Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The patient has Thai mystical tattoos all over his chest back neck and arms. Cool. Painful. Ouch. Not for E@L

Our anaesthetist for this session is a very fat man. He has stretched out his green scrubs, scrubs that would be loose on E@L. With chubby, baby-fat fingers, unexpectedly, he handles the syringes and needles and connectors and ampoules with an amazing felicity - he is deliberate, accurate and precise, and his pace of action nicely measured, never rushed, never hesitant. Measured as if it were timed on a steady, beta-blocked systole. The task of lightly* anaesthetizing the patient runs with a smooth ease E@L doesn't think he has ever witnessed before. It makes E@L smile to see this.

The anaesthetist's large hands (indeed his entire body) have no wasted motions. In latex gloves that cut into his wrists, those hands move smoothly into position like they had been programmed for a carbon-based industrial machine, or as it is if he has been doing some anaesthetics-dedicated medical Tai Chi with his extremities for as long as he has lived. Every attitude of his pudgy fingers is predetermined and choreographed. And so too, the paraphernalia of his tools, their packages and protective covers fall exactly open, part perfectly as designed and then the connectors connect, the ampoule top safely* cracks off with a soft pop, the needles pierce, the fluids run out or drip in as though according to a divine plan. Gravity's persistence, the adhesion of a packet edge's glue, the resistance of a rubber stopper, the reluctance of skin to permit entry unless the needle held with the bevel at just this angle, the pendulum arc of a length of cloth-tape that is flicked with the ring-finger across the arm to land on the junction of cannula and skin and have the optimum pressure applied to make it adhere as the fore-finger follows it down in one continuous motion: all of these vagaries which would catch E@L, or any other human, at first, at any attempt, he anticipates perfectly and executes flawlessly.

And this is the images that gets E@L, that defines the experience: He holds his thick pinky aloft, like drinking a cup of tea, as he turns a syringe end into a 3-way stopcock.

He chats amiably to the patient and everyone else in the small theatre throughout this (questions for E@L: Where are you from? Wow long are you in Bangkok? etc... Bar-girl chatter) without losing concentration. He is a most unlikely perfectionist, and the nicest person.


The thin surgeon seems to know what he is doing as well, but who gives a fuck about thin people, they always consider themselves perfect, they don't need E@L to sing their praises.



E@L fucking hates him. Fucking food geek.

Heston fucking Blumenthal. Heston fucking just-do-this-and-it's-going-to-be-perfect fucking Blumenthal. Fat Duck? Fat cunt.

Heston on How To Poach The Perfect Egg: a) water at 80deg b) use an inverted plate to keep the egg from the bottom of the pan (it might poach unevenly, heaven forfend) c) freshest of eggs (preferably with chicken shit, rooster cum and matted hay still on the shell) d) break egg into a slotted spoon and allow the excess fluid to drain (it would only form those fairy-wing stuff) e) place the egg carefully onto the bottom of the upended plate, f) cook for six, or was it four, minutes, yes, it was four minutes.

Meanwhile; coffee, Vegemite on toast. Then plop on perfect poached egg - perfect breakfast.


E@L is now in Izzy and D's kitchen in Den Haag. He cricks his neck, as he has slept on the couch [it's a brilliant couch for sleeping on actually, no neck stiffness at all, that line about cricking his neck was a joke - crriiiiickk], and his coffee from the elaborate Impresso machine in hand (in a cup), ready for breakfast. It's 11am, D is already at work, Izzy and E@L about to cook - it's just the old team back together.

OK, poached eggs it is. Let's follow the recipe, why the fuck not?

Find a plate that fits into the saucepan. This plate is too big, that one maybe too small. Maybe it's the saucepan than is too big, too small. This plate, a tea-cup saucer, it'll have do. Already with the compromises. Heston NEVER compromises. Water is already 80deg, wow, they have a temperature guide on their kettle, awesome. Gas on, water in, saucer in. A bubble is trapped under the saucer and it won't sit flat. E@L goes to put a finger in to turn it up - stupid child! He catches himself in time and uses the slotted spoon instead! The water in the pan cools quickly according to the thermometer - a large nail on a long wire to a digital readout that Izzy holds. With her other hand Izzy adjusts the flame, monitoring, adjusting, monitoring, the thermometer dutifully beeps at 80. She moves around him to get the slotted spoon and E@L sees the mystical Thai tattoo on the nape of her neck. They keep tripping over each other in the small kitchen, but poaching an egg takes two people, right?


Egg one: E@L cracks the egg and already there are drops of albumin on the bench-top, already a mess in the making. The slotted spoon lets the thinnest fluids drain away, tick and the egg slides in and there is not enough water - the top of the yolk is exposed. Izzy turns the kettle on again. E@L spoons water over the top of the yolk as the albumin, slowly, ssslllooooooowwwlllyyyy whisps towards coagulation over the yolk. A bubble burps from under the saucer, Izzy adjusts the flame, the thermometer beeps, the kettle clicks off, she adds the water, E@L stops spooning.

Egg two: E@L holds the slotted spoon this time, and he tries his patented one-handed egg-crack and shell-split manoeuvre but some sort of surface tension threshold is breached and ALL the albumin slips from the shell through the slots of the spoon, leaving, plop, only a naked yolk. Mmmmm, obviously not fresh enough. Slide it in.

Egg three: crack OK this time, drain OK, slide into the water OK, but there is another bubble fart from under the saucer and, still amorphous, the egg slides like a plasmatic ghost escaping an exorcist over the ridge of the bottom of the saucer to rest on the forbidden bottom of the saucepan, at the edge. It soon starts to set in the shape of a croissant (a buttery pastry in the shape of a Muslim flag's crescent moon, I suppose you knew that), but E@L cannot coax it back up onto the saucer.

Egg four: see egg three, damn.


Ka-chunk: toast pops up, butter, Vegemite (in Den Haag! Awesome!)

Izzy's iPhone egg-timer beeps. Four minutes: first one out. Let it drain on slotted spoon. It seems very wobbly, maybe because the yolk was exposed early (like a teratogen to a fetus) and couldn't cook. Shit maybe it WAS six minutes (we are working on the memory of a TV show watched last night, maybe on dope). Second, the yolk, out. Not much to drain. Another minute and then E@L scrapes the two croissant eggs of the wall, drains them and slips them onto Izzy's plate. She has some watercress decoration.

The first egg was indeed nicely done. The white set in a nice oval and was firm but not chewy, the yolk was yellow on it's outer orb and deep orange inside, runny but not liquid, almost perfect. The yolk-only one good as far as you can expect a yolk to be, very runny too but somewhat embarrassed. E@L enjoyed them, despite the mess on his shirt from the runny yolks.

Izzy's two are overcooked and misshapen, obviously, the whites were over-firm, the yolks pale on the outside and not very runny. Maybe it should be less than four minutes if the egg rests on the saucepan's surface...


Only one of our four patients' operations went as planned, Dr Izzy. Not quite a perfect session. But there'll always be more googy-woog patients from where they came.

Izzy nudges clumsy E@L in his fat belly. Perfect in other ways.


* we are doing some day-surgery stuff, various endoscopy things

* you wanna see the scar on E@L's thumb?

Monday, July 15, 2013

In-Flight Movie Reviews - Stoker; Hannah Arendt; Thirst; Trance

13hr or so flight from Barthhhhelonya to Singapore. Watched 4 movies. Plane left at 10:30am arrived at 11pm - 5am local time... Done.

Sleep all morning. Done

Have things to do: not done.

Instead: brief in-flight movie review.


Stoker: Even if you hate Nicole Kidman, this is a very stylised creepy movie that you might find interesting. Then again you might hate Nicole Kidman too much to care. Brief cameo of Jackie Weaver - always good to see. (This is nowhere near as creepy as The Others though.)
- 3 stars

Hannah Arendt: woefully didactic script, wooden acting by all but the chain-smoking Arendt. There are authorial intrusions everywhere, mainly through the three other actors who have lines. Yes, we get the point: Eichmann was a dull bureaucrat and Jewish leaders could have done more. But how? - the crucial point which would address most of her detractors is never properly addressed. Sure, people admired Hannah the lecturer/philosopher then, whoof, they hated the journalist/philosopher to BITS! And she used to sleep with Martin Heidegger. But zay didn't undershtaaaaaaaand.
- 2 stars, mainly for the historical footage of Eichmann in the dock.

Thirst: Korean director Park keeps the humour subdued for the early part of his 2009 vampire rethink/parody, then it gets going. Fun/sexy mostly, till the drawn out end. Mum-in-law camps it up nicely, as does gorgeous and newly thirsty Tae-Ju, to counter the brooding priest/vampire Sang-Hyeon.
- 4 stars

Trance: Boyle = over-stylised crap IMHO. He's done nothing that's got to me since Shallow Grave and Trainspotting (I didn't see the Olympics). Even the gratuitous (and gratis!) sight of Rosario Dawson's depilated natal cleft failed to rouse my interest in this painting-heist, bang-on-head, lost-memory, professional-hypnotherapist*-required, flashy, superficial flick. And if you thought Inception was confusing, particularly when watching this one straight after the previous three, you'll need an implausibly competent hypnotherapist to help you to remember why you bothered.
- 3 stars, mainly because James McEvoy is not anyone's vision of a leading man yet he's still getting away with it.


* oxymoron

Monday, July 01, 2013

Ambulance Beer Barcelona

An ambulance, bi-toned siren blaring WE-are, WE-are, WE-are, turns the corner past the "cerveceria" on La Rambla where E@L is sipping a burnt-flavored Catalan beer, reading an ebook and listening to a Guantanamo-like concatenation of Aaron Neville singing about Rainy Nght in Georgia and a wheelchair-bound old gypsy playing Russian folksongs on a weather-beaten accordian. E@L sighs and lifts his beer and... feels a chill wave of mortality and melancholy wash over him like the brisk wind (which has picked up today), as he thanks whatever gods may be that the ambulance is not coming for him.

It is almost one year since he climbed that tower in San Gimignano and felt the steel spring winding tighter in his chest and soon heard another ambulance, siren on, and it was coming for him, to take him to the hospital in Siena. Every minute since then he has been anticipating another call for an ambulance, expecting every exertion, every rush of excitement or anger to be the one to trigger a new incident, and possibly an incident of greater severity. He is aware of something from a book he recently read by a woman who had breast cancer*, that there is strong pressure socially not to carry on about his fears and feel down. That might bring others down too. He has had to keep operating, psychologically functioning, keep smiling, keep positive, not remind others, by harping on his coronary hypochondria, that they are equally mortal, they, poor boys, are bound to die just as surely. We all block this, we don't think about it, we don't want to freeze in an existential panic.

But when you know that the threat is right there, beating away for the moment, but that is on the point of seizing up in a, dare we say it, in a heartbeat you can't help but feel pretrified, terrifed. Why should you have to deny your real feelings, the sadness, the depair, the anger? When E@L read a report on a recent piece of research which showed that as many a 25% coronary survivors suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it made him wonder what stern stuff the other 75% are made of...

E@L now has that awareness of a hair-trigger death with him always, as he has had with the neuropathic pain that had kept him constantly aware of his own feet for half a dozen years until the best cocktail of drugs was found. Of course E@L was/is stressed by the whole affair. It's like being hit by a car and surviving, and that afterwards, you are not just being more cautious when crossing the road, but knowing for certain that every fucking car on the road really is out to finish the job.

If you see E@L pause for a fraction of a second, if he looks towards you but doesn't quite seem to see you, and if he pulls his mouth back into a slight grimace and then slowly sighs, you should know that a flicker of something has touched him with reminder of the fragility of his existence, someone as not walked over his grave, but pointed out the hole in the ground with his name at the headstone, that something has jiggled the pin of the hand-grenade in his chest. He might then see you, and relax that grimace into a slight smile, because he is alive after all and he doesn't want to upset you with how close the opposite possibility was just a second earlier.


His plate has a small lump of ambiguous matter on it; shiny, mucinous, soft, like something retrieved from a clogged artery, but it is merely a load of Roquefort he had dropped from his pork fillet and cheese bocadillo into his cappuccino earlier and only discovered when he swallowed the last dregs. He fished it out with the coffee spoon, wondering at first if it was not an "easter-egg" from the tourist-hating barista. Meanwhile, the gypsy squeeze-box player is wheeled away by his twenty-something grandson and, a minute later is replaced by a toothy middle-aged violinst.

His iPod has shuffled him to AC/DC's Hells Bells - "you're only young but you're gonna die."

If the coincidence was even vaguely amusing he would laugh but instead, he orders another beer.


E@L was spending a similar lunch time yesterday, his first day in Barcelona, still not checked in, on La Rambla; beer, bocadilla and coffee (note to self: no more than six coffees in four hours when jetlagged) and coming to the conclusion that there was a Pretty, Young Girls In Minimal Clothing Convention on in town somewhere nearby. Many of the men sitting in the shade in the tapas bars in the center of the strip, sipping beer with E@L, were also admiring the passing parade of delegates.


* Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bright-sided"

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