Tag Archive | "new year"

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The Unexpected:

Posted on 14 January 2014 by Hao Li (Meds 2016)

I thought that it would be appropriate to start off the new year with an overture. But it will not be just any overture. You see, a year is a lot like a comic opera. Although we try to plan out precisely what we shall do, and what is going to happen (eg. through New Year’s resolutions), at the end we always find ourselves lost amidst a bustle of surprising twists and turns. Things never seem to turn out the way we expect them to…

And what better exemplifies the world of the unexpected than one of the best-known comic operas of all time: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) The Marriage of Figaro (1786)? Schemes, heartbreaks, and disappointments abound in the plot. The mere subject matter of the work runs against convention. It tells of how an aristocrat gets tricked by his own servants, an incredibly revolutionary idea at the time. In fact, the play on which it was based fell into governmental censorship and was banned, in light of the social and political disturbances which ultimately culminated in the French Revolution.

The storyline revolves around a young couple, Figaro and his bride-to-be Susanna, both servants at the estate of Count Almaviva. Figaro expects the wedding to proceed smoothly and without delay. However, it does not take long before obstacles begin to emerge. The Count apparently has an eye for Susanna, and along with his associate Don Basilio, plots every opportunity possible to flirt with her or sleep with her. Meanwhile, Figaro must contend with problems of his own. He owes the housekeeper Marcellina a considerable sum of money, and the old lady demands that he marry her if the debt is not paid. She is aided by her master Dr. Bartolo in her quest. All this time, Countess Almaviva is heartbroken at her husband’s infidelity, and the desperately lovesick teenager Cherubino seeks to have sex with every woman he sees. All parties scheme to obtain what they desire, whether through lies, disguises, or secret letters, leading to a deluge of mistaken identities, deception, and chaos. In the end, Cherubino joins the military, Bartolo and Marcellina discover themselves to be Figaro’s long-lost parents (!), and the Count is caught red-handed by his wife in the middle of an extra-marital affair.

The opening, or overture, to the opera portrays the storyline with unbelievable cleverness before the storyline even begins. It is introduced by a whispering, capricious melody which seems to wander about with no sense of direction whatsoever. All of a sudden, the orchestra reacts explosively in a commanding discharge of energy, then quietens down again. Mozart maintains such sense of playfulness throughout the piece with all sorts of colours and rhythms. He does not hesitate to tease us with the music, which at times sound resolute, and at other times utterly aimless. The essence of the entire opera is practically summed up in this little four-minute trinket. However, we must remember that the story does end happily. Figaro is wedded to Susanna, Bartolo and Marcellina joyfully reunite with their vanished son, and the Almavivas reconcile in a renewed embrace of love. Just as the overture initiates a musical plot of unpredictable events, it shall also set the stage for a year of baffling surprises. But similar to the opera, we hope that no matter what unexpectedness comes our way, this year will reach a happy conclusion.


The Marriage of Figaro: Overture


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Get SMART for 2013

Posted on 01 January 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Happy New Year’s everyone, welcome to 2013! Now one of the more popular customs around this time of year (aside from watching World Junior’s Hockey and engaging in the personal rituals of overcoming a hangover) is the setting of New Year Resolutions. After all, it’s fitting: setting new marks for the next 365 days, creating a new you for a the new year,  having a natural turning of the pages in time, whatever.

Unfortunately, maaaany of these resolutions don’t last long, doomed to fizzle out like flat soda on a warm day. It’s a phenomenon that is often joked about. But what can be done about it?

Well, one thing is that these resolutions aren’t SMART enough.

No, no, no, I’m not trying to say that the people who are making these resolutions are idiots.  But goal setting has a science behind it, which has been distilled down to a handy-dandy acronym because, hey, it’s not geared for med school if it doesn’t come down to an acronym.

So goals (or resolutions) should be SMART, which stand for:






What this is trying to get is that goals need to be clear and unambiguous, without being vague (Specific). This can usually be answered by addressing the What, Why, Who, and Which of the goal. Being able to make the goal measurable allows one to keep track of any progress and stay on course. Often it means setting some sort of target deadline (but more on that later); without being measurable it is difficult to know if one is actually reaching the point of completing the goal. That said, the goal has to be Achievable, in the sense that it is realistic and attainable. It can be a difficult goal or a long-term one; however, it should be within reach. Related is the term relevant, which focuses  on the importance of choosing goals/resolutions that are worthwhile. If the goal is not relevant, there’s the good chance that the resolver will not muster the motivation to follow through with it. Finally, as I alluded to earlier, resolutions need to be Time-specific: there should be some form of deadline or target date. This gives resolutions structure, which frames them in a way that one can approach it in an organized manner.

So it’s pretty easy to see how the typical, “I want to lose weight” New Year’s resolution really falls flat on its face when examined through this lens. While well-intended and certainly relevant, it’s vague, without structure, or ways to measure it. As a result there’s the usual 2 week rush to the local gym (or student rec centre) that creates a traffic jam for all the regulars *cough cough*.

Well, one final point to add is the importance to tell others what you’re planning to do or change or accomplish. You can get tons of support, as well as people to keep you accountable, perhaps from company that will join in on your ambitions or share plans with you as well.

That’s all from me for now, enjoy the rest of your break, but feel free to share with us any New Year resolutions below.

Onward to 2013!



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