Sunday, October 25, 2009

Children never were what they were part2

"Even among the Weatern middle class, children are routinely abused, emotionally, physically, and sexually. Children maim other children and shoot and kill their teachers. In the past, children's ignorance of sex and violence helped mark the distinction between children and adults, but now even what we like to regard as "normal" children have free access to information about sex and violence."

I really responded to this sentence in the first page of Duncan's essay. It states a lot about the type of information that is readily available to children in this day and age. In addition to children going through abuse, often these abused children are the ones most at risk for violent tenancies against themselves or others. We may never know what drives an adolescent to take their own life, but we can piece together various events from their own life, as well as their family to somehow find some closure.

Michael Jackson came forth in 1993 and spoke of his own experience with child abuse. This quote is pretty relevant when you think about Jackson's Neverland Ranch and interactions with children. Children as friends, which is also the type of relationships that Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) had when he was writing stories and photographing.

"..adults often construct ideal childhoods for themselves where childhood is viewed through the lens of a warm nostalgic glow. Where one's childhood has involved abuse of deprivation of some kind of childhood as an ideal is oftentimes created with particular strength." p.102 (Bradshaw, 1990)

Jackson began making music when he was 11. He gained stardom almost immediately, thus, giving up the rest of his childhood for fame and success. I do believe this greatly affected Jackson as an adult. He was deprived from social interactions with children his age aside from screaming fans (which are not the same as friends.) After Jackson's death, I watched many hours of interviews with his friends and family. I remember one in particular, where whoever was speaking said that during Jackson's early career, fans would come to the family's house to "hang out".

more later?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Children never were what they were

While reading about the different perspectives on childhood, it reminded me of two photographers. Lewis Hine, who photographed child labor in the 19th century and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and his portraits of Alice Liddell and her sisters.

When I took history of photo a few years back, I wrote a paper on Charles Dodgson's work and the way he portrayed children with an almost adult-like quality. In exchange for him taking their photographs, Dodgson wrote stories for the children, which in Alice Liddel's case, came Through the Looking Glass.

Let me cite myself as a source...

"Much of Lewis Carroll’s photography, as well as his writings include a strong feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps this is a sense of never wanting to grow up, and trying to remain young forever, which is apparent in his children’s stories and poems, as well as his photography. Throughout Carroll’s own childhood, he entertained his classmates by building marionettes and performed conjuring tricks, and continued to have a strong relationship with various child friends later on in life. Carroll had a great eye for the beauty around him and even said that “..For I confess, I do not admire the naked boys in pictures. They always seem… to need clothes: whereas one hardly see why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up!” (Cohen, p.229, paragraph 3). Some may find this oddly creepy coming from a grown man, but Carroll considered these children as his friends, and he knew their parents as well."

After rereading the paper I wrote on Charles Dodgson's work, I mentioned about how he often had children sign the photograph he had taken of them. The signature itself gives life and a time line to the subject of the photo. Though these girls are in more mature poses, the signature reminds the viewer of the actual age of the subject.

This similar effect of children taking adult roles appears in Lewis Hine's work, where he documents the work conditions of children in factories in the 1800s.

I'll come back to this later with more thoughts..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

googgled "post secret suicide"

I went to a PostSecret event a few years ago and was surprised to see that when asked if anyone had ever sent a secret in, I was the only person to raise their hand.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Dispute Between a Man and his Ba

Lo, my name reeks
Lo, more than carrion smell
On summer days of burning sky...

Lo, my name reeks
Lo, more than that of a sturdy child
Who is said to belong to one who rejects him...

To whom shall I speak today?
I am burdened with grief
For lack of an intimate...

Death is before me today
(Like) a sick man's recovery,
Like going outdoors after confinement...

Death is before me today
Like a man's longing to see his home
When he has spent many years in captivity.

I was reading in George Howe Colt's Enigma of Suicide last night and found this poem in the opening page of the chapter on the history of suicide. This is the first recorded reference to suicide more than four thousand years ago in the Middle Kingdom in Egypt.

This leads me to believe that:
-Suicide is more common than we think
-Suicidal thoughts are somewhat natural
-Thoughts of worthlessness, low self esteem, etc. have been occurring for at least four thousand years (possibly longer but this is our earliest record)
-These thoughts are also a lot less unusual than society has formed us to think.
-Questioning death and its boundaries is part of understanding life.

Monday, October 12, 2009

preventing youth suicide: tips for parents and educators

What to Do

Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:

  • Remain calm.
  • Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide.
  • Focus on your concern for their wellbeing and avoid being accusatory.
  • Listen.
  • Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
  • Do not judge.
  • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
  • Remove means for self-harm.
  • Get help: Peers should not agree to keep the suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to the designated school mental health professional or administrator.

The Role of the School in Suicide Prevention

Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a trustful student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff to be familiar with and watchful for risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide. These individuals conduct suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow up counseling and support at school.

suicide methods in prison
Gives info on the top three suicide methods in prison

As unfortunate as it may sound, prisoners must employ a certain degree of creativity when contemplating suicide. Without easy or legal access to drugs, weapons, or willing assistants, inmates often use painful, even tortuous, methods of shuffling off the mortal coil. Correctional agencies, such as the Prison Service of England and Wales, attempt to moderate inmate opportunity to commit suicide by designing cells with high security window grills, moving-plate safe ventilators, rectangular, floor-mounted safe-skirting heater pipes, and fixed resin-clad storage units (Burrows, Brock, Hulley 2003). At many prisons suicide assessments are conducted at intake, and if suicidal tendencies are discovered, the inmate is placed in a specially-supervised ward that is periodically checked by staff no fewer than every 15 minutes. Inmates at these wards are usually only afforded hosptial-like garments and one blanket, and are sometimes placed in restraint chairs if symptoms are severe.

columbine mother speaks out

At the end of the clip, Merideth + Matt are chatting and Merideth goes, "I don't think she'll ever find peace"
and Matt comments about how some people might say "how could you miss the warning signs"

What do you think?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

this is Nate

Nate. My house winter 2003

Eddie & Nate
Summer.. 2003

suicide scene from the Royal Tennebaums

Earlier I posted about some artists/musicians who committed suicide.
One of them was singer/songwriter Elliott Smith.
His song "Needle in the Hay" is used in this scene from the Royal Tennebaums.

Jack Kevorkian aka Dr. Death


He became famous in the 1990s for his "death machine," a device he invented that allowed a user to self-inject an anesthetic and then a lethal dose of potassium chloride. (He called the machine a thanatron, after Thanatos, the figure of death in Greek mythology.) His initial "assisted suicides" led to a 1993 Michigan law that specifically prohibited him from continuing, a law he openly defied in an effort to force the issue into the courts.

For most of the 1990s Kevorkian -- now widely known as "Dr. Death" -- was on TV talk shows, in the news and in and out of court (and jail) for his role in a number of deaths. In September of 1998 he videotaped the death of Thomas Youk; the tape was broadcast by CBS television's 60 Minutes in November, and Kevorkian ended up on trial again, charged with murder and the delivery of a controlled substance. (Having lost his licenses to practice medicine in California and Michigan, Kevorkian's use of potassium chloride was illegal.) He was convicted in April of 1999 and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. Denied parole in 2005, Kevorkian, in failing health, was granted parole at the end of 2006 and released in 2007. Supporters argue that -- idiosyncrasies aside -- Kevorkian is a hero who helped more than 130 terminally ill people end their own lives with dignity. Critics say he is a weirdo who exploited sick and disabled people for his own morbid experiments. Either way, he gets credit for bringing the issue forward into public debate. After his release from prison he settled outside of Detroit, and in 2008 he announced his intention to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kevorkian used to advertise himself as a "death consultant," and he dubbed his field "obitiatry"... He says he first got the nickname "Dr. Death" in 1956, for his research in photographing the eyes of dying patients... Kevorkian used carbon monoxide gas when he was unable to procure potassium chloride... Many of Kevorkian's clients passed away in his 1968 Volkswagen bus, which he had rigged for his equipment.


on a lighter note...

assisted suicide

A few weeks ago when I was thinking about key concepts for the topic of suicide, I thought about assisted suicide, and how often that can be a last resort. I was reading last night in George Howe Colt's The Enigma of Suicide and came across the story of a man who after a heart attack and then a stroke, became paralyzed and left in a vegetative state. This man wanted to end his life. He did not want to lay around in pain and have his family keep his life going. He eventually died of natural causes, and the family felt the burden lifted off their chests. He was free, and out of suffering.

My dad has told us that if he is ever in this sort of condition where he is hanging by a thread and the family's money is going to keep him alive, to pull the plug. He has a (unofficial) signed document that gives permission for him to keep on trucking. I feel this is noble in his sense, thinking about his family's life during this period. And if there is no recovery, why put a burden on the family.

I recently read Chuck Palahniuk's novel Diary, in which the main character's husband attempts suicide by leaving his car running in the garage. His plan fails, and he is left at a vegetative state.

how can we fix this?

DENVER - In the first detailed public remarks by any parent of the two Columbine killers, Dylan Klebold's mother says she had no idea her son was suicidal until she read his journals after the 1999 high school massacre.

What are the warning signs of suicide?
What if there are no warning signs?

From WebMD:

Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:

  • A personal or family history of suicide attempts
  • A family history of suicide attempts or completed suicide
  • A personal or family history of severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia
  • An alcohol or drug problem (substance abuse problem), such as alcoholism

The warning signs of suicide change with age.

  • Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may include preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a relationship.
  • Warning signs of suicide in adults may include alcohol or substance abuse, recent job loss, or divorce.
  • Warning signs of suicide in older adults may include the recent death of a partner or diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.

Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. A suicide attempt-even if the attempt did not harm the person-also must be taken seriously. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no evidence that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.

WebMD also goes more in depth of the warning signs of suicide in children, teens, adults, and older adults.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Last night I started reading "The Enigma of Suicide" by George Howe Colt (1991).
This book gives several in depth stories of the lives of adolescents and the events that led them to their downfall.

I have read two stories so far. The first story tells about a boy named Justin who had been picked on (Sean, this is up your alley) since he began attending school. He had trouble making friends at school, and when he did have friends, he mostly associated with what would be stereotyped as "the outcasts". In high school, Justin got very involved with Dungeons and Dragons (Keelin mentioned in class how video games / role playing games are almost a modern version of this). Justin eventually started having more difficulties in high school, but in English class, he was passionate about his acting role as Julius Caesar. His parents worked a lot (his dad commuted from Manhattan) so often he would be alone with his sister for most of the day and had to cook his own dinner. On Valentines day, many students in his class received carnations from friends. Justin did not receive one. Later that evening he went out to play with a friend in the neighborhood and never came back. His parents and neighbors went looking for him and found him hanging from a tree.

I particularly was interested in Justin's story because the details it gave about the way the school handled the situation. Many students heard on the radio that Justin had died last night. Many did not believe it, and others couldn't care and it almost didn't phase them. The school went into crisis mode, and made counseling available to EVERY student who needed it, seeing them one at a time. Each counselor (the superintendent sent over two additional ones) spoke to every class about Justin's death and answer questions.
I wonder about what my own high school did after the suicide of three students in one month (mid February - early March 2006). After my friend Nate's death, the school should have gone into crisis mode. He was a dropout of the high school, but many students knew him and his group of friends. In fact, one of my friends was, may I say his best friend since elementary school.

I've talked about how mentally unstable I was during this time period. Each February 9th is strange for me. Almost everyone other person I have know that died was old or sick, or it wasn't much of a surprise that they would pass.

*There was an instance when I was 16. I was getting ready for school and heard a helicopter outside my window. Living a mile from the DC border, this usually did not phase me, but something was off about this time. It was particularly close to our house, at one point I started to think the cops were after me..

I went downstairs ready to walk to the bus stop, and my mom was crying. "Tre and his mother died.. They were stabbed in their sleep by a woman who was living with them."
What.... the... fuck... I'm starting to tear up as I recall this sunny spring day getting ready for school.

Tre was a boy in my neighborhood. He was adopted by an older woman. We knew them, what we thought was pretty well. My brother and Tre went to elementary and middle school together. At this time, my brother was 11 and I believe so was Tre. Tre was always a little bit off, but we thought that was just how his energetic personality. After his death, my brother had mentioned something about Tre saying he was hit or abused by his mother's roommate. At this point, we should address looking for warning signs, and often many are more visible by students because most of their time is spent at school.

When my sister and I got to the bus stop, many of the kids there didn't know about what happened. So we told them. There were comments about Tre and his behavior and I just remember being really upset and yelling about how it didn't matter how he acted, but that he was dead, killed by someone who lived with him.

I thought it was important to include this satellite photo from GoogleMaps just to show exactly how close this was to my parent's house in Silver Spring, MD.

for further reading:

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


That you can buy CASKETS on Costco's website???
They sell urns and pet urns too.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

from the final chapter of GONZO

Juan Thompson:
p.412 "I never had any doubt that at some point he was going to commit suicide. That's how he was going to die, baring some strange illness or a car crash or something like that. As long as it was in his control, I knew that he was going to kill himself."

p.413 "When he finally did choose to kill himself, he was very careful not to let on. I think he'd made a decision and he didn't want to put me or anyone in a position of trying to stop him. It would have put a horrible burden on somebody."

Doug Brinkley:
p.416 "Hunter had always talked about suicide, but it was very, very low in his playing deck."

Laila Nabulsi:
p.420 "Hunter started saying good-bye to people differently when they'd visit him or when he talked to them on the phone. I talked to Hunter a week before he died. There was definitely a good-bye about it."

Juan Thompson:
p.423 "He told me to take some family mementos - some silver julep cups that are traditional in Kentucky, engraved with his name and some names of his family members; a clock that had belonged to his mother. He also pointed to the medallion that Oscar Acosta had given him and told me, "When I die, I want you to have this."
He was wearing the emerald pendant that he wore pretty much all the time, and he told me that when he died, if he and Anita were on good terms he wanted her to have the emerald."

p.425 "He very deliberately did not have a final good-bye. He didn't want to let on. It was a really nice afternoon. He was reading the paper and me and Jen were reading, and I was taking a picture of something for Jen, and I think he just decided that that was the moment. I think he'd been hanging in there for a long time and just got tired of it.
I was in the back office when he pulled the trigger. Jennifer and Will were in the living room. I ran into the living room to get Jennifer, and left Will in the living room. We were trying to find the sheriff's phone number. It was terrifying."

Bob Braudis:
p.426 "After Hunter died, Anita found a page from his spiral notebook where Hunter used to start his writing. This was titled "Football season is over." It read, "No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt."
It was dated the last night I was with him, four night prior."

Deborah Fuller:
p.432 "Hunter shooting himself did not surprise me. I always felt that he was in charge of his life and knew that he would be in charge of his death and when he chose that path."

Daniel Johnston "Funeral Home"

I actually like this version of the song a lot better.

If you haven't seen the film The Devil and Daniel Johnston, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Daniel's love of his life married an undertaker.. so that's what this song is about.

maybe watch this one too..

FYI: Daniel Johnston is playing in DC next Tuesday and I would give anything to go but I'm not sure if I can make it after that Baltimore City Schools Board Meeting.


Out of the Darkness Community Walk

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is a 3-5 mile scenic walk taking place in more than 200 communities across the country this fall. Proceeds will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, to fund research, education, survivor and awareness programs — both to prevent suicide and to assist those affected by suicide.

Saturday, November 8

organizations about suicide
This website has a really fantastic Q&A section that addresses many of the questions I have asked myself on this blog. In addition to that, it lists the signs of depression in adults, children, infants, adolescents, and the elderly.


LEADS: A Suicide Prevention Education Program

"LEADS is intended for students in grades 9-12 and creates opportunities for conversations within the classroom around suicide and depression and the stigma surrounding suicide. Included in the curriculum is a Teacher's Guide, group and individual activities, suicide prevention resources and a template for a school suicide crisis management plan."

The video is $125 but I will eventually buy this.

Is a person at increased risk to attempt suicide if they’ve been exposed to it in their family or has had a close friend who died by suicide?

Yes, suicide does tend to run in families, but this is generally attributed to the genetic component of depression and related depressive illnesses. A healthy person talking about a suicide or being aware of a suicide among family or friends does not put them at greater risk for attempting suicide. And mere exposure to suicide does not alone put someone at greater risk for suicide. However, when combined with a number of other risk factors, it could increase someone’s likelihood of an attempt. Failing to treat or mistreating depressive illness puts a person at increased risk of suicide. It is very important to remember that the vast majority of people living with depression do not have suicidal thoughts or die by suicide.

suicide prevention
This website features FREE downloads of materials on suicide prevention.
Our Crisis Center website here in Bmore is:

american foundation for suicide prevention
This site has a really informative breakdown of suicides by age, gender, special population, and various statistics. It also offers strategies for coping with suicide loss.

"A woman takes her own life every 90 minutes in the U.S., but it is estimated that one woman attempts suicide every 78 seconds.
  • Women attempt suicide three times as much as men.
  • The higher rate of attempted suicide in women is attributed to the elevated rate of mood disorders among females, such as major depression, dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Although women attempt suicide more often, men complete suicide at a rate four times that of women.
  • More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a gender ratio of 2:1."
This site also linked me to a film about teen depression

suicide hotline

If you follow the blog PostSecret, you will know that Frank Warren posts the link to the suicide hotline after EVERY update.

I checked the website just now and he has this linked:

Dia de los Muertos!!!

Alfonso Fernandez

David Alvalos

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a day of remembrance for friends and family who have past. It is usually celebrated on November 1st and 2nd during the Catholic holidays All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

You may be more familiar with Sugar Skulls..

aren't they cute???


Weegee photographed crime scenes in the 1940s, often when people died. Most times, he showed up at the scene of the crime before the police did. I believe Jack Wilgus told us in history of photo that Weegee had his own police radio.

p.s. will someone please buy me this book?

Post Mortem Photography

After the invention of the Daguerreotype in the 19th century, it became very common for families who could not afford to have their portrait painted, to do a sitting for a Daguerreotype. Because there was a high child mortality rate at that time period, often these Daguerreotypes might be the only image they have to remember their child.

Monday, October 05, 2009

photo of Augusten Burroughs
oven mitts by James Anthony

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Jhonen Vasquez

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (JTHM) is a comic I used to read when I was in high school. You may be more familiar with his cartoon, Invader Zim.

questions to think about

What does it mean to be alive?
What does it mean to feel like you are alive?
How can you go on living when you feel empty or numb?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Harold and Maude

Andres Serrano

The Morgue, Hacked to Death II, 1992

The Morgue Part II (Death By Natural Causes), 1992

The Morgue: Knifed to Death

In one of Augusten Burrough's books (either Magical Thinking or Possible Side Effects.. Read them both in the same 48 hours so I can't remember..) he mentions that he dated an undertaker.

Actually, see if this works:

Kevin Carter " The Death of a Signature"

Photography at funerals is somethings that's always intrigued me. In some instances, such as with my own family, funerals are often the last time some family members are ever together in a big group. I'd feel strange smiling for a photo at a funeral. It's almost like you're not "allowed" to smile because you're supposed to be sad.

My mom went to a funeral in New Mexico last week for one of her uncles. She saw so many cousins that she hadn't seen in, may I say, decades. It's great that family members will come out to celebrate the life of someone, but I feel that moments like that should be documented. My grandma's funeral was the first and only time I met one of my cousins. And I only met his brother six months ago. Mind you, they are in their 40s now..

The movie Harold and Maude really opened me up to more concepts about death. In the movie, the couple attend the funeral of strangers.

Over the summer, some friends and I went for a walk in a big cemetary. It was really bizarre, being in there and not for a funeral. Walking over graves, and being able to tell which ones were more fresh, and feeling the uneven earth beneath my feet. You even start to notice the types of flowers and little things family members and friends leave on the gravestones of their loved ones. One thing I distinctly remember is the amount of silk flowers. It seemed like a nice gesture because they will never wilt. But then I think of the other graves that have dead flowers that need to be replaced and it's kind of depressing.

Trenton Doyle Hancock

The Life and Death of #1

Andy Warhol "suicide"

Friday, October 02, 2009

Alec Soth

Memorial, New Orleans, Louisiana 2002

art about life / death

Thursday, October 01, 2009

essnetial questions

Why do so many people feel that suicide is the answer?
Why don't more people try to get help?
How do the people at Suicide Hotline comfort callers?
Where do people kill themselves? In their homes? Elsewhere?

more later..

suicide scene from Rules of Attraction