March 30, 2007

No to Three Ladies in White

If you want to scatter the ashes of a loved one in a national forest, do it on your own.  The Forest Service has its own version of  a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to individuals.

However, they have a firm policy against commercial ventures doing the same, even "three ladies in white."

the Forest Service has long had a firm policy against commercial scattering, said Gordon Schofield, the group leader for land use here in Region I. If ashes are scattered “the land takes on a sacredness, and people want to put up a marker or a plaque,” Mr. Schofield said, then they oppose activities they do not see as compatible with the site as a resting place.

Good policy.

Roadblock for Spreading of Human Ashes in Wilderness

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Memoir Week

Slate is having a memoir week about people who have written and published memoirs.  They asked a group of memoir writers  whether or not they alerted family members and friends that they were writing about them.

Usually published memoirs incorporate imaginative renderings to flesh out characters and conversations, so how family and friends reacted becomes quite interesting.    Those of you who are beginning to write your own memoir, not for publication, but for yourself and your family, will want to take a look.

Daneille Trussoni wrote a memoir about her relationship with her father who was a tunnel rat in Vietnam while she was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, after extensive research but had few conversations with family members or her father after he developed throat cancer

Sean Wilsey wrote
The way most memoirists have handled still-living people has been to outlive them and then publish. Or publish, then flee.

Yet Wilsey interviewed just about everyone he could think of to write about his mother who when she read the manuscript felt betrayed but was big enough to say
Sean, it's such an accurate portrait of so many people that I know that I've had to conclude it must be an accurate portrait of me, too. And so I'm really going to have to take a look at the fact that I come across that way."
His stepmother hired a lawyer and  threatened to sue.

John Dickerson wrote about his mother Nancy Dickerson
The book I wanted to write was about a journey from an angry kid to the adult who came to love this amazing woman.
Watching old film he found himself
rooting for her as if she were the child and I the parent.

When Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes
I was denounced from hill, pulpit, and barstool. Certain citizens claimed I had disgraced the fair name of the city of Limerick, that I had attacked the church, that I had despoiled my mother's name, and that if I returned to Limerick, I would surely be found hanging from a lamppost.

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March 27, 2007

Cathy Seipp's Funeral Bootlegged

In this new media world of ours, we have to deal with cyber-squatters and bootleg videos of funerals and those without any moral compass who have no respect for the dead. 

Cathy Seipp's friend Sandra Tsing Toh writes about it in
It's a blogged world, we just live in it

On the one hand, it would be hard to confuse with her actual site. On the other hand, when the cyber-squatter last week reverted to his earlier ways, posting a "last blog entry" signed "Cathy Seipp" in which Cathy supposedly begged final forgiveness for her politics, her friends and her parenting … this seemed to cross a new line.

By week's end, Cathy's family and friends were debating whether to take legal action. Everyone was offended, exhausted and still staggered with grief. The public expression of which — Cathy's funeral — was, of course, recorded without our knowledge and posted by another blogger. Yep, it's all out there on the Web, just start Googling — you'll see snot pouring out of my nose as I wail helplessly through my eulogy, which, along with everything else involving the ceremony, has all already been critiqued online.

"It's like Cathy was the only thing that kept these people civilized!" was the horrified comment of friend Andrew Breitbart who, one should note, edits the Drudge Report. Even he!

Elliott Stein, a journalist advisor, was upset about the way Maia, Cathy's daughter, complained to her school about something the Elliott said or did.  What he did was buy the domain name and write disparaging things about Cathy, her daughter and her friends up to the day of her funeral.

The unfortunate lesson, learned or not, as her friend Luke Ford,  a strange and bizarre character himself, writes

If you are old enough to blog, then you are old enough to learn that whenever you blog something negative about somebody, that person may devote the rest of his life trying to make you miserable. Even when you are right in hurting someone (exposing their bad behavior to protect the innocent) through your speech, you are usually going to be hurt in return.

She did get a New York Times obit with this delicious quote
In Medialand,...people often look at you uncomprehendingly if you explain that not everyone in America agrees with the received media wisdom.  She added, “People with different ideas are not necessarily evil bigots, even if some of them do go to church.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Only $37.50

They sold a Portland man's body for $37.50 before they notified his family.

Officials admit mistake in selling man's body to science.

Tip Daniels, who lived next door to Anheier, said when his friend disappeared in January, people in the building began to wonder what happened. 

“First we thought he went to see his sister in Florida,” Daniels said. “That wasn’t the case.” 

Friends found out weeks later that Anheier had collapsed just blocks from his home. They said he had had emergency contacts on his lease at the Biltmore Hotel. 

“They more than dropped the ball,” Daniels said. “They insulted his existence and his family.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

When the Game is Over

Available only at funeral homes, beginning on opening day, for only $699, official major league baseball funerary urns.

Each urn sits upon a home plate-shaped base and comes with a baseball which can be replaced by a special ball from your own collection.

  Baseball Urn

Caskets coming soon.

The firm designing brand name funerary products: Eternal Image

The full story at Book of Joe.

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March 23, 2007

Angry with Funeral No-shows

A Bosnian man has written to all his friends to complain after only his elderly mum turned up for his funeral.

Amir Vehabovic, 45, faked his own death just to see how many people would attend.

He then watched from the bushes as only his elderly mum turned up for the burial in the north Bosnian town of Gradiska.

In the letter to the 45 people he invited to the burial he said: "I paid a lot of money to get a fake death certificate and bribe undertakers to deliver an empty coffin.

"I really thought a lot more of you, my so-called friends, would turn up to pay their last respects. It just goes to show who you can really count on."

I don't think his letter will have the effect he wants unless they turn out, like the mourners at Harry Cohn's funeral did to make sure that the SOB was really dead and as Red Skelton quipped, "It proves what they always say: give the public what they want and they'll come out for it.".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 22, 2007

Four-year-old girl celebrates death

In a culture doesn't value life or children, this video is unremarkable

In Palestine, on Hamas TV, a four-year-old girl sings to her dead mother, a suicide bomber.

Instead of me, you carried a bomb in your hands.
Only now, I know what was more precious than us.

then states her determination to do the same while pulling a stick of dynamite from her dead mother's drawer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Cathy Seipp, R.I.P.

Cathy Seipp, a non-smoker, a complete original with an unorthodox sensibility and take on the world,  died yesterday after a five year battle with lung cancer, at the age of 49.

As a blogger,  she would have been delighted that she was number 1at Technorati  in the list of top searches.  The sendoff she's received from bloggers is quite extraordinary with hundreds writing posts.

Susan Estrich remembers her special friend in a lovely column and quotes what Cathy herself wrote about lung cancer.

Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, a close friend who was with Cathy at the end, writes how Cathy's kindness and generosity and enormous capacity for friendship through the years was returned by a great outpouring by all her friends, part of team Cathy, who made sure she was never alone, that there was plenty of food and always company for her chemo sessions. 

Kathryn Jean Lopez calls her Fearlessly Independent.  As editor of the National Review, she put together a symposium of friends and fans for a fond farewell.  Some selections:

Charlotte Hays: "lovely in person and wicked in print."
Mickey Kaus: "I liked her for another reason: She was so grouchy! She just wouldn’t take any s**t at all."
Mark Steyn "loved the great brio of her writing...she also communicated a great joy and relish in writing, and you’d be surprised how few writers do that. I also liked the way you never quite knew where the next paragraph would lead."

John O'Sullivan calls her An Unorthodox Talent
If Raymond Chandler had been reincarnated in 1990s L.A. as a girl with a can-do attitude, the result would have been someone like Cathy Seipp

Rob Long, a longtime friend, writes that last Friday at the hospital, he watched Cathy

Cathy methodically rip out the ads from Vogue and Vanity Fair. “I’m not going to be lugging these huge things around,” she said. “Seriously. They make these magazines so heavy. Life is too short.”

Too short doesn’t begin to describe it. I go to her website. I look at her picture. I hit refresh.

These things take a while, I’m told, to sink in.

Cathy, a single mom, devoted to her 17-year-old daughter Maia, was able to see her off to college, and living an independent life.  Maia, by all accounts, a precociously mature girl who takes after her mother, must be tremendously heartened by the river of tributes to Cathy, even buoyed by the outpouring of affection and love.

Still, sorrow will mark her in the months and years to come.  It was Oscar Wilde of all people who wrote, "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground,"

On that holy ground, she will learn what Cormac McCarthy wrote
The closest bonds we will ever know are the bonds of grief. The deepest community is one of sorrow.

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March 21, 2007

They do not leave us

For those with faith Our dead are not absent and Love never ends.

The great and sad mistake of many people -- among them even pious persons -- is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In darkness? Oh no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes . . . Oh infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent. They are living near us, transfigured into light, into power, into love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Blogosphere's Irish Wake for Cathy Siepp

As of 7:45am this morning she is still breathing and pulsing but is passing peacefully.
— Maia Lazar, her daughter on Cathy's blog.

Almost 600 comments and counting.  If you read her and loved her writing as I did, please add your own

Sissy calls it a Blogospheric Irish Wake for a beloved free spirit and, stopped short by the news of Cathy's impending death, spent the day reading tributes "which were like a river at flood tide".

I wrote about her in The Upside of Cancer in 2005.  The upside?

One is that you can put the fear of God into people with hardly any effort at all,
and The other advantage is people reveal themselves to you as they really are – it’s almost like a solution for invisible ink.

I met her only once at the Pajamas Media inaugural in NYC.  She was small, thin, blond, with a glass of wine,  greeting one blogger journalist after another with warm smiles and big hugs and still kind and welcoming to me, who didn't make the first cut, but was just another groovy blogger

Mary Madigan quotes from her Normblog profile

Norm: What would you call your autobiography?
Cathy: For many years as a journalist who spent a lot of time interviewing people, I imagined writing a book or column called What About ME and MY Feelings?!?. But now that I have a blog, that's handled.

Norm: What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Cathy: I've always been a big believer in the importance of kicking your own ass. That is, forcing yourself to do what you don't necessarily feel like doing at the time.

She wore discount and offended fashion editors in the "bitch pits" on both coasts, called a young women a  "girl" thereby shocking the panelists and audience at a Times Book Festival, thought that health insurance should be unbundled from employment so people could take responsibility for themselves as she herself did with the government providing only a safety net, pointed out that Mean Old Republicans Care, skewered the media for its self-important pompous moments, wondered why in California child molesters and sex offenders were a protected class ,  pricked the Hip Hypocrites who claim to support free speech unless they disagree with it, defended C.S. Lewis against those who called Narnia, sexist, racist and intolerant,  all while battling lung cancer and she never smoked!

Life's not fair and she will be missed.  The only comfort is the imminence of her arrival at the pearly gates will be heralded  by the ululation by all the bloggers acutely conscious of her last moments on this side, her transitus, her passing over.

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March 20, 2007

The Corpse Who Served His Country

Operation Mincemeat, a covert counter-intelligence operation of the British government during the Second World War, began with the Lt. Cmdr Ewen Montague's idea to plant secret documents on a dead man and have the corpse discovered by the Germans. 

"Mincemeat Swallowed Whole" said the cable to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The Allies then went on to capture Sicily.  Montague was awarded the Military Order of the British Empire and went on to write about the operation in his book, The Man Who Never Was.

The dead man family's  gave permission to use his body as a ruse on the condition that the man's identity never be revealed.

The whole story is at  Damn Interesting,  called Mincemeat and the imaginary man

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Paddy Died

Via Tom  McMahon

When filled with the Irish spirit, I am able to accept my losses and failures with greater grace. Which reminds of the time Paddy died.

His wife went to the newspaper to place his obituary. The newsman said the cost was $1 a word. "I only have $2," said Mrs. Paddy. "Just print 'Paddy died.'" The newsman decided that old Paddy deserved more. He gave her three extra words at no charge. "A kind man you are," said Mrs. Paddy. "Print me husband's obituary this way: 'Paddy died. Boat for sale.'"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2007

Patron Saint of the Happy Death

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, carpenter and foster-father of Jesus.  He is the patron saint of the happy death Terry informs me is because he died in the company of Jesus and Mary.

 St Joseph

Update.  Here's more on St. Joseph's Day traditions

Update. My mother Mary had a great devotion to St. Joseph and prayed to him daily for a happy and speedy death," wrote another viewer. "She was 94 and in good health, still living independently in her little apartment near her family.

"On March 19, 2002 at one a.m. she suffered a massive heart attack. She made it to the hospital, received the Last Rites, and with all of her children, and most of her grandchildren, around her, died peacefully at three p.m. that same day, the feast of St Joseph.  Her prayers were answered!"

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Going Out in First Class

With 36 million air passengers each year, about 10 die while in flight, and the question arises, what do you do with the dead body.

While Singapore Airlines has introduced "corpse cupboards", British airways places Dead Passenger in First Class.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Obsessed Art Expert, 'Muddled" with Paranoid Fears, Kills Herself

Carolyn Eldridge, a  beautiful art expert, a Da Vinci scholar and artist, killed herself after become obsessed with the mysteries surrounding the artist and the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

  Carolyn Eldridge

Her father said her mind became "muddled" with fears; she clearly became paranoid and thought her life was in danger.

But Mr Eldridge said his daughter's paranoia continued. "She was receiving care in the community but because her fears were so real to her she didn't accept she was ill so she didn't really engage with the help that was being offered to her.

Victim of The Da Vinci Code


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

The Moments That Define Us

A new movie starring Sally Field and Ben Chaplin called Two Weeks, now in limited release, tells the story about what happens to a family when the one person who holds it together can't hold on anymore.

            Two Weeks Movie

Writer/Director Steve Stockman has a blog describing how he came to write the movie which was inspired by his own experience of being with his siblings as his mother lay dying.  What he found at various screenings was people want to tell their stories.

After one screening in Seattle, I heard about the woman who didn't really know her brother until she spent his last 7 days by his bedside, when he was dying of aids. The woman whose sisters-in-law descended on her mother's house while she was dying and made off with the antiques. The man whose mother refused to talk to him about the fact that she was dying-but knew, and left him 15 pages of notes on how to live. Some funny stories, some sad, some with lessons, some horrifyingly pointless. But all of them very personal and fascinating.

At the Hamptons Film Festival last month, a woman in the audience said that she had never talked about what happened when her brother died, and she was amazed at how similar “Two Weeks” was to what happened to her. Others in the audience agreed.

It turns out that end of life is something that happens to everyone. And lots of people want to talk about it—but it’s such a private and scary subject, they think they’re the only ones.

It’s been great for me to find out that we’ve created a film about an experience common to many, many people. And it’s been great, I think, for people who’ve been through it to realize they’re not alone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

"I am a lonely soul"

After sealing himself in a bathroom with two charcoal grills and clipping a note onto his shirt saying, "I am a lonely soul", Brad Delp, lead singer for the band Boston, committed suicide.

His fiancee found him lying on the bathroom, his head on a pillow.  Several other notes were found including sealed letters which were turned over to the family,

Boston singer's suicide note described his lonely despair.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Funerals Online

For the shut-ins and those far away, online streaming of funeral services are a welcome use of new technology.

For everyone else, Always Go the the Funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:01 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

"Howdy!" to Death

Rites come and go, but they cannot be manufactured; you cannot make up a rite. At least, this is what I always thought. But human remains are nowadays subjected to a number of outlandish procedures which the performers most certainly do experience as ritual. A little while ago I attended a funeral where the relatives had decided on homemade gestures for their final goodbye. I was standing with the other mourners near the entrance of the cemetery, and we commiserated in mute despair about the suicide of the young colleague we were going to bury that day: he was forty-two, the father of a boy of three and a girl of six. As I was waiting for the sound of the black hearse rolling slowly past us with its characteristic sound of crunching pebbles under the tires, my eye was caught by a woman riding a bicycle, to which had been attached a two-wheeled cart carrying a brightly colored coffin. I was taken aback at first, not realizing what I was looking at, and then when it slowly got to me, I was in for a further shock: on top of the coffin, the dead man's little boy sat playing at "driving a car."

The whole scene struck me as a desperate attempt at saying "Howdy!" to Death, whom I happen to know as a gentleman of the Old School, who likes to keep his distance. I'm afraid this type of familiarity can breed contempt, this time the other way round, and Fate might even be tempted to exact a measure of vengeance as a compensation for such gross behavior. We're merely humans, after all, and should know our place.

..... People act in the most bizarre ways when faced with an embarrassing situation, and is there anything more embarrassing than a corpse?

Rites of Departure by Bert Keizer in The Threepenny Review

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March 13, 2007

Warring Statistics

Neo-neocon looks at the war death statistics: dueling casualty figures and how they are used in a calm, dispassionate way.

How those figures are viewed depends on one's perspective.

Those who believe this war was for oil, or Bush’s ego, think it especially offensive to die in such a war. Those who believe the motives were to liberate the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant’s yoke and enable them to at least have a chance at determining their own future, and to stop Saddam from flaunting the terms of the Gulf War Armistice and the UN inspections, believe the cause was a worthy one and the deaths a meaningful sacrifice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Woman Marries Corpse

An Indian woman, despairing over her lover's accidental death when he fell down a well soon after their engagement, insisted on ceremonially marrying his corpse just minutes before the cremation.

Woman Marries Corpse

This must have been a case of true love, because her parents opposed the marriage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Hospices for the Newborn

When parents learn that their unborn child has a condition or a genetic abnormality that will prove fatal, many couples choose not to terminate the pregnancy.

For such parents, there is A Place to Turn When a Newborn is Fated to Die.

Traditionally, doctors and nurses dealt with babies born with fatal anomalies by whisking them away from their mothers to die. But in the 1970s, a perinatal bereavement movement began offering parents another way to deal with the death of a child at birth, by acknowledging the grief they feel and by creating family and religious rituals around a stillbirth or early death.

Drawing on that philosophy, at least 40 perinatal hospice programs have been started in the United States in the last decade.
Families in hospice programs generally decide to let their children die without aggressive medical intervention, including feeding tubes, intravenous fluids and surgeries. They give medication to ease the child’s discomfort.

“I want to go through this with my eyes open,” he said, explaining why he turned to the hospice program. “I want to feel every ounce of pain, of happiness, because if I avoid it now, it will come back to bite me. I want to experience grace. What does that mean, because it’s such a vague term?

“I’m still trying to figure it out. I think I’ll experience it when this event comes complete,” he said, as his voice cracked, “when she passes.”

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March 9, 2007

"I feel like a witness to my own absence" Jean Baudrillad

Regarded by some as the most important French philosopher of the past 50 years, Jean Baudrillard, who argued
that modern man can no longer tell what reality is because he has become lost in a world of "simulacra", images and signs created and presented as "real" by the mass media
died this week at 77, but not I think at his flat in Montparnasse which
was adorned with 50 television sets and photographic images of the United States.

