July 31, 2007

Killed by a Mob of Kids

Ernest Norton was playing cricket with his 17-year-old son in Kent, England, when a group of 15 youths gathered at the fence around the outdoor tennis courts and began shouting abuse.  The verbal abuse grew worse and the group began throwing stones and pieces of wood until one stone hit the side of his face and Norton collapsed and suffered a major heart attack.

Father died after being pelted by young mob.

One 12-year-old, two 13-year-olds and two 14-year-olds are now on trial. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2007

Igmar Bergman, R.I.P.

Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century is dead at 89.

  Igmar Bergman

AP obit
Through more than 50 films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

Bergman, who approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious filmmaking.

He was "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera," Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.

His masterpiece was the Seventh Seal wherein a knight with his squire returns from the Crusades to find his country ravaged by the Plague.  To buy time, he challenges Death to a game of chess.

From the Wikipedia synopsis
the Squire (...) treats death as a bitter and hopeless joke. Since we all play chess with death, and since we all must suffer through that hopeless joke, the only question about the game is how long it will last and how well we will play it. To play it well, to live, is to love and not to hate the body and the mortal

   Death Seventh Seal

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian

Was Bergman in touch with the European mind of his generation? Perhaps he simply was the mind of his generation. Of the great post-war directors, he was the one who shouldered the burden of moral questions: is there a God? Is there a God who is exists, but is absent? Should we behave as if God exists, if we suspect he doesn't? If he is merely absent for some unknowable millennial span, then how should we interpret this indifference, or this rebuke? And why, finally, does anything exist at all?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

Couldn't smell

Eugene Pilouw has diabetes that has damaged the nerves in his nose.  That's why he says he couldn't smell his dead wife's body decomposing in a storage room in the back of their house.

He thought she had run away again and taken $250.

Tests are being conducted on the living and the dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2007

Where's Oscar?

The New England Journal of Medicine on Oscar the Cat

Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves
Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.

One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices. [...]

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2007

The Revival of Personal Writing

Ronni Bennett writes that blogging gives shape to our lives.

My great Aunt Edith and I exchanged weekly letters for 25 years. She was my favorite, most trusted older relative and I poured out my heart to her about every good and bad thing that happened to me from age 15 on.

Visiting her one time when I was about 40, she announced that I was “old enough now for these” as she handed me a box with every letter I’d written her through all those years – essentially my own biography in my own hand and the most precious gift she ever gave me.

Although it is an imperative for elders, making sense of ourselves and giving shape to our lives is what writing has always been about at any age. Blogging gives that need a new dimension through the medium itself and the sharing of our thoughts with so many others than personal letters allow.
I think bloggers – old and young – intuitively know this, and that our blogs are on the bleeding edge of a renaissance in personal writing. Our blogs (and saved emails) will become as important to our loved ones as be-ribboned letters were in the past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 AM | Permalink

Answer: Roughly 4-10 minutes After Death

From Scientific American, Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist answers the question, After a person's pulse and breathing stop, how much later does all cellular metabolism stop?

via bookofjoe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:57 AM | Permalink

Solzhenitsyn on Death and Life

Interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Der Spiegel, his first in many years.

SPIEGEL: And your strength did not leave you even in moments of enormous desperation?

Solzhenitsyn: Yes. I would often think: Whatever the outcome is going to be, let it be. And then things would turn out all right. It looks like some good came out of it.


SPIEGEL: In 1987 in your interview with SPIEGEL founder Rudolf Augstein you said it was really hard for you to speak about religion in public. What does faith mean for you?

Solzhenitsyn: For me faith is the foundation and support of one's life.

SPIEGEL: Are you afraid of death?

Solzhenitsyn: No, I am not afraid of death any more. When I was young the early death of my father cast a shadow over me -- he died at the age of 27 -- and I was afraid to die before all my literary plans came true. But between 30 and 40 years of age my attitude to death became quite calm and balanced. I feel it is a natural, but no means the final, milestone of one's existence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2007

Words of Balm

When you come face to face with death, what do you say to the victim's family?  Seeking Words of Balm from The Ambulance Driver.

via Pajamas Media.

The Ambulance Driver recalls the moments, over seven years, when he had to tell anxious loved ones the person he was crouched over was dead; beyond his help. There were men gone from old age, young blond accident victims, the middle-aged expired from a heart attack, daredevil young men on their shattered motorcycles. And the anxious survivors “… and then I say The Words. ‘I’m afraid she’s dead.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

July 19, 2007

Obits, Now with Sound

Now this is a new twist to obituaries.  The London Telegraph not only produces the liveliest obits in the world, they now provide audio clips so you can hear a famous jazz singer like  George Melly

George Melly, the jazz singer, author and raconteur who died yesterday aged 80, leched, drank and blasphemed his way around the clubs and pubs of the British Isles and provided pleasure to the public for five decades.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 PM | Permalink

How the Fire Went Out

The most popular grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris is that of an American.

  Jim Morrison Grave

Jim Morrison, the lead singer for the Doors, was only 27 when he died, supposedly in a bathtub of natural causes.  But a recent book says Morrison died of a heroin overdose in a hot Paris club, the Rock ' n Roll Circus.

How Jim Morrison died
"There was foam coming out of his lips," the former nightclub owner told TIME. A doctor who was in the club that night concluded that Morrison had overdosed, and "said Jim was dead," he says. "I wanted to call the police or rescue people to help. They [Morrison's drug dealers] said no," and instead had the body driven back to the apartment the singer had rented with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson. It was then soaked in the bathtub.

This might sound like a juicy tale concocted to sell books. But Bernett isn't the only person in Paris who remembers that night 36 years ago, although it appears to have taken the publication of his book to prompt them to finally speak up. Patrick Chauvel — now a renowned war photographer — told TIME he was 19 and drunk that night, when he was dragooned into helping load Morrison's body into a car. Since he had just returned from photographing the Vietnam War, Chauvel was deemed especially suited to dealing with corpses. "We carried him in a blanket and got him the hell out of there," recalls Chauvel, who was a friend of Morrison and did not cooperate with Bernett's book. Explaining the cover-up, Chauvel says: "I guess if you have a nightclub and Jim Morrison dies in your toilet, it is not good p.r.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2007

Too Much Experience in Grieving

It's the elders among us who handle the details of death and show us how to grieve.  Like Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I didn’t want to become ‘old hand’ at these matters. But, I have. Even though the instructions on the box “How To Be An Elder,” are simple: ‘Be there for others as much as you can. Be there, and be there some more.’ It sounds so easy, but it takes cojones y ovarios. Big ones. Funny isn’t it, being an elder takes being more like the valiant creature: what did I say a brave ‘pet’ was made of? “Loyal in love, sheltering of the vulnerable, more far-seeing, more all-out brave, more decisive, bold, forgiving, more funny and heartful?” Yes, like that, in human proportion. No one is sprung full-born elder, like Aphrodite on the half-shell. I’m can see that I am working on it, finding the ways. Probably all the rest of my life long.

I Promise the Last Voice You Hear Will Be One of Such Love: Pet Loss

via Ambivablog who wrote

As she anticipates the loss of an aged, cancer-stricken Dalmatian ("Pepino is our relative.  That's all there is to it"), she knows it will reopen in the whole family the barely clotted, bottomless wound of the recent loss of a child.  The one thing you do not want to be at such a time is alone, and it is when family (blood family with all its capacious adoptions) rises up and shows its stuff.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2007

Human Ashes Cause Airport Bomb Scare

Unless you want to start a bomb scare, when you use air transport  for the ashes of a loved one, don't put other items like a watch in the package.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2007

Huggable Urns

Huggable Urns, I kid you not, are Teddy Bears with pouches for ashes, "something soft and cozy for your loved ones or precious pets final resting place."  Their tag line is "Hold Me When You Think of Me."  Cocoa Teddy or Snow Teddy are also available with detachable wings.

  Huggable Urns

via American Digest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2007

Ladybird, R.I. P

Her caretaker nurse thought the little toddler, Claudia Alta Taylor,  was a "purty  as a lady bird".

“I was a baby and in no position to protest,” Mrs. Johnson said of her nickname.

So Ladybird was how she was known all her life.    As a young girl in a one room schoolhouse, as the 21-year-old bride of Lyndon Johnson whose first campaign for Congress she helped finance with a loan from her father against her inheritance and later as a businesswoman using part of her inheritance to buy a KTBC, a small radio station in Austin, Texas.

Her investments were sound.  When sold in 2003 (they were in a blind trust when Johnson was President) they reaped about $105 million making Ladybird, the first wife of a president to become a millionaire in her own right.

Dallas News obituary

"Mrs. Johnson is every bit as complex a character as Lyndon Johnson," said her biographer, Jan Jarboe Russell of San Antonio. "Future historians will find her to be a treasure house" once her unedited diaries and tapes are made public.

As both a contrast and a complement to her husband, Mrs. Johnson used the mostly social position of first lady as a meaningful vehicle for change, embracing leadership roles to beautify America, win acceptance of racial equality in her native South and nurture children's early learning through the Head Start program.

"She's really a breakaway first lady ... she's a precursor to feminism," said Ms. Russell, who spent four years on her 1999 book, Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson. "She was a strong and persistent American woman who helped us say goodbye to the '50s."

No one alive at the time can forget that she was in the motorcade when President John Kennedy was shot or the photograph of her standing beside her husband as he took the oath of office.

"I feel like I am suddenly on stage for a part I never rehearsed," she told Texas first lady Nellie Connally at the time.

Aboard Air Force One at Dallas Love Field, Mrs. Johnson tried to express her feelings. "I said, 'Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, you know we never even wanted to be vice president, and now, dear God, it's come to this.' "

Following the assassination, the country was turbulent with racial unrest, the Vietnam war and convulsive social change, yet Ladybird as First Lady was a soothing presence with her grace and a gentle touch and a far more influential advisor to her husband than we ever knew.

Robert Caro, the biographer of her husband said, "She conducted herself, often in the most difficult circumstances, with a graciousness and dignity and total devotion to her husband that was heroic,"

Her greatest legacy was the beauty she brought to the roadsides and highways of America.  Her love of the wildflowers of Texas, her commitment to natural beauty became a national cause for conservation as she championed the  Highway Beautification Act.

  Ladybird In Flowers

Washington Post obituary, Champion of Conservation, Loyal Force Behind LBJ, photo by David Kennedy.

She died at 94 at home of natural causes.

New York Times obituary by Enid Nemy

“It has been a wonderful life,” she told Ms. Carpenter in 1992. “I feel like a jug into which wine is poured until it overflows.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

Paying No Attention to the Corpse in the Car

Maybe they are just used to dead bodies in New Jersey,

How else do you explain a 45-year-old man who came upon a dead man in a car than drove away with the corpse in the vehicle so he could try to use the dead man's ATM card.

He was only arrested after he tried to steal a purse from a woman and the police happened to come up the decomposing corpse in his pickup truck in the parking lot.

Condolences to the family of Maynard Samuel Anthony.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2007

The Mickey Mouse Club

YouTube is becoming a terrific resource for those who are using multimedia to tell the stories of their lives.

Take  the Original Mickey Mouse Club TV introduction for example.    Watching it, I can remember the excitement I felt as  a little girl.    I was so enamored of the Club and the Mousekeeters, Doreen and Annette being my favorites, that my best friend Kathy and I practiced routines in the back yard so that we would be ready for the talent scouts we were sure were coming to our hometown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 PM | Permalink

Cemeteries Banned in San Francisco

I never knew that cemeteries in San Francisco have been banned since 1900 and already existing cemeteries were declared in 1914 a "public nuisance and a menace and detriment to the health and the welfare of city dwellers" and had to remove all burial sites.

Joseph Bottum on Death & Politics at First Things, a fascinating  but quite long article that will make several posts, argues that it's the dead, not the living, who give us communities, who tie us to a particular place.

Still, even the most ardent modernist might feel some misgivings about a rejection of the dead as complete as San Francisco’s. And such misgivings reflect, however dimly, a deep political insight—for a city without cemeteries has failed at one of the first reasons for having cities at all. Somewhere in those banished graveyards was a metaphysical ground for politics, and buried in them was a truth that too much of modern political theory seems to have forgotten: The living give us crowds. The dead give us communities.

He quotes Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr who once said, "Society rests on the death of men."

Think of this, too, in terms of the family. In all Western cultures, a person was once “gathered to his fathers.” But constant relocation and the urban distaste for cemeteries have made care of graves difficult. Why shouldn’t we expect family tradition to weaken at the same time as family graves begin to disappear?

Indeed, the logic loops back on itself to spiral downward: The failure to maintain the family graves increasingly leaves the family name without meaning, and the emptiness of the family name increasingly becomes a reason not to have family graves. 

The modern failure of funerals serves as both a cause and a symptom of the shattering of culture, first into the nuclear family, then into atomized individuals, and at last into nothingness—with, for instance, the increasing use of “anonymous death,” a European innovation now beginning to appear in America, where the dead are abandoned without ceremony in deliberately unmarked graves, or their corpses are cremated with the ashes spread across large and indifferent spaces.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2007

September 11 Digital Archive

The September 11 Digital Archive has now partnered with the Library of Congress to ensure its long-term preservation.

You can share your September 11 experience and have it part of the nation's permanent archive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

July 6, 2007

The Last Drifter

Via Kathryn Jean Lopez, I learned that Bill Pinkney, the last of the original Drifters, died in Florida at 81 yesterday.  She also highlights a lovely story about how the famous song by the Drifters, Save the Last Dance for Me which was played at almost school dance when I was a teen-ager.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink

July 5, 2007

Newly discovered Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan

Weeks after those implicated in atrocities  during the Communist regime were granted amnesty by the Afghan government,  there are discoveries of  underground prisons with hundreds of bodies, still gagged and blindfolded having been buried alive by the Soviets.

Hundreds of blindfolded bodies found in underground prison.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:41 PM | Permalink

Watch Out for the Deep Freeze in the Basement

Most women I know generally pitch in to help clear off a dinner table and put away food after a dinner party.  They don't think anything of it. 

Even if they go down to the basement to put away food in the deep freeze, they certainly don't expect to open the door, and find,  like the woman in Belgium, the dead bodies of the host's wife and stepson frozen solid.

Emily Post had no words for such an event, neither do I.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:33 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2007

Flamboyant Obit of Count Gottfried von Bismarck

I'm telling you, the Telegraph obits are the best I've ever read.   

Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.

Yes, a must-read obit.

Count Gottfried von Bismarck

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 PM | Permalink

Beverly Sills, R.I.P.

Brooklyn-born, America's diva, Beverly Sills died in Manhattan at 78 of lung cancer.

Her final performance on YouTube

  Beverly Sills Farewell -1

New York Times obituary

Ms. Sills was America’s idea of a prima donna. Her plain-spoken manner and telegenic vitality made her a genuine celebrity and an invaluable advocate for the fine arts. Her life embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins, years of struggle, family tragedy and artistic triumph.
During her performing career, with her combination of brilliant singing, ebullience and self-deprecating humor, Ms. Sills demystified opera — and the fine arts in general — in a way that a general public audience responded to. Asked about the ecstatic reception she received when she made a belated debut at La Scala in Milan in 1969, Ms. Sills told the press, “It’s probably because Italians like big women, big bosoms and big backsides.”

Her husband  Greenough died last year after a long illness.  The first of their children was born deaf, the second so severely retarded he had to be placed in an institution.
In a conversation with a Times reporter in 2005, reflecting on her challenging life and triumphant career, Ms. Sills said, “Man plans and God laughs.” She added: “I have often said I’ve never considered myself a happy woman. How could I, with all that’s happened to me. But I’m a cheerful woman. Work kept me going.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

July 2, 2007

Lucky Fluckey

VIa  RIP Lucky Fluckey by Jules Crittenden, I learned about Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey,  one of the greatest naval heroes of World War II whose daring submarine attacks completely disrupted the entire Japanese shipping system .

It's a terrific story of courage and derring-do that would serve as far better plot for  a Hollywood action movie than we usually get,  in the words of his Medal of Honor citation "an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking."

The Galloping Ghost of the China Coast

In addition to the Medal of Honor and Navy Crosses (second only to the Medal of Honor), Adm. Fluckey received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and a host of lesser decorations. His greatest achievement, he often said, was that no one under his command ever received another well-known medal: the Purple Heart.

Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey, who was awarded the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses, was among the most highly decorated of any military veterans. (Navy Department)

"He was absolutely confident and absolutely fearless, but fearless with good judgment," McNitt said. "He brought his ship and his people home."

An extraordinary life, an extraordinary man, the sort you want young boys to read all about.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 PM | Permalink

Father Laurence Mancuso, Dog Lover, R.I.P.

Father Laurence Mancuso, the founding abbot of The Monks of New Skete,  who won fame for their sane and loving way of training dogs, died at 72.

New Skete is a contemplative monastic community of men and women living their Easter Orthodox Christian faith while breeding German shepherds,  smoking hams and making cheesecakes  to support themselves.

  Monks Of New Skete & Dogs-2

The Deacon's Bench has more at Man's best friend loses a friend.

New York Times obit.

I liked this image, imagining the love bond created
At New Skete, when the monks and nuns go about their daily chores, sit for meals or wander through the woods in silent meditation, they usually have their dogs leashed to their belts. So, too, did Father Laurence.

"How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)" (The Monks of New Skete)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

Deathbed Confession

There's nothing like a deathbed confession to get people buzzing. 

Lt Walter Haut,  the public relations officer at Roswell Air Force base in 1947,  left behind a sealed affidavit describing an alien craft and alien bodies

He saw two bodies on the floor, partially covered by a tarpaulin.

They are described in his statement as about 1.2m tall, with disproportionately large heads.

Towards the end of the affidavit, Haut concludes: "I am convinced that what I personally observed was some kind of craft and its crew from outer space".

What's particularly interesting about Walter Haut is that in the many interviews he gave before his death, he played down his role and made no such claims.

Jules Crittenden was dispatched to Roswell in 1997 to conduct a thorough investigation and delivers an important update on UFOs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:25 AM | Permalink

July 1, 2007

Do Not Try This at Home

Personally, I think anyone who uses penis enlargement creams is a bit tetched in the head.

But concocting your own is just plain nuts. 

The Cambodian government is warning delusional men against trying their own home remedies after a 35-year-old construction worker self-injected hair tonic cream into his own penis in the hopes of growing a thicker, more lustrous one.    His treatment caused massive ulceration and left him in such permanent agony that he killed himself.

Home penis enlargement ends in painful death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

Death by Bengay

Now I am a fan of Tiger Balm. 

Some say that  Tiger Balm or Vicks Vaporub can cure a night time cough if you rub it on your feet.

But too much of a good thing is never good. 

Arielle Newman, a 17-year-old New York girl used too much muscle cream and died.  Lethal amounts of methyl salicylate, used in Bengay and Icy Hot, were found in her blood.

Are muscle creams worth it?

So far as I  can tell using Wikipedia methyl sacliylate are not used in Tiger Balm, but is an active ingredient in Bengay and Icy Hot Heat Rub.

Condolences to her family who now will think of her whenever they smell the certain distinctive aroma.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink