September 28, 2007

Never say die

The man who would never say die, did. 

 Forbes, Sir Hamish

Major Sir Hamish Forbes tried some ten times over five years to escape from prisoner of war camps, every attempt an ingenious one,  until he finally succeeded in April, 1945.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

Why you should review your will

Seventeen years is too long to go without reviewing your will.
Siblings in noted Cape family clash over will.

When their mother made a will in 1990, no doubt she thought  circumstances  were quite different.

But in a painful split within the well-known clan, three of Thomas Cahir's sisters allege that the young man who followed faithfully in his father's political footsteps also deceived and improperly pressured his widowed mother, Edith, to write a will that left the family business, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, solely to him.

Said one lawyer disputes will continue to multiply as the assets held by older generations grow in value.

"It's unbelievably common.  The ones that make it to court are just the tip of the iceberg."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 AM | Permalink

September 26, 2007

Career day, he hung out at the funeral home

Ever wondered what goes on in a funeral home when a body is prepared for viewing?

Linda's brother-in-law is a funeral director, a mortician and she hung out with him one day where he worked.  Kicking buckets and whistling in the dark.

I never understood why the dead were painted and made to look alive, but now I see that’s not really the purpose. Watching Joe at work, I see that he restores bodies to a restful state, rather than an unnatural one. They don’t look like they’re going to sit up in the casket and say howdy, they look dead. But they look readied for a journey; dressed up, cleaned, and arranged just so. He creates an environment that helps people say goodbye.

I suppose what my brother in law does for a living gives a lot of people the creeps, and sure, there are some creepy aspects to it. It’s not a career for everyone. But when I picture the great web of people he has influenced, whose tears have soaked the shoulder of his suit jackets, whose loved ones’ bodies he prepared for their last reunion, I am incredibly proud to know him. I’m amazed by him, really.

You’ve got to love a guy who once sent out a picture of himself in mortuary school holding up a corpse’s hand in the thumb’s up position, with the text “I PUT THE FUN IN FUNERAL” underneath.

via Growabrain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

September 25, 2007

What Next?

The obituary editor of the Economist reflects on death and the afterlife in The Glad Reaper.

Lives as they are lived are far from neat. But the summing up of a life in a thousand words needs the imposition of a shape, and a circle is as good as anything.

Chambered Nautilus

Although I write biographies in my spare time, I’ve never been happy with the chronological or longitudinal form. I seldom read biography for fun, and when I do it’s in a strange way: first the childhood, usually until the subject falls in love, and then the death. Sometimes I read no more than that: the beginning and the end. It seems to me that these are the times (before the chaos of existence really closes round) when the essence of the person is most naked and exposed. We see who they are.

In this strange age―where we fear death from left-behind back-packs and parked cars, and where we watch the deaths of strangers on the evening news but shrink from attending the deaths of our friends―obituarists have the easier cases. I deal generally with natural mortality in lives full of years and doings. But whether death comes slowly and privately, or randomly and publicly, its cause is not what most interests me. The vital question is, what next?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2007

Mark Twain's obsession with death

David Kipen explores  Mark Twain's lifelong preoccupation with death in Twain's most chilling time was a fall in San Francisco

A cheerful approach it isn't, but a careful scrutiny of Twain's life and career discloses a man fascinated with suicide, murder, funerals, wakes, corpses, damnation and reincarnation to a degree well beyond mere morbidity. Rumors of Mark Twain's obsession with death cannot possibly be exaggerated.

Ultimately, of course, death is one of the few things we all have in common. However, Twain survived a youth more shadowed by mortality than many, and they were deaths of a particularly immediate and grisly kind.

Not only did his forbidding father, Judge Clemens, die of pneumonia when Twain was 11, but Twain is said to have witnessed the autopsy through a keyhole. Not only was he at his "sinless" brother Henry's bedside as he lay dying after a steamboat explosion, but Twain would forever blame himself for getting Henry his fateful job on board.
But the uncanniest evidence for Twain's fixation on mortal matters is simply this: that in his two most enduring books, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and its habitually underrated junior partner, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," both title characters essentially attend their own funerals

Twain came very close to suicide in San Francisco in 1866. 
When Twain put the pistol to his head that day in San Francisco, he couldn't know that he was holding the future of American literature at gunpoint. No man in that position ever knows just how much one bullet can wing. As always, best not to chance it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2007

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence

Mime Legend Marcel Marceau Dies at 84

Offstage, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said.

A French Jew, Marceau escaped deportation to a Nazi death camp during World War II, unlike his father who died in Auschwitz. Marceau worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children, and later used the memories of his own life to feed his art.

He gave life to a wide spectrum of characters, from a peevish waiter to a lion tamer to an old woman knitting, and to the best-known Bip.

His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. In turn, Marceau inspired countless young performers — Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2007

Lady Jeanne Campbell

Lady Jeanne Campbell - the Telegraph obit.

Lady Jeanne Campbell , who has died aged 78, was a journalist who reported for the Evening Standard from New York for many years; she was also the former wife of Norman Mailer, the daughter of the reprobate 11th Duke of Argyll and the favourite granddaughter of Lord Beaverbrook.
Lady Jeanne was wild. So numerous were her love affairs that James C Humes (a speechwriter for many American presidents) claimed in his memoirs, Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter, that she was the only woman to have known "Biblically" Presidents Khrushchev, Kennedy and Castro — and all, he claimed, within the space of a year. Humes suggested that Kennedy went through his paces at her Georgetown house in October 1963; Khruschev at his dacha in April 1964; and Castro in Havana the following May.

And that's not all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:42 PM | Permalink

September 21, 2007

Last Laugh

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more
than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
George Bernard Shaw

Rawlins Gilliland writes in Dying Laughing about the time his next door
neighbor Chuck died.

At the funeral home, his widow was hurt to see so few flowers in his viewing room. So, spotting a sea of unattended flora next door, I decided to briefly borrow a triumphant standing easel spray and placed it next to Chuck. Unfortunately, the family of the intended recipient began arriving. There was no discreet way to return their show-stopper from Chuck's room since the entire family was admiring his splashy arrangement, although confounded; who were "Denise and Tony", the names on the card? Feeling guilty, I impulsively entered a third room and purloined a carnation showpiece and delivered IT to the original man's congregation. However, when someone read this card aloud, inscribed, "We'll make love in heaven. Love, Marla", the dead man's significant someone became bellicose, bellowing, "Who the hell is Marla?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2007

Armless Man Headbutts Man to Death

Georgia Man Dies after Armless Man Headbutts Him During Fight Over a Woman

This is true.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:40 PM | Permalink

September 17, 2007

'Vegetative states'

Catholic clarification on administration of food and water to those in "vegetative states"

First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a "vegetative state" morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a "permanent vegetative state", may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

Response: No. A patient in a "permanent vegetative state" is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.

We've  learned There's more 'there' there .  That  sleeping pills might wake some of these people to strange and wonderful rebirths,  or music might stir their damaged brains, or they might come back to say  they were totally aware of everything even as they were being starved.

Others ask What's the Point? 

I agree that the administration of 'extraordinary' methods such as ventilation and respiration are not required, and, if used can  cruelly prolong dying, but the deliberate starvation of any human is abhorrent. 

These days when the boundary between life and death can be so murky, when people often don't know what to do, the position of the Vatican is bracing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

Three days and you're dead

After three days of non-stop internet gaming, a Chinese man dies.

Police rule out suicide, say it was exhaustion.  New laws planned.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 PM | Permalink

Killed by U-Haul?

Did Ddemetrio Nagtalon cause his own death by rushing to help a after a truck he rented and brought back because the parking brake repeatedly malfunctioned while a worker inside tried to fix the brake?

Death suit targets U-Haul

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2007

Alex the Parrot

 Alex The Parrot

When Dr. Pepperberg put Alex parrot in his cage last Thursday night, he looked at her and said,"You be good, see you tomorrow.  I love you."

Next day he was found dead in his cage.

Brainy Parrot Dies, Emotive to the End.

In 1977, when Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans, as opposed to just mimicking words and sounds. Research in other birds had been not promising.

But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn scores of words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers of items, as well as recognize colors and shapes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2007

The Emperor's Search for Eternal Life

China's First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi searched obsessively for eternal life writes John Wilson in the New Statesman, Mortal Combat.

He prepared to rule  in a parallel universe underground with 7000 soldiers and press-ganged some 750,000 workers to build his  his burial chambers.

 Terracotta Chinese Soldiers

Somewhere deep beneath my feet, in a vast subterranean palace, lies the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. According to legend, he is interred in a gold casket sitting in a lake of liquid mercury. Snaking out across the 80-metre-long floor are streams of mercury that map the routes of those great waterways, the Yangtze and the Yellow River. The 15-metre-high ceiling is encrusted with pearls depicting the starry constellations. Antechambers reportedly contain the bodies of wives, concubines and advisers (not that their deaths coincided naturally; when it was Qin Shi Huangdi's time to go, friends and family were forced to follow him into the earth).

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, who is here in the name of cultural diplomacy. His mission is to secure the biggest ever loan of treasures from the tomb of the First Emperor, including members of the fabled, 7,000-strong Terracotta Army, guardians of the imperial afterlife.

"The First Emperor was able to dream on a scale that no one else has ever dreamt," he says with a boyish breathlessness. "No one else in history has tried to create a life-sized parallel universe in which he will rule for ever. So much of what modern China is can be seen as a direct consequence of what that man did. There are very few historical figures who changed the world in such a way that we are still living with the consequences."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, R.I.P.

From the New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin. 

Madeleine L'Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88.
“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

Terry Mattingly  has a lovely tribute to Madeleine L'Engle, entitled Tesser well

The goal, said L’Engle, was to create fiction that was unmistakably Christian, while writing to an audience that included all kinds of believers and unbelievers.

“I have been brought up to believe that the Gospel is to be spread, it is to be shared — not kept for those who already have it,” she said. “Well, ‘Christian novels’ reach Christians. They don’t reach out. . . . I am not a ‘Christian writer.’ I am a writer who is a Christian. I think that you have to be the best writer that you can be. Now, if I am truly a Christian, then that will show in my work.”

I never read her, but so many people love her work like John Podhoretz who writes another lovely appreciation of the woman who lived in the same New York building whom he got to know because the elevator kept breaking down, that I must read at least one of them. Wrinkle in Time I think.

Excerpted from the Wikipedia entry

A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing. Her parents often disagreed about how to raise her and as a result she went to a number of boarding schools and had many governesses....

She was best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regeneration in The Arm of the Starfish, and so forth.

In addition to the numerous awards, medals and prizes won by individual books L'Engle wrote, she personally received many honors over the years and received over a dozen honorary degrees from as many colleges and universities, such as Haverford College. Many of these name her as a Doctor of Humane Letters, but she was also made a Doctor of Literature and a Doctor of Sacred Theology, the latter at Berkeley Divinity School in 1984. ...In 2004 she received the National Humanities Medal, but could not attend the ceremony due to poor health.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

"She built men, not boys"

  Jane Wyman

New York Times obituary by Richard Severo
Jane Wyman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a victimized deaf woman in the 1948 movie “Johnny Belinda,” played a fierce matriarch in the 1980s television series “Falcon Crest” and was the first wife of President Ronald Reagan, died Monday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 90.

Their daughter, Maureen, was born in 1941. She died of cancer in 2001. They adopted Michael in 1945. Another daughter, Christine, died the day after she was born premature, in 1947. The marriage ended in divorce in 1949, and afterward neither Mr. Reagan nor Ms. Wyman spoke publicly at any length about their years together.

But she broke her silence about him after he died in 2004, saying “America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man.”

A son's farewell to 'a great heart'.  Michael Reagan's eulogy for his mother Jane Wyman who died Monday at age 90.

"A lot of people talk about my father," the syndicated radio talk show host said of the late President Ronald Reagan, "but I am who I am today because of my mother. She told me at the age of 10, she built men, not boys."

A Resurrection Mass was held for the devout convert to Catholicism who was interred in a modest wooden casket in a Third Order Dominican habit.

Wyman won an Oscar and Golden Globes and was nominated for two Emmys, but her friend Mary Farrell said her proudest achievement was being named to the Dominican Third Order, a Catholic fellowship of preachers and nuns said to "live in, but are not of the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

Death by Guillotine

This may be the first death by guillotine in the U.S by some one who did it himself.

Man Builds Guillotine to Kill Himself

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

Who By Fire

I learned that Rosh Hashanah is The Birthday of the World from Judith Kesher at Kesher Talk.

Happy New Year 5768. 

After watching my favorite songwriter Leonard Cohen and learning that he reworked the poem recited in Jewish synagogues on Rosh Hashannah, a rellgious poem meant  to strike fear,  I had to read the Unetanah tokef

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

These are Leonard Cohen's lyrics for Who by Fire
And who by fire, who by water,
who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
who in your merry merry month of may,
who by very slow decay,
and who shall I say is calling?
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
and who by avalanche, who by powder,
who for his greed, who for his hunger,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
who in solitude, who in this mirror,
who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
who in mortal chains, who in power,
and who shall I say is calling?

May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2007

La Donacella

In Argentina, thousands are seeing the serene gaze of a remarkably preserved mummy of an Inca maiden.  La Donacella or the Maiden was found at the bottom of an icy pit on a volcana, still dressed in fine clothes. 

  La Doncella-1

She was probably sacrificed in a ceremony marking the annual corn festival, given alcohol to sleep, and left to die at an altitude of 22,000 feet on a volcano over 500 years ago.

Teenage girl was frozen sacrifice

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink

Struck by a bus, identified by iPod

Struck and killed by a school bus,  the office of the medical examiner tried for two days to identify the victim who had only an iPod and some keys in his possession. 

Authorities use iPod to ID crash victim

With help from Apple employees, they used the digital music player’s serial number to trace the device to Adam Ray Finley, 30, a former Des Moines man who moved to the Twin Cities five years ago.

Finley was a TV and film reviewer for America Online and wrote for several digital publications. He is survived by his parents and two siblings. His funeral will be Monday at Lake City Union Church in Lake City

“He was a tender-hearted gentle young man. We are devastated,” his father said. “It’s all just a blur.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2007

Death by Beer Cans

Let this be a lesson to those of you out there who don't bring beer and soft drink cans back to the store for the nickel deposit or throw them in the trash.

Beer cans block Ohio man's escape from burning house.

A Cincinnati area man who died in a house fire early Wednesday morning may have survived if his escape had not been blocked by a large pile of beer cans.

A Cincinnati area man who died in a house fire early Wednesday morning may have survived if his escape had not been blocked by a large pile of beer cans. Fire crews were called to the home near Cincinnati before 6 a.m. and found heavy smoke and fire coming from the structure. "My daughter woke me up because her bedroom is over in the front of the house and she seen the flames on her window," Wayne Kendrick said Firefighters initially said no one was hurt, but one person, Robert McCarty, 37, was unaccounted for. Crews working inside the home found McCarty's body shortly after 10 a.m., and investigators said his exit was blocked by a 5-foot tall stack of beer cans. A caller to 911 said he couldn't get the door open. Caller: "Yeah I tried to kick the front door open. It feels like something is in front of the door. I kicked the lock open but I can't get the door all the way open and nobody responded. " 911 Operator: "It feels like something is in front of the door?" Caller: "Yeah." Damage to the home was extensive and estimated at $70,000. The cause of the fire was determined to be an overloaded circuit breaker.

UPDATE: The link was broken, so I am now linking to another blog with a full version of the news story

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

Keeping Mom on Ice

Every week, two sisters visit their mother to sit with her and make sure she's looking her best even though she's dead and been in cold storage for ten years.

For £20 a week, G. Saville and Sons of Wembley, have kept the sisters’ mother refrigerated. Phillip Saville, a funeral director, told The Sun: “We are simply acting on the family’s wishes and keeping Annie ‘alive’ in this way, for visiting seems to be what they want to do.

“No health and safety violations have been breached and the corpse does not smell. There are no laws saying people can’t keep a corpse for years after registering the death, though it is normal to bury the body after just two weeks.”

When contacted by The Times last night, a spokesman for the funeral parlour refused to comment. In addition to the cost of storing their mother’s body, the sisters are said to have spent £2,000 on five wooden coffins, four of which have rotted while they and their contents were awaiting burial.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

"For the Love of God"

 Damian Hurst Skull

"For the Love of God, what are you going to do next?" asked Damian Hirst's exasperated mother and that become the title of his latest art piece

Whether her comment came before or after she saw her son's life-size platinum skull encrusted with 8601 fine diamonds, I don't know.  Maybe it was after she saw the $100 million price tag or the investment group who bought the single most expensive piece of contemporary art ever created.  Or as William Shaw writes in the New York Times, "the most outrageous piece of bling."

Hirst is "very pleased with the end result.  I think it's ethereal and timeless."

Hirst, famous pickler of sharks and bovine bisector, all his art is about death. This piece, which was cast from an 18th-century skull he bought in London, was influenced by Mexican skulls encrusted in turquoise. “I remember thinking it would be great to do a diamond one — but just prohibitively expensive,” he recalls. “Then I started to think — maybe that’s why it is a good thing to do. Death is such a heavy subject, it would be good to make something that laughed in the face of it.”

Hirst, who financed the piece himself, watched for months as the price of international diamonds rose while the Bond Street gem dealer Bentley & Skinner tried to corner the market for the artist’s benefit. Given the ongoing controversy over blood diamonds from Africa, “For the Love of God” now has the potential to be about death in a more literal way.

Blake Gopnik writes in the Washington Post

What could be a better time to make this piece than now, and who a better artist for it than Hirst? More than anyone, Hirst knows that we have reached a new level of absurd consumption -- in the art market, clearly, but also elsewhere on this carbon-laden world.

No one claims that this is even close to being a major moment in the making of art. Everyone knows it is the greatest moment in the selling of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink

September 6, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti R.I.P.

Luciano Pavarotti died, a great voice will sing no more

  Pavarotti 2

Associated Press.
Luciano Pavarotti, opera's biggest superstar of the late 20th century, died Thursday. He was 71. He was the son of a singing baker and became the king of the high C's. Pavarotti, who had been diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer and underwent treatment last month, died at his home in his native Modena ...His wife, Nicoletta, four daughters and sister were among family and friends at his side.
For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti's voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and '70s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his thrilling performances of standards like "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" came to represent what opera is all about.

"Nessun Dorma" turned out to be Pavarotti's last aria, sung at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006.

Thanks to YouTube, you can hear him sing Nessun Dorma

 Pavrotti 3

Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe

There were many great tenors active in the second half of the 20th century, but for millions of people Luciano Pavarotti was the main man, the only one. His singing gave more pleasure to more people for a longer period of time than any other classical singer in history
A New York Times critic once wrote that Mr. Pavarotti's vocal cords were "kissed by God." When television interviewer Pia Lindstrom repeated this remark to him, Mr. Pavarotti replied, "God kissed you all over." The tenor's gregarious personality was as endearing as his voice, and he was a good colleague onstage, always willing to help a younger singer.

New York Post

Like most Italian boys, he had dreams of being a soccer player. When that failed, Pavarotti's parents urged him to find a job. For a short time, he worked as an insurance salesman and teacher.

After taking on singing as a hobby, Pavarotti caught his big break thanks to another Italian opera great, Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a London performance of "La Boheme" in 1963.
Pavarotti served as a stand-in - and a star, the likes not seen since Enrico Caruso, was born.
Pavarotti was known as the "King of the High C's" for the ease in which he tossed off difficult notes. In fact, it was his ability to hit nine glorious high C's in quick succession that first turned him into an international superstar singing the aria "Ah! Mes amis," in Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment" at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972.

Rick Moran at American Thinker

His voice - a creamy and powerful instrument that soared majestically when the Maestro used it to interpret opera's most beautiful and difficult arias - has now been stilled forever:

Some critics savaged him for "going commercial." Pavarotti's response to that was simple; if "commercial" means many millions more people see and enjoy opera, give me "commercial everyday.
Notoriously tempermental, Pavarotti will be remembered for his generosity of spirit rather than his tantrums. His numerous performances for worthy causes through the years (at times appearing with rock and pop stars) are a testament to his dedication to both his art and humanity. There wasn't a nation on earth where he was not instantly recognizable. A truly remarkable fact considering the limited fan base for opera.

Thankfully, his voice will live forever thanks to his recordings. For that, future generations will be grateful when listening to perhaps the most unique song artist the 20th century produced.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

With her last breath

Mabel Lopez, mother of 8, GED graduate and teacher of English as a second language lived in Phoenix for 40 years, reached out to anyone who needed help.

Two men, illegal immigrants, were on the street when Mabel found them.  She let them live in a studio apartment behind her house, even gave them work painting rental houses she owned. 

When she found them drinking beer at her house, she asked them to leave. They stabbed her.

With her last breath, she prayed for her killers

"At the first trial, they asked him (Martinez), 'What was the lady saying, was she screaming for help?' And he said, 'No, she said, "May God have mercy on your souls," ' " Paddack recalled. "With her dying breath, she was praying for her murderers. She wasn't praying for her children; she wasn't praying to have her life saved. She was praying for her murderer's souls. That's a hell of a lesson."

Condolences to her family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2007

The Wills of Leona Helmsley and Arthur Miller

Not all wills are dry, legal documents.  Leona Helmsley solidified her reputation as the 'Queen of Mean'  with hers.

With an estate valued at between  4 billion and 8 billion dollars, she left $12 million in trust for her dog, a white Maltese named Trouble,  yet nothing to her 12 great grandchildren.  To two of her grandsons, she left $5 million each and another $5 million in trust so long as they visited their father's grave once a year.  To the other two of her grandchildren, she left nothing "for reasons that are known to them".

In her will, Leona asked her brother to care for the dog, but her brother doesn't want anything to do with the pooch who's more trouble than it's worth.

Other Wills of the Rich and Vengeful

Meanwhile, the reputed greatest American playwright of the 20th century, Arthur Miller whose most line "Attention must be paid" in Death of the Salesman pointed to the intrinsic value of every human life abandoned his own son at birth.

Daniel was born with Down's syndrome and was almost immediately institutionalized.  It's speculated that such a son did not fit into the successful narrative Miller wanted for his life who never mentioned him again.

Daniel's mother, Inge Morath, visited him every Sunday.  By all accounts, Daniel has overcome his challenges spectacularly, competing in the Special Olympics and now lives independently, much loved and admired by those who know him.

Miller's son-in-law Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor who played a disabled person in My Left Foot apparently was appalled at Miller's treatment of his son. Together with his wife Rebecca Miller, they must have had some influence.  Six weeks before his death, Miller made a new will leaving his son Daniel a share in his estate equal to his siblings.  Attention paid and redemption of a sort, Miller gained with his will.

The Son who didn't fit into the plot of Arthur Miller's life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 AM | Permalink

Eulogizing a commenter

Jules Crittenden eulogizes OldManTyme, a frequent commenter on his blog

OldManTyme, wielding razor-sharp rapier, did righteous battle at this site with the local trolls, skewering and slicing his way through some of the more rotten, mushier aspects of today’s conventional wisdom.  Some examples here, here, here, here,  here, and here.  A great American, in the best traditions of service to nation, community and family.

The commenter's son Joe adds more

He was a Massachusetts Republican, a rare bird, and usually kept his own counsel about politics publicly and especially around my aunts and uncles who are anything but conservative. He wasn’t one to take any prisoners when he got his Irish up over someone not using their head privately but generally gave the impression publicly of an immensely competent but quiet and reserved guy.

Great American

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

Stolen Hearse

South African men steal hearse for a pub crawl

Worse still.  When they ran out of gas, they asked three women they had met while at a bar to get out and help push the hearse

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink