Update on this post:
She’s on the cover of New York magazine. How cool is that?
Update on this post:
She’s on the cover of New York magazine. How cool is that?
Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and absolutely beautiful, impending autumn, 71 degrees.
Tuesday night I watched a retrospective on Robin Williams on PBS. It was lovely, and the interviews really got into the man as much as the comedian/actor. I appreciated that they spent a good portion on the visits to the troops that Williams had made over the years as I had no idea that no other celebrity had performed before the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan more than Williams. The interviews were cut with selections from his last full-length interviews for “Pioneers of Television.”
But when the show was over, after I dried my tears, I realized something important:
What I had said the other day about the coda to Dead Poets’ Society being about Mr. Keating realizing a light had gone out wasn’t exactly accurate. While Keating is deeply affected by Neil’s suicide, the honor the boys bestow upon him at the end by disobeying the rigid headmaster and standing on their desks leaves Keating with hope; he has not failed these boys. Instead, he has enlarged their perspectives on the world, and if that is the only thing they take away from his class (and it isn’t), then he has made it possible for more lights to shine in the world.
Sad yes, but hopeful, so very full of hope.
To paraphrase what Pam Dawber said at the end of the show, if only Williams could have seen how his death affected the world. I continue to be amazed by the number of people around the world who are truly mourning for this once bright star in the firmament.
Blue Like a Desert
Happy are the solitary ones
Those who sow the sky in the avid sand
Those who seek the living under the skirts of the wind
Those who run panting after an evaporated dream
For they are the salt of the earth
Happy are the lookouts over the ocean of the desert
Those who pursue the fennec beyond the mirage
The winged sun loses its feathers on the horizon
The eternal summer laughs at the wet grave
And if a loud cry resounds in the bedridden rocks
No one hears it no one
The desert always hollers under an impassive sky
The fixed eye hovers alone
Like the eagle at daybreak
Death swallows the dew
The snake smothers the rat
The nomad under his tent listens to the time screeching
On the gravel of insomnia
Everything is there waiting for a word already stated
~ Joyce Mansour
Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “If I go, I’m goin'”
Saturday afternoon. Intermittent thunderstorms, warmer and very, very humid, 80 degrees.
Still no phone, and you would think that I could live with that, but I’m finding that I need to make calls, and I go to text someone, and, um, not so much. Oh well . . . Just an aside note: Today’s post marks 1700 posts. Not too shabby, eh?
You know, Joe Biden can seem like a goofball a lot of the time, but get him talking about the issue closest to his heart—violence against women—and no one can match his articulate passion. The Emma Sulkowicz case, in case you haven’t heard about it, is yet another case of a young woman being raped on campus only to find that the school’s administration won’t do anything about it.
It’s just plain sickening, and I am so tired that these situations are still being treated lightly. I can remember a former student of mine who was date-raped on campus. This young woman was so traumatized that she had to drop out mid-semester. I stayed in touch and did what I could for her, but the case was troubling for so very many reasons.
Look. Violence against women must not be shied away from, must not be treated as the status quo. This issue is too important to ignore, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any daughters—there have to be women in your life in some fashion, whether it is family or friends or colleagues. And besides, those of you with sons are even more responsible for making sure this message gets delivered—again and again and again. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to wait until it happens to someone you know or someone you love.
The following is reblogged from The Huffington Post:
Columbia University Student Will Drag Her Mattress Around Campus Until Her Rapist Is Gone
“Rape can happen anywhere,” she explains in the video above. “For me, I was raped in my own dorm bed. Since then, it has basically become fraught for me, and I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”
Sulkowicz’ senior thesis, titled “Mattress Performance” or “Carry That Weight,” is a literal expression of that emotional weight. In what she calls an endurance art piece, she will drag her mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled or leaves. The project, she says, could extend for one day or for the entire remainder of her time at Columbia.
“The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space and bringing it out into the light,” she says. “So I think the act of carrying something that is normally found in our bedroom out into the light is supposed to mirror the way I’ve talked to the media and talked to different news channels, etc.”
When Sulkowicz’s case made it to a university hearing seven months after the actual incident occurred, administrators were confused about how anal rape could happen and she had to draw a diagram. The experience left her feeling physically ill.
Two other women came forward to say they had been assaulted by the same student, but all believe their cases were mishandled, in part by mistake-riddled record-keeping on the part of university authorities (note: aliases were used in early reporting on the case to protect the identity of those involved).
Their alleged attacker was found not responsible by the university, and remains at the school.
“I was so naive that I guess I thought they would just believe me because I was telling the truth,” Sulkowicz told The Huffington Post in February. “I didn’t expect the school was going to try to not take my side.”
Sulkowicz was one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia for mishandling sexual assault cases, in violation of the gender equity law Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education has yet to determine whether it will investigate the university.
“Carry That Weight” is especially powerful protest against injustice, while also forcing her community to face the emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault. While one of her rules for the performance is that she can’t ask for help carrying it around, Sulkowicz said others are allowed to offer their help.
“I’m hoping that not only do I get better at carrying the mattress, but… I’m very interested in seeing where this piece goes and what sort of life it takes on,” she says.
Additional reporting by Tyler Kingkade.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
Prescription drugs do well here. Normal
balance seems easily disturbed.
Karen’s neck is bothering her again and
I am suffering in this city which,
for all its humidity, has never had
a major Star Trek convention with
inflammation the physician’s assistant
found by hand. The things we pay to have
done to us while perfectly good dresses
hang on sale racks. I don’t need
inflammation explained. What is there
to do with evidence but burn it. We all
know the temperature of sin. And so
these blue pills are for vaginitis and
oval with patience these help me sleep
when I let them. Also they keep the
dreams from me leaving me with only
this steaming local air to contend with
in the dark. Things form in this climate,
my therapist explains, unknown further
north. Calm talk of fungus follows. He
means to suggest I suppose this condition
I am carrying on so about in extreme
language may have nothing to do with the
man who first dropped to his knees.
Sniffed at me like an animal or a man
gone mad. I just want to smell it, he said,
but he lied.
“Rape Poem to End All Rape Poems,” by Justice Hehir, Lindsey Michelle Williams, Kate Thomas, and Lillie Hannon, Rutgers University Students
Monday afternoon. Stormy and cool, 74 degrees.
I’ve been holding on to the center of this post in anticipation of this week. You see, this post began as a reflection on Robin Williams, but after doing some pondering, I decided that the subject matter was so much bigger than one person. To that end, I have included lots of links that I hope may be useful to anyone just wishing to learn more, anyone looking to help a friend or family member, or anyone feeling a bit lost.
If the information I have gathered here helps even one person, then the entire reason for this blog and some of what I try to do here will have been validated.
This week is Suicide Prevention Week, and September is Suicide Prevention Month for the military. You might be surprised at the statistics related to suicide. Follow this link for a detailed list of suicide facts. Go here to learn more about military suicides, or call the Veterans’ Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, option 1.
If you think someone you know may be suicidal, here are some key warning signs from AAS (American Association of Suicidology):
How do you remember the Warning Signs of Suicide?
Here’s an easy-to-remember mnemonic:
IS PATH WARM?
S Substance Abuse
M Mood Changes
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show:
Warning Signs of Acute Risk:
Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
These might be remembered as expressed or communicated ideation. If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.
Additional Warning Signs:
- Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
- No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
- Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family and society
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
If you are looking for a crisis center near you, click on this link.
Here are a few key facts to ponder:
A few weeks ago, I encountered an emotional body slam the likes of which I had not experienced in quite a while when I heard of Robin Williams’s suicide, and while it may seem a bit strange that I was so affected by the suicide of someone I had never met, you have to understand that I grew up with Robin Williams, first as the alien Mork, and then later with all of his various movie incarnations and one-man shows.
To me, the comic/actor’s frenetic energy belied his incredible wit and intellect. Williams could improvise instantly on any given topic thrown at him by the audience. In the Disney movie Aladdin, Williams first improvised his lines, and then his character was animated. His performance in Bird Cage with Nathan Lane makes it one of the few comedies that I will rewatch. Williams was a throwback to the very physical comedians of the 40’s and 50’s.
Of course, like any actor, Williams had his hits and his misses, but even in his misses there were moments of pure genius. It’s as if no one project could contain him, his persona always bigger than the vehicle. But I loved his turns in dramas as much as I loved his comedies. It was his face, his ability to move his face in improbable ways, and his deeply sad blue eyes. Like many people, if I had not already read of his depressive episodes, I never would have associated the man with suicide.
Yet as we now know, on August 14, the funny man chose a final exit, one from which he would never return. And that isn’t funny at all.
Of course there was the morbid reporting, the details of the death, the rampant speculation, including some bizarre claim about the Illuminati. Nothing can hold the vultures at bay. Yet within all of this were a few nuggets worth notice: Williams was talking about future projects. His family was unaware of his suicidal thoughts.
And what this means is that Williams, in death, was much the same as any other person considering suicide: how much is hidden from everyone, how much is faked, how little is actually shared—until it’s too late. Although his unrestrained demeanor was on display for the public, we can never know of the great sadness he kept private.
And that is the very nature of suicide: its two opposing faces.
As I’ve said, I loved so many of the man’s projects, but I stayed away from his recent television show simply because the previews seemed a bit forced. I really don’t know what I mean when I say that, only that it just didn’t appeal to me. I loved him as the killer in Insomnia, and the creepy stalker in One Hour Photo, and as contrived as it was, his turn in Jack broke my heart. Unlike many, I loved the fantasy of What Dreams May Come, and he remains my favorite Peter Pan from Hook.
But I won’t hesitate to say that my favorite Robin Williams’ movie was Dead Poets’ Society
Years ago when I was teaching an American literature class, I used the movie Dead Poets’ Society to discuss place as it influences characters. I invited the students to view the movie in a different way, paying attention to the time period in which it was set, the cloistered effect of an all-boys’ elite boarding school, and the different roles of the three main characters (Keating, Neil, and Todd) and what made them outsiders.
I always thought that casting Robin Williams in this period drama was genius. The fact that he wasn’t completely restrained only added to his characterization as the prodigal student returned in the role of faculty member; his interjections of John Wayne impersonations only cemented the fact that Keating would never really belong at Welton Academy, no matter how much he tried.
And while some of my colleagues criticized the movie for being too simplistic and predictable, I found myself loving it for so many reasons—watching the moment Todd sounds his barbaric yawp, seeing the young Josh Charles as the lovestruck teen. And who can forget the final scene when the boys stand on their desks in an homage to their captain . . .
To this day I cannot watch DPS without weeping at the ending, at the loss of the artistic tortured Neil, at the forever changed idealistic Todd, and at the tempering of the inspirational Mr. Keating for the sake of the status quo. Williams’s Keating was the kind of teacher few of us ever encounter in real life, but the one whose classroom we all wish we had sat in, even if for only an hour or two.
But I would be remiss if I did not address the elephant in the room: the irony of the plot is not lost on me now as I write this. The character Neil commits suicide rather than be forced into a role he cannot play, and everyone is left to pick up the pieces and go on. It is the coda that we do not see: Mr. Keating walking out the door knowing that a beautiful light has been extinguished forever.
R. I. P. Mr. Williams. We are all poorer for your passing.
Music by Richard Walters, “Infinity Street”
It happened because he looked a gift horse in the mouth.
It happened because he couldn’t get that monkey off his back.
It happened because she didn’t chew 22 times before swallowing.
What was she thinking, letting him walk home alone from the bus stop?
What was he thinking, standing up in the boat like that?
Once she signed those papers the die was cast.
She should have waited an hour before going in; everyone knows
salami and seawater don’t mix.
He should have checked his parachute a seventh time;
you can never be too careful.
Why didn’t she declare her true feelings?
Why didn’t she play hard to get? She could be out at some
nice restaurant right now instead of in church, praying
for the strength to let him go.
It all started with that tattoo.
It all started with her decision to order the chicken salad.
Why was he so picky?
Why wasn’t she more discriminating?
He should have read the writing on the wall; listened
to the still small voice, had a lick of sense. But how could he when he
was blinded by passion? Deaf to warnings? Really dumb?
Why, why, in God’s name, did he run with scissors?
If only they’d asked Jesus for help.
If only they’d asked their friends for help.
If only they’d ignored the advice of others and held fast
to their own convictions, they might all be here, now,
with us, instead of six feet under; instead of trying to adopt
that foreign baby, instead of warming that barstool
at the Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge, wondering how it might all
have been different, if only they had done
the right thing.
~ Jennifer Maier