Currently working on larger projects... the blog is currently in suspended animation, or a holding pattern, if you will.
If you feel as though you don’t belong to this world, chances are high that the world actually needs you.
In the wake of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides this week, I am compelled to reach out with support.
When you lose the will to live, what brings you back? How do you surf the waves of despair without getting pulled under – and how do you find the surface again when you’ve been submerged by a riptide?
It’s hard to talk about suicide directly. But here is one checklist method to help you stay on this side of the void and move past the initial impulse. It is by no means complete, but there’s merit to its simplicity.
1. Reach out to three people: call, text, message. The number is more or less arbitrary but its better to have at least three people on speed dial. A hotline can be one of those numbers. This is your safety net.
What if your phone is dead and you have no access to a computer? Lock into your breath and remain still. Try focusing on the feel and temperature of the air going into your nose.
Try noticing where the breath goes: your belly, your chest, your throat. Count even just to "one" and then repeat. This is a mindfulness exercise that helps bring your attention to the body and away from the workings of the mind.
It is unlikely that someone who is seriously suicidal will seek support in-person. For one thing, they’re already feeling done with the world. For another, it’s a very vulnerable situation to put yourself in. Many people are not equipped to aide in suicide prevention, and many people misunderstand suicidal ideation or intent to be selfish or a sign of weakness. It often takes training and/or a first-hand experience to be able to empathize on that level.
2. Remain very still. You cannot take a harmful action if you’re not moving. Again, lock into your breath.
3. Go through lists in your head:
• Who would I hurt unintentionally? (For instance: Are there kids in your life who would be crushed by your absence? Who are the innocent?)
• What do I need to finish before I die? (If you’re project-oriented or an artist, especially)
• What do I need right now: food (it’s likely), sleep (of course), water, warmth?
If you feel as though you don’t belong to this world, chances are high that the world actually needs you. So please hold onto whatever remaining will to live you have in the moment.
US: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
call or online chat
UK: Samaritans: 116123
Advice from attempt survivors:
This morning, someone was going to jump off the bridge on Main Street into the Genesee River. Or maybe they were going to wade into the river. I don’t know the details.
When I arrived, police officers were taking down their yellow tape. I was coming up South from the library, Margret Atwood books in my bag. I saw two cop cars on the other side of the bridge blocking traffic in a mirror image to the two in front of me. A large police wagon was making a k-turn in the other direction.
There weren’t too many people around. I walked up to an Indian man leaning on a railing and asked what’d happened. He seemed to have been there a while.
Someone was under the bridge, he said.
In the water? I asked.
No. They were saying they were going to. But they didn’t.
So they were rescued?
Yeah, rescued. But you know, it’s a shame. Life is too precious. Tomorrow isn’t something we can miss.
He went on. I was reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s character in City Lights. The moment he tried to convince a very drunk, wealthy man not to throw himself into the river:
“Tomorrow, the birds will sing”
Chaplin says — in a title card because it’s a silent film.
The man and I chatted more, pausing to help direct a guy to the traffic court: me giving the old directions, the man giving the updated address. I’d been out of town for some time. I’m still getting oriented.
The man invited me into his bodega for a coffee. We chatted more.
No one ever feels they have enough. He says. No billionaire, no one.
Enough of what? I asked.
Exactly! He said. Enough of what?
His phone rang. I looked around the shelves at items from my childhood: single-serving cereal boxes of Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks, Sour Patch Kids and Sour Punch Straws.
I said my thanks and left for the bus station. A scene had played out on the bus before I got there. Someone had been in distress. I was confused and mixing the scene I'd left with the scene I’d entered. When I managed to clarify the difference, a new conversation started.
The bus drove past the bodega. I spoke with a woman who shared that she had seen a teenage girl rescued from a bridge two streets up from Main years ago. Said the girl had looked deeply troubled, discarded her clothes and was hanging from the side before the police could bring her up and wrap her in blankets.
