a post on suicide (and, no, it doesn’t mean that you should worry about me)

Maybe it’s because this is the time of year when my favorite uncle decided to take his life. Or, maybe it’s because I just made my way through a long and very moving Metafilter discussion on the subject. Or, maybe it’s because I was just talking with a friend abut his chronic low-level depression. But, for whatever reason, suicide is at the forefront of my mind tonight as I’m sitting here at the kitchen table.

I think I’ve mentioned my uncle’s suicide before. If I didn’t discuss it directly, I know I hinted around about it when talking about his dog, Foxy, who came up from North Carolina to live with us after his death. A lot of the feelings that I had about his decision to take his own life, I think, didn’t surface until several months later, when Foxy passed away, and I know that I wrote quite extensively during that time. (If I were a better blogger, and if there were more time, I’d search for some of those posts and link to them here.) At any rate, Thom – that was my uncle’s name – was probably the person in my family that I most identified with, and I took it hard when he decided to leave that way.

Thom’s suicide wasn’t the first in my family. There here been a few. My mom’s father. My dad’s mother. My mom’s brother. With the exception of my dad’s step-father, I don’t think that anyone in my extended family has died in the last 25 years except by their own hand. It’s a depressing thought that I’m often reminded of when in the doctor’s office, filling out forms on my family history and what illnesses they’ve succumbed to… I don’t know, for instance, if there’s a history of cancer in my family. People don’t usually hang around that long.

In spite of all of this, and my generally gloomy state of mind, the thought of doing it myself has never crossed my mind. It kind of surprises me. It seems like I’d be a textbook case, what with the depression and anxiety. There have certainly been times, in the darkest throws of depression, when I’ve prayed that I might catch some horrible disease, but it’s never crossed my mind to just opt out of living, not even when things felt truly hopeless. It’s one of the things that I like about myself. As weak as I think that I am sometimes, I never really give up completely.

If you have the time, I’d really suggest that you follow that link above and read though the Metafilter discussion. It’s quite moving. It’s amazing to me how many people have been touched by suicide, and just how many have actually tried and failed. It’s terribly sad to read story after story, by people you know (or are at least familiar with online), about the circumstances surrounding their attempts, and the anger that many of them feel toward the friends, lovers and family members who have been successful at it. I came away from it with this horrible sadness, this realization that my daughter, like all of us, would have to make her way through a lot of painful experiences before arriving at adulthood. (Most of the Metafilterites who left comments seem to have attempted it in their teens and early 20’s.) I don’t want her to know that kind of pain. I guess it’s unavoidable though. All that we can do is to give her the skills to cope with the unavoidable heartbreak and sadness when it happens.

As I want to leave this post on a happy note, how’s this for an idea… What if I put this painting up for auction on Ebay and send whatever money it sells for to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention? I know it probably won’t be a lot, but maybe it will go a little way toward helping someone. And I can leave it in my uncle’s name. That, I think, would make me feel good. (Who knows, it may even make him feel good.)

I know it doesn’t always seem that way, but, even with all the bullshit going on these days, the world is still a pretty spectacular place, and, if you can’t see that right now, my hope is that you can hold on for a little while, because there’s a good chance that you will one day.

As for the painting, it’s by my daughter, Clementine. It’s her first real painting, and I suspect that it will be worth a lot of money one day.

update: The auction is now live.

Posted in Special Projects | 21 Comments

suspect in ypsilanti sexual assaults is arraigned, dog killer still on the loose

There still don’t seem to be any leads on the local serial-killer-in-training who’s trapping, torturing and cutting the heads off of dogs, but it looks as though we might have finally caught our local serial-rapist. I was just forwarded the following note from Eastern Michigan University’s security unit.

James Holland, Jr., the suspect in the sexual assault cases that occurred on campus, was arraigned on six different counts related to the May 11,2005 attack on a student at Mark Jefferson. Magistrate Camille Brown read the six count case which included: four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, armed robbery, and larceny in a building. The first five counts carry a maximum life sentence. Holland will be held without bond until his preliminary examine April 4. Holland also was arraigned in four other non-EMU related cases that included a combined 18 counts, one of which was murder.

So, it’s now officially safe to come back to Ypsilanti. Our serial killer is imprisoned. Our serial face-stabber is off the streets. And, our serial rapist is in custody… If I were you, I’d take advantage of the opportunity and come out for a visit soon. (We should probably launch an ad campaign.) The window may not stay open long, especially if history is any guide. It is, after all, a well known fact that those who torture and kill amimals often graduate on to humans, and my guess is that if we don’t apprehend the person, or persons, responsible for these local animal killings soon, that we might have a something truly horrible to contend with. (Thankfully, local police have been persuaded that this is a serious matter, and have now assigned a detective to the case full-time. Hopefully, between that and the $5,800 reward for information, a suspect will surface soon.)

Posted in Ypsilanti | 5 Comments

choosing kozy shack rice pudding over revolution

My most recent obsession is Kozy Shack rice pudding (available at most Costco stores). It’s the best stuff in the world. (The texture is great and it’s not too sweet.) I just went through two institutional-sized tubs of the stuff, and, if I could find a store open this time of night, I’d be on my way out right now, looking for more. It really is the most perfect food I have ever had the pleasure to taste. (I was going to write about Russ Feingold tonight and his efforts to see the President censured by the Senate for his ongoing, illegal use of the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked by rice pudding and the television show “24.” And, so, now you’re not going to hear about what Russ is up to, how MoveOn is supporting him with a petition drive, how the Republicans are responding with the extremely persuasive, “None of us will have civil rights if we’re dead” argument, and how some feisty Dems are taking the fight directly to the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee , who know full well that by allowing the President to operate outside of the Constitution in this manner that they are doing irreparable harm to our democracy in a way that al-Quaeda could never hope to.) As long as I’ve got good television programming and Kozy Shack rice pudding nothing else matters.

Posted in Politics | 18 Comments

maybe it’s time to nail the coffin shut and have a wake?

I think the whole zombie meme might have jumped the shark this weekend. First, my friend Dave forwards an article from the New York Times Style section announcing the arrival of zombie culture, and then, a few minutes later, I get an email from a reader named Mitja, telling me that half-a-dozen young people dressed as zombies had been murdered in Seattle. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to move on.

When we had our zombie event here in Ann Arbor at Christmas, it occurred to me (being the incredibly superstitious and fearful fool that I am) that by dressing up as the undead, we were inviting something terrible to happen. While I knew that it was silly, I kept having these intrusive, obsessive thoughts about me or someone else in our little zombie mob being murdered, or dying in a car crash while wearing our cadaver makeup and our blood-spattered Santa suits. I thought, in a way, that we were asking for it, tempting fate. By saying this, I’m not in any way suggesting that the people in Seattle deserved what happened to them, just that it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Tell you what… Next time, we get the urge to go out and do something stupid, instead of putting on the zombie makeup, let’s dress up in robes and pretend to be some kind of really super-happy religious sect or something. (How about a cult picnic this summer is Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park?) Enough with the apocalyptic thinking and the silly little attempts to gain some small degree of control over death by mocking it. I hereby propose, in front of you, my witnesses, that it’s time to move to the next stage of grieving, whatever that is.

Posted in Special Projects | 12 Comments

v for vendetta

Today was a social day. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner plans with different people, and, somewhere in-between, I was able to get out and see “V for Vendetta.” I had a few problems with the logic of the plot, and I’ve read that the fellow who wrote the comic on which it’s based is pissed that the film-makers weren’t loyal to the original, but, even so, I found it to quite good. Sure, it’s a bit heavy-handed, and, yes, it may push the present-day analogies uncomfortably far, but perhaps that’s what it takes to break through and reach people these days. And, isn’t that, after all, the role of art in society? (Roger Ebert’s review of the film, which includes a pretty good plot synopsis, can be found here.)

Clearly the Wachowski brothers, in presenting this horrible image of a future Britain under the rule of a fear-mongering fascist administration, want to force people to look at what’s going on around them right now in America. I don’t think it’s possible to watch the film and come away from it without making the connection. They’re relentless in driving home the point. (In the film, amid the child-molesting conservative religious leaders and the Bill O’Reilly-like partisan attack journalists, there’s even a character who, like Donald Rumsfelt, gets rich thanks to an investment in a pharmaceutical company with the cure for a mysterious Bird Flu-like virus.)

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think that most people by now know that the plot revolves around a masked revolutionary who somewhat single-handedly brings down an evil ruling government by rallying citizens to his cause. As I was watching it, I was reminded of the Eminem video for the song “Mosh,” in which a rapper speaking truth to power is able to galvanize a revolutionary movement behind him and storm the White House. “V for Vendetta” concludes in much the same way, with masses of regular men and women, dressed in black, rising up and demanding regime change at the Houses of Parliament.

It’s a scenario that many of us have dreamed about, the moment when regular, ordinary men and women take to the streets of Washington, DC, yelling that they’re “mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore.” I commend the Wachowskis for taking a shot at it. Will it lead to ordinary Americans having the courage to stand up and demand change — probably not. But maybe it will get people talking about where the line is between what we as a nation will and won’t tolerate, regardless of the threat level. Maybe it will get more people to consider just what it is that we’re willing to give away for the illusion of security. (I’m reminded here of a speech given by Al Gore not too long ago in which he mentioned that, regardless of how it might seem to us today, this is not the most dire situation that our country has ever been in, and this isn’t the time for us to willingly hand over the freedoms that are rightfully ours, freedoms that were so jealously guarded by our forefathers, even in times of war.)

It was a challenging task, and the Wachowski’s deserve credit for attempting it. To try to sell a cop-killing, building-blasting terrorist as a protagonist in today’s climate isn’t that easy of a thing to accomplish. They were able to pull it off though. Of course, in order to do it, they had to make the other side, the people that our anti-hero confronts, much, much worse. (They accomplished this in part by showing those in power to be the murderers and rapists of children.) And that’s got some fans of the current administration pissed off.

Yeah, it’s unfair to be lumped in with baby-killers and rapists. But lots of shit’s unfair.

And, lastly, I wanted to leave you with this quote from V.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

Oh, and one last thing. It might not really fit in here, and maybe it deserves a post of its own, but I just wanted to add that Natalie Portman is really cute.

Posted in Art and Culture | 5 Comments


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