Thursday, 20 July 2017

NDP-Green Coalition Raises Welfare & Disability Rates

I'm usually fairly snarky when it comes to politics. It's how I deal with the dread. And I was going to be snarky about this, but I believe this deserves a more direct reaction.

A few months ago, BC held its local elections. A big aspect of it was getting rid of the Liberal party and, more specifically, Christy Clark. It reminded me greatly of the "Heave Steve" sentiment during the federal election that ultimately convinced me not to vote. I did vote in this local election, however, and I voted for the Green Party as their platform best represented my interests and I felt they also had a better image for the future of BC in sustainability.

While my district did not go Green, it did see an increase of nearly 20%. Several other districts -did- go Green. Together with the NDP, they combined for enough seats to deny the Liberals a majority. 

What's more is that they denied the Liberals government entirely. An NDP-Green coalition was officially sworn in this week to lead BC with the two parties promising to collaborate on legislature that would undo a lot of the harmful policies set forth by the Liberals or to fix the complete inaction the Liberals have been responsible for. 

The first thing Premier Horgan did was increase funding for the wildfire crisis. Good. An easy win. 

What this coalition did next, however, makes me feel even better about the results of the election. From my perspective, an NDP-Green coalition was the "best case scenario" in the realm of realism. An actual Green win would have been a fairy tale and not worth hoping for. I got my wish for the coalition but did not know whether or not that hope would be validated. 

That hope, thus far, has been validated. The Liberals of yore prided themselves on freezing social welfare benefits across the board for over a decade despite inflation, despite cost of living increases, and despite Vancouver's newfound reputation as the 3rd most expensive city to live in on this planet. That is, to say the least, not great

Today, the NDP announced immediate raises to both welfare and disability rates that will go into effect in September. It's not a large increase, only $100, but it's a first step in a process that will hopefully not be as soul-crushing for those reliant on the state for survival. They also plan on raising the earning exemption from $200 to $400 and to tie the disability rate to inflation. There are talks in place to raise these rates further in the future as current reports suggest that a monthly stipend of $1500/mo would be necessary for people to not be crushingly oppressed by poverty in the Greater Vancouver Area. 

And to assuage worries that the NDP would not play ball with the Greens, they will also look into funding a study for basic universal income and seeing if that may be a viable option for British Columbia in the future. 

I am excited to see what this coalition does next. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Initial Thoughts on the Complex Chronic Disease Program


Image Credit: Background by Darko Stojanovic on Pixabay.

The Build Up


When I moved to Vancouver, one of the underlying hopes was that I would finally be granted the opportunity of seeking a legitimate answer and treatment plan for my health. The time before I moved was spent with a big question mark about what was plaguing me. I was healthy one day and then I wasn't.

The plan was reasonable. Get on a plane, travel across the continent, find a place to live, find a job, and get settled in a new life. From there I would poke at my options for diagnosing and eventual treatment. It had been a plan years in the making and it seemed as though it would pan out in spite of everything.

I needed help for that. I wouldn't have done it without the help of two friends that I will forever be indebted to. Once I was set loose in Vancouver it was time for me to rise to the occasion instead of those supporting me. I got a place to live. I got a job. I had interviews lined up on all my days off. I was getting to know the people around me.

It was difficult, of course. Most days were spent teetering the balance of just keeling over or persevering. I was making it, though. One day at a time. This changed when I received a lovely bout of laryngitis.

Like that, the progress I had spent years building towards evaporated. I could barely go around the block, let alone go to work. I coasted on "savings" for a month before realizing that I was not getting better. The laryngitis had passed but the loss of functionality did not. I never regained the work I had put so much effort into.

This put me into an awkward position. At this point in time, I no longer had a support structure and nobody to turn to. I lost my job. I couldn't make it to any interviews. It seemed as though I was going to finally lose for the last time. In a last ditch effort, I made the trip to a welfare office and made my case for why I deserved social assistance as a newcomer to the province.

I was granted welfare in large part due to the circumstances of why I moved across the country. My health insurance was expedited and I gained access to the healthcare system of British Columbia. Within the first week of having this new power I made my way to an ER, unaware that such a thing as "walk-in clinics" even existed in Canada.

There, I was given a chest x-ray and told I had asthma. I do not have asthma. The resident that took care of my case gave me a prescription for an inhaler that I fulfilled mainly because I wanted to see if it would do anything, even as a placebo. It did not.

The Next Step


This led to a string of visits to walk-in clinics. I visited four different clinics in search of a referral or an answer. While I was passively seeking an answer to the past several years of my health, I was primarily seeking a quick fix for the effects from the laryngitis. For several months, I put my hands on my ears and shouted "la la la" at the idea of trying to tackle the bigger problem.

As you might expect, this did not lead me anywhere great. I learned that walk-in doctors were not good at what they do. I was told everything from being labelled a drug seeker to a blatant liar. Doctors that said they'd follow up did not. Doctors that said they believed me did not. The welfare office was beginning to stress the importance of finding a permanent doctor and provided a sheet of doctors to contact that were accepting new patients.

None of them were accepting new patients.

I had moved in June of 2014 and it was now September. I was surviving off of the measly welfare cheque and my writing work, a network that was still intact at that time. A friend in a nearby city got me hooked up with a magazine and I put finding an answer on hold when I received an opportunity to be a media reporter at the International Film Festival. I had dreamed of getting media credentials at an event within the first three years of moving and had achieved it within six months.

I thought, naively, that maybe I could take advantage of a mental high and somehow will myself into being better. Every fiber of my being was thrown into this, requiring in-person trips to another city and to the film festival in a hectic week. In that week I passed out on the SkyTrain, I skipped out on multiple movies, and I didn't stick around to build up rapport with the magazine staff.

It was a miserable, miserable week. It did more damage than it did good, and it took me weeks to get "better".

The Precipice


Now it was December and there was still no good news. I decided it was time to try another walk-in clinic, again. It was time to try another doctor, again.

I turned to Google and searched for walk-in clinics, crossing off the ones I had already gone to and had poor experiences with. Then I found a clinic that was generically named "The Doctors' Office". I thought it was a gag.

It wasn't. Whereas I would ordinarily just hop onto a bus and check it out, I noticed this clinic was an actual, well, doctor's office. I rung them up and asked the golden question: "Are you accepting any new patients?"

They were. I was quickly registered and before I knew it, I was a week away from meeting with a doctor that had just started accepting new patients. I was skeptical. Of course I was. But I went, and I met with this doctor, and the effort paid off.

In this meeting, I had taken a chance. I told her that I wanted help for years of health woes but that I wanted more immediate help with the effects of the laryngitis. She was on-board. A blood test was requisitioned, another chest x-ray was requested, and I even got to do a heart stress test (which was awful, by the way).

When the calendar turned to 2015 I met with this new doctor again. There wasn't anything evident that would explain what was going on. I wasn't ready to tell her my thoughts and she recommended an internist. I accepted, and I went in February.

A New Chapter


This is where the Complex Chronic Disease Program becomes relevant. In this appointment with the internist, I was offered something rare: Two hours of time to talk instead of ten minutes. I wrote up my story. I told the internist everything. I was putting everything on the line.

The result of that meeting was bad, but hopeful. I was told in no uncertain terms that modern medicine likely would not help me. That this was going to get worse instead of better. And that I needed to prepare for the worst because even a definitive answer likely wouldn't lead anywhere good.

That's not great to be told, but it was great to be believed. The internist wrote his report, attached my story, and sent everything back to my new doctor. When she read it, she wanted to talk. She didn't dismiss me, she didn't fire me as a patient. Instead, she told me she would do her best to find an answer.

The first thing she did was refer me to the Complex Chronic Disease Program with the behest of the internist. I was aware of the program but skeptical of its value; in the short time it had existed, it had lost its director and was having funding problems. My doctor told me it would take months before I would even find out if I were accepted into the program.

A few months later in April, I received a letter in the mail. I was accepted... but it would take a year before I would be seen. In the meantime, my doctor decided to send me to every specialist under the sun. A psychiatrist, a sleep specialist, a rheumatologist, another internist, a neurologist. Nobody could give me an answer to what was wrong. Nobody could tell me what would help.

Nobody was willing to experiment with treatments due to the liability risk. No medication, no injections, no therapy, nothing. With no answer, there was no access. I was always given a clean bill of health mentally and there was nothing apparent physically... just that it was obvious something was wrong. I couldn't handle stress tests. My muscle weakness was excessive. My cognition was easily reduced.

I chased every lead wherever they went. I had no choice. I needed an answer, if not for my sake but for the sake of continuing to be able to be supported by the welfare system. I was not on disability, and needed to prove my inability to work every few months. My case manager didn't believe my exemption forms, constantly questioning my legitimacy and whether or not I was telling the truth. "Unknown pain disorder" wasn't an applicable answer in the eyes of the government.

The rheumatologist told me to put fibromyalgia on my forms. So I did. I still need to refill the forms every now and then but it's less rabid now.

The neurologist told me it was a mitochondrial disease and referred me to the metabolic clinic. They denied me because I'm not a child and don't have a family history. Canada is ill-equipped to deal with mitochondrial research and treatment. Liability law prevents unrelated medical professionals from treating a mitochondrial disease.

What Next?


I was in a pickle. It was a year later, 2016, and I still hadn't seen the medical program. They had contacted me and told me it would be two years... or maybe never. I was operating under an incorrect diagnosis of fibromyalgia and could not gain access to the research and treatment necessary for the mitochondrial disease. I was trapped.

In December of 2016, I received a phone call. The medical program was ready to see me. I accepted, knowing that this was what everything hinged on. I would never be able to apply for disability would a questionable diagnosis and the patchwork of specialists I had gone to over the past two years. They told me what to expect: a phone interview with a nurse, an in-person meeting with a nurse, occupational therapist, and social worker, and then an in-person meeting with the program's internist.

Reasonable. They needed me to read and watch some material about the program prior to the phone interview, which I did dutifully. The phone interview two weeks later was... something else. I felt devastated after the conversation. The nurse did not care about my story. She was not interested. Leading questions were asked. I was asked if I had any questions of my own. The answers I received told me in no uncertain terms that what I needed from the program was not what I was going to get.

I was told they wouldn't advocate for me with other specialists or programs, they wouldn't help me with disability, and I would have to do things their way or no way. All this was covered in 15 minutes of what was supposed to be a 45 minute phone call.

The In-Person Meeting


My in-person meeting with the trio of program staff was scheduled for two months later in February of 2017, and I was told I would need to fill out a booklet of questionnaires beforehand.

Reasonable. I did that. I took it with me to the meeting. They never asked for it. I filled it out for no reason. However, the actual appointment went well. The nurse, occupational therapist, and social worker were all kind. They didn't ask leading questions. They paid attention to what I had to say. I have no complaints about this portion of my initial participation within the program.

An appointment was scheduled for the doctor a couple weeks later and I waited for that. I met with the internist and found the meeting somewhat disappointing. It was confirmed that they wouldn't advocate for me with the metabolic clinic. I was told it would be a dead end to pursue treatment for a mitochondrial disease in Canada, especially with only government insurance to rely off of for the payment of treatments or research.

So she "redirected" me into just sticking with the fibromyalgia diagnosis and adding chronic fatigue syndrome and central sensitization disorder to the list. Instead of what was the likely culprit, I now had a laundry list of "fuck if we know" diseases to my name that couldn't be cured and the treatment would only maybe indirectly help me.

The internist provided me a lot of material, none of which was applicable to me. The material that could be relevant was material I had already explored within the first year of my health's downward spiral. I was signed up for most of the program's treatments, although the options were restricted.

I'm going to see a physical therapist, once, who will show me exercises. I won't work in an actual PT clinic.

I'm going to see a dietitian, once, who will tell me what to eat. It is likely I won't have access to what they recommend.

I was signed up for all their therapy groups that have several months of waiting lists to contend with, and are all group therapy sessions. I don't gain anything from groups. I don't relate to people with fibromyalgia. I've tried support groups before to no avail.

In Conclusion


Since then, I have seen no one from the program and have not been contacted by anyone from the program. I was referred for "trigger point therapy" and have not heard from that either. They expect me to begin the disability process soon with these new diagnoses and they'll back me up. That's generous of them.

I want to be grateful for that. People with "unknown" diseases have a success rate of less than 20% when applying for disability and are often embroiled in the appeals process for up to a decade. Success rate with the backing of the program is over 80% on the first try. That's good. I need disability; it will help me tremendously. 

But I feel trapped. If I take this plunge, I am putting the nail in my coffin. I'll never be able to receive actual help for what is wrong with me. I'll never receive real treatment. I'll perpetually need to deal with doctors telling me to think good thoughts and I'll feel better. I'll perpetually be prescribed anti-depressants for the purpose of numbing me to the pain that instead only imbalance my mental state which is already fragile. 

It's an empty victory. 

I thought the Complex Chronic Disease Program would save me or give me a future. 

I don't know if it will do that. It may be that I've finally reached the dead end I keep speaking of. 

It may be that my worst case scenario of waiting until I get so bad I can't go on anymore will come to pass.

I'm not ready for that. I can't keep wasting away. 

But I have no choice. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Chronic Health and Dependency on Others


Image Credit: Background by Andy Bay on Pixabay.

Those with severe chronic health issues know the score: you will never be on equal footing with someone who is physically capable. It's why you're classified as disabled, after all.

