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Random Update

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This’ll be all jumbled up, but I really don’t feel like doing organized paragraphs tonight. I usually have dinner early but I just got back from Where The Wild Things Are with my mom, and only got to eat a few minutes ago. My tummy don’t like it, that fo sho.

  • Speaking of Where The Wild Things Are, wowza! I didn’t expect that at all. I was very thrilled, from start to finish, and was quite amused at how the director interpreted the, what, 20-page book(?) into an entire awesome film. It was genius. I really loved it, and I was already expecting a lot ever since I first heard about the movie. It’s one of my most cherished books so it was only right to expect a lot, right? Well, this is a first: finally, a movie that had exceeded my already high expectations.
  • I was supposed to drive up to the Rockies for the fall break with friends, but decided to stay home instead. It was fun, actually. I got to write a lot, work on a few drafts for WellWire, and prepare for the busy school week ahead.
  • This week was a huge sound trip for me, too. Paolo sent me really awesome tracks from random indie acts, most of which I haven’t heard before. Watched a bit of Punk in London ’77 and reminisced as if I was actually there to witness it all (the 70s, hands down, is my favorite era for rock). Got some great Sonic Youth (and solo Thurston Moore) tracks, again from Paolo, and organized all my chick rock tracks into one comprehensive playlist for some great femme tunage. My iPod is having the best musicgasm ever, that’s for sure.
  • The only thing that I’m a bit bummed about is that I’m totally being complacent about my recreational reading. I know that the week has been by far the busiest week ever, but I hate making excuses when it comes to my books. I’m on it, though. I won’t sleep tonight without reading at least 3 chapters off of Dracula.
  • I watched High School Musical 3 this afternoon. I heart you Zac Efron (and your unbelievable biceps and abs… they make me shed tears of joy).

Written by Karla Mercado

October 18, 2009 at 4:31 am

Posted in Etcetera

WellWire Goes Interactive

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Click to join us on Facebook!

It has been almost exactly a month since I joined the WellWire team as a writer, and so far, it’s been awesome. Aside from the fact that I get to write about my biggest passion, I’ve met the most amazing people who are not just super topnotch in their field, but they’re probably the most fun physicians and health care practitioners I’ve ever encountered in the wonderful world of Health 2.0. For instance, if ever you catch us in what Dr. Nishant lovingly calls Virtual Coffee, which are basically our conference calls via Skype to discuss projects and updates, it’s just like hanging out with your friends in a coffee shop, with the added bonus of being productive in the process.

WellWire is largely known for its daily articles and health-inspired Twitter updates, but this week, we’ve decided to rock the wonderful world of Facebook and connect more closely to our followers. So far, it’s been really fun, and I often find myself glued to the computer, waiting for the next update. We had just started using the Discussions tab on our Facebook page, and the feedback has been wonderful. Here’s a little teaser, if you haven’t checked it out yet, or if you haven’t joined – which you must do after reading this post, by the way. Deal? Alright!

Experiences With Food Allergies
Inspired by this article, WellWire Facebook fans have been discussing personal experiences and success with having their children (or themselves) properly diagnosed for food allergies. Different methods of testing, such as the MRT and comprehensive blood testing, are also discussed. Pretty informative, if you ask me.

Breast Cancer Awareness Tips
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’ve been talking about this article by Dr. Carrie
on how to properly feel for those lumps (or non-lumps). What I love about the discussion on Facebook right now is that they mentioned getting your boyfriends and husbands in the mix of breast self-examination. Intriguing, right? Join the discussion and find out what that‘s all about.

Staying Healthy This Cold and Flu Season
Forget Over-the-Counter sneeze quenchers or flu symptom relievers. Have you heard of wei qi? It’s what the Chinese consider the energy system that protects our body from disease. Read this article to learn more about your protective qi. This discussion on Facebook has got to be my favorite one so far, since it’s very timely and informative. I really encourage everyone to check this out.

Another super fun addition to the WellWire Facebook page is the Day In The Life photo series of WellWire authors.

This week, we are featuring co-founder Dr. Igor Schwartzman. Here, he hangs out with his dogs, and beautiful daughter Selene. Click on the image to check out more Day In The Life photos.

This week, we are featuring co-founder Dr. Igor Schwartzman. Here, he hangs out with his dogs, and beautiful daughter Selene. Click on the image to check out more Day In The Life photos.

Well, what are you waiting for? Come join us! 🙂

Written by Karla Mercado

October 16, 2009 at 6:03 am

Posted in Etcetera

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Our Nation is Doing FINE

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Where I'm from...

Those rubber rafts may have kept my fellow Filipinos safe during the flooding,
but what was it, really, that kept them afloat?

Check out WellWire‘s blissful little tribute to the Philippine victims of Typhoon Ketsana to find out: A True Story of Buoyancy and Bliss

Written by Karla Mercado

October 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Etcetera

Top 5 Favorite Love Stories

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Being single and all, I can’t help but indulge in other people’s love stories. Unlike before, when this so-called gratification was actually a product of self-pity and jealousy, right now it’s just precisely that: a guilty pleasure. I don’t envy nor wish myself the same thing anymore, and writing about it is just my own little way of honoring what I think are five of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever seen… on screen.

Just a couple of red flags before I begin:

Sap-fest alert. If you’re allergic to love a la The Shins’ Know Your Onion!, side effects to reading this post include nausea and, in rare cases, actual puking. It’s gonna be really cheesy. You have been warned.

Potential movie spoilage. If you haven’t seen Magnolia, Stranger Than Fiction, The Science of Sleep and/or State and Main and do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed.


#5: Jim and Claudia (Magnolia)

Jim and Claudia

Claudia: You don’t know how f-cking stupid I am.
Jim: It’s okay.
Claudia: You don’t know how crazy I am.
Jim: It’s okay.
Claudia: I got troubles, okay?
Jim: I’ll take everything at face value. I’ll be a good listener… whatever it is, just say it, you’ll see.
Claudia: You wanna kiss me, Jim?
Jim: Yes, I do.

I remember having this “messed up love story” phase back in the day; I was so drawn to couples who seem to have the shittiest habits and lives, precisely the things that glued them together in the first place. I’m glad I’m over that phase, now that I try to stay away from such a complicated life, but I can’t help but be so infatuated with the fire of passion that never seems to be doused when two unpredictable, self-destructive people are left alone in a room.

But I think the balance between Claudia and Jim is great, a classic example of opposites attract. It’s far from being perfect, but their story definitely makes my top 5.

#4: Harold and Ana (Stranger Than Fiction)

Harold and Ana

Harold: Miss Pascal, I’ve been odd. I know I’ve been odd, and I know that there are many forces at work telling me to bring these down here to you, but I brought these for you because… I want you.
Ana: Excuse me?
Harold: I want you.
Ana: You want me?
Harold: In no uncertain terms.
Ana: But isn’t there some… I don’t rule about fraternization…
Harold: Auditor / Auditee protocols, yes, but I don’t care.
Ana: Why not?
Harold: Because I want you.

I was just talking to my friend Aldus yesterday about this amazing film, and how much I adore the love story between Harold and Ana. He thinks that their story was only secondary to the whole theme of the film, but I find it pretty pivotal nonetheless. In the story, Harold knows when and how he is going to die, and this causes a complete shift in his daily activities. As an accountant, he was used to rules, structure and habits that never seem to change. He strictly followed his watch and brushed his teeth the exact same way each day. But when he finds out about his death and meets Ana — a down-to-earth, unconventional pastry chef, and Harold’s auditee — he is inspired to drop everything and live in the moment. He learns to embrace his inevitable death, which eventually results in life… literally.

#3: Stéphane and Stéphanie (The Science of Sleep)

Stéphan and Stéphanie

Stéphanie: How’s your head?
Stéphane: It’s okay. It’s not normal though…
Stéphanie: It’s never going to be.

Quite a strange love story I must say, but still quite entertaining. I normally go for the realistic, down-to-earth love stories but this one’s an exception. The entire theme of the film and the love story itself centered on the clash between realism and surrealism. As I was watching the film, just like Stéphane, who had a tendency to overlap his dreams with reality, I wasn’t sure which portions of the film constitute reality, and which ones were merely dreams. I must admit that I would like my own love story to have this kind of conflict — not always, of course, but just enough to keep the element of magic alive.

#2: Joe and Ann (State and Main)

Joe and Ann

Joe: How do I do a film called “The Old Mill” when I don’t have an old mill?
Ann: Well, first you’ve got to change the title.

One of my favorite scenes from Mamet’s masterpiece, State and Main, was when Joseph Turner White (“Joe”), a screenwriter, tries solving screenplay problems with Ann, a local bookseller. They exchange ideas and converse in such a light and comfortable manner, that watching them became such a pleasant and peaceful thing to do. Both shared common interests and passions, and these similarities eventually brought them together. It’s a typical love story, but through the years, I’ve realized that although opposites breed a fiery attraction, relatedness is what normally keeps two parties together for a longer period of time.

#1: Boni and Paz (my grandparents)

Papa and Mama

Boni: The first time your Mama pursued me…
Paz: Mmm-hmm?!?! What?

Okay, I know it’s cheating, since this is a real love story. But I can’t help it; nothing else deserves the #1 spot. My top love story is one where both are different but at the same time similar — complete opposites but mirror images in spirit; where both know how to laugh at and with each other, fight but eventually forgive, know how to agree to disagree and fully embrace that without taking offense. Those are Papa and Mama’s most marked characteristics as a happily married couple, fifty years and counting. It is one where they’re able to uphold this:

Love Story…and still manage to gaze lovingly at each other and dance to Sinatra’s crooning when everyone else has left the party.

Written by Karla Mercado

August 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

That Ain’t My America

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The American Dream?“When success is equated with excess, the ambition for excess wrecks us.”

Growing up, I have seen countless people around me, including my own family, move to the United States to seek a better life. “Better” can mean anything, from finding a more stable job to being able to live in a decent neighborhood to raise their kids. To my mom, who left an awesome job, her friends, immediate family and native land many years ago, a “better” life meant giving her kids the choice to move to the “Free World” should they wish to do so when they’re old enough to make such decisions on their own. To my brother, who’s now a college sophomore at Fordham, it meant fulfilling his dream to pursue an American education. That being said, I think it’s safe to say — at least for the purpose of this post — that a “better life” for us basically meant pursuing the American Dream.

I can still remember my very first impression of America, way before I decided to move here. From what I had then gathered from books, newspapers, magazines and television, I thought of America as a country where the gap between the rich and the poor was almost nonexistent. It was a land of equal opportunity for all, where prejudice was just a fad of the past, not only when it comes to race, but more so on social standing. It was a place where farmers, construction workers and janitors were given the same esteem as businessmen, executives and doctors.

James Truslow Adams once said that everyone should recognize and fulfill their right to achieve a “better, richer and happier life.” But through the years, the concept of the American Dream only made people do precisely that — dream — causing towering expectations for the majority that were hardly met, if not at all. Historically, this phenomenon hasn’t exactly helped the minority and lower class citizens gain what the dream had once promised — social equality.

In the 1990s to the 2000s, an increasing number of people confessed to have lost faith in the American Dream, perhaps precisely because of these unfulfilled expectations. George Carlin once joked that “it’s called the American Dream ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.” A number of writers, poets and musicians have expressed how dangerous it was for people to keep holding on to the American Dream, where the pursuit of happiness is somehow equated with the pursuit of greater material wealth.

I’m not educated enough to make an objective critique on the American Dream, but I do have a thing or two to say about it, based on my own experience. When I had that first impression of America, when I once thought that it was a near-perfect land of milk and honey, people said I was too ignorant and naive for saying such things, for having such faith in a country that clearly only cared about being a Superpower and maintaining that position by trampling over everyone else along the way. Now, I would surely risk being called ignorant and naive yet again for what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it nonetheless: I refuse to lose faith in my American Dream.

My family has been here for decades, and being here myself, I can’t help but be grateful. Sure, I would occasionally encounter racial slurs directed at me, or sometimes even feel like a “second class citizen”, but this place gives me hope. It really does. Why? Because to me, the American Dream is ultimately what you make of it.

In the Declaration of Independence, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are considered inalienable rights, and basically, the stuff that make up this so-called American Dream. To me, Life means being able to wake up each morning in a place so huge that there’s always room for opportunity and second chances; Liberty means being able to make the decision to live here on my own, to start anew if I need to, and be absolutely anything I wish to be; and Happiness means not the pursuit of material wealth, but wealth that comes in knowledge, skill, experience and wisdom that one can only acquire in a place so advanced, so foreign, and so new.

So if the American Dream is, ultimately, what you make of it, then golly gee willikers, absolutely anything can be what you make of it!

“Like a puppet on a monetary string, maybe we’ve been caught singing: red, white, blue and green. But that ain’t my America. That ain’t my American Dream.”

(Italicized words from Switchfoot’s “American Dream”)

Written by Karla Mercado

August 13, 2009 at 4:16 am

The Proust Questionnaire

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Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922)

Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922)

Ever wonder if your favorite thinkers would even consider answering silly blog questionnaires? I found this interesting piece from one of my friends’ notes on Facebook, and I thought it was such a fun way to answer yet another blog-type questionnaire because you get to compare your answers (or not) with Marcel Proust no less. These are from the two questionnaires he filled out at the ages of 13 and 20. Quoting my friend Eduardo, “Yes, it’s elementary school / junior high all over again, except now, it’s validated by the participation of a renowned French intellectual!” That, and, I personally think the questions are pretty brilliant.

Let’s begin.

13 ans

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Proust: To be separated from Mama.
Your answer: Being stuck in an intellectual and emotional rut. Being in a place or disposition that prevents myself from reaching my full potential, or from satisfying my curiosities.

Where would you like to live?
Proust: To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater.
Your answer: At this point in my life, I honestly don’t want to be in just one place for a very long time. I want to move around, experience different places and meet different people. But right now, I would like to see what it’s like living (temporarily) in New York.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Proust: To a life deprived of the works of genius.
Your answer: Fear.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Proust: Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real.
Your answer: Atticus Finch, Howard Roark, and Holden Caulfield (because to me, antiheroism can be quite heroic in a weird way sometimes, and Holden’s that exception!)

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Proust: A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry.
Your answer: Thoreau, Austen, and Rand.

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
Proust: A woman of genius leading an ordinary life.
Your answer: My mother and grandmother.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Proust: Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful
Your answer: Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March, Dominique Francon, and “Moi.” 🙂

Your favorite painter?
Proust: Meissonier.
Your answer: I’m not gonna lie. I’m not a big follower of this line of art, so I really can’t choose without sounding pretentious.

Your favorite musician?
Proust: Mozart.
Your answer: It’s almost impossible to choose one, but if I must, it’s got to be Freddie Mercury.

The quality you most admire in a man?
Proust: Intelligence, moral sense.
Your answer: Talent, responsibility, independence.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Proust: Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence
Your answer: Effortless elegance, quiet confidence, patience.

Your favorite virtue?
Proust: All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues
Your answer: Courage / Fortitude.

Your favorite occupation?
Proust: Reading, dreaming, and writing verse
Your answer: Exactly as how Proust said it, except that I write more prose than verse.

Who would you have liked to be?
Proust: Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.
Your answer: Elizabeth Bennet.

20 ans

Your most marked characteristic?
Proust: A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
Your answer: Right at the top of my head… my long legs. Ha!

What do you most value in your friends?
Proust: Tenderness – provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having
Your answer: Kindness, laughter, simplicity.

What is your principal defect?
Proust: Lack of understanding; weakness of will
Your answer: Tendency to recoil in defeatism. 😦

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Proust: Never to have known my mother or my grandmother
Your answer: Memory loss.

What would you like to be?
Proust: Myself – as those whom I admire would like me to be
Your answer: A woman of grace, resilience, moral sense, compassion and never ending gratitude.

What is your favorite color?
Proust: Beauty lies not in colors but in their harmony
Your answer: Er, pink?

What is your favorite flower?
Proust: Hers – but apart from that, all
Your answer: (Side comment: “Hers?” Oh, Proust, you naughty, naughty boy, you… wait a minute, weren’t you gay?) I like roses.

What is your favorite bird?
Proust: The swallow
Your answer: The hummingbird.

Who are your favorite prose writers?
Proust: At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti
Your answer: Conrado De Quiros, Jessica Zafra, and Jason Mraz.

Who are your favorite poets?
Proust: Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny
Your answer: Sylvia Plath and Lord Byron.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Proust: Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors)
Your answer: Christopher Johnson McCandless.

Who are your favorite heroines of history?
Proust: Cleopatra
Your answer: Jane Austen

What are your favorite names?
Proust: I only have one at a time.
Your answer: Men’s names – Joseph, Silas, Ephraim; Women’s names: Scout, Vendetta (I know, weird, but I just think it’s mysteriously beautiful), Clarke.

What historical figures do you most despise?
Proust: I am not sufficiently educated to say.
Your answer: I do not despise any historical figure at all, because without the participation of even the nastiest folks in history, there never would’ve been a grand story to tell… and the world would be such a boring, unchallenging place to be. There would be no causes to fight for.

What event in military history do you most admire?
Proust: My own enlistment as a volunteer!
Your answer: None.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Proust: Will power and irresistible charm
Your answer: Agility, endurance and artistic intelligence.

How would you like to die?
Proust: A better man than I am, and much beloved
Your answer: A loving great-great-great grandmother. In other words, after many, many, many years.

What is your present state of mind?
Proust: Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
Your answer: Impatience. When are we getting to that much awaited final question?

Final question: (yes!) What is your motto?
Proust: I prefer not to say, for fear it might bring me bad luck.
Your answer: (Looks up at Proust’s answer) Hmm. Ok, I shall resign myself to superstition for now.

Written by Karla Mercado

August 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Etcetera, Introspection

Long Live the Moth

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There’s an interesting discussion up at Brazen‘s LOST Fans group (created by Benjamin) asking which LOST character you can most relate to. I didn’t even think twice and immediately answered Charlie.

Charlie first tells his story in Season 1’s The Moth (Episode 7). This was also the episode when Charlie first kicked his drug habit. In an unforgettable scene in the jungle, Locke shows Charlie a cocoon hanging onto the edge of a branch. Locke explains:

That’s a moth cocoon. It’s ironic — butterflies get all the attention, but moths, they spin silk. They’re stronger. They’re faster. You see this little hole? This moth’s just about to emerge. It’s in there, right now, struggling. It’s digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. I could help it — take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free — but it would be too weak to survive. Struggle is nature’s way of strengthening it.

It’s very relatable, isn’t it? You’ve probably already heard a similar metaphor saying that patience is a virtue, there’s beauty in waiting, etc. But have you genuinely paid attention to such a profound life lesson? After much reflection, I admit that I haven’t.

There’s so much more wisdom and virtue in patience than it’s given credit for. I know that life’s struggles act like episodes or chapters, each being presented with a beginning and an end, and that it’s ultimately about being able to deal with the in-between. But I’m only human — I can’t help but dwell on when this problem is gonna f-ing end!

Dealing with the in-between then becomes either rushing to put an end to the problem, or turning your back on it altogether. When I hasten solving the problem, I usually just end up acting on impulse, which leads me back to where I started. And when I completely ignore the problem, well, let’s face it — taking on challenges like a coward never really helped anyone.

Patience takes a lot of courage. I know, it’s easier said than done, but I found that I am only making it harder on myself if I let that knife widen the opening of my life’s many cocoons. I’d be set free, that’s true, but only to find my wings undeveloped, unable to keep me up in the air, until I find myself even more injured as I hit the ground.

Like a moth in a cocoon, Charlie breaks free from the underground cave where Jack was trapped due to an avalanche of rocks. Screenshot courtesy of lost-media.com

Like a moth in a cocoon, Charlie breaks free from the underground cave where he was trying to save Jack who was trapped in an avalanche of rocks. Screen shot courtesy of lost-media.com

Take wisdom from the resilience of a moth when you find yourself struggling to break free from life’s struggles, may it be short lived chapters of everyday challenges you encounter at home, school or work, or painfully overextended episodes like drug addiction, posttraumatic stress, or grief from a recent (or not-so-recent) loss. Stay in that cocoon, deal with its suffocating constriction and fight the temptation to rip apart that tiny dot of light leading to freedom. Let your struggles strengthen you, face them with courage and eventually bounce back until it’s time to bounce back from these setbacks. Learn to do this and only then will your life’s battles be won.

Written by Karla Mercado

August 8, 2009 at 3:11 am