“Really, all of this speaks to the broader picture of how the middle class in America is struggling to exist.” ~ Bill Faith, from “Where the Tea Party Rules (Rolling Stone, 14 October 2014)

Saturday afternoon. Sunny, 76 degrees.

Date night tonight, two movies at one of our favorite places to see movies, Cinema Cafe; tonight’s selections—Fury and Gone Girl. Hoping the ones we chose this time are better than Noah and Oculus, both of which were a major waste of time and money.

Anyway, thought I’d share a few tidbits I came across in my perusing. It’s a theme—you know, Tea Party and Rolling Stone. Corey actually forwarded me the article below about his hometown in Ohio. Happy reading . . .

                   

From Rolling Stone article, “Eight Tea Party Morons Destroying America

This guy is my hero. No really:

Steve Stockman
State: Texas
Elected: 2012
Core Beliefs: A fierce defender of the petrochemical industry. Believes “the best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it, oil and gas come out.” Said president’s post-Sandy Hook gun-control push “reminds me of Saddam Hussein.” Invited rodeo clown who dressed in a racist Obama outfit this summer to be an honored performer in Texas.

But this one runs a close second:


And speaking of Rolling Stone and the Tea Party, here’s its article about Corey’s hometown—Lima, Ohio:

Lima Ohio
Abandoned storefronts, empty streets and rundown housing plague Lima, Ohio, once a manufacturing hub. Photo by Geordie Wood

Where the Tea Party Rules

Lima, Ohio, has been struggling for decades – and the GOP’s radical policies are making it even worse

By | October 14, 2014

Dewey Chaffins was 19 years old when he left Appalachia for northwestern Ohio in 1958. The youngest of 10, he’d grown up in Garrett, Kentucky, a hardscrabble coal town where his family had lived and mined for generations. During the 1950s, when the coal industry in eastern Kentucky fell into a steep decline, scores of young men packed up all they had and headed north toward the industrial Midwest. Chaffins found opportunity in the city of Lima, a manufacturing boomtown where there were so many factories, as one retired autoworker recently told me, ”you could walk into a place, get a job without even a high school diploma, and if you didn’t like it, you could quit, walk across the street and have another job that afternoon.” By the time Dewey and his 18-year-old wife, Linda, settled in Lima, seven of his siblings, their spouses and some of their in-laws were living in and around the city, where they quickly found work in the automotive plants or tire factories or steel mills, joined the UAW or other unions, and set about raising their children in a manner none of them had ever dreamed possible.

Dewey and Linda worked for Hayes-Albion, a Michigan-based company whose Lima plant provided Ford with chrome and trim. Their combined annual income was almost $50,000 a year, not a lot but enough at the time to buy a home in the middle-class suburb of Bath Township, just east of Lima. By the end of the 1980s, each of their four children had graduated from high school, and two had gone on to college. There was no reason to doubt that their family’s continued upward mobility was secure.

One recent morning, I went to visit Dewey’s son Scott Chaffins, who still lives in Bath, in a small three-bedroom house he shares with his wife, Lori, and their two college-age kids, Joshua, 21, and Alyssa, 18. Now 50, Scott is a burly guy who meets me dressed in long cutoffs, a blue polo shirt and flip-flops. He shuffles through his kitchen followed by the family’s big brown Lab, Brutus. Stopping briefly to say hello, Scott then excuses himself to lie down. “It’s his blood pressure,” Lori says, apologetically. A chemist and former college professor, Scott’s been out of work for six months. “Stress adds a lot of health issues, as you can imagine,” she says.

Photo: Geordie Wood

A short, round woman wearing a pink T-shirt and shorts, Lori Chaffins sits at a long, rectangular wooden table, drinking Dr Pepper. It’s a Friday afternoon, and she’s off for the summer from her job driving a school bus and working in the nearby middle-school cafeteria. The schedule isn’t bad, she says – working only nine months out of the year means she’s had more time to spend with her kids. On the other hand, her annual income is roughly $25,000, and she hasn’t had a raise in six years. Since her husband’s been out of work, they’ve liquidated Scott’s retirement and drained most of their savings, about $60,000 in total. Still, they have close to $160,000 in debt between their mortgage ($1,200 per month), car payments ($305), health insurance ($300 per month, with a $1,750 deductible per person) and the loans ($7,000) they took out to help pay for Joshua’s living expenses at Bowling Green State. Their home, which they purchased in 1999, along with 20 acres of land, for $170,000, has depreciated by a third, Lori says, ”and we’re still upside-down on our loan.” She shakes her head with the tight, exhausted expression of a woman who’s just barely hanging on. ”I mean, when a family can’t afford to buy steak at seven to 10 bucks a pound, that’s ridiculous. But ground beef at $4.99 a pound? That’s outrageous,” she says, her voice rising in frustration. Last year, their family had $18,000 in medical bills. ”And that was with our insurance,” she says. ”I just get so mad when people say the economy is turning around. Are you kidding me? I’m poorer today than when my husband was in college.”

Lori grew up in the nearby town of Elida. Her father, a nonunion carpenter, made less than $4.50 per hour, when he worked at all. ”We had an outhouse in the 1970s,” she says. ”I mean, we were dirt-poor. I refused to raise my children like that.”

Scott, who has a chemistry degree from Ohio State, was the first member of his immediate family to go to college, which at the time cost him $1,500 per year in tuition. While he was in school, Lori helped pay their bills by waitressing at a Pizza Hut, and she kept working as they moved from Columbus to Bowling Green, where Scott studied for his master’s, to Cincinnati. They had no intention of returning to Lima to live, but after the kids were born, they began to think it would be good to be closer to their families. So in 1999, Scott, then 34, went to work in the oil industry, managing 30 other chemists at the city’s large oil refinery, the longtime anchor of the community. Depending on his bonus, Lori says, he would go on to make between $100,000 and $125,000 a year, a small fortune in an area where most people earn less than $60,000 annually.

That was a good period, Lori says as light streams in through sliding–glass doors and reflects on a series of wall photographs: Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Pacific Coast. Scott took those, she explains, back in the days when they could afford to take family vacations. Today, she says, they can barely afford to go to the movies. ”The last movie I saw was Harry Potter, in 2011,” she says. ”We had no idea it would get as bad as it did.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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“How do we forgive ourselves for all of the things we did not become?” ~ David ‘Doc’ Luben, from “14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes”

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September 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Week

“You were said to have died of suffering. […] You died because you searched for happiness at the risk of finding the void.” ~ Édouard Levé, from Suicide

  stigma_2

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.

Suicide Oncoming2

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?

 I  Ideation
Substance Abuse

Purposelessness
Anxiety
Trapped
Hopelessness

Withdrawal
Anger
Recklessness
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
  • Hopelessness
  • 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.

Suicide StickFigures5

Here are a few key facts to ponder:

  • According to the New York Times, suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.
  • The Center for Disease Control reports that U.S. suicide deaths now outnumber deaths by automobile accident, the rate has jumped almost 20 percent in the last decade The suicide rate among Americans 45 to 64 has jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade.
  • One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds around the world, the World Health Organization says in a new report that finds few countries have specific policies focused on preventing suicide.
  • According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices in Education), there are twice as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but there are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (AAS)
  • Each year, 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide.(SAVE)
  • Last year, 185 active-duty Army soldiers died by suicide, surpassing the 176 soldiers killed in battle in Afghanistan that year. The Army’s annual death toll from suicide has more than tripled since 2001, when 52 active-duty soldiers took their own lives. (Huffington Post)
fenway

“And the whole landscape seems littered
with fallen dreams.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Possibility”

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.

Robin Williams in Las Vegas
Robin Williams in Las Vegas (Reuters)

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.

“Silence. Everything here is now clothed
in strict grief; and this passion,
like bad kerosene, barely burns.” ~ Cesar Vallejo, from “Plaster”

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.

As Keating in Dead Poets’ Society

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.

If you’d like to find out how you can get in involved in the fight against suicide, please contact AAS’ Central Office at 202-237-2280, email us at info@suicidology.org, or reach out to us via Facebook or Twitter. If interested specifically in making a donation to further suicide prevention, or in the U OK? t-shirt campaign, click here.

Music by Richard Walters, “Infinity Street”


                   

Post Hoc

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

 

 

“What language do you speak?” ~ Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy)

Too funny: Cast of Harry Potter trying to speak “American.” (No, that’s not exactly a language, people.)

Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) nails it best.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

I slept the sleep of the tortured: fitful, broken, and too short. And when I awoke, I knew that not enough time had passed, and so I tried to sleep more, but it never came. ~ L. Liwag

Flower Shop in Paris 

  

“The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.” ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

On Saturday, I finally made it into the pool. The dogs have been swimming for a few days, but I wanted sun. The air was filled with the sweet smell of my gardenia bush in bloom, and there was just enough breeze to fool me into thinking that it wasn’t that hot. I was lulled into a wonderful feeling of comfort, arms flung wide, staring up into the clear blue sky, just a few cumulus puffs dotting the sky here and there. 

Silly me. I didn’t even think about putting on sunscreen except for my face. I really don’t know what I was thinking. I stayed out for hours, just enjoying the water, the breeze, the dogs . . . I got sunburned on my arms and chest. 

Beh. 

I never used to get sunburned. Ever. I would give my friends a hard time whenever they burned, taunting them with my olive skin. I suppose this is payback. The other thing that I got from the sun was a migraine, a killer migraine, one that has only this afternoon subsided into a tightness in my forehead. Poor, poor, pitiful me. 

I remember endless summer days spent in the sun, lying on the beach with my friends, or on the catamaran with my friend John, or water skiing with the guys. Good times. Never burned, just browned. When I worked at the newspaper, I finished at 3:30, still early enough to catch some afternoon rays. The summer before I got married to my ex, I worked and sunned. Last summer of my life in which I was able to be carefree and careless with time and money.

an orchid’s scent
its incense perfuming
a butterfly’s wings ~ Basho
Flower Shop in Kuala Lumpur

So today, it’s 75 degrees, almost 20 degrees cooler than this weekend. There were a few thunder boomers last night, but nothing major. 

Last night I watched the movie Memento, with Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, and Carrie-Ann Moss. Wow. What a puzzle, but very deftly done. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie combined two different timelines, one ongoing and one flashback. Lots of visual clues, riddles, a few red herrings. The plot revolved around memory, what is real, what is thought to be real, what is imagined. The main character, Leonard (Pearce), suffers from anterograde amnesia: he cannot make new memories. 

I would highly recommend this movie if you liked The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. That being said, Memento is not as easy to discern as either of those two, not that either of those films were straightforward in any way. Nolan directed the movie in 2000, followed by a few movies with which you may be familiar: the two new Batman movies, The Prestige. If you are interested in an analysis of the movie, Andy Klein wrote a thorough deconstruction for Salon.com. 

Memento had been on my list of movies to see, and I find it very rewarding when I finally see something I’ve had on that list and it turns out to be worthwhile. The other movie that I watched was Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise. This was another one that has been on my list, and unlike many people, I liked it. No, Cruise does not attempt a German accent, but that didn’t bother me, better no accent than a poorly executed accent. 

The plot, in case you don’t know, is based on the July 20 plot to kill Adolf Hitler and real-life Operation Valkryie, which was a plan to call up the German reserve army to maintain order in the case of an emergency. The historical drama depicts the plot, led by Claus von Stauffenberg, the last of 15 failed plots to assassinate Hitler.   

The 2008 movie had quite a cast; aside from Cruise as von Stauffenberg, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp, and Tom Wilkinson all had roles in the Bryan Singer (X-Men) film. I remember that there was a big controversy in casting Cruise because of his scientology beliefs. 

“Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.” ~ Lou Reed

 


Flower Shop in Bath, England 

 

Alexis came by on her way home from work today. I helped her to find some information on patient assistance with some of the medications that she takes. Having filled out numerous forms for myself, I am fairly familiar with the process. She will not be able to get health insurance at the thrift store as they do not offer it to their employees, even the full-time people. Yet another reason to hope for some kind of healthcare reform. 

I know that I’ve been featuring more political posts than usual, but it seems that every time I sit down to read the daily news, I come across yet more inanity, something that I find very hard to ignore. Ignorance, racism, sexism, hate-mongering—it’s all so disconcerting. 

What is happening to us, to American society? Has the election of a man of color caused so much unrest among those who oppose him—or liberals, or Democrats, or blacks, or whatever it is—that seeing conspiracies and promoting fear have become the societal norm? Has the so-called American way-0f-life been imperiled by putting a black man in the Oval Office, in the same way that electing a Catholic in the 1960s threatened the very fiber of our being? 

I see a lot of similarities to the 1960s, and that’s not a good thing. Yes, the unrest of the 1960s caused major social changes, changes that were desperately needed. But the 60’s also saw discord elevated to levels unparalleled, discord that morphed into senseless violence (race riots, Ohio State), attempts at oppression (Hoover’s FBI). Chillingly, the war in Iraq has now surpassed the Viet Nam War as the longest American war (eight years, eight months, and counting). And the country had a young, idealistic president who many feared just because of who and what he was. 

Remember, the 60’s led to the election of Richard Nixon, gave power to men of questionable scruples, such as Henry Kissinger, and led to a political climate that fostered the events of Watergate. Remember?

“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash, your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them.” ~ William Faulkner
Flower Shop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I know. I am still a starry-eyed idealist in many ways, but that is balanced by my stark realist side. I believe in equality for all peoples, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or creed. I don’t understand why that is such a hard concept. I also believe that children should not die of hunger or dysentery, that there is no difference in the capabilities of the sexes, and that there is no such thing as a good war. At the same time, I know that people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Steve Blair—who thrive on discontent, who cultivate a fear of otherness, who opine loudly as if the tone and timber of a voice is all that is needed to make it right—people such as these have millions of followers. 

And quite frankly, that scares the hell out of me. It also frightens me that I sometimes self-censor on this blog because I do not want the crazies to find me. In essence, I am allowing myself to be repressed out of my own unwillingness to cater to confrontation. Bearing that in mind, I do not apologize for my political posts, even though this is not a political blog. I do not apologize for who I am, for what I believe, or for where I stand on the issues that are important to me. 

I’m certain that I will continue to have political posts because people will continue to amaze me with their brazen bigotry. People will continue to astound me with their asinine declarations. As long as events continue to occur that make me stop and say WTF, I will continue to opine, and if you find my posts offensive, then exercise your Constitutional freedom not to read me. 

I won’t hold it against you. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Mazzy Star, “Take Everything” 

“Mi sopragiunse uno soave sonno” (Sweet sleep overcame me) ~ From Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Korean War Memorial in Snow, Washington, DC (image by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Vide cor tuum (See your heart)
E d’esto core ardendo (And of this burning heart)
Cor tuum (Your heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

U.S. Capitol in Snow (image by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Well, the snow has left the area, melted, gone, no more. We were lucky. Not much accumulation, but we did get icy roads on Saturday night. Apparently, those to the north of us in the state were hammered. Pretty much everything in the DC metropolitan area is closed today—federal agencies, local governments, schools, and forecasters are predicting more snow tomorrow. Flights have resumed at National Airport, where people have been stranded for days, and tens of thousands of people are without power, with no predictions as to when power might be restored. Amtrak has resumed train travel, which means long lines at Union Station filled with people who cannot get out of the area any other way. 

