Friday, April 01, 2022

No Fool Me, April 1st!

 No joke. April 1st. 

Life began at 40 for me, when, this day 24 years ago I started employment in the small (fucking tiny) Hong Kong office of the No2/3 medical ultrasound company in the world (for radiology and obstetrics at the time I think, maybe No 1.), a team I lovingly call The Cosmodemonic Ultrasound Company 1, aka Advanced Technology Laboratories (indistinguishable from magic). 

ATL was smallish company, as these things go, from rain-drenched Seattle and as smallish companies go, they liked to party. I was covering North Asia, South Asia with occasional trips to Thailand and Singapore to give product training. Awesome. Many friends made in Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Korea (I could tell the difference between good and not-so-good kimchi), not so much in China at first as I was not a qualified doctor like all the minions there. 

Also, as smallish companies go, they went. 

Two years later the fun and games came to screeching slow-down when the Big Boss took his $44M payout and ATL were swallowed by The Cosmodemonic Ultrasound Company 2 - aka the dour dutch Philips. 

This moderately huge light bulb and sandwich toaster company from Eindhoven wanted to buy their way into a burgeoning health-care market (due to the ageing population - opportunity?  yeah baby!). To be fair they were/are world leaders in cardiac catherisation labs, and their general x-ray systems were generally a cut above the others. Something I appreciated 12 years later in Sienna. Our ATL Big Boss had convinced Philips that ATL were an echocardiac (heart) ultrasound specialist company that would sit well with their cardiac angiogram predominance. They soon found out we weren’t (due diligence guys!). 

So Philips, with too much money (that that they didn’t waste on salaries I must point out after I lost 40% of my ATL salary: housing allowance mainly), then went for Hewlett-Packard’s excellently structured Medical Ultrasound Division, which itself had just been spun off by CEO Carla Fiorina into a new company called Agilent. *They* were the cardiac ultrasound leaders at the time. Their product development and training team were so well organised and professional it was a joy to be with them in Andover. (One of the trainers later took on my role in HK.) 

They ruled cardiac U/S, until a tiny Danish company came up with an innovative wedge technology (cardiac muscle strain measurement) that GE bought and used to shut the door on everyone else some 6 months later. GE also bought from the financially troubled Korean company Medison (who had done all the initial awareness and promotional work), a German technology for obstetric 3D scanning, and that pushed ATL/Philips from the No1 spot in the anxiety and litigation swamped world of fetal imaging and assessment (that was in fact my specialty).

Even the amazing Agilent/Philips 3D cardiac system introduced a year or so after (in the middle of SARS lockdowns) could not compete. Someone should write book on the intrigue here. 

Then, 3 & 3/4 years after their takeover, Philips saw fit to allow me to investigate other career options, such as opening a bookstore in Stanley. Yep, they asked to lift my game one day and the next day, literally, sacked me. Moi? Can you imagine any company succeeding without my input as a Marketing Manager? WTF does a Marketing Manager do anyway? I never had time to find out.  

Thanks to a key nomination by an old friend (who may or may not have been my line manager in HK and the guy who brought me to HK in the first place) I moved to Singapore into the smaller, not quite family-run Japanese Cosmodemonic Ultrasound Company 3, called Aloka, whose excellent logo, borrowed from Gandhi, was “Science and Humanity”. I loved them for that already, until it was subsequently fucked over by some unmemorable Hallmark Business Logo blandishment. 

Thus began a revitalised life of fun, parties, etc, in South East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Canada. Some brilliant party animals in this company, and many stories that can’t be told outside this blog to non-expats, or non-ex-expats for a plethora of reasons: moral, intellectual, physical, typographical, topographical, graphical, outrage to modestical, ethical, sexualical, libelical, marital suicidical, dubious, apocryphal, and plain spooky mystic weird.  

But as smallish companies go, they too went. 

The inevitable takeover was by a (surprise surprise as we were thinking it would be Philips) moderately huge behemoth - the Cosmodemonic Ultrasound Company 4, another Japanese company called, let me think, ah yes, Hitachi, who, ironically [cue Alanis Morrisette type pedantry], were selling Philips machines in Japan. 

And as largish companies don’t usually go, they kept paying my outrageous salary for many years, until my retirement age approached (see other posts here.) I should add that much of the partying continued but not necessarily at the level I enjoyed with those forever to remain unnamed colleagues of yore. 

And the rest, like all the past not suppressed by the winners, became the post-40 laughable history of


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Brief Candles Are Not Necessarily All That Brief.

Randomly, a YouTube of Sir Ian McKellan giving a masterclass on Macbeth came up, after E@L (should be E@H [Expat At Home] nowadays) had giggled through a typically witty, witterish Kermode and Mayo review of some mediocre horror movie or other. (The Seed, on Shudder.)

E@L has not yet watched the Joel Coen directed version of the Scottish play with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, but when he does, E@L will pay particular attention to Denny (as no-one calls him) giving the final soliliquy, the one when Macca (as no-one is stupid enough to call him) has to stare into the abyss... 

You know the one:


The queen, my lord, is dead.


She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. 


Laugh a minute. 

McKellan explains wonderfully the imagery of the speech, the pacing, the thought process the actor should go through, etc... as you'd expect. But a certain new fact changed the tenor of the last few lines for E@L who has only studied, ahem, the play twice at high-school (Form 3 and Form 5). 

Unplug thine ears and hear this: A "poor player" is what was once, or maybe still is, called in the thespian world, "a poor gentleman". An indifferent actor with a small role, who comes on briefly, overacts for their 15secs in the limelight perhaps, and then exeunts (no alarums), having done not so much. Nothing, in fact. A bit player. A cameo role maybe. A Star Trek redshirt. 

Turns the extended stage metaphor into something much more real, more solid.

Two other things. 

1; "To-morrow" is hyphenated! Same in other on-line texts. Never noticed. E@L's Royal Shakespeare edition has it un-hyphenated (a hyphenated word!). 

2; "Timbre" is pronounced "tombor" accord Sir Ian. Who is E@L to orgoo with thot?

And then...

An excerpt from an old BBC production with Sir Ian himself performing the soliliquy in close-up to the camera, the audience, you and me... Walter Benjamin in the 1930's considered that acting to a camera in close-up "speaks to the eye", and brings out the "compulsive unconscious" of the character. [Just thought he'd mention that, but E@L has no idea what it means either.] 

And at "Out, out brief candle," with Sir Ian speaking directly to E@L's eye, there was a tightening in E@L's throat, a slight increase in the output of the lacrymal glands of said eye. This had never happened when his teacher, Jock, read it out at school. 

Why would you start to cry, E@L? You've heard the lines umpteen times before. Why?



Dorothea Catherine Goonan (Joey) was born in Colac Hospital (or maybe at the family home?) in 1924. "Dorothy" is on her birth certificate, but she was christened "Dorothea", as was her mother's preference, at St Brendan's Church in Coragulac, just a few hundred yards (similar to meters, just a few inches shorter), across a paddock from said family home.

She married Harry Victor Ramm in St Brendan's Church in1952. Sister-at-home was born in 1955, E@L (as he was yet to become) in 1957.

Dorothea passed away on January 14th 2022. At 97, of old age, relatively peacefully. A Not Brief stage presence, eh? Quite a good innings, a boundary short of the ton plus one. (Boundary: 4 runs. Harry was pretty good cricketer. He made a ton one day, but only made 38 in life. Brief.) Dorothea played golf and lawn bowls. Maybe she pretended to play cricket, with a laugh, in her backyard at the extended family Christmas lunch each year. 

Her funeral was at St Brendan's Church, the wake at our cousin's, for whom Joey did most of the "bringing-up" after her sister (his mother) died in 1952 while Dorothea and Harry were on their honeymoon. 


M (Dodo), born in 1958, was sexually abused at school, at least once, and in a horrible way. E@L was not yet at that same school at the time, not yet in the same class, and he never heard about it until just recently. He is not going to give details. M became a surfer, like E@L, and often they surfed together at Jan Juc or down the Great Ocean Road at Peterborough, near the 12-ish Apostles. Dodo travelled often to Indonesia to surf at isolated islands. Good on him, E@L is jealous of that. He had a Filipino wife and two kids.

He also passed away in January 2022. He was 63. Brief, these days of free health-care, excellent diagnosis and treatment for many conditions, but not the chronic condition he suffered. 

E@L's second funeral in a fortnight. A bunch of friends held an impromptu wake at a pub near the funeral home.


A (Emu) was born 1954/5... He was the elder brother of a good friend(dec) from school, who also surfed. E@L would visit the opulent famiy home after school sometimes. Their father was a tyrant, who once threw a knife at Emu. One New Years Eve we all packed into a friend's Morris Minor and drove all the way to Ballarat for an alleged "great party" with Emu and his sister(dec). Which fizzled as she was in too much of a haze to have organised anything and Emu knew nothing about it. (Or so E@L's dodgy memory has it.) 

He passed away in January 2022, probably 67 as well.  "Suddenly" usually means heart attack. Briefish. 

E@L didn't know about the funeral. The rest of family that E@L knew had also passed away years earlier, both very Brief. 


R was born in 1954. He was the brother of E@L's Best Man. He used to walk with a strut, a proud pigeon, and brag to E@L of his sexual and fistcuff conquests in Melbourne back when teenaged E@L was crashing at their family campsite, conveniently located near a surf beach. He had small hands E@L noted, and wondered how he could pack the power into a punch to win all those fights. He became a greatly loved father and grand-father. 

He died in February 2022, of an aggresive oesophageal cancer, aged 67. Nasty. Briefish. [E@L is drawing the line of Brief/Briefish at 65, Not Brief at >80.] E@L attended the wake, the third in a month, and caught up with the remaining family, sisters and brother, for hugs and reminscences. E@L had a lot to do with their parents, had done ultrasound scans of both, in their final Briefish days. 


One of E@L's Singapore based best friend's father was probably born in the 30's or maybe 40's. E@L doesn't know his first name. He suffered from Parkinson's Disease. [ E@L will update all this in a few days.]

He passed away in February 2022. Not sure exactly how old, but over 80, so Not Brief walk. 

His funeral is this Friday, up in Sydney. It will be E@L's fourth funeral service in two months.


Don't ask E@L about 2022, not a great year so far.

Don't ask why he cried again at "and then is heard no more..." 

Don't ask this poor fretful player, but keep listening to 


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