I say again, no one does better obituaries than the London Telegraph.

In the 1980s Baudrillard began to travel to see the world about which he had theorised. In America (1986) he argued that the country's "resort-style civilisation", with its microwaves, waste disposal units and the "orgasmic elasticity" of its carpets, "irresistibly evokes the end of the world".

He argued in his 1991 book that The Gulf War Did Not Happen, but still more controversial was
his contention, in an essay entitled The Spirit of Terrorism: Requiem for the Twin Towers (2002), that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York were largely a "dark fantasy" manufactured by the media. While terrorists had committed the atrocity, he wrote, they were only putting the finishing touches to "the orgy of power, liberation, flows and calculation which the twin towers embodied". The horror of the victims in the towers, he wrote, "was inseparable from the horror of living in them".

The article provoked a predictable outcry. "It takes a real demonic genius," wrote one critic, "to brush off the slaughter of thousands on the grounds that they were suffering from severe ennui brought on by boring modern architecture."

Such is the state of philosophy these days and, considering he is one of the five or six most cited figures in academia, its state as well.  His greatest influence seems to be in the world of the post-modernist art which found in his theories a jargon to explain what the hell they were doing.
When Baudrillard appeared at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1987, a journalist reported that "collectors, dealers and artists turned out in droves, as for the Messiah".

The London Times

As his intellectual career developed he disassociated himself from the academic world, particularly the social sciences. He also became a critic of the main forms of western politics and culture, stigmatising the doctrines of democracy and human rights as alibis for increased western penetration, globalisation, and elimination of other cultures (paradoxically after having virtualised its own).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"I am alive. How can you cremate me?"

When funerals occur on the same day as a person dies, mix-ups can happen.

An Indian man's family almost cremated a dead body that resembled Deepak Bhattacharya, until he happened to call home.

Dead man phones home

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March 8, 2007

Nun predicted her murder 16 years ago and forgave her killer

Sister Karen Klimczak was known a "fierce and tireless" nun who worked with both criminals and victims of crime and ran a halfway house in Buffalo, N.Y.

On Good Friday, she was strangled in her room at the halfway house by Craig Lynch, high on crack cocaine and looking to steal her cell phone to buy more. He had been released from prison just nine days earlier.

Lynch first hid her body behind his  mother's garage, then, on Easter Sunday,  moved her body to a shallow grave across the street in a vacant lot.

The next day he confessed to the police.  He was convicted of the murder in December. 

On Wednesday, at the sentencing hearing, her real life sister and fellow nun read from Sister Karen's diary, a letter of forgiveness, written 16 years earlier!

Apparently Sister Karen predicted her murder 16 years ago and forgave her killer.

FROM SISTER KAREN’S JOURNAL: “I forgive you for what you have done and I will always watch over you.”

The prosecutor said before asking for the maximum sentence of 25 years to life which the judge imposed. 

“There’s been talk of forgiveness, but, judge, forgiveness is for God. Sentencing is for court.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 7, 2007

A Life Story ...Afterwords

When a loved one dies, the family is usually in too much emotional anguish and too busy planning the funeral and burial to think about what the obituary should say.

Afterwords is a new service that will write a unique obituary, a life story,  for a loved one
and weave together the personal fabric of a person’s life to create memorable words for printed programs, Web sites or eulogies.

After 25 years working as a specialist in corporate communications, Gloria Ross has weaved together elements from her personal and professional life to become a professional life story/obituary writer bring comfort to grieving families.

Remember them, remember her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:06 PM | Permalink

Winemaker Ernest Gallo Died, age 97

Just two months after his father shot his mother to death and then killed himself, Ernest Gallo got a wine recipe from the public library and took  $5900 to begin making and selling wine for 50 cents a gallon.

Little did he know that the E&J Gallo Winery would become an empire selling 75 million cases of wine and changing the way ordinary Americans drank wine.    Nor did he imagine that drinking his own wine help him live until age 97, or that he would become immensely wealthy and die peacefully surrounded by his family.

"My father died knowing that he had lived life to its fullest," his son said in a statement.

Ernest Gallo, the marketing genius who parlayed $5,900 and a wine recipe from the Modesto Public Library into the world's largest winemaking empire, died Tuesday at his home in Modesto. He was 97.

"He passed away peacefully this afternoon surrounded by his family," said Susan Hensley, vice president of public relations for E.& J. Gallo Winery.

LA Times
"No one worked harder to build the base of American wine drinkers that we have today," Joseph Ciatti, owner of the nation's largest grape and bulk wine broker, said Tuesday. "Ernest made quality wine for the masses at a good price."
When the Gallo brothers started the business, the joke was that Ernest's goal was to sell more wine than Julio could make, and Julio's was to make more wine than Ernest could sell.

