2016/04/14

Action/reaction

Facebook users had long asked for more than just "like" to click on posts. The request I heard most often was a "dislike" icon, a "thumb down," such as Reddit and some newspaper comment sections have. Well, that didn't happen, and probably just as well. But five other things were added: "Love," "Haha," "Wow," "Sad," and "Angry."

Unlike a lot of Facebook innovations, I actually like this one. And I click on the various reactions. But I've noticed some subtleties in the way I do, or don't, use them.

"Love" is an interesting one. The obvious use is when you really, really like a post, beyond just "Like." But I have also used it, and seen it used, to mean "sending love," such as when a person is sad. It's a way of offering comfort, when "Like" just doesn't seem right. And then there are the times I'm tempted to click "Love" but have second thoughts. If I click "Love" for this profile picture update because I think it's really cool looking, will it be misinterpreted as meaning more than that? Especially when no one else has clicked "Love"? Peer pressure!

"Haha" is pretty obvious and unambiguous. When the person has posted something that's obviously a joke or something ridiculous but not horrifying, it's an appropriate reaction.

I don't think anything that I've ever seen posted has "blown my mind." But some things are really cool and surprising. So "Wow" is a good reaction to have then. Science posts often rate a "Wow."

I use "Sad" when it seems an appropriate reaction to the thing shared or to express sympathy with the poster. I think it's contextual whether I click "Sad" to sympathize or "Love" to comfort.

"Angry" is always used for something shared, never against the poster. Egregious sexism, horrifying racism, anything where someone is being mistreated and it makes you more angry than sad. "Angry" implies that you feel you could help do something to change it, whereas "Sad" is resigned.

When in doubt, "Like" is still a safe choice, even if you don't really mean that you like what was posted. It works as agreement, assent, "glad your band has a gig," or even "I took the time to follow the link/play the GIF/etc." If you kind of want to use one of the reactions but just aren't sure, "Like" will pretty much always work, as it did before the reactions existed.

At this point, the reactions that are not there that I most want are "Eye-roll" and "Side-eye." There are some things that get shared that just need those reactions!

If you use Facebook, how have you dealt with the reactions? Which others would you like to see?

2016/03/29

My city was gone

Sweetie and I live in a small city near Vancouver. We own a detached house. We have good jobs. We have even saved for retirement. We're the kind of people who can afford to live here. But as we near retirement, I'm not sure that I want to live here anymore.

Like the woman who wrote an article in The Province, I fell in love with Vancouver when I first came here over 20 years ago. Seeing the mountains so close by was what really did it, but it was also the water (and beaches), the neighbourhoods, and even occasionally (very occasionally) the buildings. I say very occasionally because Vancouver was already somewhat lacking in character. The beauty of the city was, and still is, more about the surroundings.

When I first arrived, I was working only part time as a technical writer and as an extra in films and television. I managed to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the not-yet-hip neighbourhood of Hastings-Sunrise, a decent place with a view of downtown and the mountains for only $495 a month. Having more time than money, and no car yet, I loved that I could reach Lynn Canyon Regional Park by bus and, after a short walk, be in the back country. Before I realized it was shorter to take a bus to Phibbs Exchange and then another bus, I used to ride the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay—functional but also fun! When I bought a bicycle, I ranged along False Creek and English Bay, sometimes all the way to UBC and back.

When Sweetie completed her master's degree and moved up from Seattle, we were able to rent the floor of a house at the far eastern end of Hastings-Sunrise, right next to Burnaby. We enjoyed that area. We did a lot of shopping in Burnaby Heights and bird watching in Montrose Park, a small gem at the foot of North Boundary Road on Burrard Inlet.

Fifteen years ago when we wanted to buy, we looked first at condominium units. But having lived in a house for a while, we couldn't figure out how to fit ourselves and our stuff into 600 square feet, even with a storage locker. After an improvement in our financial situation, we starting to look at houses. But even then, houses in Vancouver, even in East Van (where we would have loved to live) were either too expensive for us or somewhat marginal properties. As reluctant as we were to leave Vancouver, we looked outside the city and found a small but cozy heritage house in an area that is well connected to downtown by transit.

Now, of course, that house—or rather the land it sits on—is valued at far more than we paid for it. While Vancouver property has gone out of sight, the rest of the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley are not far behind. We might be able to sell our house and buy another, but we would be severely indebted at an age when neither of us wants that.

Greater Vancouver seems to be all about property speculation now. It wears me down when there is so much talk about real estate. Is that all we are about anymore? We still have a thriving arts scene, but for how much longer? How much longer will restaurants and small shops be able to afford to do business? We already know that tech start-ups are having trouble finding young developers, since prospective employees are unable to buy or even rent anywhere near where they would work. We wonder about heading to the Victoria area, but land speculation has begun to spread there as well.

Speculation leads not only to a lack of affordable housing but to an even greater loss of character. Beautiful old houses are being torn down with alarming regularity. Someone tweeted that our heritage might not be heritage for the buyers, might not be their heritage, and that's a fair point. But if heritage and older buildings of all kinds are torn down, will Vancouver become generic? Will it be completely about its surroundings, having no other distinctiveness at all? The great cities of Europe combine new building with preservation of their heritage. Many U.S. cities also retain a distinctive character as they modernize. But I fear that Vancouver could be picked up and dropped somewhere without its surroundings and no one would know which city it was.

I realize there are many reasons for the shine going off a city, many of them more personal than about the city itself. Before we came here, I had loved Boston for two decades before feeling that it was just time for a change of scene. There is still so much I love about Vancouver and the surrounding area. But it's starting to wear me down—the real estate speculation, the hollowing-out, the political inaction (at least for anything good, and that's at the provincial level too), and the decimated music scene. Just today, the Railway Club shut its doors. That's a loss for both music and heritage.

When we no longer can or want to deal with the two flights of stairs in our house, could we end up elsewhere? There are cities we love in the United States, although many of them suffer the same land squeeze as Vancouver, especially San Francisco and New York but also Portland and Seattle. We adore Kauai, but we both feel that we probably couldn't live there year round, even if we could afford it. And all of those places have a major drawback: they're in the U.S. The political culture has only got worse since we moved away.

Oh, Italia. Would it really be possible to retire to the Adriatic coast?

2016/03/27

Big city of dreams

New York is a city that draws me. When I was a musician in Boston, we always talked about moving to New York, a much bigger city with much more happening. Some did move. Some, like me, just visited with our friends who moved. Sometimes, I still feel a desire to live there. I make do with visiting often.

New York is now a long flight (or two) and an international border crossing away. I have spoken with people in Vancouver who have never been to New York. The flight is expensive and so is staying anywhere in or near the city. But still I am drawn, and for me it's worth all the 75-cent Canadian dollars that it costs.

Sweetie and I flew there last Thursday. Her uncle and aunt (who live just north of the city) generously picked us up at LaGuardia Airport and brought us to our hotel—on the Upper West Side, but a good deal via Flight Centre. Then we went to a restaurant not far away called Parm, a red sauce place in a former deli. Excellent Italian-American food, great service, and a fun place! We were even recruited by a woman at the next table to sing "Happy Birthday" to her boyfriend. I guess we seemed like people who would do such a thing. I guess our boisterousness was a giveaway!

Little by little we discovered the attractions of our neighbourhood, which included a French café called Maison Kayser where we had a light breakfast on Friday morning. We spent the rest of the day with the uncle and aunt. We always go to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) with them (they're members), so that's where we went. We will never see all the wonderful exhibits there! This time we took in a special exhibit of (mostly) portraits by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, the first woman admitted to the Académie, as well as an exhibit of Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age and one of vintage timepieces. After a tour of a Fairway Market, which has absolutely every kind of food known to humankind, and Eataly, a collection of Italian-themed food shops and restaurants, we met Sweetie's cousin, her uncle and aunt's elder daughter, at Hill Country, as close to Texas barbecue as you can get in the north. Wonderful brisket, great sides, and the best company, as well as the beginning of a performance by Americana trio Underhill Rose.

Already some bloom even outdoors
On Saturday, Sweetie and I went in different directions. She met up with Facebook friend, now in-the-flesh friend, to go to the Museum of Natural History and to have lunch. I took the subway to Crown Heights in Brooklyn where I met a friend who had moved to Brooklyn from Vancouver several months ago. Jamaican brunch at Glady's was great! And then we walked around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, chilly but lovely even barely into spring. We also had an indoor break in the beautiful glass houses to see a bonsai exhibit as well as tropical, warm temperate, and desert plants. A most excellent afternoon in great company!

In the evening, Sweetie and I had an early dinner at a Spanish-Argentinian tapas restaurant called Ella before walking to the Theater District to see Fun Home at Circle in the Square. My first actual Broadway show, and it was outstanding. Funny, entertaining, and ultimately heart-rending, Fun Home might be my new favourite show after West Side Story, which has a similar emotional impact. And it was a treat to be in Circle in the Square where so many amazing actors have worked over the years.

Reminded me of a Heart Tree from GoT
Sunday was our downtown day. We met with good friends who were up from Philadelphia for brunch at Balaboosta in Nolita, a restaurant we have now been to four times—because it's fabulous! This was our first time for brunch, and I wished I could have ordered everything. More great company! We then walked to the Lower East Side to the Tenement Museum and went on a tour called "Sweatshop Workers" with a knowledgeable and engaging guide. Afterward, we met with the sister of one of our friends, whom we had not seen in decades, and her seven-year-old daughter, whom we had never met. We wandered around the Lower East Side and made a stop at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, which specializes in cupcakes and—this is new to me—pudding! Tasty pudding. Later, Sweetie and I walked back to Little Italy, where we somehow managed to find a place with expensive, mediocre pizza (wish we'd been in the Village, which has great slice places), and then went to the Angelika Film Center on Houston, a wonderful art house, to see a French black comedy called Marguerite. It was snowing when we came out! We had planned to walk to the West Village, but the snow sent us onto the subway and back to our hotel, via a brief stop at the Amsterdam Ale House.

On Monday, we were lured to another neighbourhood attraction, DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse), the place to buy shoes. Both of us had noticed a New York spring trend, cute booties, and yes, I bought yet another pair, along with some sandals for summer that I really did need. Later we walked across Central Park (for the second time) to meet again with Sweetie's uncle and aunt at the Jewish Museum, this time joined by their younger daughter, whom I had not seen since her wedding eleven years ago, and her nine-year-old daughter, whom neither Sweetie nor I had met. It was all delightful! We had lunch at a restaurant in the basement of the museum called Russ and Daughters (a newly opened third location, with great blintzes among other kosher dairy food) and then said goodbye to the family. We then took in a great special exhibit of Isaac Mizrahi fashion as well as some of the permanent collections of Jewish artifacts and art. In the evening, we took a subway to Midtown and then walked west to Hell's Kitchen, where we met my nephew and his wife for dinner at Taboon, a fabulous upscale Lebanese restaurant. More great food and great company, in a neighbourhood that was new to me.

On Tuesday, we were scheduled to fly out of LaGuardia in the afternoon. Sweetie was not hungry, so I found a gem of a local spot called the Eighty-Two for breakfast. We then packed up and headed up to Harlem to catch the bus to LaGuardia. Not long before our flight, we were informed that mechanical problems had prevented the plane from leaving Toronto. We were stuck. But while waiting in line at the check-in counter, I got on the phone with WestJet customer service, who did a fabulous job of getting us on the first flight to Toronto the next day and then on an Air Canada flight to Vancouver. So we ended up staying an extra night in New York, in the Queens neighbourhood of East Elmhurst. East Elmhurst seems to have a large Colombian population, and a Bollywood theatre and an Indian restaurant suggest that South Asians live there too.

It's always interesting, and a good reminder of our privilege, to walk around in a neighbourhood where we're the only Anglos. That struck us especially on the Upper West Side, where we were acutely aware of being well-off White people served in shops mostly by Black and Latina staff. I hope they are paid well, but no way to know. We're good tippers.

We flew out on Wednesday, a day late, well before the crack of dawn. And back to the Vancouver rain and spring bloom. With colds. Hard to fly on four airplanes, ride a lot of public transit, and be on a diet low in fruits and vegetables without bringing something more back from New York than clothes and shoes.

If you're interested in reviews of any of the restaurants and attractions we visited, I've turned into a TripAdvisor reviewing fiend.

2016/02/28

Touch of sense

I'm a hugger. I'm one of those people. I try not to hug anyone who doesn't want to be hugged, but I'm an enthusiastic participant. Not with just anyone, but I have a lot of friends who seem to like hugs, so that works out well.

But there are people I consider friends whom I usually don't hug. I know it's just not their thing. For some people, hugs don't feel like they do for hug-people. For any reasons or no reason (should not matter), they simply are not comfortable being hugged and hugging back. They might or might not want to be touched at all. They might like light touch, perhaps on the hand or arm. They might go as far as a semi-hug.

I'm not sure if there are more hug-people than no-hug-people, but hugginess seems to prevail. In these days of modern times, we hug a lot. People with whom we would have exchanged a handshake not many years ago now hug us and we hug them, with a greater or lesser degree of comfort.

We might have pushed this too far. The proliferation of hugging can be awkward even for me, because I'm free with hugs but not with just anyone. Shaking hands is a time-honoured way of greeting or parting.

And even though I love human contact, I don't think everyone else has to love it too. Non-huggers should be able to do whatever makes them comfortable and not do what makes them uncomfortable. Huggers need to remember that hugging or not hugging is not in itself a sign of the quality or depth of a relationship.

We need to be okay with handshakes, some kind of touch, or even words only without touch at all. We should know who our real friends are, regardless of whether they are into hugging or not. In fact, we usually do know who our non-hugging friends are and feel just as close to them. We don't base judgment on their non-hugginess.

I don't want to make people uncomfortable. I think society will be fine if we stop expecting hugging to be the default among a wide array of people. Huggers need to be more mindful, more perceptive of signs, and even ask if that seems to be called for. Be cool if the answer is "no."And give 'er with warmth if the answer is "yes."

2016/01/12

We can be hero-worshippers just for one day

I was in high school when David Bowie burst onto the scene. I don't remember if I heard the earliest songs, such as "Space Oddity," but I do remember Ziggy Stardust, at the leading edge of glam rock. At the time, I was very much into British bands that had a certain amount of rock and roll flair, something to set a stage performance apart from ordinary life, and I was lamenting that everything around me had gone Allman Brothers and denim and, for me anyway, boring. I remember the first concert I attended at university. Argent opened for local favourite the James Montgomery Band. I was there to see Argent (who, admittedly, were rather pretentious, and certainly out of place in that venue). Everyone around me hated them, preferring blues and boogie and songs with long, drawn-out endings.

So yes, awkward weirdo in high school, still awkward and weird at university, out of sync, listening to Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Jethro Tull. I should have latched onto David Bowie, no? So many people have written about how Ziggy let them feel that being weird was okay. Bowie was liberating for them. But for me, weird and awkward and not wild, Ziggy was intimidating. Even though that whole movement started by outraging people and breaking all the rules, they were soon impossibly cool. Bowie couldn't be a role model, because I was never, ever going to be that cool, not in my wildest dreams.

At university, I was in an isolated dorm off campus (housing problem), surrounded by a certain kind of people. Rather than seeking out others like me, I became like them, as I have done too often in life. By spring of 1973, I was actually in the front row at a Loggins and Messina show at the Orpheum Theater (one of the shows that was used for the On Stage live album) and shortly thereafter was tripping my brains out to the Grateful Dead at Boston Garden. The hippie shit won out for a while.

The summer of 1974 was the last time I went home for any extended time. I was working the night shift at an all-night grocery story. We had one of those Muzak® receivers, piped into speakers all over the store. The night supervisor figured out that the cable that delivered Muzak® also had other radio signals on it. So he worked out a way to connect the cable to a radio, and thus we were able to listen all night to WPLU in New Haven (sister station to the better-known WPLJ in New York). Real rock had largely given way to California mellowness by then. But one song that stood out among the R&B and country- and pop-flavoured stuff that WPLU played was "Diamond Dogs." Woot! That was my speed. And of course "Rebel Rebel" was on that album as well, one of the greatest rock songs of all time. But I saw the album cover, and it was just so weird. So once again, it was great music, but it felt unapproachable.

I lost track of Bowie when he ditched glam and rock, which were never really what he loved anyway. I'm sure I heard songs from the period, certainly "Heroes," another of the greatest rock songs ever, but songs like "Young Americans" and "Golden Years" weren't really my thing. I was getting back into rock via punk and then new wave. When I finally started to overcome my awkwardness, Bowie as role model seemed kind of old and classic. I was too busy getting my mind blown by Pretenders and the Clash and Talking Heads to pay much attention to the Thin White Duke.

My next real encounter was via MTV. I loved the "Ashes to Ashes" video! It was so wonderfully disturbing. And shortly after I was spending a lot of time at a Boston dance club where I shook my booty to "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love." For anyone who hadn't stuck with Bowie through the Berlin years, this was pretty much a revival.

But then I lost track of Bowie again. I have never seen Labyrinth! I don't remember any of his material from the mid- to late 1980s, nor from the 1990s. By the time The Next Day came along, I didn't really care. I watched the videos. I was not nearly as impressed as many others. I've only scratched the surface of Black Star, but I will say that Bowie succeeded in disturbing me with a video once again. "Lazarus" is some scary shit!

Still, when I saw that David Bowie had left us, it hit hard. I don't tear up over too many celebrity deaths, but I did for this one. Bowie is one of the most significant influences on music specifically and on culture in general. He made an impact that is still felt far and wide. A world sans Bowie feels wrong. And it felt wrong that he was taken away so young, and for those of us outside his family, so suddenly.

But as is often the case, I am not quite in sync with the majority of mourners. Musically, Bowie was not my main man. I never saw him in concert. I don't even own any of his albums. I love individual songs, several of which I mentioned (and let's not forget "The Jean Genie," "Suffragette," and "Changes"). I think he was an excellent songwriter, but he's not my favourite. I'm glad he was so creative in a way that must have been satisfying to him right up until his death, but I probably won't buy Black Star (although never say never).

Sometimes I get a bit star-struck when I meet a musician or other artist I admire, but I'm not much of a hero-worshipper. We can be heroes, for one day or many days. It's a daunting task, for sure. When I look at Bowie's body of work and the influence he had and will continue to have, sometimes I just want to down tools and stop even trying. I will still never be as cool as David Bowie. My songs sound pitiful to me next to his. But then, they sound pitiful to me next to those of any great songwriter. And at least some of those songwriters probably felt the same way about someone who had gone before them. If artists got overwhelmed by other artists, they would never produce their own art, and we would be the poorer for that.

So I will admire Bowie and mourn his loss, a loss to all of us, but I will hold back on the hyperbole. I will do my best not to be intimidated. Because someone else might think my art is worth liking and admiring. And even if no one does, I have to make it anyway, for my own sake. Bowie earned huge success, but I have read that he felt the same way. He did what he had to do. He was fortunate to connect with a great many people, but ultimately he did it for himself.

We shall never look upon his like again. But perhaps, at least to some degree because of him, we shall look upon others.

2016/01/06

The vinyl frontier

Deities help us, we have a turntable set up again, for the first time in longer than I can remember. We have started to listen to the two crates' worth of records that we didn't sell before we left Boston more than 20 years ago, armed with a stack of CDs. No dancing in the living room when a record is playing! This is an old house.

I've been critical of the resurgence of vinyl for a number of reasons. Vinyl records are easily damaged. Every time you play a record, the reproduction quality goes down. You can't run a weighted diamond stylus through jagged plastic grooves without molecules flying off. That's just physics. And to get the best sound quality, you need some seriously good equipment: a quiet, leveled turntable running at exact speed, a well-damped tonearm with optimum balance, and a stylus that is not worn. If the record warps, you're toast. A skip is forever.

Let's not even get into the weirdness of the RIAA rolloff or the physics of playing inner grooves versus outer. Given all the factors, I find it even more amazing that it's possible to get such fidelity out of this system than it is to believe that music can be reduced to bits and then turned into music again (which is also weird).

Still, it's not the inferiority of the medium that I have objected to most strongly. It's the fact that the new vinyl you're buying is unlikely to give you the full analog experience that you get from an old record.

Back in the day, no part of the process of making records involved sampling voltage levels and encoding them as bits. Music was recorded on analog tape. Effects were analog. The mastering process was analog. The entire process involved some form of waves, not zeros and ones. Even in the early days of CDs, the steps before CD manufacture were analog. You can see the letters "AAD" on old CDs, meaning that the recording and mastering were analog and only the process of encoding onto CDs was digital. Little by little, analog slipped away, first from the mastering stage (ADD) and then finally from the entire process (DDD).

Nowadays, if you have enough money, you can still record on analog tape. You can even do analog mastering, if you can find a mastering studio set up for it. But unless you're super careful, you will likely be using digital effects during recording. Some part of the signal will have been turned into zeros and ones before being reconverted for recording on analog tape. ProTools and other effects software are ubiquitous, doing their best to emulate the analog reverb, compression, and other effects they replaced.

Most bands can't afford to record on tape. It's not only expensive; it's hard to do, and thus time-consuming. In the old days, if you screwed up a note, you could "punch in" a new one, if it wasn't too close to notes you wanted to keep, but that's about it. Otherwise, you recorded another take, and maybe several more. You couldn't correct the myriad mistakes that are routinely corrected now, such as imprecise rhythms. Digital recording and effects are the devil's toolkit, but if you're willing to sell your soul, your band can sound better than it has any right to sound.

This means that when bands press vinyl, and buyers think they are hearing analog sound like on old records, they're wrong. They're hearing a digital bit stream converted to analog one step earlier in the process, at the turntable rather than the amplifier and speakers. They're hearing a certain amount of analog "warmth," to be sure, but not the same way as they would if they were to listen to all-analog recordings. Really it's like a CD with pops and scratches. Even reissued older recordings are often remastered, and that remastering is usually digital. Vinyl lovers seem not to realize that at least some of what they are appreciating is high-quality digital sound.

But actual all-analog vintage records, we got 'em! And I definitely understand the appeal of taking out a record (nice weight), carefully putting it on the turntable, and listening to the results, possibly while checking out the full-size artwork or lyrics you can actually read (and possibly using that double-album gate-fold for other purposes). We'll listen to a whole album all the way through, the way it was intended to be listened to. Even turning the record over is part of the pleasure, unless you're having trouble getting off your couch.

I get it. The satisfaction of playing our old records isn't just that we haven't heard them since forever. It's the return of the record playing ritual, something you can't get from CDs and certainly not from MP3s (nor, really, from cassettes). For kids, it's something new and exciting. For altekakers like me, it's old and exciting.

New records? Still problematic. And I could not care less about things like coloured vinyl. I have never treated records as collectible items. I bought them to play. And sometimes that meant they got very scratchy indeed. But every pop and scratch is familiar, like an old friend. Yesterday, I was listening to some new music using my computer and headphones, and all I wanted to do was to put a record on downstairs and let music fill the house.

(Apologies to my dear friend Mackie for nicking the name of his old band for the title of this post.)

2015/12/06

Quitting while you're ahead

In the book Don't All Thank Me at Once: The Lost Pop Genius of Scott Miller, Brett Milano tells the story of Scott Miller, leader of the bands Game Theory and the Loud Family. Have you heard of them? If not, that's not surprising. One of the main points of the book was how Miller never became as well known as many of his contemporaries. Miller wrote great songs and, like many talented musicians, deserved to be famous, or at least better known than he was.

I was strongly affected by reading the book. I felt that I understood a lot of what Miller went through and what I perceived to be his thought process. I feel the same way as he did about music, have always sought people who were as passionate as I am, and have never found them. I understand his bafflement that others can't see how wonderful it is to make great music and that it's worth the effort to try to have that music heard more widely and indeed to make a living at it. I also understand writing songs that come out of real experiences, songs that are sometimes cutting, sometimes even cruel, or at least seem so. Writing songs, good, bad, and ugly, is that way songwriters deal with their lives.

Scott Miller ended his own life in 2013. As much as I related to his story, I am not him. But the similarities are striking, similarities that include thoughts of suicide. That is want I want to deal with here. You have been warned.

Miller's suicide stunned everyone, including his wife. Those close to him knew that he had lived with depression for a long time, but no one anticipated him making an early exit, especially at a time that he seemed to be doing well and to have plans for a new recording.

I have read that people don't commit suicide when they are in the depths of depression. That makes sense. Taking your own life requires energy, and you don't have any when you're at the bottom. I have also read that the time when depressive people commit suicide is when they have just come out of a hole, when enough energy has returned. They said that about Kurt Cobain.

Maybe it's true for some. But I have a different idea.

Be aware that while I do have thoughts about ending my life, I have never gone so far as to make an actual plan. Even much of my thinking about it is more along the lines of "maybe everyone around me would be better off if I were gone" or "I'm making so little difference, what's the point?" That's not even close to a plan. I have managed to muddle along thus far in my life and imagine that I will continue to do so.

Still, there are times, more than I would like, when thoughts about shuffling off this mortal coil are strong. Certainly that's not when I'm in a serious, draining funk. But for me, at least, it's not when I'm coming out of a funk either. When that happens, I feel hopeful. Even a tiny bit better is welcome and keeps me going. No, the times when the thoughts are strongest is when you might think suicide to be the least likely: when things are going well and I'm feeling very good.

How can that make sense? Why would I think about suicide when things are good and I'm doing well? It's called going out at the top. I hate depression. I hate the lows. I hate the lack of energy. I hate the sadness. I struggle against it. I don't do suffering very well. So when I'm feeling good, I don't want it to end. I don't want to go back into the deep. I want to die happy.

From what I know, Kurt Cobain was actually in a pretty good place just before he left us. He had his troubles with his wife Courtney Love, but that was ongoing. He dearly loved his daughter Frances Bean and loved being a father. As is the case with many men, being a father gave his life a purpose that fulfilled him in a different way than music. Maybe he was afraid of losing that. By committing suicide, of course he did lose it. But he wasn't around to know.

Is that similar to what happened with Scott Miller? We might never know. If his wife Kristine knows, she's not telling, and that must be respected. But maybe it was precisely because his life was at a pretty good point. He was married to a women he loved and who loved him, and they had two daughters whom he adored. He was a good father. He had a good life. He still had a fanatical cult following, and he was planning a new project. Did it all seem too fragile to him? Was he afraid that things would go bad again? Did he want to nip a decline in the bud?

I don't know. But I can't imagine that I am the only person who gets stronger suicidal thoughts when things are good because of fear that the good won't last.