Thoughts on the Release of Carrie Fisher’s Autopsy Report

Life is short. Sometimes our choices make it shorter.

Carrie Fisher’s death is back in the news. It turns out she was using drugs around the time of her death. She was obviously relpased with her addictions, as I suppose all of us were afraid to hear when she re-entered the spotlight of the Star Wars universe and found herself once again the center of nerve-wracking adoration from people who never really knew her.

Frankly, I don’t know why we’re all so obsessed with the cause of death if it’s not a criminal matter. I don’t know why we need to know. When my dad died, it didn’t matter to me what had killed him, just that I had to say goodbye. It matters even less to me what ended Carrie Fisher’s life.

This isn’t because I’m calloused. It’s because it really doesn’t matter. All it can do is blunt the sympathies of those who wish to shake their heads and pontificate about drug use, or magnify the sympathies of those who feel a personal stake in her life to shake their heads and pontificate about drug use.

In the end, the sympathy you feel for Ms. Fisher should be the same for any person who leaves this world at so young an age. The sympathy you extend to her memory for her struggles with addiction should extend to those who didn’t enable your escapes from reality, but live such lives that made addiction an escape from their own reality.

Let your sympathy extend to those who use food as a medication for their frustrations; feel sorrow at those who blur the lines of themselves to step away from unfulfilling lives by any means, even online gaming. Real life is a struggle and some people don’t cope as well as we’d all hope.

Actress Carrie Fisher poses at the world premiere of the film "Dumb and Dumber To" in Los Angeles

By all accounts, she was a dynamic and funny person. She also had issues dealing with the things that made her so special.

I have a belief system that there’s something after this, and my hope and prayer is that whatever suffering drove Ms. Fisher into her addictions is gone now. Whatever metaphorical demons chased her, I hope they were burned away by the bright light of a better world.

May God have mercy on her soul, and may she be smiling somewhere, free of the pain that drove her to choices that shortened her life. That’s what I thought when I first heard of her death, and it’s what I think now.

So, once more. Rest in peace, Ms. Fisher. I never knew you, but I’m grateful you were able to make some sort of impact that won’t be forgotten for a long time.

Farewell, Ray Manzarek

Look, I’m not a newsdesk. As badly as I wanted to write about Ray Manzarek’s death the day it was announced, I just didn’t have the time to put something together that I would’ve felt was anything but a rush job to make an arbitrary sort of self-deadline. So I’ve spent the day thinking about it, shelved my review of Star Trek: Into Darkness for another day, and decided to say what I can say about Ray.

An important thing needs to be noted about my feelings on Ray Manzarek. I went from teenage idolator of The Doors to adult scarily-obsessed fan (like Oliver Stone), and finally, to sober adult capable of contextualizing my fandom where it belonged.

Ray, for any flaws he may have had, was the ONLY other voice I believe capable of even getting Morrison to work in a structured setting.

Sadly, when Ray wrote his book, I don’t think he was at that point. He probably changed, or at least mellowed. The documentaries that came out in later years and the books that were less worshipful and more honest certainly allowed Ray to recast himself as less of a cult leader to more of a man with a broken heart who lost his best friend far too soon.

In fact, I dare anyone to listen to Tightrope Ride and not hear the horrible pain that Morrison put Ray—and arguably everyone else in his path—through. It’s a song that Ray wrote and sang on The Doors’ first album released after Morrison’s death, and it still speaks to any of us who might know the anger caused when someone wastes the ultimate gift and shuffles off this mortal coil in totally avoidable ways. Hell, I listen to it and get mad at my past self for wasting years screwing around without purpose or focus.

Go on, listen.

Back now? Great.

At the end of it all, despite my very conflicted feelings about Ray and whether he let go of the Jim Mythos or not, there is a very important fact I cannot overlook.

He was a very, very key player in putting and keeping together the one band that ever spoke to me when my own head was completely gone and I couldn’t hear anyone else. The Doors aren’t everyone’s favorite, but they’re mine, and if it wasn’t for Ray I, and a lot of other people who needed/need someone to speak to that sadness wouldn’t have had them.

In the end, I thank him for at least trying to get the surviving band members back together, and for going on tour and giving two guys an evening to feel young again and get at least a glimpse of the impossibly lost.

Go with God, Ray. I love you for what you gave me and what you gave the world. I thank you for what you helped get me through, even though you never knew me.

In Remembrance of My Dad

Very recently my father died. While we’re all still in a bit of shock about it, and we’re working to pick up the pieces, below is the first draft of a eulogy for him. This was delivered, actually, as-is on the occasion of his first memorial service this past weekend. Nothing was changed from when it was written on the plane ride down.

When he is laid to his final rest at Arlington National Cemetery in a few months, this will be expanded upon and include more perspective. The benefit of time will allow us to write something collaborative that will better encompass what the man meant to us, and so many others.

But these are the words we had in order to give closure to his friends and family in Florida. I’m sharing them because I’ve spent so long memorializing my mom, it’s only right that I commemorate my dad. I hope whoever reads this gets a better understanding of him and why, at the end of the day, I loved him so darn much.

My father was a man of contradictions. Beautiful, masterful contradictions.

He was not overly expressive all the time, but he was a passionate man. He definitely passed that on to his sons.

He was a compassionate man capable of deep forgiveness and overwhelming generosity, but he was also a man who believed – deeply – in the importance of following the rules. He may have left the Marines but they remained in his very marrow.

He believed in discipline though often had a hard time being disciplined himself. How many times we told him to go to the doctor, just for a check up. “OK, OK,” he’d say. And that was the end of it, until next time we’d bug him. But trust me, if he wasn’t going to listen to our mom about that, he wasn’t going to listen to us.

He was lost without her in many ways, and though he rebuilt his life I know he never went a day without thinking of her. He once said to me after her death, “I went 19 years without her, and I’ll go 19 after.” He believed he had a time limit defined by these eras of his life – a trilogy of existence. His final act seems to have been cut short, but he did manage to continue a full life here in Florida.

There are shades of my father indelibly marked on my brother and me. Our childlike enthusiasm for the small things stems in no small part from his passion for model trains. My brother still loves comic books and my well-established love of all things Star Wars stems from him. They are our model trains.

Our love for the escapism of movies is unavoidably “Dad” to me. He thrilled to movies and enjoyed classic adventures. And every year he watched every version of A Christmas Carol he could find. Once he had them all, Christmas shopping for him became inordinately more difficult.

He was unafraid to be seen as child–like, sometimes to the shock of us and our mother. I could spend days recounting funny stories of him; we will spend our lives recounting them between ourselves. I hope we can all share those happy moments with each other in the coming years.

He seems to have given these memories to people even we didn’t know about. We know that they’re grateful for him, and we were loved by him in his own way. He tailored that love to each person. It was his way. But my brother and I had the unique experience of Dad without a filter; and we are the happier for it.

My father was not perfect and he understood that he wasn’t. There is nothing to gain from recounting whatever small shortcomings he had. But they were few and they are not worth remembering here.

He was humble to a fault. I like to believe that he knew his gifts but remembered that pride was a sin. He was grateful for what he had and what he had done. This man had worked from the baseline and went all the way to the executive level at Ma Bell…later C&P…later Verizon.

He instilled in our family through example the cardinal lesson that “book smarts” and “wisdom” are two uniquely different things. He was no man for an ivory tower, though he could have built them himself. He was intensely smart, and I’d throw my dad against any Ph.D. Any day of the week, he’d teach them something. And if there was something he didn’t know – he’d learn it. This is what consumed him and why my brother and I still obsessively buy books – he showed us without saying a word that we had to learn outside the confines of academia.

Heavenly Father, we commend your son Thomas Henry – Tommy, Tom, Dad, Father, Pop, and a host of other nicknames – to your eternal care. Let him know Your love and that ours will be forever with him.

Flashback Blog: Elvis Dead: Is Elvis Alive?

They’re finally shutting down the old servers, so I’m starting one last big migration of material so that it isn’t lost forever. This one is a personal favorite, dealing with the inability of fanboys (and girls) to “just let go” of popular/favorite characters.

It was received both well and poorly depending on different people who read it. I liked stirring up a little controversy over there, and this one did.

The thing I enjoyed most was when someone officially employed by the Lucas companies basically agreed with it. Pretty validating.

So enjoy. I doubt it would stir up as much controversy now as it did then. Also, I’ve completely preserved anything about it, even any spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Elvis Dead: Is Elvis Alive?

Originally published May 30, 2006 at

There is quite the debate raging (still) on the Hyperspace Forum as to whether Mace Windu died when he, um, died. Apparently, he is subject to the same resurrecting devotion that brought Boba Fett out of the belly of the Sarlacc.

Welcome to the Video Game generation, where death is temporary and favorite characters come back so long as they’re backed up.

Lucas refers to Mace Windu’s death scene as that – a death scene. Sam Jackson was loudly criticized on the boards for affectionately speaking about his death scene so much. The Databank is completely and compellingly definitive in its statement that Windu is dead.

Mace died. It totally undercuts the tragedy of the situation to allow him any ‘out’. It undercuts the tragedy to imagine that any one of those kids walked out of the Jedi Temple after Anakin ignited his lightsaber. It’s an extension of the whole inability to process the concept of death that ‘resurrected’ Boba Fett for the die-hard fans who have an attachment to him because when they were kids, he caught Han Solo and so that meant he was the ultimate dude because Han Solo was just so cool.

Let’s all start theorizing that Anakin, unfamiliar with Neimoidian physiology, did not really hit a critical spot when he stabbed Nute Gunray. I never saw a medical droid pronounce him dead.

Let’s all start theorizing how Tarkin could have escaped the Death Star. I never saw a body! Just a loosely conglomerated series of images that imply he died on the Death Star, but no one chained him to his command post.

And the wampa did not kill the Tauntaun – he stunned him. Prove definitively that he was eating that actual Tauntaun when Luke disturbed him. Hell, prove the Wampa was a “he”.

It sucks when someone we love dies. Even a fictional character to whom we have become attached. Compassion makes us human, after all. But all the wishing in the world will never bring them back, and I for one would rail against and reject any Lucasfilm property that claimed that Windu survived. It would make Anakin’s fall less important and far less tragic, and lessen the magnitude of his redemption, which is the point of the whole saga.

You must let go of the dead ones, everyone. Let’s focus instead on some more, dynamic characters and plotlines for the new TV show instead of trying to resurrect the dead. Life moves on, and so must we.