Robin Williams has died. SHAZBOT!

It’s damn disconcerting that the comedic mask hid such despair.

public domain
public domain

I had heard that Robin Williams had passed away while I was hanging out with some Times Union bloggers Monday night, Chuck Miller and Don Rittner and David Kalish. My first thought that maybe it was a hoax, which says a lot about the news these days. But it wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that he had apparently committed suicide.

The FIRST person I thought of was Amy Biancolli, who I’ve met, whose husband – I have a signed copy of one of his books about faith – was a very public suicide. I wondered how she would react to the news. Unsurprisingly, she dropped her phone “onto the kitchen counter and wept. Really wept.” And at that moment reading that, so did I.

A friend of mine of 20 years wrote a lengthy piece that began: “My grandfather, aunt, and father committed suicide… Clearly, we must be more connected in a true, loving, helpful, connected way; we must reach to those who are struggling.” I had had no idea; I was slack-jawed.

SamuraiFrog was “rather surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction” he was having to the news. Me too, actually. (Here’s his follow-up.) It’s damn disconcerting that the comedic mask hid such despair.

I have few words. He was a comic genius, sometimes too “on”, as Evanier mentioned, but brilliant nonetheless. Dustbury noted that “seemingly everyone in my tweet stream posted a favorite comedy or dramatic bit — and in a full hour, there were no duplicates.” Here are a bunch of tributes. Even President Obama noted his passing. Got to read a story of his kindness.

I saw him in a LOT of things. His last TV show, The Crazy Ones, I caught only about 15 minutes of.
2008 Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (TV series – episode) Not a show I tend to watch, but he did well.

2006 Night at the Museum – as Teddy Roosevelt

2006 Happy Feet (voice)
2002 One Hour Photo – good in a serious role

1998 Patch Adams – cloying, but that seemed to be what was called for. CLIP.
1998 What Dreams May Come – for the life of me, I don’t remember how this ended.
1997 Good Will Hunting – liked him in this a lot. CLIP.
1997 Deconstructing Harry – a small role.
1996 The Birdcage – actually played the more straightlaced part against Nathan Lane; liked that.
1995 Jumanji – I bought into the schtick

1994 Homicide: Life on the Street (TV Series – episode) Here’s an interesting remembrance.
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire – I totally related to this, a desperate situation required desperate measures. CLIP.
1992 Aladdin – brilliantly wacky as the genie. CLIP. Plus the Williams-Disney fight.
1991 The Fisher King – plays a person trying to find his way back quite convincingly. CLIP.

1990 Awakenings – he plays a doctor convincingly. CLIP.
1989 Dead Poets Society – I liked him as the inspirational teacher. Hear some music from the film. PLUS this CLIP.
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam – he was great as the crazy DJ; I have the soundtrack on LP, I just recalled. CLIP.
1984 Moscow on the Hudson – a tad hokey, but I enjoyed it anyway.
1982 The World According to Garp – strange film, as I recall, but I liked him.

1978-1982 Mork & Mindy (TV Series) – was there ever a better season of comedy than the first season of Mork and Mindy? Got strange later, especially Jonathan Winters as their son, but before that, quite entertaining
1980 Popeye – don’t think it worked
1978-1979 Happy Days (TV Series, as Mork) – funny stuff

More CLIPS.

Read this 2010 interview.

A very serious piece from CRACKED: Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves

 

Military Losses

Here’s a weird thing. A friend of a friend of mine had a husband in the military. She (FoF) started making comments on her Facebook page that people should send pictures of her husband so that her children would have mementos by which they would be able to remember him. Oddly, she never actually wrote that he had died.

So I began searching. I discovered that the most comprehensive listing of those who were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I could find is provided by MilitaryTimes.com, “honoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.”

But, as it turned out, he didn’t die in battle. He was stateside and had committed suicide. Apparently, after a third tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, it was just too much.

From this ABC NEWS story:

The increase in suicide deaths is one of the most distressing issues facing military leaders who want to reduce the rates among active-duty service members. More than 2,000 of them have killed themselves in the past decade [PDF], including 295 last year compared with 153 in 2001.

Despite their best suicide-prevention efforts, reducing the number of military suicides has been a frustrating challenge, military leaders acknowledged [in September 2011] at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Recent efforts have included increasing at-risk service members’ access to mental health professionals, while reducing the stigma attached to mental health care. Internet outreach, including “video chats,” has also shown some promise.

The difficulty, however, is in identifying which initiatives work best and deciphering the multiple triggers that can lead to suicide within the armed services, which accounts for a small fraction of the total number of people who serve.

Despite my lack of understanding of the reasons for going to war, I feel real grief over the sheer despair these men and women must have been going through to take their own lives. Here’s hoping that the Telehealth programs now being used by the military can stem the tide of these horrible losses.

K is for Kill

Surely, self-defense is often raised as a defense of war, just as it would be for an individual under attack.


I was attempting to have a theological conversation with my mother a few years back. She demurred, “I just follow the Ten Commandments.” Yeah, I said, but what do they mean? Take that one that says, “Thou shalt not kill?” How does one interpret that in today’s world?

For instance, according to some sources, “the Hebrew word that was used in this case for ‘kill’ (or murder) was the somewhat rare term rasah… Although its exact meaning has defied explanation, in other contexts it could refer to killing that was inherently evil… However, the same term could also have applied to unintentional manslaughter…, blood vengeance…, the legal execution of a criminal …”

Indeed, most iterations of Scripture now use the word “murder” rather than “kill” in Exodus 20:13, which I interpret as a more legalistic term.

This study suggests five topics for discussion, so I thought I’d touch on the same, though there are plenty more.

Suicide: if killing anyone is considered a sin against God, by its very nature, some consider suicide to be an irreparable sin. Yet in legal terms, one mitigates for “diminished capacity.” Would God do any less? The only suicide I can recall in the Bible was by Judas Iscariot, after turning Jesus over to the authorities.

Capital Punishment: “An eye for an eye,” the Old Testament says, but Jesus seems to modify that. Many, including me, feel quite uncomfortable with the state executing others in their name. Some even consider it murder by the state (rasah), and there are Biblical references to that being the case unless the guilt was absolutely certain.

Euthanasia: the miracle of medicine allow people to be kept alive much longer than we once thought possible. But what of the quality of that life? And certainly, one can distinguish between stopping doing everything possible to let go, and aiding the process, something most U.S. states would consider a form of murder.

War: certainly many wars were fought and recorded in Biblical times. How does that inform what WE should do? Some were expecting Jesus to be a great warrior in the military sense and were disappointed by this “Prince of Peace” fellow. And are there just wars and unjust wars? This has been argued for millennia. Surely, self-defense is often raised as a defense of war, just as it would be for an individual under attack.

Abortion: when does life begin? One would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that at least the potential for life commences when a zygote is created. But these can be formed fairly frequently and don’t usually attach to the womb to grow. This discussion also is addressed in the stem cell debate and even some forms of birth control.

These are complicated issues. What do YOU think?

Unrighteous anger as murder?

ABC Wednesday – Round 7