Rebecca Miller on the Creative Life and Death
Rebecca Miller is an American author, film director, screenwriter and actress, most known for her films Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (winner of the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award), The Ballad of Jack and Rose and Angela, all of which she wrote and directed. She is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and Austrian photographer Inge Morath. She studied art at Yale University and initially pursued an acting career, landing parts in the TV-movie The Murder of Mary Phagan (starring Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, and William H. Macy; 1988) and the feature films Regarding Henry (starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening; 1991), and Consenting Adults (opposite Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey; 1992). Miller is married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis and and has two sons, Ronan and Cashel.
Question: Why did you choose the creative life?
Rebecca Miller: Well, I, for every person, I think it really depends on people. I’m, unfortunately, you know… Well, not unfortunately, but I’m very lucky to do what I do, but I am one of those people that has to do it, you know. I can not do it. And sometimes I wish I could stop but I can’t. You know, I mean, like, I, of course, I do, I have children, I take care of my children so it’s not like I’m working 24 hours a day. But the sense that, you know, I mean, I just, again, I’m thinking of Trigorin in the, you know, in “The Seagull” because just like he said, “You know, as the girl, as Nina say how glamorous it must be to be a writer and everything?” And he’s saying, “Well, you know, I get up in the morning and I write a story and I finish the story. And just as I’m finishing, another story comes in to my head. And I can’t even like go like take a rest when I have to go this other story. And then there none of them I don’t like any of them when I’m finished with them. And yet, you know, and it’s just [got] like this sort of sense that you have, you must go on. And it’s… I don’t know. And [oddly] there is something true about that.
Question: Was there a time you repressed your creativity?
Rebecca Miller: I’ve never been able to repress it. I always… I mean, I think I was also raised, you know, by artists to be an artist sort of like tennis players raised their children to be tennis players, got to get out and practice. And there are pros and cons to that, you know? I mean, it’s like there’s… But that’s what I was, I was always meant to do, and so, the idea of repressing it will be like dying. I mean, I would really feel like then I could like just not breathe, that will be another alternative, it would be similar. I don’t think… I think there’ve been times where I haven’t had any, like, I’ve been blocked. I have been blocked in periods but I’ve never been repressed. I mean, I suppose that’s the kind of repression but it comes from inside of myself. I think when you’re a mother, it is, it’s a huge, it’s a very, very difficult thing in some ways. But writing, in a way, is one of the easiest things because you spend, you know, three or four hours writing in the morning and at once they go to school, you know, you can be done by the time they get home. And then the rest, you know, you might be thinking at times but they don’t feel that so much. And, you know, you can still be there for them and, you know… So directing is much more difficult and that’s one of the reasons I don’t, I mean, I only do it every [few] years, you know.
Question: How do you overcome creative block?
Rebecca Miller: I mean, the time that happened to me, I just waited it out. I think it was just… It was right after I got married and I’m just, I was very happy and also, but also very kind of disorientated and I didn’t know how to handle it ‘cause it never happened to me before. And I just, I actually ended up volunteering in a women’s shelter with working with kids ‘cause I found that I just had to do something that was, in some way, useful. Because I couldn’t stand the fact that, you know, I didn’t have any and I didn’t have kids at that time so obviously so…
Question: Why the impulse to write about men confronting death?
Rebecca Miller: I think, as a young girl, I had that my father was older. He wasn’t that old, I now realized. But, I mean, I thought he was really old like he was 46 when I was born so he was kind of, you know, on the older side. And I was always very afraid of him dying. And I think the thought of death, in particular, men confronting death, thinking about death has always been really touching to me and compelling. And I think that that’s probably why I write about it, you know, is… And, yeah, the lust for life and the fear of death and, you know, and what those things make you do and how they make you to behave.
Question: Do women confront death differently?
Rebecca Miller: Yes. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about… I haven’t thought about that so much. But I, I think women do probably confront death differently. I don’t know. You know, I haven’t, haven’t really explored that. But I do get to watch both my parents die so I [do that] unfortunately, you know, some experience. But I, yeah, I don’t know.
Question: Do you confront issues dealt with in your art as yourself first, or through your characters?
Rebecca Miller: I think that writing is a kind of possession, you know, it’s an act of possession. So when you become a character in your head which I think you have to do to write it properly and profoundly, you’re doing both, right? You’re confronting it as the person but you’ve become the person. So it’s kind of, you’re going through it but through the filter of that character.
Question: How did becoming a mother change the way you look at the world?
Rebecca Miller: You know… Well, first of all, you know, suddenly, if I die, the problem will be that my kids wouldn’t have a mother. It wasn’t I will be dead, you know, which would’ve been the thing I’ll be worried about before. I think my selfishness, you know, I became not selfless but an instinct for self-sacrifice did pop right up in out of nowhere really ‘cause I would’ve been the most self-sacrificing person. I was pretty much, you know, focused on what I was trying to do, my work and stuff. And, yeah, you know, somebody else is more important, it really does become that. It does… In a funny way though, it didn’t make my work any less. It just sort of left my work there and then something else kind of went slightly up, you know, above it. It didn’t, the work didn’t diminish and I didn’t sort of, you know, put it away or to one side. And I actually became more productive as a mother because I had to use my time. I wasn’t sort of dreaming and walking around in a dream. I was really much more thinking, okay, I have three hours. I have to work. I have to get something done.
Question: What do you fear most today?
Rebecca Miller: Yeah, I fear that, you know, I think that life, planetary life is, you know, I don’t mean in ecological, I mean in a human way is constantly checking, it checks and balances. It’s positive and it’s negative. And things are constantly being righted because the two impulses are constantly happening, you know. And I just worry that there’s… I think that there’s a deep and archaic void inside of us as human beings which might really end up kind of taking over in a certain way. That we just would slip up and that complete chaos will begin to… Yeah, I think we’re always, chaos is always at the edge of everything. We’re always trying to kind of fend it off to control everything. You know, children, if you look at children, I mean, that they have very strong uncontrollable emotions which gradually they learn to master, but really, politics, life, human life is so emotional. Everything that we’re, all the things that we try to rationalize and think of in rational ways are emotional. Nationalism, you know, our whole idea of [countryhood], you know, victory, defeat, all these words are just basic childhood words that, you know, it’s very primitive. And I sometimes I’m amazed, I’m amazed at how far we’ve gotten, that we’ve gotten away with it this long. Civilization is sort of still holding up [more or less]. But I am, I mean, that’s only when I really think about it. I’m always thinking that way.
Recored on: 10/16/2008
Rebecca Miller talks about why she writes about men confronting death, motherhood and how we all handle things differently
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."
Philosopher Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" predicts the future of human societies.
- Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" says that intelligent life on Earth will eventually form a "singleton".
- The "singleton" could be a single government or an artificial intelligence that runs everything.
- Whether the singleton will be positive or negative depends on numerous factors and is not certain.
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A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.
- A monolithic object found in a remote part of Utah caused worldwide speculation about its origins.
- The object is very similar to the famous monolith from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey".
- The object could be work of an artist or even have extraterrestrial origins.
1. ART OBJECT<p>Chances are, this is an art object. The shiny "monolith" appears to be bolted to the ground and made of metal. It also seems to be fastened with rivets, rather being a uniform block of more unexplainable production origin. Deserts are great places for unusual art installations as has been evidenced by art projects you can discover wondering through the desert ghost towns and faraway canyons of Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico. Certainly, an artist with a sense of humor and an appreciation of Kubrick's genius could have installed such "sculpture" in hopes of exactly what is happening right now – viral fame.</p><p>On the other hand, there is evidence, courtesy of eagle-eyed <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/jzkpad/helicopter_pilot_finds_strange_monolith_in_remote/gdg9qfi?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3" target="_blank">Google Earth sleuths</a>, that the object appeared in that location (somewhere near <a href="https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canyonlands National Park</a>) in 2015-2016. So it's possibly been there for a few years. Would an artist have placed it there so long ago with the aim of having this type of success eventually?</p><p>A gallery owner <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/world/utah-monolith-desert-mystery-solved-john-mccracken-sculptor-artist-2001-a-space-odyssey/0bae1a27-5bd2-451e-90a6-393928d9ed02" target="_blank">claimed</a> the work may be a tribute to the art of the late artist John McCracken, who created similar-looking objects before he died in 2011. McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement with such artists as James Turrell, and was known to make his sculptures from plywood forms that were coated with fiberglass and polyester resin.</p><p>While the theory that the monolith was the work of a McCracken aficionado (or the artist himself) may hold some water due to the object's similarity, the fact that the artist died so long ago and the lack of clear incentive for anyone to have planted this years ago only to reveal it now work against this theory.</p>
John McCracken sculptures.