May 30, 2005

Leather time capsules

Crews demolishing old military barracks on this sprawling base near Paso Robles stumbled on a surprising find: wallets.

Tumbling out of heating ducts suspended from the ceilings, the wallets were stuffed with remarkably well-preserved personal belongings dating from World War II and the Korean War.

Love letters. Religious medals. Base passes. High school identification cards. Driver's licenses. Dog tags. Snapshots. Tips for surviving an atomic blast.

The only thing missing was money.

........

Air Ducts Hide a Trove of Memories


The fact that there is no money in any of these wallets leads us to believe they were stolen," said California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. "The thefts usually involved a trusting guy from a small town who set his wallet down, then got distracted.

"Someone else, in one fluid motion, nabbed the wallet, snatched the cash and chucked the rest into the heating duct overhead."

Over the decades, the heat turned the leather into something resembling beef jerky, but left everything inside intact.

Murotake, who is in charge of tracking down the owners, said the wallets become instant "touchstones,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 PM | Permalink

Communion of the Fallen

This Memorial Day, all we are asked to do is to remember the men and women who gave everything so we can live as we do.

Remember and reflect on those you know and those unknown to you who sacrificed for you and me and those unknown to them.

  Soldiers Graves

There are so many in the communion of the fallen stretching back to the Revolutionary War until our present where there are still  parents, children and siblings who worry every day about a "doorbell moment" and when it comes,  they carry their losses into their future, for all their lives. 

At the Mudville Gazette, we are reminded every time we visit that "Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf".

For Marines, Taps is the call to God to open up the gates of Heaven.

Bill Whittle in another powerful and long essay writes about why we are fighting this war on terror and about  Sanctuary -of the uniform, of surrender and of mercy.

Or look at the  Art and blogs that bare the souls of yet another fighting generation.

Remember and be grateful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2005

Seeds to Trees to Center

Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but  humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant  a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own  a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any  clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one.

If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten  thousand. And in the seventh year he may lean upon his shovel, and look  upon his trees, and find them good.

From Aldo Leopold's Sand Country Almanac, 1948

  Aldo Leopold

When I was in Washington working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Aldo Leopold was considered  the founding father of wildlife ecology, his ground-breaking book, Game Management, the bible because it defined the fundamental skills and techniques of managing and restoring wildlife populations.

One lawyer always quoted Leopold to support the Endangered Species Act.

The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part  is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of  aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a  fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is  the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

Leopold's basic concept of the land as a living organism and his land ethic was to include "soils, waters, plants, and animals" or the land as an essential part of every community.

For him, "land is not merely soil: it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals."

His philosophy of living in community with the land and with each other was further developed in Sand Country Almanac which he wrote in a chicken coop on a worn out farm near Baraboo, Wisconsin in an area known as the sand counties.

Sand Country Almanac was published in 1949, a year after Leopold was killed fighting a grass fire.

Now pine trees he planted nearly 70 years ago will be used to construct a new Aldo Leopold Legacy Center on that once worn out piece of land he bought in Barbaroo, announced the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Nina Leopold Bradley, who helped her father plant the pines after a drought killed all the trees they had planted in 1935, says that use of the trees for the structure is "a natural"

"It seems just right that we would use our own wood for the facility," said Bradley, 88, who lives on the eastern edge of the Leopold reserve.  My husband and I built (our) house from trees we planted, too. It's all really quite nice."

A Great Legacy come full circle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

Spiritual Legacy of Ethical Wills on VOA

The Voice of America, as part of its American Life series,  is playing a story about a hospice in central Iowa where staff members are helping patients prepare ethical wills to leave behind a spiritual, philosophical legacy.

Mr. Fry says most people have a desire to leave behind something more meaningful than material goods. "It may be those opportunities to share where it is we came from, what we're about, why we chose decisions that we chose or made decisions that we made throughout our lives. It's an opportunity to deal with regret and forgiveness."

Mr. Burkhart says the exercise has been therapeutic: "It has helped me tremendously and has given me satisfaction knowing that I have been able to express myself to my kids and my family, my parents, about how I feel and where I'm at."

Joel Fry at the Hospice of Central Iowa points out that one does not have to be an accomplished writer to compile an ethical will. It can start with a simple timeline, or a list. "Just number 1 through 30, the most important things in your life," he says. "There are individuals who'll sit in front of a movie camera. Many times I've had a movie camera going, and that's how they choose to do it."
----------------
The hospice workers say one of their saddest experiences is watching patients rage against the steady loss of independence -- their homes, the freedom to drive, even their memories. All the more reason, say the staff members, that recording thoughts about life's lessons and blessings should not be a matter left till one's deathbed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2005

No Flowers for Fallen Heroes

Collin Kelley, 9, wanted to plant flowers on the graves of fallen heroes on Memorial Day.  He raised money, got permission from the cemetery, but the board of trustees ordered him to stop.

Apparently, only families who buy rights to burial plots at the Edgell Grove Cemetery in Framingham, MA, can plant flowers.

Some of the graves are over 300 years old and their families will not be planting flowers.  Neither will Collin Kelley.  So the graves will be bare come Monday.

UPDATE:  The trustees have relented.

  Collin Kelly
Collin can plant flowers on the graves of veterans so long as he removes them Monday night.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2005

Digital Immortality

By 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it's not a major career problem,' said  Ian Pearson, one of Briain's leading futurologists to The Observer. 'If you're rich enough then by 2050 it's feasible. If you're poor you'll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it's routine.

Pearson, 44, has formed his mind-boggling vision of the future after graduating in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, spending four years working in missile design and the past 20 years working in optical networks, broadband network evolution and cybernetics in BT's laboratories. He admits his prophecies are both 'very exciting' and 'very scary'.

He believes that today's youngsters may never have to die, and points to the rapid advances in computing power demonstrated last week, when Sony released the first details of its PlayStation 3. It is 35 times more powerful than previous games consoles. 'The new PlayStation is 1 per cent as powerful as a human brain,' he said. 'It is into supercomputer status compared to 10 years ago. PlayStation 5 will probably be as powerful as the human brain.'

Count me in as a big time skeptic of this chilling view of the future where the time to live and the time to die are one and the same.

Besides, I believe in editing.  I'd rather have 20 favorite photos of a loved one than 2500.  Their favorite songs, not every one they ever listened to.  Their best thoughts and wise words, not every thought and every word.

That's why I believe people should take time and create just what they want to leave to the future as their personal legacy archives.  It's not a data dump.  It's a distillation of the best of your life.

UPDATE:  It does sound like a Rapture for Nerds or as they say, the
Singularity

If you live through the SIngularity and you do not try UpLoading and are not rendered PostHumous by feral calculators or get eaten by GreyGoo, you may be one of the PostHumans. PostHumans are humans who are not human any more.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

Cambodian midgets

How did I miss this?

In a ring fight sanctioned by the Cambodian government, a imported African lion killed 28 Cambodian midgets and wounded fourteen others in 12 minutes before the fight was called. 

It's too colossally stupid even for the Darwin Awards.

UPDATE:  Is my face red?  How embarrassing that I fell for this and didn't check Snopes.    I guess I just thought the BBC to be an authoritative site and I didn't have to check.  Big lesson learned.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2005

He lived the life he sought

I am so grateful for our soldiers who put their lives on the line everyday and who are doing remarkable, if often unreported, good works.  Only the Aussie  Arthur Chrenkoff takes the time to report the Good News from Iraq and Afghanistan on a weekly basis, by taking time to read the reports of what's going on with the society,  economy, reconstruction, humanitarian aid, and security. 

Thankfully, those reports are republished for a wider audience by  Winds of Change and OpinionJournal (free, but registration required).  Chrenkoff's good news reports  are essential reading for those who want to know more about what's happening than the number of people killed by the latest car bomb.

I read a number of military bloggers, like BlackFive, the Mudville Gazette and the stories they report.  I am continually struck by the intelligence and the character of our American soldiers, who, from my vantage point in the blogosphere, seem far more mature than their classmates here at home.  At first, I attributed this to the fact that dealing with the very real possibility of dying forces you to grow up pretty damn fast.  Of course that's true, but I wonder if the possibility of doing good, of fighting evil isn't just as compelling.  Or is it that those who see their true wealth in the character they build are more attracted these days to the military than to banking.

Sgt Michael Carlson of St. Paul, Minn, was killed on January 24, 2005 when his Bradley fighting vehicle overturned in Mohammed Sacran Irag.  He was 22.  Written as a senior in high school,  his "credo paper"  was featured yesterday in the Wall St Journal, entitled One American Soldier.  A fallen hero, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, leaving behind a grateful nation and a Great Legacy.

I'm saddened by his death and the great loss to his family.    Still, I'm  grateful that Michael Carlson wrote his credo down.  I've no doubt that this will be one of his family's greatest treasures, read and passed on with reverence for generations to come.  Here are a few excerpts.

I admire my Father more than any other person on this planet, not for being a mechanic, not for being a tough guy. I admire my father for his ambition. For 30 years he has gone to work everyday, for 30 years he has come home, gone to the garage and worked 10 more hours. I don't know how he does it but I do know why. He does it for us. He wants my brother and me to have everything we need and most of what we want. Lots of people say that the best way to learn is by the example of others. Well, then I have one of the best teachers there is on how to be a man, how to treat others, and the work ethic. I mean he is not perfect by any means but is anyone really perfect! I think that he is pretty close.

Sometimes I wonder if my dad ever thought of college. I wonder if he's happy. I sometimes even feel sorry for him. What I mean by that is that I look at him and see a guy that has spent his entire life working. That is what he does. He works. If my mom never brought up the idea of a vacation he would never think twice. He would work to the day he died. I love hard work, but how do you go to the same dead end job everyday knowing that you will be doing it forever.

Every now and then someone that had my dad fix their car will stop by and need something, and every time I talk to them they start talking about my dad's work. They compliment him on paint jobs he did 20 years ago that still look like they are brand new. That reminds me of another trait I have taken from my dad besides my hard work ethic. "If you are going to do a job, do it right the first time, because a job not done well is a job not worth doing," so the saying goes. I take that personally. If someone has an honest complaint about my workmanship, I will bend over backwards to make it right. If people are going to pay you good money to do something then you had better do a darn good job. That is why I usually work alone, then, if there is a problem I know whom I can blame.

My dad hasn't taught me everything though, a lot of it I have learned on my own too. I still got a lot to learn still, but I have figured out things like how to deal with people you don't like or those that don't like you. I also learned why when cutting a frozen bagel you cut away from yourself, I got the scar to prove it. My dad calls this type of learning "the school of hard knocks." Some of the knocks are harder than others.

I love sports. I love football, wrestling, weight lifting, skiing and hockey. I love the thrill of competition, the roar of the crowds, the agony on the faces of your opponents as the final seconds tick off the clock. However, I don't want to do it as a profession. I think it would be fun for a while then it would get boring. I guess the point that I am trying to make is that when I am on my deathbed what am I going to look back on? Will it be 30 years of playing a game that in reality means nothing, or will it be 30 years of fighting crime and protecting the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
* * *
I want my life to account for something more than just a game. In life there are no winners, everyone eventually loses their life. I only have so much time; I can't waste it with a game. I don't want those close to me to look at me and tell me that I was good at a game. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me. I am never late; I am either on time or early. I want to help people. I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier or something of that caliber, maybe a cop or a secret service agent.

I want to live forever; the only way that one could possibly achieve it in this day and age is to live on in those you have affected......

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 PM | Permalink

Joan Didion on Schiavo

A very even-handed fair look at the Case of Theresa Schiavo by Joan Didion, one of our greatest living writers, in the New York Review of Books.

HT Amy Welborn

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2005

Leaving Clues

How's this for Law and Order - ripped from the headlines. Victim's E-journal led to slay suspect.

A doomed Queens man's chilling computer entry led cops to a suspect who allegedly robbed and killed the victim and his sister to finance a return to China, police said yesterday.

Thanks Ronni.

And from Doc Searls in a post entitled Last Blog and Testament, a pointer to ToTo247's Xanga site and his last post.

Thursday, May 12, 2005
 
Today I missed my Japanese class again, since I have gotten a bad throat. I only went to the class once this week, so I am probably so far behind now. I will catch up in the summer tho so no worries hehe. Anyway today has been weird, at 3 some guy ringed the bell. I went down and recognized it was my sister's former boyfriend. He told me he wants to get his fishing poles back. I told him to wait downstair while I get them for him. While I was searching them, he is already in the house. He is still here right now, smoking, walking all around the house with his shoes on which btw I just washed the floor 2 days ago! Hopefully he will leave soon, oh yeah working on the jap report as we speak!
 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 AM | Permalink

May 20, 2005

You Don't Remember Me, Do You...

Lindsey and Nash became friends at the Western Sizzlin Steak House, both dreaming of the day they could fight the bad guys.

Nash was a 23 year old patrolman when he was shot and killed by a driver he pulled over for a traffic violation.  Lindsey, the sheriff of Lamar County, wrote a tribute 17 years later for Nash and for all the law officers who help us every day, sometimes risking their lives to do so. 

People see the uniform and the badge, and they rarely take time to find out a law enforcement officer's name or look at his or her face.

His tribute to law officers has won national thanks.
Here it is.  You Don't Remember Me, Do You..

There's a lesson here for all of us.  When someone helps us, whether or not it's part of their job, ask them their name and thank them by their name. 

The attitude of gratitude will make them feel appreciated and you feel better.  Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated.  Everyone. 

Do this throughout your day, every day,  and I guarantee you'll make the world a better place.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who unlocked your car after you accidentally locked the keys and your baby up at the mall.

I was the one who gave you a ride to the gas station when you ran out of gas on that backroad.

I was the one who changed your tire because you couldn't figure out how to work the stupid scissor jack.

I was the one who directed you safely through that busy intersection when the traffic signals weren't working.

I was the one who gave you a jump-start after you left your lights on.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who found the item that identified the guy who raped your daughter.

I was the one who spent my days off in court to testify and help convict the man who beat your son so badly.

I was the one who located your grandmother in the woods that night when it was 22 degrees and she had wandered away from the nursing home.

I was the one who loaned you the raincoat the night we stood and watched your house burn.

I was the one who talked with you for two hours about your son running away from home.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who held your hand, wiped the blood out of you eyes, and calmed you down while the Fire Department cut you out of what was left of your car.

I was the one who called you at 2 a.m. to come pick up your 16 year old daughterbecause she had been drinking too much.

I was the one who knocked on your door at 4 a.m. to let you know your 16 year old daughter would never be coming home again.

I was the one who did CPR on your 3 year old after you found him in the pool.

I was the one who helped deliver your new baby when you didn't quite make it to the ER.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who got that snake out of your bathroom around midnight.

I was the one who got my knees and elbows scraped up fighting with the shoplifter with your carton of cigarettes.

I was the one who took your son for a "ride-along" so he could see what it was really like.

I was the one who gave you the right directions so you wouldn't miss that business meeting.

I was the one who stopped you to let you know your right rear tire was going flat.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who escorted your son's funeral procession from the church to the cemeteryand cried behind my sunglasses because he was my friend, too.

I was the one watched over your place while you were on vacation.

I was the one who worked for you on Christmas Day so you could be off with your family.

I was the one who joked around with you after your truck got hit by a trainand you walked away without a scratch.

I was the one was able to talk your husband into going into counseling with you.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who got shot when I pulled over a car for a traffic violation and the driver turned out to be an escaped convict who had sworn he would never go back to prison.

Oh, by the way, my memorial service is at 2 p.m.

Will you remember me now?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2005

Wandering Shepherd

Sometimes, recovering and preserving some of a lost culture can be a Great Legacy.

Hans Breur may be the last wandering shepherd in Austria, traveling vast areas with his 625 sheep, essentially homeless except for a little caravan. 

He's also a Yiddish folksinger, revealing in concerts throughout the countryside some of what the Jewish-Austrian culture was like before the Nazis invaded and destroyed so much.

  Austrian Shepherd-1

More on The Sound of Yiddish at Beliefnet.    Sam Apple's new book "Schlepping Through the Alps"  tells the story of Hans Breuer and Sam's own search for Austria's Jewish past.  You can see just how funny Sam is if you click over to Who Let the Jews Out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 PM | Permalink

Woman sells husband's remains

What's going on in Romania?  Woman sells husband's grave because she needed money and dumped his remains nearby.

"Did I do anything wrong? Was that a crime? I don't think so. I only dug him out and sold the grave because he was my husband - mine.

The man's family recovered the remains and plans to bury him again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

Cream of the Crop

The week's going by faster than I thought.  While I was out yesterday, the Carnival of Vanities hosted by John Behan, the Commonwealth Conservative and the Internet's first elected blogger, went live.  My post Time Travelling at MIT and digital stories was among the Cream of the Crop.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2005

Doctor punched by 'corpse'

Hospital officials in Romania are investigating the case of the doctor being punched by a 'corpse' in the morgue.

Bogdan Georgescu, 16, was taken to a morgue after collapsing and showing no signs of life.

He said: "I woke up and had no idea where I was, I looked to the left and to the right and saw a dead woman on either side of me, and then I saw this man coming towards me in a white coat.

"I just panicked. I thought he was going to kill me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 PM | Permalink

The Perfect Washington Man

A powerful tribute to a lawyer and a gentleman.  Lloyd Cutler. 

"He was something special," public policy scholar Norm Ornstein said before the service. "The combination of talents! Smart as could be, knew everybody and everything, an incredible knowledge of the Constitution and the law, down to earth, and a passion for making the country and politics better. He made this town . . . more humane and advanced the interests of the nation."
......
All the stories, all the praise boiled down to this: Cutler, who died May 8 at the age of 87, personified the "lawyer-statesman." It's an old-fashioned term from the Washington of decades ago, when being part of the city's permanent establishment of lawyers, thinkers and problem-solvers was a noble profession. Before "inside the Beltway" was a pejorative, before "lawyer" was a punch line, men like Cutler came to the nation's capital because they believed their country wanted and needed them.

Cutler's great skill was to calmly set aside politics and tackle problems. "He wanted it -- whatever 'it' was -- to work and work well," Breyer said at both memorials. That meant following conscience instead of clients, identifying the issues at hand, and finding a way to make it work for everyone.

What I thought a lawyer could be when I went to law school.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:46 PM | Permalink

Walking Among Cadavers

In Among the Cadavers, Ann Althouse writes about her visit to Body Worlds, the anatomical exhibition of real human bodies, dead and plastinatized bodies, just one of the 16 million visitors who have done so.

What was it like walking right up to the dead, dissected bodies? For me, it was not disturbing. The bodies were amazing -- beautiful. You can look into a real human body and see the details of the organs --not bloody and pulsating -- but perfectly preserved. You know nothing about each individual -- who he was, how he died. But there he is, more fully exposed than a nude, for you to walk right up to and inspect. See those testicles, elegantly suspended on long ligaments?

On the walls are cloth hangings each with a single quote from a philosopher or other writer. You contemplate these great thoughts about the human body -- "
this quintessence of dust" -- as you make your way around creatively opened-out corpses, perhaps posed as athletes or dancers.  ........

And what about abortion? Was there a message here too? In a series of small beakers, we see the human embryo at each week of growth in the first trimester. A man and a woman look at the last one in the line. It's less than an inch long, and they are detecting the fingers and eyes. One feels challenged to make a judgment about which of these entities it is acceptable to kill.

The larger unborn bodies are in a separate curtained-off area, behind a sign that assures us that all of them died as a result of disease or accident. In the center of this part of the exhibit is the body of a woman who knew she was unlikely to survive her pregnancy and agreed to be immortalized this way. You can walk right up to her and gaze into her opened womb and see the 5-month-old fetus that died with her.

Arrayed around her are small cases containing fetuses of different ages. As you look at each one, you see into yourself. How do you respond? Do you think there is an interesting potential person? Or is there some age point where you cannot shake the sense of recognition of a fellow human being? Some visitors see that human being in the beaker that is not even shielded in the curtained area. Others gaze coolly on every single unborn body. Perhaps that 20-week-old evokes a primal human instinct to protect that you do not now realize lies within you.

Near the exit is a quote from Seneca:
Death is the release from all pain and complete cessation, beyond which our suffering will not extend. It will return us to that condition of tranquility, which we had enjoyed before we were born. Should anyone mourn the deceased, then he must also mourn the unborn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

Secret Funeral Prayers

The Asia Society's exhibit on Fifty Years Inside the People's Republic of China has introduced me to a number of new - to me anyway - and very good photographers.  Xiao - Ming Li documents China's Secret Catholics.  Below are a group saying funeral prayers aboard a fishing boat.

   Secret Catholics In China-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

May 16, 2005

"A Lost Soul"

Sometimes the very manner in which you die can redeem a life and be a Great Legacy. 

Homeless Man Dies Saving Miami Woman

R.I.P. Kelcy Ruiz.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:19 PM | Permalink

Never Say Never

In talking about end of life issues,  there's one phrase you hear over and over, it's I don't want to be a burden.   

Can someone who's a "burden" also serve, even give?  Who measures the quality of life anyway?  Mary Beth McCauley writes in the Christian Science Monitor on The issues beyond right-to-die.