Said she, herself, was a case manager now, but had worked for over twenty years at treatment centers and halfway homes as a counselor. Said it was a burnout job, counseling, and that you have to know yourself enough to know how to distance yourself from the people you’re helping.
She pulled the string to request her stop. The bus driver said to a passenger wearing an oxygen tank that it wasn't sunny outside; it was a stormy sunshine. I looked out the window and saw what she saw. And I wondered what sort of weather tomorrow would bring.
May 29th, Rochester NY:
Tonight while biking, I came across a man lying on the sidewalk, unconscious and not responsive, but breathing.
I don’t know how long he’d been lying there with his bike underneath him like a kind of pillow (obviously not a comfortable one).
My phone was dead. The battery goes pretty fast these days. I had to wave down three cars before I could get someone to stop and listen. Being turned away like that, I mean eye contact as you’re calling for help, then a shake of the head and gunning the engine / turning their head on discomfort and pretending they can’t hear you through their open windows — when you’re desperate, desperate for help, and not sure if that person is the link between saving someone’s life or not — is terrifying... devastating. How many more people would get scared and drive off? How long would it be before someone would respond? I was getting frantic fast, but I’m also generally an impatient person.
The unconscious man was black, and I wonder how much that played a part in how quickly people drove away when they saw the scene, or whether it was because of how out-of-a-horror film I looked with my face stuck in terror. Maybe they were in a hurry? Or thought they’d be in harm’s way if they took the chance.
A man did stop, got out of his car and handed me his phone. He appeared to be Hispanic. He didn’t sound surprised when I told him others fled when they saw us. He left before the first responders came, had somewhere to get to, he said. He’d served his role, I suppose. I stayed as the firefighters tried to rouse the man on the ground, and monitored as the paramedics strapped him to a gurney and loaded him into an ambulance. I wanted to be sure he was treated humanely.
Once the sirens were blaring around us, people started appearing out of the woodwork smoking cigarettes and watching — there for the spectacle but not for support, and not when we’d needed them.
And I wonder now how the guy is doing now, how he’s being treated, and whether my actions ultimately made things worse or better for him. Out of immediate danger, maybe, but perhaps into another hell? Or maybe not. I really don’t know.
Here are seven takeaways from the documentary about her life and legacy.
1. Read up on the Constitution
Know your rights so that you can protect yourself and others if and when you encounter any injustice. Though there are different interpretations of the text, the text itself remains the same. If you ever need to defend your rights, you'll need to base your arguments on the Constitution. Start a book club if you're feeling inspired. Ginsburg says herself the one amendment to lock in on is the 14th, which affirms equal protection of the law for U.S. citizens.
2. Don’t despair – act
The Red Scare inspired Ruth to pursue her career as a conduit for positive change. These may be dark political times around the world, but don't let that defeat you; let that be the impetus to take action: be more informed and more active in communities. Challenge everything. Don’t take assumptions for granted… and assume everything is an assumption.
4. Never act in anger
When you react on a strong emotion like anger, as Ginsburg says, you risk defeating yourself in the process. If you're shouting or losing control, you become a spectacle. Instead, take a step back to understand your anger, respect it, and then use it towards a goal— ideally a common goal.
6. Social change takes time, but more-so action
In the 1970s, employers could fire a woman for being pregnant, banks required that a woman’s husband cosign on her credit application, and there was no prosecution fo men who raped their wives. It's not an exhaustive list but it gives an idea of how the social justice landscape has changed for women. Though equity has yet to be reached and progress is hardly a straight-shot. Bear in mind the strides made in civil liberties when confronting today's social and political landscape.
7. Voice your dissent
In recent years, Justice Ginsburg's statements of dissent have been celebrated on social media as something of an event. Perhaps most notably in 2000, she caused a stir by diverting from the usual closing: "I respectfully dissent" and wrote instead: "I dissent" when countering a decision that determined the presidential election in Bush v. Gore. Voicing a disagreement on the Supreme Court level holds power for later cases. She's made dissent so fashionable that she even wears a special collar when announcing them.
As David Cole of the Washington Post puts it: "...dissents are appeals to our better judgment. The majority prevails, but the dissenter’s role is by far the more romantic; it is the work of the individual who, on principle, stands against the crowd." While daily life may not always involve a high court hearing, voicing your disagreement can do more good than staying silent..
In Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” directed by Hiro Murai and choreographed by Sherrie Silver, there is an infinity-mirror of symbolism, Jim Crow imagery, and references to current events such as the Charleston church shooting. In all of it, one moment stands out to encapsulate the meaning driving Glover's narrative.
As fleeting as it may be, the way in which the words “Get down!” are screamed 2:55 minutes into the song captures the juxtaposition of black art & entertainment and the disproportionate violence targeting black people.
Starting in the 1970s disco era, the phrase “get down” in the U.S. referred to partying, dancing, or having sex. Or all three really, but it started with disco, which gave way to hip hop. Since 1971, more than twenty songs have been produced with the title “Get Down,” but that’s not the point.
It’s barely takes a second when “1, 2, 3 – get down!” is sung, but the moment bears significance. It echoes the old slang and parallels it with something darker and closer to the present. The way it’s screamed evokes the urgency that you'd expect to hear if it were called out during a shooting. It would be hard to miss in the visual context of gun violence in the music video.
Donald Glover’s artistry is confronting the strange discrepancy between the enjoyment of black entertainment with the delibitating reality of violence against black people and an overall complacency with systemic injustices that perpetuates a toxic culture in which guns are cherished more than black lives.
Black people make up fifty-one percent of America’s homicide victims despite being only 13 percent of the population. Black men are thirteen times more likely that to be killed by gun violence than white men and are 31 percent of victims in police shootings. In 2017, police killed 1,128 people yet only one officer was charged with a crime.
The Violence Policy Center states in their analysis of homicides in 2015 that “the devastation homicide inflicts on black teens and adults is a national crisis that should be a top priority for policymakers to address. An important part of ending our nation’s gun violence epidemic will involve reducing homicides impacting black men, women, boys, and girls.”
As NPR’s Ridney Camichal puts it: "I think in a lot of ways what Glover is trying to do is really bring our focus and our attention to black violence, black entertainment [and] the way they're juxtaposed in society. They seem to cancel each other out in the greater public consciousness."
With a viral, provocative hit, Glover captivates his audience while confronting them with their own contradictions.
The Violence Policy Center, 2018. Black Homicide Victimization in the United States, An Analysis of 2015 Homicide Data. April. Available at: http://www.vpc.org/studies/blackhomicide18.pdf
Audie Cornish and Monika Evstatieva. 2018. Donald Glover's 'This Is America' Holds Ugly Truths To Be Self-Evident. 7 May. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2018/05/07/609150167/donald-glovers-this-is-america-holds-ugly-truths-to-be-self-evident?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
Gun Violence by the Numbers. 2018. Available at: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#BlackAmericans
Ural Garrett. 2016. Nelson George On Netflix's “The Get Down” & Early Days Of Hip Hop Journalism. 11 August. Available At: hiphopdx.com/news/id.39969/title.nelson-george-on-the-get-down-early-days-of-hip-hop-journalism#
Kaitlyn D'Onofrio. 2018. The Data Is In: Police Disproportionately Killed Black People in 2017. DiversityInc. 3 January. Available at: www.diversityinc.com/news/data-police-disproportionately-killed-black-people-2017
German Lopez. 2017. There are huge racial disparities in how US police use force. Vox. 6 May. www.vox.com/cards/police-brutality-shootings-us/us-police-racism
Rain-sodden crowds meander the streets of Boston, and in the midst of it a festival carries on.
The scene is spread over a patch of concrete underneath office buildings. The place is slammed with shipping containers and a sprinkling of dome structures. Inside each container is an artistic rendering of the theme: fabric painted with bacteria in one, a living room glowing under black lights in another, a science fair project on the neuro-effects of anaesthesia in yet another. If you were looking for a logical narrative thread as you move around the fest, you'd be sorely lost.
So, forget the shipping containers. One of those domes, the Swissnex, is a cinema. Perhaps cinema is a loose term the films showing inside are more like installation art being projected across the entirety of the inner walls in 360 degrees.
Outside the dome sits Fabrice Starzinskas, a jetlagged Frenchman clutching a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the lid in the other.
“Right now, this is not coffee,” he says as he blows on it. “It is some hot mass of liquid. But when it cools, it will be coffee and it will be delicious.”
Starzinskas carried this cup in from a Seven-11 down the street. Surprisingly, neither of the two food trucks on site sells coffee, which seems like a terrible oversight looking at the current state of this man. He travelled across six time zones with his co-filmmaker for this: to show a film he helped make using lines of code.
His fellow artist, Sophie Meillour, is inside the dome where another film is being screened on the ceiling. The audience watches from below, lying on cushions on the floor. It’s a cosy sight underneath what is an ever-changing scene above throughout the day. The experience is largely dictated by the authorship of the films, somewhat by the willingness of the audience, and almost invisibly by an element of flooding on one end of the structure.
Rain had come down hard and now puddles have formed around massive power cords throughout the festival, including this movie-dome.
The whole thing could blow up in an electrical firestorm, Strazinskas says smiling.
While the dome opens up possibilities of exploration for filmmaker, it is not the final destination for Starzinskas and Meillour.
“The dome, it’s a tool for us,” Meillour says. “It’s a tool, but our universe. The drawings with the creative coding for us, is the most important thing. We want to explore a lot of mediums.”
She and Starzinskas are looking into virtual reality and augmented reality along with sculpture and screen-printing to carry their artwork forward. As much as it's about programmed death, the artwork itself is very much alive.
The collaboration was born from a chance meeting at a party two years ago. Sophie was VJing at the time.
“It was actually pretty impressive given the lo-tech aspect of it,” Strazankas says. “After that we didn’t see each other until a festival in Belgrade last April. After one week we knew we wanted to do something.”
So, they set about creating this film within two months before coming to Boston.
The film they've produced is titled, Apoptose. The name means a "programmed cellular death." It’s a natural process that takes place in multi-cellular organisms, and it happens all the time. Every day, roughly 50 to 70 billion cells die in a single human body to maintain development and functioning. Bear in mind, that’s 0.5% of all cells in the body.
"It seems cruel, it seems savage. Something that is not worth it but if you just take a step back you see it is for survival. It’s multi-cellular survival,” Starzinskas says.
Their brainchild is a minimalist abstract work of art created using 360˚ technology. It’s based on Meillour’s drawings, which Starzinskas animated using coding and gaming software.
“I am really inspired by video games that respect the audience and put you into a universe without any kind of clue; you’ve got to figure out the rules by yourself.”
He set about depicting Meillour's drawings in this way – pulling apart the two-dimensional aspects into three-dimensions, and playing with scale.
“As she works in 2D, we realized that the link between drawings was in dimensions. For example, you’ve got an eclipse, but if you pivot it you see it’s actually a nest that’s vertical. It’s just an illusion that it’s an eclipse," he says.
As the illustrations move in three dimensions, the objects themselves alternate between cells and planets. For the audience, it’s not a linear path; there’s no single camera zooming out from a blade of grass to the infinite cosmos and back again. That would be too easy.
“The concept is to play with the scale between cells and insects, cosmic gravity and planets – so, you never know where you are,” Meillour says.
As for an underlying message, Meillour says that there’s no hard-hitting take-away for audiences.
“It’s more of a poetic atmosphere. There’s no engaged message,” Meillour says. “It’s not political. It’s not economic. It’s abstract. It’s to forget the problems of life, the problems of the world. It’s six minutes to escape in our world,” she says.
Apoptose will be showing at the Geneva International Film Festival November 3rd through the 11th. This time in another dome, in another time, at another place.