Washington Post
If some Americans were uncertain about placing a bottle of wine on their table or of opening one at their parties, Mr. Gallo allayed their fears and stimulated their desires with his advertising, using billboards and later television. From 1948 to 1955, Gallo sales grew almost fourfold.

The brothers' winery, which began with a staff of three -- Mr. Gallo, his wife, Amelia, and his brother -- grew to have more than 4,600 employees and a presence in more than 90 countries

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Big Bopper Rumors Laid to Rest.

When people die suddenly in suspicious circumstances, rumors often start as some speculate about what really happened.

On February 3, 1959, a plane crashed after taking off from Mason City, Iowa,  and killed the J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.  That tragedy became known as "the day the music died" once Don McLean recorded "American pie". 

Richardson's son Jay wasn't born yet and never knew his father.  He did know about the rumors of foul play, that a gun had been fired and his father had survived but died trying to get help.

It's hard to imagine living for years with such uncertainty when TV shows like CSI answer everything in an hour.

Jay Richardson finally did something about it.  He hired  forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Blass and had his father's remains exhumed.

Dr. Blass took x-rays of the body and reported,
There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures. ... (He) died immediately. He didn't crawl away. He didn't walk away from the plane."
Richardson watched Bass open the coffin on Tuesday and observed his examination. He said he was pleased with the findings because it proved the investigators "knew what they were talking about 48 years ago."

"I was hoping to put the rumors to rest," he said.
Bass and Richardson were surprised to find the body preserved enough to be recognizable.

48 years after the music died, Big Bopper rumors are finally put to rest.

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March 6, 2007

"Every martyr craves immortality"

“Every martyr craves immortality, and on the Internet, they can have it.” Army Brig. General John Custer, appearing on 60 Minutes.

The New Battlefield:

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Doing the Little Things Right

He wrote his family that he had the best job in the world - transporting wounded marines and that's what  25-year-old Jared Landaker  was doing when his CH-46 was hit by a surface to air missile in Iraq.

Blackfive tells the story of The Last Flight of Lieutenant Landaker

Chief Warrant Officer Frank Kovacs writes about one of the most emotional moments of his life.

On board, 0600:  "Good morning folks this is the Captain.  ...This morning it is my sad pleasure to announce that 1st LT Jared Landaker USMC will be flying with us to his Big Bear home in Southern California .  Jared lost his life over the sky's of Iraq earlier this month and today we have the honor of returning him home along with his Mother, Father, Brother and uncles.

On roll out, I notice red lights, emergency vehicles everywhere.  We are being escorted directly to our gate, no waiting anywhere, not even a pause.  Out the left window, a dozen Marines in full dress blues.  Highway Patrol, Police, Fire crews all in full dress with lights on.  A true class act by everyone, down to a person from coast to coast.  Way to go United Airlines for doing the little things RIGHT, because they are the big things; Air Traffic Control for getting the message, to all law enforcement for your display of brotherhood.
I have finally seen the silent majority.  It is deep within us all. Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Purple, we are all children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. We are an American family.

R.I. P. with our grateful thanks to Lt. Landaker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2007

A Fitting Memorial

Via Wicked Thoughts

Bill died, leaving a will that provided $30,000 for an elaborate funeral. As the last of the visitors departed the affair, his wife, Lynne, turned to her oldest friend and said, "Well, I'm sure Bill would be pleased."

"I'm sure you're right," replied Jody, who then lowered her voice and then leaned in close, "How much did this really cost?"

"All of it," said Lynne. "Thirty thousand."

"No!" Jody exclaimed. "I mean, it was very nice, but $30,000?"

Lynne replied, "The funeral was $6,500. I donated $500 to the church. The wake, food and drinks were another $500. The rest went for the Memorial Stone."

Jody computed quickly. "$22,500 for a Memorial Stone? My God, how big is it?"

"Two and a half carats."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Not Dying Badly

"Dying is easy.  Parking is hard."  That's Art Buchwald at his mocking best and how Charles Krauthammer begins his essay on The Fine Art of Dying Well.

He wonders whether it's just a matter of not dying badly, that is not comically in a pratfall, not becoming by your death a metaphor for urban alienation like poor Kitty Genovese,  the name of a disease like Lou Gehrig, or the name of a law like poor Megan.

Or worse still, by a suicide bomber in the
ultimate perversion of the "good death," done for the worst of motives—self-creation through the annihilation of others

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

PostSecret on Missing Grandpa

  Post Secret Grandpa

From PostSecret  where people mail in their secrets on a homemade postcard.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 3, 2007

Cemeteries that Glow

How do you feel about cemeteries that glow in the dark?

In Indiana, solar-powered electric crosses and angels cause the nighttime glow at Fairview Cemetery in Linton.

I found the source for all your solar memorial needs: Solarlightcross

   Solar Cross

You can't beat their tag line - "Powered by God's light."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Gil's Astonishing Liz

A husband thanks God for the privilege of knowing and loving his wife.

Liz's Funeral

Liz was in a category of one. One of the unique things about Liz, however, was the fact that she neither particularly admired uniqueness nor ever aspired to it. If she aspired to anything, it was social invisibility. To be the object of social attention was one of her greatest fears. No, Liz acquired her uniqueness the hard way: though the experience of sadness and suffering and the intimacy with God that sadness and suffering can make possible.
When I first met Liz at a retreat I was giving in Connecticut, in addition to sensing that she knew suffering, another thing that struck me was her love for the Church. I move in circles where one occasionally bumps into people who love the Church, but Liz’s love for the Church had a special quality about it. It was not so much that she loved the Church – in the perfunctory way we often love old familiar things – rather her love for the Church was spontaneous, unaffected and, most remarkable of all, entirely unproblematic. She loved the Church with the kind of love that has been all but eradicated by the spirit of our age, a spirit which is so antithetical to the Catholic sensibilities which were so alive in Liz.
It was not until I met Liz that I realized how extraordinarily rare it is to find someone who actually does what Jesus commands, who actually loves God. Liz loved God. The more I realized this, the more astonishing it was to behold.

Requiescat in pace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Anna Nicole's Funeral

  Anna Nicole Funeral-1

Andrea Peyser who was there called it a Wacky D-List Weepapoolsa and reports:

Anna Nicole Smith showed up for her funeral - in a church perched inside a shopping mall - with her coffin decked out in what looked like a giant, pink sequined pasty....
Anna's exit from this world was every bit as bloated, extravagant and needy - and angry - as her life. The onetime nude model and geezer's wife, who achieved her greatest celebrity mainly by dying, was shipped from this world not with a service, but an extravaganza.

And as with all spectacles, there was an animal act.

That came when Anna's companion, Howard K. Stern, took to the pulpit like a Doberman pinscher - condemning Anna's mother, the media, even the lawyers and Florida judge, in a speech so inappropriate, they'll talk about it around these parts for years. So much for the dignified family funeral.

Things kicked off with a vengeance at nearly 11 a.m., when some scary hired muscle men unfurled an actual red carpet onto the parking lot of the Mount Horeb Baptist Church, nicely located next to a convenience store.
I've seen people sob at funerals. Maybe laugh. But the crowd who gathered under the blazing sun to watch this oddity cheered, jeered and made obscene gestures. And that was just outside. Inside, it was worse

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 2, 2007

The Tomb of Jesus

What to make of the claim by moviemaker James Cameron that he found the lost tomb of Jesus and his provocative claims that Jesus married  Mary Magdalene and together they had a child named Judah - DNA testing proves it.


Who would publish such claims?  No scholarly peer-reviewed journal for Cameron, he choose the Discovery channel for his 'documentary".

John Miller says it falls into the genre of conspiratorial advocacy.

The Anchoress says We must be getting close to Easter, same time last year we were treated to the Gospel of Judas and the opening of the DaVinci Code.

Ben Witherington in Tomb of the Still Unknown Ancients writes
Many people, though, are simply beguiled by the "obsolescence factor" in our technologically driven society--the "newer" must be "truer" and "better." This outlook, when applied to a subject like the historical Jesus, attracts all sorts of unbridled speculation, and worse.

He scoffs at Cameron's claim that we now have proof that Jesus existed.
Actually, no serious historian of biblical antiquity has ever doubted that there was a historical Jesus. Yet it tells us a lot about the state of our culture that Mr. Cameron's remark, backed by pseudo-science, could be seriously made on national television ...We are a Jesus-haunted culture that is so historically illiterate that anything can now pass for knowledge of Jesus.
Any good scientific theory must account for all the evidence--in this case, all the names we find in the Talpiot tomb and not just the ones that match the holy-family theory.
We actually know that James was buried within sight of the Temple Mount, and Talpiot is miles from there. Eusebius, the fourth-century church historian, saw the tomb and the standing inscribed slab in front of it.

You also have to ask yourself: Why would most of the holy family from Galilee be buried in a middle-class tomb several miles outside of Jerusalem in some sheep pasture? They were, in fact, poor and could not afford an ornamental tomb like this one. This family was from Nazareth, too, with connections in Bethlehem. Why wouldn't its members be buried in one of those places?

We also know that crucifixion was considered the most shameful and hideous way to die, a blow from which one's family honor did not soon recover, if ever. So shamefully did Jesus die that his first followers and even most of his family abandoned him: He was not buried by family members or by the Galilean disciples. He was put in a tomb near the old city that did not belong to any of them.

The central claim of Christianity is the Jesus was the Son of God, the Incarnation and after his crucifixion rose from the dead.  Without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity and certainly no Church that has lasted 2000 years,   

Why didn't the Romans who were afraid of the cult surrounding the followers of Jesus come forward with any evidence?  The Captain thinks along the same lines in Jesus Buried in Plain Sight.

The archeologists who worked on the dig and discovered the tomb  of 10 ancient ossuaries- small caskets used to store bones in 1980 called Cameron's claims "dishonest", "bunk" and "nonsense" but admit it's a great story for TV.

The DNA proof?  It doesn't identify Jesus or Mary Magdalene but only that one male and one female in the tomb were unrelated and probably married.

The cross next to the name?  Use of the cross during the first two centuries was rare.  Christians used the fish symbol to covertly identify each other says Texas Rainmaker in Tales from the Crypt.

Mark Shea has gathered together under the title Shocking Revelation that Shakes Christianity to its Very Foundations. Again.links to other shocking revelations.  The ones I never heard include Jesus was a woman, a Mormon, a magician, a space alien buried in Japan, never existed, was never executed, survived his execution and is buried in Kashmir.

I like the take these high school researchers who claim that James Cameron is Actually Un-Dead and Buried in Biloxi.  Tombstone rubbings by the class at a local cemetery revealed that James Cameron lived from 1830-1907.  Said the coroner of the find,
I mean, the guy's got the same name and the bones have human DNA.  What more do you need?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 1, 2007

Ancient cemetery, headless skeletons

I don't know what to make of the ancient cemetery, three thousand years old, found in Vanuatu, a Melanesian  nation of 83 islands in the South Pacific.

Ancient remains unearthed in Vanuatu.

In this earliest cemetery ever found in the Pacific Islands,  the skeletons are all headless.   

Professor Matthew Spriggs of the Australian National University led the dig.  He speculated that the Lapita people followed the common practice, common that it is until about 100 years ago, of letting the flesh rot away from the head of a dead person and then placing the skull in a shrine or a house. He said

The head was seen as the seat of the soul, so it's the most important part.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Arthur Schlesinger, R.I.P.

The New York Times, Historian of Power
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian whose more than 20 books shaped discussions for two generations about America’s past and who himself was a provocative, unabashedly liberal partisan, most notably in serving in the Kennedy White House, died last night in Manhattan. He was 89.
The notes he took for President John F. Kennedy to use in writing his own history, became, after the president’s assassination, grist for Mr. Schlesinger’s own “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House,” winner of both the Pulitzer and a National Book Award in 1966.

Mr. Schlesinger wore a trademark dotted bowtie, showed an acid wit and had a magnificent bounce to his step. Between marathons of writing as much as 5,000 words a day, he was a fixture at Georgetown salons when Washington was clubbier and more elitist, a lifelong aficionado of perfectly-blended martinis and a man about New York, whether at Truman Capote’s famous parties or escorting Jacqueline Kennedy to the movies.
History and its telling, quite literally, ran in Mr. Schlesinger’s blood. One of his reputed ancestors was George Bancroft, who over 40 years starting in 1834 wrote the monumental 12-volume “History of the United States from the Discovery of the Continent.” His father, Arthur M. Schlesinger, was an immensely influential historian who led the way in making social history a genuine discipline.

The Washington Post, Kennedy Insider
Schlesinger was among the most famous historians of his time, and was widely respected as learned and readable, with a panoramic vision of American culture and politics. He received a National Book Award for "Robert Kennedy and His Times" and both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer for "A Thousand Days," his memoir/chronicle of President Kennedy's administration. He also won a Pulitzer, in 1946, for "The Age of Jackson," his landmark chronicle of Andrew Jackson's administration.

With his bow ties and horn-rimmed glasses, Schlesinger seemed the very image of a reserved, tweedy scholar. But he was an assured member of the so-called Eastern elite, friendly with everyone from Mary McCarthy to Katherine Graham and enough of a sport to swim fully clothed in the pool of then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Liberals were wary of Kennedy, but Schlesinger, tired of Stevenson's dreamy detachment, was drawn to Kennedy's "cool, measured, intelligent concern." Over time, he came to embody Schlesinger's ideal for a head of state: charismatic but not dogmatic; progressive yet practical; a realist, he once observed, brilliantly disguised as a romantic.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Last Wish Can't Be Granted

"When you die and you don't have any relatives, they just kick you to the side," Fouty said. "And now she's frozen. That just makes me cringe. That's not what she wanted at all. I'm just scared to death they're going to cremate her and stick her in a cemetery where she doesn't know anyone."

Deceased woman's last wish can't be granted.

Williams-Martin did not have the proper paperwork or the relatives to claim her, so her body could not be donated to science. Now, Fouty hopes her ashes can be placed on her father's grave, but first a relative must come forward.

People living alone need wills too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack