July 31, 2006

William Butler Yeats and angels

In the dizzying, despairing vortex that is the world today, many quote William Butler Yeats, particularly his poem, The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I love Yeats, but never knew His legacy had the help of angels

Blake believed much of his inspiration came from his lifetime encounters with angels. Born in London in November 1757, young William was only 10 years old when he saw a vision of angels clustered in the branches of a tree near his home. From then on, wherever he went, Blake saw visions from the other world, from angels in a hayfield, to apparitions of monks in Westminster Abbey. He talked with the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary as well as other historical figures.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 27, 2006

Philly cheese steak

Attention and respect must be paid to Henry Olivieri, co-inventor of the Philly cheese steak sandwich who died last week at 90. 

     
  Philly Cheese Steak

The Book of Joe does a bang-up job

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Legacy of Resentment

Here's a chilling legacy and reminder that your children see you for who you are, even if you're wildly famous and celebrated.

Deadly legacy of a Goon

Michael’s legacy from his overpowering parent was simply an unresolved resentment which, however, he was determined to come to terms with before he died.

In 2000 he wrote a book, Sellers On Sellers, in which he summed up his father’s life — and his own — in a memorably sad epitaph.

‘He had been there: starred in the movies, married the young women, driven the fast cars, taken the drugs, drunk the wine, made all the cash, spent the cash and let down all those people who had ever really cared for him.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Made me laugh

From Planet Proctor via Tom McMahon

The day after her husband disappeared in a kayaking accident, an Anchorage woman answered her door to find two grim-faced Alaska State Troopers. "We're sorry, Mrs. Wilkens, but we have some information about your husband," said one trooper. “Tell me! Did you find him?!" she shouted. The troopers looked at each other.

One said, "We have some bad news, some good news, and some really great news. Which do you want first?"

Fearing the worst, an ashen Mrs. Wilkens said, "I guess you'd better give me the bad news first."  The trooper said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, ma'am, but this morning we found his body in 200 feet of water in Kachemak Bay."

"Omigod!" exclaimed Mrs. Wilkens. Swallowing hard, she asked, "Um...what's your good news?"

The trooper continued, "When we hauled him up, he had a dozen 25-lb king crabs and 6 good-size Dungeness crabs clinging to him."  Stunned and tearful, Mrs. Wilkens demanded, "If you call that good news, what could possibly be the great news?"

The trooper said, "We're going to pull him up again tomorrow morning." 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

She loved her elephants

Winkie, an elephant, had a history of attacking handlers over her 30 years at the Madison, Wisconsin zoo before he retired to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Johanna Burke quit graduate school to help animals when she found  a job at the Elephant Sanctuary where she worked for 8 years.

Winkie appeared to be stung in the eye, maybe from fire ants.  After Johanna began to water Winkie, she walked around to look at his eye.  in 45 seconds, Winkie knocked down Joanna, then stepped on her, killing her instantly.

Tearful handler: 'In 45 seconds, it was over'.

The elephant will not be euthanized though new procedures for handling elephants with post-traumatic stress disorder will be instituted.

Joanna will be buried on the grounds of the Sanctuary which said "Joanna has left her heart print on our hearts and souls.  All who loved her, elephant and human, are struggling with our loss."

R.I.P.

   Joanna Burke, Not Winkie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Sister dies lighting candles at shrine

On the fourth anniversary of her brother's slaying, a woman lighting candles at a makeshift shrine was killed at about the same spot, on the same day and at nearly the same hour as her older sibling.

Sister dies lighting candles at shrine.

R.I.P. Analicia Perry, 20.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

No ordinary funeral

The two sisters came from Russia about 17 years ago.  Olga married Leonid Milkin and had two boys, Justin 6 and Andrew 4.

When Leonid, a member of the National Guard, went off to serve in Iraq, Olga's sister, Lyubov Botina, came to live with her  and help take care of the little children.

Horror.  Olga, her sister, and the two boys were stabbed to death and their house set ablaze to conceal the crime.

Leonid returned for their funeral, The City Church packed with 2500 mourners.  No ordinary funeral for Kirkland family slain in home set ablaze. 

At the service, the pastor urged mourners to remember their lives as mighty women of God and dynamic Christians rather than the horrific manner of their deaths.

A Kirkland neighbor was arrested for the murders.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Up, up and away

2 killed as Dreamscape artwork 'lifts off'. 

The giant inflatable sculpture consisting of several interconnected rooms also injures 13.

Dreamscape, created by artist Maurice Agis, was envisioned as a maze of color, sound, and space and was  toured around the U.K., Spain and Italy before becoming a death trap.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:26 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Ahead of the Normandy invasion

He led the 9th Parachute Division to take out the coastal batteries ahead of the Normandy invasion on D-Day, losing half his men and winning the British Distinguished Service Order medal.

Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway dead at 92.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Memorial to fallen animals

Take a look at this Memorial to fallen animals in British wars

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Cemetery for Football Fans

A German football team is planning a cemetery for its die-hard fans

In Hamburg, right next to the stadium will be a miniature stadium cemetery so fans can rest in peace alongside their favorite team.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Funeral Director or Party Planner?

Early on in Boomer Remains, I wondered how boomers were going to change the way we think about death, dying and funerals. 

Ken Dyctwald, wrote in Age Power that

Boomers didn't just eat food -- they transformed the snack, restaurant and supermarket industries.
Boomers didn't just wear clothes -- they transformed the fashion industry.
Boomers didn't just date --they transformed sex roles and practices
Boomers didn't just go to work -- they transformed the workplace

Well, have you heard of funeral concierge before?  I didn't until I read this piece in the New York Times.

It's My Funeral and I'll Serve Ice Cream if I Want to

As members of the baby boom generation plan final services for their parents or themselves, they bring new consumer expectations and fewer attachments to churches, traditions or organ music — forcing funeral directors to be more like party planners, and inviting some party planners to test the farewell waters.

Mark Duffy, who runs a funeral concierge service is interviewed.

What they want, he said, are services that reflect their lives and tastes. One family asked for a memorial service on the 18th green of their father’s favorite golf course, “because that’s where dad was instead of church on Sunday mornings, so why are we going to church,” Mr. Duffey said. “Line up his buddies, and hit balls.” Another wanted his friends to ride Harleys down his favorite road, scattering his ashes.

Apart from boomers wanting more services to reflect their lives, services can be more fun!  if the icky dead body isn't around.  Wouldn't want to cast a pall on the party.

The biggest change, Mr. Duffey said, is that as more families choose cremation — close to 70 percent in some parts of the West — services have become less somber because there is not a dead body present.
“The body’s a downer, especially for boomers,” Mr. Duffey said. “If the body doesn’t have to be there, it frees us up to do what we want. They may want to have it in a country club or bar or their favorite restaurant. That’s where consumers want to go.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Big Dig Death

Milena Delvalle died on her way to the airport in the connector tunnel from the Mass Pike (1-90) to the Ted Williams tunnel  at 11 o'clock at night when four massive concrete ceiling tiles weighing at least 12 tons fell and crashed into the passenger side of the car her husband was driving.  He crawled out of the car alive.

Not a person who has used the tunnel, as I have many times, could escape the thought that it could been me.

I am impressed with her husband Angel Del Valle who married her 16 months ago in the same church where her funeral was held.  He will be bringing her body to Costa Rica to be buried where her children are. 

At the funeral, he said

“I don’t know why I didn’t die in that car.  I  don’t understand why her, but maybe God has some plan for me.”

He tells her children

“Every day I tell them to be patient. I tell them that I am coming. They are not alone, they have me,” said Del Valle, who said his wife “worked hard” to be able to bring her children to the United States one day.

“I am going to do everything I can to protect them, to give them everything she could not give them,” Del Valle said.

Del Valle hopes "these mistakes" don't happen again and expressed thanks to state officials for their support.
“I hope, at least, that what happened sets an example, so these mistakes don’t happen again. “I am very thankful to the authorities, of the way they are treating us. I feel fine.  They are offering us cooperation."

He thanked everyone who expressed concern.
“I am very well, thanks. I am receiving a lot of help. Thanks to all of you

Such a sad death but it could have been much worse.  Looked at from one perspective, Milena's death saved untold lives.

Milena's legacy.  Other lives saved 

Now we know that more than 1100 bolt assemblies that used epoxy and more that 300 other areas in the connector tunnel complex are unreliable.  All will have to be reinforced.

Said Governor Romney

"People should not have to drive through the Turnpike tunnels with their fingers crossed"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 18, 2006

3 arrested in Katrina Deaths

Who decides when someone dies?  is there ever an occasion when you deliberately give old and sick people sufficient morphine to kill them?

3 arrested in Katrina Hospital Deaths

A doctor and two nurses have been arrested in connection with the deaths of patients at a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina hit the city, the Louisiana attorney general's office said Tuesday.

---
Memorial Medical Center was cut off by flood water in the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 29 hurricane. Power went out and the temperature inside the building rose over 100 degrees as patients waited four days to be evacuated.

At least 34 patients died at Memorial during that time, 10 of them patients of the hospital's owner Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. and 24 patients in a facility run by LifeCare Holdings Inc., a separate company.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 15, 2006

Social Architecture of Death

Here's an interesting look at the "social architecture of death" or how people thought about and conceived of  their own memorials

Forgotten Treasures in the Woodlawn Cemetery Archives

At Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, from the mid-19th century through much of the 20th, death inspired a creative outpouring of remarkable artistry, variety and even surprise.
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The record of this work — blueprints, booklets, drawings, ledgers, letters, maps, photographs, plans, receipts, sketches and trade catalogs — is so illuminating and important that Woodlawn’s trustees formally donated the cemetery archives last month to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.
----
And the archives may greatly expand an intriguing line of art history: the social architecture of death — how people conceived their own distinctive monuments while respecting (or trumping) those of their neighbors. With 1,316 family mausoleums, Woodlawn is not just a city of the dead, but a densely populated one at that.

By chance, I did a round-up of creative sendoffs this week at Third Age.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Taking the spirit first

George Will writes movingly on the long death of his mother at 98.

The Foreverness We Have

Dementia, that stealthy thief of identity, had bleached her vibrant self almost to indistinctness, like a photograph long exposed to sunlight.

It is said that God gave us memory so we could have roses in winter. Dementia is an ever-deepening advance of wintery whiteness, a protracted paring away of personality. It inflicts on victims the terror of attenuated personhood, challenging philosophic and theological attempts to make death a clean, intelligible and bearable demarcation.

Is death the soul taking flight after the body has failed? That sequence - the physical extinguished, the spiritual not - serves our notion of human dignity. However, mental disintegration mocks that comforting schemata by taking the spirit first.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Fred who?

Didn't I say obits were getting a lot livelier?

From the Richmond Times Dispatch via Jonah Goldberg

Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark
Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18, 2006. True to Fred's personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look over his wife and kids. He loved his family. His heart beat faster when his wife of 37 years Alice Rennie Clark entered the room and saddened a little when she left. His legacy was the good works performed by his sons, Frederic Arthur Clark III and Andrew Douglas Clark MD, PhD., along with Andy's wife, Sara Morgan Clark. Fred's back straightened and chest puffed out when he heard the Star Spangled Banner and his eyes teared when he heard Amazing Grace. He wouldn't abide self important tight *censored*. Always an interested observer of politics, particularly what the process does to its participants, he was amused by politician's outrage when we lie to them and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were "throw the bums out and don't elect lawyers" (though it seems to make little difference). During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, "he was often wrong, but never in doubt". When his family was asked what they remembered about Fred, they fondly recalled how Fred never peed in the shower - on purpose. He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French - the *censored*) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives. No funeral or service is planned. However, a party will be held to celebrate Fred's life. It will be held in Midlothian, Va. Email fredsmemory@yahoo.com for more information. Fred's ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred's friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, "Fred who?"
Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 7/9/2006.

UPDATE:
Fred Clark wrote his own obituary last December when he was perfectly healthy.  Clark, 61, was killed by a car crash on Father's Day .

Because he had taken the time to pen his own obituary, he not only had the last word, many thousands more got to appreciate his wit.

Finding a joke even in his death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Fred who?

Didn't I say obits were getting a lot livelier?

From the Richmond Times Dispatch via Jonah Goldberg

Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark
Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18, 2006. True to Fred's personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look over his wife and kids. He loved his family. His heart beat faster when his wife of 37 years Alice Rennie Clark entered the room and saddened a little when she left. His legacy was the good works performed by his sons, Frederic Arthur Clark III and Andrew Douglas Clark MD, PhD., along with Andy's wife, Sara Morgan Clark. Fred's back straightened and chest puffed out when he heard the Star Spangled Banner and his eyes teared when he heard Amazing Grace. He wouldn't abide self important tight *censored*. Always an interested observer of politics, particularly what the process does to its participants, he was amused by politician's outrage when we lie to them and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were "throw the bums out and don't elect lawyers" (though it seems to make little difference). During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, "he was often wrong, but never in doubt". When his family was asked what they remembered about Fred, they fondly recalled how Fred never peed in the shower - on purpose. He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French - the *censored*) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives. No funeral or service is planned. However, a party will be held to celebrate Fred's life. It will be held in Midlothian, Va. Email fredsmemory@yahoo.com for more information. Fred's ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred's friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, "Fred who?"
Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 7/9/2006.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

Back into the family after 100 years

She was murdered 100 years ago. Since then her story has been told in Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" and told again in movies, plays, songs and an opera.

But only now is her family unveiling a marker where she died.

"This is very meaningful, especially since so many people in our extended family don't ever talk about it," Robert Williams said of his great-aunt. "By memorializing Grace like this, it feels like we're bringing her back into the family."

100-Year-Old Murder Alive in Popular Culture

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 PM | Permalink

Riverman

He brought Marilyn Monroe coffee and donuts. He saved 50 people from drowning and recovered the bodies of more than 400 suicides or failed daredevils at Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Wes Hill, Riverman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

A Fitting Death

Sometimes the way someone dies just fits. There's no disrespect to say David Bright died a good death, doing what he loved most.

Researcher Dies After Andrea Doria Dive

David Bright, a leading researcher into underwater exploration and shipwrecks, has died after diving to the site of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket, where he was working in preparation for the wreck's 50th anniversary. He was 49.

Bright, of Flemington, N.J., resurfaced from a dive late Saturday with decompression sickness and went into cardiac arrest, according to the Coast Guard. He was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital a short time later.

Bright was a historian and an experienced technical diver who had explored the Titanic, Andrea Doria and other shipwrecks many times - 120 times for the Andrea Doria
--

"His passion has been growing for a little over 30 years, all kinds of shipwrecks and getting to know them," Elaine Bright, his wife of 23 years, said Monday.

"It's very traumatizing to his entire family but we know that he's happy. It's a very sad thing, but water, scuba diving was what he wanted to do," she said.

R.I.P. and condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 PM | Permalink

Doctor's Suicide Bid

  Mad Doctor

"You will go from gold digger to....rubbish digger...I always told you I will leave the house if I'm dead."

From an email, sent to 26 people including his ex-wife, his real estate agent and Governor Pataki from Dr. Nicholas Bartha who blew up his house on the upper East side of Manhattan with himself in it, but still did not manage to kill himself.

Doctor Boom's East Side Blast

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Rodolfo dies hoisting Italy's flag

A seventy-seven year old Italian man, clasping the tricolore, died instantly as he fell from a ladder as he tried to attach Italy's flag to a pole.

Man dies hoisting flag for World Cup final

He could have been only happier if he tried to hoist it after Italy's victory. A great way to go.

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Enlarging your favorite photographs

Novelist Frederick Reuss Fleshes Out a Family Album in A Murky Picture, Developed and Enlarged

This last photograph was taken in 1934, Reuss tells you, not long before the man sailed off to Shanghai, leaving the woman and the laughing girl behind. He is Max Mohr: a physician, minor German literary figure and Reuss's great-uncle. She is Mohr's wife, Kathe, and the girl is their daughter, Eva. Long drawn to their story -- and having discovered a trove of photos, letters and other documents about them -- Reuss set out to reimagine their lives.

The result was "Mohr: A Novel" -- an unusually close collaboration between fiction and fact.
----
Unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning" he reads. "Only that which narrates can make us understand."

Remember and repeat.

"Photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. Only that which narrates can make us understand"

Capture your meaning on your favorite photos by thinking of it as a postcard and writing what it means in a few sentences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

Funeral Cliff and the Tau Tau

Funeral rites of the Toraja people of Indonesia by Patrick Blanche in Raw Vision

The Toraja way of death is a fascinating mix of ritual, custom and spectacle. For the Toraja, the dead are as much a part of society as the living. At Lemo, cliffs rise precipitously from the rice fields like stonework condominiums. Crypts, carved with prodigious manual labour, high into the solid rock, house the mortal remains of Toraja nobility. Set among the crypts, the striking tau tau, life-size wooden effigies representing the deceased, look impassively on the world below. Tau means ‘man’ and tau tau ‘men’ or ‘statue’.

  Funeral Cliff


The Toraja consider death the most important moment of their lives, the liberation of the soul from the material world. A festival makes it possible for the soul to leave for puya, the land of souls. Their funeral ritual is strictly separated from everything else concerning life and its spheres. .....Throughout their lives the Toraja save money to give their parents and other relatives an excellent funeral festival.

  Taraji Funeral

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July 9, 2006

Definitions from Ambrose Bierce

Definitions from Ambrose Bierce's, The Devil's Dictionary

"The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary" (Ambrose Bierce)

DIE, n. The singular of "dice." We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, "Never say die."

EPITAPH, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect.

EULOGY, n. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead.

FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.

GRAVE, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of the medical student.

LONGEVITY, n. Uncommon extension of the fear of death.

R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of "requiescat in pace", attesting to indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than "reductus in pulvis".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Final Roll Call

In Iraq, young men say goodbye to Specialist Ben Slaven, a brother they have come to love.

Through it all, most have kept their composure, but none are prepared for the final roll call.

Farewell

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The wondrous, curious and arcane

The Self-portrait of Hananuma Maskichi

Amazingly weird. Via the Utility Fog Blog comes new of the Anthanasius Kircher Society. Chartered to perpetuate the interests of Athanasius Kircher, SJ. which I'm pretty sure means the Society of Jesus, so Anathasius was a Jesuit priest whose interests in the wondrous, the curious, the arcane and the esoteric are being carried today.

 Self Portrait Masakichi

When the renowned Japanese sculptor Hananuma Masakichi learned that he was dying of tuberculosis, he vowed to leave behind a life-like portrait of himself for his beloved. He carved his likeness out of wood while studying himself with an adjustable mirror. The hair, fingernails, teeth, and toenails of the sculpture were all pulled from his own body. From the caption to the above postcard:

The statue is composed of over 2000 seperate pieces being hollow with the exception of the feet. The head, thighs, calves, and every member of the anatomy was carved separately and the whole put together. The joints were perfectly made, dovetailed, and glued together — no metal nails, only wooden pegs or pins beings used to fasten where necessary. After putting all the members together and finishing as for as the woodwork was concerned, he painted and lacquered the statue to give it the flesh and blood appareance; The hairs which adorn the figure belong to himself. He used clippings of his head and ears and each and every hair is bored for and put in one by one. The body hairs were actually pulled from his own body and put in exectly the same position as they occupied on himself. The eyes were also made by the artist and are the wonder of the oculist and optical precision.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 6, 2006

Speaking Ill of the Dead

When you heard of the death of Ken Lay, did you feel cheated?

Henry Allen of the Washington Post did as he writes in Ken Lay's Last Evasion

Kenneth Lay of Enron: America hardly knew you before your trial, but learned after your big-hammer jury conviction that you had left countless suckers broke, employees cheated and stockholders betrayed.
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none of his victims will be able to contemplate .... that he might be spending long nights locked in a cell with a panting tattooed monster named Sumo, a man of strange and constant demands; and long days in the prison laundry or jute mill or license plate factory, gibbering with anguish as fire-eyed psychopaths stare at him for unblinking hours while they sharpen spoons into jailhouse stilettos.
---
so many people may well have responded to the news of Lay's untimely death by feeling cheated, by saying that death wasn't good enough for him, by sensing a frustrated craving for revenge burning in their backbrains like a fire in a tire dump.

Everyone knows the story of Enron, the natural gas pipeline company that became a huge energy and trading conglomerate, ranking #7 among U.S. corporations, until it collapsed into bankruptcy, its finances a web of fraudulent partnerships and schemes.

Ken Lay, the smiling, balding son of Baptist minister, rose to the top of the corporate world, became a charismatic civic and business leader in Houston and a celebrated philanthropist until his lust for legacy was undone by the collapse of Enron, his curtain of lies to employees, analysts, bankers and federal prosecutors torn away in a federal courtroom where he was found guilty on multiple counts of wire and securities fraud.

Ken Lay's death of a massive heart attack in Aspen saved him from 25 years in a federal prison and may well have saved him from a criminal record. Who knew that the death of a criminal defendant before his sentencing voids the criminal case against him?

Do you feel cheated when you learn that Lay's Death Complicates Efforts to Seize Assets. and maybe saved his survivors from financial ruin?

Or do you feel his death a cautionary tale of hubris as Bill Burton, a Texas lawyer, does as he compared Lay to Icarus who flew, that figure in Greek mythology who flew on wings of feather and wax, higher ever higher, until he flew too close to the sun and his wings melted and he fell to the sea.

"The Enron and Ken Lay stories are best told in an English literature class, or a classics class where you are trying to explain what hubris is all about."

I must admit I never owned Enron stock and I don't know any Enron employees whose retirement assets went up in smoke along with Enron, . I look on the life and death of Ken Lay as a cautionary tale of hubris, self-delusion and karma yet, I can feel sympathy for his wife and children who've lost someone they loved. Was the stress of the prolonged trial and the strain of his guilt too much too bear ? Did he suddenly lose the will to live? I think so.

Peggy Noonan thinks he died of a broken heart, that it was a death through sadness.

Is this Shakespearian in the sense of being towering and tragic? I don't know. I think it's primal and human. And I think if we were more regularly conscious of the fact that death through sadness happens we'd be better to each other. I'm thinking here of a friend who reflected one day years ago, I cannot recall why, on how hard people are on each other, how we're all complicated little pirates and more sensitive, more breakable, than we know.

He said--I paraphrase--"It's a dangerous thing to deliberately try to hurt someone because it's not possible to calibrate exactly how much hurt you're doing. You can't know in advance the extent of the damage. A snub can leave a wound that lasts a lifetime, a bop on the head with a two-by-four will be laughed off. One must be careful. We'll always hurt others by accident or in a passion but we mustn't do it with deliberation."

We are human beings, and to each other we are not fully knowable. There's a lot of mystery in life. The life force can leave before we even know it's withdrawing.

The variety of people’s reactions to his death reveals more about more about the people who have them than about the complicated being that was Ken Lay.

Because we are not fully knowable to anyone but God, there is great wisdom in not speaking ill of the dead. Which is not to say that we don’t talk about what they have done or not done, but that in speaking ill, we reveal more about our hearts than theirs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

It's All in the Bones

Grover was an eccentric teacher. Grover is the skeleton everyone loves.

Grover, an anthropologist, gave his skeleton to the Smithsonian on condition that his dogs stayed with him. And they did. Clyde, Krantz, Icky and Yahoo.

Don't miss the delightful piece Using His Cranium by Peter Carlson in the Washington Post.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 5, 2006

Music of a Man Preparing to Die

"Posthumously released and positively extraordinary" says one reviewer of Johnny Cash's American V: A Hundred Highways.


"American V: A Hundred Highways" (Johnny Cash)

Rather than a depressingly morbid recording, though, it's an elegiac song cycle on which Cash comes across like a man who is very much at peace with the inevitability that's hovering over him. He'd just like to share some of his wisdom and say farewell before he goes. God willing, of course, for Cash was nothing if not deeply spiritual in the last half of his life.
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Perhaps he simply knew he wasn't long for this world. On the liberation ballad "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now," the final song of the farewell, Cash seems to be singing from the Great Beyond, in a voice that's strong and sturdy and, yes, completely full of life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

A Poet Laments Modern Dying

From Elegy on Death, a review of Death's Door in the Washington Post

But what of the more immediate, personal death, the death in the family, the loss we can, indeed must, address directly? As Sandra M. Gilbert amply illustrates in her comprehensive new study of how death is encountered in the modern era, even then our natural urge to grieve may be stonewalled by silence.

"We live in a culture where grief is frequently experienced as at the least an embarrassment and sometimes even as a sort of illness," Gilbert writes, recalling the moment in 1991 when the surgeon who had "successfully" operated on her husband's prostate informed her of his subsequent death. A representative of the hospital's Office of Decedent Services handed her a Bereavement Packet. "Lacking traditional strategies for solace," she observes, "we're so dumbfounded by death that we'd rather leave the pain to professionals."




"Death's Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve: A Cultural Study" (Sandra M. Gilbert)

"Contemporary verse resists the repression of death as determinedly as the great modernists resisted the repression of sex," she finds. For what is left to us now but to bear witness? Web sites serve as digital funeral urns. Spontaneous shrines spring up at the sites of traffic accidents. In the "new order of industrialized violence," Gilbert writes, "only an act of witnessing . . . can constitute a properly elegiac tribute to the slaughtered multitudes."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 3, 2006

Green burials and Cocoons

I'm not surprised that Green burials are growing in popularity

At Greensprings, where a plot costs $500 plus a $350 fee to dig the grave, bodies cannot be embalmed or otherwise chemically preserved. They must be buried in biodegradable caskets without linings or metal ornamentation. The cemetery suggests locally harvested woods, wicker or cloth shrouds. Concrete or steel burial vaults are not allowed. Nor are standing monuments, upright tombstones or statues.
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"This is more than just dig a hole in the woods and roll them in. We see it as a natural return to the Earth, becoming part of the circle of life," said Mary Woodsen, a lifelong conservationist and the cemetery's president.

"Not everyone will find this appealing," she said. "But there are people who want that look and feel of nature."

  Cocoon
Even though this sleek Cocoon is manufactured by hand using renewable resources -untreated jute and a natural resin - and won a coveted Silver Award in Businessweek's 2006 Idea Awards, it may not be green enough for Greensprings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:10 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2006

One Common Ancestor

We are hopelessly entangled and wondrously connected to every person on earth and every person who ever lived through one common ancestor.

Roots of Human Family Tree Are Shallow
Whoever it was probably lived a few thousand years ago, somewhere in East Asia - Taiwan, Malaysia and Siberia all are likely locations. He - or she - did nothing more remarkable than be born, live, have children and die.

Yet this was the ancestor of every person now living on Earth - the last person in history whose family tree branches out to touch all 6.5 billion people on the planet today.

That means everybody on Earth descends from somebody who was around as recently as the reign of Tutankhamen, maybe even during the Golden Age of ancient Greece. There's even a chance that our last shared ancestor lived at the time of Christ.

"It's a mathematical certainty that that person existed," said Steve Olson, whose 2002 book "Mapping Human History" traces the history of the species since its origins in Africa more than 100,000 years ago.

We're all brothers and sisters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack