Misc for August 18, 2014

Not a lot of gas in the tank at the end of this past week.

There’s something about losing Robin Williams, and the way it transpired, that seems to have ricocheted through many different circles and touched many of us in different ways.

So much has already been said about Williams this week. I’ll only add that what I admired most about his approach was his vulnerability, the warmth and sweetness that seemed to motivate both his mania and his acting.

If you only make space for one hour of retrospective on Williams’ life and career, you won’t do better than listen to Marc Maron’s remembrance on WTF, including a very candid interview with Williams from 2010. There’s some comedy-inside-baseball sprinkled throughout, but also some very powerful and moving stuff. Give it a listen.

As with any high-profile suicide, there’s also been a resurgence of discussion on mental illness and self harm. I particularly appreciated this piece from Helen Rosner, “Not Everyone Feels This Way.” Sadly it’s also worth bookmarking the following recommendations from the CDC on how the media can responsibly report on suicide to prevent so-called suicide “contagion.”

And of course there was the all-too-familiar, though shocking and awful events in Ferguson, Missouri.

We must do better.

As much as we may want to forget the past week, I found articles specifically about remembering (and photography) especially poignant. The first is Thomas Ricker’s piece, “Stop Being a Tourist,” which bemoans that “the internet and smartphones have made us all tourists, gawking at our own lives.”

Pair with “We Are All Glassholes Now” by the wonderfully named Ellis Hamburger. For a slightly more optimistic, but no less thought-provoking angle, read John Carey’s “Don’t Forget To Remember This”:

Photography is a privilege we are lucky to have, but it should never get in the way of our happiness, it should pull us toward it like a magnetic force. The secret to great photography has nothing to do with your philosophy, your choice of format, or your pedigree. Let your camera be your compass. Live first, then shoot.

Carey continues:

The solution here is obvious and most of us are already well aware of this tune, don’t shoot to share, shoot because you love what your shooting. Shoot to remember. Make your photographs in your own image and personality. Use photography to tell the story of you.

That’s all well and good when talking about vacations or kid photos, but it’s hard to know what to do when things look so bleak in the world around you. I’m reminded of the Fred Rogers quote about looking for the helpers, but the helpers were awfully hard to see. Luckily, they were still around.

My own escape from the turmoil took the shape of Patrick Rothfuss’ novel The Name of the Wind (not to be confused with Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s wonderful The Shadow of the Wind). With the exception of some of Gene Wolfe’s work, The Name of the Wind is the first fantasy novel I’ve read since I was in high school that’s really gotten its hooks into me.

But, if all else fails, and you have the privilege to do so, perhaps just fix yourself a peach wine slushie and watch this utterly wonderful video of baby They Might be Giants playing “Birdhouse in Your Soul” with the Tonight Show Orchestra in 1990.

Be nice to each other this week, ’k?