March 31, 2009

Jade Goody R.I.P.

For months now, the British press has documented the dying of Jade Goody, sometimes excessively

If you want an example, take a look at this page in the London Telegraph.


Jennifer Weiner in the Huffington Post

Jade fascinated me. While I was overseas, I devoured every newspaper story, every photograph and diary entry and detail about Jade's wedding (she got hitched to her twenty-one-year-old ex-con boyfriend a few weeks before her death) to her and her boys' christening (conducted, with cameras present, at the hospital chapel) to her eventual journey home to die.

The analogy most frequently applied to Goody's life was from The Truman Show, the movie in which Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey, doesn't realize he's living on a giant sound stage under constant scrutiny: that he has been, in fact, created for public consumption.

That, it seems, gets it exactly wrong. Poor Truman had no idea there were people watching. Jade never forgot. In courting, and keeping, the fickle public's gaze for an astonishing length of time, Jade proved herself a master at real-time reinvention, crafting a character -- the girl you hate, the girl you love to hate, the girl you hate again and, finally, the martyred young mother, bald from chemotherapy, dying on camera -- that viewers would eagerly consume, pacing her scenes and delivered her lines and photos ops with an expert sense of timing.

Andrew Ian Dodge summarized her Pop Life and Meaningful Death

Goody was outspoken. That was part of her charm and part of her downfall. She was a loose cannon. The tabloids and their readers followed Goody, waiting to see what mess she would find herself in next. Goody was the personification of the “human car wreck” — a British Britney Spears if you will. People couldn’t help but rubberneck. 

After apologizing for her in 2007, Brown praised Goody’s public fight  after her death, speaking of her efforts to raise awareness about the disease, the need for screening, and the fact that cervical cancer can hit a woman at any age. He said:  She was a courageous woman both in life and death, and the whole country has admired her determination to provide a bright future for her children.

Her funeral will be this coming Saturday and even Michael Jackson will be there.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2009

The conspiracy to deny two sisters their inheritance

A twenty-five-year battle over an estate ends. 

The “conspiracy to deny us our inheritance destroyed my family, broke my heart and left me with scars that I have painfully struggled with and have not fully overcome even now, after all these years,” Diana, 68, said in a recent affidavit.
Evelyn and Diana, who both live in New Rochelle, recall their father as a charming man who sang opera in their home, one of six adjoining houses he built in Pelham Parkway, a Bronx neighborhood of small brick houses and apartment buildings.
After their father died, their brother returned from the Army to help sort out his affairs. “We were told we were impoverished and my father died without a will,” Diana said. “I supported myself basically, from the time my father died.”

But, in fact, their father did write a single-page will leaving one-third of his estate to his wife, Rose, and equally dividing the remaining two-thirds among Walter, Evelyn and Diana. The will, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, instructed that a trust fund be established for his daughters until they turned 23. That never happened.

After discovering the will in 1983, Diana and Evelyn confronted their mother, who initially denied any knowledge of the will. But she later gave the girls the deed to her house and a 10 percent stake in Rose Gardens.

The sisters also went to Walter’s house in Kings Point to confront him. He called the police to have them removed, they said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

Deathbed confession

Man Confessed Murder on "Deathbed", then Got Better 

Then was charged with murder.

James Brewer could now face the death penalty over the unsolved killing in Tennessee 32 years ago, according to US reports.

Convinced he was dying after a stroke, Mr Brewer reportedly admitted shooting dead 20-year-old neighbour Jimmy Carroll.

Mr Brewer had reportedly moved to Oklahoma from Tennessee after jumping bail after he was originally arrested and charged with Mr Carroll's murder in 1977.

The former factory worker changed his name to Michael Anderson and settled down with his wife, Dorothy, in the town of Shawnee.

The couple became active members of the local church, where Mrs Brewer established a Bible study group, reports say.

After suffering a stroke, Mr Brewer called police to his hospital bedside earlier this month, where he reportedly made the confession.

Detectives said Mr Brewer had admitted killing Mr Carroll, who he believed had been trying to seduce his wife.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:46 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2009

Hindus in Britain want permission for open fire pyres

Hindu elder in legal bid so he can be cremated on open-fire pyre

 Open Fire Pyre

A devout Hindu grandfather made a heartfelt plea yesterday to be allowed to be cremated 'with dignity' on an open-air funeral pyre when he dies.

Davender Ghai, 70, believes that the ancient Hindu tradition of open-air cremation is essential to the liberation of his soul after death.

The Newcastle City Council says no, it contravenes the 1902 Cremation Act.

Standarized cremation says Ghai is a 'mechanized humiliation of dignity'" and the council's cremation facilities were a "waste disposal process devoid of spiritual significance."

By contrast, he compared the liberation of the soul in consecrated fire to a sacramental rebirth, 'like the mythical phoenix arising from the flames anew'.

He added: 'Being bundled into a box and incinerated in a furnace is not my idea of dignity, much less performance of an ancient sacrament.

Ghai is appealing for judicial review with the support of a number of Hindu organizations.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2009

Lessons from Oakland

Thousands attend funeral of the 4 Oakland police officers slain last week

...some 19,000 law-enforcement officers from coast to coast gathered along with grateful community members at the Oracle Arena in Oakland for a final send-off for their brothers in blue.

All four veteran officers died Saturday when a wanted parolee, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, opened fire in separate incidents just hours apart in East Oakland.

Police Shot Funeral Oakland.Lrg

A rumbling cortege of motorcycle officers escorted each hearse to the arena, keeping a tight and sharp formation just as Dunakin would have liked it, his colleagues said. They passed underneath a giant American flag hanging between the extended ladders of two Oakland fire trucks. Hundreds of police vehicles, from bomb-squad trucks, motorcycles, Ford Crown Victoria and Dodge Charger cruisers, filled the parking lot.

There were police cars from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and New York and a rainbow of uniforms that filled the arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum, where an overflow crowd watched the service on two big screens.

Their badges wrapped with black bands of mourning, hundreds of officers in dress uniforms lined the steps outside the arena and saluted as one by one, honor guards escorted four flag-draped caskets inside, followed by the officers' families. A sign at the complex read, "Forever Heroes."

Many officers dabbed at their eyes with white gloves as the caskets were placed in front of a flower-adorned stage beside their pictures. The police motorcycles of Dunakin and Hege and two pairs of empty boots sat nearby.

After the funeral, the officers were to be honored with a 21-gun salute from a military cannon, and 20 helicopters from across the nation were to fly in a "missing man" formation. Miles-long formations of police cars, their emergency lights whirling,

The four slain

Oakland police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, or "Dunny," as everybody called him, was a big teddy bear and die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers fan who proudly patrolled the streets on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Traffic Officer John Hege was a "beer and brownie man" who combined his love for the department and the Oakland Raiders by working overtime at the Coliseum during home games.

SWAT Sgt. Ervin Romans was a former Marine Corps drill sergeant, a "tactical guru" and expert marksman who instilled the importance of safety on the hundreds of officers he trained.

Sgt. Daniel Sakai juggled the duties of being a patrol sergeant and a SWAT entry team leader, yet still insisted on working out and running with officers preparing to take a grueling physical test.

Police Shot Calif Motorcycles

8 hour caravan from Orange County.

Last Saturday, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon shot and killed officers Erv Romans, 43, Mark Dunakin, 40, and Dan Sakai, 35. A fourth officer, John Hege, 41, was taken off live support after being declared brain dead.

Mixon was wanted for a parole violation, and opened fire during a traffic stop before heading home and opening fire on SWAT officers who were pursuing him with an AK-47, officials said.


When the caravan arrived, the cars and motorcycles drove past Oracle Arena in a singe-file line and shone their lights in a display of respect.

The Bookworm said some 80 police officers from Boston and even representatives from Scotland Yard were expected.  The Bookworm is a new blog for me that I discovered via links from the Anchoress and American Digest .  She said something at the end of her post that warmed my heart.

I always view tragedies like this as reminders — reminders not to wait until it’s too late to say how you value someone.  No matter the heart-felt outpouring at today’s memorial service, friends, family, colleagues and politicos will be saying things that Sgts. Mark Dunakin, 40, Erv Romans, 43, Daniel Sakai, 35, and Officer John Hege, 41, won’t be around to hear.

When my Mom turned 80, I temporarily stole her address book and wrote to every living person in it asking them to send a letter with a personal message and a remembrance about her.  Photos would be welcome too.  My sister, who is artistic, then assembled the dozens of responses in a beautiful album.  My mother almost cried when she got the album and (this is true) carried it with her everywhere she went for almost a year.  To know, not only that her friends loved and valued her, but why they did so, meant everything to her.

Don’t wait until those near you die before you open your mouth and say the things you should have said before.  Tell your family members you love them — and tell them why.  Give your friend a true compliment — a deep one, about his or her personality, not just the usual “great shirt,” or “nice hair” kind of thing.  Praise a colleague’s work.  These things matter, and one of the greatest regrets we always have when people die is all the things we should have said before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

The Secret Scripture

It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them.  Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees , wit half a date dangling after and a question mark.

My father's happiness not only redeemed him, but drove him to stories, and keeps him even now alive in me, lie a second more patient and more pleasing soul within my poor soul.

I loved this book set in Ireland and the beautiful, lyrical  prose of its author who was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2008.

Sebastian Barry writes about the beautiful Roseanne Cleary McNulty, a 100-year-old woman in a mental asylum for far more than fifty years who is secretly writing the story of her early life (the Secret Scripture of the title)  and hiding it under the floorboards in her room. 

Dr. Grene, a psychiatrist in charge of deciding what is to happen to each of the patients when the asylum closes- and so Roseanne's fate- becomes fascinated by Roseanne's resilience and lack of bitterness and soon begins to uncover  the truth of why she was sent to the asylum in the first place. 

"The Secret Scripture" (Sebastian Barry)

 The Secret Scripture

Here's another few snippets:

It is always worth itemizing happiness, there is so much of the other thing in life, you had better put down the markets for happiness while you can.
We are never old to ourselves.  That is because at close of day the ship we sail in is the soul, not the body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2009

When you interview your elderly parents

Some tips on Drawing Out Wisdom from Parents

Even though my parents lived into their 70s and 80s, I could never bring myself to ask them some important questions about the lessons they’d learned in life. Like many of my generation, I went straight from prolonged adolescent rebellion to reluctant adult caregiving without pausing to wonder what grown-up wisdom my parents might have to offer…until it was too late.

Henry Alford didn’t make that mistake. The author of “How to Live: A Search for Wisdom From Old People” not only persuaded his mother and stepfather to talk candidly about their lives, he managed to get all kinds of colorful and famous people over age 70 — including Phyllis Diller, Harold Bloom and Edward Albee — to share the wisdom, and in some cases the folly, of their life experiences. His 262-page book is filled with their insights, along with deathbed confessions, excerpts from diaries and an exploration of the meaning of wisdom itself

Whether your parents are eccentric, crotchety or boring, Mr. Alford’s techniques may help you get them to open up and share their wisdom. Here’s what he told me.

• “Explain to them specifically why you want to interview them, and what people who read or watch the interview stand to gain from the experience.” Tell them if you want to keep the stories all for yourself. Or perhaps you want to pass them on to your children.

• “Pace yourself — don’t open with a question about sex, war crimes or contemporary recording artists.”

• “Exhibit the manner or behavior you’re hoping to elicit — be philosophical to incite philosophizing, be potty-mouthed to incite potty-mouthism.”

• Do not expect earth-shattering revelations. If your parents are eating out of trash cans or busy putting together Ponzi schemes, you probably are already on to them.

• Do not fear that delving into the past will precipitate a family rift — unless one is on the verge of happening anyway, which was the situation in Mr. Alford’s family. Shortly after his interview, Mr. Alford’s stepfather overdosed on sleeping pills, which caused Mr. Alford’s mother, furious that her husband of more than 30 years had abandoned his commitment to sobriety, to throw him out of the house, end the marriage and move by herself to a retirement community 580 miles away.

• As they reflect on their life experiences, urge your parents to go beyond pearls of wisdom and clichés like “Life is a journey,” “Do what you love,” or “Accept what you can’t change.” Instead, urge them to relate their own personal, idiosyncratic nuggets of wisdom. Mr. Alford dubs these summations of life’s wisdom “elderisms.” (In his book, he explains the “rules” for constructing a proper elderism are like those for creating an aphorism: it must be brief, definitive, personal and have a twist.)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2009

Battered to death by teenage pirates

On a dream round the world voyage, Malcolm and Linda Robertson anchored their yacht off the coast of Thailand when, in the early hours of the morning, they were awakened by a commotion.

Malcolm went to check when he was beaten to death with a hammer and thrown overboard by three Burmese migrant workers. 

They took Linda out of the cabin in which she was sleeping and tied her up in ropes below deck.  They sailed the yacht through the night until the next morning when they loaded up a small  dinghy with their loot

Linda managed to wriggle free of the ropes, outrunning the pirates and sailed to a nearby fishing vessel for help.  The fishermen contacted the police who captured the three men still in the small dingy. 

British man battered to death by Burmese teenage pirates

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2009

Nicholas Hughes, R.I.P.

The sad news that Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath, committed suicide 46 years after his mother gassed herself while he slept.

The effects of suicide ripple out

Dr Hughes’s parents split up before he was 1, his father leaving Plath for Assia Wevill, the exotic wife of another poet. The winter that followed was unrelentingly harsh. Struggling to get by on very little money as a single parent with two young children, Plath’s fragile mental state collapsed. She wrote many of her finest poems in a final burst of creativity and killed herself early one February morning.

Six years later Wevill, who had lived with Hughes and the children for much of the intervening period, also gassed herself. It was March 23, 1969 – 40 years ago today – and her death differed from Plath’s in one appalling respect: she had murdered four-year-old Shura in the process.

and down through the generations.

....but his life had also moved on. A family friend said last night: “Nick wasn’t just the baby son of Plath and Hughes and it would be wrong to think of him as some kind of inevitably tragic figure. He was a man who reached his mid-forties, an adventurous marine biologist with a distinguished academic career behind him and a host of friends and achievements in his own right. That is the man who is mourned by those who knew him.”

It appears Dr. Hughes was battling depression.  I would not be at all surprised if,  in his depression, he thought the only way out was the way shown by his mother and the woman who succeeded her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

March 23, 2009

Remembering the Dead Redux

In going through the papers of her late husband, Amy Wellborn came across this column Michael Dubriel wrote in 1995 entitled Remembering the Dead.

If my great-grandfather was present when visiting his wife's grave, he would speak to her in his native Polish in a quiet voice as though he was informing her of the latest news. My father was more reserved in the visits to his father's grave, but somehow I knew that these visits somewhat the same purpose -- to keep in touch with those who had formed and shaped our lives by their presence. Even though they were gone, they were still very much present to us.

My parents and grandparents did not forget the past. The visits to the cemetery were an act of reverencing and honoring the memory that was still very much alive to them of their deceased par ents and spouses. They dealt with the image in the rearview mirror by pulling off the road and confronting the image ob an ongoing basis.

What allowed them to do this was a belief that life did not end in the physical death of their loved ones. As believers in God who had rescued their loved ones from death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they realized that those who had died were not gone.
That is not all. They believed tha they could still help their deceased love ones complete their spiritual journey toward God. These cemetery visits always concluded in the same way. All who were present would kneel on the ground over the grave, and we would pray, usually an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. These visits kept the memory of our loved ones before us as we remembered the way they lived and the impact they had on our lives as individuals.

Yet such is not the case anymore. During the past 14 years, I have been involved in various forms of pastoral ministry. I have witnessed a new phenomenon that is the opposite of my childhood memories. Rather than remember the dead, people actively try to forget that their loved ones ever existed. The ideal funeral of the 1990s seems to be the following, according to my experience: The deceased is cremated soon after death. The ashes are strewn either over the ocean or over some other peaceful spot. The problem with this is not that it is against any prohibition of the Catholic Church (it no longer is). The problem is that there is no place to reverence their memory or the effect that they still have on our lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2009

Winston Churchill's confidential assistant dies at 95

The Telegraph's wonderful obituary of Patrick Kinna

Kinna was recommended to Churchill by staff surrounding the Duke of Windsor, whose confidential clerk he had been while the Duke was serving as a member of the British military mission in Paris. From 1940 to 1945 his tiny, trim figure rarely left the Prime Minister's side, pencil and shorthand pad ever at the ready.

At Christmas 1941, while Churchill was staying at the White House, Kinna was summoned to take dictation by the prime minister, who was soaking in his bathtub, planning the speech he would make to Congress on Boxing Day. Finding the muse, Churchill stomped in and out of the tub, evading the ministrations of a valet with a bath-towel.

As the prime minister paced the room "completely starkers", Kinna recalled, there was a knock on the door and Churchill went to open it. It was Roosevelt in his wheelchair. Mortified at finding his guest with nothing on, the president prepared to make his excuses, but was prevented by Churchill. "Oh no, no, Mr President," he said. "As you can see, I have nothing to hide from you."

Some accounts suggest that Churchill was initially charmed by Joseph Stalin, but that was not Kinna's impression. After their first encounter in Moscow, Kinna recalled Churchill storming back into the office they had been given at the Kremlin, saying he wanted to dictate a telegram to Whitehall. "I have just had a most terrible meeting with this terrible man Stalin... evil and dreadful," he began. "May I remind you, Prime Minister," interrupted the British ambassador, "that all these rooms have been wired and Stalin will hear every word you said."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:08 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2009

Popcorn Sutton

A Likker Legend's Last F.U.

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton was told to report to federal prison tomorrow for an 18-month stint after he was busted yet again for making his famed White Lightning. On Monday, Sutton went out on his own terms.

Sutton was one of the last of his kind: an unrepentant Appalachian moonshiner with a reputation for great "likker" and a penchant for pissing off the authorities

Click here to see his tombstone.

Famed bootlegger chose death over prison, widow says

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Famed Appalachian moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, whose incorrigible bootlegging ways were as out of step with modern times as his hillbilly beard and overalls, took his own life rather than go to prison for making white lightning, his widow says.
"He couldn't go to prison. His mind would just not accept it. ... So credit the federal government for my husband being dead, I really do," Pam Sutton said Wednesday from the couple's home in the Parrottsville community.
A few hours earlier she had buried Sutton, 62, in a private ceremony in the mountains around Haywood County, N.C., where he grew up.

Sutton — nicknamed "Popcorn" for smashing up a 10-cent popcorn machine in a bar with a pool cue in his 20s — looked like a living caricature of a mountain moonshiner. He wore a long gray beard, faded overalls, checkered shirt and feathered fedora. He made his home in Cocke County, where cockfighting and moonshining are legend.

Sky Sutton is a New England historian and raised in Massachusetts who discovered while researching her paternal genealogy that her biological father was Popcorn Sutton.    Her blog contains excerpts from her book, Daddy Moonshine.

“It isn't surprising that Popcorn has attracted so much attention. His slippery craft and his old-timey antics appeal to something in our collective past. His overalls can be seen as the blue denim flag of old pick-up trucks and cork-plugged clay jugs. His colorless hat is the nod of a gentleman, his beard the badge of a wild man. His high reedy voice carries the echoes of banjos and fiddles. His stealth and focus speak volumes for the cunning and moxie of who he is: a Smokey Mountain moonshine master.”

You can hear his high reedy voice on his YouTube video showing how to make moonshine


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 PM | Permalink

Japan's Suicide Forest

Aokigahara Forest is known for two things in Japan: breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and suicides. Also called the Sea of Trees, this destination for the desperate is a place where the suicidal disappear, often never to be found in the dense forest.

Japan's Aokigahara Forest is known as the "suicide forest" because people often go there to take their own lives.

Taro, a 46-year-old man fired from his job at an iron manufacturing company, hoped to fade into the blackness. "My will to live disappeared," said Taro. "I'd lost my identity, so I didn't want to live on this earth. That's why I went there."

Taro, who did not want to be identified fully, was swimming in debt and had been evicted from his company apartment.

He lost financial control, which he believes to be the foundation of any stable life, he said. "You need money to survive. If you have a girlfriend, you need money. If you want to get married, you need it for your life. Money is always necessary for your life."  Watch Taro describe why he wanted to die in "suicide forest" »

Taro bought a one-way ticket to the forest, west of Tokyo, Japan. When he got there, he slashed his wrists, though the cut wasn't enough to kill him quickly.

He started to wander, he said. He collapsed after days and lay in the bushes, nearly dead from dehydration, starvation and frostbite. He would lose his toes on his right foot from the frostbite. But he didn't lose his life, because a hiker stumbled upon his nearly dead body and raised the alarm.

Taro's story is just one of hundreds logged at Aokigahara Forest every year, a place known throughout Japan as the "suicide forest." The area is home to the highest number of suicides in the entire country.

Japan's suicide rate, already one of the world's highest, has increased with the recent economic downturn.

Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

Revenge from beyond the grave

Mother leaves  $40k to hospice and nothing to daughters who tried to evict her from her home.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.  But few would go as far as Megan Swanston, who waited until after her death to get back at her three daughters for trying to throw her out of her home.

Instead of sharing her £20,000 estate between them, it emerged yesterday that she changed her will to give all the money to the hospice where she spent her last months.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson, R.I.P.


Life can change in an instant . 

Natasha Richardson was excited about learning to ski on the beginner's slope at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec when she lost her balance and fell down.  She didn't hit anyone or anything, nor did she show any signs of injury.  An hour later, she complained of a headache and was taken taken to a hospital near the ski resort, then to a Montreal hospital.  After she was declared brain dead, she was kept on life support and flown to New York City where her family gathered at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City to say goodbye before she was taken off life support. 

A family spokesman said: 'Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.

'They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.'

New York Times obit

She was a blond, beautiful English actress, he was her ruggedly handsome Irish co-star, and the two were thought to be courting right on stage, during a New York production.

Ms. Richardson was an intense and absorbing actress who was unafraid of taking on demanding and emotionally raw roles. Classically trained, she was admired on both sides of the Atlantic for upholding the traditions of one of the great acting families of the modern age.

Her grandfather was Sir Michael Redgrave, one of England’s finest tragedians. He passed his gifts, if not always his affection, to his daughters, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and his son, Corin Redgrave. The night Vanessa was born, her father was playing Laertes to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

Ms. Richardson was the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and the film director Tony Richardson, known for “Tom Jones” and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.” Married in the early 1960s, they were divorced in 1967. He died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 63.

She seemed to be a lovely woman who survived a difficult childhood and adolescence in her famous family of actors and activists to make a successful career and marriage.  What a terrible loss.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

Digging up bodies for a living

From the Body Farm to mystery writer to celebrity, Bill Blass will give you facts you'll never forget like:  “It takes longer to burn a 90-pound individual than a 300-pound individual,.  The increased amount of fat on the larger individual accelerates the cremation process.”

The Cult of Forensic Expert Dr. Bill Blass

Such is the extraordinary, sometimes disconcerting, appeal of forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass. His straight talk about pulverizing bones and rotting cadavers has found a dedicated audience that cuts across age, gender, socioeconomic, education, and even international boundaries. He’s always been popular with students at UT, where he founded the Forensic Anthropology Center, also known as the Body Farm, and retired 14 years ago. He’s long been deeply appreciated by academician colleagues, scientists, and the law enforcement agencies that benefit from his detective work.

But now Bass has another fan base: mystery readers. Since 2006, he’s collaborated with Jon Jefferson to produce four Body Farm forensic detective novels as “Jefferson Bass.” Half a million Jefferson Bass books have been printed as of 2008, the first in 14 languages, and two have already become New York Times bestsellers. The main character in all is one Dr. Bill Brockton, who works as a forensic anthropologist at UT’s Body Farm and consultant to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The latest addition, Bones of Betrayal, came out Feb. 3, a couple weeks after the packed house speech at the UT Center. The sign in front of Hargreaves Booksellers for two weeks before said simply, “Dr. Bass book signing,” and the date.

At an age—81—when most are quietly contemplating a round of golf or what’s for lunch, Bass is once again half of a book tour celebrity team.

How does he deal with dead bodies?

Both of Bass’ first two wives died of cancer. “My first wife and I met in the service,” he says. “I was in the infantry, and then transferred to the Medical Corps. When we first came to University of Tennessee in 1971, she taught Home Ec, and I taught anthropology. She died of colon cancer in 1993. My second wife, Annette, and I were married less than three years when she died of lung cancer—she never smoked a day in her life, but her first husband did.

“I hate funerals. I hate death. I hate mourning. I don’t like that scene at all.

“I never see a forensic case as a dead body. I see it as a challenge to see if I can figure out who that individual was and what happened to them. It is interesting what your mind can do. I think that you will find quite a few people in the forensic area who are like that, who shift that thing to something that is science and not emotion.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 PM | Permalink

Devout more likely to seek aggressive care

For many, this would seem counter-intuitive unless one concludes that they believe that life is sacred and have more hope; but there's no excuse for not having legal documents in place

Religious dying patients more likely to get aggressive care

Patients who rely heavily on their religious faith to cope with terminal cancer are more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging measures in their last week of life, Boston researchers reported yesterday.

In a study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and five other sites, 345 people with advanced cancer were interviewed about the importance of religion in dealing with their illness, and their preferences for care. Most of them were Christian.

About 80 percent of the patients said they used religion to some extent to cope with their illness and more than half said they prayed, meditated, or engaged in religious study daily. More than 30 percent said their faith was the most important thing that kept them going.

The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith were nearly three times more likely to choose and receive more aggressive care near death, such as ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were less likely to have advanced care planning in place, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and healthcare proxies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2009

Michael Jackson to be 'plastinized'

Michael Jackson plans to have his body 'plastinized' by Dr. Death

MICHAEL Jackson will achieve his dream of immortality by being stuffed with plastic by Dr Death.

The King Of Pop, who calls himself Peter Pan, has had a string of cosmetic surgery ops to try to defy the ageing process.

But he is now preparing to strike the ultimate blow against death and decay by having his whole body “plastinated” by controversial doctor Gunther von Hagens.

Jacko, who is a fan of the German anatomist, was said to be thrilled his Body Worlds exhibition would be on at the O2 Arena during his This Is It concerts, which start in July.

The exhibition showcases Von Hagens’ groundbreaking corpse preservation technique which earned him the nickname Dr Death.

Creepy as this is at least Jackson is giving his consent unlike the Chinese prisoners who were used for the first  Body Worlds exhibition

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

China's Last Eunuch

Burial in parts

BEIJING (Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City's private quarters were castrated ones. They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

Sun's impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burned their house.

His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun's urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him -- he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

"Oh will there ever be a cat and dogfight when I die. But I don't care"

In the Boston Globe,  on the raging battle over the estate of Vermont illustrator Tasha Tudor by her children.


The fall of the House of Tudor

But Tudor's death last June exposed a much less endearing image of the eccentric artist's own family. Three of her four children were cut out of her will almost entirely. The 92-year-old artist left her home, her copyrights and her business - called "Tasha Tudor & Family" - to one son and grandson who still cultivate her brand. The other three children are contesting the will in Marlboro Probate Court, accusing their brother, Seth, of wielding improper influence over their mother to claim an estate worth more than $2 million. Seth, in court papers, has branded the claims as a baseless attack on a valid will.

The dispute over the estate was frustratingly easy to anticipate, said Tudor's youngest child, Efner Tudor Holmes, now 60. She says she warned her mother before they stopped talking to each other in 1996 that an earlier version of the will was dividing the family.

"Some of the last words she said to me were, 'Oh, will there ever be a cat and dogfight when I die. But I don't care. I won't be here to see it,' " Holmes said in an interview in her rustic farmhouse. "It bothered her - but not enough to do anything about it. I think there's a side of my mother that was very cruel. And that's the side of her that I'm wrestling with to this day."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2009

Near-death experiences of CEOs

"Death is very likely the single-best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new" Steve Jobs in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

CEOs show how cheating death can change your life

Last June, management consultant Grant Thornton surveyed 250 CEOs of companies with revenue of $50 million or more. Twenty-two percent said they have had an experience when they believed they would die and, of those, 61% said it changed their long-term perspective on life or career. Forty-one percent said it made them more compassionate leaders; 16% said it made them more ambitious; 14% said it made them less ambitious.

People who recount pure NDEs sometimes say they are accompanied by out-of-body experiences and trips toward a light. NDEs are described as both pleasurable and not. A Gallup Poll found that about 8 million Americans have had a near-death experience. That number is surely on the rise, because victims of cardiac arrest — which kills 1,000 people a day in the USA, according to Cardiac Science — are increasingly being saved with automated external defibrillators.
Of the 250 CEOs surveyed by Grant Thornton, 3% said they have been brought back to life after having died. Another 3% said they did not want to respond to the question.

Ned Dougherty, once a millionaire real estate broker who owned popular discos in New York and Florida, went into cardiac arrest two different times in 1984 but did not go fully public with his near death experiences until 2001 in his book Fast Lane to Heaven. He says he met deceased loved ones and was enveloped by the light of God. A casual drug user and an alcoholic who always had his first drink before noon, Dougherty said he was suddenly cured of addiction.

Dougherty says those who ditched into the Hudson River have had a spiritual experience that they will have to come to terms with over time. He says he has lost all interest in business and money. Where he once was angry at God for "ruining the party," he now considers his two trips into death a blessing. Like most who have NDEs, he says he no longer fears death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:07 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2009

Taking Chance

I wrote about Taking Chance Home back in 2004.    I was immensely moved then and again when I watched Taking Chance last month on HBO.  I meant to write about it, but I got distracted and didn't.    What is most impressive is the respect, even reverence, the Army takes every step of the way and the manner in which Americans meet that respect with their own.

But I must say I was surprised at the size of the audience.  Today in the Wall St Journal on 'Taking Chance'.

It's been widely observed that movies about the Iraq war have tended to bomb at the box office. One newspaper report speculated that films like "Home of the Brave" and "Stop-Loss" failed because "the audience might prefer a longer interval before viewing events as troubling as war."

"Taking Chance" refutes this notion. When it debuted February 21 on HBO, it became the network's most-watched original movie in five years, drawing two million viewers -- especially impressive given that it aired on Saturday, traditionally not a big TV-watching night. An HBO spokesman estimates that another 5.5 million have watched subsequent airings of the film, and that doesn't count DVR viewers.

What makes "Taking Chance" different from the other Iraq movies is that it is all realism and no cynicism. It dramatizes the 2004 journey of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, played by Kevin Bacon, as he escorts the remains of a 19-year-old Marine private, Chance Phelps, from Dover Air Force Base to Phelps's Wyoming hometown, where Strobl meets the family and attends the funeral.

"Taking Chance" does not glorify the war. It takes no discernable position on whether America should be in Iraq, although a few people Colonel Strobl meets along the way express their view, pro and con. But almost without exception, the Americans he encounters are respectful, patriotic, grateful for his service and for Private Phelps's. If Hollywood wants to make war movies that appeal to a broad audience, it could do worse than to take in "Taking Chance." The Americans who show Colonel Strobl such reverence as he makes his way west are the very audience Hollywood wishes it could reach.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

Practice makes perfect

Man stages own funeral

A Romanian man staged his own funeral while he was still alive to make sure everything went to plan.

Marin Voinicu, 73, from Vadastra in Olt county, invited fellow villagers, relatives and friends to his home to mark his "future passing".

The village priest even accepted an invitation to officiate a funeral sermon at the man's home.

Mr Voinicu said: "I did everything by the book. I even dug my own grave in the cemetery and laid down in it to see how it feels.

"I asked my relatives to wail at my headstone for a test run. I was fully satisfied with my funeral."

He explained he decided to organise his own funeral because he didn't want to leave the task on his family's shoulders.

And his family agreed to go along with it because they felt it would be easier to organise the event when they were not distracted by grieving.

Mr Voinicu's daughter-in-law Oncica said: "If we had done this after his death it would have been harder.

"Everybody would have cried a lot but this way nobody shed a tear. We had such a good time one could have said it was more like a wedding than a funeral."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2009

We Will Bury You

Headline stolen from James Taranto

In recession economy, students look to funeral careers

"They're looking for something stable, a career that will last them," said Michael Mastellone, chairman of the Nassau program. "And there will always be work out there."

Among the recent inquiries Mastellone fielded was one from a retired police officer who at 57 wondered whether there was an age limit to start the two-year program.

"He retired and his pension was fine, and now his retirement fund isn't fine anymore," Mastellone said.
The demographics don't hurt, either.

"I sometimes see a twinkle in the eye of some particularly entrepreneurial students . . . as they imagine what their future will be like with the aging of baby boomers," said Regina Smith, dean of the McCallister Institute in Manhattan, in an e-mail.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:28 PM | Permalink

Death by Pancakes

Too many  pancakes kill Russian man

THE WINNER of a pancake-eating contest dropped dead after gorging himself on 43 of the cream and banana stuffed desserts.

Boris Isayev, 48, from west Russia, collapsed to his knees and died on stage after stuffing himself with pancakes in a competition to mark the end of the region’s ‘Pancake Week’.

"He had really enjoyed the pancakes but then he started foaming at the mouth and went down like a sack of stones," one witness said.

Onlookers tried to revive the man, but he died on the stage, reported the Sunday Mirror.

Witnesses apparently described Isayev as “the most active participant in the contest" adding that he "ate all the types of pancakes on offer and won fairly.”

The exact cause of death is not clear but doctors believe he choked after a piece of pancake got lodged in his throat.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 12, 2009

Lifelong friends in one last dive

From the Daily Undertaker comes a story of Parachutes and Lawn Chairs

The ashes of two unlikely friends dropped from the sky Saturday to be buried at the Center of the World.  One man belonged to the Hitler Youth as a child. The other survived a concentration camp.  However unlikely, Wolfgang Lieschke and Herbert Loebel did become friends as adults living in America. In accordance with their families' wishes, the West Point Parachute Team delivered the men's ashes to their novel and final resting place Saturday.

The ashes were dropped by parachute and buried at the Center of the World. The popular tourist attraction is located west of Yuma, along Interstate 8, in Felicity, Calif.

"Both were eminent men in their era who became close friends and who will rest together in consecrated ground," said Jacques-Andre Istel, the mayor of Felicity and friend of both men. "Both had close links to parachuting and both served humanity."

Often called "the father of American skydiving," Istel trained the Army's first free-fall parachute team, which led to the creation of the Golden Knights.
Istel organized a sizable celebration Saturday, full of ceremony and military pageantry. The U.S. Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps played taps, and the Golden Knights Army Parachute Team performed an air-to-ground salute. The U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard also made an appearance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2009

Death by pool filter

When I was younger and spent a lot of time playing in pools, the pull of the filter was always fun, but I never imagined this could happen.

Holiday teenager drowned after being sucked under by powerful pool filter

A British teenager drowned in a holiday swimming pool after becoming trapped against a filter vent, an inquest has heard.

Suction from the vent was so strong that it took six holidaymakers to free Ashley Surtees.

The trainee bricklayer died on a family holiday in Gran Canaria.

An inquest found the teenager drowned after becoming stuck to a pool vent designed to filter the water.

The 6in-wide vent was attached to a power pump with an engine running at between two and four horse power.

In the five or ten minutes that Ashley,  was in the water, suction pressure from the vent acting on his body became so intense that it required six holidaymakers to bring him to the surface.

Peter MacGregor of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, commissioned by Thomas Cook to examine the pool, said he tested the pump shortly after the incident in July 2007.

Using his own body and a plastic poolside table to test the force of the suction, Mr MacGregor concluded it was not powerful enough to draw anyone in, even if it could have held them in place once they had become stuck.

He described the accident as 'highly unusual'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2009

"Vampire" Skeleton

While excavating mass graves of plague victims from the Middle Ages, an archeologist found the skeleton of a woman with a brick in her  mouth.

"Vampire' skeleton unearthed in Venice.


At the time the woman died, many people believed that the plague was spread by "vampires" which, rather than drinking people's blood, spread disease by chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, Borrini says.

The belief in vampires probably arose because blood is sometimes expelled from the mouths of the dead, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear. Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver, Colorado, last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined. The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 PM | Permalink

"She didn't have to go like that"

Pinned to the metal grating of an MBtA escalator that clenched her scarf and hair, 82 year old Helen Jackson lay dying while many commuters walked past her to the exit. 

Watching helplessly as a life slips away

commuters walked past her toward the exit, either unaware of the dire circumstances or unwilling to get involved.

A few good Samaritans intervened. One slammed the button that stopped the rising escalator. Another pleaded for any sort of help - scissors or even nail clippers to cut her free. Amid the muted chaos, a municipal security officer just outside the station radioed an emergency, then waited by his car for paramedics to arrive.

Moments mattered, and in the end, as one middle-aged man crouched at the top of the escalator, holding Jackson's hand while urging her to keep breathing, her grip loosened, her hand fell away, and she died. She was pinned so tightly to the escalator grating that the man couldn't fit his fingers between her scarf and her neck.

Condolences to her family.  "She didn't have to go like that"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 PM | Permalink

"Normal" vs "complicated" grief

Meghan O'Rourke details the grief she experienced following the death of her mother

"Normal" vs "complicated" grief

One afternoon, about three weeks after my mother died, I Googled "grief."

I was having a bad day. It was 2 p.m., and I was supposed to be doing something. Instead, I was sitting on my bed (which I had actually made, in compensation for everything else undone) wondering: Was it normal to feel everything was pointless? Would I always feel this way? I wanted to know more. I wanted to get a picture of this strange experience from the outside, instead of the melted inside.
Grief isn't rational; it isn't linear; it is experienced in waves. Joan Didion talks about this in The Year of Magical Thinking, her remarkable memoir about losing her husband while her daughter was ill: "[V]irtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of waves," she writes.

She quotes a 1944 description by Michael Lindemann, then chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He defines grief as:
sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intensive subjective distress described as tension or mental pain.
One thing I learned is that researchers believe there are two kinds of grief: "normal grief" and "complicated grief" (which is also called "prolonged grief"). Normal grief is a term for the feeling most bereaved people experience, which peaks within the first six months and then begins to dissipate. ("Complicated grief" does not—and evidence suggests that many parents who lose children are experiencing something more like complicated grief.) Calling grief "normal" makes it sound mundane, but, as one researcher underscored to me, its symptoms are extreme. They include insomnia or other sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, auditory or visual hallucinations, appetite problems, and dryness of mouth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 PM | Permalink

Suit says teen was 'killed' for organs

Suit says Teen was 'killed' for organs

The parents of an 18-year-old who suffered a brain injury in a 2007 snowboarding accident say his doctors "intentionally killed" him to harvest his organs.

In the lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania, Michael and Teresa Jacobs claim that doctors "hastened" their son Gregory Jacobs' death by delaying treatment and ultimately pulling his breathing tube, causing him to suffocate.

The couple said their son had not been formally declared brain dead when surgeons began the transplant procedure. They are seeking $5 million in damages.
According to the plaintiffs, brain death was recorded the next day, "retroactively" as life support was being withdrawn in preparation for organ removal.


In an interview with media in 2007, hospital officials acknowledged that the recorded time of death was a mistake.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 PM | Permalink

March 5, 2009

"He ducked down and crept into the bomb bay"

The father of our friend Sippican of Sippican's Cottage died Sunday.    Our condolences to him and his family on their loss. 

He posts My Father Asks for Nothing.

My father asks me for nothing, really. Every three months or so, I take him to his doctor, who pokes about him wondering what keeps him animated, and that's about it. He's grown frail, and has discovered the joys of "Not Going." It takes a lot to get him to leave the comfort and safety of his house. I was really surprised when he called me on Saturday, because he asked me to take him somewhere.

We went along the side of the plane, creeping along at the pace my father goes, my father assiduously avoiding walking between the fuselage and the props -- a habit sixty years old and more -- and he saw his chance. He ducked down and crept into the bomb bay.

Down came the hands. No one needed to be told who that man was, or why he was there. Everyone behind paused to wait patiently and respectfully, and everyone within reach helped me pick that old, frail, brave man up to look on the nuts and bolts of that totem of his distant life. And they thanked him, and they asked him questions, and marveled at him.

It's always sad to see another of the Greatest Generation pass away as the world turns. 


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

"I can't bear to think of her all alone there, surrounded by foreign voices."

Miss Kelly points to this quite Beautiful Deathbed Story

Death can be beautiful, they say.  Here's a quite moving story by
British expat writer Michael Wright, who stayed with a frail widow friend for her last few hours on earth, in a hospital room, holding her hand, talking and singing hymns.

He had never been close to anyone dying.

I have never been close to anyone dying. Not physically, anyway, if we discount sheep and chickens. But now comes a phone call to say that our friend Laura – a frail widow who, at 56, is Jolibois' poshest and longest-serving English resident – has collapsed into unconsciousness. At the hospital in Limoges, the doctors barely expect her to last the night.

"You must go," says Alice, who is breastfeeding our newborn baby. "I can't bear to think of her all alone there, surrounded by foreign voices." Laura's parents, siblings and husband are all dead. Her only surviving close relative is her son, who is in prison.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2009

"Lost in an historical abyss"

Close to 30,000,000 people were killed by the communists in the USSR, not including deaths from the Second World War.

Russian civil war (1917-1922) 9,000,000 deaths.
Soviet Union under Stalin (1924-1953) 20,000,000 deaths.

Jon Utley's father was one of them.  Jon was only two years old when his father, Arcadi Berdichevsky, a Russian trade official, was sent to a Soviet labor camp by the Soviet secret police.  Because his mother was a British intellectual , she was able to escape with her young son and from there to the USA.

Beginning in 2004,  Jon Utley began a search to find out what happened to his father.  Reason.TV now is making available online the 30 minute documentary Jon Utley's Search for his father which I highly recommend.

So much of what happened under the communists has been "lost in an historical abyss", so it's heartening to see Russians in the north, the Komey republic,  constructing memorials to the executed prisoners who built much of their cities and piecing together files so that descendants can find out what happened to their parents and ancestors who died as prisoners in labor camps.

Jon Utley found the place where his father was executed.  He saw the surroundings, the land and considered a great gift to do so before he died.  There he found a sense of peace, a continuity of being with his long-dead father.

Seventy years later, witness is still being made.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

"Off the charts weird"

On many nights over 16 years, Kenneth Douglas engaged in his own personal macabre workplace party.

He often brought drugs or alcohol to work and sometimes had sex with women.

At least three of those women were dead,
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Thursday.

But if Douglas is to be believed, he could have had sex with as many as "over a hundred" bodies in the 16 years he worked as night attendant at the Hamilton County morgue.

"I am sure there are more (victims). I'm certain of it," Deters said Thursday in announcing new indictments against Douglas.

"This guy's just a pig. I can't explain why someone would do something like this. ... This is off-the-charts weird."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:39 PM | Permalink

Your final carbon footprint

Two women from my home town of Arlington preach environmentalism after death.

Ruth Faas and Sue Cross, co-founders of Mourning Dove Studio where they sell ecopods and other biodegradable caskets, are "local groundbreakers in the natural burial movement."

Faas, 48, an occupational therapist, who opened Mourning Dove Studio in December, wants it to be "a resource space for people thinking about death and dying.

"I feel like we've been indoctrinated to do death care in a certain way in this country, and I'd like people to consider the environmental impact of their choices and whether or not these rituals hold meaning for us," she said.

The studio includes a casket display - with options that range from an $80 cardboard box to a $3,500 wicker coffin - and a spacious area for bereavement groups, workshops, art-making and coffin decorating. (For $15 per hour, customers can decorate a cardboard or pine box that they buy.) In Mourning Dove's reading room, people can browse through books about alternative death-care practices.

Faas and Cross are betting that a generation of aging baby boomers will start requesting green burials as awareness slowly dawns.

"We've been afraid to look at death, plan for it, and talk about it," said Cross, who came to this work by studying death rituals of her own Hungarian heritage. "We also end up spending a lot of money on things like concrete vaults and metal caskets that keep us from returning to the cycle of life."

While running a booth last May at the Down to Earth Expo, which drew 8,000 visitors to the Hynes Veterans Convention Center in Boston, Faas was not surprised by the number of environmentalists who, like herself a few years earlier, had never considered the impact of their final carbon footprint.

Still, Harris thinks green funerals will start moving into the mainstream in leaps and bounds. "There is something appealing about returning to the earth as your final act on earth, and using your remains to push up a tree."

I think I'm going to call on them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

March 1, 2009

Making Sure of His Last Word

There's nothing wrong with 84-year-old Ed Koch, so it's quite strange to hear he's erected an already engraved tombstone for himself in a Manhattan cemetery. 

Ed's Grave Situation

The unadorned tombstone, planted firmly on a hill at Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights, carries an inscription that hails his Jewish heritage, as well as his life in public service.

"He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people," the headstone reads.

"Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II."

 Edkoch Tombstone

Also carved into the stone is a common Jewish prayer as well as the last words of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by Muslim terrorists in 2002: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."

Neighbors in the three-term mayor's apartment building in Greenwich Village said the move was just an example of Koch's out-sized personality.

"He's a bigger-than-life character and I guess he wants to be bigger than death," one female resident quipped.

Another tenant added: "He's accustomed to having the last word, so this doesn't surprise me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

Paul Harvey, Master Storyteller, Radio Pioneer, Now at Rest

ABC News - Radio Legend Paul Harvey Dies

The "most listened to man" in broadcasting passed away Saturday. After more than seven decades on the air, venerable radioman Paul Harvey's folksy speech and plain talk are no more.

Harvey died at the age of 90 at a hospital near his winter home in Phoenix.

His death came nine months after that of his wife, Lynne Cooper Harvey, whom he often called "Angel" on air, and who was also his business partner and the first producer ever inducted in the the Radio Hall of Fame. She died in May 2008 at age 92.

"My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news," Paul Harvey Jr. said Saturday. "So, in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents. And, today millions have lost a friend."

Harvey's career in radio spanned more than 70 years, and his shows "News & Comment" and "Rest of the Story" made him a familiar voice in Americans' homes across the country.

If you didn't know Paul Harvey, you missed out on an extraordinary storyteller.  Here's an example.

"Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation's history," ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said in a written statement. "As he delivered the news each day with his own unique style and commentary, his voice became a trusted friend in American households."

Washington Post , Beloved Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey Dies at 90

Mr. Harvey was the voice of the American heartland, offering to millions his trademark greeting: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by! For news!"

For millions, Paul Harvey in the morning or at noon was as much a part of daily routine as morning coffee.

"Paul Harvey News and Comment" was a distinctive blend of rip-and-read headline news, quirky feature stories and, usually, a quick congratulation to a couple who had been married for 75 years or so. The news stories, and Harvey's distinctive take on them -- usually, but not always, from a conservative political perspective -- flowed seamlessly into commercial messages for products Mr. Harvey endorsed.

One of radio's most effective pitchmen, he kept sponsors for decades, attracted by such features as "The Rest of the Story," mesmerizing little tales, cleverly written, that featured a surprising O Henry-style twist to stories listeners thought they already knew.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink