Sunday, March 29, 2009

Romance Heroes are alpha

This video is of a trailer on a documentary:

I've put a specific start-time to draw your attention the comments on alpha heroes. The whole thing is worth watching as a taster to the romance genre as a whole (as well as the hilarity of the Mr. Romance over-the-top-ness; are those crazy costumes/characters really necessary?).

Thanks to Katie.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd

The Barefoot Princess is second in a series called the Lost Princesses. I was not aware of this because I do try and read from the beginning. Nevermind.

This is a historical romance, set in 1810 in Devon, England (thank you, first page of Chapter 1. You can be surprised how often it's uncertain where and when a book is set).

Our heroine, Amy, is an exiled secret princess of an obscure kingdom that turned (mostly) hardened criminal by the age of nineteen. She has two sisters: the other aforementioned lost princesses. Jermyn who is twenty-nine if I recall correctly is the injured marquess of Northcliff.

Amy has been taken in by an elderly spinster called Miss Victorine. The village and Miss Victorine are very poor and neglected by their lords, on the verge of starvation. They don't quite understand it, he was such a sweet boy. Guess whom the "official" guy in charge of the place? It's Jermyn, although his shady uncle runs the estate. Amy comes up with a plan: kidnap Jermyn, get the money and run for it pulling in Miss Victorine and the whole village into her plans. Of course the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men...

I quite liked Dodd's writing style and the twists & turns of her novel. I didn't, however, particularly like the characters' ways; they both resort to dodgy methods to secure what they want although often their hearts do seem to be in the right place. They're constantly fighting for dominance and I think the author felt that Jermyn had to display a lot of it to compensate for his previous weak will. This led to some situations which definitely had an element of 'forced' which disturbed me.

Historical novels always run into the danger of cliché and one annoying one Jermyn had was having a hang-up over his mother, thinking she's a whore. There was a danger of it blending in with a lot of other historicals but quirks of wit and beauty with the writing distinguished it. I think she did a good job with exploring her characters -- which included not forcing me to like them. Amy's double background felt real with her flashbacks and the person she has become is implicit in all her actions.

I do want to read the next book, there was a thrilling taster of our next hero; who sounds like he has a bit more genuine darkness and balls in him than this one.

This book gets 3 out of 5 manacles from me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

UK Medical News Round Up

I'm religious and am probably going to get any male children I have circumcised (would prefer waiting actually until they can decide themselves, but it seems like it's psychologically better for them to just have the same-looking genitalia for their whole lives). It's well known that the process reduces the rate of infection. However, let's not ignore the drastic complications that can occur. Having herpes, HIV, HPV or another sexually transmitted disease is one thing. Having mutilated genitalia from a botched-up procedure is another. There're well publicised cases on this with dramatic consequences with mental stability, gender and sexual identity. As with any other surgical operation, it depends on the experience and skill of the surgeon.

What can you do? Whoa, there, cowboy. Easy, now, and take into account the risks.

The Pope & Aids:
I have no idea why anyone would expect the Pope -- of all people -- to endorse condoms over reforming behaviour. This is a religious and moral figure; of course he has to endorse that and that's the way he thinks. If not, he wouldn't have ended up where he was. Also, I dislike most Parisians. They're fairly elitist. France is really making itself out to be very anti-religious, nevermind being just secular.

What can you do? Don't start a riot.

Increased suicide in children by three times:
This could be a bad thing or a good thing. Either more children want to kill themselves or more children feel they can talk about it to a helpline (assuming wanting to talk a helpline doesn't mean less children are getting support from sources other than the helpline). Number one reason for children wanting to kill themselves, clearly visible in the quotations in that article? Family, family, family: their parents' mental health problems, their marital problems and so on. That's not to say that is strictly true for each case (e.g. sexual abuse by non-relative). I wonder if relatively recent cuts in mental health budgets, the very recent recession or other factors have influenced this?

What can you do? Help the NSPCC.

More things strike the poor kids! I wonder if we simply have kids who're simply less fit thanks to advances in medical technology. This means that the more advanced the medical technology, the more alive sick kids who didn't die of something else earlier in their development. Could be a factor with some figures.

What can you do? Keep your and your kid's genes toxin free (smoking, drugs and alcohol: I mean you) as well as apparently subjecting kids to soap and bathing less.

More growth, more sweeties:

It makes sense to want more nutrition if you want to eat more.

What can you do? Don't misinterpret this piece of news. Obtaining nutrition through healthy foods is the better choice; it is not ok to allow a kid to stuff themselves with Mars Bars simply because you think they might be tall. Preventing obesity and the formation of unhealthy eating habits is more important, especially since it can lead to complications that give normal growth a hit.

Bone Marrow Transplant:
It's not all bad news! Successful bone marrow transplants for unrelated donors are life-saving.

What can you do about it? Absolutely free/all expenses paid -- join one of the bone marrow registeries, either in the UK or your own country. It should be no more painful than the process of giving blood and I know donors here are given general anaesthetic and sufficient painkillers if they have to undergo the less likely to occur method of direct bone marrow harvest. Blacks, mixeds & asians (i.e. non pure whites): they especially need you although everyone eligible signing up would be great due to the greater chances of a perfect match.

Early diagnosis of cancer:
I had to look at the video, just to see if a typical dude from Essex really came out with ' lethargic'. I didn't see him use that word but 'mate, you're an egg with eyeballs' was brilliant.

What can you do? Keep yourself fit, eat healthy, get yourself screened when you get called up to. Some diseases, though, you just can't avoid. Try not to panic, it can be as bad as the disease. throwing up at the idea of getting treatment that makes you throw up is ironic: you've achieved the same result without even anything given to you! Because you're in pain or can't do quite what you used to, it really doesn't mean you can't continue to enjoy life. Disease is a fact of living, and coping with it is something that -- to some extent -- everyone has to do.

Red Meat:
Is this really news?

What can you do: eat as much as recommended in the article (lean red meat, 30grams a day). More realistically, you can just cut your consumption of red meat (burgers, steaks) to once or twice per week.

Teenage pregnancy and sexual education:
You have to be careful with this. I'm all for giving kids the maximum information and I do mean the maximum information. Giving them figures and contraceptive methods is all well and good but you've also got to give them the figures of the psychological effects of using these methods if there are any (this particularly applies to issues such as abortion or coming from a family with a religious background. They're not going to stop feeling guilty just because they were sexually active for whatever reason). You've got to give a child social and psychological support for sexuality and monitor them for turning into a welfare-state-dependent-
stressed-out single mother.

Informing them that there is always a way out of pregnancy (or the consequences of STD; remembering that condoms do not completely eliminate risk), will only encourage promiscuity and perhaps misuse of contraception (well if it fails, there's always an abortion) as well as underestimating the psychological effects of having an abortion. You can't ignore that religiously, socially and by evolution, women were built for motherhood and acting against these instincts can have devastating effects on them.

Focusing on methods to discourage young sexual activity is the ideal. Pregnancy and abortion are risky particularly for very young women e.g. these sad cases of girls who died here in the UK.

What can you do? Not much, unless you're a parent or a teen. Keep discussion open so that they're comfortable talking to you in a toned down way about who they like or about sex or contraception, even if you might view their activity as inappropriate. Explore your family's differing views on your stances on contraceptive methods, abortion and sex. Doing this clinically, rather than personally, can help.

Just another doc:
Hopefully, all doctors would do what he'd done.

What can you do? Thanking your docs, nurses, health assistants and other team members -- while heartwarming and helps with job satisfaction -- isn't necessary. Showing your real appreciation for these masochistic professionals through your votes or protesting anti-healthcare professional policies/cases (e.g. victimising whistleblowers). That's where you really count.

Teenage drinking:

I'm fairly optimistic about a lot of things, but definitely not drinking. Binge drinking is too ingrained in British culture and these kids will find the money somewhere, somehow.

What can you do? No clue. Lots of silly ideas flying due to desperation of the situation. The problem with education is that people will think that they are responsible enough to do it, therefore drinking earlier. Stop encouraging teenage kids to drink heavily if you do so. If you're at university, minimise the act of drinking heavily as your idea of a fun night out: a play, the cinema, sports activities and other activities yield much more long-lasting pleasure accompanied of course with a modest glass of red wine if you're not teetotal. Dammit, people, use your brain cells instead of bidding them silent; you're a fun person and you don't need drink to have a damn good time.

Disclaimer: I'm a simple medical student, prone to mistakes. Obtain proper health advice from a fully qualified health professional whom you trust and who knows you & your history.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Here's a cute little movie about two people falling in... like/love:

I suppose it's a reflection of getting to know someone online in a way. I feel like there was a little bit of suspense in the end left.

I think, though, it highlights how a guy who just doesn't go for it is badly disabled. How realistic is this short?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Awakening; Novello Theatre, West End Play

I managed to catch Spring Awakening on its first night at the Novello. It's a play about exploring sexuality as a teenager in an oppressive environment. It displays through its characters how a teen might have to react in this environment, and essentially what choices they have. This is perfectly captured in a quotation by Hanschen -- "the gay one" -- which I can't find. To greatly paraphrase, it says: rebel against the system, be defeated by the system or use the system. Due to its subject matter, it's got some very explicit scenes; I did have to look away! It is a controversial play that has been banned as well as causing theatregoers to simply walk out on it (I observed this personally).

There're some usual takes I share on it and some I don't: oft commented on is the anachronistic soundtrack. The -- definitely not safe for work! -- soundtrack itself (click to hear some samples) is a perfect antidote to the saccharine High School Musical experience. The song which embodied the concepts of the play: comedy which can be quite dark, rebellion and emotional suppression is "Totally Fucked" especially within the context it appeared within the actual play [semispoiler] One of our characters had to face the authoritarian opressors and their punishment [/spoiler].

The original play (and this is a musical) was written in 1891, but as you can see by the soundtrack, loads of changes have been made. To a modern audience, it reminds them of the cost and the reasons for the protection of their current freedom. Its puts into words through the songs what those in 1891 might say if they could speak with the voice of 2009. Or even those who're living in countries right now, where this opression and suppression is the norm.

This play went for the heartstrings and the throat: it goes for the bloody sensationalistic subjects. Even though you'll laugh, the play deliberately leaves you with a Hamlet-esque depressive emotion with the same inevitability of disaster. Hopefully: a lot of modern teenagers won't have too much to empathise with, except if their sexual discovery was tortured. It was painful personally for me due to that, as well as dealing [semispoiler] with talks of suicide, abortion and child abuse [/spoiler]; all of which have affected people I care about in my life and through them, me. Tears were drawn unwillingly out; I was teetering for a while but the moment of breakdown was [spoiler] when Moritz' father broke down too [/spoiler].

I'm a conservative person in many ways. I am the target for the messages of this play ( as well as the solidarity it gives to those who've experienced teenage problems including its aside to homosexuals, although I do have a question mark about the use of them for comic relief. Exclusion of this category was subtle, unlike the other subject matter in the play). It highlights to me that -- regardless of the consequences -- there will always be rebels against the status quo especially if you apply this to such issues as sex and religion. The choice by any society is therefore this: what do you do with them? Kill, imprison, hide them, give in or compromise? Another thing that it highlighted was how freedom of information is a good thing. Giving people the right information is important: the way you protect them is by telling them what this information means and how to handle it, not by suppressing it. A huge inevitability with this is discovering the wrong fragments themselves and applying it with horrible results. Always understand the full possible pros and cons for anything you're doing, for yourself or when you're making the choice for someone else.

There was a Shakesperean quality to the play, which should be clear with some of the observations I'm going to make and have made. The cast was sixteen strong, not including three of which were backing vocals which didn't have any official roles if I remember all this correctly. Out of these, two of them played the various adult figures (assorted parents, teachers, a priest, headteachers, healthcare professionals) wearing practically the same clothes; their ability to differentiate the characters despite this spoke for their fantastic acting ability. No doubt using the same actors was to impress the sameness quality of all authority figures's opression into the audience. The stage and props were minimalistic: the band playing was live on stage as well as some (possibly lucky) members of the audience with chairs on either ends of the stage for them. The chereography and placement of the actors was visually engaging: very symbolism-filled and symmetric, sometimes completely absurd and plain wierd (just like teens!). The actors themselves said miles with their movement and expression, the quality of the singing itself seems fantastic.

The protagonist of the play (Melchior) who is portrayed by Aneurin Barnard is no doubt going to get a fair share of female fans (as implied in the beginning of the play itself, through the female characters), with his emotionally wrought performance of his sexual and rebellious role. Those cheekbones don't hurt either. As an aside: Hanschen for some reason resembled Draco Malfoy (perhaps no coincidence for "the gay one") and Wendla resembled Hermoine from Harry Potter. It wasn't just me. I'm going to blame this on make up. Feel free to disagree!

With coverage by the BBC today and a 14+ age warning, this unique play will probably do well in the West End for a while on the caveat that the younger audiences are motivated to come see it as well as that older audiences aren't alienated by its -- perhaps lowbrow and "indierock" for some? -- presentation. Let's see if it does engage us young peoples, who no doubt think we've seen it all...

Whatever Spring Awakening is, it isn't boring.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pointless Arguments: She's Not Fat!

We had just left a birthday party. The last words my mother had given the girl as we were leaving had to do with her weight: I didn't hear the whole exchange but I at least heard a reference to 'pills'. My brother and I were upset with my mother about this; not the nicest thing to leave a birthday girl with!

Me: "She's not obese." Why was I saying this? I had seen the girl, she was quite badly off. Just because she still maintained something like the hourglass shape did not mean she was not clinically obese. Thinking about how overweight and obese practically looked like, my mother was probably right.

My mother: "Did you see her? She is!"

Me: "She's only overweight." Why was this point so important to me? Was I prejudiced in some way? Did I need to think of this girl as "only overweight" because I liked her? Because she was a nice girl from a lovely family, who couldn't possibly let this happen to their lovely girl? Has my training in medicine already caused such a terrible overreaction to anything I perceive as unhealthy? I had even begun to go as far as to consider obese children as neglect and bad parenting; was I unwilling to apply this harsh label?

Mother: "It's causing her liver problems!"

Me: "The one thing obesity does not cause or worsen is liver problems." I was not even 100% sure about this, but I said it anyway. I checked with my friends later: forgot about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Ever since I've started my course, I seem to have developed an allergic reaction to smoking, drugs, alcohol and obesity to name a few things. I'm not sure how much of this is an overreaction, especially compounded on top of my Islamic beliefs.

I just don't want to turn into my mother in this scenario, overzealously dispatching advice 'as a friend' or in unsuitable situations. I don't want to see everyone as a disease or a potential disease, not a person. The last thing that girl wanted to be reminded of was her health problems, on her own birthday party!

Friday, March 20, 2009

From The Pan Into The Fire

Seeing as how I have recently dissed the Daily Mail, I shall illustrate the principle I was trying to expound. Like a skeptical reader of romance acknowledging that there can be brilliant romance novels, I will acknowlege that the Daily Mail can talk sense occasionally as seen in this article here.

No Daily Mail panic or hyperbole there! I don't think anyone's happy with this situation and I can't imagine the strain in America; the prevalence there seems comparable to here in the UK.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alphas, Hot Pink and Mullets, Oh My!

Hey, guys. There's an excerpt from the Smart Bitches' upcoming on the publishers website. It's a beautiful introduction to the romance genre and its readers.

So if you're thinking 'why do you read that romance crap?', 'who are these Smart Bitches?', 'Pfft, women are completely unaware of their own sexuality; they like alphas but they don't know it', 'I wish you'd swear more' or 'Only undersexed, undereducated women love romances like an addict loves his crack!' then that introduction is for you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Medschool & "Sex Wars": A Collection

Lecturer A (male): "Women live longer than men... probablybecauseyouladiesdon'thavetodoanywork"

*protestations from the audience who heard him despite the fast guilty talking*

Lecturer A: "I know what you girls are thinking; you're thinking 'I can't believe he just said that.' *guy-caught-in-the-cookie-jar-unregretful-grin* My wife would kill me!"
Later in the lecture, Lecturer A says: "Married men live longer; it makes no difference to married women. Probablybecausethey're too busy chasing all those guys with abundant spermatogenesis I mentioned in the previous slides. God, this is turning into a misogynist lecture, isn't it?"
Lecturer B (male): "Believe me, those guys that work in [insert noble profession here] are really stupid. My ex worked for them and she's... *long pause* yeah, she's not very bright."

*everyone laughs*

Lecturer B: "The divorce was amicable."
Psychiatrist A(male): "Boys are a little bit slow in many things. Let's not get into it."
Psychiatrist A: "The peak age of bullying is around eight years old. That is when boys hang around [only] with boys. After seven years of age, boys become more scared of girls than girls are scared of them."
Psychiatrist A: "How we apply Freud's theories [...] is that the mother must let go of her boy and the father must claim him away from the mother so that he can choose to emulate his father at the expense of his mother's attention [..] They [Oedipean boys] form relationships with women that are more mother and a child rather than a man and woman."
Lecturer C (female): [on molar pregnancies] "Female DNA is necessary for human life. There have been cases of successful parthenogenesis; where female DNA only creates life. When sperm combines with another sperm, what you get is a cancerous mole. Only female DNA is necessary for human life."

I don't think this needs that much commentary! I'll leave that, and picking apart individual points, to you.

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

The Rest Falls Away is a historical and paranormal fusion; vampires and the Regency era of England, oh no! (or Victorian: I'm not such an expert that I can easily tell) I came to it with the expectation of encountering the historical romance style but with some vampiric action (I think I got this from seeing something the author said about her inspiration for starting the Gardella Chronicles (this being book 1 of the series). [Again: not what you'd call a romance but roughly aimed at a female audience]

Let me just say that I was very disappointed with this book in some ways.

Let's start with some positives: the author had obviously done some research and had built quite a lovely world, with references to all sorts of things including more cultures than just England (or French fashions). She had thought very carefully about how a vampire-hunting heroine could conceivably hide her identity and what aids she would need with this; lots of creativity taking advantage of the fashions dictated in that era! She had built up a cast with varied characters, symbolising and reflecting conflicts within our heroine: Victoria Gardella the Venator (Colleen's word for vampire hunter). There was a lot of exciting action.

Now, on with the negatives. First: the characters. Although they appealed, there was a unidimensionality to them all. They were sometimes convenient tropes more worthy of a television script (even the author herself went: well this is the pretty one, that's the kind one and that's the wise one with Victoria's three fairy societydebutantemothers). Characterisation was sacrificed for the action, the plot and the worldbuilding. Victoria's potential love interests followed this pattern too: well this is the irressistable badboy one, the emo one and lastly the rich one your mother wants you to marry. The way Victoria flitted apparently guiltlessly and disloyally between certain levels of intimacy them also did not sit well with me at all. Victoria's lack of reflection lead to a complete disaster with [possibleSPOILER] her marriage ; I didn't like him once he married her anyway due to his omgNAVELPIERCINGOHNOESFAINT reservations and lies about his acceptance of her secret [/SPOILER], which anyone including people fighting alongside her could predict. This is to some extent forgivable; character development and all that as long as she lives with her mistakes; she's a silly young girl and marriage might teach her a thing or two. The thing I was dreading, which happened, was the [SPOILER] killing him [/endSPOILER] major cop-out which conveniently gets rid of that relationship problem. Seeing as how the main characters are so dreadfully unexplored character-wise, I'm not going to even comment on the villains [just ow]. Also, what was the point of Gwendolyn Starcasset? She was completely irrelevant to everything. No clue. Maybe she has significance at later books.

Second: the writing style. One can tolerate a certain way of writing for a limited amount of time unless one uses it judiciously, wisely and with a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain flair not commonly exhibited among the innocent young authoresses. Indeed, it is very difficult to emulate and acheive success with such writing. One does not realise the level of -- shall we say in an understated manner -- disagreeability perhaps that arises from a constant stream inspired by, no doubt, category romance Regency style writing which may not always be appropriate for its intended audience of misses, madames and occasional gentlemen -- in quite this particular manner presented. I must protest the abuse of it, indeed, and I must also admit breathing a heavy sigh of relief when one commenced some of the action scenes and necessarily abandoned the narration style for something altogether more natural. I sometimes started hating Rockley simply because his approaching appearance heralded a regression to more of this style of chatter.

However: I'm stupidly curious over where this will end up and if the potentially good author would change her tune, especially with the teaser at the end of my edition, and about Max (the angst one; shut up I don't care, he's the only one with sense) especially. Another book in the series might make me resort to throwing books upon walls, but if I should happen accidentally across a copy of Rises the Night (book 2), who knows? Considering the originality of the concept and the combination of two immensely popular topics (Buffy meets the Regency romance), I'm not surprised at the popularity of this book. The ability to make me curious and the positives despite all the hair-pulling flaws as well is what gives it a 2.5 crosses/5 from me.

You can buy here (UK) and here (USA). Don't know why you're so lazy, not being able to do your own Amazon searches...

Arabic Sense of Humour

I was recently in a gathering of Arabic women (who just get up to such things when they're together!) and a witticism they made while having a joke-off snagged my attention. They're often suprisingly dirty jokes and the following is quite light in terms of that actually:

Mrs A: 'There's this Saudi woman, she asks her husband to tie her to the bed then do whatever he wants with her-- '

Mrs B interjects, laughing: 'Saudi woman, asking her husband for that?! That's the joke, isn't it?'

After letting the ensuing laughter die down, Mrs A continues: "Anyway, she asks him this and he agrees. He ties her to the bed *pause* then he leaves her there and travels to Bahrain."

This caused a bought of roaring laughter occurs. What's so significant about Bahrain? I can't tell really tell you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Diabetes: Excercise & Diet versus Pills

I've seen this bit of news and I'm honestly not that surprised. A GP with a lot of experience will know that lifestyle changes are something very unlikely to occur. If they do occur successfully, they have to take the form of a perscription.

Basically, it is unlikely for a human being to go off and do more exercise unless I as the GP -- after discussion with them -- tell them they have to go to the following so and so classes or see the practice's exercise/diet specialists (ah, the ideal multidisciplinary team, such a beautiful dream) and bring evidence of this, lose some weight and produce a satisfactory diet diary otherwise I won't put them on the drugs.

According to this, there seems to be agreement with the idea that there should be some sort of structure to the throwaway advice 'get more exercise' with an actual practical, individualised approach e.g. taking into account the back and knee problems people may have.

I suspect part of the grumbling may be due to diabetes patients getting their medication for free. Let's assume the Department of Health doesn't hold this as its primary concern.

Obesity's sending everyone into a panic. It's hard to differentiate the beneficial thing to do from being a nanny state but I know when the 'too far' line has been crossed and thank God, so do most GPs at the moment. Some blasphemous ideas have been circulating. It's not that I have a conflict of interest except for my intractable addiction to the little tastes of heaven that go by the mundane name of chocolates, of which it would be a crime surely not to have at least one a day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spiders on Drugs

This video is amusing, therefore I link it.

I'm going to pretend this is remotely medically related and say it's a concise introduction to the psychosocial aspects of drug abuse, as demonstrated by a spider experimental model.

Any animal rights activists out there: what say you?

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

In keeping with the theme of an unlucky day, talking about my recently read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder seems appropriate; click on the URL for its blurb.

I wouldn't class this book on it's own as romance although what occurs in the rest of the series remains to be seen. At the moment, it has romantic elements but it's mainly fantasy.

I really liked this book. The writing was tight and descriptive, without lingering. It didn't lose any tension; trying to put it down was very very difficult. Although some things were fairly predictable, there were also surprising twists and revelations. The relationship dynamics between everyone were constantly zipping around and moving. I was cheering for the characters. Maria Snyder created very memorable personalities and managed to manipulate a largish cast very well considering the length of her book. I very easily got pulled into their alluring world; they were living in an environment with some elements I hadn't encountered very much in the fantasy genre before: the former monarchy (stereotypical in the fantasy genre) had just been replaced by a new military rule and there was discontent left over from this. The writer got me thinking about some things: is a harsh regime such as the one set out in the book necessary? Is the Commander a truly kindly figure? The characters weren't perfect, you had to question your feelings for them in light of the sum of their actions.

A criticism I do have is that the villains (depending on whether you would classify some other characters as villainous or not) were a bit undercharacterised and caricature-ish, with their henchmen reflecting this. It's a bit suprising that the author who crafts her flawed protagonists so well would do the antagonists such a disservice.

I'm definitely getting the next in the series: Magic Study. The only anxiety I have is that the heroine who is already in danger of being overpowered may become so.

Those in the UK can get Poison study from Amazon here and in the USA from here.

This being my first review which was produced on a whim, I can see that notes-as-I-go-along would be incredibly helpful. Next time!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Series Romance: Oh No!

Mills & Boon (also known as Harlequin outside the UK) have reached sixty years in the industry and have released sixteen free ebooks representing a good selection of their lines; this offer can be found here.

Of course, this has occasioned commentary on category romance, some of which can be found here*. One quotation in particular drew attention:
'Like some sort of love-peddling drug dealer, the company often gives away free books, hoping to get readers hooked.'

This sentence describing a sensible business model used by every industry reveals an attitude to the these books that I can't say is uncommon. Have you come across a reference to a publishing houses peddling classics like they're some sort of drug? There's this image of addiction to category romance as if it's a horrible drug of abuse that poisons the mind. The implication is: surely you have to be stupid, wanting a cheap thrill or helplessly addicted to "want that stuff".

The image of series romances and the people who read them isn't pretty, especially here in the United Kingdom. This isn't helpful especially since as soon as you mention 'romance', 'The Millionaire's Virgin Mistress's Baby Surprise' pops into the person's mind. There seems to be a prevalent pride in the country's literary heritage and thus a lot of emphasis on maintaining an image of taste and discernment; literature and literacy are closely bound to class. Who reads category romance in the eyes of the English public? The elderly population, which the pervading culture has much contempt for.

Of course, it's simply not true that it is the province of the elderly. Romance is a vastly appealing genre and I've seen my share of young women "secretly" indulging; you could get an M&B romance for 25p at charity stores if you wanted. I went through phases where I'd buy several at a time during my schooling, at my local charity stores.

There are two important points I want to bring across. Firstly, whatever genre or publisher a person reads implies next to absolutely nothing about their personality or their tastes. You have no clue what they're reading for: is it for a happy ending, for reading about the dynamics of forming a relationship, for the thrill, for the tension, for the author's writing style, for curiosity or for the hero? It doesn't even imply if they're heterosexual or not.

It's a rare thing for someone who reads M&B publications to read that alone. Because I read M&Bs or even the romance genre as a whole, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate 1984's groundbreaking ideas. It doesn't mean I'm allergic to conventionally 'good literature'. It may mean that UK bookshelves have been absolutely bare in the romance section except for some barely qualifying chick lit and M&Bs until very recently. Seriously, I'd go to my library and all I'd find in romance would be M&Bs and Nora Roberts.

If you read a certain genre or publisher, I do not automatically assume that you love everything about the genre and that publisher. I expect you to find books you absolutely hate or are completely indifferent to; if you didn't, that's when I would suspect that you lacked taste. A person who loves all romance is just like a person who loves all the classics or all sci-fi; they're equally undiscerning. It's amazing what newspapers and magazines some people read while snobs about other people's reading choices: You're reading The Sun, The Daily Mail or Take a Break; yet you have the gall to criticise?

Secondly, these books are diverse. There will be some that are terribly written and some that are brilliantly descriptive, dealing with sensitive subjects and even controversial ones. Like everything, there's a bell curve to the quality of these books. There will be a following for a certain author on the imprint: take Penny Jordan or Carole Mortimer. Every time I buy one, it's a risk, and one I'm willing to take because it doesn't take me long to finish the thing. It's a wonderful medium for authors to push the boundaries of the subject matter and explore topical issues; buying cheaply in bulk allows this creative freedom. There were category romances set around Hurricane Katrina, for example. Category romance is often the launching platform for an author to publish romance novels in the more traditional novel formats; relying on their name rather than the publisher's imprint. Examples off the top of my head include JR Ward (as Jessica Bird) and Nora Roberts.

It's all about looking for that new turn of phrase, that new plotline, that new issue, that new hero, that new setting and that new hero instead of sticking with well-known, well-worn, well-tried (frankly boring?) conventional literary formulae which focus on the negatives and the supposedly deep symbolism of smoking marijuana while hanging upside down from a tree above a bloodred river in India, while embarking on a soulsearching expedition provoked by the protaganist's uncle who has declared to his estranged wife and five children that he is gay. (Summary: writers going for 'high literature' can be very crap and pointless)

Despite all the subtleties of the romance genre and its core influence on English literature, all its variations and the fussiness of its readers -- despite all this -- the continuing perception that all romance is just porn for women, will probably just continue...

* [props to Smart Bitches for highlighting this article]

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wrecked Rectum

This article about the purpose of the rectal exam is amazingly helpful; the inevitable jokes are of course excruciating. Seeing as how such intimate examinations are so critical, I'm wondering how well I'm going to cope with this. I've only been doing exams that involve exposure at the chest and abdomen; I've seen nothing yet.

I have not been focusing too much on that and I'm wondering how much my reservations about physical contact are keeping me back. Will I be the type of practitioner who will examine physically only if I think it's necessary rather than if it might be helpful?

One of my OSCE stations last year was a disaster: I was so distracted by the examiner's questions while I was examining that I pressed too hard and hurt the poor volunteer. This is the gravest sin when doing a physical examination: as a student, you are allowed not to know the correct answers but you are never allowed to cause discomfort to the patients. Even though not much clinical teaching is happening in this year of study, it is evident that I need to practise if I want to be competent later. Yet, I haven't been doing this, using lack of clinical teaching as a justification for my avoidance of "unnecessary" physical contact.

Have your personal reservations ever held you back in your chosen profession?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Marry Me

Check out this video roissy posted.

Island guy reminds me of an experience I once had:

I'm walking out of a private hospital catering to rich international people. There's this sixty year old man in a wheelchair just outside the entrance, smoking, with some beefy guy behind him. He calls me over, and starts talking to me in Arabic.

Him: "Do you work here?"

"I'm doing some work experience..."

"Where you from?"

"*insert my Arabic country of origin here*"

"Who're you living here with?"

"My mother."

"Ah, I see. I'm a sheikh. I'm looking for a new wife..." *he pauses* "I want to speak to your parents."

"*shock* Um, n-no but thank you... "

I then disappear very quickly.

My mother's reaction to this: " A sheikh! You could've let him have our number! Even if it wasn't you, maybe we could have your aunt set up. So old; but he was a sheeikh." She then promptly disappears with her phone with a "Guess who just got proposed to by a sheikh?"