Oh Robin Williams, how you made us laugh… and cry

Like millions of fans, I loved Robin Williams. I enjoyed his quick wit and no-holds-barred brand of comedy. I greatly admired his prolific career and Oscar-winning acting talent. Most of all, I adored his generous spirit. He touched so many lives in so many ways. I just can’t believe he’s gone.

“What Dreams May Come”
“Dead Poets Society”
“The World According To Garp”
“The Bird Cage”
“Dead Again”
“Good Will Hunting”
“Good Morning, Vietnam”
“Mrs. Doubtfire”

These were the Robin Williams films that made me laugh… and cry. Over the years, his work imprinted upon me, creating a tapestry of people and places and stories and memories that remain evident in the person I am today. While I’m tempted to hold a movie marathon in honor of this cinematic legend, I know that if I did so now, there would be too many tears.

Perhaps someday.

Instead, I shall remember how often — and lovingly — Robin Williams spoke of his children: Zelda, Cody and Zachary. And how his wife Susan found the strength to give a beautiful and heartfelt statement so soon after losing her best friend.

I’ll think back to the time Robin Williams helped save his friend’s life. After actor Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed by a horrible horse-riding accident in 1995, he seriously pondered pulling the plug. It was then that Williams showed up at the hospital, dressed as a doctor, and did what he did best; he made his friend laugh (no easy task in such a dire moment). Reeve later told Barbara Walters, “I knew then: If I could laugh, I could live.”

I’ll recall Robin Williams’ many comedy specials, interviews and performances on television. These appearances, especially the one on “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” made me laugh until my cheeks hurt and my belly ached.

I’ll look back on the two times I saw Robin Williams live, once during a fascinating conversation with Lillian Ross at The New Yorker Festival, and once during a promotional event for “Man of the Year.” In both cases, I marveled at his genius.

I’ll search through my hard drive to find the Audible recordings Robin Williams created in the early oughts, years before podcasts were en vogue. I particularly enjoyed the chats he did with Oliver Sacks, Walter Cronkite and Harlan Ellison.

I’ll pay tribute to his tireless efforts to raise money and spirits for charitable organizations like Comic Relief, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the LiveStrong Foundation and the USO. Why, to many in the service, he was the Bob Hope of their generation.

I’ll reminisce about how Robin Williams’ performance in “Dead Poets Society” inspired me to launch a similar organization at my university. Late at night, our small band of literati would gather in the dark and read poetry by candlelight. I later wed my soulmate near a poet’s grave.

Lastly, I’ll remind myself of how much Robin Williams loved to make people laugh. Ultimately, that should be his legacy.

Jamie Fraser

Sassenachs, rejoice!

“People disappear all the time. Ask any policeman. Better yet, ask a journalist. Disappearances are bread-and-butter to journalists. Young girls run away from home. Young children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives reach the end of their tether and take the grocery money and a taxi to the station. International financiers change their names and vanish into the smoke of imported cigars. Many of the lost will be found, eventually, dead or alive. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually.” –”Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

I just finished watching the first episode of “Outlander,” a new TV show based on my all-time favorite series of novels by the brilliant Diana Gabaldon.

I have no problem admitting that from the very first sight of my beloved Scotland (and the very first note of the beautiful theme music), I burst into happy tears. I can only imagine how the author felt at the screening.

Like millions of other readers, I have waited decades to see Jamie and Claire on film. During my visits to the Highlands, I even dreamed about these characters. To see their story finally come to life, well, it just takes my breath away.

A special note to my witchy friends: The screenwriters and actors not only know how to correctly pronounce Samhain, they present a stunning pre-dawn sabbat ritual in a circle of stones. Watching that scene gave me chills.

“Outlander” will premiere on Saturday, Aug. 9 on Starz. Dinna fash if you can’t wait. The first episode is online, and you can watch it for free.

Je suis prest.

blue hourglass

The week that was

The late, great speculative fiction writer Jay Lake used to write these wonderful story roundups on his blog that he called Link Salad. The feature was basically just a bunch of links to stories that had caught his eye during his daily/weekly Internet wanderings.

I know that many of you follow me on other social media outlets, where the sharing of stories is something that I do with gusto. But I’ve received a general complaint about these posts: Both Facebook and Twitter make it so hard to find ‘em. That’s where “The Week That Was” comes in. In this feature, I’ll highlight a handful of my favorite shares from the previous week, just in case you missed them the first time around.

And here we go:


Syria Suffers Record Death Toll – Syria’s three-year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people, nearly a third of them civilians.

Ukraine Rebel Chief Igor Bezler Threatens To Execute Interviewer – When interviewing a rebel leader nicknamed “the Demon,” don’t be surprised when he goes on a rant that suggests shooting the messenger.

NRA Member Who Lost Sister To Gun Violence Tearfully Asks Senate To Protect Women – American women account for 84 percent of all female gun victims in the developed world, and more than a quarter of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner.

2,500 Ground Zero Workers Have Cancer – The grim toll has skyrocketed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year.

Homicide Victims’ Families Seek Justice, Retribution And Closure From Death Penalty – An AP reporter decided to talk to murder victims’ families about capital punishment. This is a side of the story that is rarely shared.

In Push To Protect Big Coal, Alabama Officials Say New EPA Regulations Violate God’s Will – “I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said, calling on Alabamians to pray for a divine intervention.

California Drought Reaches A Terrifying Milestone:

california drought

(Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture)


Margot Adler, NPR Journalist And Pagan Activist, Died At 68 – Her book “Drawing Down the Moon” launched me on a spiritual journey when I was a teenager.

Josefa A. Platzer, Founder Of Jo’s Cafe, Died At 81 – This is the first obit that actually made hungry.

Carlo Bergonzi, Italian Tenor And WWII POW, Died At 90 – Can’t say I’m a huge fan of opera. However, Carlo had some serious pipes.


Hope For Paws Rescues Abused Pit Bull – These vids have the unique ability of simultaneously making me hate humanity and love people.


“Don’t think that if we’re all good girls, if we’re properly meek, if we don’t provoke our men, we’ll be safe. Good girls get hurt all the time. We are not the problem. I refuse to quietly accept that there is one set of rules for how men live and another set of rules for how women live. And still, at night in a dark parking lot, I will walk to my car with my keys splayed between my fingers like blades. Ain’t that some shit?” –Roxane Gay

(Photo by Mishooo. Used with permission)

You Are Here

Art that involves meeting in the middle

“Stop thinking about art works as objects and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” –Roy Ascott

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, The Art Assignment is a vlog that launched earlier this year. In the debut episode, hosts Sarah Urist Green and John Green introduced artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins. Then, the first assignment of the series was explained and the artists embarked on it. The first vid documents their adventures/misadventures.

Unlike other blogs, however, The Art Assignment is meant to be interactive. Which is to say, the audience is also encouraged to do the assignments. Here are the instructions for the first one:

1. Pick a friend and calculate the exact geographic midpoint between where the two of you live. You can use GeoMidpoint or other websites to calculate your midpoint, or even use a paper map.

2. Decide on a date and a time to meet there and don’t communicate until then.

3. Document your experience. You can do this however you’d like, using photos, video, text, drawings or anything else.

4. Upload your documentation and share it online using whatever social media platforms you prefer, being sure to tag it with #theartassignment so they can find it.

I see this as the perfect opportunity to not only experience art in a new way, but also to complete another one of my “firsts.” Who wants to play?