then falling prey to the passing scourge of serpentine affliction. Burdened by all these troubles, Calvin has had to man up to deal with them all by himself.

With some little help from the taciturn Benedicta of course.

While Benedicta plays reluctant nurse in the sick room, the children are permitted to roam the family compound under the care of their watchful uncle. As you would have already guessed, Charming Calvin's the sweet, lovable uncle allowing free rein for the kids to do as they well please, spending literal hours glued to their tablets and Wii while slacking the rest of the day off while it's charging.

All the while he's vegetating several feet away gazing with an indulgent eye.

Far different from my more... astringent methods of pre-adolescent childcare.

Paul : You call that a shot? You couldn't hit the side of a barn. 
Niece : I- I am t-trying.
Paul : Try harder! How are you going to guard the portal to hell!
Niece : What portal?
Paul : Don't pretend. Now pick up your bow. 

Staring mindlessly at the telly watching reruns? Wasting their precious time on silly inconsequential games? Lying on the grass for hours doing nothing but inhaling the durian trees?

Certainly not on my watch.

Paul : Bring them out now. 
Calvin : They are sleeping.
Paul : It's just after lunch. 
Calvin : A nap after lunch. 
Paul : Good god. Get them scrubbed and out now!

Taking my cue from the Tiger Mother, it didn't take very long before I set things right for the two kid loafers with hard-hitting gritty personal questions interspersed with mathematical puzzles and language quizzes. Just running short of having workbooks and exercises thrown at them - which I would have if I had any spare.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of Tuition

Really, what is the opposite of disillusionment?

Back in high school, crushed between the insurmountable expectations of our hopeful parents and the contemptible judgement of our sneering peers, we all tend to develop extremely skewed views of our teenage selves. Only with the benefit of some time and distance do we realize that most of our insecurities about ourselves were all for naught.

That - and coming face to face with the acne-ridden distraught teenagers of today.

I used to think that I needed to be more driven, more focused, more ambitious, more... well, everything especially when it came to my academic studies. Even in my already relatively packed co-curricular activities, I kept wondering if I was doing quite enough to buff up my curriculum vitae. Even though short of joining a club or society that miraculously convened on a Sunday evening, I doubt I could find the time!

Looking back, I needn't have worried too much.

How foolish I was. Judging by the sadly mediocre students coming to Charming Calvin for extra tuition, I might be quite as terrifyingly kiasu as Paris Geller.

The students at Gradgrind are quite an interesting lot. Not only are some of them unsure of what subjects they would be taking for the exams, they don't particularly see any need to prepare at all. So what if they are flunking half the subjects in school?

Or if they don't even know the first thing about algebra?

A handful in upper secondary can't even do a simple times table sum without the help of a calculator. For someone whose knowledge of mathematics is already less than stellar, that's really horrifying.

Of course their less than knowledgeable, terribly enabling parents aren't helping much.

Parent : Oh, he will go for tuition classes when he needs them.
Paul : Isn't he flunking most of his subjects? 
Parent : Well I think so. 
Paul : Think so? You don't know how he's doing in school?
Parent : Umm... not great I guess? 
Paul : Interesting.
Parent : He will ask for tuition if he feels like it. Anyway he's headed for college.
Paul : Doesn't mean he can afford to fail. He'll still need a bare minimum to enter.

Seriously I doubt he will ever ask for tuition. And better start scraping together cash for that college trust fund since he's gonna need it! That's even if he manages to get the bare minimal pass - which seems pretty unlikely with the feeble effort he has put in.

Of course if you looked as hot as Pietro Boselli, you would have other options for a career. But even this handsome fellow studied really, really hard!

Look, I know academics isn't for everyone. Burying your head in a tedious textbook for half the evening when you could be out partying drunk with your friends isn't all that easy. Especially when you feel the rewards reaped aren't all that much. But at least give it a college try rather than surrendering so easily to lethargic apathy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Miss Brozone

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good mind always seeks to friendzone any eligible bachelor in a mile radius. 

Perhaps that's the sacred mantra oft-times repeated by the Dogmatic Duennas from the Draconian Domicile since the three seem curiously determined to deter any male suitors from crossing the sacred threshold of their convent. Time and again even the most steadfast supplicants find themselves dumbfounded by the various misandrist stratagems perpetuated against them by one or more of the duennas.

Though sometimes not entirely by design.

Certainly not when it comes to Marvellous Mabel who finds herself discarded upon the proverbial shelf from no apparent fault of her own.

Or at least that's what she would prefer to think! Gifted with many virtues she might be but not when it comes to the craft of courtship. For the most part, Mabel tends to unwittingly repudiate a suitable gentleman just as they've steeled themselves to attempt a bold move. Or find herself inadvertently brozoned by them instead as her vivaciousness easily translates into seeming boyish camaraderie by the men.

Mabel : Do you like me? Like really really like me?
Suitor : Well I don't just buy dinner for anyone. 

Still that surely doesn't compare to the times when Marvellous Mabel seems almost perfectly obtuse to the subtle art of seduction practiced by her hapless swains. 

Paul : You're certainly back early!
Mabel : I'm not sure if he likes me. There might be no interest at all. 
Paul : He asked you out. He watched a movie twice just to see it with you. He bought you dinner. He drove you home and walked around your apartment building several times just to be with you. He tried to kiss you.
Mabel : He's being friendly?
Paul : Friendly. That would have been a goodbye handshake.

How many gentle hints could he have possibly left behind? Short of an inappropriately direct embrace, I doubt any well-meaning gentleman could honourably disclose his intentions.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Surgeon's Daughter

Although I wouldn't say medicine is my first calling, I certainly found the wonderful mysteries of it all endlessly fascinating. Being frankly interested in the dust-filled tomes of arcane medical text definitely helped somewhat in my studies back in school; otherwise I swear it would have been utterly tedious. After all, we learn all about the inner workings of the human body and that should be assuredly interesting to all who possess them, I assume?

Apparently I was wrong in making that assumption.

Back in medical school, we had quite a number of legacies, meaning children of surgeons and physicians who we all erroneously figured had a significant leg up when it came to studying medicine. Turns out they weren't all that different from the rest of us wandering lost in the winding shelves of medical journals and textbooks.

In fact I think they might have had a tougher time than the rest of us with all the weighty expectations heaped upon their scrawny shoulders.

Something I definitely confirmed when the surgeon I worked with brought his daughter to work. With the overabundance of medical grads coupled with the serious lack of available posts for them, things aren't looking that bright for new doctors here so it didn't surprise me to see his recently graduated daughter coming by for a tour of duty.

Though I am starting to doubt very much her sincerity.

Perhaps I might be a tad biased but never have I seen so little enthusiasm in a newly minted physician. Ever. So much so that I've dubbed her Apathetic Anna.

At the beginning of our careers - something I presume we all had a hand in choosing, I would have expected at least a reasonable level of zealousness. If you can't even muster up that teensy bit of excitement now, what about twenty miserable years down the line when inevitable apathy sets in? Even I was far more keen - and I was hardly the intense, overachieving Gungho John types way back then.

Paul : Perhaps you would like to close up the surgery? Maybe a few stitches? 
Surgeon : An excellent idea!
Nurse : Yes, try. Here's the needle. 
Anna : Umm. If I must...

Really. We practically had to cattleprod her to do so.

Talk about disinterest. Back in the days, we had house officers lining up just to complete stitches on a freaking dried banana. Not even on a patient. To earn that particular honour, you'd probably have to seriously dismember several of your own kiasu, obsessed colleagues just to get close enough to holding that needle. Everyone was just so psyched to be a doctor their first time out.

Houseman : We get to cut? Really? Really?
Houseman 2 : I wanna do it! Can I?
Medical officer : It's a corpse. Get a grip. 

And we're not even talking about the scalpel yet.

Which I doubt very much Anna would be interested in. Really, you can easily imagine Anna's disturbingly blasé expression as she dully observes the surgeon sketching detailed diagrams of the surgical procedure post-operatively. Short of several jaded socialistas that I know, I doubt anyone could look that dolefully bored.

Maybe she was watching paint dry.