Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Public figures’ Category

Remembering Henry Aaron

with 6 comments

Last Friday morning, baseball Hall of Fame great Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away in his sleep. Aaron was many things in his lifetime: a phenomenal player, a good husband, a wonderful father, a great friend, and possibly most of all a humanitarian.

I never met Aaron, personally, but I remember going to one of his last games when I was quite young. This was in 1976. Aaron was 42 years old and a designated hitter for my hometown Milwaukee Brewers team, and it was cold, a bit rainy, and windy…when Aaron hit the ball over the fence, no one was sure if he had hit it fair or foul. To me, where I was, it looked fair. (No instant replay in the stadiums, back then.) But the umpire called it foul (no way to challenge that, back then, either), and that was that.

Aaron already had 755 home runs at that point, making him at that time the greatest home-run hitter in Major League Baseball history. But that near-miss home run is what sticks with me, mostly because Aaron didn’t complain. He didn’t yell at the umpire. He may have shaken his head a little, but he went back into the batter’s box and finished up his at-bat. (I think he struck out.)

Put simply, Henry Aaron was a class act.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote an article today about a service held in Atlanta earlier today, where many different people spoke. (Some spoke by Zoom, some by recorded messages, and a few in person, as is proper during a pandemic.) Here’s one of the salient quotes from that article from Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk:

“He will always be known as our home run king,” McGuirk said. “For our organization, Hank was much more than those stats, much more than the greatest ballplayer of all time. He helped guide our organization ever since his playing days ended.

“Doing things the right way was one of his mantras. The saying on the front of today’s program, which is also on one of the pillars here, reads, ‘What you do with your life and how you do it, is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.’”

I think that quote sums up what most of us are trying to understand in this lifetime. Think about it a little bit: “What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.” This, in one pithy saying, gets to the heart of the matter: we are who we are because of what we’ve learned, because of the people we’ve come into contact with, and because of our own efforts (the phrase “have helped make you who you are” is key in that).

Henry Aaron was 86, and lived a good, long, honorable life. He was a tremendous player — even in 1976, his final year as a player, it was obvious that everyone on the field had great respect for him. The stats can’t possibly show his value and worth as a human being, though…only those who knew him, and of his philanthropic nature, and of his wish to lift others up as he, himself, had been lifted along the way, can fully know that.

But what I know is this: We lost a wonderful person when Henry Aaron passed away.

We truly did.

Now, all we can do is remember his mantra (as stated, above, by McGuirk) and live every day the best way we can. (Or, to go back to my blog about the John Wesley saying, “Do all the good you can, for as long as you can, for as many you can.” That’s my paraphrase, but I hope it works.)

And if you’re able, do one small thing every day to better someone else’s life…just ’cause it’s the right thing to do. I think Henry Aaron would approve of that — and I, myself, definitely do.

Johnny Weir, Individuality, and You

with 2 comments

Recently, I’ve been watching the American version of “Dancing with the Stars.” I had stopped watching regularly a few years ago (though I would catch it if I happened to be near a TV and someone else was watching), mostly because all the storylines seemed the same.

But not this year.

Nope. This year had my favorite figure skater, Johnny Weir, partnered with a new pro, Britt Stewart (who’s Black, dignified, and quite talented). And the two of them danced like nobody’s business; they were a dynamic, engaging, and energetic pair that did more interesting things in ten weeks than I’d seen in the previous five or six years on the show.

Now, why do you think that was?

(I know I’ve been asking myself this question, anyway, ever since Johnny and his partner Britt were eliminated earlier this week.)

My view is this: Johnny Weir knows who he is, as an individual. And Britt obviously knows who she is, too. They both understood each other, down to the ground, and because of that, were able to work together and create some truly amazing dance routines. (Johnny and Britt’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, for example, was simply stunning. And that’s only one of the fine dances the two of them created together.)

“But Barb,” you say. “What’s this about being an individual, and how does that apply to me?”

It’s simple. The better you know yourself, the better work you can do. And Johnny and Britt showed that, over and over again, during this season on “Dancing with the Stars.”

You know, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, that I am a firm believer in being your authentic self. I think it wastes time and energy that most of us don’t have to keep up a front. I also think the better you know yourself, the easier it is to get things done.

If you use Johnny and Britt as examples — and I think you should — you can extrapolate a little. For example, the two of them, together, were able to bring a certain style and verve into the ballroom. Johnny is more of an extrovert when he performs, while Britt has a quiet dignity to her. The two, together, were more than the sum of their parts.

And it all started because Britt apparently decided, when meeting Johnny for the first time, to use that uniqueness of his — not to mention hers (though she probably takes that for granted, as she can’t see herself from the outside anymore than any of the rest of us) — to create movement and magic.

Granted, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Johnny’s been a figure skater since the age of twelve. He knows about movement. He studied some dance (though I think it was ballet) because that helped him express himself through movement on the ice.

And knowing about movement helped him a great deal, I think. It meant Britt did not have to teach him from Ground Zero.

However, it also may have hampered him a bit, because ballet — and the associated movements of that dance — are nothing like either ballroom dance or Latin dance. They’re not even that close to “freestyle” contemporary dance.

What that meant for Johnny was, he had to unlearn at the same time as he learned. And that’s tough to do.

How do I know this? Well, Johnny once said, about learning a new technique for one of his jumps, that he was “old.” At the age of twenty-five or twenty-six, he said this. (Chronologically, of course, that was just silly. But with the wear and tear of figure skating, I’m sure he did feel old.) And he admitted, at the time, it was not easy to unlearn the previous technique.

(I probably should say “jettison,” but learning is not like that. It stays with you. It can’t truly be jettisoned. You can only use it, or not, or get past it, or not. But I digress.)

So, Britt taught Johnny, as well as helped him correct various issues, and worked with him and his uniqueness from the get-go. (Maybe all of the pro dancers do this, but it seems to me as a longtime viewer of “Dancing with the Stars” that it was far more pronounced in Johnny’s case.)

Being an individual, see, has its charms as well as its quirks. You can do more, if you know exactly who you are. (Again, I think it has something to do with refusing to waste your energy on non-essentials.) Add in the fact that when you’re doing more, you are giving your all to it rather than holding some back to “save face.” And top it off with a good, healthy dose of self-skepticism, for that matter, as that will keep you from getting too arrogant to be borne. (That last has nothing to do with Johnny Weir or his partner, Britt, but it certainly should be factored in by the rest of us.)

Anyway, the points of this blog are simple:

  1. Be yourself. Be unique.
  2. Don’t put on fronts, as they waste your time and energy.

That’s the way to “win” at life, you know. Because that’s the way you will be remembered: as the unique, powerful individual you are, who touched many lives and did many things and knew many people and tried your level best.

Anything less than that just isn’t worth bothering about.

MLB Pitcher Tyler Skaggs Dies at 27

leave a comment »

I didn’t know anything about major league baseball pitcher Tyler Skaggs, before yesterday.

Then I found out that Skaggs had died at the young age of 27. No one’s sure why. He went to bed in a hotel room in Texas, as his team, the Los Angeles Angels, was about to play the Texas Rangers. And he never woke up. No foul play was suspected.

Skaggs’ death reminded me right away of another tragic and early death in major league baseball. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002 at the age of 32 after going to bed in his hotel room while traveling with his team. No one suspected foul play there, either — and indeed, there was none. In Kile’s case, he had undiagnosed atherosclerosis — and it was so bad, it caused him to have what amounted to a massive heart attack. (Blood could not get to the heart properly, I think was the cause — but this happened in 2002, so don’t quote me.)

Skaggs’ death, as awful as it was, appears to have been a natural one.

Now, athletes — major league athletes in particular — tend to get the best possible medical care. They know so much more about how their bodies work, and why they do this, that, and the other; they know all sorts of things about fast-twitch reflexes, and they can repair ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments) to fix blown-out knees, and they can do Tommy John surgery to fix blown-out arms.

But with all that the doctors know, there’s still a great deal they don’t know.

My father calls this “the practice of medicine.” (As in, they’re just practicing.) And I suppose that’s as good a way to look at it as any, when it comes to sudden and unexpected deaths.

You may be wondering why this bothers me so much.

Years ago, when I was a child, I remember being at a Brewers game at Milwaukee County Stadium (the old stadium). New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had just died in a plane crash, and there was a moment of silence for him. (Munson was a pilot, and was in the air in his own plane on his day off, if memory serves.)

I hated the Yankees. They were the Brewers biggest nemesis in the whole wide world. But I realized that day that Munson, as well as being a fantastic player, was a fellow human being, who left behind a family and friends and colleagues.

That, too, went through my mind when I heard about Skaggs’ passing.