Cross country skiers made their way through the snow, while others were left digging out vehicles that were completely covered by the storm. I’m including pictures of DC/Northern Virginia to give you an idea of what it’s like there. Thankfully, none of that for our area. In fact, today it’s a whopping 39° F. That’s almost 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. I spent most of yesterday wrapped up in the blankets trying to keep my nose warm. Ah life. Always an adventure. 

So yesterday was the Super Bowl. I did not watch as I am completely uninterested in the NFL. That doesn’t make me un-American, just not interested in football. I did, however, peruse the Super Bowl commercials earlier today as these commercials tend to be a little more creative than most mainstream commercials. I’m including my two favorites, KGB’s I Surrender, and E-Trade’s Milkawhat. 

 

 

Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Cor meum (My heart)
Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Vide cor meum (See my heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Downed Tree Branch in Alexandria, VA (Cliff Owen/AP)

I told Corey earlier that I didn’t really have any idea on what to post today. I mean, there are things going on: In Washington state, a 17-year-old boy crashed his parents’ car into his school and drove down the hall . . . In New York, a 61-year-old woman was cited for driving in the Plus-One lane with a mannequin, decked out in wig and sunglasses . . . And in tech news, Dante’s Inferno has been turned into a video game. 

You might think that with my background in literature I would be offended by gamers taking this classic and turning it into video fare, but I’m not. I’m all for anything that introduces the classics to people who might otherwise be uninterested, even if it is but a glimpse of the original. I don’t kid myself that the game will delve too deeply into the original, but if playing the game causes even one person to turn to the book, then something has been accomplished. 

The movie version of Beowulf that came out a few years ago took liberties with the Medieval tale, yet many of the original aspects were there. Of course, Grendel’s mother in the original did not look like a shimmering Angelina Jolie, but the original storyline of the warrior Beowulf slaying Grendel was kept, albeit embellished. 

The movie 1980s movie Excalibur still remains one of the best retellings of the Arthurian legend, including the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere and the search for the grail. Clive Owen’s King Arthur added new dimensions to the tale by incorporating the battle of Baden Hill, which is believed to be the actual battle fought by the Arthur on whom the legend is based.  

Robin in Snow (Jewel Samad/AFP Getty Images)

I’m not saying that I think that our youth should be getting their history lessons from games and movies; however, when a game or movie does present a relatively accurate depiction of history or a literary classic, I view it as a good thing, yet another way in which to teach those who under different circumstances, might never hear of Dante’s Inferno or be interested in reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. 

I mean, think of all of the movies that have given viewers glimpses into actual events: Saving Private Ryan (veterans praised the accuracy of the beach-storming scene); Schindler’s List (Shoa survivors were gratified by Spielberg’s honest retelling of the Holocaust); Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (depicted the fateful flight that almost didn’t make it home); Enemy at the Gates (the battle of Stalingrad); Mississippi Burning (the 1964 slaying of civil rights activists); The Killing Fields (Viet Nam under Pol Pot after the Americans pulled out). 

Of course, the list could be much longer. I just chose the ones that came to mind readily, those films that have stayed with me through the years, some of which my own children have seen and from which they have taken away pieces of history. 

Digging Out in Maryland (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

For every boatload of garbage that Hollywood produces, there is one gem. The same could be said of any medium—music, literature, television. So much is rehashed, redone, retooled, and not towards making something better but usually for lack of original thought. But those few that stand out are the ones from which we take away a sense of time or place or person. The ones that, at the end of the day, we gleaned something from and were made better because of it. 

Consider the movie version of Hannibal, based on the book by Thomas Harris. No. I’m not holding the movie up as a substitute history lesson. Rather, I am pointing out that even in the midst of one of the goriest movies around, great beauty exists—this time in the form of the aria “Vide Cor Meum,” which was written specifically for the movie by Patrick Cassidy. The aria is based on a sonnet from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, in which Dante professes his love for Beatrice. Of course, I could do an entire post on the use of classical music in movies, television, even Loony Tunes, but that’s for another time. 

More later. Peace. 

  

Katherine Jenkins performing “Vide Cor Meum.” Sublime. 

“. . . Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” ~ Snow Falling on Cedars movie

  

Cardinal in the Snow, New Hampshire

“The snowfall, which he witnessed out of the corners of his eye . . . struck him as infinitely beautiful.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Bare Limbs on Snow by L. Liwag

Well, I was wrong. Put one down for the record books. Apparently the meteorologists called this one accurately: Hampton Roads got snow—a lot of snow. And it’s still coming down. Actually, at the moment, ice is coming down, but another band of snow is right behind the ice.  

We haven’t had snow like this for many years, and just think, it’s even more snow than what we saw in Ohio in December, but not more snow than we saw on that fateful trip to Ohio in the December blizzard.  

I hear a few brave souls outside, and earlier, before the ice, a few of the younger neighborhood kids were rollicking, but funnily enough, Tillie, the Lab, wouldn’t set foot outside until Brett bundled himself in layers and went outside with her. A couple of times, she stuck her snout outside the door, and then brought it back in and looked at me balefully as if to say, “you’re kidding, right?” The only dog brave enough to go outside by himself initially was Alfie, the smallest Jack Russell, who promptly sank and became covered in snow up to his flanks. The fat one went out a few steps and then turned around and came back inside. Now that Tillie has braved the unknown, she wants to go back out, but no one is up for playing in the ice.  

“The heart of any other, because it had a will, would remain forever mysterious.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Fosso Innevato (Snowy Ditch), Italy

Another benefit of the snow is that I slept, really slept. That wonderful muffling effect that a heavy snowfall has on all ambient noise must have allowed my body to achieve a state of complete restfulness, because I got a great night’s sleep, even though I didn’t fall asleep until about 4:45 a.m. My body feels cold but not tired.  

Corey is about to build a fire in the fireplace so that we can contribute to the Greenhouse Effect. Unfortunately, it’s that or walk around the house in coats because it’s damned cold in here, but at least we haven’t lost electricity as so many others affected by the storm have. So we take the bad with the good, but hey, I slept . . .  

I’ve had a few new readers stop by and leave comments, which is always nice. Just wanted to take a minute to express my thanks as comments let me know that someone is reading.  

Last night, I dreamt of hats, straw hats, straw hats with big brims specifically. I was trying them on in some kind of rest stop store, kind of like the old Stuckey’s restaurants that used to dot the highways. I also dreamt of bow ties, Jack Nicholson as a military officer, and learning that Corey had spoken to his commanding officer in French.  

Strange, most strange. In another part of the dream, I was speaking to a woman who was putting together the program for the Opera House, and I was giving her printing tips. I told her that I used to do this kind of thing for the Museum. Also most strange. I don’t discern any great meaning behind these snippets, just found them interesting.  

“When they looked out into the whiteness of the world the wind flung it sharply at their narrowed eyes and foreshortened their view of everything.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Kiosque du Jardin de Ville (Kiosk in City Garden), France

I plan to spend the rest of the day wrapped up in a blanket, reading a book. It’s the perfect day for it.  

Since I began this post, the wind has begun to blow quite hard outside, making the wind chimes clang repeatedly. It’s kind of haunting, actually: just the wind and the chimes. No sounds of traffic, people, dogs. Nothing. I guess everyone who was feeling adventurous has had enough of the snow and ice and gone inside. That and the fact that it is darkening rather quickly may be the reason for the seeming silence.  

When I saw the snow in the middle of the night, I began to think of songs that would be appropriate. Oddly enough, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio in G” popped into my head, but it’s such a solemn song that I don’t want to use it with today’s post. I think that I thought of that particular song because of a movie that I saw years ago starring a younger Ethan Hawke. Barber’s Adagio was featured in the movie previews, but not in the movie itself.  

The film, A Midnight Clear, was the story about two WWII units stranded in a snowstorm, one American and one German. The units reach an unspoken truce, but ultimately, the film ends tragically. I don’t think that the movie was very popular, but I remember seeing it with my friend Mari during one of our regular weekend movie outings.  

If I remember correctly, Hawke also starred in Snow Falling on Cedars, a weak adaptation of David Guterson’s beautiful novel of the same. I really don’t remember that much about the movie, but I vividly remember the cover of the book, which was a black and white picture of fog draping the cliffs surrounding Puget Sound. Odd how memory serves us.  

The book was beautiful, almost lyrical, in its portrayal of the complexities of the human heart, love, betrayal, and truth. The movie was beautiful in its cinematography, but hard-placed to convey the depth of the novel’s characters. However, with few exceptions, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings being a prime example, that is almost always what happens when adapting a book to a movie.  

Today’s post feature photographs of snowy images from different places: Italy, France, New Hampshire, and Ohio.  

More later. Peace.  

Annie Lennox’s version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” seemed like a good fit.  

“Some people accumulate more emotional rust than others.” ~ Andrew Solomon, Noonday Demon

Savage Grace

Movie Poster for Savage Grace

“I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense.” ~ Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

Well, I feel absolutely blah today, sort of enclosed, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 6 a.m., and then I kept having strange visual hallucinations. I woke up with a sore throat and headache.

I started back on a medicine to help me sleep several days ago, but I think that I am not tolerating it well. I have taken this medication before without any problems, but now, I’m having all sorts of strange reactions. I looked up the side effects, and some of them include vivid dreams, increased appetite (no thank yew), feeling hungover the next day (yep, that too), and several other undesirable effects. So last night I did not take the medication, and as a result, I think that I had withdrawal symptoms, and I could not get to sleep.

It just slays me how I have become so sensitive to medications that never bothered me before. So back to the drawing board and back to not sleeping.

“For very sad reasons, human beings, unfortunately, can do really tragic things to each other and these two people went as far out on a limb as you can go.” ~ Tom Kalin, Director of Savage Grace

We watched a movie last night called Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore. The movie, which is based on the book by the same name, is a true story about the life and death of Barbara Daly Baekeland. After I watched the movie, I did some more reading on the Internet about the Baekeland family. The paternal grandfather was Leo Baekeland, the inventor of the first plastic, Bakelite.

Barbara Baekland and son
Barbara Baekeland and Infant Son Antone

His grandson Brooks married Barbara Daly, a tempestuous woman who suffered from mental illness. The two were unfaithful to each other several times, and Barbara tried to commit suicide four times in attempts to keep her husband from leaving her. However, he eventually left for a younger woman. Their son, Antone, also suffered from what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Mother and son had a somewhat obsessive relationship, with Barbara attempting to “cure” her son of his homosexuality by paying females to have sex with Tony and eventually seducing him herself. Tony first tried to kill his mother by dragging her into the street and trying to throw her under a moving car. A psychiatrist told Barbara that he believed Tony would eventually kill her, but she did not believe that Tony would ever really harm her. Shortly afterwards, Tony killed his mother by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. He then proceeded to order Chinese food.

Tony was found to have diminished capacity and sent to Broadmoor. He was released after ten years and returned to the U.S. to live with his grandmother, who he tried to kill less than a week later. Tony was sent to prison and died in 1981 from suffocation. His death may or may not have been suicide as he was found with a plastic bag over his head.

The movie did not show all of this background because, of course, it is impossible to show everything in a two-hour span. I began watching the movie in an attempt to fall asleep as I did not think that it was going to be very good; however, I just couldn’t stop watching. It was the veritable train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone in this family was disturbed, including the father who denied that there was anything wrong with his son and refused to pay for psychiatric treatment.

“The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverance can restrain violence—reverance for human life and the environment.” ~ William Sloan Coffin 

I watched another movie this weekend based on a true story: Dance with a Stranger, starring Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the U.K. in 1955. Ellis herself had a hard life, first having a child out of wedlock in 1944, a time in which such a thing immediately tainted a woman’s reputation. Ellis found out that her lover was actually married with a family in Canada, so she was left to raise her son Andy alone. Then Ruth, neé Nielson, married George Ellis in 1950. George Ellis was a drunk and physically abusive. In 1951, Ellis gave birth to Georgina, but by then the marriage was over.

Ruth Ellis
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK

In 1953, Ruth Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. She met David Blakely, a racecar driver. Their relationship was fraught with violence; when Ruth became pregnant by Blakely, he punched her in the stomach, which resulted in a miscarriage for Ruth.

Ruth was also involved with Desmond Cussen, a former RAF pilot. Cussen took care of Ruth and Andy, but Ruth was never able to severe ties with Blakely. In fact, Cussen helped Ruth to spy on Blakely, who was unfaithful to Ruth several times. On the night of Easter Sunday 1955, Ruth Ellis waited outside a pub for Blakely. When Blakely ignored Ruth’s greeting, she moved around the car that he was attempting to get into and emptied a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson into Blakely.

The shooting occurred just ten days after Ellis had miscarried, and she was heavily medicated. Ellis was questioned and brought before the magistrate without having an attorney present. She was examined by a psychiatrist who claimed that Ellis was not mentally ill. The presiding judge ruled out a defense of provocation for Ellis. During her trial at the Old Baily, Ellis became her worst enemy when she said, “It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.” Ellis was hung three weeks later.

Again, the movie does not delve into all of the facts regarding Ellis, and it ends right after the shooting of Blakely without covering the trial at all. Public reaction to Ellis’s hanging was strongly against, and partially as a result, the United Kingdom abolished the death penalty in 1964.

George Ellis committed suicide three years after Ruth’s death. Her son Andy suffered emotional distress most of his life and killed himself in 1982. Ruth’s daughter Georgina died at 50 from cancer.

What happened to Ruth Ellis is still a matter of contention. The jury was not allowed to find for manslaughter because of Ruth’s confession. However, Ruth was an abused woman who was still very much affected by her miscarriage. Ruth had been provoked by Blakely’s unfaithfulness and his physical abuse, but because of the laws at the time, the jury could not convict her of a lesser sentence, and the death penalty was mandatory.

Ellis’s hanging caused such a stir because she was a beautiful woman, the mother of two small children, and she had never shown any propensity for violence. Once the public face of a criminal condemned to death became so personal, the British public began to openly oppose capital punishment. The Ellis case was referred back to the Court of Appeals in 2003, but her conviction was not overturned or reduced to manslaughter as had been requested.

“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush a person, when we obey because there is fear.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Dance with a Stranger was made in 1985, and Natasha Richardson is radiant, even with platinum blonde hair. Savage Grace was made in 2007, and Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Barbara Baekeland is compelling in its believability.

That I watched both movies this past weekend is purely coincidence as I had never heard of either one, and I found them by accident on cable. However, I am glad that I watched them and then did further research on both of these women.  Both were troubled: Ellis was physically and emotionally abused, and Baekeland was emotionally tormented by her husband. Both women died far too young.

I’m not condoning the actions of either woman. Rather, I offer their stories as reminders of how unkind society was to women, and how few resources used to be available. While there are more avenues for escape and treatment, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse continue to be societal problems that have far-reaching implications, both for those who suffer directly from the abuse and for their children who have no escape from its effects.

Empty SwingsThose in society who say that they simply don’t understand why a woman stays in an abusive relationship have never suffered at the hands of an abuser, have never felt the helplessness nor experienced the complete erosion of self-confidence and self-respect. And the reality is that abuse is cyclic, often being repeated by the abused or the children of the abused.

Unless we learn as a society not to tolerate abuse and violence, the cycle will never end. Until we acknowledge that it is not just with fists but also with tongues that people cause irreparable harm to others, those who suffer will continue to be victims.

If you know of an individual—man, woman, or child—who is being abused, please do not sit by idly, thinking that someone else will intervene. You must be that someone else, lest you allow your humanity to be overshadowed by inaction.

Sorry for the sermon. More later. Peace be with you and yours.

Bird York’s “Have No Fear”