This leads into a situation where you are vividly aware of your dependency on others. In order for you to survive, you require the generosity and thoughtfulness of those who are more capable than you are. Period. There is no wiggle room in this. Even if you can still walk and still have use of your limbs, you require their aid. People like us were left to die in the nomadic tribes and we wasted away in the streets during the dawn of civilization.

That's not a judgement on people from the past, just a sad fact that for the majority of human history we were not equipped to help let alone support those who are disabled. Those with amputations were still at a disadvantage but could mostly interact freely as their disability was a loss of limb and not a loss of internal functionality. People with cancer, Crohn's, genetic diseases, and a myriad of other unknown illnesses in the past were helpless regardless of hosting their original four limbs in reasonable capacity.

We don't live in that world anymore. We now live in a world where most countries can support the disabled to a certain extent and offer them some care or relief. Many are still left in the dust, many are still not included in the limited assistance that's available, but things are much better than they were. Hopefully, things will continue to get better.

"What constitutes as a condition?"


There is a component in this equation that is not regularly spoken of. What is the mental health impact of being dependent as a result of your incapability? Furthermore, can any impact from this situation be classified as a mental illness even though there is a clear and verifiable cause for it?

If you follow that train of thought, your question then becomes: "What is a mental illness?" The descriptions aren't very clear. Mental illnesses are conditions that afflict the mind. Of course we know that, but what constitutes as a condition? If you know the cause and you know why you are in this position, are you afflicted with an illness?

You could compare it to physical illnesses, which would say "yes" to that question. If you know you got cancer due to severe exposure to a carcinogenic, you are indeed afflicted with an illness. You know the whys and hows but you're obviously still sick. Does this same theory apply to your mental health?

It is unclear. If your depression is entirely context-based, is it fair to be diagnosed with depression when solving it only requires fixing the context? This could potentially imply that depression is a mere case of some lifestyle alterations and you then become peachy keen (a belief many do hold). That puts individuals with chemical imbalances in their head or some other cause for their depression at a severe disadvantage as the dialogue has now changed to imply that they simply haven't tried hard enough to be better. They're depressed by choice. 

But you can flip this around, just the same. Those who are depressed because of definitive aspects in their life may not be taken seriously because their "issues" are so concrete. You know what's wrong so that's not really a problem, you don't actually need help. Just change a few things around and you'll be made great again. 

You can spend countless days debating with others and with yourself about what constitutes as a mental illness, if how you change as a result of dependency can be classified as one, and if it even matters in the long run. None of this alters that you do change as a result of dependency. Your health makes you dependent, and both of these facts change who you are. They feed into each other and can potentially do so in a closed, self-repeating loop. 

"Both of these facts change who you are... and can potentially do so in a closed, self-repeating loop."


I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my health, and subsequently becoming solely reliant on others for my continued survival, has made me a worse person. Did I choose to be that? 

I ask myself that question regularly. Am I just making the choice, every day, to be what I am? Is it truly as simple as deciding suddenly to be better, to not be how I've been for the past year or more? And if it is truly that simple, why haven't I done that? 

Am I happy with being awful? Do I enjoy hurting others? 

Do I enjoy hurting myself? 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Troubles Maintaining Interest in Writing


Image Credit: Background is taken by Virvoreanu-Laurentiu from Pixabay.


I don't like using labels to describe myself. It feels like lumping myself into a set identity that I must then share with others, and that's not something I am typically okay with. Not only because it makes me uncomfortable on a fundamental level but also because, in my experience, I don't share much in common with people who identify with a certain label. 

Yet, I know that I am a writer. I know this because I've been writing for as long as I've had the ability to consciously think, secretly away from my parents and in school whenever the opportunity was afforded to me. Since the age of 11, I've been consistently involved in text-based roleplaying. I've written short stories, novellas, and recently completed my first novel (which I then trashed, as I do with all my other writing). I'm also very keen on writing letters to people and have been known to dedicate a few thousand words from time to time to each correspondence. 

I couldn't begin to estimate how many words I've written in my lifetime. A million, at least. I reckon it is likely more in the neighbourhood of five million. 

That's a big number. 

Even with that big number, however, I find myself also consistently facing the same problem. I have immense difficulty in maintaining my interest in the hobby. My attention is fleeting in that I can go from adoring the activity and dedicating hours a day to it to feeling as though the very act of writing another word would kill me or at least bring me great misfortune. 

It is very confusing as I always return and start writing again. I've tried those "write every day" cliches, I've tried limiting how much I write, I've tried setting a certain time aside for writing. It simply does not matter. My interest and my ability to write a coherent thought wanes regardless of the tricks I try. 

"My talent in writing is the one thing that might save me from a life of destitution."


This is problematic as writing is a core component of what I do and who I am. Due to disability, my talent in writing is the one thing that might save me from a life of destitution. My hobby, roleplaying, is entirely reliant on writing regularly. My goal to become a legitimate author hinges on being able to remain interested in an idea. 

The journey towards conquering the issue has been long and arduous. Do I have it all figured out yet?

I don't. I'm not sure if I will, at least not in the immediate future. I fight a battle inside my mind every day to stick with it, to keep writing in some capacity, and I've mostly been winning that fight. From a certain point of view. See, I write each and every single day... but for different things. My problem with interest remains, I'm just covering it up by inundating myself with different things to invest into. You can't fall into a not-writing-anymore hole if you keep yourself surrounded by things that can interest you.

And yet this does not solve the problem. It only masks it. This is something I am notorious for, at least to me, because I typically see some problems as unsolvable and instead try to hide them as best as I can. This applies to every aspect of my life, be it mentally, health-wise, or in my hobbies. If something doesn't look like it'll get better, I go into "cover it up" mode. 

I don't like covering it up. I want to be able to maintain my interest in what I do because my interest will make or break my ability to be consistent and to succeed. Someone who cannot stick with an idea is not someone who will do well, as directly evidenced by my lack of true success. 

"I don't like covering it up."


The question of how to next approach the idea of solving this problem is one left unanswered. I'm not sure what to try next. Is there something else? Undoubtedly, but right now it is inaccessible and unknown to me. 

It may be a matter of just waiting long enough for things to set themselves right. I find this a naive possibility, and not one with much merit. This has plagued me since before I became ill. It's been exacerbated by my health, without a shadow of a doubt, but the problem itself has been a part of me for well over a decade now. 

I hope I can beat it sooner rather than later. Knocking this obstacle down would bring me one step closer to dragging myself out of this rut. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

David's 8 Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life


I love Gilmore Girls. As a man, that gets ridicule from certain people. That's, of course, totally fine. I don't care what television shows people adore as long as it's meaningfully balanced in their life and isn't a core component of their identity. Content with just loving a show and leaving it at that? Great, sign me up (no matter what it is)!

With my love for Gilmore Girls, I was understandably very hyped when Netflix announced that they were doing a revival. The fact that Amy Sherman-Palladino was heading it didn't matter to me since I was just fine with the final season of the show. The show itself had been going off the rails since before she left so I suppose I never chalked up its decline to her departure. But... more Gilmore Girls. They weren't picking it up where they left off, they were moving ahead in time equivalent to real life. It's an idea I am very keen on and unfortunately do not see often in the television world.

This hype brought me disappointment. I really, really, really did not enjoy Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. It was bad. They ruined the main characters, the jokes were awful, and it just seemed pointless. It was not an adequate addition to the Gilmore Girls timeline. It was just bad. When I read that everyone's favourite episode was Fall, the last one, I wondered why.

I know why. It's their favourite because that meant it was finally over.

The below should be considered spoiler heavy.

They Ruined Rory Gilmore


Many people would say that Rory was a bad person during the main show. I'd disagree with that... but I would definitely agree with the claim in A Year in the Life (now abbreviated to AYITL). She was not a good person. What's worse is that the show portrayed her as good old Rory with absolutely no attention given to just how terrible she was being. 

Cheating on Paul (is that the guy's name?) with Logan was treated as just a regular thing. No big deal. When it's revealed to Lorelai, she's fine with it. She's not mad. She's not incensed. She's fine with her daughter cheating on her long-term boyfriend. 

AYITL then tries to make you, the viewer, feel bad for Rory that Logan's girlfriend moved back home. Really? It's ridiculous. No. I am not going to feel bad for Rory. Rory made her bed and now she can sleep in it -- alone. 

Lorelai Had No Purpose


This fact is interesting given that Lorelai lacking purpose was a big plot point in the latter half of the mini-series. But... that isn't what I mean. I mean the character, her placement in the 'story', has no point. You could remove Lorelai from the show and it would have either stayed the same or improved

That should not be a reality when Lorelai is arguably the primary character, if not sharing the primary seat with Rory (who is awful). 

The plot points about Emily, about the inn, about marrying Luke... it's all meaningless. None of it adds anything to her character. She's just there to be Lorelai and she doesn't do that very well. Like that scene with telling a story about Richard? What's up with that? 

Old Characters Were Included Because of Being Old Characters


Gilmore Girls was enjoyed so thoroughly by thousands of viewers for years upon years for a large part due to Stars Hollow. It was a community. Lorelai and Rory were the main characters but you wanted to watch them interact with the community. Each supporting character had a purpose, they each had lives that existed outside of the main plot. 

What's more is that these lives would develop as the plot did. The town would evolve and change, as did its people. They evolved gradually and with context, much as you'd see someone in your real community evolve. 

This was not the case in AYITL. Most of the characters from the original show were included in AYITL but most of these inclusions felt empty. They were caricatures of their former characters instead of being those characters. You recognized their faces but not their personalities and their place in Stars Hollow. 

The Best Characters Were Paris and Emily


Say what you want about the main characters and the lack of a reasonable story, but Paris and Emily did superb jobs in their roles. Paris did wane near the end but her performance, in general, was very strong. They made solid attempts at redeeming the mistakes of the writers as seen by Emily still giving her best with the nonsensical servant storyline and moving to Nantucket. 

Most of the Story was Pointless


Which brings us to my next point. The vast majority of AYITL could be removed and nothing of value would be lost. Most of the things that happened in the last episode should have happened in the first episode, setting the stage for a heartfelt evolution of the characters we had come to love and admire. 

This isn't what we got. Instead, we received three episodes and a half (movie length, mind you) of pure drivel. We received glimpses of the characters as a sort of update about their lives coupled with completely inane storylines that held no meaning or otherwise took away from the very same characters they're telling us to care about. 

Insulting to Fans


The mini-series honestly felt like it was insulting you. It genuinely seemed like the writers saw all the fans, acknowledged them, and deliberately messed with the Gilmore Girls universe just to spite them. The moments of stereotypical Gilmore Girls were few and far between, with most scenes feeling more like parody caricatures. 

They presented this and marketed it like a faithful continuation of the original Gilmore Girls. AYITL was the exact opposite. If this were released closer to the show's original air date, it would go down as the season that ruined it all (much like how many people consider season 7 to have done that, except even worse). 

My facial expression while watching media is usually stone-faced. I'm unhappy to report that AYITL broke that streak as my face was contorted into an expression of bewilderment and disgust throughout all four episodes. I'm fortunate in that I divorced AYITL from Gilmore Girls before watching it, allowing me to see the original series in the positive light I did and still do to this day.

Doesn't Build to the Future


Fans wanted the revival to either build to the future (what happens next?) or to give a definitive end to the Gilmore Girls story. The revival did neither. While Rory did get pregnant, does it matter? 

It's a serious question, as unfortunate as it may sound. They did their very best to alienate the viewers from Rory's character and then expected us to not only care about her pregnancy reveal, but to be excited for it. Why? Based on Rory's position in life, she will utterly ruin any child she births. I'm not looking forward to that idea; not only do I not agree that Rory would be in this position at this point in time, but I don't watch Gilmore Girls for the gritty hard-knock reality. 

That's not why it's popular. That's not why it's loved. The writers shouldn't have insulted us by thinking we would line up for such a fate. 

The Final Four Words


The final four words. "Mom, I am pregnant." 

Meh.

Don't get me wrong, it's a nice sentence. With a proper approach to the Gilmore Girls legacy, it might have been quite impactful too. Might even get a few tears.

But based on the foundation AYITL presented to us, and based on Rory's character, and based on the absurdly elongated hype about the darn thing, it's a very lackluster end and a very lackluster prospect for the series. 

The idea of there being a "final four words" is ridiculous to begin with, but Amy Sherman-Palladino cited this aspect of the show as being a defining reason for returning and working with Netflix to get a revival mini-series produced. You would think, then, that they would do their very best to set up the mini-series for presenting this reveal. 

They did the opposite. They did their very best to make these final four words as meaningless and laissez-faire as they possibly could. 

Conclusion


In conclusion, ouch. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was so disappointing for me. This isn't a situation where there were a few glaring errors and it'd be fine if they were fixed. If I had the power to change the series to be more in line with what I think Gilmore Girls is, everything would be changed. Nothing as it was would be in the revised version. It is that bad, that disappointing, and that insulting. 

They failed. It's really as simple as that. They failed at continuing the legacy, they failed at presenting the final four words in an endearing way, and they failed at reminding us why we love the show. 

Netflix has teased another return of Gilmore Girls with speculation over Rory's baby and the baby's dad. I'm not excited. I don't care. Based on how Amy and her cabal of writers handled this return, I do not trust them with an official return of the show. They burned us. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

David's 7 Thoughts on Quantico (Season 1)



In the pursuit of finding new shows to get lost into, I've taken an interest in the shows that are not only on Netflix, but there are only one or two seasons of. They're easier to get through and require less of a commitment than a show with 5+ seasons would. This does come with the side effect of needing to keep track of yet another show that's still ongoing but that's a small price to pay when you're frozen with indecision otherwise.

I picked Quantico for two reasons. One, the main character looks familiar (more on that below). Two, I'm a sucker for detective shows. Quantico's description seemed to put it in that category while also promising a different spin.

A different spin is exactly what it provided, for better or worse. The below should be considered spoiler heavy.

Removing Vasquez Sets the Stage for Future Failures


Getting into this with a negative right away, Quantico made a grave mistake early on in the season. The show had an interesting approach: showing what's happening in the moment and then showing what happened in the past. Both would connect to each other and you'd be left with a complete story at the end of it all. 

As you can expect, this gets muddied with character deaths and dramatic discoveries. This is difficult to do but it can provide immense entertainment if done right. Unfortunately, this show makes a mistake that sets the stage for future failures on this front.

The character of Natalie Vasquez is murdered by a bomb in the "present" timeline. Great! We'll still see her story unfold in the past segments, right?

Wrong. The character disappears from the story entirely after she dies in the present. This is jarring because she is involved in some pertinent drama. Namely, Alex's romance with Ryan is tense because Ryan was also in a relationship with Vasquez. This dramatic point is brewing in both the past and the present, so it stands to reason you'd still see this in the past even after the character's death in the present. But you don't. 

Vasquez disappears from the show and is never mentioned in a character interaction again except for the primary plot points. She isn't mentioned by any of the supporting characters or by either Alex or Ryan. It's a terrific blunder... and one that continues later. 

The Main Character... is Priyanka Chopra!


When I saw the image for Quantico, I thought to myself that the character looked very familiar. I couldn't quite place my finger on it. It was midway through episode three when it clicked in my mind and I said out loud, "That's Priyanka Chopra!" 

She's a wonderful singer, both in Bollywood and in western media. I was introduced to her by an old friend, her part in Desi Girl, and I kept track of her since then. I had no idea she got into western acting but I am glad she did. Priyanka plays the role of Alex Parrish excellently. 

Good Drama, if Sometimes Lost


Quantico has some good drama. This applies to both the plot and the characters. The problem I kept bumping up against is that the drama ruins the continuity of the show, again and again and again. You are constantly facing the issue of witnessing a dramatic scene that contradicts a previous one. It strongly comes across like the writers didn't figure everything out beforehand and instead dealt with each episode on a case-by-case basis. 

That works fine with an episodic series but is a poor idea for a show that's supposed to have a coherent story arc. It makes me have a significant love-hate relationship with the show.

Why Liam?


The story of the first season is simple regardless of the complexity behind it. Someone from within the FBI is plotting against them, trying to take down the organization. Neat idea! They tease the reveal again and again, framing different members of that Quantico class.

Then finally, it's revealed that it's... Liam. Meh. I will be completely honest, he is only a marginal improvement over Drew being the terrorist. I don't know who the best choice would have been but Liam was not high up on that list. It didn't make sense. We couldn't learn why it made sense either since the reveal and conclusion were only a couple episodes apart. 

It was a very lackluster end to a show I really enjoyed. 

The Drama Between Shelby and Caleb is Overdone


There is a lot of attention given to the relationship dynamic between Shelby and Caleb. This was fine at first while the story was coherent, but this unraveled as time went by. More and more dramatic revelations were revealed as the season progressed to the point that the early tension between the two of them no longer made sense. 

At some point, I reached a level of apathy over the whole thing. In a vacuum, each point of drama was endearing and interesting to witness. When you put each point together, however, it all fell apart. It was no longer compelling. The affair, the cult, the parents, the lies... it's all nonsense. 

Seriously... Vasquez


I have to mention it again. She's gone after they kill her character in the present. It occupied valuable space in my mind during every subsequent episode, space that could have gone towards paying attention to other aspects of the show. They replaced her in the Ryan/Alex storyline with a random ex-wife of Ryan's. 

They should have kept the actress on to keep the story intact. They really should have. 

Uncertainty Over the Future


With the events that transpired in season one, it is difficult to envision a second season that compares. The season ends with Alex being recruited by the CIA, and I suppose that could be interesting, but the joy of Quantico is in the development of the story's characters. Will Alex be thrown into a whole new class with a similar dynamic to the first season? Will any of the first season characters make an appearance?

I'm unsure what can be done that will be as compelling as the first season. It's made me hesitant about continuing the show although I expect I'll start on it later this month. 

Conclusion


I would recommend giving Quantico a watch. It has a very compelling premise, the characters are well-done, and if the writers were a bit better it'd be a show that could go down in history as being one of the greats. That, of course, hinges on the writers.

As it stands right now, the show is worth watching. You'll like what you see but many of the virtues will be matched with vices. The positives outweighed the negatives for me. 

The first season is available on DVD right now for 55% off. If you're the kind of person to want a physical copy of your favourite shows and Quantico is one of them, now would be the time to get it.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Joy and Despair of a Diagnosis


Image Credit: Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay.

The dream of receiving a diagnosis is fresh and tortuous. After all, a diagnosis means an answer has been found. Answers lead to solutions.

This is what we’re taught in school and by our parents. Find the answer and you’ll find the solution. That’s the path to success.

Real life has a bad habit of not being like what we’re taught. In the instance of chronic health and unknown illness, a diagnosis may very well bring you great joy in the moment because you have an answer for your suffering. It may also bring you great misery. An answer isn’t necessarily a precursor to a solution. Sometimes it’s just that. An answer.

Sometimes it’s one of many.

It is a slippery slope to talk about being desperate for an answer. Many of us who have finally received one (of some kind) usually have buyer’s remorse. How couldn’t we? We thought that a diagnosis would bring us closer to being better. It usually doesn’t. What’s more is that after receiving a diagnosis, the news that we’re screwed based on the limitations of modern medicine settles in.

We know so much about the human body, but not quite enough to help those of us who are in the grey area of having something wrong with them but nobody knowing why. With a diagnosis you will continue to suffer as you did before. You’ll continue to cope instead of cure. But -- and this is a pretty big but -- a diagnosis does lend you some benefits.

For instance, we can be bitter over the fact that the system and our society is built on commonalities and specifically leaves people like us in the dust. However, we can also be appreciative of the fact that a diagnosis, even if it’s not a perfect fit, affords us access to the programs, medications, and specialists that are really meant for “common” illnesses.

Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, steroid injections, various therapies, and countless other methods of treatment would be dangled in front of our eyes if we didn’t have a diagnosis. The government, in its monstrous proportions, needs to fill in the blanks when determining what you, the patient, need. For now, “I have no idea” is not a valid diagnosis when seeking treatment or benefit considerations.

Maybe that’ll change someday, but that’s not the case for us today. Reality trumps our ideals.

"Reality trumps our ideals."


So! You have your answer. You have a diagnosis. Perhaps it’s not a great fit but it at least lets you move forward with finding treatment of some kind. You can’t help but focus on this answer, though. It’s an answer that makes it very real that your ailment, whatever it may be, will keep eating away at you. Probably until the end.

It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. It’s also highly conflicting. How could you have wished for something so much only for it to crush you once it was yours?

Most any sufferer from an unknown illness will find this to be a true experience. Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, unknown pain syndrome, and any other multitude of conditions that are really just big question marks or widely misunderstood all face this problem. They face this problem because there is no solution on the horizon and doctors aren’t equipped to deal with obscure, evidence-deficient healthcare concerns. The doctors that are well-suited for dealing with health issues such as these can’t help but be honest with you: the road ahead of you is tough. Any solution will be a miracle.

It’s tough to feel joy in a situation like that even if you do have a nice name to write into the diagnosis box now. Being sad makes sense. Feeling afraid is a given. A stoic approach may get things done but it ends up being very unhealthy for your well-being. Learning to accept what has happened and what will happen from now on is an essential first step to developing a life post-diagnosis.

And make no mistake… even if you accept it today, you will relapse. You’ll begin to resist on some indeterminate date in the future and this rodeo will start all over.

This is okay, and you need to know that’s okay. Because our lives revolve around not giving up. It’s hammered into us by our self-help books, our therapists, our doctors, our friends.

Don’t give up. Keep looking for a solution. Nothing is hopeless. So it makes sense that every now and then you suddenly won’t settle for “this is the way it is”.

The reality is that while things are the way they are, you need to prevent complacency. A diagnosis can pave the way to that if you’re not careful especially if the diagnosis is one that leaves you with little hope for a solution down the road. It can be easy to give up and begin sabotaging yourself. I’ve done it countless times myself. I find myself doing it now.

You need to ask yourself a very important question: how do you accept that your diagnosis is both a terrible and wonderful thing?

You answered the what (diagnosis), it’s time to answer the why (reaction). After that, it’s the whens and wheres. It’s like English class in elementary school except this time you’re a big person and you don’t get nap time and a juice box.


I know, it’s super unfair. Juice boxes, right? I want one of those. As long as it won’t trigger any of my sensitivities. Man, those little kid have got it good