Tragedy and social media

Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

Yesterday, we all reacted with horror and shock as the bombs exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. It was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. Even now, I’m staring at the blinking cursor trying to find the words to express how I feel. The truth is there are no words that can describe the myriad of emotions one goes through when one’s own country is attacked, whether by domestic terrorists or international terrorists.

My purpose with this blog is not to speculate about why or how the bombings were carried out, though. This is about how disturbingly desensitized we as a society have become when people are killed in such public ways. It was horrible for me to scroll through my news feed on Facebook yesterday, looking for updates on my friends who were still missing, and instead seeing photos of mutilated, mangled flesh and bone ripped from human bodies. People posted these things over and over again with captions like, “OMG!” and, “What happened at the marathon today!” I’m used to people posting horrible things on Facebook for the shock factor, so I looked away and went to Tumblr instead. Tumblr is the most mindless place of entertainment, or so I thought, but I couldn’t scroll more than five or six posts without seeing more horrifying photos of the same variety. At least on Twitter you can’t see an image without deliberately clicking a link on the tweet. But the same things were happening over there too.

My initial response was outrage on behalf of the people actually trying to survive and overcome in Boston yesterday evening. Many of the posts were like directing attention to what the bombing did to bodies in a sensationalized kind of way. I posted on all of my social media outlets the following: “Please stop reposting pictures of mutilated bombing victims. It does nothing but incite hysteria and violate the privacy of the victims in their horrifying struggle to survive. Let the authorities sort out who did this. As citizens, focus on the missing and the wounded in helpful ways instead of sensationalized ways. Pray for them, give blood, etc. Don’t gossip. It’s not helping anything at all.” Truthfully, I don’t quite know why I take stands the way I do. It’s not like I change the minds of the people doing these things, but I still feel a responsibility to voice the other side.

I went to bed last night and, lying in the silent darkness, felt the jitters all too familiar in my life set in right away. All night, I had nightmares about scrolling through my computer and seeing nothing but a specific man and what was left of his mangled legs. His ashen, shell-shocked face is burned into my mind because of all the people passing around the photo on social media. I’m still a mess, and, in checking in with other people like me, they are messes as well because of the inability to go on any social media without being forced to look at the carnage.

It can be argued that people have the right to post whatever they choose on social media. That’s true. Everyone has First Amendment rights. It can also be argued by some that people need to see the reality of what happened to understand it and, according to some, understand why revenge is necessary. I disagree with those ideas, though.

We, as a society, have become incredibly desensitized to the horror of these things. This generation lost its innocence the morning of September 11, 2001, as we all watched human beings on live television jump from 70, 80, and 90 stories high to their deaths on Manhattan streets below rather than suffer slower deaths in the fires. Since then, the media coverage of such catastrophes has become so uncensored that people didn’t think twice yesterday about posting photos of people with limbs blown apart in the Boston Marathon bombings. The loss of innocence in society is reflected in the media coverage and a lack of thought for replaying blood and gore over and over again.

While it is the responsibility of news outlets to accurately report these events, I don’t feel that people in general are being responsible about the spread of these types of photos. Twitter is a place where you have to deliberately make a choice to view any image. However, Facebook and Tumblr are places where you see everything people post whether you want to or not just by scrolling through the feeds. So the argument of, “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it,” isn’t even an option on the table. I actually saw the man with his legs ripped off on one Facebook post with the caption, “Don’t look if you’re squeamish!” That’s probably the person’s way of trying to feel better about that, but the thing is, the eye will go to large images first and small words second. There is no option not to look. So people like me either have to completely stay offline until it dies down, or suffer through the repercussions. When you’re trying to look after people you care about, staying offline simply isn’t a choice.

What do I mean by people like me? I mean people with anxiety disorders, people with post traumatic stress disorder, and so forth. An estimated 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetimes, not to mention the millions of others who have anxiety disorders, which means chances are you’re posting those photos where your friends with those problems will have no choice but to see them. You may think you’re educating people about “what really happened”, or you’re just facing the enemy head on, but what you’re really doing is contributing to triggering the symptoms of what people suffer with PTSD and similar disorders. Aside from those types of people, you simply don’t know what children are out there. True, it’s nobody’s responsibility to censor things for children except they’re parents, but we’re not talking about swearing, tepid violence, or sex. We’re talking about innocent people blown to shreds on the street. This is different. Children can be forbidden to use media, but we all know they sneak around the rules. We all did it. You’re exposing children to unspeakable things that they shouldn’t be seeing by freely posting such graphic, bloody photos in the name of your own agendas.

I understand the different reasons for doing it. However, I have to strongly urge that people consider that not everybody can handle it. There are ways to share these things, if you insist on doing it, so that people will have the option of not seeing it. Put it in your blogs. Put it on Image Shack or Photobucket. There are responsible ways to share those things and make your statements while still being respectful of other people.

I’m still feeling the repercussions of what I’ve seen in the last 48 hours. Not only do I feel violated that the bombings happened at all, but I feel doubly violated by not being given a choice about what I’ve seen as a result of it. The nightmares last night have scarred me the way my old PTSD nightmares used to scar me, and I feel like I’ve ricocheted right back to the days when I felt the worst of my symptoms. I haven’t been able to focus today. I’ve been periodically shaking. A myriad of other symptoms are still struggling to be contained. It’s going to take me time to recover from what I’ve seen and to regain my ability to log onto social media without fear. At least I could turn off television coverage under my own control. I have no control over the pictures you all post but I hope I’ve made you think about the way you go about it a little more. No, I don’t want to explain where my PTSD problems originated. That’s not the point. If you’ve been around here long enough, you can piece it together. I’ve had it under control for several years, but again, the last 48 hours have me feeling like I’ve ricocheted backwards. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve asked others like me how the photos circulating on social media are affecting them.

Just think before you post. Think about who might be affected by it even if it is “your page” and “your right”. Have some compassion for those who don’t have stronger coping skills like you do.

Read More

That time my mother was a movie star

Posted by Jessica Jewett 1 Comment »

Lori GrahamThe summer of 1992 was brutally hot in St. Louis. I was 10-years-old and my mother was quite close to the age that I am now (that’s an odd thought!). We had a pretty decent life, much more secure than it is now, but that was part of the economic boom in the 90s, I think. Everybody was a lot better off after the recession in the 80s. She had her portraits made a year or two after the fact, which is what you’re seeing on the left.

My mother had a best friend through her job at Southwestern Bell. Remember when it was Southwestern Bell? Her friend heard about a Steven Soderbergh movie called King of the Hill that was going to be filmed in the old part of the city and she really wanted to go and audition, but she was nervous. So my mother agreed to go and be moral support, although it really didn’t interest her. Friends just do that kind of thing for one another.

I don’t know much about how they were cast other than they needed extras to play tuberculosis patients in a sanitarium. My mother’s friend was terribly excited and hoping they put her close to one of the principal actors so she could get some camera time. In the end, my mother who really didn’t care about the movie, was eyeballed by the casting people. She noticed they were talking among themselves and looking at her. Before she knew it, she was cast as a tuberculosis patient and told that she would be placed quite close to the principal actress. Her friend, however, was too dark and too modern looking (the movie was Depression-era), so she was put much further away at the other end of the hospital. My mother was the one they wanted and she never intended to actually be an extra.

That night, my mother told me about how she was going to be in a movie and I was very excited. Being only 10, I thought my mother was going to be a real movie star. She was pretty enough, so it wasn’t that far-fetched in my childish mind. There were always comments about how she resembled Helen Hunt or Meryl Streep from strangers and friends alike in the same way that my grandmother was compared with Greta Garbo in her day. I loved movies then but I didn’t quite reach a magical place of wanting to be part of movies until The Last of the Mohicans came out that fall. It probably started then and blew up when The Last of the Mohicans came out, then Gettysburg, and The Age of Innocence in the next two years. My mother had a bit of magical fairy dust on her just by being part of a movie though.

I don’t remember if the shooting day was one or two days now. I just know that it was the longest day I had ever spent away from home and it might have been two days that my memory is blending together now. I was dropped off at a babysitter’s house before dawn and not picked up until well after dark. I remember it was murderously hot and I spent the day at the Queeny Park pool. Missouri summers are as hot as summers in the Deep South, except the humidity is much higher because St. Louis is wedged in the nook where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet. Everyone in the movie is sweating when you watch it. That’s not stage sweat. That’s real sweat.

While I was swimming at Queeny Park, my mother was in the old part of the city making her big screen debut. They chose a location for the tuberculosis sanitarium that was part of the Catholic church in the area. The building used to house nuns, and then when there was a tuberculosis problem in the city, they turned it into a sanitarium – so the movie people used it for their sanitarium too. My mother was herded with all of the other extras through makeup and wardrobe until somebody realized that she was supposed to be positioned next to the principal actress in the scene. Then she had to go and get better makeup, hair, and wardrobe fitting before she was taken to the set. To make her look like she was wasting away from tuberculosis, they put baby oil in her hair and braided it down her back. Then they powdered her face and hands to make her look sickly and pale, along with dark makeup under her eyes. She was given a real housecoat from the 1930s, which was greenish and long to the floor. They used the baggy housecoat to hide her healthy figure and trick the camera into thinking she was skeletal.

After Soderbergh was happy with how the extras looked, they were taken to the set. In those days, people could only visit their sick family members by standing in the courtyard of this U-shaped building and shouting up to their loved ones along the balconies. In the scene my mother shot, the boy in the movie – the main character – arrived to visit his mother who had been sick with tuberculosis for most of his life. She was on the second floor on the left-hand wing of the U-shaped building from the boy’s point of view in the courtyard. My mother was placed right next to her, on her right (left if from the boy’s point of view). She said it was about a bed-length away. My mother got her own “family” since she was so close to the principal actress and they were directed to pretend to communicate by mouthing words so their voices wouldn’t interrupt the emotional scene between the mother and son. She described long breaks between shooting takes because the lighting people were unhappy and trying to change things. The scene itself wasn’t very long but it took something like eleven hours to shoot. It was hot. They were all wearing scratchy old 1930s clothes. They were slathered in oil and heavy makeup used for film.

My mother was exhausted by the time it was over and had witnessed lots of squabbling about whether it should be a wide shot on the whole wing or a close shot on the mother’s face. So after everything and then being a bed-length away from the actress, there was a good chance she wouldn’t make the cut in the scene anyway. Of course, as an adult, I know now that it’s pretty typical of films to cut, re-cut, edit, redo, etc.

You can watch the scene in this video. It starts at the 7:35 mark, roughly.

Now that it’s not the murderously hot summer of 1992 anymore and she’s not slathered in oil and makeup, she is rather happy that she was in a movie. She didn’t make the cut because Soderbergh and his editing people decided to use the close shots on the principal actress rather than the wide shots. It was the experience that sticks out in her mind now. She was very excited when Netflix picked up the movie so we could watch it again.

You know what’s really awesome too? These people were in the movie. Adrien Brody wasn’t a big star yet. Elizabeth McGovern wasn’t the Countess of Grantham yet. Lauren Hill wasn’t crazy yet. I love Adrien Brody! For the rest of my life, I can say my mother once worked on a Steven Soderbergh film that had Adrian Brody in it.

Adrien Brody

Elizabeth McGovern

Lauren Hill

I watched the movie last night on Netflix. I hadn’t seen it since we all watched it when it was released. Even though my mother didn’t make the cut because they used the close shot, I know she was there and my interest in movies gives me something to talk about with her. I told her that if I ever win an Oscar or something, I will have to mention that my mother was once an extra in a Steven Soderbergh movie. There is still a 10-year-old girl in me who thinks my mother was pretty and bright enough to be a real movie star.


Read More

Brushes with Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow

Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

The one good thing about depression – if anything of the nature could be termed as a good thing – is my uncanny ability to hide in books and read them quickly during these cycles. With the recent loss of a friend I’ve known more than half my life, a depression cycle hit me so swift and so hard that I have been paralyzed since the end of last week. I mean paralyzed to the point of not being able to do anything that requires any decision making skills or I will trigger a panic attack. Just deciding whether to shower now or later, for example, nearly had me at a breakdown the day before yesterday. I have to keep my mind active while I ride this out though, or I’ll be a vegetable on my pillow staring at the TV, and then this whole thing will go on even longer. So I’ve been going through the books on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet and devouring one per day. Yesterday I read Marilyn Monroe Returns: The Healing of a Soul and today I read By Love Reclaimed: Jean Harlow Returns to Clear Her Husband’s Name, both by Dr. Adrian Finkelstein.

Marilyn Monroe ReturnsBoth books are about how very different women, Sherrie Lea Laird and Valerie Franich, who have no connection to each other by the way, sought help from Dr. Finkelstein in resolving issues from their respective past lives that are negatively affecting their present lives. The women couldn’t have been more different and, as it turns out, the results of their cases couldn’t have been more different, yet a lot of valuable information could be found in their stories. I view one as a cautionary tale and the other as taking the road to real healing.

I had been aware of the Marilyn/Sherrie case for several years but I never got around to reading the book. For a bit of background, Sherrie went through her entire life feeling unstable and like a grown woman existed in her somewhere even as a child. She endured repeated suicide attempts, hospitalization in psychiatric facilities, and so many similarities with Marilyn that she couldn’t deny the trauma of that death hadn’t yet been resolved. Unlike many cases where people will brag about being someone famous, which is considered a huge red flag for authenticity, Sherrie was never a Marilyn fan and ran from looking into such a past life for six years after initially reaching out for help. She finally agreed to undergo hypnotic regression with Dr. Finkelstein, and after a period of many months of partnered research and treatment, appeared to be on the road to recovery. She abandoned her suicidal tendencies as a result of the hypnosis sessions and reached a more peaceful place about her past life case; however, she never fully reached what I would call complete stability. Marilyn herself never reached stability either, as we all know, and I find it difficult to believe that a life as chaotic and, at times, as tortured as hers could have been corrected in the immediately proceeding lifetime with just a few months of assistance. In other words, I’m not surprised that Sherrie is still apparently unstable and living in a bizarre world.

I was acquainted with Sherrie at the time of this book’s release (2005 or 2006), so I have looked in on her periodically over the years. This was roughly the time that I was beginning to take my own Fanny Chamberlain case into public light after many years of hiding the way she did. I wouldn’t say we were friends but we were casual acquaintances, as many are in this odd little “I used to be famous” club of reincarnationists. Where Marilyn is an A-list international icon, my “famous” life was, by comparison, B-list or C-list at best. But Sherrie had been through public scrutiny over her case already and I thought we’d make acquaintances to sort of compare notes. I found her to be friendly and relatively sweet at the time, sort of like an adolescent girl in hyperactive thought processes and a peculiar naivete that made me raise an eyebrow at her technically being old enough to be my mother. Indeed, her energy did read as Marilyn to me and I do feel the case is valid, but that also meant a certain chaos within that energy that carried over from that life to her present one. I backed off from the chaos quickly, like a rubber ball bouncing off a wall, and I also noticed Dr. Finkelstein’s patient reserve showing cracks of exasperation at times as well. Now that I think on it, a lot of people backed off from Marilyn’s chaotic energy the way I backed off from Sherrie in the present.

The damage Marilyn did to herself has made Sherrie into a far more chaotic and I daresay paranoid person today. In the last few years, she has adopted many of the most outlandish conspiracy theories that have, in part, made her become a rather vocal anti-Semite, among other things. It’s going to clearly require several more lifetimes until the Marilyn damage is fully healed. Dr. Finkelstein himself has been forced to publicly disassociate himself from her because of the path she has taken, and so have I. The thing I want to point out about all of this is that just because a person has apparently become very controversial and unstable doesn’t necessarily diminish the legitimacy of the past life case. On the contrary, given Marilyn’s mental state for most of her adult life, I would be far more skeptical of Sherrie if she emerged from a few months of regressions spouting sunshine and roses for the rest of her life. It’s a myth that being aware of your past life traumas automatically gives you this sense of zen that makes you a beautifully evolved spiritual being. Suicides typically come back fairly quickly and the immediate lives after the act of suicide are very rocky and marred by chaos and swinging back and forth between peace and unrest. I believe the healing process is incredibly difficult. People will fall off their paths and become misguided before the worst of it is through. Sherrie is not hopeless but I believe she needs much more distance between Marilyn and future lives before she has the ability to see more clearly and abandon her apparent hateful and misguided stance on a variety of present issues.

In truth, I found Marilyn Monroe Returns: The Healing of a Soul to be an exhausting experience because of how terrible and exhausting Sherrie’s personal journey was. I don’t feel that she is as healed as we would like, but that is to be expected given the circumstances of Marilyn energy in Sherrie for so many years.

By Love ReclaimedOn the other hand, I found By Love Reclaimed: Jean Harlow Returns to Clear Her Husband’s Name to be much more of an experience that led to a resolution for the parties involved. This is not to say everything is perfectly wrapped up into a beautiful bow for everyone involved, but the resolutions reached were such that allowed people to more fully function here in the present.

Unlike Sherrie Lea Laird, Valerie Franich was never oppressively plagued by terrifying flashbacks of her past life, nor was she nearly that unstable as to be suicidal or hospitalized. She is highly educated in the mental health field as well, so she has an understanding of her own mind perhaps better than the average person. Valerie’s energy comes across as shockingly nonchalant, which may seem odd in a past life case, but was actually found to be a rather close match with the way Jean Harlow approached things.

Valerie’s progression into realizing that she was Jean Harlow in a past life came rather gradually. It began with an affinity for California and the Los Angeles area that she never consciously realized was a past life issue, although it is very common that we develop affinities for the places where we once lived and loved. In my case, I developed an affinity for Maine and upper New England very early in my life, before I ever really understood where those places were. Like Valerie, I didn’t automatically leap to the reincarnation conclusion. That came much, much later. She thought something strange was going on as an adult when she visited Beverly Hills and gave a friend a tour of the neighborhoods. The friend reported that she went into a semi-trance state and began describing things about the houses that she couldn’t possibly know. Later, they found out that all of the houses where she had stopped in this semi-trance state were houses where Jean Harlow had lived or new people.

After a series of other strange coincidences, she felt compelled to contact Dr. Finkelstein, especially after three separate people asked her how she felt about his Marilyn Monroe book. As he did with the Marilyn case, he began conducting hypnotic regressions on Valerie and establishing her past life case with historical research and several other kinds of evidence like physical recognition, handwriting, and so on and so forth.

The reason why Jean Harlow came back so quickly was because, according to her, she needed to clear her husband’s name. She had been married to an MGM executive who allegedly killed himself two months after they were married. The truth was he had been murdered by his previous common-law wife and the studio covered it up to protect Jean because she was there moneymaking machine. The most shocking turn of all was to find out that Dr. Finkelstein himself had been the husband that was murdered in his past life, which he initially denied for many months. As a man of science, he could not accept something like that so quickly. He brought in two separate unrelated consultants to conduct research and regressions because he could no longer be objective about the situation. Eventually, as the regressions continued on both of them, and using the same standards of evidence on himself as he does everyone else, he found the claim to be true. He had been her husband.

I have personally never undergone hypnosis as I used to be rather against it. I’m not entirely for it either at this point but I’m more open to the idea from an experimental perspective. Ordinarily, I would not be so open to “famous” past life cases like these if they were presented from a strictly hypnotic perspective, because hypnosis by itself is not enough proof of a past life case, but there was a lot more evidence provided that swayed my opinion. One particular thing that I did find interesting was that the same medium (Shirley MacLaine’s medium) the confirmed my past life case also confirmed these past life cases. Until I find someone qualified enough to guide me through the hypnosis process, however, I can never truly understand what these women went through in their stories. I am interested in doing it partially on an experimental level but partially because both women reported feeling relief in certain negative cycles in their lives. Such relief would be quite helpful to me as well.

Both women displayed knowledge of their previous lives on levels that they shouldn’t have unless they were Hollywood historians, which they were not. Both women, under hypnosis, displayed appropriate emotional reactions to questions that, if they were being deceitful, would be met with factual answers like a fan would have collected. Both women bear striking resemblances to their previous lives in the faces, hands, and feet. Both women displayed health problems earlier in their lives that they could not have known about but corresponded with their past life counterparts. It goes on from there, much the way I collected evidence about my own past life case. If I expect people to respect my past life case, then it is my responsibility as a fellow human being to respect their cases.

On a personal note, I really did enjoy how both books mentioned Clark Gable, since he is one of my favorite actors. The Marilyn Monroe book did not mention him in great detail but he was somewhat mentioned. However, Jean Harlow was very good friends with him and her recollections were a pleasure to read. She talked quite frequently under regression about how Clark Gable tried to keep her going after her husband died. They were like brother and sister and he tried to keep her laughing and distract her from her turmoil. He respected her and she respected him because they both showed up and did their job no matter what was happening in their personal lives. Arthur Miller was also mentioned in the Marilyn Monroe book, which is interesting to me because he is Daniel Day Lewis’ father-in-law, and we all know that he is my number one favorite actor. Sherrie came back with an attraction to men of Arthur’s type because she did love him even though the marriage didn’t work. She said he just wasn’t capable of dealing with her problems. She never really spoke badly of any of her husbands under regression, although she did put a lot of blame on the Kennedy brothers for her state of mind toward the end of her life. This old Hollywood junkie loved those anecdotes.

I have never had any contact with Valerie the way I did with Sherrie, so my opinion of the situation can extend no further than what was presented to me in the book. The book itself seemed a bit rushed from a strictly literary perspective because much of it was transcripts of hypnosis sessions with both Valerie and Dr. Finkelstein and very little actual narrative. I’m forgiving of that because I know firsthand how gut-wrenching it is to write about your past life case for the world to consume. The Marilyn book went into much deeper detail of background information and the logistics of hypnosis, the different levels of hypnosis, the different types of reincarnation, why it happens, and so on and so forth. Reading the Jean Harlow book, it is implied that the person reading it would have some working knowledge of reincarnation and hypnosis. So it is my suggestion that if you read either of these books, you should read both of them concurrently to get an accurate picture of the bigger situation. I do recommend these books if you are interested in the process of going through past life memories and learning to assimilate those past lives into the present. That is really the purpose of the whole thing. Learning what cycles went wrong in the past and making them right in the present. More and more people are starting to come forward with their past life cases, so I think more books like these and like mine will be coming out as time passes.

Read More