My Dad, Robin Williams, Osama Bin Laden and Lewy Body Dementia

I felt bad for Lewy body dementia this week.

On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Robin Williams was “struggling” with the disease, and that it had “triggered” the actor’s suicide in August.

If this was the first you’d read or heard about Lewy body, you would probably think: Wow, what a terrible thing.

You would not be wrong.

My father was diagnosed with Lewy body. As the disease was described to us, it was like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s rolled into one because that’s essentially what Lewy body is: Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s rolled into one.

So, no, not a lot of fun.

And yet…

The hallucinatory nature of the disease, the part that TMZ seized on in its Williams report, made for fascinating discussions with my father. See, once meds were adjusted, my father was able to describe in great detail what he had seen on his Lewy body dementia trips. For example: When my father was out of his head in Nursing Home No. 1, he later related from the comfort of Nursing Home No. 2, he became aware of a nuclear bomb that was being stored in the next room over by Osama bin Laden. It was a brilliant ruse, he thought. After all, who would expect to find a high-grade explosive and the World’s Most Wanted Man in a skilled nursing facility in the San Gabriel Valley? Nobody, that’s who! (Good thing bin Laden wasn’t listening in, and taking notes.)

Odder than the bin Laden story was my father’s summer-long search for the baby. You may ask, what baby? I asked myself this, too, as, at the time, my father had four grown children (average age 40.3), no grandchildren and zero acquaintances among the infant and toddler set. But, oh, did that baby worry him. The darned tot was always getting kidnapped or otherwise vanishing. (Somehow, this act of going missing was always the baby’s fault, and not my father’s, even though reasonable people like myself would argue it was his responsibility to keep tabs on the imaginary baby.) In any case, the baby. It troubled him. It troubled him so deeply, apparently, that he never could answer the vital, “What was up with that?” question.

But—and this is key—he talked objectively about the baby. He talked objectively about bin Laden. He’d been to the other side of the lucidity, and returned to report on it. In the end, Lewy body dementia didn’t rob him of his mind. (His ability to swallow and play basketball, sure, but…) In the end, Lewy body dementia didn’t even kill him. (Spoiler alert: A heart attack did!)

My point here is not to sell Lewy body dementia as a good thing, but to remind that like many a bad thing, it may not be as bad as a TMZ headline makes it out to be.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association makes a similar point, noting that while an autopsy found Williams’ brain showed signs of the disease, the actor was not necessarily exhibiting dementia before his death.

Wonder if TMZ’s meds can be adjusted.

My Kid Watches Minecraft Videos on YouTube

And yours probably does, too.

A story for Yahoo! on what children are watching when they’re not watching Saturday-morning cartoons.

By the by, I did not err just now in referring to Saturday-morning cartoons in the present tense. Despite misty-eyed reports of their demise, the genre has not died. The programming block lives on on cable; its programs play on via streaming. Not that my kid knows or cares about any of this.

He’s watching Minecraft videos on Youtube.

This Week in Creepy-Doll News

One, here’s my Q&A with Lorraine Warren, the keeper of the creepy doll of Annabelle and The Conjuring fame. (For Yahoo!)

Two, here’s Weird Florida’s look at Robert, the creepy doll of Key West, Fla., that @PeggyFailing suggested I check out: “[L]ocals are scared of him.”

Three, here’s the Morning Bulletin’s profile of Sadi, the creepy doll of Rockhampton, Australia.

Four, here’s Baby Laugh A-Lot.

I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m sorry I had to see that. I’m sorry I can’t un-see that.

Oh, creepy dolls, why do you have to be so creepy? Can’t you be more like—oh, I don’t know?—Furbys?

Oh, never mind…

Climate Change, Fall and the Fall TV-Season

Today is the first day of fall. Monday was the first day of the fall-TV season.

Due to climate change, the fall season is looking different—researchers say as temperatures rise foliage will burst into autumn colors later than usual (although, on the plus side, the brilliant colors will last longer).

Due to climate change of another kind, the fall-TV season is likewise looking different.

TV Guides that used to be big and thick and well-thumbed-through are now strictly the stuff of eBay auctions.


Network promos that deployed a squadron of hot-air balloons to elevate their stars are now strictly the stuff of obscure YouTube clips.

The very tradition itself, the very idea of an annual roll-out of multiple new series (most of which are destined to become pricey failures), the very notion that audiences have nothing better to do than to (pardon the expression) wait for networks to bestow upon them fresh product is an “archaic” throwback” and “a vestige of a fading business.”

Climate change, it’s real. And it’s everywhere.


Sylvia Plath Totally Ruins Father Knows Best: 50 Poems About TV, TV Watching and the Existential Sadness of Conan O’Brien, as featured in Shelf Unbound, now available on Amazon.

“Bewitched” Spoiler: Samantha Stevens Is a Witch

ScreenHunter_289 Sep. 17 21.51I went all out, if I do say so myself, on the occasion of the 50th birthday of Bewitched.

First, I learned how to do a proper spell-casting nose twitch, which technically isn’t a nose twitch (for Yahoo!). Then, I live-tweeted the first-ever episode (at 9 p.m. PT, just as it would’ve aired back in the day) ’cause if you want to engage the children on Twitter then you really need to be live-tweeting TV shows that are turning a half-century old. (Science will back me up on that last one, I’m sure of it.)