This is surely the most loathed condition in our era of the fit, beautiful, and self-sufficient. Who could ever submit voluntarily to an existence that's all take and no give? And so it has evolved, almost without question, that we've embraced this "don't want to be a burden" idea as valid - that if you're potentially needy you want to make your exit posthaste.....
.....
But few who have gone the distance with serious illness would say that the experience didn't open them to a quality of relationship they never knew existed. Few haven't found themselves changed on the most basic level by the process, haven't become different - a better person, if you will - than they'd thought possible previously. And who, exactly, is the "giver" in such situations anyhow? Don't those who do the burdening themselves serve by allowing another the opportunity to give?
......
To expect anyone to embrace such a situation trivializes the excruciating pain that comes with lost dreams and intolerable demands. That said, people who've been there know well that the burdenhood model misrepresents a reality that often allows - if fleetingly - for physical and spiritual .

That debate shouldn't end privately, in the lawyer's office.....  Do we continue in lock step behind the convenient premise that the sick are a burden?...
.... there is shortsightedness in expecting the healthcare industry to make end-of-life policy. Thus the need to press the debate. After all, most of us have seen too many modern-day Lazaruses, watched too many lives made great by impossible medical challenges, to believe that "protocol" should measure the quality of our lives, or, finally, dictate the number of our days

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2005

The Dead Don't Talk

Because celebrity spokesmen often get into trouble, advertisers like dead people, especially the certainty they won't talk says Truman Taylor

That's why Marilyn Monroe earned $7 million last year,  Elvis earned $40 million.  Even Einstein pulled in $1 million last year, appearing in ads for Apple computers, Fuji film and Chrysler cars.

  Elvis, Mm And Einstein

Happy heirs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:42 AM | Permalink

May 14, 2005

Time Traveling at MIT and Stories, Scrapbooks

I sent in my RSVP and last  weekend, I dropped into the Time Travelers Convention at MIT, but seeing no one I knew, left.  Might go back though if I meet them later.

  Time Travel-2

Personally, I prefer stories for time travel.  What better way to travel to the past or insure a presence in the future than through really good stories?

My real reason for being at MIT was to learn more about the Work of Stories at the MIT Media in Transition conference.  While there were some of the 200 presenters, I  only stopped in on a few, those on digital storytelling, especially for families.  I wanted to see how time travel via digital stories was doing.  After all, digital storytelling -combining images and sound with a strong written narrative -  is a new art form, accessible to anyone who can use standard computer tools.  I think it's destined to be the preferred means of storytelling in the 21st century especially as internet savvy people grow older and begin to reflect on their lives and their stories as part of their legacy to their families.

J.D. Lasica writes about how the Center for Digital Storytelling helps people hold up a lens to their own lives.  He quotes  Joe Lambert who founded the Center.

"We sense that digital storytelling is beginning to spread like wildfire across the land," says Lambert, 45, who runs the 8-year-old center with his wife, Nina Mullen, plus a staff member and a posse of associates and technical volunteers. So far the non-profit project has trained more than 4,000 people in the use of digital media to tell meaningful stories from their lives.

I like Joe's first principle:

Every human has a powerful story to tell. You can not experience life without insights to your experience, which are valuable to a larger audience. Most people's perception of living a quiet, mundane, uninteresting, unmemorable life mask the vivid, complex and rich source of stories that everyone has to share.

I met Helen Barrett who's helping people with Electronic Portfolios especially in the field of education.  She shares her ideas on her blog and most valuable is her guide to digital storytelling tools.  Soon she'll be spending more time at Digital Family Story with her husband.  Hopefully, she'll do some redecorating to the site which looks clunky and outdated but still has useful links around digital storytelling.    I liked this older man's tribute to his Dad which nicely incorporates news footage and music from World War 2.  The narrator, his voice almost breaking, as he talks about the last time he saw his father, demonstrates better than I could say, how important hearing a voice and a personal point of view is.

Another great list of resources and links can be found at digitalstories.org.  I learned how much the BBC is doing in capturing stories of ordinary people in Wales.  Called CaptureWales, the BBC site features ordinary people creating their stories at digital storytelling workshops around Wales with a new featured story each week. 

For great stories there's always the favorite Fray where I found this amazing story of life and death about murder and carpet on the van walls, that you don't want to miss.

The only good paper I heard was by Barbara Audet at Auburn University who talked about the reinvention of the American scrapbook, this time with digital photographs and technology along with a more consciously crafted narrative.  I never knew before that Mark Twain was such an ardent scrapbooker, making them and taking them wherever he went, and making money with his patented "self-pasting" scrapbook.  PBS made an absolutely fabulous interactive scrapbook combining selections from his works, photos, illustration, clippings, and audio files.                 

  Mark Twain Scrapbook

The $2.5  billion scrapbooking industry in the US grew 28% in 2004 over 2001 according to this survey.  How much faster will it grow when digital scrapbooks and stories really take hold?  Take a look at Digital scrapbooks for lots of ideas. 

UPDATE:  Just came across time travel blog - back and forth  to LA in 1947.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

May 11, 2005

Death cheats cemetery

An actual headline and story.  Death pleads guilty to cheating cemetery.  Death will be sentenced on July 11, 2005.  Stay tuned

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2005

Your Digital Assets

People are finally coming to realize that they have "digital assets" and they are real assets, something of value and valuable for many reasons.  So just what happens to your digital assets when you die or if you become incapacitated?

What do you want done with your blog? 
Who knows how to get to your photos posted on the Kodak Gallery or Flickr? 
Do you want your family to read your email?
Do you have address books that are only available online?
What are the usernames and passwords to your online accounts?
Do you have any files that exist only online with a third party?
Do you have work files on your computer that should be returned to your employer?
Who gets to go through your computer and clean out any files you don't want anyone to see like a porn collection?
Who gets your iPod and the music on it?

These issues are attracting increasing attention.  The Christian Science Monitor asks Who Gets to see the email of the deceased?    Darren Barefoot wonders if it isn't time for  Digital Morticians .  Joel Schoenmeyer, a Chicago area estate planning lawyer writes about the need for a Technology Inventory as does law professor Gerry Beyer.  Darren Rowse in Problogger wonders what would happen to his blog which happens to be an income-producing asset in Blogging Fears - Death.

Just where should you put all those bits and pieces about your digital assets and your online life?  Is it your will?

Your will is not the only way or the document with which you can direct how you want things to be done after your death.  There are a lot of things that you want someone to know and a will is not necessarily the best place to tell him or her.  After all, a will is a public document.  And you certainly don't want to go to your attorney to add a new codicil every time you change a user name or password to an online account.

There is a vehicle, too little used, called “Letter to your Executor”.  It's the ultimate in do-it-yourself.  Since it is only a letter and not a will, it is not legally binding, but it is morally binding.  And it’s just the place to leave directions of how you want certain things handled after your death.  I call it the “Gift of Good Directions,” a fine complement to the Gift of Good Records, your master list of what and where everything is and who to contact. 

A digression here, to talk about the third in this trio- the Gift of a Lifetime, your Personal Legacy Archives.  Few of us will have biographers, all of us are archivists of our own lives.  Lost among the ephemera, files and shoeboxes filled with photos we all have are the stories and the meaning.  What were the top ten highlights of your life?  What did you love and why?  Where were the "choice-points" in your life, where you could have gone either way, but chose one? And how did it turn out?  What do you regret?  What are your proudest achievements?  What's your favorite music, the moments you'll never forget?  What do you want your children to know about you?  What have you left unsaid that you want said? 

While there are few Mount Rushmore lives, Joseph Cooper says, each of us carves out a bit of history that should be put down for our own edification and for our families and friends.  For his son, he's set down his own Monuments to a Decent Life.  Ronni Bennett calls them Stories for the Infinite Future.  As one who spent much of her professional life with celebrities, she says with great authority, No Lives Are Ordinary.   

Time was when people kept journals and wrote letters  They were just like bloggers. Take Henry Thoreau.  Or Samuel Pepys.  Some, like Mark Twain, kept scrapbooks.  Others were just ordinary people, like these emigrants and pioneers, or these diarists in Britain during World War II.   

Ordinary letters to a new grandson written in 1918 are a precious family heirloom 90 years later.  Such journals and letters preserve personal and family memories as well as the sense of times gone by by people long gone, but not forgotten.  Some rise to become societal memories.  We can understand better what things were like for the Jews during World War II because we've read the Diary of Anne Frank.   

Human nature is constant, it doesn't change over time.  We experience the same emotions love and fear, gratitude and shame, as people did a thousand years ago.  It's only the people, the details and the stories that change.  But those details and those stories are what we want to pass on into the future.  It's what you want your loved ones to know.  It's what they want to know.  Only we no longer keep journals or write many letters. 

That's why many of us write blogs - to keep a record of where we were and what we thought.  The more we write, the more valuable the blog becomes and not just for its "long tail".    Some bloggers show us the way of suffering with illness and facing death and they are Truly Noble and their work deserves to be preserved.  For most of us, we'd like our families or friends to have our blog after we're gone;  we don't want our blog to  just disappear into the ether.  The world will go on after you die, but not your blog unless someone pays the hosting fees.  You are the one that can decide whether your blog will have an afterlife.  Thinking ahead, Ronni Bennett has set aside money to pay for her blog host for at least a year and to download her blog to CDs for whoever wants a copy. 

Details like what you want done about your blog and your other digital assets are the sort of directions you leave in your Letter to your Executor. With a Letter to your Executor, you can update it and revise it as often as you want.  Just be sure to date it so it doesn't get confused with earlier letters.  I recommend printing it out as well to file with your other important papers.  Copies of all important papers should be kept in a steel box so that it can be grabbed in a moment if you must leave your house in an emergency.  The steel should protect your files against fires and you may want to get one with a key so you can keep it locked and safe from prying eyes.

Because it's so easily revised and costs nothing to revise, your Letter to your Executor is also the ideal document for other directions that may change on a fairly frequent basis, like the music you want played at your funeral or what you want engraved on your tombstone, how to take care of your pets, or the small sentimental gifts you want distributed to friends.   

Once you get into it, you realize there's a whole lot of context that doesn't and will never appear in the legal documents of your estate plan.
Everyone should have a will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care proxy or power of attorney first, but once that's done, spend some time to think about the context, those details that express who you are. 

Once you've formalized who you want as guardians for your children, what do you want them to pay particular attention to.  Helen Harcombe was dying of cancer, so she composed a detailed mommy manual to tell her husband things he wouldn't think about in raising their seven year old daughter alone.  No will is ever going to contain the phrase, "Bath and hair every other night, AT LEAST.  No child of mine to be smelly."  For her husband, it was "great comfort."  Her daughter Ffion said when she saw the manual, "That makes me feel a lot better, Daddy." 

Any guardian, any child will be happier if they knew what you wanted them to do and pay special attention to.  A letter to the guardians of your children will be invaluable guidance.  Now this may seem a whole lot of trouble to write directions for something that will likely never happen.  So think of it as an on-going letter about what you want for your children and what you think is important at different stages in their lives.  It could be a letter you write each year on their birthdays or on Mother's Day.    That way, you are creating something valuable for them after you're gone, something they'll treasure as part of your personal legacy, the gift of who you are.  Such a letter becomes a chronological record of how you saw your children as they grew up.  What grist for the mill when they start therapy or have children of their own!

Directions are important too for your health care agent.  So write a letter to your health care agent  describing how you would like to be taken care of should you fall ill and be unable to communicate. 

(If you haven't executed a health care proxy, otherwise known as a power of attorney for health care, and of course you know you should, you haven't faced the grid many lawyers will present you of the almost limitless health care decisions your health care agent could be asked to make.) 

A living will is almost useless because it can't anticipate the circumstances or the complicated decisions that will have to be made in your future.  That's why choosing one person you trust to act in your stead is Better than a Living Will

More important for your comfort and quality of life are the directions you leave for your health care agent.  There's a lot of room between "doing everything" and "doing nothing." 

What you consider a "quality of life" you want to hold on to is quite likely is not the same as someone else's.  But if you don't give your health care agent a clue as to what you want or just how far you want to go, you are just making it harder for them.    Again, you will never find such guidance in a legal document.  Mystic Knight wrote his directions the night before he faced an operation.  I've done mine in Living the Way Terri Was and my health care agent says she definitely wants my playlist.  You will not find playlists in legal documents.

I expect to change my mind about these things almost as often as I redecorate, not a constant pre-occupation, but a periodic one.  So will you. Think of your estate plan as the architecture.  The furnishings, the little details you want to add or subtract or update will change periodically, but  they don't require an architect or a builder  - or a lawyer.  They just require your keeping a Letter to Your Executor - changing it as often as you want - in a safe place.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

May 5, 2005

Casket Fixing Suit

With the average funeral costing about $6000 and the largest cost that of the casket,  John Wilke, reported yesterday for The Wall St Journal.

Consumer advocates filed suit against three of the biggest funeral-home chains and the leading U.S. casket maker, alleging they conspired to keep prices high and shut out casket discounters such as Costco and the online retailers that have sprung up in recent years.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, charges that the companies engage in price-fixing and sell caskets for as much as six times their wholesale cost....

The suit also charges that the funeral-home chains flout federal rules intended to protect consumers. The rules permit people to buy caskets from anyone (or even build their own if they wish) while prohibiting funeral directors from charging extra to customers who choose to do so. But the suit alleges that funeral homes discourage such purchases by offering sham discounts for package deals that include caskets, while boosting prices for individual services, such as embalming, if a customer decides to buy a casket elsewhere.

The FTC's "Funeral Rule" and consumer rights.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2005

Death by Internet

You'd be surprised at the number of people who believe this story about 54 year old Childress Wanamaker who died of starvation because he couldn't tear himself away from his computer. I link, Therefore I am.

He was glued to his computer 24/7," she said tearfully. "He was so afraid he was going to miss an opportunity to contribute a comment or start a discussion, that he just stopped eating." She added that Wanamaker's last words were "OK Picard, stick that in your pipe and smoke it..."

In what must be a record, Wanamaker was linked into to over 15,250 other community members, many of whom he exchanged notes with daily. He also contributed to 375 blogs and was expected to start an online column about the impact of interactive communications on health, when he died.

A virtual memorial service will be held online at a date to be determined.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

Get in Line

I think I need a new category for funeral jokes I want to passalong.

A woman was leaving a convenience store with her morning coffee when she noticed a most unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery.

A long black hearse was followed by a second long black hearse about 50 feet behind the first one. Behind the second hearse was a solitary woman walking a pit bull on a leash. Behind her, a short distance back, were about 200 women walking single file.

The woman couldn't stand her curiosity. She respectfully approached the woman walking the dog and said,

"I am so sorry for your loss", I know now is a bad time to disturb you, but I've never seen a funeral like this.

Whose funeral is it?"

"My husband's."

"What happened to him?"

The woman replied, "My dog attacked and killed him."

She inquired further, "Well, who is in the second hearse?"

The woman answered, "My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my husband when the dog turned on her."

A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence passed between the two women.

"Can I borrow the dog?"

"Get in line." 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

German children, American fathers

By 1955 up to 67,700 German children had been fathered by US soldiers.  It's a scandal that even today there is no legal agreement between Germany and the US regarding paternity claims.

Like many of the children fathered by occupying soldiers, Anthoefer grew up in an orphanage in Germany without knowing his father. "In Germany in the 1950s, if you were an unwed mother, the state usually took custody of your child," he explained. His father, an American stationed in Rastadt, had wanted to marry his mother. "But as soon as a serviceman got a woman pregnant, he would be transferred, and the army would refuse to pass on any information," he said. "If you kept asking, they would maintain they no longer had any records."

As a teenager, Anthoefer was determined to locate his father. "The American authorities deliberately gave me misleading information," he said. "They just gave me the runaround." In 1971, he got a visa to visit the US and finally tracked down his father. But it was too late. He discovered his father, the mayor of a small town in West Virginia, had died just weeks previously.

After collecting enough evidence to convince the German courts this man was indeed his father, Germany recognized the paternity claim, although the US didn't. Twenty years later, Anthoefer went to court and got permission to have his father's body exhumed for DNA testing. He had to wait three years for the result, and in the meantime, he was arrested as an illegal immigrant and deported. Today, he is still barred entry to the States, which means he cannot pursue his quest to prove his parentage.

"If I can prove I am my father's son, then I am an American citizen," he said. "It's the only connection I have to my father -- the inheritance of his nationality. I belong to nowhere, and all I want is American citizenship. That's all I want."

A not-so-great Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

Weiner whistles

When George Molchan was laid to rest, along side of the Wienermobile, the mourners sang "Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner", then blew short blasts of miniature, hot-dog-shaped  "weiner" whistles. 

Mr. Molchan had played "Little Oscar" for more than three decades, traveling from town to town in the Oscar Mayer Wiernermobile to appear in parades and supermarkets.

  Wienermobile

Obituary in the Chicago Sun Times.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:38 AM | Permalink

May 3, 2005

Do You See Dead People?

A recent Beliefnet survey reveals many people do. 

I like the departed father who told his son, " Being dead takes some getting used to, but you'll like it."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

I'm still young. I still have time.

Victoria Snelgrove was a college student celebrating the Red Sox pennant win outside Fenway Park last year when the crowd became unruly.  Police moved in to control the crowd, one firing a pepper pellet control gun that hit Victoria in the eye killing her. 

The City of Boston will be paying $5 million for her wrongful death in an out-of-court settlement.    'Heart wrenching" and "terrible" is how Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole describe the shooting and the impact of Victoria's death on her family.

Yesterday, the parents revealed that Victoria had made a videotape shortly before she died  Her father describes it as a "gift", for her mother, it's still unbearable.  Copies of the tape, along with remarks by her mourning family and friends were released on DVD yesterday by the family's lawyer.

All Victoria does is sit on her bed and talk passionately into the camera about her loving relationship with her family and her desire to become a broadcast journalist, all the while showing an awareness of the  fragility of life and probably making the tape for just that reason.

"In a second, you know, my life or somebody close to me's life could just be taken away.  So I try to take every opportunity and do everything and appreciate everything, even though it's hard sometime"

In the Boston Globe, Video of victim comforts, pains as family still grapples with loss

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2005

Hitler's Obituary

An excerpt from Hitler's obituary, 60 years ago in the London Times.

Few men in the whole of history and none in modern times have been the cause of human suffering on so large a scale as Hitler, who died in Berlin yesterday. If history judges to be greatest those who fill most of her pages, Hitler was a very great man; and the house-painter who became for a while master of Europe cannot be denied the most remarkable talents. He found Germans depressed, bewildered, aimless. After five years in office he had united the German race in a single Reich, abolished regional  diversities of administration, and got rid of unemployment. But these achievements were merely instruments of an overwhelming lust for power. Nazi domination over Germany was a stepping stone towards the domination of Nazi Germany over the world. The process was continuous, and the methods were the same. Hitler effected the triumph of the Nazi Party in Germany by a mixture of deceit and violence; he then employed the same devices to destroy other nations. From the time he became master of Germany he made lies, cruelty, and terror his principal means to achieve his ends; and he became in the eyes of virtually the whole world an incarnation of absolute evil.

Hitler was unimpressive to meet on informal occasions, but became transformed when he was face to face with a crowd, especially if it was an audience of his followers. He would speak to them like a man possessed and give the appearance of utter exhaustion when his speech was over. His speeches betrayed few if any original ideas, and even his belief in the suggestive power of reiteration scarcely justified the repetitions of past history with which most of his public orations were over-laden. He was, however, a propagandist of the first order, and his uncannily subtle and acute understanding of the mind of his own people was the ultimate source of his power for evil."

Read more at Eamonn Fitzgerald's Rainy Day

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 PM | Permalink

Secret or Story?

If you are harboring a secret that you DON'T want your family and friends to know about EVER, but you need to tell someone, try PostSecret.

PostSecret is a ongoing community art blog where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.  Of course, there's no way to check on the truth of what's in them, but fascinating nonetheless.

  9:11

  Condom Broke

  Parking Ticket

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 PM | Permalink

Blogging to slow life down

Mena Trott is one of the founders of Six Apart, the company that brings you Typepad and Moveable Type, this blog's platform.    Here is an excerpt from an interview with Mena conducted by Shel Israel.

He's writing a book on Business Blogging with Robert Scobel, the famous blogger who put a human face on Microsoft.  You can follow their progress and get an early look-see at The Red Couch.

I post it to show you how easily a blog can be used for your own Personal Legacy Archives, what you choose to leave to the future. 
Sometimes just a detail can be the thread to lead you back to a memory.  A photo and a few words may be all you need. 


I post a picture of myself on a private weblog every day with my camera phone. I'm able to look back and see how I've changed over the year. People say it's the most egotistical thing, but it isn't, if only a few people read it.  My mom loves it. She calls me up and tells me how she loved my hair on Wednesday and she knows I’m okay on days when I can’t call her.
It’s valuable to me because I can look at every picture and tell you something about that day.  I remember what I'm wearing, reflect on where I was at.  It's the best way to capture individual days just by looking at the pictures. I can see the months fill up.  I think web logging is almost a way to slow life down. At the end of the year, I'll probably post it publicly.

People did this. People kept journals all through history and it's important. As soon as you stop, keeping track of what you do, things go by too quickly. This is one of the things we like doing. I should write a post about it.
Life slows down by posting everyday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink