A Goodbye to Robin Williams and Some Impractical, Yet Heartfelt Advice About Life for My Children

robin-williams
Image from TIME Magazine

R.I.P. Robin Williams | July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014

 

What do you say when an immeasurable talent and personality like Robin Williams leaves us? How do you begin, knowing that no words will convey your thoughts properly?

I don’t even know.

Which is why my tribute to him will take place in the form of a letter to my children, offering them advice about life, and hopefully paying respect to a man who lived it on his own terms, in the process.

I can not remember a time in my life that I wasn’t watching Robin Williams in something. His brilliance always on display, always captivating, dominating every scene. Whether he had a script or was given free reign, the results were identical. He was one of the few celebrities I wanted to meet (excluding Hollywood crushes), primarily because I always felt he would be exactly the same on screen as off. A ball of energetic fun. Could you even imagine what lunch would be like with Mrs. Doubtfire/ Genie/ Adrian Cronauer/ Sean Maguire/ Rainbow Randolph/ Robin Williams at the same time? I can, and it’s brilliant.

As I thought about what his loss meant to movies and to me as a moviegoer I became emotional. I normally don’t feel connected to celebrities and when they pass, sure, it’s sad but it doesn’t really hit me that hard. For some reason this loss did. Maybe it was that I identify with him on some personal levels – fascination with my kids, creative, ongoing battle with depression – or maybe that so many of the roles he played struck a chord with me. And unlike some actors, he put himself into every role.  So I guess I do know him, in a way, or ways, and in that regard I feel like I’ve lost a friend I haven’t seen in years and now I’m sad because we won’t be able to get together again and catch up, something we never did in the first place.

I could continue to ramble on and there really isn’t a good way to segue into what I want to say next, but I don’t care.

Kids,

I love you both. I love watching you grow and change. I love sharing with you and helping you and seeing what you like and dislike and how it compares to my likes and dislikes. I love seeing you become, you.

As you grow, the world will tell you to graduate high school, go to college, get a job you may or may not like and work 40 hours a week for the rest of your lives. I’m telling you now to tell the world to stuff it.

Girls, there aren’t a lot of things that I want you to know, that I find important enough to document for posterity, so read carefully.

I want you to graduate high school, prepare a backup plan, and then chase your dreams until your legs can’t carry you anymore. Then chase them a little bit further.

Yes, it is important for you to graduate high school. No, I don’t think college is essential, especially not today, unless you want to be a doctor, lawyer or professor. If you don’t then get a 2 year degree, or a certification. Do some research and find a career path that you can fall back on and lay the groundwork. Get a dental hygienist certification, or one for x-ray, pharm or surgical tech. Live home long enough to get that under your feet with few to no bills. Then find your dream and go get it.

There will come a time, when you are 38 years old, you are scraping by, and sit thinking how if you had chased your dream 20 years ago you would have caught it by now. You will look back thinking of all the things you sacrificed your dreams for and odds are you won’t regret them, but you will wonder if it is too late.

Chase your dreams while you are youthful, exuberant and too stubborn to quit. Chase them while you don’t have to be stable and provide for anyone else. Chase them while it doesn’t matter if you have to skip a few meals or take the bus a few days because you don’t have gas money. Chase them while you are young enough to laugh at doubters, throw a middle finger up to expectations and rules, and go for it while you are young enough not to have started doubting yourself. Chase them while you are young enough that if you catch them, and they aren’t all you hoped they’d be, you have time to start over and do it again. Or, if having reached your dream you decide to give up the chase, you can fall back on the groundwork you laid for yourself.

This life is short. So very short. Do not wasting it counting the hours until your lunch break, and then again ’til it’s time to go home. Find something you love. And someone you love. And enjoy this roller coaster. It can be fun, but it is fast and it will be over before you know it. Especially if you spend all your time being practical, not daring to reach for the stars. You will never grasp that which you do not reach for.

I love you both so very much.

Dad

PS – I hope you find something in the following advice from a few of his roles:

 

 

PPS – It really hit me hard when I saw the following image:

 

The Academy Awards posted this picture with the caption: ” Genie, you’re free.”
Buzzfeed posted this in response.

I couldn’t agree more with both of them.

I’ll Leave you with this, one of my favorite moments from my favorite movie.

 

 

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Hank Moody: One Part Role Model, One Part Cautionary Tale.

You know, most people, they go their whole life,
and they never really find someone they love.
They say they do because everybody's the star of their
 own romantic comedy, but they're full of shit.
~Hank Moody

Hank Moody is an asshole.

That’s just who he is. If you have watched the show Californication you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

He is cocky, opinionated and vocal, all of which seem to add volume to his personality. He is a womanizer, an alcoholic and occasionally, a drug user. He is not the kind of man you would want your daughter to marry.

On the surface he seems to care little that his wife left him. Why should he, he is handsome and charismatic, seeming to have no issue finding a replacement for the evening. Every evening. He parties hard and crashes harder. He makes few apologies and fewer long term relationships, be they romantic, sexual or friendly. He is a man of the moment, blinded by the past, stuck in the present, knowing what his future will bring yet still hoping he is wrong.

One thing he is not, that most assholes are, is pretentious. He is who he is. He will not try to impress you or sway you in any way. Unless you are his ex-wife, the love of his live. The one that got away. His only regrets all lie at her feet.

It is here where we see that he is also exactly the kind of man you would want your daughter to marry. He is loyal to a fault. Puts her above ALL else, including his own pride or dignity. He will make a fool of himself if he believes it will make her smile. The lengths he would go to if he thought he could win her back know no end.

This is also where we loop back to him not marrying your daughter. He does not do well with waiting and is quick to drown his sorrows with women and wine. In the end, he admittedly makes poor decisions that hurt those he loves, but never intentionally. He would die before hurting someone he loves on purpose.

Professionally he is like the sky – filled with bright light and promise for a spell but then nothing but dark and emptiness for a while. He is gifted, but he knows it. This has lead to big victories and big defeats. Most of the defeats at his own hand.

He is a fashion icon, hitting home runs with a simple t-shirt and jeans just as easily as his best suit. He defines what he wears and not vice versa.

He is a man I would like to admire, and do, but with a large measure of caution as to what it is I am admiring. Beneath it all he is old fashioned in the right ways, believes in true love, cares deeply about those he cares about and often is eloquent. If you can separate what he says and feels from what he often does, you can find honesty, wisdom and love hidden behind a veil of loneliness and despair.

He is a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

My ‘Single Guy’s Summer Bucket List.’

From http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Definition of BUCKET LIST

: a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying

Well.

First off, why wait until I’m closer to dying before I start living? I spent a number of years stagnant, festering in my own lethargy, both in and out of relationships. Now however, I am officially, legally single again. Not that that matters in this discussion, but it certainly removes the biggest, darkest cloud over my head which makes it MUCH easier to enjoy the sun.

Secondly, I was inspired by a post I read on HelloGiggles.com (thanks Zooey Deschanel for posting the link on FB!) so some of this will be borrowed and some will not.

Like the author of that post (http://hellogiggles.com/single-girls-totally-doable-summer-bucket-list [Yes! I read the single girls totally doable summer bucket list]) I am not wealthy. Or in a relationship. I don’t anticipate either happening in the near future. Why should that stop me from enjoying life? In fact, shouldn’t it encourage me to?

Hopefully you will read along and borrow some of my ideas and add your own. Everyone should have a summer bucket list. Everyone should complete it. Live life, yo!

So please, feel free to post your list in the replies so I can hold you accountable, but in the mean time – here is mine:

 

1. Work on my car.

This picture I actually took.

I love working on my car. For various reasons, I haven’t in quite some time and that needs to change. Not everything I do involving my car has to cost money, so I have no excuse.

2. Spend a day on a windy and/or open road.

Windows down. Music up. Wind blowing. Wheels spinning. ‘Nuff said.

Yes.
Yes.

 

3. Go somewhere I have never been.

Can be combined with number 2. Or not. I don’t care where, as long as it is somewhere worth going and I can be there and back before work on Monday. I dream of seeing the world, yet have seen so little of my home country. Come on!

grandcanyon1
Just, wow.

 

4. Show my children something amazing.

We could launch model rockets, go see a waterfall, enjoy a cave tour, zip-line, honestly I don’t care. Just not putt-putt, bowling, the Memphis Zoo or any of the other things we have done several times over.

I haven’t done that since grade school.

5. Make progress on my next book.

I have several ideas. I just need to start typing. Workshops would probably be good too. Maybe a writers group (online or in person)? Just less Reddit and more wordsmithing.

Nope. I don't use that. But it looks way better in a picture than an MacBook. Right?
Nope. I don’t use that. But it looks way better in a picture than an MacBook. Right?

6. Have a movie marathon with my kids.

I don’t care what series. They have never done a marathon. It’s time to stay up late and munch on popcorn.

Extra butter.
Extra butter.

 

7. Eat Fruity Pebbles while I watch the sun rise.

Yes, Fruity Pebbles. Yes, RISE. I can’t tell you the last time I saw it, but I can say it was glorious. I can also say Fruity Pebbles would make it more so. Yes, I know I am 37 years old. Shut it. Maybe I’ll even combine this with 2,3 and 4.

Don't judge me.
Don’t judge me.

8. Be more active.

Depression has lead to high food intake and low activity, which in turn has lead to more depression. Terrible cycle. Bus driver, I’d like to get off please.

We’ve all been there at some point.

 

9. Say ‘Yes’ more.

I have great kids. I say ‘no’ a lot more than I could probably get away with. Certainly more than they deserve. Time to be more flexible. At least for the summer, then we’ll go from there.

Okay, maybe not THAT much.

10. Cook something I have never cooked before. For someone else.

Why specify ‘for someone else?’ Pressure. The drive to excel is always intensified when the end result has to be delivered, not just examined or enjoyed. The challenge will be nice. So will the feeling that follows if it turns out well. Doesn’t even matter whom it’s for. Just not for me.

Maybe Filet Mignon?

11. Try several foods I have never eaten

On my trip to New Orleans, I tried a number of foods for the first time. It is such a pleasure to branch out. Especially when it turns out as well as the Crawfish Eggs Benedict I had. Yum!

They were soooo delicious.

So there it is. My ‘Single Guy’s Summer Bucket List.’ Ten seems to always be a good place to stop, so I went to eleven. Ha. That list could seem long or short depending on my level of procrastination. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you join me.

 

Some images not mine. Nor do I claim them to be.

A Few Thoughts On People, Their Cameras and The Pictures They Produce or My Fuji x20 Review With Opinions About Other Things As Well

Before I begin, let’s get a few things straight:

Q:  Am I a professional photographer?

A:  No.

Q:  Have I previously been one?

A:  Almost. Maybe.

Q: Am I an equipment snob?

A: Yes and no. Mostly no.

Q: What camera and equipment do I use?

A: Fujifilm x20. Spare battery. Lens hood. If you want one, get it here

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Image from Fuji’s website.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to what you are here for – my unfiltered, uncensored, honest opinions. Yay, I have lots of those, I will be happy to share.

This topic is one that hits close to home for me. The short back story is that I used to live in Nashville Tennessee. I had shot a number of portraits for friends and family. I had done some minor event coverage. I had four weddings under my belt. I was still cheap. I still shot the way the client wanted, as I did not have enough of a portfolio to have high rates or a marketable “style” of my own, though I was most appreciated for my candid portraits and detail photography. The train wasn’t moving at top speed, but I was on the right tracks.

Even though I got almost no support at home for my pricing, the hours I put in, or the artistic choices I made, I was constantly making progress. Then there was great news for me: S3Magazine (s3mag.com) ran a number of my photos in one of their issues. They were interested in more photos from me.

Then my mom got cancer.

I didn’t take a single picture for months.

Then she passed away.

Then I moved to Memphis to help my dad through it.

I decided to start shooting in Memphis. I booked a few events. I was getting call backs.

Then my wife left me.

Then I sold my camera because I was struggling financially.

Fast forward a few years. I am getting to my feet financially and emotionally. I have finished my first novel. I am writing this blog as well as the occasional article for a friend’s blog as well (realistlounge.com) and he and I have agreed on a column that he will start running of mine once I get off of my lazy ass and write it. Things are looking up.

I decide to get a camera. A few things are clear to me immediately. I have no intention of shooting weddings right now. If I do, it would only be as a second shooter so that I could do what I do, how I want to do it. I also have no intention of diving back into event photography either, with exception to things like Import Alliance (www.importalliance.org). I want to love shooting again, like I did before the business side of it took my failing marriage by the hand and together, beat me into submission.

Given all of those things I decided to look for a basic setup. Camera. Short lens. Long lens. Prime lens. I began to look at the Four Thirds system because I liked the color reproduction I saw from them. I went back and forth between two models for several weeks, unable to choose. Then, while doing some reading on street photography, I stumbled onto the x20 and the new sensor Fujifilm had put in it. The color was excellent. The form factor of the camera was great. It did NOT have interchangeable lenses (after sleeping on it for a couple of days, I really liked this) . It had enough zoom to cover just about anything I would need or want. The control layout and specs were excellent.

After a little (read: LOT) more research and many shining reviews, I decided it was the right camera at the right time. I found a great deal and ordered it.

At this point I have had it for only a short time, but am truly enjoying playing with it. It takes excellent pictures and allows me to have as much or as little control over them as I want. The lack of interchangeable lenses allows me to focus on the moment and not my equipment. I truly see this camera becoming an extension of my eye.

During the journey toward selecting the x20, I found myself reading a lot about something that has always captivated me, street photography. I also found myself reading back over bios of great photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and James Nachtwey. Photographers I had looked at less and less when I was shifting towards wedding photography. At that time, I found myself mostly looking at Jeff Ascough (www.jeffascough.com) who continually produces the most amazing wedding photos I have ever seen, and any photos I could find of “Trash The Dress.” Once again though, I found myself looking at the images that truly captivate me as an artist, that make me want to go and make images to share with others in the hope that they are captivated with my work. I found myself thinking a lot about conversations I have had with friends and various quotes I have read along the way, all of which got me into share my opinion mode. So put down your defenses, put on your thinking caps and let’s explore some of my recent thoughts using quotes or images that inspired them along the way.

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” 

                                                                   ~Chase Jarvis 

photo by Chase Jarvis
Image by Chase Jarvis

I have never read this book. I have not seen much of Chase Jarvis’ work. In fact I know very little about him. What I do know is that I have said this to a lot of people. A $28,000 Leica (found here) isn’t worth a wooden nickle if you leave it at home when you need it. Having said that, I really hope that people understand that you can never replace proper equipment with available equipment and expect the same results. Can someone with a good eye and understanding of framing and lighting take good pictures with a cell phone? Certainly. Could they properly photograph a wedding or document a conflict? Absolutely not. But I will admit that some pretty amazing pictures have come from phones.

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough”

                                                                   ~Robert Capa

Image by Robert Capa
Image by Robert Capa

I love this quote. I don’t think it applies to everyone in all situations, but it does apply more than you think. So many people take all pictures in an identical fashion: center the subject in the middle of the frame, where it is visible in its entirety. Get a little closer. Focus on the details. Show me something instead of everything. Unless of course you are shooting portraits or products, in which case centered and basic is fine, I guess. Let’s keep in mind also, that Capa was documenting war in many of his photographs and too much distance would alleviate the power of the scene.

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

                                                                  ~Henri Cartier-Bresson
Image by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Image by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Constantly looking at the angle and geometry as well as lighting and subject matter while framing, he also understood so well that each moment, each instant was exactly what its name implies. So fleeting. Gone before you realize it’s there. Which is why the best camera truly is the one you have with you. Yes, it is better to have proper equipment for any job at hand, but yes, it is better to get a glimpse of the moment with some equipment than to not get that glimpse at all.

Another fact of note. Something I find very important and greatly overlooked in almost all aspects of life today. A large sum of Cartier-Bresson’s work was shot with a Leica camera and 50mm lens. One Camera. One lens. No zoom. At the time it probably wasn’t the top of the line and I imagine it wasn’t loaded with features and modes. He shot with it until it became second nature, an extension of himself. He knew what the shot would look like before he clicked the shutter. He wasn’t held back by equipment envy or the incessant urge to get something newer, older or better. He shot with what he had until it was second nature. If more people did this today we would see better pictures from people not going broke buying toys. We joke and call new equipment “toys” but it is actually fitting. We play with them until something better comes along. He used his equipment until he didn’t have to think anymore, just work. He was brilliant. Studied. Dedicated. All to his craft and not his gear.

“If I’m feeling outraged, grief, disbelief, frustration, sympathy, that gets channeled through me and into my pictures and hopefully transmitted to the viewer.”

                                                                                    ~James Nachtwey
Image by James Nachtwey
Image by James Nachtwey
In the end, isn’t this our goal as artists, as craftsmen? Whether we write, paint, sculpt or photograph, isn’t the desired result a transfer of emotion? I love Nachtwey’s work because it breaks my heart every time I look at it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I wish I could walk with him a day and see what he sees while he tells me what he feels. Then, see his images at the end of that day so I could see how it all comes together. His work is brilliant, painful, honest and sincere. You can not look at his images without feeling something. This is the end result we all seek. If you can do it with an iPhone – great. I’d wager then, that you could do it even better with a proper camera once you got to know it.
For now I intend to shoot with my x20 until I no longer have to think, but simply act.
Image by Stephen Abel with Fujifilm x20
Image by Stephen Abel
with Fujifilm x20

An Open Apology to My Kids

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This morning did not go as planned. Like many mornings where school and work are involved.

For that reason I reprimanded my kids over simple things that should have been addressed, but weren’t as important as I acted like in the moment. My oldest took the brunt of it, as my expectations of her are higher due to her age.

When she stood to her feet as she climbed out of the car to walk into school, I could see in her face that she was dejected. Understandably, as this morning followed closely on the heels of a stern but necessary conversation yesterday about the tidiness, or lack thereof, of their bedrooms. While both cases were warranted I still found myself with my eyes low as she walked in to school, thinking how I should have, and could have, handled it differently. I kept thinking that I should have allowed her to start her day on a more positive note and addressed any concerns I had when we got home this evening. I often stress to my kids that they need to quit being hung up on what is fair and what isn’t. That life isn’t fair. But in this case I wasn’t fair. If anything or anyone should be fair, it should be me.

The specifics of the conversation aren’t important. Neither, honestly, is the context. In retrospect, the only thing I find important is the way I handled it. Incorrectly, to be more specific. I didn’t yell or scream. I didn’t use profanity. I didn’t physically harm anyone. More importantly, I wasn’t compassionate. I wasn’t understanding. I didn’t hold or hug or physically reassure anyone.

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Before she walked away I knew I should do something to ease things a bit, so in a quick, underwhelming effort I told her to have I good day, that I love her very much and that it was going to be a good Monday. She choked back tears and said simply, ” I hope so,” as she turned away. Her sullen walk to the door, head down, lips curled into a frown; her walk that said I’m in a hurry to get where I’m going but I’d rather be hiding under a blanket in my bed, hurt me to watch.

Would that I could blame it on the moment. It was the heat of the moment. I was caught up in the moment. The moment was fleeting. Before I’d realized what I said the moment had passed. I wish I could blame it on the moment, but I can’t.

Why?

Life is a series of moments.

Nothing more, nothing less. To blame it on the moment would be a fallacy. The moment had nothing to do with it. Sure I was emotional in the moment, but she was too wasn’t she? Were there not the exact same moments in her morning as there were in mine?  I’m certain they weren’t as pleasant, but I’m equally certain they were the same. How many of her moments could I have handled better? How many times have I done the same to her younger sister?

I spent my ride to work thinking about it.

I have two daughters. They have messy rooms. They fight with each other. They are sometimes irresponsible.

THEY ARE ONLY EIGHT AND ELEVEN.

They also have, in the last few years lost a grandmother they were very close to as well as two great grandmothers. They have seen their parents separate and eventually divorce. They have been put in the middle of arguments between said parents by one of said parents. They have suffered harsh and extensive criticism, even being subjected to a volatile domestic situation before being removed from it. Their trust has been betrayed. They have fought depression, self doubt and fickle friendships. They have spent days wondering why they don’t have more friends and why none of their friends can understand or relate to the “grown up problems” they have to face.

THROUGH IT ALL THEY SPEND MOST WAKING MOMENTS WITH A SMILE ON THEIR FACE, ARE LOVING TO ME, EACH OTHER AND EVERYONE IN GENERAL, STILL ARE TRUSTFUL OF PEOPLE AND STILL MAKE GOOD GRADES.

What more could a parent ask for?

So here it is, an open apology to my children, who very much deserve it.

Dear Jasmine and Alyssa, 

The events of this morning have brought much to light in my own mind. About me and you and us and especially me. I often preach that things aren’t fair and ask, nay, tell you to quit seeking fairness in everything. While I stand behind this as sound advice, I think that you should be able to trust in fairness from me if nowhere else. Given all you have been through and are going through, perhaps my expectations have been a bit too high. I still expect you to clean your rooms. I still expect you to follow the rules. I expect you to be kids. What I need to do, is encourage the last one more.

What I want you to expect, is that I will be gentler, more understanding and reassuring. I will go the extra mile and carry more weight so that your load can be lighter. I will remember that though we are a team, we are a team composed of one adult and two kids. I will endeavor to allow you to be kids more often and have “grown up problems” less. I will effort to let my frustrations with myself wash off onto you as little as possible.

I would like for you both to know that I always try my best, some days it just falls short. Though never your fault there are certain things I really struggle with. The predominant one being that I see myself so much in both of you. While I believe wholeheartedly that I have a lot to offer and teach you, there are ways I don’t want you to be like me as well. When I see these occur, my natural reaction is to try and right the ship immediately – often through attempting to guide you or correct your behavior rather than to actually be an example for you to follow and have the patience to let you do so. I’m not a perfect dad. I have a lot of patience, but once it runs out, it stays out for a little while. I’m working on that. 

Just know that I LOVE YOU BOTH VERY MUCH. I only hope as you grow that you continue to be happy, trust people and that you find a belief in yourselves like I have in you now. I know you both have the ability to be strong, amazing women, each in your own right. You just can’t let the world, or anyone, step on your hopes along the way.

I will always encourage you to have big dreams and chase them, whatever they may be. Life is too short to let your aspirations wither in a corner while you “grow up” and “get a life”. 

You two continue to be the wonderful kids you already are. Keep dreaming. Keep growing. Keep trying. I will effort to be a dad who deserves everything you may never know you have given me.

With all my love,

Dad

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I told her it was going to be a good Monday.

As I sit here typing, choking back tears, I think, ” I hope so.”

Children, I say to you, go forth and be awesome. Don’t let anyone hold you back.

Not even me.

 

 

小洞不补,大洞吃苦

 A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend.

~Chinese Proverb

It’s been too long.

It has been a while since I have written a blog as I was focused on getting my book finished and self published. Which I have done. Now I will look to find a traditional agent and/or publisher. And I will write another book. Then another. And meanwhile, I will resume my blog.

I have decided to depart from the format I was using previously for this post. Thoughts and opinions on the change are welcome and invited.

With no further adieu:

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From Wikipedia: December was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar until a monthless winter period was divided between January and February. It gets its name from the Latin word “decem” which means tenth. However, when the Romans added January and February to the calendar, it became the twelfth month. The name remained the same however.

That definition is to the point, and describes the history of the word. Yet it does not touch the emotion of the month in the slightest.

For most it is a time of joy. Some find comfort and joy in the sentiment of the season as well as the ritual and spiritual origin of it. Some just enjoy the good tidings to all and dreams of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

I spent many happy seasons, wearing a Santa hat from the 1st through the 31st and spreading joy and cheer, many a 12th month counting down the days until I gave a present to someone particular or got one from them. Mistletoe was an excuse to kiss and a greeting at the door an excuse to hug. I couldn’t wait to find out whose name I drew or who would make it from out of town. December was a joyous time for me. I awaited its arrival, anxiously, for eleven months a year.

Fast forward a few years.  Endure the following, annually, in December:

  • My mother passed away, abruptly, decades ahead of her time on December 22nd in the early hours of the morning
  • A little more than one year later, my wife of 10+ years, mother of two children, decided that I wasn’t good enough and neither was our life (in the end this was a good thing for the kids and I, but a hard hit to my esteem initially and a hurdle the kids still struggle to overcome) and declared this to me on the weekend following Christmas
  • Two years after that, in December,  my grandmother passed away (after a long and full life, but  I was very close to her
  • And then we arrive at this year, no traumatic events save the fact that in July I filed for temporary emergency custody and any extra money I would’ve had has gone to the attorney or taking care of the kids (since no help has been given in the way of groceries, clothing or money since I got the custody order) and if I do not receive a bonus this year, it is likely to be the smallest Christmas my children have ever seen. While winning temporary custody is no doubt worth every sacrifice I have had or will have to make, it has not alleviated any of the weight I have come to carry in this last month of the year.

I have come to realize that the root of December, decem, is tied to another word that describes my emotions this time of year. I think for a reason. Some believe in the power of numbers, I believe in the power of words. Some believe there are underlying connections we never see unless we look carefully and I would agree. Let’s examine the word I speak of now:

from www.merriam-webster.com

dec·i·mate

transitive verb ˈde-sə-ˌmāt

: to severely damage or destroy a large part of (something)

Origin of DECIMATE
Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus – tenth, from decem ten
First Known Use: 1660

This is what December has done to me, or at least how it feels. So much of my heart has broken off, shriveled and died at this time of year. It feels like more, but a tenth at a time is probably about right.

Add in the latin root ber, which means to carry, as in bear, berth or burden, and you have described this month for me. Destroy a tenth of me and then ask me to carry that pain, along with any other burdens, and that aptly describes the twelfth month for me, at least in recent memory.

On the bright side I see light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that next December will be a good one. I continue to believe that every year. So perhaps, the spirit of the season that I have felt was dying these many years in fact lives on and stays strong. I know I will struggle this December as I did the last but I have high hopes for the next one. And I will give you well wishes if I run into you. Remember though that I am not every man and someone who doesn’t wish you well or seems to have great weight upon them this time of year may actually have a broken heart or burdens much heavier than mine. Wish them well. No matter how they respond, it might be the brightest moment of their day.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy winter solstice. What ever you choose to celebrate; may it be a happier, merrier and an all around better December than the last. That’s what I keep hoping for so that’s my hope for others as well.

 

5 Things I Enjoy About The T.V. Show ‘Elementary’

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I have always enjoyed reading Holmes. Probably for the same reasons most people do: his quirky personality, his extreme intellect, and mostly, his unbelievable ability to notice minuscule details which always prove to be vital. Also like everyone, I enjoy Watson and his representation of the rest of us as a contrast to Holmes. He acts as a buffer between Holmes and the rest of the world, giving us as much insight into Holmes’ as he can.

I have never viewed any of the old black and white renditions, mostly because,well, I just haven’t. This doesn’t matter much because lately there have been an abundance of new viewing options that I have seen. The best (IMO) being Sherlock on BBC, the Robert Downey Jr. movies, and now, Elementary. Each with its own take on the classic characters and each offering its own spin on setting and story.

Easily my favorite of the three, Sherlock, seems to be the most true to the canon even though it is in a modern day setting. The characters are well cast, the stories well written and they play out much like you expect: Holmes sees things you didn’t and puts it together before you do. Sometimes a twist, sometimes not as much. All in all a job well done.  This series has, by far, my favorite portrayal of Moriarty. Possibly one of the best portrayals of a villain, period.

The Warner Brothers  films, starring Robert Downey Jr., attempted to show him as more of a man’s man. They brought out the more physical, often overlooked side of  Holmes. It was loaded with action, well cast and acted. The villains did not appeal to me as much in this version, in fact, my adoration of these films hangs strictly on three things: The casting of Holmes and Watson (excellent dialogue between them throughout) , The more physical side of Holmes and the sets. Both films are decent renditions and reside on my shelf.

Finally, the latest arrival to the party, Elementary. My grievances with this incarnation are few. While one would think that being an American, I would prefer it set here, it is not so. In the end I have accepted where it takes place, and come to like it, but it would not have been my first choice.

I won’t spoil the story for those who have yet to watch, I will just say that I am not a fan of how they chose to portray Moriarty. My opinion may sway through future episodes, but so far, it has been a let down. While it was a ‘twist,’ it wasn’t one that I enjoyed.

Lastly, the show periodically feels a bit more ‘cookie cutter’ than I would prefer. Sometimes it seems more like a standard crime drama than a Holmes mystery. The writers manage to avoid this in most cases, but occasionally it bleeds through. The saving grace in these moments is the casting of Holmes and Watson.

In this case the good definitely outweighs the bad and I watch every episode. I truly enjoy the show. The characters and story (most of the time) allow me to not take notice of how much like other shows in its genre it actually is. Perhaps it’s good acting, perhaps it’s just because it’s Holmes.

Perhaps these things help as well:

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1. Lucy Liu

No-brainer here. If you have ever read my blog or held a conversation with me for more that two minutes, you know I am infatuated with her. Initially I was skeptical though. Maybe it was chauvinist of me, but I wanted Watson to be a man. He always has been. He should be still…wait…I like what they are doing here. Her character has depth and adds a new dynamic to the story and Holmes’ character too. I’m swayed. Which makes me happy, because I can quit being a pig and like one of my favorite actresses as one of my favorite characters. Mark Saks – 1, Me – 0.

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2. Johnny Lee Miller

Obviously, the role of Sherlock is the most vital role in any representation. Normally I would say that his looks weren’t important, but being opposite such an attractive co-star, he had to be. And he is.  Another good choice by Mark. He is quirky yet confident, confident yet troubled, troubled yet effective. He sells me on the depth of the character who is trying to seem shallow. I was not familiar with him or his body of work, but can now say that I look forward to seeing him more.

3. New York City

If it had to be set in the U.S.A. I don’t know what other city it could have been. New York City works on so many levels. The city itself is a sexy wonderful backdrop for any tale. It has a reputation for having some seedy areas and temperamental people, which add validity to many of Holmes’ and Watson’s experiences there. The fact that they can walk most places and cab it everywhere else makes it feel more natural when the characters are traveling together so much. It is necessarily big, but accessible enough to still feel right.

4. The details.

The writers provide enough details for Holmes to see, without the CSI ability to ‘enhance’. He is able to find pieces of the puzzle that add to, instead of compete with or replace what is found by forensics teams. He tracks everything in his mind as well as visually on a wall until something falls in place. Until something ‘clicks.’ Sometimes it is evidence that does it, sometimes dialogue. Either way the details and they way they are presented help the show not blend in as much as it could with very popular, similarly themed shows that are lead by less historic main characters. I expect more out of this show because of its namesake and I feel that most weeks it delivers.

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5. The relationship between Holmes and Watson.

Just like the novels, stories, other series and movies before it, this show hinges on the dynamic between its two leading characters. Say what you will, but Holmes without Watson would have been missing something. The writers of Elementary have put hard work into humanizing a character who seems so beyond us. They gave him a troubled past which haunts him into the present. They gave him demons to fight off and memories he wants to forget. They also gave him a redefined Watson to help him cope and move forward. Luckily for viewers, she has problems of her own and is still struggling to find her path when they meet. This new take on an old story of two less than obvious, yet completely obviously, kindred spirits we know and love adds a fresh twist to the show. Many will disagree, but I like it.

If you can watch this show on its own merits and compare it to Sherlock as little as possible you will find it has a lot to offer. It is the same as much as it has to be, different as much as it needs to be and as appealing as I hoped it would be.