The Spectre

I’m starting to think in more detail about what I’m going to do for Death Awareness Week this year.

Man, I have *got* to fix my post-1981 Disney blind spot
Everyone’s at it, you know.

I was originally turned on to Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief‘s work when Mrs Stroke Bloke and I attended a Death Café back in 2013.

[Pass the minutes before death below. And if you’re still waiting,
check out the apoplexy newsletter.

Unrelatedly, I found myself scribbling some possible song lyrics on a bus yesterday.

Death, where is thy sting?
Damnit, not you again. Also, that has no scansion.

Not like that. Inside the bus. The lines kind of moved towards a theme of it’s the spectre of death that gives life its joy. I know, easy to say when you’ve escaped those clammy fingers. But I do think that there’s something in that old saw.

Imagine my surprise then, when I took a look at the links I had flagged during the past seven eight days in preparation for this week’s post. It was all a bit Moritz Erhardt. It’s now almost fifteen years since the 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London worked three nights in a row on the work–car–shower-at-home–car–work carousel and then dropped dead.

Yeah! Goddamn hippies!
“Tidy up the mess and keep working, slackers!”

I’ve still not gotten around to a full reflection of Stephen Hawking’s death, and there are still a bunch of links about that on the Reading List. He certainly believed that The Spectre pushed his creative, scientific endeavours forward.  But more recently, it’s been less celebrated folks who have been catching my eye.

I'd forgotten that panel. Quite evocative of my experience.
You stay right there though, The Spectre.

On Monday, Zeke Upshaw – a player with NBA Detroit Pistons’ G-League affiliate The Grand Rapids Drive – died two days after collapsing during a game with the Long Island Nets. Upshaw had scored 11 points to help the Drive earn a playoff spot with the 101-99 victory on Saturday.

This article on SB Nation/Nets Daily paints a distressing picture of the scene, before moving on to discuss the cause of death, which was confirmed yesterday as sudden cardiac death. According to Nets Daily

[t]he cause of Upshaw’s death, unfortunately, is not so rare. Big men are prone to sudden cardiac arrest and death. Five former [New Jersey/Brooklyn] Nets have died of it in recent years.

Zeke Upshaw playing for the Grand Rapids Drive
Zeke Upshaw playing for the Grand Rapids Drive

The article cites a Columbia University study which found that the left ventricle… of an NBA player’s heart is usually proportional to his overall body size, while the root of his aorta, which is the major artery that carries blood from the left ventricle to the vital organs, is typically smaller than might be expected, based on his height…. African-Americans, who dominate the sport at its highest levels, have a genetic predisposition to certain heart defects that can lead to SCD.

I’m reminded of the dumb luck that causes a particular person to suffer from a stroke or a brain aneurysm. Or experience a better or worse outcome thereafter.

What’s luck got to do with it? a Diddy asks.

The other death that showed up on the apoplexy radar was that of DPD driver Don Lane.

*Scroll down
…and that’s just the Amazon packaging?!?!*

Don died a little while ago, but DPD has now announced a new employment model whereby drivers who choose direct employment will be paid less per parcel delivered to [receive] paid holiday, sick pay and pensions.

Y’see, according to his widow, Don Lane missed three appointments with specialists to treat kidney damage from his diabetes because he felt under pressure to cover his round and faced DPD’s £150 daily penalties if he did not find cover. Thereafter, he collapsed at the wheel of his van and later died.

Don Lane (Photograph: RichardCrease/BNPS)
Don Lane (Photograph: RichardCrease/BNPS)

Oof. A real reminder to do one’s best to prioritise one’s health. But it is a difficult equation for so many people. Is, say, losing various of your gigs as a member of the precariat any healthier that missing a few doctor’s appointments?

So, let’s end with a happy story, and a man who lived.

Ha! Snape's in your head now!
“No, not you, Potter. A thousand points from Gryffindor”

As I sat down to write this, I heard that a viola player, Chris Goldscheider, had just won a judgement against the Royal Opera House. According to this article by BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman, it was the first time ‘acoustic shock’ has been recognised as a condition which can be compensated by a court.

It’s a sad case, in which Mr Goldscheider’s lawyers stated that, among other things, the plaintiff has to wear ear defenders to carry out everyday household tasks such as preparing food. The ROH, on the other hand, argued that acoustic shock does not exist, and that if it did, Mr Goldscheider did not have it. He just happened to have developed Meniere’s disease at exactly the same time as the super-loud, high intensity noise burst behind his right ear.

Frank? Is that you?
Or a Wascally Wabbit did it…?

Or, it was connected to sitting directly in front of the brass section during a rehearsal of Wagner’s thunderous opera Die Walkure.

The ROH… argued a balance had to be struck between preserving the artistic integrity of the music while doing everything possible to reduce the risk of damage to musicians’ hearing, that was an inevitable feature of playing long-term in an orchestra.

But Mrs Justice Nicola Davies was having none of it, ruling that the reliance upon artistic value implies that statutory health and safety requirements must cede to the needs and wishes of the artistic output of the Opera company, its managers and conductors.

Court Artist’s Impression

Such a stance is unacceptable, Justice Davies declared. Musicians are entitled to the protection of the law, as is any other worker.

And, you know what? For a second I was proud to be a recovering lawyer. And to have survived the experience.

Better shirts that those American guys, too.
Looked good doing it, though

See you next week!

*That’s actually a fleet of Chinese execution vans. Check out the Wiki page for the horrifying story of that stuff.

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4 thoughts on “The Spectre

  1. Ahh luck vs talent. As an extremely talented individual, I ascribe all of my successes entirely to that, and not to luck at all.

    No, wait, hold on, that’s not what I do at all. How someone can’t think of luck as being a critical and necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) condition for being successful always amazes me. I mean yes, Mr. Diddy, we all do get the same 24 hours. What exactly have you done with yours again?

    But of course I’m a scientist and mathematician at heart. And so you end up wondering “couldn’t you set up an agent based model for the distribution of capital based on talent and opportunities, where positive opportunities can only be used by more talented people, but negative opportunities happen to everyone, and opportunities are randomly distributed? If you did, what would you find?”. I’m sure you wondered the same.

    The primary reason i wondered that, though, is it’s because it is exactly what Plucino, Biondo, and Rapisadra did in their Feb 2018 paper. (Now that’s up to date research eh?).

    And they find

    “In particular, we show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals.”

    So isn’t it nice to know that there’s a math application for which really does seem to be mediocre but, sensibly, luckier.

    1. Yes, I have wondered the same. Obvs. But in a more jurisprudential context. Truly fascinating stuff.

      Also: What if bad luck was apportioned to people who said things like, “And we give them money to research that?” Because that is *exactly* the sort of research I want to hear about. Thanks!

      I recently had a bit of fun doing a daft wee flash for The Writers’ Cafe Magazine in which a scientific model could predict the exact moment a person would die. Tacitly, the science was biorhythms, but that’s just between you and me, OK?

      One thing I’ll say for the Diddy: it’s always nice to have a reason to look this up again – – Bernard Edwards, Nile Rogers, and the only jazz trombone solo of a top-ten pop hit in the last 60 years. Nice!

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