Tuesday, August 12

On the Death of Robin Williams

I went through a medium-sized spell of depression shortly after my daughter was born, maybe around 9 months after. I had been unemployed for about 2 years, and was feeling like a complete failure. Like I had blown all my capital in the tech industry, and was now 40-something, and felt like I was not technical enough to be terribly hirable. And also 40+ in an industry that fetishizes youth.

I'm only writing this down because these are the sort of feelings I tend to eat, and swallow them deep inside because it would be better if I'd never had them. Even now the experience is receding a bit and if I don't document it now, it will soon never have happened. And maybe this helps someone see that someone else felt this way.

So I was supposed to be the happy new father and didn't feel that way at all. In fact my daughter was at an age where I could sense her frustration at trying to express herself and not being able to -- the "I have no mouth and I must scream" stage of development. And it made me want to jump out of my skin. Nothing worse than feeling you are supposed to be in the happiest time of your life and being literally unable to sit still with your own thoughts.

And you can't really quantify depression, and there's no point in it, but I would say I was moderately depressed. I don't know if I can say I was suicidal, but it seemed like that was certainly one possible option. I never got to the point where I started making efforts to actually bring that about. But I am sure if my brain chemistry were 10% more fucked there is a chance I would not be here to write this.

And I don't know who is reading this, but you probably know me: I am not exceptional. I am just some guy you know. And if I have actually entertained the possibility of suicide, probably a lot of people you know have, too. Perhaps you.

And it's an option! Not a great one, but I understand why someone might choose it. At the time it seems like things are never going to feel "normal" again. It's ridiculous to say, "Well, you have to consider the feelings of your spouse or children." That literally has no bearing when you are feeling like this is the end of the line. It's not callous disregard. It's just "this is the time to check out."

I got lucky. Circumstances changed and I started to feel less hopeless. If I had been wiser I would have been seeing a therapist -- your G.P., great as she may be, can prescribe anti-depressants but really is not qualified to treat mental health issues. When you are depressed, taking care of you is probably the hardest thing to do. But confide in someone about how you are feeling, and let them help you. It is probably the best thing you could do for the person you know who needs the most sympathetic handling right now -- you.

Robin Williams is not "in a better place now." He simply has ceased to be. By choice -- and I actually feel people should have that choice. But it's a permanent choice. You don't get a do-over. This is a beautiful world, for the time being, at least. Eat all of it. Love. Play music. Teach a kid how to swim. Learn how to cook traditional cuisine of a random country selected by a dart thrown at a map. Road trip. Cross-stitch. Parkour.

If those options don't sound more appealing than shuffling off this mortal coil, or even just pulling the covers over your head for the next 12 hours, you need to be talking to a professional in the mental health field, ASAP.

Nanu nanu.

Thursday, August 4


These two sharks walked into a bar. They ate it.

Overheard, Santa Monica Bay: "Does this remora make me look fat?"

These two sharks walked into a gay bar. They ate it.

Science Corner: Sharks, like many humans, cannot comprehend the success of the Black Eyed Peas

These two sharks walked into a biker bar, thought it was another gay bar. So they ate it.

These two sharks walked into the Democratic National Convention. They ate it.

Cooking Tip: Shark-Finn Soup is two parts shark to one part Finlander.

These two sharks walked into a dance club. The DJ sucked, so they left.

Just kidding. They ate it.

Thursday, February 11

I miss blogging

Now that it seems kind of charmingly retro, maybe I'll take it up again....

Sunday, June 7

Dullard DVD review: "Man On Wire"

"Man On Wire" is like "Ocean's 11." Only instead of trying to break into a subterranean vault in Las Vegas to make the big score, the team in "Man On Wire" is trying to get to the top of the World Trade Center to stun the world.

That stunner is the simple yet insane act of a man walking on a cable between the two towers, more than 100 stories above the streets of lower Manhattan. Getting there was the hard part, and that's the heart of much of this documentary.

The origins, planning and training of the WTC mission unfold in "Man On Wire" in three ways: through archival footage, contemporary interviews with the man and his accomplices, and re-enactments. Part of the challenges are physical, others personal.

It all meshes together in a suspenseful way, even though we know that the wirewalker, Philippe Petit, eventually realizes his goal of sneaking into the towers, setting up his cable and walking that line to the amusement and fascination of New Yorkers and the world.

The fate of the towers themselves is never addressed in "Man On Wire." This movie is not about that day in 2001. It's about a day in August 1974, and an event that will never happen again.


Saturday, May 16

The piano as status symbol

My grandmother still has a piano in the living room, but Franko moved his to the studio. It all means something, according to this LAT article.

Thursday, May 14

Penn and Teller to be judges on "Top Chef"

According to Penn's Twitter feed. It could quite possibly be the best "Top Chef" ever, if not one of greatest moments in TV history.

Tuesday, May 12

LISTS: Top 3 songs about child abuse

No one likes child abuse, including rock stars. Here are the top three songs about the topic, listed "countdown" style. Curiously, all three are sung by women.

3. "What's The Matter Here," 10,000 Maniacs. The leadoff track to "In My Tribe" finds Natalie Merchant in an uncharacteristically subtle mode. She tells the tale of abuse from the view of an observer who is apparently able to ask the titular question, yet unable to intervene. Hear it here. (Merchant solo version)

Key line:
"And instead of love and the feel of warmth, you've given him these cuts and sores that don't heal with time or age."

2. "Luka," Suzanne Vega. The biggest hit of Vega's erratic career, this song is also perhaps the most famous one about child abuse. It's also sung from the first-person perspective, making it all the more wrenching. Hear it here.

Key line: "They only hit until you cry, and after that, you don't ask why."

1. "Hell Is For Children," Pat Benatar. The tight-panted songstress stepped back from her oversexed image to take on a maternal role in this track. Some took the title literally, perceiving it as an ode to Satan. But a cursory reading of the lyrics shows that Benatar was hardly sending our little ones to eternal damnation. She cares — and the song rocks. Hear it here.

Key line: "It's all so confusing, this brutal abusing. They blacken your eyes and then apologize."

Sunday, May 10

Movie review: "Star Trek"

The reboot of "Star Trek" tries to blend the origins format of "Batman Begins" with an action-minded storyline that recalls "The Wrath of Khan." It largely succeeds.

Director J.J. Abrams has brought in part of his "Lost" team to resurrect the franchise, which was all but dead after too many TV spinoffs and humdrum movies. Abrams also enlists an array of no-name actors to play James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and other beloved characters from the original TV series.

Most of these actors are ideal for their roles. Zachary Quinto as the conflicted Spock is especially well cast, as is the comely Zoe Saldana as Uhura. On the other hand, Karl Urban plays Dr. McCoy as a shrill caricature that would be more suitable for an "SNL" sketch.

The "Star Trek" story concerns a renegade Romulan named Nero who's driven by a need for vengeance. Unlike the villain in "Khan," Nero has it out for Spock, not Kirk. And if a few million people and entire planets die along the way, so it goes.

Nero's rampage is the catalyst through which the young Kirk and Spock convene on the USS Enterprise. Their respective back stories are compelling, so much so that the audience may find themselves wanting a bit more of how these people came to be who they are.

As he has with "Lost," Abrams plays with the boundaries of time itself in "Star Trek." This conceit allows Abrams and his team to rewrite the lore of the original series. The surprising results (a shipboard romance comes to mind) will irritate some fans. But this is exactly what "Star Trek" needs to do to matter again.

Yes, Abrams recognizes "Trek" history by including Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, in a prominet role. Yet Nimoy remains the lone link between this film and the 1960s series and the movies it spawned. "Star Trek" is therefore a true reboot, and it will be interesting to see where Abrams take the series where no "Trek" has gone before.


UPDATE: Nimoy talks about the new movie and more in this interview.

Thursday, May 7

Charles Emerson Winchester is gay

David Ogden Stiers of TV's "M*A*S*H" comes out. We're happy for him, but we still want to know what he could have done to stop the preachiness of the last few seasons of the show.

Saturday, May 2

Someone controls electric guitar

Rare guitars are popping up for sale thanks to the recession.

Speaking of that stringed instrument, here are the lyrics to the wackiest song about guitars.