Top Five. The Fictional TV Characters I Wish were Real

I’m starting a new thing in this blog which I’m calling “Top Five”. Just for kicks.

My first “Top Five” pays homage to the brilliant minds who created characters on Television today whom if these people had been real, they would certainly and surely make the world… well, not necessarily a better place, but surely a more interesting one. Good or bad, these characters make Bart Simpson seem like just another regular Joe.

1. Jack Bauer. You can’t not know Jack Bauer. He’s the lead character in the TV series 24. An ex-CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agent, eventually became a CTU Director, then a free agent, then a wanted fugitive, and eventually a private citizen who simply wanted to live his life in peace. But we know better. As long as Jack Bauer roams the streets of the planet Earth, Jack Bauer can never rest in peace.

The world needs people like him. The guy you can count on to always do the right thing regardless of the cost to himself. He has literally died (twice!) for his country; been tagged as a hardcore enemy of the state; sacrificed his wife, daughter and friends for the sake of the country. He has saved the world from countless terrorist attacks, saved the lives of millions. If a Jack Bauer really existed in this lifetime, maybe terrorists would think thrice about striking.

2. Michael Westen. The lead character of Burn Notice, a show about the life of an ex-agent who gets burned, leaving him with no prior work history, no money; in essence, no identity. He suddenly wakes up after a humongous explosion while on a mission in Nigeria, in Miami, Florida, attended to by an ex-girlfriend, and an old friend who tells on his activities to the US government. The entire series is all about Michael investigating why he was burned and by whom; and trying to find ways to restore his identity and recover his assets. But in the meantime, he accepts odd jobs helping people who can’t help themselves, and who can’t ask help from official channels. Victims of scams and cons; targets of gangsters and mobs; people who were basically taken advantage of, ripped off and abused.

His methods, like Jack Bauer, are often questionable. But he does what needs to be done, and his heart is in the right place. You’ll never catch this guy crossing over to the wrong side of the fence. He will always champion the side of the good, albeit the side of good can sometimes be riddled with shades of grey. And he’s street smart too. ‘Course he is, he was one of the US’ best field agents before he was burned. A modern day but low-key MacGyver who’s loyal to the core.

3. Dr. Sheldon Cooper turns 20 minutes of each Big Bang Theory episode into 20 minutes of utter hilarity and uproarious belly-aching laughter. The young know-it-all genius Physicist who has absolutely no concept of emotional intelligence makes Geekdom seem like the coolest thing to be. He puts pompom-donning cheerleaders and prom queens to shame. Admittedly, he is a bit arrogant…. (okay, ‘a bit’ is an outright lie), has no concept of what it means to be a good friend, is probably asexual, and is emotionally constipated.

But he’s absolutely funny and adorable! He can probably change our perception of sub-atomic particles, black holes  and whatever other things that rock the world of Physics (leaving about 99.99% of the world’ population in complete obscurity about such discoveries), but he surely wouldn’t be the best housemate to anyone. But he can sure make us all laugh. And with a character as oblivious and clueless as that, he’d make for a highly entertaining companion, as long as you’re not in dire need of a morale boost.

4. Mademoiselle Blair Waldorf from the Upper East Side. ‘Queen B’, as she was fondly called up until Season 2 of Gossip Girl. Absolutely spoiled, insane and sometimes bordering on having a blackened soul… but gorgeous, trendy, funny and sweet, in her own bitter-sour way. Most people I know who love Gossip Girl, love Blair Waldorf more than her other Upper East Side female buds. She’s often a hardcore bitch with a capital ‘B’. But when she loves someone, she loves them to death.

Do not ever make the mistake of crossing the Queen of the hive, she can guarantee you’ll be out of friend, acquaintances, a home, a hometown… she can even send an entire city running after you…. if it doesn’t get to Gossip Girl first. If Blair were real, I’d give my entire month’s salary to make sure I’m on her good side. The best part… while I may not have the heart nor the guts for sweet satisfying revenge on those who wrong me, Queen B certainly does…

5. Walter Bishop is the genius of Fringe. A bit weird, yes. That’s what genius does to many.

And maybe if Walter Bishop were real, the fabric between our world and the parallel world would tear and other versions of ourselves would be crossing over, wreaking havoc on the world as we know it. And maybe buildings with thousands of people in them would start crossing over and pushing aside our buildings on this side. And maybe we’d have children test subjects who would be exhibiting extraordinary abilities when they reach adulthood so they can defeat evil. Would that be such a bad thing?

