February 2008 Archives

When He Was Lonely, He Thought of Death

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I really wish I were in Tucson today, not just because it's beautiful and warm--it's supposed to be 80 degrees, mostly sunny, with 0% chance of precipitation--but because tonight the University of Arizona Poetry Center has arranged a memorial tribute for my dear friend and mentor Jon Anderson.

Jon died last October, and when I got news of his death, I wanted to write a blog entry, but I was just too busy. So now, while there's an appropriate moment, I want to say something about why this man was dear to me.

I met Jon in the fall of 1982, when I enrolled in his intermediate poetry class as a sophomore. I took the class because a friend told me I had to study with Jon--he was the best poet and the best teacher on the faculty. That is as may be; I feel lucky to have worked with almost all my teachers, who were, by and large, extremely talented and generous people.

But there was indeed something special about Jon. For one thing, he was so goofy and disorganized. I admit I found him alarming at times--he was a mess in many ways, not just disorganized but slovenly. Our class met once a week-- Tuesdays, I think--at 3:30 in the afternoon; Jon would show up and tell us, as if we couldn't see for ourselves, that he had just gotten out bed. (Back in the early 80s, people wore surgical scrubs as pjs a lot--not fancy ones, just the mint green kind. They worked well for that. Jon would show up to class in a pair of ratty 501s and a scrub top.) But one thing he said that first semester truly raised my eyebrows, and I will remember it my entire life.

Continued from my post yesterday.

With the clarity of educated hindsight, I can look back at my life and see that I suffered my first serious bout of depression as a young teenager--serious enough that I ended up in the hospital, though not for depression. No, I was hospitalized because of the effects depression and sadness had on my body: I lost six pints of blood--half the blood in my body--through intestinal hemorrhaging, which the doctors, after conducting a slew of tests and subjecting me to unnecessary exploratory surgery, attributed to "stress."

This being 1978, I was told I had made myself ill, and that I better make myself well, or else next time, I'd probably die. No one offered me any counseling or therapy; and so I dealt with the whole thing the only way I could, which was to become anorexic and even more obsessive and weird about religion than I'd previously been.

Here's a story that was all over British press yesterday but has yet to appear, so far as I can, in the American Press: According to a story from the Guardian, another from the Independent, and still another from the BBC, researchers at the University of Hull have concluded that anti-depressants are no more effective than placebos in treating all but the most severely depressed individuals.

There are several things about this that I think are important. One is that this story is not being reported by the US press. I read the stories in the British Press yesterday but didn't write about it until today because I wanted to give the US Press time to get around to noticing it. This morning I checked the NY Times, the LA Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today, and couldn't find a mention of this story in any of them. OK, it's a study by a British university, but they're American drugs, taken by a hell of a lot of Americans. This story was important enough in the British press that it was the lead story for the Independent and the Guardian. I think it merits attention in the US Press.

Another is that the researchers didn't conduct new studies; as the Independent put it, they simply "conducted a meta-analysis of all 47 clinical trials, published and unpublished, submitted to the Food and Drug Administration in the US, made in support of licensing applications for six of the best known antidepressant drugs, including Prozac, Seroxat – which is made by GlaxoSmithKline – and Efexor made by Wyeth." Still, according to the Guardian,

Hey, Leader Dude!


Not only willing but happy, as ever, to be months if not years behind the times in terms of my entertainment consumption, I recently watched Downfall, the 2004 movie about HItler's last days in his bunker. I found it really compelling and can understand perfectly why I was anxious to see it when it was released in US theaters three or four years ago, though I also don't feel it hurt me to watch a bunch of other things first.

One thing that made it so outstanding was the performance by Bruno Ganz, the actor who played Hitler--it was scary and horrifying and convincing, and compelling for precisely those reasons. (IMDb's bio for Ganz, by the way, states that he is the first German actor ever to portray Hitler, which seemed unlikely to me, so I googled the question, "What actors have portrayed Hitler?" and got a slew of hits, including a page listing someone's idea of the top ten onscreen Hitlers and a list of all actors who have played Hitler--turns out a number are German. But I'm still sort of marveling that I could find an answer to that question so quickly. Isn't the internet amazing?)

Anyway, one of the things that struck me was the way everyone called Hitler "Mein Fuehrer" (which, I learned also via the internet, means "My Leader"). Not once did anyone call him "Herr Hitler" or "Herr Fuerher," analogous after all to "Mr. President," a way of addressing a leader that makes more sense in German than in English: in German you actually say things like "Herr Doktor" or "Herr Professor" or whatever; but in English we don't say "Mr. Doctor" or "Mr. Professor" or any such thing except "Mr. President." No; it was always "Mein Fuehrer," except for a few times when kids or women called him "Uncle Hitler." Even his mistress called him "Mein Fuehrer."

Fourth Album, Seventh Tree

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Here's a review of an album I'm going to buy when it's released next week: Seventh Tree, by Goldfrapp.

I have all three of Goldfrapp's previous albums, courtesy of Matthew in Belgium. I like Black Cherry and Supernature, their second and third albums, respectively, just fine, I guess, though I think the cover art for BC is amateurish and Supernature is a little too poppy disco-y for me--when Ms. Goldfrapp starts channeling Olivia Newton-John a la "Physical," I can't help but grit my teeth a little.

It's the first album, Felt Mountain, that I love. Imagine if the Cocteau Twins had been asked in the early 80s to do the soundtrack for some James Bond movie set in space. FM is sultry and sexy and spacy and ethereal and just creepy enough to be intriguing and edgy rather than grating. I'm hoping that this album, which the reviewer labels "psychedelic folk" and which apparently features vocals as incomprehensible as those of Elizabeth Fraser, has some of those features. I'll let you know. In the meantime, if you haven't explored any Goldfrapp, now might be a good time.

Grilled Cheesy Goodness


As a child, I was always disappointed when my mom said we were having grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I wasn’t distraught and ready to cry, the way I was when she announced that we were having tuna sandwiches, or downright nauseated and hysterical the way I was when she served that HORRIBLE tuna casserole made with some creamed soup and potato chips. (I always knew canned tuna was unfit for human consumption, even before studies revealed that it contains all these horrible toxins like mercury, and it occurs to me every so often that whatever the difficulties of adulthood, one very nice benefit of being a grownup is that, barring some torture scenario, no one can ever again force me to consume a meal made with canned tuna.)

What Surfaces in My Nightmares Lately


Ever since I read about this huge sargasso sea of plastic debris two weeks ago, it has haunted my nightmares. I find myself surrounded by plastic garbage and unable to clear a path out of it. After awaking from another such dream, I decided to try to exorcise the dream by writing about it too.

I just don't understand our reliance on plastic. Yesterday I went to Wegmans and they were offering samples of apples--in little plastic cups. Why couldn't they just spear them on toothpicks? And the cups weren't being recycled--they were being dumped in a garbage bag full of other trash.

I don't think we should totally give up on plastic; it has its place. I admit I like having plastic rather than glass bottles for things like hair products. I remember once dropping a glass bottle of shampoo in the shower. Not cool! But I don't see why SOAP needs to come in a bottle. What's wrong with bar soap? Why this whole body wash thing?

We have to use less plastic, and we have to be better about recycling what we create. Because turning the ocean into plastic soup is dangerous and gross--in fact, one scientist has called plastic the scourge of sea life.

He's the One Everyone Wants

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A friend just sent me a link to this video. I watched it grinning like an idiot, and when it ended, I cheered and clapped. Human beings and dogs are both amazing creatures.

The dog's name is Rookie, by the way, and Rookie's companion is named Carolyn Scott.

Nightmare on My Street


I don’t feel I need to offer an excuse when I don’t blog for a while, because A) I didn’t sign no freakin’ contract to blog according to any schedule and B) I am an adult and can do what I want and C) I don’t think my failure to blog for a few days or weeks really causes anyone any suffering--I’m not vain enough to imagine I’ve attracted that kind of fandom and it’s a good thing because I don’t want that kind of responsibility.

But sometimes I want to reveal, just for the heck of it, what I’ve been doing instead of blogging, or why I didn’t quite feel like blogging. So here it is: I’ve been traveling, and while on my travels, I had a nightmare--not a nightmarish travel experience like the one involving the two little girls in the back of the minivan; this trip actually went pretty smoothly, transportation-wise--but an actual nightmare that left me confused, perplexed, and, dare I say it, ashamed.

It might have had something to do with the martinis I downed while out with my friend C the first night of my visit, or it might not.... I’d rather blame it on the martinis, frankly, than imagine that this dream really expressed something going on in my own head. So here’s what happened.

Finally, I Finish "The War"

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My habit of watching stuff on TV months after everyone else has seen it continues.... I just finished watching Ken Burns’ documentary on World War II, aptly titled The War.

I am quite glad I waited to watch this, as I had time to gather opinions from others who watched it as it was televised, particularly from my friends who, like me, are very interested in military history. They said pretty much the same thing: “It was good, but not great. I thought I would LOVE it, and I didn’t. I only liked it."

So I sat down to watch it with lowered expectations, and because I expected less, I was pleased and surprised when I ended up liking it A LOT--maybe I didn't LOVE it, but it was close.


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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