November 30, 2006

Military Honors and Cemetery for Canine Combatants

Dateline Fort Huachuca

Military honors were given to  Staff Sgt Wendy, a decorated Belgium Malinois, who helped protect American forces in Afghanistan.

Military working dogs are provided honors at their burial service because the Army considers them soldiers.

A firing party shot off 21 rounds, a bugler played taps and the flag was unfolded and then folded over the spot where her cremated remains were placed.

Besides having a rank, always one grade higher than their handler, military working dogs have a service number and can receive decorations.

Wendy was awarded an Army Commendation Medal by the commander of the 10th Mountain Division for her work as an explosive detecting dog while serving in Afghanistan.

The bond between the military dogs and their handlers is very touching. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Slow Catastrophe

If you were a woman in Zimbabwe, your life expectancy would be only 34.  A decade ago, it was 65.

The reasons for this plunge are several. Zimbabwe has found itself at the nexus of an Aids pandemic, a food crisis and an economic meltdown that is killing an estimated 3,500 people every week. That figure is more than those dying in Iraq,
This cull is not an act of God. It is a catastrophe aggravated by the ruthless, kleptocratic reign of Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980. The Mugabe regime has succeeded in turning a country once fêted as the breadbasket of Africa into a famished and demoralised land deserted by its men of working age, with its women left to die a silent death.

Zimbabwe is now a place haunted by incomprehensible numbers: 85 per cent of the population living in poverty; 80 per cent unemployment; 90 per cent HIV infection rates in the army and most unbelievably, 2,000 per cent inflation.

HT to Normblog who also quotes Archbishop Pius Ncube

Cemeteries are filling up throughout the country, but no blood is being spilt... People are just fading away, dying quietly and being buried quietly with no fanfare, and so there is little media attention

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November 29, 2006

He calls him "A knight"

David Warren pays tribute to his friend Larry Wills Henderson.


He never wanted to be an outsider. He loved moving and shaking, he longed to be an insider, but there was no room for him "inside" the Canada that emerged in the 1950s and ’60s. He was an outsider by assignment, not choice. For he had the gift of prophecy: which is not that of a prognosticator, but rather of a teller of disregarded truths. Nobody could want to be a prophet.


A Catholic and a Crusader; a Canadian; a knight.

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Morgue Workers Shocked at Fast Track

In Australia, the autopsy of the father of 4 jailed gang rapists,  was fast-tracked so he could be buried quickly according to Muslim tradition. 

The father was facing charges for lying to the police to protect his sons and had assailed his sons' victims in court, saying that the young girls should not have been alone at night.

Autopsy fast-tracked

The apparent attempt to give priority to the man, known to the public as Dr K, shocked morgue workers at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, who are so short-staffed they can take days to complete a post-mortem examination.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 PM | Permalink

Comic book Illustrator dies in Superman pajamas

After a  long battle with diabetes,  the comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum died Sunday, at 63, wearing Superman pajamas and covered with a Batman blanket.  His body, dressed in a Green Lantern shirt, will be cremated.

X-Men Illustrator dies in Superman pajamas.
The 63-year-old overhauled the X-Men comic and helped popularize the relatively obscure Marvel Comics in the 1970s. He helped turn the title into a publishing sensation and major film franchise.
Many signature characters Cockrum designed and co-created -- such as Storm, Mystique, Nightcrawler and Colossus -- went on to become part of the "X-Men" films starring Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.

Cockrum received no movie royalties, said family friend Clifford Meth, who organized efforts to help Cockrum and his family during his protracted medical care.

"Dave saw the movie and he cried -- not because he was bitter," Meth said. "He cried because his characters were on screen and they were living."

I  presume his wife picked out his last outfit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 PM | Permalink

November 28, 2006

Deadbeat Dad Arrested at Mother's Wake

Deadbeat Dad Arrested at Mother's Wake

Stephen Burns walked into a Braintree funeral home Tuesday for his mother's wake. He walked out a short time later in handcuffs, escorted by two constables.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Burns is one of the state's worst deadbeat dads. He owes more than $160,000 in child support, dating back 20 years.

A warrant first went out for Burns arrest in 2001, when he skipped a court date. It was reissued Tuesday when the mother of Burns children discovered he was in town for his mother's funeral.

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November 26, 2006

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac lived and wrote before my time, still when I finally read Dharma Bums.   I was as entranced with the sweetness of the man as I was with his zest for life and search for truth, not to mention his sheer good looks.

Dharma Bums is an autobiographical novel, set in California, following the publication and amazing success of On the Road of which he said, "I wrote the book because we're all going to die."

Here's a video of Jack  reading from On the Road.

But the best place to see that sweetness is in Steve Allen's interview of Jack on YouTube

via Boing Boing

Some of my favorite Kerouac quotes.

“All of life is a foreign country.”

“I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”

Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, estabilished-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road.

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself”

His estate on his death in 1969 was worth $91.  By 2004, it was worth an estimated $20 million.

Jack Boulware writes about the unbelievable complexities of his literary estate  in The Kerouac Obssession

The legal situation surrounding the Kerouac estate is so mysterious and confusing as to be almost impenetrable. These, however, are the basic facts: When Jack Kerouac died, he left everything to his mother, Gabrielle. When she died, her will left her entire estate, including Jack Kerouac’s literary materials, to Stella Sampas, Jack’s third wife. In 1994, Kerouac’s only daughter, Jan, contended this will was a forgery, and filed an action in Florida, the state in which Gabrielle died, contesting the probate of her grandmother’s will. This is the action that Nicosia has championed, as an heir and literary representative of Jan Kerouac, even after her death. 

Jan met her father for the first time in 1962, when her mother’s efforts to gain child support finally forced Kerouac to take a paternity blood test. (The result was positive.) As a 9-year-old, she nervously accompanied him to the liquor store for a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream sherry, and saved the cork as a reminder that she did indeed have a father.
Johnny Depp's purchase invoice of Kerouac memorabilia

The Kerouac raincoat, $15,000; suitcase, $10,000; travel bag, $5,000; sweat shirt, $2,000; rain hat, $3,000; tweed coat, $10,000; a letter to fellow road-tripper Neal Cassady, $5,000; and a canceled check to a liquor store, $350.

The total is $50,640, including tax.

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Dead Behind the Bookcase

Marina Weber stood on a bureau to adjust the television plug behind the bookcase when, only 5-foot-3, she fell headfirst behind the 6 ft solid bookcase.

Her family reported her missing and even though she might have been  kidnapped.  Days later they noticed a strange smell.

"I'm sleeping in the same house as her for 11 days, looking for her," her mother, Connie Weber, told the St. Petersburg Times. "And she's right in the bedroom."

UPDATE.  Seeing as how I somehow can't comment on my blog, let me say that the woman didn't die of dust mites but of suffocation in a very tight space.

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November 25, 2006

Developer of LexisNexis Died in front of his Computer.

The "inventor" and developer of Lexis Nexis, the vast electronic database  used by law firms, the news industry and libraries, died November 12. 

H. Donald Wilson, 82, died of a heart attack in front of his computer at his home.

From the Washington Post.

"He was essentially a practical visionary," said Paul G. Zurkowski, president of the Information Industry Association from 1969 to 1989. "At the time, the technologies were just emerging and people were focusing on the technology, but Don focused on their application to publishing."

Mr. Wilson started by developing a business plan for an engineer's invention of how to better search text for certain words or phrases. That plan became a company that started LexisNexis, now the world's largest online electronic library of legal opinions, public records, news and business information.

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Last Words of a Russian Spy

.......I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife, Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds

But  as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

The reverberating last words  of Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB colonel who defected to London, to be poisoned  with polonium 210 after lunching on sushi with another former KGB official.   

 Litvinenko, Before And After Poisoning

Litvinenko had been investigating the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist in Moscow and searing critic of Russia's policies in Chechnya.

His father said his 43-year-old son was "killed by a little, tiny nuclear bomb."

Polonium 210, a byproduct of the nuclear industry requires high grade technical skills and probably a nuclear lab to make. 

London Riddle: A Russian Spy, a Lethal Dose

This is not the first time the Russians have used poison.

Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was also murdered in London in 1978, with a jab from a poison-tipped umbrella.

Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the Orange Revolution, now the President of the Ukraine, was poisoned with dioxin while campaigning to move his country closer to the West.  The poisoning left him badly disfigured.

 Viktor Yuschenko, Before Poisoning And After

Jim Geraghty writes, Assassination: So Cool, It's the New Black.

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November 22, 2006

The Arc of a Life

Born during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, died in Iraq, the remarkable arc of the life of Tung Nguyen says much about sacrifice and what it means to be an American writes Seth Gitell in the New York Sun.

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

He Sizzled.

From Op For

On killing a terrorist

"How did you know you weren't shooting an innocent man?"
"He sizzled."
"Excuse me?"
"He tried to self-detonate. There was a malfunction. I saw smoke. I didn't want to take a chance on there being a second trigger. We were in a supermarket. Women and children all around. I drew and and shot him in the chest."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 18, 2006

Cemetery 2.0

How will you be remembered when you're gone?  Elliott Makin envisions a digital cemetery, one that networks traditional tombstones to the electronic records of the people who lie beneath.

  Cemetery 2.0

Elliott Malkin Cemetery 2.0
Cemetery 2.0 is a concept for a set of networked devices that connect burial sites to online memorials for the deceased. The prototype, at left, links Hyman Victor's gravestone in Chicago, to his surviving Internet presence, including his:

• Flickr Genealogical Repository
• Facebook Memorial Profile
• Pedigree Resource File (GEDCOM)
• Family Tree of the Jewish People entry (GEDCOM)

The Cemetery 2.0 device maintains a live satellite Internet connection. Visitors to the physical memorial can view related memorials on the device display, while visitors paying their respects at any of the online memorials will recognize that their browsing is associated directly with the actual burial site.

He links to Digital Remains by Michele Gauler
via Boing Boing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

The most important economist of the 20th century, Milton Friedman a man of genius and common sense, died Friday at 94. 

He won the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science

Thomas Sowell calls him  Freedom Man.

He could express himself at the highest analytical levels to his fellow economists in academic publications and still write popular books such as "Capitalism and Freedom" and "Free to Choose" that could be understood by people who knew nothing about economics. Indeed, his television series, "Free to Choose," was readily understandable even by people who don’t read books.

As the central figure in the "Chicago School" of economists, and an outstanding teacher, Friedman over the years sent forth into the world--overseas as well as in the U.S.--a stream of economists who influenced the thinking, and in some cases the policies, of countries all around the world. These students, along with his writings, are part of his enduring legacy. His popular writings, speeches and television appearances spread his ideas through successively wider circles of people, who passed these ideas on to others, many of whom may never had known where these ideas originated.

New York Times obituary

The grandmaster of free-market economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward less government and greater reliance on individual responsibility,

Mr. Friedman had made a broader political argument: that you have to have economic freedom to have political freedom.

He attributed his success as a series of accidents: his parents immigrating from Czechoslovakia, a high school geometry teacher, the receipt of a scholarship and his last name beginning with F because that's how he met his wife.

From the Associated Press
Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who championed individual freedom, influenced the economic policies of three presidents and befriended world leaders, died Thursday. He was 94.

President Bush said in 2002
He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision _ the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions. That vision has changed America, and it is changing the world."

Said former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty when it had been all but forgotten. He was an intellectual freedom fighter. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of a dismal science."

From the Financial Times

Both his admirers and his detractors have pointed out that his world view was essentially simple: a passionate belief in personal freedom combined with a conviction that free markets were the best way of co-ordinating the activities of dispersed individuals to their mutual enrichment. Where he shone was in his ability to derive interesting and unexpected consequences from simple ideas. As I knew from my postbag, part of his appeal lay in his willingness to come out with home truths which had occurred to many other people who had not dared to utter them. Friedman would then go on, however, to defend these maxims against the massed forces of economic correctness; and in the course of those defences he, almost unintentionally, added to knowledge.

Friedman himself On the Free Market
What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself.

The person who buys bread doesn't know whether the wheat from which it was made was grown by a pleader of the Fifth Amendment or a McCarthyite, by person whose skin is black or whose skin is white. The market is an impersonal mechanism that separates economic activities of individual from their personal characteristics. It enables people to cooperate in the economic realm regardless of any differences of opinion or views or attitudes they may have in other areas.

His full biography here.

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November 17, 2006

Famine Coffin

  Famine Coffin-1

Called  "famine coffin", it's not a coffin, but a sculpture by Steven O'Loughlin to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the great Irish potato famine that killed a million and forced the emigration of a million and a half more out of a total population of 8 million.

The artist explains

Each panel the coffin has various scenes dealing with the famine. The outside deals with immigration and the inside has the famine scenes. On the cover is a celtic cross with figures and spiral patterns. At the base of the cross two sad figures cradle a withered potato plant. Each cross arm has people praying for relief. The top section has a resurrection scene symbolizing their rebirth to their struggle of life in America. The right side shows immigrants boarding ships bound for America. The top side has a group of immigrants enduring the rugged Atlantic crossing. The faces for this panel were taken from photos and paintings of the famine period. The left side shows the immigrants arriving in America where they begin to assimilate into the bustling city.

    Many of the scenes on the coffin were taken from newspaper articles and eyewitness accounts of the famine.

Steve lives in Los Angeles and says of his art
The multi-cultural tone of the art is meant to symbolise the mix of cultures we live in. Mexican, Celtic, Asian, and African styles are combined with freeways, airplanes and cityscapes. It is the intention of my work to show the universal patterns symbolized in these ancient art forms at work in our modern world. Certainly Celtic art is one of my dominate influences.

I love his work which is very post modern and witty what with subjects like  alien abduction, rodeos, freeway traffic, angels and airplanes all in his very distinctive style.

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November 15, 2006

Sci Fi Godfather

Many years ago I heard a speech by Isaac Asimov when he spoke about the  Manhattan Project, the highly classified, highly secret work to build the first atomic bomb.    The Germans, Asimov said, knew that some big project was underway, but they didn't know where.

If they had only thought to ask themselves what were all the best scientists reading, they would have answered, science fiction.

Science fiction, according to science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein, is "realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."

If the Germans then had taken themselves to New York and looked at the subscriber lists of the most popular science fiction pulp magazines like "Astounding",  and "Amazing Stories " and "Super Science Stories",  they would have found the majority of subscribers coming from two American towns that nobody had ever heard of,  Oak Ridge in Tennessee and Los Alamos in New Mexico.

Jack Williamson, born in Arizona Territory before it was admitted as a state, died in New Mexico last week at 98.  He was one of the earliest sci fi writers, beginning before the term science fiction was coined and lived to be the "longest-serving" science fiction writer in America.

The London Telegraph has a terrific obituary.

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November 13, 2006

Mourning for a Fallen Star

What does it mean to weep for a star whose life we did not share?

In Mourning Still for a Fallen Star

Two months after Irwin's death, however, I am still chatting online with others -- strangers, though I know their names -- who were touched by his life and death. With the Internet's discussion boards, Web cams, video on demand, we can mourn indefinitely, easily and privately, in our cubicles and home offices.

Paradoxically, our collective mourning has become a solitary experience. I have a global electronic community of other mourners, from Brisbane and Bangladesh to Florida and Minnesota. On message forums, we think we've found kindred spirits, although with the anonymity of the Web, it is hard to know if that is true. No matter. You float a question on the ether -- I am fourteen and cannot stop crying for Steve. Is there anyone else out there? -- and receive dozens of sympathetic replies.


Michael C. Kearl, a professor at Trinity University in Texas, has written about celebrity death in the online "Encyclopedia of Death and Dying." He suggests our grief may be triggered because the celebrity reflects who we are or want to be.

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Dead Candidate Wins Easily

Sam Duncan, 

A candidate for a county board who appeared in newspaper ads the weekend before the election sailed to victory with 12,000 votes - despite being dead for a month.
Although county elections officials knew of Duncan's death, no one told the voters.

"We are instructed that it's not our job to do that," said Shirley Secrest, elections director.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Suicide Canyon

France has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  Some 11,000 people take their own lives each year.

One of the preferred ways of suicide is to drive off a cliff.  One of the preferred cliffs is the Grand Canyon of Verdon in the Parc Regional du Verdon, about 40 miles northeast of  Aix-en-Provence.    For decades, cars have been piling up at the bottom of the canyon.

Suicide Canyon

Tons of mangled cars piled up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon de Verdon in Provence are sombre evidence of France’s high suicide rate. But on a brighter note, engineers now clearing the accumulated wreckage of 100 years are uncovering a veritable auto museum ...

It's a graveyard of old automobiles, some of them dating back to the 1930s. No one has bothered to it clean up -- until now. After two years of fund-raising, regional authorities recently completed the first two-week stage of a massive clean-up operation, lifting as much as 20 tonnes of debris out of the canyons.

"It's really like an automobile museum down there," Pierre Cartier, who heads the clean-up efforts in the canyon along the Verdon River.

Hat tip Tim Blair, Brighter Note Noted.

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November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, we stop to remember the service and sacrifice of our nation's veterans in all the wars and to express our gratitude.

The President at Arlington National Cemetery today.
On this Veterans Day, we give thanks for the 24 million Americans who strengthen our nation with their example of service and sacrifice. Our veterans are drawn from many generations and from many backgrounds. Some charged across great battlefields. Some fought on the high seas. Some patrolled the open skies. And all contributed to the character and to the greatness of America.

As we raise our flag and as the bugle sounds taps, we remember that the men and women of America's Armed Forces serve a great cause. They follow in a great tradition, handed down to them by America's veterans. And in public ceremonies and in private prayer, we give thanks for the freedom we enjoy because of their willingness to serve.

From Demosophist at Winds of Change

I'm Sitting Here on Veterans Day which is also the 231st anniversary of the birth of the Marine Corps, after watching Rummy's talk at Kansas State in the Landon Lecture. I'm now watching the Military Channel's documentary on the Battle of Brittain, and I'm wondering why we don't have a similar spirit now? I've been thinking that my mother's generation are hanging around for no other reason than that we haven't "figured it out" yet.
They're preserving something priceless: a living memory that leapt over my generation. My mother can literally tell me what it was like during those years from 1941 to 1945. It was the defining event of her life, her "coming of age" experience, and it's what made her the kind of person she is. On the one hand it scared her in a way that made her a little less certain that mankind is reliably "good", but on the other it gave her a kind of pragmatic wisdom about what sorts of things are important.
the coming of age of my generation was conditioned by the "body count", that dishonorable tally that had no purpose but to demoralize, and by a public attitude that saw more honor in draft evasion than service.

From the Boston Globe on the bonds of service, Bonded in Life and Death

They called themselves the Seven, and the name stuck.  Even after the war. Even after there were five.
They were Ricky, Jimmy, Howie, Bobby, Bruce, Skip, and Neal. They met at Dedham High School, and they considered themselves brothers. When one joined the Marines and went to Vietnam, the rest followed.

Two of them died in the war in 1967; their worn, white gravestones stand side by side on a windswept hilltop in Brookdale Cemetery. Now, as the four surviving friends approach 60, they say that they want to stick together even after death. They are seeking special permission from town officials to have their ashes scattered on the hilltop near their brothers when the time comes and to share a single stone on the adjacent empty plot.

"My blood family is down the hill, but I want to be right here," said Howie Howe, 57, one of the seven, as he stood on Veterans Hill on a recent Sunday. "Most families you're born into, but we chose our family."

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Ed Bradley Had Cool

Ed Bradley was one of those people I liked that I thought would always be there until he wasn't.    He died Thursday from leukemia that I didn't know he had.  I will miss him.

Twenty five years with 60 minutes made him a familiar figure in millions of homes across America.

Some tributes to the trailblazer from CBS News. 

President Bush and Laura Bush remembered him for producing "distinctive investigative reports that inspired action and cemented his reputation as one of the most accomplished journalists of our time."

Mike Wallace
Bradley was "a kind, gentle, strong man. A first-rate reporter and a first-rate human being.  When he laughed, he laughed whole-heartedly from down deep. He was just an absolutely delightful man."

CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer
Bradley "was simply the coolest person I have ever known. He was a great observer of the American scene with a shrewd eye and a terrific sense of humor. And let me tell you, no one ever put one over on Ed Bradley."

The New York Times obituary
Even many close colleagues had not known that his health had been deteriorating precipitously for several weeks. On the day that last segment was broadcast, he was admitted to Mt. Sinai. He remained there until his death. “This has been a long battle which he fought silently and courageously,” said Charlayne Hunter-Gault of the “News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” who was one of several close friends at Mr. Bradley’s side when he died this morning. “He didn’t want people to know that this was a part of his struggle. He didn’t want people feeling sorry for him. And for a good part of his life, he managed it.”

To generations of television viewers, Mr. Bradley was a sober presence — albeit one who occasionally wore a stud in one ear — whose reporting across four decades ranged from the Vietnam War and Cambodian refugee crisis to the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the Oklahoma City bombing (his was the only television interview with Timothy McVeigh). He won 19 Emmy awards, including one for “lifetime achievement” in 2003.

Who knew he was such a good friend to Jimmy Buffett. 
“I made the mistake once of letting him get onstage with my band, and he never stopped doing it,” the singer Jimmy Buffett, a friend of Mr. Bradley’s for 30 years who was also with him when he died, said in a telephone interview today.

The Washington Post obituary   
Ed Bradley had cool like a vault has money.

R.I.P. Edward Rudolph Bradley, Jr. 1941-2006

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November 10, 2006

To protest Iraq war, man sets self on fire

Malachi Ritscher, set himself on fire in Chicago last Friday to protest the war in Iraq.

Bruno Johnson, who owns the free-jazz label Okka Disk, received a package yesterday from Ritscher that included a will, keys to his home, and instructions about what should be done with his belongings.
Buried on Ritscher's web site Chicago Rash Audio Potential, a compendium of invaluable show postings, artwork, and photography, are a suicide note and an obituary. Both indicate that he was deeply troubled by the war in Iraq and pinpoint it as a motive for suicide (no method is specified), though there are indications that he may have had other issues as well. "He had a son, from whom he was estranged (at the son's request), and two grandchildren," reads the obit. "He had many acquaintances, but few friends; and wrote his own obituary, because no one else really knew him."

Via Boing Boing

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November 8, 2006

Life Lessons from Oriana Fallaci

On meeting Oriana by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "Darling, It Hurts to Be Alone."

Suddenly she changes the subject. "You must have a child," she says. "I only regret one thing in my life, and that is that I do not have children. I wanted them, tried to have them, but I tried too late, and I failed." "Darling," she says, "it hurts to be alone. Life is lonely. It must be, sometimes. Still I would very much have liked to have a child. I would have liked to pass on life."

She hands me her books, in Italian. Then many life lessons follow. "Darling, don't let life pass you by." She refuses to let me say goodbye and invites me to visit her again. This morning I still wanted to visit her again, when I heard, on the radio, that the life of this greatness was over. "Darling, when the cancer kills me, many will celebrate." I will mourn her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

So Glad

If you are hesitating to record your parents or your family history, listen to what Susan Kitchen's boyfriend told her after his mother died and two years after Susan recorded what his mother had to say about her life.

"I'm so glad you did this.  So glad."

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The Last Photo I Ever Took

Take a look see at "The Last Photo I Ever Took" contest.

  Logs Falling Off Truck

   Last Photo I Ever Took

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November 6, 2006

Deepening Relationships by Archiving Memories

Maria Brown Fogelman writes in the Washington Post, Dear Dad: I'll Be Hearing You.    How her project to record some of her father's memories of World War II was a "process that moved our relationship, like a time-travel vehicle, to a completely different dimension."

Standing next to his bed, I think about how the preservation of memory has shaped our relationship. Throughout my childhood, Dad regaled me with stories of his stint in the Navy during World War II. The effect was so strong that I chose "The Caine Mutiny" by Herman Wouk as one of my favorite eighth-grade reads along with teen-romance novels by Betty Cavanna.

But it wasn't until more than four decades later that I decided to preserve his wartime memories in a more concrete way.

"I'd like to tape you," I had told him, explaining that this would be an "official" interview: I would be armed with a packet of questions from the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project.

On the drive from my home in Silver Spring to my parents' home in Wilmington, however, I started to worry that my father's initial receptiveness might dissolve into reticence or, even worse, the inability to take the whole idea seriously. Even as a 50-plus-year-old adult, I was still afraid of feeling like the little girl who would cry loudly and pitifully whenever her father teased her.

But as soon as I arrived, my parents welcomed me with stacks of photo albums, V-mail -- letters written on a special form that would be microfilmed to save shipping space, then enlarged at an overseas destination before delivery as a facsimile -- and a copy of a discharge document from the Navy Personnel Separation Center in Bainbridge, Md., for my father, Louis Brown.

While he signed the release form for the Library of Congress project, I set up the tape recorder.

"Just wait," I teased him, "you're going to be featured in a Smithsonian exhibit."
In the ICU just nine months later, I think about how fortuitous it was that my father and I embarked on the oral history project. In all, I made three trips and filled three 90-minute tapes with his recollections of the war years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 3, 2006

Mistakes in Obituaries

The New York Times is having some problems with its obituaries, William McGowan collects some stunning mistakes.

In an obituary that ran in November of 2003, the Times’s Douglas Martin, a longtime metro-beat vet, reported that a prominent Harlem photographer had a twin brother to whom he was so close that when the brother died of testicular cancer in 1993, the photographer had his own testicles removed in solidarity with his sibling. An ensuring correction acknowledged, however, that the first brother had died of prostrate cancer and, in fact, the photographer had not had his testicles removed in response. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz called it the “Correction of the Month.”  Erroneous facts in response to the deceased — or not yet deceased, as the case may be — were reported just a few weeks later when the Times ran an obituary on the singer, actress, and dancer Katherine Sergava, who had appeared in the original production of Oklahoma!. The Times reported that the she had died November 11 in Palm Springs, California, “where she had settled in the mid-1960s.” As the New York Post reported, Katherine Sergava was not dead at all, but living in an Upper Westside nursing home.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 2, 2006

Self Immolation by German Minister

In Germany, a retired Protestant minister dies after setting himself on fire to express his concern over the rise of Islam.

The Rev. Roland Weisselberg, 73, climbed into a construction site next to the Augustinerkloser church in the city of Erfurt, poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire Tuesday during Reformation Day church services, said church provost Elfried Begrich at a news conference.

Weisselberg said in a letter that Germany's Protestant church should take the problem of the spread of Islam more seriously, said Begrich. He had spoken about the issue more and more over the past several years, according to Begrich.

Before dousing himself, she said Weisselberg shouted "Jesus and Oskar," which was taken as an apparent reference to the Rev. Oskar Bruesewitz, who set himself on fire in 1976 as an apparent protest against the communist government then in power in East Germany.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Day of the Dead

MotherPie has the post I would have written today only she did it better.

Death in the U.S. is full of euphemisms.  Passing On.  Bit the Dust.  Gone Home. Six Feet Under. Perpetual Rest. We tippy-toe around the subject.

Mexicans don't.  Nobel literature prize winner Octavio Paz observed that Mexicans are not daunted by death.  Rather, they play with it as a personal and cultural idea.  The Mexican, he says,  "...chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite plaything and his most lasting love."

All Saints and All Souls Days (November 1 & 2) are marked with celebrations in Mexico -- the most popular holiday in the country. Patzcuaro is noted especially for the elaborate traditions of preparing feasts for the dead and celebrating in the cemetery.  The culture mocks death and its power while also celebrating and remembering those who have died with graveyard rituals, many with music and picnics on the grave, and altars to the dead at home and meals cooked to honor the dead with the favorite foods of the deceased. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 1, 2006

Woman dies next to own grave

A Dutch widow had a heart attack and died next to the grave where she wanted to be buried, already engraved with her name engraved but no date.

Woman dies next to own grave.

The woman was carrying a bag with her containing her will when she died and had already organized details of her funeral including the music she wanted played, the paper said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 PM | Permalink