Skaggs sounds like he was a very good man, in addition to being a good pitcher. He’d been involved in the California Strong campaign along with Brewers Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, and Mike Moustakas; they all raised money for the victims of the California wildfires.

So, as in the deaths of Munson and Kile, Skaggs’ death has left big holes in the hearts of his wife and children; his extended family; his friends; and his colleagues.

All I can do is send a prayer or two, and hope it’ll do some good somehow.

If you’re so inclined, that may be a good idea also.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 2, 2019 at 4:44 am

A Belated Appreciation of Chester Bennington

leave a comment »

Last week, the first anniversary of singer Chester Bennington’s death passed. Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park, and had also sung in several other groups, including taking over as lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots after Scott Weiland. And I wanted to mark that anniversary at the time, but I wasn’t sure what to say.

See, Bennington fought life-long depression. He also fought against drug addiction, had been raped as a child, and had many different — and difficult — things crop up in his life. But he was not defined by his depression, or his addiction, or any of the other things; instead, he found a way to bring out his pain and share it — and in so doing, help assuage the pain of others.

Musicians do this, mind. Whether they’re singers or instrumentalists, musicians use what they’ve lived through to inform their art.

Chester Bennington did this better than any other singers in this era.

Mind, that wasn’t all Bennington brought to the table. He sang all sorts of different styles. His range was solid, his lung power was impressive, and he wasn’t afraid to do anything the music called for, including scream at the top of his lungs. He was a gifted performer, and made the audience feel with immediacy anything he wanted them to feel.

While I wish very much that Bennington was still here with us, what he left behind as a singer and musician was beautiful. And it should be celebrated that he lived, and created his art, and found excellent musicians and vocalists to work with (most especially Mike Shinoda), and did his best with what sounds like a remarkably difficult set of circumstances.

————–

Before I go, here are my five favorite Linkin Park songs (with Chester Bennington leads):

1) “The Little Things Give You Away”

2) “Pushing Me Away”

3) “Breaking the Habit”

4) “One More Light”

5) “One Step Closer”

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 24, 2018 at 2:38 am

Why I Don’t Care About Josh Hader’s Teenage Tweets

leave a comment »

As most of you know, I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. I love baseball, enjoy the Brewers, watch their games, sometimes write blogs about them, and have been happy to keep the faith over many years of mostly non-winning, non-viable teams.

This year, the Brewers have a better team than they’ve had in years. After last year’s shockingly good season (where they missed the playoffs by only one game), they remain in the playoff hunt. And they placed five players, a team record, in the All-Star Game: Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Two of them, Hader and Jeffress, are relief pitchers; two, Cain and Yelich, are outfielders; the last one, Aguilar, is a first baseman.

But rather than being happy the Brewers placed five players on the All-Star team (a nice accolade to have), Brewers fans woke up yesterday to a very sour story, that of Josh Hader’s teenage Tweets. Hader’s Twitter account (now locked down to “private” mode) was public, and went all the way back to 2010 or 2011…and some of the Tweets from that time period were pretty raw. Hader bragged about the size of his, er, male anatomy; he quoted raunchy song lyrics without attribution; he said he couldn’t stand gay people; he even made an odd KKK Tweet. (This latter made no sense, but Hader has been an elite-level pitcher since high school. I want to believe he maybe meant this as a reference to three strikeouts in a game he’d pitched, though who knows?) Worst of all, to my mind, was the disregard he showed, whether it was to women, LGBT people, minorities, or anyone else nonwhite and not an elite athlete like himself.

(Note that I am not linking to the screen-capped Tweets, mostly because this is a family blog. (I also believe you can find them elsewhere without too much difficulty.) They aren’t pleasant reading. I felt like washing my mind out with soap after reading them. But back to the blog.)

The thing is, Hader was seventeen at the time of these Tweets. I do not condone what he said; I, myself, would not have said anything remotely like that at seventeen, and I was considered an elite-level musician at the time, with multiple scholarship offers. (Not exactly the same thing as Hader, and certainly without the earning potential. But close enough.)

Still. He was seventeen. And one would hope he’s learned better by now, as he’s now twenty-four.

His teammates have said what’s expected. (Jesus Aguilar in particular came out and said Hader’s not racist, and that everyone should know it.) They know Hader better than anyone else. They do not believe he’s a bigot. Nor do they believe he’s misogynistic.

Look. We all have said something we shouldn’t, that hurts us. (I know I have.) It may not be as bad as this, no. But it is something we do because we haven’t fully matured yet, or maybe we just don’t realize the impact our words have on others yet.

Or, perhaps, we all make mistakes, so we can learn from them? Or try to learn from them?

In this day and age, when mistakes can linger for years and years–as Hader’s did, waiting to bite him on the butt in 2018–shouldn’t we learn how to forgive and forget? Or at least forgive?

Also, keep this in mind: Hader is not making public policy. He is not in charge of the federal government, or the state government, or even the local government…he is a baseball player. A pitcher.

In other words, Hader’s words have only as much effect on us as we allow. And if his teammates are all right with him, and providing he continues to work on himself and mature and become a better person (as we all must, if we want to get something good out of this life at all), why should we care about his teenage Tweets?

So, that’s my position. I do not care about Hader’s Tweets from 2011. But I do care about how he acts right now. And my hope is that he will be able to become a force for good, and use his celebrity and money to good effect.

In that way, he can transform this obnoxious episode from his past into something better. And then, maybe, his old Tweets can become a blessing…that is the best-case scenario.

Women Co-Authors are “Disappeared” by NPR, and the World Shrugs

leave a comment »

Folks, I am really upset right now.

NPR recently interviewed two authors, Silka-Maria Weineck and Stefan Syzmanski, for their radio show “All Things Considered.” The reason? Well, it’s World Cup season (championship soccer, as the US would call it; championship football, as everyone else does), and Weineck and Szymanski wrote a book called It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Vice Versa): On the History, Emotion, and Ideology Behind One of the Internet’s Most Ferocious Debates. The book sounds fascinating, and I would’ve loved to hear what Ms. Weineck had to say…except that NPR host Anders Kelto scrubbed all of her interview, and then compounded his error by attributing their co-written book to Szymanski alone.

That is what prompted the following letter to NPR’s ombudsman.

You see, as a female author myself, I know that if I had written a book with someone, and then only my co-author was named after I’d done an interview also, I’d be going ballistic right now.

Ms. Weineck isn’t too happy, either. (Take a look at this article if you don’t believe me.) And I don’t blame her at all.

Anyway, here you go with my letter to NPR:

I am deeply unhappy that in a recent on-air segment for “All Things Considered” host Anders Kelto did not name both authors of the book IT’S FOOTBALL, NOT SOCCER (AND VICE VERSA), instead only naming the male co-author. Refusing to name the female co-author was wrong and shameful, and further compounding his error by refusing to initially name her in the printed piece on your website (which was later corrected) is extremely disheartening.

I look to NPR for balanced coverage. And if there are two authors of a book, the only way to get balanced coverage is to talk about — and to — both co-authors, unless one is not available. In this case, the female co-author, Ms. Silke-Maria Weineck, was indeed available, and had spoken to the on-air host for thirty minutes by her account (I read it at the Chronicle.com, BTW), and yet none of her quotes were used. So your host, Mr. Kelto, was willing to talk with Ms. Weineck, but apparently not willing to use any of her quotes. Or even properly attribute the book to both her and her co-author, Mr. Szymanski, for that matter.

I am extremely frustrated that Ms. Weineck’s voice was silenced. But I’m even more frustrated, as a female author myself, that another female author was marginalized and “disappeared” in this way.

I believe NPR should rectify this problem immediately by talking with Ms. Weineck and working out some way of compensating her for this egregious error.

And please, please, for the love of little green apples, never make this type of mistake ever again. Because it is sickening.

Now, to the men in the audience:

I know most of you would never behave as Mr. Kelto did. (Most especially, the male authors wouldn’t.) But this behavior still must needs be challenged, as it shows the problem we female authors still run into from time to time. (I can’t believe this is the only time NPR has done something like this, either, and they’re supposedly the “liberal bastion” of radio — or at least, by their own charter, are supposed to promote equality and fairness. And what could be more fair than properly attributing a co-written book to both authors?)

(Mind, if you only think about how much you would hate it, if only the female co-author were named instead of you, maybe you’ll understand…such is my hope.)

The reason I am writing this blog, though, is very simple. You men need to realize that the women in your life, especially the creative women, are often discounted or dismissed. (It’s always wrong, too. A creative person is a creative person is a creative person, whether the person is male, female, trans, queer, intersex, or Martian.)

Without realizing that simple fact, the good men out there cannot work against this type of abhorrent behavior. As I do hope you will do, because it needs doing.

And if you, too, want to write to the ombudsman and complain that the female co-author’s name should not have been “disappeared” from the broadcast? Here’s a link.

Former Brewers Coach, Broadcaster Davey Nelson dies at 73

leave a comment »

Earlier today, I found out that former Brewers coach and broadcaster Davey Nelson died on Sunday at age 73. And that made me feel awful.

Why?

Well, even though I never met Davey Nelson in person — and yes, he was always “Davey,” with the -y ending — he was an extremely positive person who lit up the room anywhere he went. And he could seemingly find the silver lining even to the worst game, even if it was just “no one got injured today.”

(That’s my quote, not his. Davey would’ve undoubtedly put it a much different way.)

There are some people who transcend sports because they have huge hearts and make a positive difference in as many ways as possible. Davey Nelson was one of those people without a shadow of a doubt. Adam McCalvy’s article (Brewers beat writer for MLB.com) quoted Brewers Chief Operations Officer Rick Schlesinger as saying, “Davey took every opportunity to turn a casual introduction into a lifelong relationship, and his legacy will live on in the positive impact he had on the lives of so many people. Davey’s love of life and commitment to helping those in need were second to none, and we are so grateful for the time that we had with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of those who loved him.”

I wish I had met Davey Nelson in person, mind. He was known for encouraging people. And even when he must’ve suffered setbacks — as I seem to recall him saying once, during a rain delay years ago, that he wished he could’ve played longer (though he was happy with what he did while he was there — see his stats, and you’ll know why) — he found a way to make you feel better.

That was one of his main talents.

Player after player have made statements on Twitter and elsewhere stating how influential, positive, and just plain good a person Davey Nelson was. And how much he will be missed.

As have broadcasters. And well-known sportswriters.

Still, what I will remember about Davey Nelson was his very strong belief that people matter. Not just in baseball, either…people, period.

That’s why he got involved with Open Arms for Children in South Africa. And was friends with the director of that organization for over twenty-five years. And met numerous children, whom he inspired…and who helped to inspire him as well.

And at the end of his life, as Adam McCalvy pointed out in his article, Davey’s TV and baseball family stepped up.

That, too, is a wonderful tribute, though I’m sure all those folks don’t see it that way now — and may not, ever.

All I know is, I will miss Davey Nelson. He was a very good man. He made other people around him feel better, and encouraged them to be their best selves.

There aren’t many people like that in this world.

Mourning Ursula LeGuin

with 3 comments

Earlier this week, well-known science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. LeGuin died at age 88. While this was a very long and well-honored life, most of the SF&F community is in some degree of mourning due to how influential LeGuin was on the entire field of SF&F.

Most people who have read any SF&F at all are aware of her best works, which include the Earthsea Trilogy, THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, THE DISPOSSESSED, and the gender-bending THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, that deals with a planet where traditional gender roles do not apply and people can become male or female as the situation arises due to a type of estrus. But LeGuin also wrote poetry, short stories (in and out of SF&F), and any number of other things…and in some ways, she was primed from birth to become a writer.

Now, why do I say that? Well, her mother was a writer. Her father was an anthropologist. And she came from a well-read, well-educated household, with three siblings; all of them were expected from a very early age to reason and explain their reasoning to their intelligent parents, along with reading widely and being able to research nearly any subject.

All of these things — reading widely, being able to research, and being able to reason and better yet, explain your own reasoning — are important to writing. If you don’t read widely, you’re only rarely going to be able to produce anything of worth; if you can’t research new things, you can’t possibly explain them; if you can’t explain your reasoning, you can’t tell a story, because the story would ramble, meander, and perhaps wander off on tangents as it would not be properly set up in the first place.

LeGuin could and did all of those things. But her style, even from the first, was unusual. She wrote in a way that was both moving but also passive; she let the words speak precisely because of how they were stated, and let the reader interpolate a lot as to how people felt about whatever was going on in whatever story.

For example, in my favorite of all her works, THE LATHE OF HEAVEN, George Orr has a gift: He can dream true, and thus change his world through his dreams. But he doesn’t know what to do with it, and is afraid of it, so he refuses to use it.

Enter a corrupt psychiatrist, William Haber, who believes he can control Orr’s gifts. (Orr has no choice to see the man, either, as Orr was abusing drugs to keep himself from dreaming true and thus altering the world.) And over time, Orr loses nearly everything — his world, his girlfriend, even his psyche — until he realizes he must stand up to Haber once and for all.

The problem is, by this time, Haber has figured out how Orr’s managing to do what Orr’s done. And Haber’s version of a utopia is far worse than anything Orr has dreamed up, all unwittingly…so almost all of the pulse is internal, dealing with how Orr feels (which I like quite a bit), rather than external, though there is some of the latter (in particular, what will this horrible guy Haber do with the power Orr refuses to use?)

THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is the most deeply romantic novel LeGuin ever wrote. The romance between Orr and Heather Lelache (later Andrews, as in different worlds she married, or didn’t, thus changing her last name) is halting but real. Orr is enriched by his love for her, and she is given an unusual type of dignity along with the ability to realize that being soft does not make you weak by her love for him. And thus, they become better, wiser, kinder people…that is, until Haber interferes with the relationship. (Which for those who have read this, and are going, “Barb, you are misstating this,” is exactly what Haber does. Haber doesn’t like Heather at all. And he’s just as happy once Heather’s out of the picture, because Haber realizes instinctively that Heather is the main reason Orr will oppose him, due to Orr’s innate passivity.)

See, what I think LeGuin was saying is that we all deserve to find love. Whether we’re more passive than not, whether we’ve made mistakes (as both Orr and Heather have definitely done more than a little of that), whether we’ve done everything right all the time is immaterial. What matters is that we do our best, and stand up for what’s right, even when it’s difficult — and even when the best solution seems to be passive, rather than active, everything will find a way to work itself out over time if you just keep making your best effort.

That’s why I enjoyed THE LATHE OF HEAVEN so very, very much. I could see myself in Heather, for sure. I even saw a little of myself in George Orr, even though I’ve never been considered a passive sort of person…still, having gifts that you don’t always feel comfortable in using is a theme most people recognize instinctively, as we all have talents we’re sometimes afraid to use for various reasons. (Granted, not everyone wants to admit this. But it is the verimost truth.)

So if LeGuin had only written that one, very fine novel, I’d have remembered her and have mourned her craftsmanship and humanity, both of which shone through as a writer.

But as I said, she wrote many other things. And in nearly everything she ever wrote, I found value and worth…which is all you can ask of any writer, really.

And for those who want entertainment and just that in their stories, well, LeGuin could do that, too. Witness the Earthsea trilogy, TEHANU — the fourth book of Earthsea, and THE OTHER WIND, the fifth book. These are all ripping good reads, with heart and pluck and adventures, and kids of all ages enjoy them to this day.

(To clarify, TEHANU is about an older woman as she finds love, all unlooked for, with the former Archmage, Ged from the first three books. But there’s still a great deal of stuff there that younger kids will like, and the romance is certainly not a graphic one.)

So, here’s to you, Ursula LeGuin. I’m glad you lived. I’m glad you left behind excellent novels and stories and essays and poetry. And I hope your family — which includes, effectively, the vast majority of the SF&F community — will find comfort in your memory.

Thoughts After Watching the Glen Campbell Documentary “I’ll Be Me”

leave a comment »

Folks, I just watched the documentary on Glen Campbell’s life, I’ll Be Me. And I need to talk about this, because what Glen Campbell is going through is important.

You see, Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 75.

But rather than quietly go into a nursing home, he, his family, and his doctors agreed that Campbell’s music was still with him. So they decided on one, final tour…with I’ll Be Me recording every step of that tour, along with the decline in Campbell’s memories and mentation.

Bluntly, to do something like this with what remains of your mind and talent is extraordinary. It shows fearlessness, a bit of humility, and maybe even compassion for the self, while it also showcases glimpses of still-brilliant musicianship and excellent vocal control.

Campbell in some senses was very fortunate, you see. He didn’t lose his vocal quality in his age — at least, he didn’t lose much. (Some smoothness, maybe. But it’s recognizably the same voice and he still has much the same range in I’ll Be Me.) He was always an excellent musician, and knew exactly how to sing his songs…and that’s still there, up until his final song, “I’m Not Going to Miss You.”

As a musician myself, I don’t know if I could do what Campbell did. I don’t think I could’ve walked on stage and not known if I could play my clarinet or my saxophone as well as I wanted. (Much less what the clarinet or saxophone even was until I started playing.) I don’t think I could’ve risked going on stage and not knowing what the songs were, or losing track of the music as I went…I think it would’ve been too difficult to even contemplate.

Yet Campbell could still play his guitar at times with a fire and passion that was astonishing.

The last thing that went for him was his music. It was imprinted on his brain and soul in such a way that while he started to lose language, he could still sing — and sing with feeling.

His youngest three children joined him on that tour, as did his wife. They all did their best to support their father, and helped to create some magical memories for not only themselves and their family, but for the concertgoers as well.

I’ll Be Me is both a heartwarming story of courage and redemption along with extraordinary musicianship, and a heartbreaking story as Campbell starts to fumble and lose control of his final gift.

I was very moved by I’ll Be Me. And I hope that this movie, now that it’s been shown on CNN, will somehow help to spur research into Alzheimer’s disease.

Because not everyone will be as lucky as Glen Campbell, and still be able to make beautiful music into the twilight of his life, nor will they be as fortunate to have an understanding and empathetic family around them.

We need to find a cure for this terrible disease. So our musicians, like Glen Campbell, can keep doing what they love until the day they die — rather than be placed in an extended-care memory facility (as Campbell apparently now is, no doubt because that’s where he needs to be).

Bruce Jenner, Gender Identity, and You

with one comment

Last night, Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and discussed his lifelong struggles with gender identity and self-acceptance. He said this will be the last time he speaks as Bruce (with the subtext that this also will possibly be the last time he accepts the male pronoun), and said that inside, he’s always felt like “She” (that’s the only name he has for his female self).

Or in other words, Bruce Jenner is a transgendered individual. Inside, where it matters, Jenner is female. And apparently has known it for a long time, despite being married three times and siring six children.

What Jenner discussed most was his difficulty in accepting himself. Early on, he knew he wasn’t the same as other boys. Instead, he identified more with the girls. But he pushed that aside, became a well-known athlete, and did his best to celebrate his masculinity instead.

Because that’s who he was on the outside.

But who he was on the inside was far different. And he had to really struggle to figure himself out.

Being who you are is a powerful thing, you see. But first, you have to accept yourself for who you are before you can embrace it. Being in the public eye, as Bruce Jenner has been for decades, is likely to make that struggle for self-acceptance much more difficult. And so he intimated to Diane Sawyer.

All of this is relevant, topical, and may actually help to bring about a dialogue about sexual identity, gender issues, and how people come in all gender varieties as well as various shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

However, what I’m already seeing online is a bit worrisome. It seems that some commentators are focused on the more salacious aspects of Bruce Jenner’s lifelong struggle — his three marriages and his six children. They again are only seeing the outward aspect of Jenner, or what he’s shown to date as his outward aspect, anyway…and are discounting the person who talked to Diane Sawyer entirely.

And that completely misses the point.

Whatever name Bruce Jenner decides to use from here on out, whatever gender he identifies with, the person inside — the soul, if you will — is exactly the same.

That’s what Jenner was trying to tell Diane Sawyer.

Now, how can you learn from Bruce Jenner’s struggles?

Somehow, some way, you need to learn to accept yourself. Warts and all, you are a unique individual, and you bring something to the table that no one else has. Your experiences matter, you matter, and you need to remember that.

We all have our differences inside, you see. We all struggle to become our authentic selves, though most don’t have to do it in the public eye like  Jenner.

So if you feel like no one understands you, and no one ever will, you are not alone. Because most of us — if not every single last one of us — has thought that at least once in our lives.

Remember, the most important thing is that you understand yourself.

“But Barb,” you protest. “People aren’t even giving me a chance! They think I am something I’m not, because I look different than I am…remember Leelah Alcorn?”

Yes, I remember Leelah.

My point is that you have to accept yourself, whoever and whatever you are, and be confident in that self. It takes time to do this. (It took me until I was well into my thirties to accept all aspects of myself, for example.) But you should do your best to persevere, because if you give yourself time, you will find at least a few people who like and understand you for who you are.

Because you also will like and understand them for who they are.

Remember, we’ve all faced many of the same struggles in trying to form some idea of who we are. Though having a gender identity that does not match your outward physical self certainly complicates things, it isn’t the only reason that you can be confused.

(If it were, psychiatrists would have far less work to do. But I digress.)

So if you have someone in your life who has something different about him or her — whether it’s religion, politics, race, creed, gender identity or anything else — what I want you to do is simple:

Embrace that person’s diversity.

Don’t shun it.

Anything less is, quite frankly, uncivilized.