But okay, scientific genius aside, we love Walter Bishop cause he’s lovable, adorable and a generally good father to Peter. He may have technically stolen his son from the other side… but he’s certainly making up for it in his older age.

Who’s on your top five?

Stuck in a Rut

I spent half the day taking care of a friend’s 10-month old baby. It was just one of those things that accidentally happened. Of course I hardly got any work done today as a result of my nanny duties.

I don’t like taking care of babies these days. And I admit…. it’s mostly because holding a baby in my arms is a constant, painful reminder of what I don’t have.

It’s not like I can’t conceive. We haven’t really been actively trying. There are just reasons why we can’t have a baby yet. And in many ways, it’s because of reasons outside of myself. Yes, I want a baby. But too many other things are happening around me that involve me, and don’t involve me at the same time — that are acting as major deterrents to why we shouldn’t have one yet. Just trust me, and please leave it at that first.

I’m turning 34 in about six weeks. My doctor told me that it would be best for all concerned if I could get pregnant within the next one year, so I can give birth before I turn 35. I’m not quite sure how this will all unfold in the next few months, but I’m leaning more towards believing that given my track record, it ain’t happening.

Ironically too, before writing this post, I was blog-surfing. Catching up on friends I hadn’t caught up with in awhile. Friends I grew up with. And I discovered that some of my friends’ lives had drastically changed in a good way over the last few years that we’ve been out of touch. They’re well on their way towards realizing the kind of life and future that they want. One has a booming entrepreneurial venture which will someday be her legacy for her son; the other has a successful professional practice that allows her to earn quite a comfortable sum of money while being a stay-at-home mom.

And here I am. Six weeks shy of 34 years old. Restlessly moving from one job to the next, hoping against hope that maybe finding “the” right company for me will make me feel more secure, stable and content. Married to a man in constant panic and anxiety about our future. Stuck in a family situation now filled with even more uncertainties than ever. Bank accounts that don’t grow on its own and still painfully require hard work, blood, sweat and tears to even see some remote change in the possibility of a more lucrative future.

It doesn’t sound so bad, right?

But this is exactly how I’ve been for the last 10 years – save for my age. I refuse to get depressed again, but I gotta admit. I think I am stuck in a rut, and I can’t get out of it…

Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 3. (and some thoughts on Chemotherapy)

After a month since we found out about dad’s condition, we collectively decided as a family to forego chemotherapy in favor of alternative medication.

Before dad got sick, I was one among many (I believe) who thought that chemotherapy was the best treatment for cancer. Whether the intention is a cure, prevention of progression or prolonging a life…  TV shows we watch, the news we read and conventional medical doctors all tell us that chemotherapy is the best, and perhaps the only treatment that has better chances of working.

But over the past few weeks, I did my research. I spoke with friends whose family members have had cancer. I read forums composed of lay people like myself. Read a bit too on what chemotherapy is, what cancer is, and all that jazz.

Of course everyone will have their own opinion about the matter…. and I’d like to categorically state that everyone’s opinion matters, and everyone’s opinion is valid (provided of course it’s supported by facts). This is my opinion based on what I’ve seen, heard and read.

Chemotherapy for people with early stages of cancer, who are young and strong — is a great idea.

But for people who are not as strong – physically, mentally or emotionally – chemotherapy may actually contribute to making an already sick patient… even more sick.

Here are some facts about Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy kills any cell that is growing (dividing) fast, whether it’s a cancer cell or not. So, some of the normal, healthy cells in the body that grow quickly can be damaged. Specifically:

  • Cells in the bone marrow–this makes a patient feel tired, bruised and makes a patient bleed easily. It also puts the patient at a higher risk of infection
  • Cells that grow hair–this causes hair loss throughout the body
  • Cells of the skin and mouth–this causes dry skin, dry mouth and can even cause mouth sores
  • Cells in the stomach and intestines–this causes major nausea, vomiting, or even diarrhea

Of course many would say that the horrible side effects of chemotherapy are nothing if you take it in context of being able to save a patient’s life.

But here’s some bit of news I found online, which was also republished by a renowned journalist (Jaime Licauco) who writes for the #1 nationwide broadsheet in the Philippines.

“According to an important paper published in the Australian journal Clinical Oncology in 2005, the survival rate over a five-year period of Australian adults treated with chemotherapy is only 2.3 percent, and even lower for Americans at 2.1 percent.”

So all these side effects, and no healthy and comfortable statistics to even assure the patient about its success rate.

Conventional medicine would junk my post and criticize my post for saying all these things about the one treatment where many put their faith on… but then, I’m only copying bits and pieces of information that I’ve found in other more renowned, more established news sources. You can check my sources below and see for yourself.

Cold hard facts aside, I’ve also spoken with friends who’ve had relatives with cancer. About 9 out of 10 of them have all told me that Chemotherapy is not a good idea. That their relatives who were treated with chemo regretted it, and eventually just decided to stop it. That chemotherapy made them feel even more morbidly sick and depressed than they already were. That it made their bodies deteriorate faster, compromised their immune system even more.

And the hard part about starting Chemo and then stopping it midway is that it makes the disease progress even faster.

It’s ironic how before we found out about dad’s condition, I, like many conventional medicine believers, used to think that only an idiot would choose to not undergo chemotherapy even if there is the slightest chance that it could cure the disease, arrest the disease, or at least prolong a human life. You’d think if you were already talking about saving the life of a loved one, you’d choose what conventionally seems like the more logical choice.

And yet, I look at my father these days and just think to myself that whatever the outcome of anything we do in the next couple of months and years, what is most important is that we do whatever it takes to make his remaining time on earth as comfortable, as pain-free and as happy as possible. I don’t want him to spend all his time in hospitals talking to doctors upon doctors.

And so, after much deliberation, we decided to try the treatment prescribed by this Korean-Japanese Immunologist whose premise (like most alternative medicine doctors’ principles) is that instead of giving dad medication to kill his cancer cells; this treatment will boost the body’s immune system to enable it to fight the disease on its own.

The premise seems logical — in fact, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Human bodies are equipped with antibodies, hormones, lipids and other organisms that can protect and heal itself. This is a scientific fact we all know. If you think about it, this premise makes it possible to even think that it can treat not just cancer… but other diseases as well.

Of course we conducted our research. This immunologist has a fairly good track record in curing not just cancer, but even gangrene and asthma.

I don’t think this is the best treatment option possible…. because I don’t know all the other treatment options available out there. I’m sure there are thousands. Thousands of well-meaning conventional medical doctors; thousands of well-meaning alternative doctors; thousands of faith healers and other kinds of healers… and chances are, there are other treatments out there that sound just as good as this one we chose… or perhaps even better.

But we’re running out of time. Dad chose him, so I will just have to believe that this will work.

Sources:

American Cancer Society

How Effective is Chemotherapy?

TV Shows: Renewed or Cancelled?

In the US, the latest seasons of our favorite TV shows have just finished. Which means that for us folks down here in the Americanized third world archipelago called the Philippines, there’s a strange separation anxiety and a tinge of sadness giving up the usual prime time cable fanfare habit catching up on our favorite characters on television.

I don’t catch the shows on TV though. I wait for the DVDs or the legitimately downloaded shows from friends and acquaintances.Which doesn’t mean that TV show season endings don’t affect us just as much. If any, it hits us worse off. See, we normally wait for the entire season to finish, then watch the season for a few days straight. And then as soon as that’s done, it means another one year hiatus from our TV friends.

In this rough-and-tumble world, these shows have been with me and hubby through thick and thin; bringing us joy and temporary respite from the madness called real life.

And sadly, it’s that time of the year when TV lovers like us wonder – which shows get renewed, which ones get cut? Which friends live to continue keeping our minds occupied for several more hours again? And which ones do we bid adieu to?

Here’s just an unconfirmed rundown of the status of these shows we’ve come to love:

Stays! 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Castle, Chuck, Criminal Minds, CSI (all of them), Family Guy, Fringe, Glee, Gossip Girl, House, How I Met Your Mother, Human Target, Lie to Me, Mentalist, NCIS (both of them), Private Practice, Royal Pains, Smallville (!)

Goes: 24 (buh-bye Jack Bauer! *sniff*), Dollhouse, Flash Forward, Heroes

—–

I have a few thoughts about some of the shows that were axed.

We haven’t started watching this latest season of 24, but I’m actually a little bit glad about this  being the last we see of Jack Bauer (on television at least). I love the show to bits, and I love Jack Bauer to bits — but I seriously think it’s time for Jack to retire. The scenarios portrayed in the last few seasons were sometimes already bordering on being ludicrous. If we were talking about invincible superheroes like Superman, plots upon plots where Superman gets this close to certain death and still manages to escape unscathed could already be considered unbelievable… what more a mere mortal like Jack? I know he’s Jack Bauer… but seriously, Jack Bauer puts the Titan Gods to shame. And for that reason alone, I really think it’s time Jack really retires.

If he were a real person (and I’ve written about my profound admiration of the man in a previous post), I’d liken his life to a Greek tragedy. And then I’d say that this man deserves to finally die and be at peace. 10 seasons to relive Jack Bauer again and again until I’m old and frail is good enough for me.

—–

I also wrote about Dollhouse in a previous entry. Wrote about how much I loved it, while singing the praises of one of the greatest directors in our lifetime, Joss Whedon. Of course when I wrote that post way back in 2009, I already had an inkling it wouldn’t last.

And why not? The show is not about a damsel (seemingly in distress) falling in love with a blood-sucking vampire.  Ironic how I talk about humans and vampires considering the creator of Dollhouse was the first director to even conceptualize a TV show featuring human-vampire relations through Buffy and Angel. And then Twilight, Vampire Diaries and True Blood comes into the picture. All copy cats, if you ask me. Joss Whedon is and will always be the true genius of cult flicks.

Which brings me to say that Dollhouse being axed is a sad disappointment. Granted that the premise of the show may be a bit too out-of-this-world and as un-mainstream as it can be… but isn’t that what true entertainment is all about? When I plant myself on our living room couch in front of the television set with a bowl of chips, I want to be swept away into another reality where anything is possible. That’s what Dollhouse has always done for me. I guess that’s that.

—–

Now, Flash Forward. Within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, I was taken in. Three episodes later, I was hooked. But after about ten, twelve episodes… it just sorta fizzled. (Much like how Heroes took us all in at the beginning. Season 1 was terrific. Season 2 was so-so. Season 3 was a mess. Season 4 was a waste of time and money.)

Too too bad. It had an excellent plot. In fact, it made me ask one too many existential questions. What would you do if you could know without a doubt what the future held for you? Would you change your future without even knowing the full context of the few seconds’ glimpse of the future? Would you sacrifice yourself to save the future of a virtual stranger? What would you do if you knew you were to die in the very near future?

It started out on the right foot. Excellent casting (I love Joseph Fiennes!). But it just abruptly went downhill midseason. I haven’t even finished the first season and don’t even feel a tinge of enthusiasm to finish it. What a pity.

Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 2.

It’s confirmed. Dad has Stage 3 Large Cell Lung Carcinoma (Lung cancer).

It’s still inconclusive if the cancer has metastasized to his bones and lymph nodes. A previous biopsy done on his lymph nodes done last week turned out negative for carcinoma, so we’re still a little bit hopeful that the Stage 3 is not yet leaning towards the bad Stage 3.

I’ve been spending a lot of time online, reading up on anything possibly related to dad’s condition. From emphysema, to lung cancer treatments, to large cell carcinoma (as opposed to small-cell carcinoma), to the definition of Stage 3 cancer, to alternative medications, to anything else that might actually help in some way.

Here are a few things I learned today:

1. There’s a wealth of medical information about cancer, in general. Anything you may need to know about the condition itself is all online.

2. There’s also a wealth of information about the different treatments for cancer. From the traditional chemotherapy and radiation, to alternative medication and herbal cures. But I’ve yet to see any sites that compare both. And I have seen no sites that compare the different alternative medication options. What makes it even scarier is that you sometimes would find yourself doubting whether or not what’s written is a legitimate product/ review; or just a product of a scam or quack doctor.

3. Since my brother and I are the ones who need to raise the money to fund dad’s treatment (whether out of our own extremely shallow pockets; from the pockets of loan sharks; or from ‘generous’ relatives who will finally pay their debt back), I googled “cost of chemotherapy treatment in the Philippines”. The search did not yield any substantial results. I wonder about this. I know that all things considered, we’re still in pretty much good shape compared to 90% of the country’s population…. but really, in the Philippines this would be the first question out of most people’s lips: how much will it cost to get treated for cancer? I need to know how much we need to raise. But I’ve yet to find any information online that answers this.

4. One of the hardest changes I’ve had to make in my life since this all began (aside from the quitting smoking thing) is acknowledging that I can’t ignore my family anymore. And if it means having to go beyond my usual EQ levels, it’s not really an option not to do it. This extends to being able to stomach talking to relatives I haven’t spoken with (for good reason) for almost a full decade now.

These are very trying times, and this is just the beginning. I worry a lot these days about many things. I guess that’s natural. How this all unfolds, only God can tell.

But I continue to pray for strength and courage enough to endure; and patience and love that this crisis won’t spell the end of a conflict-less relationship with my siblings.

The Nicotine Curse

I learned how to smoke at the parking lot of a building in Makati when I was 22 years old. I wasn’t even at my office… I had lunch with 2  friends, and I remember being agitated and stressed that day. They taught me how to light a stick, how to inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

I picked up the habit pretty quickly. Within just a few months, I’d already graduated to one pack of 20s a day. I’ve been smoking religiously and faithfully since then.

11 years later, I’m trying to kick the bad habit.

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve deliberately and drastically reduced my smoking from the 20 sticks a day… to just a maximum of 5 sticks a day. People have been telling me to just quit cold turkey. I tried it for half a day but realized I wasn’t ready to completely cut the unbilical cord yet.

The 75% reduction in nicotine intake has already had drastic effects on my body though. Already, I feel lighter and more energetic. On the down side, my nasal passages are more congested than ever; my  throat is constantly a little bit sore. A friend who has successfully quit cold turkey once before told me this would happen, that it’s part of the withdrawal cycle.

The first few days were the toughest. Every hour I would feel the craving for nicotine. No candy or gum would silence the craving. Only willpower would work. And a glass of water. And real food.

A week later, I don’t feel the cravings as much anymore. I believe my body has already somehow adjusted to the decreased nicotine intake.

While I can’t successfully say yet that I’ve successfully quit – what the past week made me realize is that quitting nicotine is possible. I can do it if I wanted to bad enough.

So now, I need to not want it anymore.

My brother used to puff just a few sticks a day intermittently. I wouldn’t call him a smoker. At least not in the level of a certified, genuine, hardcore addicted smoker like myself.

In contrast, I’ve also read up a lot these past few weeks about quitting smoking.

Listening to a non-smoker telling a smoker to stop smoking is a bit humiliating and stressful. My brother talks down on me, and tells me flippantly that it’s easy to give it up and just stop. And frankly, it makes me want to smoke even more.

But I’ve seen a lot of good articles written for smokers, by (ex-)smokers.

One of the articles that particularly resonated with me was an article by an ex-smoker of 26 years. And there’s more from that site too.

A real smoker knows that the biggest barrier to quitting smoking is not the physical cessation from the habit. Physical withdrawal symptoms last only for a couple of days. Weeks, at most. And if my major cutting down is any indication – it gets easier every day that goes by. The cravings become easier to ignore, and your body starts rejecting nicotine more and more as you withdraw from it for more prolonged periods.

The biggest barrier to beat…. which is 10 times harder to beat….is the emotional and mental cigarette withdrawal. It’s not even the nicotine per se. It’s the many things that we smokers associate with the act of smoking.

I smoke when I’m stressed. I smoke when I drink coffee in the morning. I smoke when I chill with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine at night. I smoke when I’m celebrating the end of a good day. I smoke when I want to forget a bad day. I smoke when I’m bored. I smoke when I stay up til the wee hours of the morning to finish a presentation. I smoke on a heavy stomach after meals. I smoke when I didn’t get enough to eat. I smoke when I hang out with my friends. I smoke when I’m alone and not doing anything.

For 10 years, smoking has been my security blanket. The one thing that never lets me down when I need to calm down. The one thing that’s always just around and never abandons me regardless of the situation. Happy or sad, it’s just there. Always.

It’s a hard habit to break, because it’s not just another nicotine fix.

It’s the calming, relaxing sensation of taking deep breaths. It’s the warmth of a cigarette on your hands on a cold day. It’s the conversation that naturally flows when you take cigarette breaks with friends.

It really is like abruptly severing the unbilical cord. Like abruptly and suddenly leaving a child without his mom.

Which is why… the best and most fullproof way to quit smoking – is to really, truly, genuinely and deeply want to stop.

I’m getting there, slowly. Hopefully, surely too.

Meanwhile, I will pass one of the best advice my mum ever gave me.

If you haven’t started smoking, don’t ever start.

The End of Happy Endings?

There are those who love watching movies or TV shows that intricately mimic real life and all the joys, aches and pains that come along with it.

When I was an emo kid in my twenties, I loved watching these kinds of shows. The ones that gripped my heart and emotions and made me silently weep or bite my fingernails in nervous tension. The ones where the the good guy does not get the girl. Where the terminally ill guy does not get a second chance at life. Where the kind-hearted girl-next-door gets raped, hacked and slashed by the serial stalker/ rapist/ killer, who just happens to get away scot-free.

Back then it was easy to regard stories like these with perfect equanimity.

In my thirties, I seem to now gravitate towards watching or reading stories that end on a high note, for a change. Not that they really  happen in real life, but who cares, right? That’s why they’re movies, or TV shows, or books…. unless we’re talking about Reality Shows.

One of my favoritest romantic movies of all time is Notting Hill.

I’ve always found Hugh Grant’s clumsy, shy, and provincial naivete exquisitely charming and adorable. Contrast that with the worldly, sophisticated and privileged diva that is Julia Robert’s famous-actress character. It’s the perfect fairy tale, only this time, it’s the guy who gets the girl he never thought he’d get.

It’s funny how nowadays, most of our shows don’t seem to have a happy ending anymore. It’s a happy ending with strings attached, never just a simple happy ending.

The last movie I saw was “Up in the Air”. It won several awards in the Oscars, it had George Clooney, and the trailers seemed really cool — so what’s not to watch?

Well, I ended up getting depressed after watching the movie. Geez.

Why can’t we just go back to the classic movies and shows that leave you feeling good?

The ones that reassure you that despite all the struggles, hardship and pain, there’s always something to look forward to at the end? The ones that leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that temporarily restore your faith in the timeless values of love, friendship and family? The ones where the good guys succeed, the bad guys fall?

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for instance. Peter Jackson’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s brilliance aside, it’s just such an excellently written and directed movie with such an evocative screenplay. I can’t help but be completely swept into a make-believe reality whenever I watch the darned thing. Who’d think LOTR is a happy ending, right?

But c’mon… at the end of the 10-hour marathon, I always feel a swell in my heart when Aragorn finally gets crowned King of Gondor. And who could forget the delightful moment when he kisses his one true love in front of the entire humankind, no less? And the Battle for Helm’s Deep… when Gandalf comes riding from the East at the break of dawn on the 3rd day with the Riders of Rohan to bring renewed hope to humankind just when everyone thought it was the end… who couldn’t feel a chill? And the electrifying, gripping scene of the One Ring finally dissolving in the fires of Mordor….

Call me strange, but when I feel that the world about me is getting too painfully chaotic, watching the Lord of the Rings always reminds me that in the end, there’s something good and better that’s hiding just around the corner. And if you could just have faith and believe and have patience… it will come.

So yes, call me a geek and a sucker for happy endings.

Real life is tough. I may not believe in happy endings (with no strings attached) in real life, but it certainly makes the ride a little easier to believe it is possible…