Category Archives: sadness

The day I’ll always remember

Only for my family it’s today, December 22nd, and not September 3rd.

Oct 25, 1949 - Dec 22, 1991

I am not sure how others may feel when losing a parent at a young age; for me, the absence is always there. In the beginning this was “standard” personal grief, five-stages stuff, but as I’ve grown older and become a father as well, it’s less overt. It strikes me more that I’m not just missing him, directly, but missing him in relation to everyone else I love. Things are subtly out of context because he’s not with us.

For example, my son has his Baba, my wife’s dad, and each loves the other dearly. It’s a blessing and a great joy. Watching them, sometimes, the absence will suddenly poke up from the background and make itself known: my son doesn’t have both Babas there. I have no doubt that Dad would have doted to distraction on The Lad, as he would have done to my sister’s son.

My father was not one to be uninvolved. I think he would have enjoyed talking shop with my wife’s father, chatting about families, retirement, politics. I picture him still drawing, only now putting the stuff up on Instagram; getting after me to write more; finding a part-time job somewhere to enjoy during his retirement. He’d be amazed if he came back now to learn that they made three more Star Trek series, five more Star Wars films, and that my Atari 2600 games had eventually morphed into near-photo-realistic experiences, influenced heavily by the mainstreaming of anime – which he only saw on the fringes of popular culture, or else in dumbed-down, highly-edited versions for children such as Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, or Speed Racer.

In our family he was the “everyday” cook – Mom handled holidays for the most part, and the rest of the time Dad was playing culinary Frankenstein, cadging ingredients into an impromptu family dinner. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that, and not just because all three of us kids are adults now.

He’d be stopping by during the season, jibing me for going over the top with holiday gift-giving while steadfastly forgetting that he’s the source of that habit of mine; in turn we’d tease him because his normal gruff baritone became a Michael McDonald falsetto whenever he sang. And he would laugh and sing anyway, because he loved music and it was nearly always playing in our home. He probably would have bought one of the earliest iPods and kept up with the technology the whole time, while figuring out a way to get all his albums, cassettes, and 8-tracks digitized – because why should you pay for it all twice?

I am now two years and several weeks older than he was when he passed away, twenty-five years ago today.

Here’s to you, Dad.

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Going down the valley one by one

I hate weeding through the blogroll, because it reminds me of great reads gone by, that are now bygone. Join me while I raise a glass to three more blogfriends who’ve moved on to bigger and better things:

Tracey of Beyond the Pale – a fine writer, a finer friend. Her honesty and skilled wordsmithing caused her real-life grief from small-minded busybodies, one of the many reasons why I have such a strong dislike of Gatekeepers, self-appointed taste arbiters, and buttinskies. One of my blog highlights (thankfully still there!) was winning a pound of (quite good) decaf coffee (I know, but IT WAS) and a commemorative to-go cup in one of her Best Thing Ever blog contests.

Her archives are still up, so read them. It was a great group of e-migos. Long live the Sudden Yurt Commune.

Cara Ellison – her personal blog went through a few iterations, one of which says that “after a day or two” she’ll be back. It’s dated September 1, 2014. But the lady is a professional writer, so will I gripe if we’re not getting tons of free content? Nope.

Her Amazon author’s page suggests a couple of other ways to look in on Ms. Cara. The Twitter option seems to be a no-go now, however. Searching for Cara Ellison leads to a Scottish lady who also writes and who I do not think is the same person.

The Judge Report – Robert Going, Red Sox fan and author, kind enough to send along a signed copy of his book The Eagle Has Landed to my Ladybug. He wrote a long series of livejournal posts on notable citizens of his hometown, Amsterdam NY, who had served in the US Armed Forces – a passion project of his – but has posted nothing online that I can see since November of 2014. He also did a podcast with friends of his, but again, I see no activity on that front either, unless I have snafu’d my searches (and that is a distinct possibility).

Stepping into these breaches in the sidebar are:

Don at Zoopraxiscope – his original site was in my original sidebar at Hive 1.0, so I’m glad I came across his trail again.

John C Wright – why yes, he is another professional author. Currently he’s part of some ginned-up notoriety, since his works were championed as quality science fiction writing by All The Wrong People, which led no less than George “Not J” R.R. Martin to counter-campaign in favor of torpedoing the entire Hugo Awards last year. I wrote about the whole moronic business, directly and indirectly, several times over the past year. (Have I mentioned my strong dislike of Gatekeepers?)

Do check them out, and thanks for the few faithful holdouts who still stop by.

Infinite tributes in infinite combinations

UPDATED March 1, 2015: One particular tribute that I missed, as I am not a part of this online community… but that might be the sweetest of all:

Basically, when the news came of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, Star Trek Online players decided, spontaneously and en masse, to go to virtual Vulcan and pay their respects.

It’s seriously dusty around here right now.

ORIGINAL POST: The outpouring of love and heartfelt tributes to Leonard Nimoy have been wonderful to see. And the variety! Quotes, of course. Nearly everyone had some variation of “He lived long, and prospered” when the news first broke. Others have sent out pictures, usually screenshots of Spock, but also of Nimoy in a variety of his guest roles.

The most fun one has been the Twitter hashtag “PutSpockInASong,” which has resulted in a fine paradox: people howling in laughter due to puns about the emotionless paragon of rational thought and dispassion. Yet for all that, I think it is flawlessly logical, and one hopes that he would, at least, quirk a friendly eyebrow at the foibles of humanity.

As my favorite of them (so far) put it:

Some have been touching, some absurdist, some serious, some comic… all have been heartfelt.

One thing I observe is that three men reprised their characters from the original Trek in episodes of The Next Generation – DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy – and now all three have boldly gone on.

(FUN FACT! Peter Duryea acted with Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek – in the original pilot, The Cage, Duryea played Lt. Jose Tyler opposite Nimoy as Mr. Spock.)

Leonard Nimoy was more than Spock, of course. He sang folk tunes, some of which were original compositions. He was a professional photographer. He wrote and directed as well as acted. He was a veteran of the US Army. He was one of three Star Trek regulars who had been on The Twilight Zone. He acted on Broadway, was the voice of a cartoon robot, and played himself as a head in a jar. (“It’s a life of quiet dignity.”)

All in all, one could do far worse.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. Tough tribbles.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. It still counts, so tough tribbles, nerds.

One… more… time!

The singing cowboy used to be a standard back in the 50’s. From Gene Autry, the actual “Singing Cowboy,” through Roy Rogers, on to The Mellomen (who featured the rumbling bass voice of Thurl Ravenscroft), a lot of people married the Western visual of the cowboy on the range to the songs of Country.  In 1973, Elton John could sing a twangy country-western tune [youtube, will autoplay] “of roundups and rustlers and home on the range” without any trace of hipsterism or post-modern irony.

We’ve lost one of the last of them today: the yodeling cowboy, Slim Whitman.

He maybe didn’t get a tribute quite as exotic or heartfelt as Sir Elton’s, but he was name-dropped in one of my favorite tunes:

I put on a Slim Whitman tape
Mama wore a brand-new hair net
Kids are in the back seat
Jumping up and down, saying “Are we there yet?”
And all of us were bound together in one common thought
As we rolled down the long and winding interstate in our ’53 DeSota
We’re gonna see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota!

More importantly, he seemed like a man of decent heart and good humor, such as in the closing quote from the linked obituary above:

I don’t think you’ve ever heard anything bad about me, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’d like my son (Bryon) to remember me as a good dad. I’d like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit.

But if that’s not enough, one of the standards he had a hit with was later remade (in a matter of speaking) very famously:

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I like your eyes… I like him too

Godspeed, Mr. Brubeck.

He passed just short of 92, much as my Uncle Guy did about 18 months ago.  I mentioned him then, briefly, among other well-known folks that had enriched my life growing up.  It wasn’t very much of a tribute, but in the end, all the amazing music he wrote and performed, and the legacy of his children, are the greatest tribute.  I offer the following in that spirit.

There is something ineffably wonderful about watching these guys play; they were the heppest cats, but they looked as if they would spill a slide rule and graph paper out of their briefcase if it tipped.  Brubeck himself, in the interview segments, looks both enduringly goofy and impeccably professional.  His business was grooving out, and he was CEO… but he shows an unquenchable love and enthusiasm for music, for taking it in different directions and seeing what’s out there.  His piano was the bridge of the starship taking jazz fans to the final frontier, to boldly play what no one had heard before.

There is more on his own website, davebrubeck.com.  The site will autoplay… but for once I don’t think anyone will actually mind.

Failures in editing

Don’t worry, I’m not about to bore you with a long list of “they’re” for “their,” or herds of wandering apostrophes hoping to find contractions.  In fact, this is really just a singular failure – in both senses of that phrase.

Below is a timed screen cap of MSN.com’s front page.  See if you can spot the area of concern.

This word “legends”… I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Twenty

My father wasn’t ever a person to go easy on himself.

He had no trouble with slowing down, as long as it was something worth the time.  That list just wasn’t very long.  Family on top, his artwork next, good friends and good music… If it was on the list, he would take whatever time and effort he could to do right.

He was an avid model builder and would take painstaking trouble to get whatever effect he wanted.  If he was putting together a Panzer and a Sherman, it wasn’t enough to have them set up like showroom cars; they would invariably landd blows, with blackened cotton-ball smoke and holes from small-arms fire rising from one crippled tank, while the other advanced on worn and muddy treads.

He was just as avid a father and husband.  He did a lot of the cooking, taught us how to ride our bikes and throw and catch.  He got me started on model building, but it wasn’t something I could get into… a lot of guys might have kept after it, because unfortunately their kids are all about them instead of the other way around; Dad just found other ways to spend time with me.  He taught me chess, let me teach him video games.  My brother didn’t like chess so much, so Dad found another path with him – art.

Our sister was the apple of his eye, and I’m sure there was a path for them, but there wasn’t time to find it.

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A psychological observation

Sonic Charmer takes a look into the tears of the Hermit Kingdom.

I’ve heard it written (if that makes sense) that of course people were sobbing about the death of Kim Jong Il – his soldiers would have no compunction about shooting them dead if they were insufficiently sorrowful.  That’s true enough, but as Charmer observes, that might inspire an actual, sincere devotion as well:

 This interpretation seems to stem from the error of assuming that North Korean people and society is basically like our people and society, just with a wacky dictator on top. Like a charmingly more-straitlaced version of South Korea, that happened to have a crazy celebrity who uses/kills people in charge. I think, rather, that having a wacky dictator on top of your society actually affects the society. What I tend to see in North Korea is Jonestown writ large. A mass psychosis. Almost all of the people depicted there would qualify as mentally ill here. …

We’re going to have to face it: People love their dictators. And the more miserable they are, the more they will love him. The more empty and powerless their lives are, the more their hopes and dreams get tied up with the dictator’s fate.

This reminded me of a scene that very effectively spells out the difficulty (video will play when you click).

What’s most striking is the chilling confidence of Darkseid.  His victory is already assured.  Even though the outcome of the fight is not certain, his position is fixed beyond the power of Superman to alter or remedy.  No earthly dictator can have this sort of permanent authority, of course, but for as long as it lasts, the dictator might as well BE all-encompassing.  Kim could erase his people from this life as surely as Darkseid’s Omega Beams do in the DC universe.

So, yes – this is the first thing I thought of when I saw the public mourning of the North Koreans after Kim died.  Dear Leader was many things to many people… and there, he was God.  The difficulty is not that his people don’t recognize him as cruel and mad, but that they do.

If China suddenly decided that they had too many problems internally to bother with DRNK as a satellite/buffer/proxy, and buggered out – if the South and its allies swept through and reunited the penninsula under democratic rule – there would be years, possibly decades, of drastic unrest.  This would happen even if the initial unification were peaceful.  If you’ve paid attention to the Middle East over the past ten years, you already know how it would play out: the South would be seen as welcome liberators, who were nonetheless despised, and everywhere those accustomed to the old regime would seek ways to recreate it on some level – and that goes for the entire chain, from the ultimate power down through the brokers and facilitators and petty jacks-in-office, right down to the bottom-rung oppressed.  There would be little corrupt fiefdoms springing up everywhere, if not efforts to use the democratic process to elect a new Dear Leader.

Hell, you don’t need the Middle East to see it in action, either: only a very unfortunate neighbor who grew up in an abusive household, endlessly building copies of it in their own life, even while lamenting to friends that “this is stupid” and “he’ll never change” and “I never want to be like my parents were.”  They keep going back anyway – they regard their interventionist friends as meddlers who only provoke the abuse, and if they just left well enough alone, they could go back to happily living on constant eggshells in the vague hope of catching the abuser in a peaceable mood every once in a while.  They need healing from within, before they can accept changes from without.

None of this is to say that efforts to help are unwise; just that they are often as thankless as they are necessary.  Every once in a great while, however, they work far more brilliantly than could ever be hoped, and the people as one make the change, and where they were once caged in their own homeland, they break free and reassume their sovereignty.  The counterpoint is made more startling here because of the man who died on the same day – Vaclav Havel – and the Velvet Revolution that he helped to focus and came to embody.  But there, I have to let the better writer take over, so please read this from Sheila O’Malley on the playwright and former Czech President.  One thing that she wrote stands out – the thing that made the difference –

… his philosophy was that, yes, he lived in an un-free society, but he would behave as if he were free. The magic “as if”, so much a theatrical term, used to describe the mystery of the creative process of actors (act “as if” you were such and such). Of course, Havel, a man of the theatre, would use the “as if” as a way to survive oppression. He did not compromise. He acted “as if” he were living in a free society, and drove the authorities slowly insane.

My only comment on that is to offer a slight but important clarification.  Havel, strictly speaking, did not drive the authorities insane; by living sanely himself, he only revealed that they had been insane the whole time.

Good dogs

I’m taking a break from being angsty today.

©2011 Barcroft Media; click for source article

Dear Tara, shown above, is one of the nearly 100 dogs who worked tirelessly amid the rubble of the Pentagon and World Trade Center, attempting to retrieve survivors, and finding only more vicitms.  Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas travelled to take portraits of these brave dogs to commemorate their role in the recovery efforts.

“The dogs are now old and they will soon pass away. Even during the time it has taken since my first work on the ‘Retrieved’ portraits to now, three of the final 15 have died,” said Charlotte.  “These portraits are about how time passes, and how these dogs and their portraits are offering us a way to deal with the things that happened as well as relying on them for comfort.”

 And they do it for the love of their handlers and owners.  What surprises isn’t just that so many of them followed their masters without hesitation, but that many of our own unassuming pooches have similarly-loyal hearts.  Hug yours if you got one… or a neighbor’s. 

(via Ace)

Sad news for baseball fans of my generation

Woke up today to hear that former Baltimore Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan had passed away unexpectedly at age 59.  (News via the Baseball Reference Blog – which, by the way, is yet another excellent feature of an indispensable resource for baseball lovers.)

*(please see below the jump for updates; latest at 10:40 pm, and well worth it.  I was so grateful to have a happy thought to associate with this, to start to celebrate the life and career of the man and not stand helpless against the manner of his passing)*

Flanagan won the American League Cy Young Award in 1979, part of one of those great Earl Weaver ballclubs that filled the sports background of my earliest childhood.  I hadn’t gotten into baseball yet, really.  At the time, I was all hockey.  I had a wonderful poster of the New York Islanders of 1978-79, a giveaway from Burger King – the players were lithographed, as I recall, fine line drawings of Westfall, Trottier, Bossy, Smitty, Potvin, Gillies, Merrick, Bourne… and among them, Al Arbour in his glasses, trying to figure out how to finally get them to the Stanley Cup.  I lived and died with those guys.

But baseball was still inescapable, in the landscape, as it had to be on Long Island.  We were right in the epicenter of the heyday of the American League East Division.  To our immediate west were the Yankees – the Bombers, the juggernaut, the Evil Empire, with George Steinbrenner as their Emperor.  They had won the three previous AL pennants, 1976-78, brawling and blustering through baseball as the New York papers covered their exploits in rivers of ink, rivaling the rivers of ticker tape they sailed on down the Canyon of Heroes.  The Bronx Zoo was inescapable while growing up on Long Island in the 70’s and 80’s.  It was their identity, even as players came and went via free agency.  Reggie and his candy bar gave way to Rickey Henderson, the ultimate hot dog; Willie Randolph was driven in by Nettles and Munson, and then by Mattingly and Winfield; Billy Martin came and went like the swallows to San Capistrano.  And they had their arch-rivals, each year, every year, bracketing them to the North and South, each with their own identity: the Boston Red Sox, the perennial foils, with their slugging lineup and long burden of last-second defeats; and the Baltimore Orioles, the home of endless pitching and the three-run dinger, Earl Weaver and the Oriole Way.

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