May 29, 2008

Sidney Pollack R.I.P.

 Sidney Pollack

Sydney Pollack, who died on May 26 aged 73, was an eclectic director of Hollywood movies, who lacked a recognisable stylistic signature but made films that were often extremely successful at the box office; his 1985 production Out of Africa, based on the life of Isak Dinesen, was named best film in the annual Oscars and earned him a personal award as best director.

He had planned to become an actor and still appeared periodically in films made by himself and others He was best remembered as Dustin Hoffman's agent in his own film Tootsie (1982) - a part he undertook at the actor’s request.

Telegraph Obituary

The open secret about Sydney Pollack was that he was the go-to guy in Hollywood for a filmmaker in a bind.

Remembering Sydney Pollack by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone

New York Times obituary

Mr. Pollack reached perhaps his pinnacle with “Out of Africa.” The film, based on the memoirs of Isak Dinesen, paired Ms. Streep and Mr. Redford in a drama that reworked one of the director’s favorite themes, that of star-crossed lovers. It captured Oscars for best picture and best director.

Still, Mr. Pollack remained uneasy about his cinematic skills. “I was never what I would call a great shooter or visual stylist,” he told an interviewer for American Cinematographer last year.

AP obituary

In a tireless career spanning nearly five decades, Pollack distinguished himself as a true professional: a director, a producer and an actor. His greatest successes as a director — 1982's "Tootsie" and 1985's "Out of Africa" — came years ago, but he showed no signs of slowing down.

"Sydney's and my relationship both professionally and personally covers 40 years," Redford said. "It's too personal to express in a sound bite."

Barbra Streisand, who starred alongside Redford in "The Way We Were," said: "He knew how to tell a love story. He was a great actor's director because he was a great actor."

A selected filmography
A selected filmography: “The Slender Thread” (1965)
“This Property Is Condemned” (1966)
“The Scalphunters” (1968)
“The Swimmer” (1968) (uncredited)
“Castle Keep” (1969)
“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969)
“Jeremiah Johnson” (1972)
“The Way We Were” (1973)
“The Yakuza” (1974)
“Three Days of the Condor” (1975)
“Bobby Deerfield” (1977)
“The Electric Horseman” (1979)
“Absence of Malice” (1981)
“Tootsie” (1982)
“Out of Africa” (1985)
“Havana” (1990)
“The Firm” (1993)
“Sabrina” (1995)
“Random Hearts” (1999)
“The Interpreter” (2005)
“Sketches of Frank Gehry” (2005)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink

Stonehenge was burial site for centuries

Mysterious, enigmatic Stonehenge was a burial ground for centuries new research suggests.

"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead," Parker Pearson said in a statement,


Nearby homes were excavated at Durlington Walls

"It's a quite extraordinary settlement, we've never seen anything like it before," Parker Pearson said. The village appeared to be a land of the living and Stonehenge a land of the ancestors, he said.

There were at least 300 and perhaps as many as 1,000 homes in the village, he said. The small homes were occupied in midwinter and midsummer.

The village also included a circle of wooden pillars, which they have named the Southern Circle. It is oriented toward the midwinter sunrise, the opposite of Stonehenge, which is oriented to the midsummer sunrise.

National Geographic will feature the new study this coming Sunday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink

Archiving children's artwork

A new business run by two entrepreneurial moms has popped up to digitally archive your children's drawings reports Springwise.


How it works? Parents send in their kids’ drawings and theART:archives team professionally photographs each one and sends back a DVD catalogue that can be viewed on a computer screen or TV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2008

Prayers for the countless dead in China's earthquake

The Chinese earthquake in Sichuan province was so huge in its impact, in the numbers of dead, in the tragedy of the schoolchildren crushed in their schools, in the grief of parents losing the one child they were allowed, that I've been unable to get my mind around it.

"One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic, " Joseph Stalin said.  What can we make of the latest statistics from the Chinese government. 

62,664 dead
23,775 missing
358,816 injured
638,305 rescued and evacuated

Or these
5 million were left homeless
Floods now threaten the 700,000 survivors
69 dams are now in danger of bursting.

When I saw this photo of family members searching for their missing, I began to feel for the agony of numbers beyond measure.

 Missing Flyers Chinese Earthquake

Many victims were buried quickly in mass burial pits and China's Rush to Dispose of Dead Compounds Agony.

They are unknown people being quickly cremated or buried in unmarked graves, and there are thousands or tens of thousands of them across quake-ravaged Sichuan Province. It may be months or years before family members discover their fate, if they ever do. They are very likely to be among the nearly 25,000 people the Chinese government classifies as missing in the aftermath of the May 12 earthquake

President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have urged rescue workers to save lives “at any cost.” But the scale of the disaster has forced the government to dispose of the dead with little ceremony, closing the door on any opportunity family members have of identifying their kin by sight and upsetting the traditional Chinese reverence for the deceased.

This photo broke my heart.  Tiny Bodies in a Morgue

  Chinese Baby Earthquake

Yesterday was designated World Day of Prayer for China by the Pope who composed a prayer for Our Lady of Sheshan.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

"Never forget the little faraway village from which you came"

The highest ranking African prelate Cardinal Bernardin Gantin died last week in Paris at 86.  His body was taken back to his native Benin where he was given A Hero's Sendoff.  Rocco Palmo tells the story.

 Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

Earlier, a Memorial Mass was held at St. Peter's where Pope Benedict gave the homily.

A railway worker's son, Benedict said that "his personality, human and priestly, made for a magnificent synthesis of the qualities of the African soul with those of the Christian spirit, of the culture and identity of Africa and the values of the Gospel." Despite being, at age 38, the first native-born African archbishop and the continent's first son to assume a top role in the Roman Curia, the Pope said that Gantin never let the accolades get to his head, adding that the "secret" to his humility likely lay in "the wise words that his mother repeated when he became a cardinal... 'Never forget the little faraway village from which you came.'"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2008

Honoring the Fallen

On Veterans Day, we recognize in gratitude all those who served in the armed forces.  On Memorial Day, we remember those who died  in our wars, fighting for liberty.   

 Memorial Day

Wikipedia lists the deaths in each of our wars. ( Click on the image for full size.)

 Wikipedia American Dead Combat

Memorial Day used to be known as Decoration Day when graves of the fallen would be cleaned and decorated with flowers and flags, in  small acts of respect and honor . 

We remember to make their sacrifices real to us, to recall the losses so many families endured, to realize that the past is with us and their legacies live on in the freedom we enjoy today. 

It's hard to imagine how great the sacrifices were but Tom Mountain looks at those died in Newton in the Second World War in We are their children. 

Unfortunately, as Mac Owens writes

The sad reality is that Americans have forgotten how to honor their war heroes and to remember their war dead. ... stories of soldierly courage deserve “to be recorded and read by the next generation. Unsung, the noblest deed will die.”

The posture Americans took toward Memorial Day started to go awry with Vietnam. The press, if not the American people, began to treat soldiers as moral monsters, victims, or both. The “dysfunctional Vietnam vet” became a staple of popular culture. Despite the fact that atrocities were rare, My Lai came to symbolize the entire war. ...The honorable and heroic performance of the vast majority of those who served in Vietnam went largely unrecognized.

Abraham Lincoln knew how to honor war heroes in his  Gettysburg Address

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2008

Death by Jet Lag

One day in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky. In a plane, she knew, they were subject to no laws, and if they never stopped moving, the law could never catch up with them. They flew from New York to Amsterdam. When they arrived, they turned around and flew from Amsterdam to New York. Then they flew from New York to Amsterdam again, and from Amsterdam to New York, again and again and again, month after month.

They took about 160 flights in all, one after the other, according to the stage piece "Jet Lag." They saw 22 movies an average of seven times each. They ate lunch again and again and turned their watches six hours forward, then six hours back. The whole fugitive enterprise ended when Krasnoff, 74, finally collapsed and died, the victim, doctors could only suppose, of terminal jet lag.

Pico Iyer writes of Jet Lag in the New York Times via Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 AM | Permalink

Toxic Vomit

To kill himself, he swallowed pesticide, but his wife found him, called the emergency medical personnel who took him to an emergency room where 54 were sickened by his toxic vomit.

The man vomited while having his stomach pumped, and odorous toxic gas spread through the emergency room. Thirty-one hospital staff members, including doctors, and 23 outpatients and their families were sickened. About 20 of them were in treatment rooms, and others were in the waiting lounge.
The woman listed in serious condition was about 10 meters away from the man at the time of the incident. She had gone to the hospital for treatment of kidney failure and pneumonia.

Among 44 people who suffered minor health problems were two 1-year-old babies and two 3-year-old children.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 AM | Permalink

Naked Mummies Before and After

Fury as museum bosses cover up  naked Egyptian mummies to protect 'sensitivities' of visitors

The last time they had the chance to offend anyone was 2,700 years ago when they were wandering around ancient Egypt.

Since then the mummies have led a blameless existence, spending the last 120 years in a museum where countless thousands of visitors have managed to see them without anyone becoming in the least bit upset.

So museum officials in Manchester covered them with shrouds to protect their modesty and, following government policy, began a process of public consultation.

Josh Lennon, a museum visitor, said: "This is preposterous. Surely people realise that if they go to see Egyptian remains some of them may not be dressed in their best bib and tucker.

"The museum response to complaints is pure Monty Python  -  they have now covered them from head to foot rendering the exhibition a non-exhibition. It is hilarious."

  Naked Mummies Before After

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2008

"There's no such thing as a bad day"

I'm sad to hear of Hamilton Jordan's death.

I never much liked him when he was chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter, but I was much impressed with his attitude when he was first diagnosed with lymphoma some 22 years ago, followed by bouts with melanoma and prostate cancer.

Hamilton Jordan dies at 63, AP obituary

ABC News

Hamilton Jordan, the architect of Jimmy Carter's presidency, leaves behind a towering political legacy that may be exceeded by contributions to a field far from the campaign arena: cancer research.

Jordan, who died Tuesday at age 63, made his private medical battles public with the same passion he brought to the Carter White House.
But he made his main post-White House mark in the world of medicine, as a renowned and animated anti-cancer voice.

With his wife, Dorothy, he founded Camp Sunshine, a summer camp for kids with cancer that has grown to serve more than 700 families a year in Georgia. Largely outside the national spotlight, he lobbied for billions of dollars in federal and state cancer research -- and freely dispensed volumes of advice to all who sought him out, and many whom he sought out.

"There was no better spokesperson for us nationally," said Vicki Riedel, a board member of Camp Sunshine, who first met Jordan in the early 1990s, when her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.
Jordan's mantra was embodied in the title of his best-selling 2000 book, "No Such Thing as a Bad Day," autographed copies of which he would hand out to newly diagnosed cancer patients.

The title reflects the optimistic, active approach he considered critical to fighting a deadly disease, he explained in an interview with the Web site WebMD.

"When you have a diagnosis of cancer, or any serious illness, your choices are basically to be passive, and kind of accept whatever is offered you, or to be active and to learn about your disease, and understand your options, and be an active partner with your doctor," Jordan explained. "That's the course I took with all three of my cancers."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2008

Irena Sandler, Righteous Gentile, RIP

 Irene Sandler

Photo: Reuters/Katerina Stoltz

Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic, saved some 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto before she was captured by the Gestapo and tortured.  Her legs and feet were broken, but she refused to identify the children or the people who helped her.  A guard was bribed, she escaped and returned to work using a different identity.

From the Telegraph obituary

She immediately returned to her work using a new identity. Having retrieved her list of names, she buried it in a jar beneath an apple tree in a friend's garden.

In the end it provided a record of some 2,500 names, and after the war she attempted to keep her promise to reunite the children with their families. Most of the parents, however, had been gassed at Treblinka.
In later life Irena Sendler recalled the heartbreak of Jewish mothers having to part from their children: "We witnessed terrible scenes. Father agreed, but mother didn't. We sometimes had to leave those unfortunate families without taking their children from them. I'd go back there the next day and often found that everyone had been taken to the Umschlagsplatz railway siding for transport to the death camps."
Her father was a physician who ran a hospital at the suburb of Otwock, and a number of his patients were impoverished Jews.

Although he died of typhus in 1917, his example was of profound importance to Irena, who later said: "I was taught that if you see a person drowning, you must jump into the water to save them, whether you can swim or not."
In 1965 she became one of the first Righteous Gentiles to be honoured by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. At that time Poland's Communist leaders would not allow her to travel to Israel, and she was unable to collect the award until 1983.

In 2003 she was awarded Poland's highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle; and last year she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, eventually won by Al Gore.

In 2005 Irena Sendler reflected: "We who were rescuing children are not some kind of heroes. That term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true – I continue to have qualms of conscience that I did so little. I could have done more. This regret will follow me to my death."

A great legacy indeed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2008

Mass Graves Day

You may not know that May 16 was set aside in Iraq last year as a national day of remembrance for the 300,000 Iraqis found in mass graves, killed under the Saddam Hussein regime.

Gateway Pundit reminds us about the moment of silence around the country last year.

Human rights organizations estimate that more than 300,000 people, mainly Kurds and Shiite Muslims, were killed and buried in mass graves before Saddam was overthrown by U.S. forces in 2003.

"It is a lesson that we will never forget," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. "We want to build a civilized society in which humanity is respected."

Cars and pedestrians stopped in place at noon, while policemen and Iraqi soldiers conducted a military salute.

Here is an unbelievable description of Painful Archeology: Excavating Saddam's Graves

However, for millions of Iraqis, the most precious treasures are the remains of their loved ones in a plethora of mass graves scattered all over the country. Widows, mothers, fathers and orphans march to the newly discovered burial sites as soon as news break that yet  another mass grave is unearthed. The scene is always the same: piles of bones divided in a manner defying the basics of human anatomy. Some piles contain extra ribs but missing other parts, or a skeleton of an adult with a skull of an adolescent, al wrapped in a manner below the dignity of the suffering the victim endured or the agony of waiting the survivors had to bear. Every skull has a hole in the back, the entry of a bullet fired at a close range, and the skeletal wrists still kept the robes that tied them prior to their fateful moments. This was how the earth inherited the poor. Identification of remains is often based on such clues as the victim’s decomposed documents or what the earth spared of the clothes or a watch, not DNA or lab tests. People in search for closure for many years often settled for the pile of bones that best resembled their missing loved one

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2008

2007 selections for the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress selects each year the 25 recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" to preserve for all time.  The 2007 selections for the National Recording Registry were announced this week.

Among the selections are Harry S. Truman’s legendary address to the Democratic National Convention in 1948; a collection of more than 1,000 radio broadcast recordings by Ronald Reagan before his election to the White House; the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast in 1925; Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time, produced by the legendary Quincy Jones; the "Sounds of Earth" disc that traveled with Voyager through space; Herbie Hancock’s "Headhunters," which expanded his appeal and became a cross-over hit; one of the few gospel recordings performed by Thomas Dorsey; and the first recording of "Call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday is Just As Bad."

The full list of the 25 selections are below the fold along with their cultural significance. 

Which, if any, would you pick for your own personal legacy archives.  I'm not sure, but my favorites below are  the original cast recording of My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison, Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson and the Sounds of the Earth from the disc prepared for the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

1. The First Trans-Atlantic Broadcast (March 14, 1925)
Representing a technological breakthrough, this early orchestral broadcast originated in London, traveled by land line to station 5XX in Chelmsford, crossed the Atlantic where it was picked up by an RCA transmitter in Maine, and relayed to stations WJZ in New York and WRC in Washington, D.C. Although the fidelity is low, the recording is significant as a documentation of a technical achievement and a very rare instance of an extant example of a complete radio broadcast of the 1920s. The entire 37-minute broadcast survives on discs in the collections of the University of Maryland’s Library of American Broadcasting.

2. "Allons a Lafayette," Joseph Falcon (1928)
"Allons a Lafayette," a lively two-step, was the first commercial recording of traditional Cajun music. Accordionist Joe Falcon and guitarist Cleoma Breaux, his future wife, recorded this song in a New Orleans field session on April 17, 1928, for Columbia Records. Falcon began playing the accordion as a child and soon became a well-known and sought-after dance hall musician, performing throughout Louisiana and other states. His recording career ended soon after Cleoma’s death, but he continued to play and perform with his second wife, Theresa, until his death in 1965.

3. "Casta Diva," from Bellini’s "Norma"; Rosa Ponselle, accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Giulio Setti. (recorded December 31, 1928 and, January 30, 1929)
The gifted American soprano Rosa Ponselle was known for her brilliant portrayal of Norma, Bellini’s Druid priestess who sacrifices herself on the funeral pyre of her Roman lover. A native of Connecticut, Ponselle made her Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 21, playing Leonora opposite Enrico Caruso in "La Forza del Destino." Previously, she and her sister Carmela appeared in vaudeville and in New York film theaters. The breadth of range, warmth and beauty of Ponselle’s art represented vocal perfection to many listeners and earned her a long and successful operatic and recording career.

4. "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," Thomas A. Dorsey (1934)
The acknowledged father of modern gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey made only a handful of gospel recordings himself. Recording first as "Georgia Tom" and "Barrelhouse Tom," Dorsey was a noted blues artist and composer during the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1932, he dedicated the remainder of his life exclusively to gospel music. In four sessions in 1932 and 1934, Dorsey recorded several songs for Vocalion, including his popular composition, "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," which were released under his own name. His voice, although well-suited to his earlier blues and jazz recordings, was said to have lacked the qualities needed for gospel music and he made no further recordings, concentrating instead on songwriting and publishing. (Thomas Dorsey is not related to big-band leader Tommy Dorsey.)

5. "Sweet Lorraine," Art Tatum (rec. February 22, 1940)
People who listened to an Art Tatum record often wondered if it featured multiple pianists. Tatum's cascading runs up and down the keyboard, the scales, arpeggios, broken bass lines and two-fisted piano choruses, often taken at blistering speeds, gave this impression. Although contemporary critics found his playing "ornate" and devoid of improvisation, Tatum won his spurs as a jazz pianist. "Sweet Lorraine" is one of his signature tunes. Its relaxed tempo allows one to hear and follow all the typical Tatum action, including the harmonies and dissonances that give any Tatum performance undisputed originality.

6. Fibber’s Closet Opens for the First Time, "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio program (March 4, 1940)
The hall closet at 79 Wistful Vista, home of Fibber McGee and Molly (played by Jim and Marion Jordan) was the source of one of radio’s most successful running gags and America’s best-known pile of junk. The effect played on the strength of the sound medium. Frank Pittman, the program’s sound-effects engineer, created the comic catastrophe. The initial click of the door latch tantalizingly opened the routine. Then the thump of several boxes hitting the floor followed and grew to a crescendo of falling bric-a-brac increasing in speed and intensity until the victim was buried under a mountain of pots, pans, fish poles, dumbbells, skates, pie pans and coffee pots. The coda of the avalanche was the tinkling of a little bell. The gag was so effective that crowded, cluttered storage areas in homes are still compared by some to the closet of Fibber McGee.

7. Wings Over Jordan, Wings Over Jordan (1941)
The Wings Over Jordan choir was founded in 1935 by Rev. Glenn T. Settle, pastor of the Gethsemane Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1937, they began appearing on the radio program, "The Negro Hour," singing spirituals and other traditional gospel songs on local station WGAR. By 1938, the choir had become nationally known, broadcasting on CBS. The show, renamed "Wings Over Jordan," featured prominent African-American artists and scholars as well as choir selections. It ran until 1947. Many of these radio programs can be studied and appreciated today because they were pressed as electrical transcriptions and for broadcasts by the Armed Forces Radio Network.

8. Fiorello LaGuardia reading the comics (1945)
Fiorello LaGuardia, the effervescent mayor who is credited with building modern New York City, regularly took to the radio to communicate directly with the citizens of the city. One of LaGuardia’s most recounted acts as mayor was when he read the comics to the children of the city on WNYC radio during the 1945 newspaper delivery strike. He performed animated, dramatic readings, describing the action in the panels, creating different voices and adding excitement with various sound effects. This benevolent image of LaGuardia was immortalized in the opening scene of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Fiorello!" Surviving recordings of LaGuardia reading the comics are held in the WNYC Collection of New York’s Municipal Archives.

9. "Call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday is Just As Bad," T-Bone Walker (1947)
The first recording of this blues standard was made by the Black and White label in Los Angeles on Sept. 14, 1947. Backing up Walker on the session are Lloyd C. Glenn on piano, Bumps Myers on tenor sax and Teddy Buckner playing a muted trumpet. This lineup adds a strong jazz inflection to the recording. The song was reinterpreted with great success by a wide range of blues, rock and jazz recording artists, including Bobby Blue Bland, Lou Rawls, The Allman Brothers and Kenny Burrell.

10. Harry S. Truman speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention (July 15, 1948)
Prior to the 1948 Democratic Convention, President Truman’s popularity was low and political commentators were sure that Thomas Dewey would easily win the presidential election. One of Truman’s advisors admitted that the president had a "speaking problem" -- he relied too heavily on prepared scripts and his delivery was rushed and occasionally unintelligible. In this speech, Truman worked only from a loose script and, as a result, he found his natural voice. In a down-to-earth and direct manner, which included colloquialisms from his home state of Missouri, the feisty president predicted, "Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make the Republicans like it. Don’t you forget it." The applause lasted for a full two minutes. Defying many predictions, Truman won re-election.

11. "The Jazz Scene," various artists (1949)
At a time when many 78-rpm discs were still sold in plain brown sleeves, producer Norman Granz released this limited-edition album set that included commissioned line drawings by David Stone Martin, large photographs by Gjon Mili and 12 sides of the most innovative jazz of the time. While illustrated album sets were not new at the time, the lavishness of this release was unique. Among the artists represented on the set are Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Machito and Coleman Hawkins (who plays an unaccompanied tenor sax solo). The presence on the album of Machito’s selection "Tanga" points to the increasing significance of Afro-Cuban jazz in the late 1940s. During that time, Charlie Parker had recorded with Machito and his arranger/trumpeter Mario Bauza. Many other jazz musicians, most notably Dizzy Gillespie, would make important recordings of Afro-Cuban jazz.

12. "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," Kitty Wells (recorded May 30, 1952)
An "answer song" to Hank Thompson’s country hit "Wild Side of Life," which criticized a woman who gave up true love for the lure of the honky-tonk, Kitty Wells’s "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" argues that wayward men are to blame when women stray. Wells’s breakthrough hit established her as a major star and, more importantly, markedly broadened the range of subject matter considered appropriate for female country singers. The recording paved the way for increasingly frank songs by Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and other female country music stars.

13. "My Fair Lady," original cast recording (1956)
The original cast recording of "My Fair Lady" marks a high point in almost every aspect of the collaborations that produced it. It boasts a magnificent score by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe—witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic. Brilliantly orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang, it captures landmark performances by Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway. The recording itself was wonderfully produced under the supervision of prescient producer Goddard Lieberson, who convinced Columbia to underwrite most of the costs of the original production. Columbia’s initial investment of $360,000 generated tens of millions of dollars in profit. The recording established a new relationship between Broadway productions and record companies; the album’s critical success and popularity with the public were unrivaled at the time.

14. Navajo Shootingway Ceremony Field Recordings, recorded by David McAllester (1957-1958)
Anthropologist David McAllester may have produced the only recordings of the deeply sacred Navajo healing ceremony in Arizona in the late 1950s. McAllester's recordings of Shootingway, one of the most complex in the Navajo ceremonial system, included the nine-day ceremonial event as well as detailed discussions about preparations, procedures, needed sacred paraphernalia, the reciting of all of the prayers, and singing of all of the songs in order. McAllester's collection includes eight different versions of the lengthy Blessingway ceremony, two of the Shootingway, other traditional ceremonies and many examples of contemporary genres in which he was also interested. This collection now resides at Wesleyan University where it became the core of the World Music Archives.

15. "‘Freight Train,’ and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes," Elizabeth Cotten (1959)
The debut album of singer, songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Cotten was released when she was over 60 years old. A self-taught guitarist, her expressive two-finger picking style was enormously influential on folk song guitarists. Cotten was a popular performer during the folk music revival of the 1960s and a major inspiration to many aspiring musicians of the time. Cotten, who wrote "Freight Train" at the age of 12, was inspired by living next to the railroad tracks.

16. Marine Band Concert Album to Help Benefit the National Cultural Center (1963)
In 1963 the United States Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force bands and choruses were engaged (by special permission) to make albums of American music which would be sold to help fund the National Cultural Center (later the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). The Marine Band had just returned from an extensive tour of the U.S. and was in prime form. The resulting recording by Herman Diaz, Jr., the legendary producer for RCA Victor, is considered by many experts as one of the finest recordings in band history because of the incredible sound quality of the recording.

17. "Oh, Pretty Woman," Roy Orbison (1964)
The last of Roy Orbison’s string of hits for Monument records, "Oh, Pretty Woman" was his most enduring recording. Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees tapped out the initial rhythm of the song while sitting at Orbison’s kitchen table. In the recorded version, this became the infectious and well-known opening guitar riff and propulsive drum beat. Artists as varied as Al Green, John Mayall and Van Halen have performed the song, and 2 Live Crew sampled the opening on their 1989 album, "As Clean as They Wanna Be." That appropriation, made without authorization, led to a U. S. Supreme Court case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.), which ruled in 1994 that the commercial song parody qualified as fair use under Section 107 of the U. S. copyright law.

18. "Tracks of My Tears," Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (1965)
William "Smokey" Robinson wrote, produced and performed some of the sweetest, most poetic and enduring love songs in rhythm and blues history. "Tracks of My Tears" is highlighted by Robinson’s velvety high tenor voice and his heartbreaking lyrics. It captures the peak of Robinson’s talent. His smooth voice conveys the passion and pain required to maintain a false, happy exterior after a romantic breakup. He heightens the effect when he sweeps into his remarkable falsetto. The recording won numerous awards and is considered to be among the best recordings by the Miracles. "Tracks of My Tears" further emphasized the influence of Detroit soul on American popular music, a position attained by the recordings produced by Motown Records.

19. "You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song," Ella Jenkins (1966)
Performer and educator Ella Jenkins has been leading children on musical journeys around the world for more than 50 years. Her call-and-response songs, and gentle soothing voice, encourage children to join in and sing along, overcoming any shyness or reluctance they might have. Singing with Ella, children have learned songs from a variety of cultures and in many languages. Her vast repertoire of songs includes nursery rhymes, folk songs and chants as well as her own original songs. In keeping with the policy of its record label, Folkways, "You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song" has remained in print since it was first published in 1966.

20. "Music from the Morning of the World," various artists; recorded by David Lewiston (1966)
The first recording in the celebrated Nonesuch Explorer Series, "Music from the Morning of the World" was one of the first attempts to offer "international music" and, in particular, ethnic field recordings as entertainment for commercial recording listeners. The series exposed listeners to new musical idioms and non-Western classical music, and set high standards for recording quality and accompanying written documentation. "Music from the Morning of the World" provided many listeners with their first exposure to Balinese gamelan music and the unforgettably compelling "monkey chant."

21. "For the Roses," Joni Mitchell (1972)
In "For the Roses," Joni Mitchell took the confessional lyrics of her critically-acclaimed "Blue" album and infused them with touches of jazz. The result is a mélange of folk, rock, jazz and country that retains the heartfelt tone of her earlier work, but presents it on a broader canvas. While Mitchell later delved more deeply into jazz, "For the Roses" remains the album in which all the elements of her creative palette are in perfect balance.

22. "Headhunters," Herbie Hancock (1973)
"Headhunters" is a pivotal work of Herbie Hancock’s career. It was his first true fusion recording. Possessing all the sensibilities of jazz, but with R&B and funk soul rhythms, "Headhunters" had a mass appeal that made it the greatest-selling jazz album in history at the time of its release. The recording is notable for its use of an extremely wide range of instruments, including electric synthesizers which brought that new instrument to the forefront of jazz for the first time. Hancock’s experiments caused controversy among jazz purists, many of whom at the time belittled it as "pop." "Headhunters" proved to be influential not only to jazz, but also to funk, soul and hip-hop.

23. Ronald Reagan Radio Broadcasts (1976-1979)
This collection of over 1,000 radio broadcast recordings, the majority penned by Ronald Reagan himself, documents the development of his political vision in the years immediately preceding his election to the White House. In the broadcasts Reagan sounded what would become the familiar themes of his presidency: reduction of government spending, tax cuts, supply-side economics and anti-communism. These radio "chats" did not focus on specific policy prescriptions, as much as outlining a conservative governing philosophy, much of which remains with the Republican Party to this day. Also showcased is Reagan’s conversational, folksy rhetorical style, which added measurably to his public appeal.

24. "The Sounds of Earth," disc prepared for the Voyager spacecraft (1977)
Never released to the public, this disc was prepared to introduce aurally our planet to any alien intelligence that might encounter the Voyager spacecraft many millions of years in the future. The disc contains encoded photographs, spoken messages, music and sounds. There are greetings delivered from around the world in 55 languages. The sound essay includes life sounds (EEGs and EKGs), birds, elephants, whales, volcanoes, rain and a baby. The 90 minutes of music features selections from ragas, Navajo Indian chants, Java court gamelan, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, a Peruvian Woman’s Wedding song, and Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode."

25. "Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982)
Michael Jackson’s second album with legendary producer Quincy Jones attained stratospheric national and international success. Featuring outstanding performances by Paul McCartney on "The Girl is Mine" and a metallic Eddie Van Halen guitar lead on "Beat It," the album’s influence on the record industry and subsequent popular music is immeasurable. The album also includes the strong disco-inflected "Billie Jean" and the compelling title track "Thriller," featuring an eerie voice-over by Vincent Price. Jackson’s keen pop sensibilities, performances by a wide range of talented musicians and Quincy Jones’ expert production all contributed to making "Thriller" the best-selling album of all time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

Yankee fan kills Red Sox fan

After a spat in a bar between sports rivals in Nashua,  New Hampshire, Ivonne Hernandez, a Yankee fan got in her car, heard someone chant 'Yankees suck'  and then ran down a group of Red Sox fans killing one.

"She never braked, and she accelerated at a high speed for about 200 feet. She went directly at this group of people," prosecutor Susan Morrell said of Ivonne Hernandez, who is charged with reckless second-degree murder in the death early Friday of Matthew Beaudoin, 29.

Now comes her Shock Confession.  Her defense attorney is arguing she was pushed to the breaking point.

She said, 'I didn't touch any of them,' . "She said they were running towards her car. She said, 'The guy ran on top of my car.' "

Condolences to the family of Matthew Beaudoin.  They can never again believe It's only a game.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2008

Remixing Grandma's Voice

or How to preserve her stories in the age of the iPod

When I became an adult, I learned some churches used the hymns to teach scripture to members who couldn't read.  In their own way, the songs were a way to store and share information, just like my casette tapes. Like my cassettes, the hymns have become obsolete.

I'd grown up hearing the songs, but I'd never learned to sing them; that crucial information had been lost.  I've been a gospel musician for more than 30 years, yet I can count the times I've heard the hyms on one hand.

When I sat down with my grandmother on July 4, 1990,  I was archiving data, as surely as I would be almost two decades later when I backed up crucial files from my hard drive.

She is doing the talking, but her daughter – my mother  – is in the room. So are her youngest sister and her older brother. For some reason, we'd all come to celebrate Independence Day that year. All in all, three generations sat at the kitchen table, huddled around the recorder.

The songs became the bridge to another story. She began to talk of her beloved Papa, who helped teach her to sing.

The tape is digitized in minutes. And it only takes minutes to register for the program that will allow an entire family to access this  conversation.

But before I click the mouse, I whisper my hope in a prayer. May this transfer be successful. May this story be saved and given to another generation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

Willie Nelson Gravedigger

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2008

A story so outlandish, the police didn't believe it until....

The Kingwood teenager's story of decapitating a corpse and using the head to smoke marijuana was so outlandish that at first Houston Police Department senior police officer Jim Adkins did not believe it.
Not until police went to the home of another Kingwood 17-year-old, Matthew Richard Gonzalez, did the officer believe the tale.

"He regurgitated in his plate of food when I asked him about it," Adkins said. "So I knew there was some truth to the story."

Houston police believe the teens disturbed the grave of an 11-year-old boy who died in 1921.

The child was buried at an unmarked cemetery believed to be reserved for black veterans and their families, Adkins said.

Under the law, a person can be charged with abuse of a corpse simply by vandalizing, damaging or treating a gravesite offensively — even if the human remains buried there are not touched, Adkins said.

3 accused of using corpse head to smoke marijuana

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:07 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2008

"I'm attempting to put myself in a bottle that will one day wash up on the beach for my children,"

After the extraordinary reception to the Beloved Professor Delivering His Last Lecture Jeffrey Zaslow teamed up with Randy Pausch to co-write the new book,

"The Last Lecture" (Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow)

Zaslow reports that Pausch is finding more difficult to say goodbye to his family  than he did to his colleagues at work.

Zaslow asks "When death is near, how do we show our love?" in  A Final Farwell

For many of us, his lecture has become a reminder that our own futures are similarly -- if not as drastically -- brief. His fate is ours, sped up.
People wrote about how his lecture had inspired them to spend more time with loved ones, to quit pitying themselves, or even to shake off suicidal urges. Terminally ill people said the lecture had persuaded them to embrace their own goodbyes, and as Randy said, "to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
Years ago, Jai had suggested that Randy compile his advice into a book for her and the kids. She wanted to call it "The Manual." Now, in the wake of the lecture, others were also telling Randy that he had a book in him--

"Well, you also need emotional insurance," the minister explained. The premiums for that insurance would be paid for with Randy's time, not his money. The minister suggested that Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with the kids. Years from now, they will be able to see how easily they touched each other and laughed together.

Randy also made a point of talking to people who lost parents when they were very young. They told him they found it consoling to learn about how much their mothers and fathers loved them. The more they knew, the more they could still feel that love. To that end, Randy built separate lists of his memories of each child. He also has written down his advice for them, things like: "If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, 'Tell the truth.' If I got three more words, I'd add, 'All the time.' "

The advice he's leaving for Chloe includes this: "When men are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do." Chloe, not yet 2 years old, may end up having no memory of her father. "But I want her to grow up knowing," Randy said, "that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her."
As he later explained it: "I am maintaining my clear-eyed sense of the inevitable.
I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living."

And so despite all his goodbyes, he has found solace in the idea that he'll remain a presence. "Kids, more than anything else, need to know their parents love them," he said. "Their parents don't have to be alive for that to happen."

The Last Lecture website.

Cross-posted at Business of Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 PM | Permalink

May 5, 2008

On the immortality of souls

For nature appears to me to have ordained this station here for us, as a place of sojournment, a transitory abode only, and not as a fixed settlement or permanent habitation. 

But oh the glorious day, when freed from this troublesome rout, this heap of confusion and corruption below, I shall repair to that divine Assembly, the heavenly Congregation of Souls!
Now these, my friends, are the means (since it was these you wanted to know) by which I make my old age sit easy and light upon me; and thus I not only disarm it of every uneasiness, but render it even sweet and delightful.

But if I should be mistaken in this belief, that our souls are immortal, I am however pleased and happy in my mistake;nor while I live, shall it ever be in the power of man, to beat my out on an opinion, that yields me so solid a comfort and so durable a satisfaction.

Cicero's Discourse on Old Age

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

Prayer lady saved by paper boy

The newspaper carrier called  her as the "Prayer lady" because she would leave him tips in letters to which she often appended a prayer.

`I've been praying for you at night whenever the weather's bad, realizing you're out in it delivering our papers,'"

He knew something was wrong when the newspapers piled up outside her door.

"That wonderful, small voice inside me said, `This isn't right.'"

After his route early Sunday, Pitts went home, napped briefly and, with his wife, returned to Blanche and Fred Roberts' home, just outside Marion, Ill.

They repeatedly rang the doorbells but got no answer. Pitts then eased open an unlocked side door and saw the couple about two feet inside, 84-year-old Blanche Roberts helpless looking right back at Pitts.

Her right leg was pinned beneath the body of her 77-year-old husband Fred, who apparently had died last Wednesday evening of a heart attack after mowing the lawn.

"The good Lord was with her. She was not scared, wasn't panicking," Pitts said during a telephone interview. "She was conscious, talking. Just peaceful. It was remarkable."

Newspaper carrier finds woman pinned by husband's dead body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

Your Odds of Dying

What are your odds of dying?  1 in 1. 

What you will die from is a totally different story.  Mother Pie tipped me to this wonderful graphic in a post
exploring for the first time the idea of the Singularity. 

I've written about the singularity in The Curve of Change, Digital Immortality or The Rapture for Nerds, and How We Are Going to Die,

It's no surprise that some, bedazzled at our technological progress, believe that the same progress can be made with biotechnology.  There is a human inchoate yearning for immortality that believers say points to heaven.  But to that age-old question Quo vadis or Where are we going,  the singularians answer  We ain't  going nowhere, we're staying.

They fail to recognize the very humanness of our nature, especially our susceptibility to boredom.  Even William Buckley,  by all accounts a prodigious lover of life, confessed to Charlie Rose near the end of hhis life confessed that he was tired of life.  The time will come, no matter how long we live, when the will to live is lost and death soon follows.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink