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Why Robin Williams Death Affects Us All So Personally


I came upon a Facebook status from a friend the night the awful news was announced, getting on a bit of a high horse at the fact that he had read more posts about Robin Williams death in the past few hours than he had read about the dying children of Gaza, and how wrong that is.

This kind of shit is annoying for a variety of reasons that would distract from the point of this post. But I will say that people who sit in their comfy apartments in safe North American cities a million miles away from war posting on Facebook about how awful war is, who then feel the need to call out everyone else for caring about the suicide of an entertainer who spent his entire career making people feel better – really just need to shutthefuckup and do some reflecting on their faux Facebook compassion.

Another friend pointed out how it comes off as sociopathic to not understand why so many people who grew up watching Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin, Patch Adams, Flubber etc could feel emotionally connected to an actor enough to be truly sad that they took their own life. And it kind of is.

Of course we feel sad about it. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about what’s happening on the other side of the world, just because we’re not blabbing about it making judgements from Facebook all day. I’m well aware that the wars happening in Israel, Syria and Iraq are terrifying and devastating  – note, it’s not JUST happening in Gaza – Facebook evangelists. I realize there is also a horribly fucked up issue with unarmed African American kids being killed by cops in the States. Yes, the world is a scary place right now and all these things deserve media attention.

But we generally post on our personal Facebook about things we feel a direct connection to. And thankfully, most of us up in Canada are not personally connected to those wars. On the other hand, we all grew up watching Robin Williams.

We all imagined him as our own dad in so many of those movies. We all imagined him as our greatest teacher in Dead Poets Society. As the psychiatrist we could only dream of being lucky enough to find in Good Will Hunting. As the Genie who granted our wishes in Aladdin.

A person we felt connected to, who touched our lives directly through his characters, is gone, and it leaves an overwhelmingly empty feeling.

Some people always feel the need to act high and mighty when others care if a celebrity dies, and in some ways I understand that “You didn’t even know them, they’re just people too..” mentality. But there are some entertainers who literally are responsible for saving our lives through their art – and Robin Williams was definitely, easily one of those. He wasn’t just another celebrity. He was the kind of talent the world so rarely sees, and likely will never experience again. The idea of a one of a kind talent always seemed like such bullshit to me, but looking back on the versatility of his work makes it easy to see he deserved such a label.

Could anyone else in the world have pulled off Mrs. Doubtfire? Doubtful.


I also want to mention something I read on this website:

We were saddened to hear of the suspected suicide of Robin Williams, our hearts go out to his family and friends who should be left to grieve in peace.

Suicide is characterised here in the UK, as it is in the US and for almost every nation except China, by a three, four or even five to one ratio of male to female deaths.  In 2012, the last date for which we have figures, 77% of all suicides were male.  It is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK.   Given the disproportionate number of male suicides, in every age band, we hope that the media will explore the relevance of gender rather than just focusing and speculating on the minutiae of Robin’s life in examining this issue.

This might be one of the most important things I’ve read since his passing. It struck me when a friend mentioned feeling hopeless in the face of his death – because if even he can’t make it – what chance does that give for the rest of us who struggle with depression? When she first mentioned this, I feared that his death might push her back into that dark place, but almost immediately I thought to myself not to worry too much, because she’s not male, so she will have a significantly better chance of bouncing back if it does return. That sounds crass, and as someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts as a preteen I do not downplay the fact that both men and women reach that awful end point.

But the stats are overwhelming. And I think it’s something that really does need to be discussed because the fact is, men are obviously at a much higher risk of actually sinking that low and not seeing another way out.

And why is that?

That is a big conversation that really needs to happen.

There is research that needs to be done. There is a stigma around depression and being depressed that seems to be much more taboo in male culture. It’s like admitting you are a Beta male instead of an Alpha, and sadly there is still a lot of shame around that – and there shouldn’t be. Because it makes them more afraid to seek help. More likely to self medicate with booze and drugs. More likely to hide the way they feel. More likely to take their depression out in self destructive ways. More likely to bottle up and explode.

The fact is, when it comes to depression and suicide, the gender issue needs to be a part of the conversation. Too many good men are gone because they are embarrassed to seek help. They think it’s not masculine to admit something is wrong, to talk with a doctor or therapist about their feelings. So they succumb to this other option when they can no longer handle those feelings. Of course, depression is not a gender specific disease – but there is clearly a problem that’s skewing the suicide stats so far in their direction. I think it might have something to do with their different brain chemistry, and even more to do with the cultural standards men are supposed to live up to – and the pressure they feel to be beacons of strength despite their innate vulnerability.

RIP Robin. Thanks for being my psychologist when I was a severely depressed and angry 12 year old enduring daily bullying that made my life a living hell. Not sure I would have made it out of grade school alive were it not for the wisdom and compassion you showed Will Hunting. Until that scene, I really did believe it was my fault.

For anyone who somehow doubts it, movies save lives. That is why we all care so much about someone whose life we couldn’t save in return.


My Favourite Bands Lego-ized


This awesome project comes from the brilliant mind of Adly Syairi Ramly – go follow him on Twitter!

He’s created these for many, many bands, but find below a collection of the bands I love most from this project, made via little lego pieces. It’s always inspiring to see people find new creative ways to show their love for music (and nostalgic toys).

I’m hoping he will make versions of Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Fleetwood Mac, Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.

If these were for sale in stores, I’d buy them.

















Kawehi – Heart Shaped Box (Cover)

song of the week!

This might be the best cover I’ve ever heard. Forget what I said about not liking the electronic singer/songwriter trend. If it means they are capable of reinterpretations as beautiful and impressive as this, I’m all for it.

If you’re gonna cover a very famous song, make sure it sounds as new and creative as she makes this Nirvana mega hit.


Today’s Quote – Live Deliberately

Henry David Thoreau

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived. 


Lena Dunham on the Lack of Female Show Runners


I thought my love for Lena couldn’t grow any stronger, but this entire conversation with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on The BS Report had me thinking up what it would actually take for me to meet her and become her best friend. If you are one of those people who think she is Hannah, please watch, and learn how smart and well spoken she really is.

It’s an hour long conversation, and I loved some of what she said so much that I wanted to write it out for my own sake, and figured it would also be a good thing to share.


Lena: It can’t be denied that there is, in most industries – with the exception of nursing and quilting and hair – a bias towards men. But I also think – and this is the same thing I think about female directors – that a lot of the traits that are instilled in women from a  young age like positivity, equanimity, making people feel good all the time – people think or are afraid that that is at odds with being a director or a show runner or a person who is in a position of authority. But the fact is – Jenni and I rule the Girls set with love – it’s run from an emotional, connected place – and it still happens. There is room for all kinds. There is no one personality type that has the skill to manage the goings on of a television show.

There’s also this really frustrating thing where networks kinda go – we already have our women’s show – i’m sure i’d be willing to bet that most networks that already have a show aimed towards women running say – we don’t necessarily have room for a couple more of those. Networks and studios still seem to be almost pathologically incapable of understanding that women make up 52% of the planet and, therefore, programming that has women at its center is not a fad or a trend, it’s a necessary part of media. 

People don’t always recognize that if a young woman is looking at the landscape of Hollywood – what they see are almost only challenges. And so they might say ‘That’s not where I wanna go – I wanna go where I feel like there’s a space for me.’ It’s a specific personality who goes ‘I see no room for me, and I’m going for it.’

That’s one of the things I like so much about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In philosophy – the idea that women have to create space for other women and women who rise to a position of power can’t be complacent in trying to bring other women along with them. It’s our responsibility to bolster each other and our responsibility to guide each other and mentor each other and be present for each other, because otherwise it can be such a crazy battle.”


The host also brought up something I STRONGLY believe to be true not just in great TV, but in anything creative – the more voices involved – the more the quality recedes – the act of trying to please and/or represent a larger group of people just waters everything down. The strongest voice usually stands alone, because it is one singular, highly defined POV – its point comes across clean without being tainted by the opinions of others. You can express a relatable emotion clearly when it’s coming from your own unique POV.

Here’s what they said:

Bill: It’s either one person or two people that make a show. One of the reasons network TV sucks, is, for the most part – it’s this by consensus committee of creativity instead of just saying – there’s Vince Gilligan, and we’re trusting him.

Lena: It’s a really amazing thing when networks can have the bravery to just like, put their faith in something. That’s one of the great skills of HBO, is just like, saying we’re gonna trust the vision even when it doesn’t totally make sense to us, and so even our failures will be noble failures cause we’re going down with the ship of an artist who has an idea.”

As soon as a bunch of others start pushing their idea into a specific artists POV – something concrete and powerful turns to mush (hence, most sitcoms/network shows are shitty but Breaking Bad and Girls fucking rule).

The biggest blogs are run by one person alone – Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet,  – collective blogs rarely achieve the same success because you aren’t really getting to know/connect with someone. It’s a bunch of people, so it rarely provides the intimate insight people crave when consuming. The best films are written, directed and either produced or starring the same person – Spike Jonze, Spike Lee, Woody Allen (eep), Tina Fey, Wes Anderson, etc etc. The more roles the artist can fill, the better the piece will be (most of the time, and only if they’re capable of and desiring to fill those various shoes). Musically, my favourite albums are the ones produced by the musician in their basement on a 4 track, alone (see Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska). Focused, clear, untainted work – a look inside the mind of that person or the character they created – with no one else getting in the way of the process and fucking it up.

The whole conversation is so great. I highly recommend watching it in its entirety, but you can also go right to the part where they discuss the above, at around 50 minutes in: