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Suzy Says

Feb. 25th, 2013


This is one hell of a movie -- and anyone who's had to deal with death and final things, or for that matter severe loss followed by some degree of recovery, will find reality in it. My own experience is ongoing and I won't discuss it here. I just want to point out the notes of truth that rang quietly true for me in this film, a great film in the European tradition of realist cinema.

An old couple, Georges and Anne, are retired music teachers living in an ordinary apartment in Paris; no window on the street, no stainless steel kitchen with concrete counters, no fancy clothes. It's all a bit shabby, which is exactly right. I'm in my early seventies now, and can attest to the fact that even at this age, I'm not much interested in repainting, refurbishing, or re-anything the house we live in. Paying for pleasures like movies, meals out, concerts, and tickets to travel a bit is much more significant than a new rug. If it's broken and can't be fixed with duct tape, then replacement is in order (as near as can be, which is usually pretty far); otherwise, f**k it. Nobody in this house (or Georges and Anne's apartment) is trying, at this stage, to look richer, more up-to-date, or younger than they are.

Anne's stroke pushes the couple into an inevitable descent; things change. First one and then the other literally turns off the music that has been their life. "Arrete le disque" she tells him, and later he turns off another recording on his own. The music no longer applies. It's become irrelevant to the intense immediacy of their inexorably contracting lives.

People visit -- their adult daughter complaining about money and marriage, her English husband, a student whose concert career has taken off -- but the gulf gaping between the couple and everyone else is unbridgeable. The daughter protests that Georges doesn't answer the phone when she ca;;s because she's concerned about them. He says her concern is useless to him; what he isn't harsh enough to say is that it's just an extra burden. He's a man in his mid-eighties exhausted by lifting and moving and feeding and changing his invalid wife. Or he's resting and trying to recharge enough to go on doing the same thing again tomorrow (he has promised he won't send her away to die, but hiring in help is problematic in its own way, and he gives it up). The demands that visitors bring with them -- "Reassure me, explain to me, listen to what's going on in my life and care about it, help me, comfort me, make me feel better about how awful you're feeling" -- are too intrusive to meet.

It's easier to turn off the phone and concentrate on the work, and on rest. I wish I didn't recognize this effect, but I do. You mean to contact friends and maintain the network of social support that all the experts insist is crucial, but the energy just isn't there. You put it off. If they do come they don't stay long, and you don't mind when they go. There's not much to say. Even admiration for how well you're "coping" means little, because it's admiration for an appearance of coping, not for the reality of the on-going balancing act, the struggle down the slippery slope, which they don't see and you don't wish them to see and get distressed by.

Life contracts. The long decline of old age is hard, hard work. People outside it are too scared of death in the abstract to willingly recognize how hard real dying is. When you're inside, there's scarcely time -- or energy -- to be scared. Anne isn't scared; she wants to die.

There are no pets in this couple's household. Pets are a comfort if you're used to their companionship, but they're also work, and there's already too much of that. Georges captures a pigeon that gets in through an open window. He sits holding it in the blanket he used to catch it; just holding it, being close to a life that makes no demands. It just is. He lets it go again: no demands either way.

Everything becomes work, work that's undone overnight. Routines help to rationalize it all into something manageable -- routines that have to be revised, of course, each time new ground is lost. Georges does the work, he offers all the patience and tenderness he can, and when it's finally too much for him, he smothers his bedridden, demented wife. Well, what are his other options? He made a promise he can't carry on fulfilling. His action is sudden, desperate, and determined, not a plan, or a service delivered by others. There are no others here. He does what he must, and then lays her out on her bed in a dress with flowers in her hands. He seals up the door to the bedroom to contain the smell, lies down on the couch where he's been sleeping, and waits to die.

And then he hears her washing dishes in the kitchen, and she's there, in her ordinary clothes, ordinary self, ordinary tasks, and it's time, she says; he can shed his slippers and put on his shoes now. He follows her out of the apartment (she reminds him to take his coat), obeying without a word, his eyes wide like a child's, because despite what he did she's come back for him. Of course she has. Love doesn't abandon; love doesn't need to understand. It just accepts.

The daughter enters the apartment that's been opened and emptied of its dead. It's brighter now, spiffed up a bit by cleaners. She sits down on a chair and stares into space. This familiar home is now totally empty of the people she knew as her parents. She has missed everything, shut out by love taxed to the utmost by the hard job of dying. There was no place for her. As Georges told her, "You have your life; go live it." Now the parents' departure is complete, absolute, and here she is left in the world without them.

Love is faithful; love is selfish, selfless, fiercely focused, intensely practical, and absorbed utterly by final events, not a scrap left behind. Memory is irrelevant to the newly dead, and incomplete and unreliable for the survivors. Over is over and gone is gone. The only comfort is what love did, and nobody even knows that -- except we, the viewers, the audience, who have been allowed to see.

So what, in these circumstances, does it mean to say that "everyone dies alone"? That true love is "undying"? I'm seventy-three, my husband is seventy-eight, and this movie makes me think about these things. I'll be thinking for a while. It isn't a movie at this point. It's an experience. It stays with me.

Feb. 6th, 2013

09:49 am - credit where it's due

Did the moms do it? On tv last night (horrifying film, rather circular discussion) about brain damage and football: one ex-player spoke up for the NFL, on the one hand agreeing that it's going to be very tough to "tame" a game prized for its violence to some point of "acceptable damage" to players, and on the other pointing out that the NFL has been moving pretty damn rapidly to ameliorate the problem (cutting practice hours way back, for example), though he didn't mention that it's been at least 10 yrs since stories and reports on the dangers of the game began showing up in the media (someone else *did* mention it).

I wonder how much of the sudden rush to create a "fix" is due to the pressure of moms waking up to the enormity of the risks and essentially pulling their boys out of the player-pool? Fathers who played as young men are less likely, IMO, to give up the oh-so-American dream of coaching their kids into becoming football stars and heroes (I discussed this several times with my gym coach, re his eight-year-old son -- who is still on a "football team" because his dad dismisses the issue). But the moms --

Here's where TV has actually did its job. It was almost impossible to watch one brain-damaged young man struggling to fasten his his pants while his mother covered her face and wept. There were clips of ex-players speaking, or trying to, about what has happened to them. I'm picturing mothers all over the country watching this story and turning and laying down the law to their families: "Our boys are not going to get their brains bashed up for a game, and if somebody persuades them otherwise there won't be enough courts in the country to handle the lawsuits."

Now that "the facts are known". A doc on the program said he was on a team that did post-mortems on young players or ex-players and stopped after the first 20; 18 of those twenty showed significant brain damage, so what was the point of continuing?

The NFL has apparently stopped pretending that the outcry is all hokum, whining, and un-American feminizing of men (our widespread devotion to destructive machismo was mentioned as a major obstacle to change), and has reached the tipping point, FINALLY (similarity to the anti-smoking fight was pointed out). Apparently they are scrambling hard to "save football" (and good luck with that) by actually responding with some urgency to the facts, instead of denying them. It was noted that some coaches and administrative bodies have taken strong action on their own and with alacrity and suitable alarm, and kudos to them for their humanity and common sense.

But me, I think it was the moms. And I think we'll wait a long time before we see them get credit for it. So I'm re-opening this long-closed blog to give them credit here.

Oct. 13th, 2012

12:20 am - News, and a sign-off

I've more or less abandoned this blog, as some readers have reminded me, and thought a word of explanation would be better than just a blank.

Health issues, including the issue of fighting to carve creative time out of all the time filled by accumulated demands: there just isn't enough to go around. That's mainly because I've used this space to ruminate on various subjects as society and psychology churned them to the surface, and I have this old habit of editing my text until it satisfies my standards -- which takes, of course, time.

So I signed onto Facebook, very reluctantly, and found that the quick comment (with hardly any editing) favored by that format suits me -- and my time situation -- much better, and encourages me not to dawdle about dwelling on, you know, stuff. The more I used FB, the less I used DW, and the time has come to acknowledge, I guess, that I've decisively shifted from the latter to the former.

Of course if FB continues to screw around with their page design, I might change my mind again -- you never know.

For the present, though, the best place to find me is on my FB page; I hope to hear from some of my DW friends there.

Over -- for the time being, at any rate -- and out.

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Jun. 11th, 2012

10:31 pm - Madagascar 4?

Just read a very positive review of the latest "Madagascar" animated film, and then stumbled upon this, at my favorite browse-field, BBC new:

What? Penguins *aren't* just cute "little people"? Like, big people don't do ALL the "shocking" behaviors described in the poor Edwardian note-taker's descriptions? Sure we do (well, not all of us all of the time, but you know what I mean . . . ). How not? The description is of sexual behavior that's apparently pretty widespread in the animal kingdom, and we, with all our high claims to spirituality and a moral sense, are still living in animal bodies run largely by our more primitive brain systems while we're busy in our neocortex, thinking.

The stuff that surprises people really surprises me, sometimes.

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May. 29th, 2012

11:42 pm - business as usual

News, unfortunately, from the Land of Milk, Honey, and Remorseless, Ongoing Oppression:

Made in the USA, where so many of the craziest settler groups emigrated from, and where the war technology has been sold to the Israelis and the bulldozers have been made. I keep trying to get some distance from this ongoing atrocity, but I can't. Western nations are kicking Syrian diplomats out to protest the latest civilian massacre there; has anyone kicked out Israeli diplomats to protest the ongoing ethnic cleansing (with murders) of the Palestinian population of the land that only a fanatic could consider "holy" after all its horror, crime, and misery perpetrated over the past, what, seventy years, and now perpetuated without the slightest compunction by the Israeli government?

I know, it's a lost cause. But I doubt it's ever going to be a forgotten one.

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May. 20th, 2012

02:24 pm - weather that's weird in a good way

Damnedest thing -- we've actually had a Spring here in central N.M., which used to sport a reasonably chilly February - April and then get blown all to Hell by hot West winds during May. It would be Arizona dust and flying debris until the wind left, and the heat set in for the summer.

This year, the winds came (dirty but not hot) in March, and April has been cool and beautiful, with some *rain*, even! Like a NE Springtime, though much drier. It's just beginning to heat up in the afternoons now, very unlike seasons past.

I'm wondering if people in other parts of the country are seeing odd, but in a positive sense rather than "OMG we just had a tornado here in Minneapolis" odd.

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May. 13th, 2012

02:12 am - Sanity

Don't despair -- just because the US is caught in a time-warp of religious and economic reactionary back-pedaling, that doesn't mean that everybody else is as (apparently) stupid and delusional as so many Americans keep demonstrating (via votes and the popularity of Fox Lies) that they are. There do seem to be some grown-up around, and they are not sitting on their hands (or closing their eyes and praying instead of thinking of actions to take to try to ameliorate our planetary problems):

Of course the northern tier are not perfect; but they don't seem to be standing around with their fingers in their ears chanting "I can't hear you, I can't year you" either.

Very refreshing.

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May. 5th, 2012

11:11 pm - Read the future?

Found it -- probably long after many others, but so what? Look in particular at the item, well down the page, on "The Jobless Economy", which we are spiraling into while lying wildly to each other and ourselves about what's happening:

You won't easily find it (so far as I can tell) in the mainstream news B.S. flows, but it looks as if efforts to create the successor to end-stage capitalism are already well in train. Even as it appears that corporate anti-humanism is about to take over the world completely, there are signs that the world is developing its own direction{s} to which corporate greed is, at least for the moment, simply extraneous -- outworn detritus that will be (really? Can it be?) shucked like the outworn booster rockets on a really long space-shot that needs something other than rockets to get anywhere at all.

Here's another (possible) portent:

My sister participates in a co-op farm near Rhinebeck; and rumors surface of other such efforts. While politicians lag and stumble, some folks are just getting on with making a more cooperative world in which "job" may acquire a very different meaning -- and lose some of its present crushing, dehumanizing weight.

One can dream . . .

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May. 3rd, 2012

11:41 pm - the latest

More on this ongoing Israeli atrocity of bullying, outright theft, and deliberate destruction:

Wonder if this story will make it to US news outlets? Any bets?

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Apr. 24th, 2012

01:44 am - Yog-Sothoth seeks sympathetic companion . . .

Too delightful for words -- really, we have some comic geniuses among us, and they don't live in Hollywood and make stupid movies about lunkheads getting married/divorced/and/or drunk:

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