The Death of Robin Williams

NOTE: The brilliant Robin Williams was born on 21 July, 1951 in Chicago. In honor of his upcoming birthday and his incredible gifts, here is my original post written at the news of his death. — Jadi

Feste the Fool: “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.” —Shakespeare King Lear, Act III, Scene 4

Robin Williams is dead. He killed himself.

Both of these statements shock and sadden me. Put together, they are almost unbearable. Since his passing the nights have been cold indeed, and it’s taken days to reach a place where I can try to write about him.

Caren Miosga is an anchor for the major evening news program in Germany, and German journalism is a serious business. Caren reported the news of his death barefoot and standing on top of her news desk. “O Captain! My Captain!” she recited from there. There is no more fitting way to salute him.Moderatorin Miosga auf dem "Tagesthemen"-Tisch (Video-Standbild): "einer der größten Schauspieler"

I remember when he burst onto the world stage. He was incredibly funny, his wit like lightening. His brain and mouth moved so fast that it still takes repeat viewing (and listening) to catch up to him. And even then you wonder how he could improvise like that. He would recite Shakespeare – and play all the roles himself.

A good word to describe him is irrepressible. Robin seemed impossible to hold back, stop, or control. And he embodied the next meaning of the word: very lively and cheerful. But like all clowns he knew the flip side of laughter is sadness. He was a fiercely observant social critic and he spoke about what he saw. As our greatest court jesters have always done, Robin told us the truth.

During the 1980s I lived in San Francisco, and I remember going with friends to the newly opened Hard Rock Café. As we sat there, a murmur rippled through the big room. Robin Williams, two women, and two very young children had just been seated for lunch. As the news spread, people stopped eating and turned in their chairs to stare.

Robin was a guy who’d simply come in for lunch, and looked uncomfortable with all the attention. But he signed autographs and smiled. I was struck by how youthful he looked, and how shy. He didn’t have a glamorous aura. I tried to figure out what was remarkable about how he looked. In the end, I was startled by a sense that he was terribly vulnerable.

And that is the secret to his magic. Robin Williams didn’t just make us laugh. He made us feel the absurdity of our prejudices and fears, and yes, our hopes and desires, too. He reminded us at all times of our humanity. He was searingly honest about his own short comings and dreams. He turned himself inside out with a candor and lovingkindness that made his humor a healing force.

Our world is a sadder place for his passing. It’s a better place for his having lived and shared his immense gifts with us.

He is already greatly missed.

R.I.P. Robin McLaurin Williams 21 July 1951 – 11 August 2014

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The United Buddy Bears – An Unexpected Update

IMG_6707On Kowloon Island’s Victoria Harbor you can walk to the Star Ferry pier and the Hong Kong Museum of Art along the Avenue of Stars. Hong Kong’s vibrant film industry and its stars are featured with statues and hand imprints. It’s a great place to take photos of the city, too!

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You are seeing correctly. Placards of other cities had been placed along the water front.

In January 2014 I blogged about The United Buddy Bears, a non profit art project that first appeared in Berlin. I saw them when they came to Stuttgart. They’ve gone on to tour around the world and raise money for UNICEF.

When Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan was in Berlin to film Around the World in 80 Days he discovered Buddy Bears scattered around the city streets.IMG_6686

The project’s message of peace, understanding, love and tolerance among the world’s nations, cultures and religions resonated deeply with Mr. Chan, and he got involved. He created the Jackie Chan Kids Corner where children create their own Buddy Bear designs. Jackie approached the Hong Kong Government, proposing that the project tour to Hong Kong.

IMG_6718He brought the bears to Hong Kong and on May 15, 2004 a “United Buddy Bears Exhibition, the first major event that Hong Kong jointly organised with an overseas organisation to promote public art, opened.” [1]

IMG_6684It’s fitting that the exhibit came to this city. Here East and West meet, and Hong Kong remains a bastion of diversity, tolerance and openness.

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The flags of Hong Kong and Germany, side by side

Along with promoting public art, the exhibit raised money for the following charities: the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF, the Community Chest of Hong Kong, and the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation.

Jackie Chan was deservedly nominated UNICEF ambassador extraordinary.

IMG_6683Now the postscript: Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find a Buddy Bear on the Avenue of Stars. A plaque states that since the bears appeared more than $4,800,000 HK have been raised!

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IMG_6689IMG_6682Everyone walking by wanted to be photographed by the Buddy Bear. I felt ridiculously happy when I spotted  it. This bear seemed to connect me to Hong Kong and to my host country Germany and the rest of the world, too.

Some messages just never go out of fashion. As Nick Lowe put it, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding?

NOTES: [1] United Buddy Bears Exhibit Opens press release at www.info.gov.hk. Go to my earlier post The United Buddy Bears if you want to read more.

http://www.jackiechankids.com/files/Buddy_Bears.htm

http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200405/15/0515225.htm

www.united-buddy-bears.com

Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s photos of our ealier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.