September 30, 2009

Dead Media

 Dead Media

Artist Brian Dettmer uses dead media in the form of old cassette tapes to create amazing skeletons.

More here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 PM | Permalink

Complicated grief

After a Death, the  Pain that Doesn't Go Away estimated 15 percent of the bereaved population, or more than a million people a year — grieving becomes what Dr. M. Katherine Shear, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia, calls “a loop of suffering.” And these people, Dr. Shear added, can barely function.

There is no formal definition of complicated grief, but researchers describe it as an acute form persisting more than six months, at least six months after a death. Its chief symptom is a yearning for the loved one so intense that it strips a person of other desires. Life has no meaning; joy is out of bounds. Other symptoms include intrusive thoughts about death; uncontrollable bouts of sadness, guilt and other negative emotions; and a preoccupation with, or avoidance of, anything associated with the loss. Complicated grief has been linked to higher incidences of drinking, cancer and suicide attempts.

“Simply put,” Dr. Shear said, “complicated grief can wreck a person’s life.”

It's not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder.  Using cognitive behavior therapy or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) shows very promising results. 

EMDR is considered a breakthrough therapy because of its simplicity and the fact that it can bring quick and lasting relief for most types of emotional distress.

EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies.

The EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation, which repeatly activates the opposite sides of the brain, releasing emotional experiences that are "trapped" in the nervous system. This assists the neurophysiological system, the basis of the mind/body connection, to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2009

William Safire, R.I.P.

When I worked at a law firm on Wall Street in the mid-seventies, I began to read Bill Safire's column and never stopped.  He was the only one in what is now called the mainstream media that I read  who offered a different way of looking at what was happening in politics and in the country. 

New York Times
William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Md., on Sunday. He was 79.
He was a college dropout and proud of it, a public relations go-getter who set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” in Moscow, and a White House wordsmith in the tumultuous era of war in Vietnam, Nixon’s visit to China and the gathering storm of the Watergate scandal, which drove the president from office.

Then, from 1973 to 2005, Mr. Safire wrote his twice-weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus. Unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Mr. Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.

And from 1979 until earlier this month, he wrote “On Language,” a New York Times Magazine column that explored written and oral trends, plumbed the origins and meanings of words and phrases, and drew a devoted following, including a stable of correspondents he called his Lexicographic Irregulars.

The columns, many collected in books, made him an unofficial arbiter of usage and one of the most widely read writers on language. It also tapped into the lighter side of the dour-looking Mr. Safire: a Pickwickian quibbler who gleefully pounced on gaffes, inexactitudes, neologisms, misnomers, solecisms and perversely peccant puns, like “the president’s populism” and “the first lady’s momulism,” written during the Carter administration

 William Safire

Wall Street Journal
From 1973 to 2005, Bill Safire prowled American politics in twice-weekly columns that kept the political class honest and his readers entertained and informed. Usually he was tough competition for those of us at the Journal, but we also recall that he was there as an intellectual ally most of the time, and especially on foreign policy where he was a stalwart Cold Warrior and a friend of what used to be known as the "captive nations."

Unlike many columnists, Safire did not soar at 35,000 feet bemoaning what fools these mortals be. He did his own reporting, digging up stories and anecdotes that embarrassed politicians who deserved to be embarrassed. He was a master of his craft, a student of the English language who loved the playful use of words.

Boston Globe
His new colleagues in the Washington bureau of the Times also were suspicious, even a little hostile, said Martin Tolchin, a former colleague at the Times. “They all thought that if there was to be a new column in the Times, they should be the one to write it,’’ he recalled.

The hostility disappeared at a party for the bureau when, as Tolchin recalled, the small son of reporter James Naughton fell into a swimming pool and a fully clothed William Safire dived in to rescue him. “From that moment on, Bill was fully accepted by the bureau,’’ Tolchin said.

John Podhoretz
William Safire, who died today, was a breakthrough figure—the first professional Republican ideologue of his time to become a mainstream fixture in journalism. Indeed, when he was hired by the New York Times to write a column after his tenure as a speechwriter and intimate of the president in the Nixon White House, the shock and horror with which his new position was viewed in the Times newsroom and in the journalistic corridors of Washington were unprecedented in their ferocity. Safire himself said that people would barely look him in the eye in his place of employ for years.
It is ironic that he leaves us on the eve of Yom Kippur, because he was for a very long time the host of Washington’s most exclusive annual Jewish ticket—a catered party to break the Yom Kippur fast. Most of the people who went didn’t actually fast. But they pretended that they had. Such is life in Washington.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2009

Pointless deaths

Father killed daughter in crash as he drove at 110 mph to 'teach her a lesson'.

'He was annoyed at being called out at short notice at that time of night. He was deliberately driving far faster than he should have been,' said prosecutor Ieuan Bennett.
Kaylee was not wearing a seatbelt and she was hurled from the car when it struck a concrete bollard and flipped over.

She died of catastrophic head injuries.  The father was in a coma for 12 days with permanent brain damage.  Now he's in jail.

"Death by binge drinking is  a disgusting, pointless way to way to die"

it's 9 pm on a Friday night and throughout Britain people just like him are drinking themselves into oblivion. The only difference is that he has stopped breathing.

His three friends dial 999 when they cannot wake him, but they have no idea just how serious it is.

As Lian Withers, a first-response paramedic with the West Midlands Ambulance Service, arrives, they roll their eyes and joke: 'He loves his lager.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2009

Sitting at the foot of the cross

There is a great difference in the grieving of those who have faith. Glimpses of grace in a mother's suffering

Mary Ellen Barrett, who writes a homeschooling blog at Tales From the Bonny Blue House, recently suffered through every parent's worst nightmare. In August, her 14-year-old son Ryan, who was autistic, wandered over to a nearby creek during an annual father-son camping trip and was gone before anyone knew what happened. He was found dead in a lake the next morning.

This is what the grieving mother  wrote on her own blog

To learn to embrace the suffering and turn it to some use has been, at times, a nearly impossible task for me. I miss my Ryan so badly it is a physical pain that just will not go away. A stabbing knife in my chest that often makes it hard to catch my breath.

To sit at the foot of the cross in the real way that Dave and I have this past month, it is necessary to surrender to God and to just trust that His plan is for our ultimate salvation. I confess to having my moments of bewilderment/anger at why God called Ryan home but I pray through that and ask Ryan to pray for me. I know that Ryan is happy in heaven, that he is doing good there.

So the grief crashes over us in waves. Mind numbingly, over-powering waves and then we gasp and stick our heads up and catch our breath. We see the world around us and the love being bestowed on us and we know it is good.

Sitting at the foot of the cross gives others the opportunity to minister. We have been so cared for and generously provided for in the last month. I still receive a delicious hot dinner every evening at 5:00 pm. I We spent this last weekend in a beautiful New England resort owned by my cousins, being catered to as if we really deserved such treatment. The dearest friend in the world and her husband and children still take care of so many details of daily living for us so that we no longer have to think.  The generosity of our parish family, community and homeschool group have been unimaginable. Thank you all dear people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

Death by Zebra

Grandmother died after being knocked over by zebra on once-in-a-lifetime safari in Kenya

A grandmother died after being knocked down by a zebra on a safari holiday in Kenya.
Eileen Whale, 77, was hit by the animal as it ran away after apparently being disciplined for trying to stick its nose into another holidaymaker's handbag.

She died of medical complications following the fall, an inquest heard today

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

Grave Decisions

The financial downturn has any number of people, pressed to pay bulls, selling their burial plots.

Where Real Estate Is Still Hot

Cemeteries and funeral-property Web sites report a burgeoning marketplace for the sale of burial plots by individuals, many of which have been in families for years. As times get tough, they are now being liquidated to make ends meet.
Web sites such as Grave Solutions and Plot Brokers, which advertise spaces and broker sales of cemetery properties, have also seen an uptick in postings. Caskets-N-More, a Glendora, Calif.-based business that sells funeral products and brokers sales of cemetery properties, reports a doubling of people wanting to sell their plots, to about 20 new postings a month from 10 a year ago.
The apparent increase in sellers of cemetery plots has to do with more than just economic necessity. Changes in how people live and wish to be buried also play a role. Increased mobility means individuals may no longer live near a family plot and would rather sell off unused spaces. And growing acceptance of cremation as an alternative to burial means people realize they may have no need for previously purchased in-ground plots.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

September 22, 2009

Black death death

Professor Malcolm Casadaban, a renowned molecular geneticist at the University of Chicago studied the origins of the Black Death until he died quite quickly from an infection linked to the disease, also called the bubonic plague.  He developed intense flu-like symptoms, was admitted to the hospital but died within 12 hours.

New victim of the Black Death: Professor killed by plague bug he studied

Health officials in the city insisted there was no risk to the public but the professor's colleagues, family and friends have been offered antibiotics as a precaution.

'While the death of this individual researcher is terrible and tragic, there is no indication that his illness spread to anyone else,' said a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

'There is currently no indication of a threat to public health.'

He was working on a more effective vaccine.  What a loss. His family are stunned and shocked.  Condolences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2009

Irving Kristol, R.I.P.

Wall Street Journal

In his early years, Kristol saw that the Marxism which fascinated him and many others at mid-century had no future, and he embraced the ideals of the West, holding them tight for a lifetime. Later as a Democrat, he saw that many of the social welfare policies of the 1960s would fail, and so he undertook a long, unsparing critique of his own party's most cherished ideas. Later still, as a Republican, Kristol realized that his party's economic ideas were moribund, and he turned his energies to leading the pro-growth, "supply-side" revolution that culminated in the historic Reagan Presidency.

To the extent that American politics today consists of two sides—one insisting that the state guide the country forward, the other that the private economy drive the country forward—it is in large part Irving Kristol and his thinkers who defined the order of battle


Washington Post, Godfather of Conservatism

Irving Kristol, 89, a forceful essayist, editor and university professor who became the leading architect of neoconservatism, which he called a political and intellectual movement for disaffected ex-liberals, like himself, who had been "mugged by reality," died Friday at Capital Hospice in Arlington County.....He died of complications from lung cancer, said his son, William Kristol, founder and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.

The elder Kristol founded and edited magazines such as Encounter and the Public Interest, which aimed at an elite audience of political, social and cultural tastemakers. In addition to his professorship at New York University, he advanced his ideas through monthly opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. He was also an editor of Basic Books, a small but distinguished publisher of social science and philosophy.
Through editing, writing and speaking, Mr. Kristol "made it a moral imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas,"
Mr. Kristol and his wife, the Victorian-era historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with a group of sociologists, historians and academics, including Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Richard Pipes and, for a while, Daniel P. Moynihan, emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as prominent critics of welfare programs, racial preferences, tax policy, moral relativism and countercultural social upheavals that they thought were contributing to America's cultural and social decay.

New York Times

The Public Interest writers did not take issue with the ends of the Great Society so much as with the means, the “unintended consequences” of the Democrats’ good intentions. Welfare programs, they argued, were breeding a culture of dependency; affirmative action created social divisions and did damage to its supposed beneficiaries. They placed practicality ahead of ideals. “The legitimate question to ask about any program,” Mr. Kristol said, “is, ‘Will it work?’,” and the reforms of the 1960s and ’70s, he believed, were not working.
Peter Wehner
Irving was a great man, a model and courageous public intellectual, and a giant in the conservative movement. He brought to it enormous intelligence and scholarship, great learning and wisdom, a jolly good sense of humor, and all the right sensibilities. He embodied a conservatism that was principled, sophisticated, and self-confident; one capacious in its spirit; one which demonstrated a deep love for our country and its founders. He was both a scholar and a shrewd political thinker. There was seemingly nothing he could not write about, always well and with wit. He was also — and not incidentally — a marvelous and generous husband, father, and friend.
“To the man who pleases him,” the book of Ecclesiastes says, “God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.”

Irving Kristol must have pleased God. A lot.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2009

"No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow"

At the Manchester Royal Infirmary in England, a Woman bleeds to death after doctor accidentally punctures jugular while inserting a drip - and no blood is available for transfusion.

Just off  the Greek holiday town of Koroni, a British millionaire was found dead next to his luxury yacht after going for a lunchtime swim.

NM man falls to his death while re-enacting a move from the "Ultimate Fighting Championship."

While in Illinois, a woman died on the surgery table after being severely burned in a flash fire.  Apparently this is a rare but continuing problem in operating rooms.  About 550-600 flash fires during surgery occur each year but only one or two die,

Surgical flash fires are most often sparked by electric surgical tools when oxygen builds up under surgical drapes.
But worries have mounted in recent years with increased use of electrosurgical devices and the replacement of cloth hospital drapes with those made of more-flammable, disposable synthetic fabric.

The quote in the title is from the Greek playwright Euripides

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

September 17, 2009

Mary Travers, R.I.P.

When I was young and in high school, Peter, Paul and Mary were the epitome of sophistication and feeling.    On long bus trips, we would sing If I Had a Hammer or Blowin' in the Wind and feel connected to everyone in the country who wanted civil rights for all. 


Boston Globe

Mary Travers, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died yesterday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and had battled leukemia for several years.

They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his “Blowin’ in the Wind’’ at the August 1963 March on Washington.  And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream.

New York Times

Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.

Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival.
They made folk music not just palatable but accessible to a mass audience,” David Hajdu, ... said in an interview. Ms. Travers, he added, was crucial to the group’s image, which had a lot to do with its appeal. “She had a kind of sexual confidence combined with intelligence, edginess and social consciousness — a potent combination,” he said.

London Times

On August 28, 1963, Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary joined King’s civil rights march on Washington and performed from the Lincoln Memorial before he delivered his most famous speech. “When he got to his fourth line,” Travers recalled, “I had an epiphany. I turned to Peter and said, ‘This is history’.” Throughout her life she was immensely proud that King had asked her to hold his child on her lap while he spoke.

Ironically, as Dylan’s success grew, Peter, Paul & Mary’s style began to sound dated. Protest music was all the rage and the trio simply did not sound angry enough.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2009

Killing Granny

 Senior On Icefloe

While I am glad that more attention is being paid to end-of-life discussions and care, I don't think I would title an article in a national magazine The Case of Killing Granny.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

Patrick Swayze, R.I.P.

Patrick Swayze in the final scene of Ghost.

New York Times obit

Patrick Swayze, the balletically athletic actor who rose to stardom in the films “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” and whose 20-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer drew wide attention, died Monday. He was 57.
Mr. Swayze’s cancer was diagnosed in January 2008. Six months later he had already outlived his prognosis and was filmed at an airport, smiling at photographers and calling himself, only half-facetiously, “a miracle dude.”

He even went through with plans to star in “The Beast,” a drama series for A&E. He filmed a complete season while undergoing treatment. Mr. Swayze insisted on continuing with the series. “How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man?” he told The New York Times last October. “You go to work.”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood

Swayze arrived on the scene in a big way in 1983, with a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders.” Distinguishing yourself among the likes of Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Matt Dillon in that film was no small feat. And while all would go on to enjoy very successful careers, none would star in “Road House” and “Red Dawn.”

My definition of a great actor is one who convinces in the role; one who doesn’t take you out of the story with all the tics and technique. By that standard Swayze never disappointed. A trained dancer, his physical abilities sold the action, his sincerity brought heart to the romance and a complete lack of pretension made him accessible — made him something that is all but extinct today: a real-live movie star.

Time is what creates the classic film, not critics or box office, and time has made clear that Swayze made a mark on cinema few might have expected twenty years ago. “Road House,” “Point Break,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” live endlessly on cable television and DVD players everywhere.  They are a immortal part of our culture and … they are Patrick Swayze movies.
We don’t know a whole lot about Swayze’s personal life, which was another big reason to like him, but he was married to the same woman, Lisa Niemi, for 34 years. In the real world what that says about the character of a man is impressive. In Hollywood, it says everything.

Andrew Klavan Patrick Swayze Dude

Patrick Swayze wasn’t a great actor and he wasn’t a great movie star, but he was something even rarer in today’s stable of Hollywood actors.  He was a dude!  And he made good dude films.  Road House, Point Break, Red Dawn, Black Dog. Even when he made chick flicks like Ghost and Dirty Dancing, they were more or less dude friendly because they had a dude in them – as opposed to those so-called romantic comedies where some hapless wimp always has to apologize for being male in the end so he can live sheepishly ever after with the girl of his dreams.

Swayze was just a B-movie guy, I guess, but he was still a much cooler presence than most of today’s top-line stars.  Plus, in Road House, he uttered the line, “Pain don’t hurt,” an immortal piece of movie dialogue if ever there was one.

Anyway, I rarely watch any movie more than once, but I’ll watch Road House and Point Break any old time.  Swayze died of cancer yesterday at 57 and I was sorry to hear it.  I hope and trust he’s in dude heaven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:24 PM | Permalink

Copulating Corpses

There are no words sufficient to describe the depravity of this show. 

Body Worlds plans cadaver show dedicated to sex

German anatomists plan a new show dedicated solely to dead bodies having sex as part of the Body Worlds exhibitions.

Von Hagens has already triggered uproar with a new exhibit which shows just two copulating corpses.

German politicians called the current "Cycle of Life" show charting conception to old age "revolting" and "unacceptable" when it showed in Berlin earlier this year because it included copulating cadavers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2009

Norman Borlaug saved more human lives than any man in history

Norman Borlaug who saved more human lives than any man in history died at the age of 95.  A great man who left a Great Legacy.

Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

 Norman Borlaug

New York Times

his work had a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of people in developing countries. His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history.

Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains.
“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

“When wheat is ripening properly, when the wind is blowing across the field, you can hear the beards of the wheat rubbing together,” he told another biographer, Lennard Bickel. “They sound like the pine needles in a forest. It is a sweet, whispering music that once you hear, you never forget.”
[A]bout half the world’s population goes to bed every night after consuming grain descended from one of the high-yield varieties developed by Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues of the Green Revolution.

“He knew what it was they needed to do, and he didn’t give up,” Mr. Toenniessen said. “He could just see that this was the answer.”

London Telegraph

his efforts to introduce hybrid cereal varieties into agricultural production in Pakistan, India, Mexico and other developing countries are estimated to have saved about a thousand million people from dying of hunger.
more than anyone else, he was responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were once widely predicted.

But Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” was not “green” in the modern sense. High yields demanded artificial fertiliser, chemical pesticides and new soil technology. As a result of this he was vilified by many in the environmental movement in the securely affluent West, some of whom argued that higher food production sustains more people and thus poses a threat to the natural environment.

Wall Street Journal on The man who fed the world.

On the day Norman Borlaug was awarded its Peace Prize for 1970, the Nobel Committee observed of the Iowa-born plant scientist that "more than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world." The committee might have added that more than any other single person Borlaug showed that nature is no match for human ingenuity in setting the real limits to growth.

Borlaug, who died Saturday at 95, came of age in the Great Depression, the last period of widespread hunger in U.S. history. The Depression was over by the time Borlaug began his famous experiments, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with wheat varieties in Mexico in the 1940s. But the specter of global starvation loomed even larger, as advances in medicine and hygiene contributed to population growth without corresponding increases in the means of feeding so many.

Borlaug solved that challenge by developing genetically unique strains of "semidwarf" wheat, and later rice, that raised food yields as much as sixfold. The result was that a country like India was able to feed its own people as its population grew from 500 million in the mid-1960s, when Borlaug's "Green Revolution" began to take effect, to the current 1.16 billion. Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.

In later life, Borlaug was criticized by self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put them athwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back, warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremists against synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and genetically modified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation while damaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone.

Reason magazine reprints an interview with Borlaug in 2000

More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy." As REASON's interview with him shows, he still believes that environmental activists and their allies in international agencies are a threat to progress on global food security. Barring such interference, he is confident that agricultural research, including biotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demand for food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in 2025.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

"Death was God's severe mercy" *Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft , The Ecliipse of the Permanent Things

Death was God's severe mercy, the tourniquet around the wound of sin, to limit sin to 80 years or so. Remove the tourniquet, and history would bleed to death. Imagine the Roman Empire forever. Imagine the Third Reich forever. Imagine America forever. Lewis speaks of our "nightmare civilizations" whirling around themselves in never-ending gyrations of selfishness and despair (in Miracles), and (elsewhere, in Mere Christianity) of eggs that never hatched (by death) and so went rotten. "You can't just be a good egg forever; you must hatch or go bad." Death lets us hatch; artificial immortality would make us go bad forever. Hell incarnate would reign on earth. That would have to be the end of the world. And most geneticists estimate we will have it in 2-300 years (according to Osborn Seagerberg in The Immortality Factor).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:05 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2009

Teardrop memorial in New York harbor

While we haven't been able to erect a memorial at Ground Zero, the Russians gave us a moving sculpture in Bayonne New Jersey, overlooking the New York harbor.  Astonishing that I never knew about it before this week.

 Teardrop Memorial Harbor-1

A Beau Geste: the 9/11 Tear Drop Memorial

The Tear Drop Memorial was created by Georgian/Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and is officially titled "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism" or "The Memorial at Harbor View Park". The monument is located at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, New Jersey, and is lined up to look upon the Statue of Liberty. The persons most likely to see it would be those coming into the harbor by boat.

The monolithic block of vertical, earth-colored stone is over 100 feet high. It appears rent in the center from top to bottom and in the gap is a 40 foot, four ton nickel-plated tear drop. The base of the monument is a multi-faceted onyx pedestal inscribed with the names of all of those that perished on 9-11-01, from Flight 93 in Pennsylvania to the Pentagon to the twin Trade Towers.

The symbolisms of this touching and costly gesture are as profound as those of our adopted First Lady, the Statue of Liberty. The Tear Drop and the Russian people deserve, in spite of whatever else they are, a commensurate acknowledgment of this moving symbol of sympathy. It's a crime that even three years later the Russian's simpatico for our losses has not been widely recognized by America and her leaders.

 Teardrop Memorial 1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

Stone altar falls on man

Man killed in church after stone altar falls on him.

Gunther Link, a devout Catholic, prayed to be saved after he was trapped in a lift – but was killed when he went to church to give thanks and the stone altar fell on him.

Link, 45, died instantly as he was crushed under the ancient 860lb monument in the Weinhaus Church in Vienna, Austria.

Roman Hahslinger, a police spokesman, said: "He was a very religious man and had been scared when he was trapped in the lift and had prayed for release.

"A short while later he was pulled out of the elevator and he went straight to the church to thank God.

"He seems to have embraced a stone pillar on which the stone altar was perched and it fell on him, killing him instantly.

It makes you think when your time has come, it's come, although I am glad he died instantly and in a good place, far better than an elevator .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2009

"Things are going to slide, slide in all directions"

Sarah Capewell encountered the NIS and its respect for a human life in the form of a premature baby and it was devastating.

As her contractions continued, a chaplain arrived at her bedside to discuss bereavement and planning a funeral, she claims.

She said: 'I was sitting there, reading this leaflet about planning a funeral and thinking, this is my baby, he isn't even born yet, let alone dead.'

After his death she even had to argue with hospital officials for her right to receive birth and death certificates, which meant she could give her son a proper funeral.

"Doctors told me it was against the rules to save my premature baby"

Miss Capewell, 23, said doctors refused to even see her son Jayden, who lived for almost two hours without any medical support.

She said he was breathing unaided, had a strong heartbeat and was even moving his arms and legs, but medics refused to admit him to a special care baby unit.

She said he was breathing unaided, had a strong heartbeat and was even moving his arms and legs, but medics refused to admit him to a special care baby unit.

This is the future, sliding in all directions.  I am reminded of Leonard Cohen, the modern day prophet, singer and songwriter who sings The Future in this Youtube video here

From the lyrics

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:56 PM | Permalink

Months to Live

Months to Live  - At the End, Offering Not a Cure but Caring

Most doctors do not excel at delivering bad news, decades of studies show, if only because it goes against their training to save lives, not end them. But Dr. O’Mahony, who works at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, belongs to a class of doctors, known as palliative care specialists, who have made death their life’s work. They study how to deliver bad news, and they do it again and again. They know secrets like who, as a rule, takes it better. They know who is more likely to suffer silently, and when is the best time to suggest a do-not-resuscitate order.
They are tour guides on the road to death, the equivalent of the ferryman in Greek myth who accompanied people across the river Styx to the underworld. They argue that a frank acknowledgment of the inevitability of death allows patients to concentrate on improving the quality of their lives, rather than lengthening them, to put their affairs in order and to say goodbye before it is too late.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 8, 2009

When even the ashes can't be found

When I turned 50 and my mother 80, I decided it was time to fetch Grandma Leah’s ashes from the garage. She had been stored in a rusted Maxwell House can for 37 years, an unworthy purgatory that I felt called for resolution. My mother was perfectly happy to let Grandma’s remains stay there, but hitting the half-century mark made me think about my roots and my own mortality. I knew that I wouldn’t want to end up in the garage, and so I resolved to return my grandmother to her native Ukraine.

Stirring Up the Past

The woman suggested that I visit one last place for a trace of my putative past — the old Jewish burial ground. When she explained to the driver how to get there, he glanced nervously in my direction. We drove up to a housing project with a dirty courtyard that seemed to be a favored spot to walk dogs and drink alcohol.

“Ask someone for directions,” I suggested, thinking we were lost. “It’s here,” he said, avoiding my eyes. “The Soviets built apartments on top of the Jews.”

Right then a babushka approached and pointed to the ground. “The dead are coming up,” she said. “I was walking here a few months ago when it rained, and my foot got stuck. The police came and dug up the bones.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2009

The Global Body Parts Business

Inside a Creepy Global Body Parts Business

The German company Tutogen's business in body parts is as secretive as it is lucrative. It extracts bones from corpses in Ukraine to manufacture medical products, as part of a global market worth billions that is centered in the United States.
In doing so, they reuse almost everything the human body has to offer: bones, cartilage, tendons, muscle fascia, skin, corneas, pericardial sacs and heart valves. In the jargon of the profession, all of this is referred to as tissue.

Bones and tendons, the parts that interest Tutogen the most, are subjected to complex processing. The company degreases and cleans bones, cuts, saws or mills them into the desired shapes, then sterilizes, packages and sells the finished product in more than 40 countries around the world. With a prescription, it is even possible to order Tutogen's products through online pharmacies.
It's a completely different story in the United States. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than a million bone parts are used in transplants every year. In no other country is it possible to make so much money with body parts. If a body were disassembled into its individual parts, then processed and sold, the total proceeds could amount to $250,000 (€176,000). For a single corpse! The US tissue industry generates total revenues of about $1 billion a year, says journalist Martina Keller, a co-author of this article and the author of the German book, "Cannibalized: The Human Corpse as a Resource."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

The "Death Pathway"

From the U.K. leading doctors alarmed that patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely.

Sentenced to death on the NHS.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.  Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

But this approach can also mask the signs that their condition is improving, the experts warn.  As a result the scheme is causing a “national crisis” in patient care....“Forecasting death is an inexact science,”they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death “without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong. “As a result a national wave of discontent is building up, as family and friends witness the denial of fluids and food to patients."

The warning comes just a week after a report by the Patients Association estimated that up to one million patients had received poor or cruel care on the NHS...  The scheme, called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), was designed to reduce patient suffering in their final hours....It has been gradually adopted nationwide and more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England currently use the system.

Under the guidelines the decision to diagnose that a patient is close to death is made by the entire medical team treating them, including a senior doctor. They look for signs that a patient is approaching their final hours, which can include if patients have lost consciousness or whether they are having difficulty swallowing medication.

However, doctors warn that these signs can point to other medical problems....He added that some patients were being “wrongly” put on the pathway, which created a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that they would die.  He said: “I have been practicing palliative medicine for more than 20 years and I am getting more concerned about this “death pathway” that is coming in. It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.".... He said that he had personally taken patients off the pathway who went on to live for “significant” amounts of time and warned that many doctors were not checking the progress of patients enough to notice improvement in their condition.
“Guidelines like the LCP can be very helpful but healthcare professionals always need to keep in mind the individual needs of patients. “There is no one size fits all approach.” The stories told by some of the commenters  - like dragon are truly horrifying.  Another commenter, Andrew Straughan wrote this:

'Whilst sitting through the night in Scarborough by my dying sister's hospital bed six years ago I witnessed a dying, desparately fragile old lady lying prone in a cot, begging for water repeatedly in a faint anguished little cry. This continued for hours. The night staff were a few yards from her bed reading newspapers, playing cards or chatting about trivia. Not one went to this poor soul's bed to touch her hand or speak a word of comfort to her. My sister slept throughout the night as I sat there listening. The memory of such inhuman indifference is etched on one's mind. "
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2009

Remembering the tragedy of Poland

September 1, 1939 by George Marlin

Seventy years ago today, Adolf Hitler started the most horrendous war in the history of mankind by ordering the German Wehrmacht to invade and conquer Poland. The Polish army fought valiantly but they were no match for Germany’s sixty-five highly mechanized divisions and 1.8-million troops.


Hitler, who despised Poland and held that all Poles were subhuman, ordered his invading army to kill “without pity or mercy, all men, women and children of Polish descent or language.” In the first thirty days of occupation, the Wehrmacht destroyed 531 towns and villages and murdered over 16,000 civilians. Hitler’s aim was more than expanding Germany’s borders; he wanted the “annihilation of living forces” by means of extermination and enslavement. “All Poles,” Heinrich Himmler declared, “will disappear from the world.” The Nazi Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, told his henchmen: “The Pole has no rights whatsoever. . . . A major goal of our plan is to finish off as speedily as possible all troublemaking politicians, priests, and leaders who fall into our hands.

 Invasion Poland 2

To successfully eliminate Polish nationalism, which had survived centuries of oppression, the Nazis knew they had to suppress the Church. In the annexed Polish lands, the Nazis were ruthless. Catholic churches, seminaries, monasteries, schools and universities were closed. Five thousand priests and nuns were imprisoned in concentration camps. Over 1,800 priests, 200 monks, 300 nuns and 100 seminarians died in the camps. In the post-war Polish White Book, the government conceded that Catholic life under the Germans was reduced “to what it was at the time of the Catacombs.”
In those catacombs, Karol Wojtyla would become a priest, then cardinal and then pope.

And for forty-five years, as priest, cardinal-archbishop, and pope, he relentlessly pursued a strategy of cultural resistance that eventually undermined Poland’s Communist government, destabilized Soviet domination throughout Eastern Europe, and brought down the Iron Curtain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

Only 50% of funerals led by clery

From Get Religion A Special Place in the Ground

Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today’s longtime religion reporter, had an interesting story recently about the growing number of Americans who are opting out of clergy-led funeral services. It’s not clear what kind of growth in the secular death business we’re talking about — it appears cold, hard numbers aren’t available — but Grossman writes that times have really changed:

“What we’ve found in the past decade is that when you ask people whether they want a minister, people say, ‘Not interested,’ ” says William McQueen, president of his family’s longtime business.

“Today, of all the ceremonies we deal with, I’d say 50% are religious or clergy-led, 20% celebrant-led and 30% are having no ceremony or one led by family,” says McQueen, who becomes president of the Cremation Association of North America at the group’s annual meeting this week in Denver.

Religious funerals were the only available option 25 years ago,  “even if nobody showed up,” McQueen says.

John Reed Sr., president of the National Funeral Directors Association, says 50% of Americans today say they don’t belong to a church and don’t see value in a religious funeral. But “they still want ceremony and celebration at the end of life.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink