June 30, 2012

Grief is not depression

Theodore Dalrymple: Is Grief Always Depression.  The American Psychiatric Association thinks so.

The word “unhappy” has been virtually abolished from the English language. For every person who says “I’m unhappy” there must now be a thousand who say “I’m depressed.” The change in semantics is important: the person who says he is unhappy knows that there is something wrong with his life that he should try to alter if he can; whereas the person who says “I’m depressed” is ill, and it is therefore the responsibility of someone else — the doctor — to make him better.

The APA thinks if you're not done grieving  4 weeks, after you've lost your spouse or your child, you're sick and  seriously depressed.

One may legitimately wonder what kind of human relationships the APA expects people to have: certainly not very deep ones. Indeed, the APA probably would count having deep and lasting relationships as pathological, as a risk factor for “depression” later on when the objects of these morbid relationships die.  Better to keep everything on an even, superficial level; then there will be no cause for grief.  Sorry: depression.

The APA seems to view loving relationships as the British working class used to view teeth: better not to have any, since they only give you trouble in the end. In response to criticism, however, the APA has — according to the editorial — conceded the following: A footnote will be added [to its criteria for the diagnosis of depression] indicating that sadness with some mild depressive symptoms in the face of loss should not necessarily be viewed as major depression.


I for one am sick of the politicization and medicalization of what is normal human nature.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

June 28, 2012

"'It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful.'

Wonderful examples of what could be  in your family's legacy archives.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!' Dad's tear-jerking graduation gift to daughter is a book of messages from every one of her teachers… which took 13 YEARS to collect

For many teenagers, their high school graduation day is the opportunity to ask for a big, extravagant gift from their parents.  What Brenna Martin got was very different. It wasn't a car, a holiday or that piece of jewelry she had always wanted.  Instead, the senior got something much, much more special.  Brenna's father Bryan handed her the most  'moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful' present she had ever had.

 Brennamartin Pla
It was gift that was 13 years in the making which he'd managed to keep hidden the whole time. The copy of Dr Seuss children's classic 'Oh, The Places You'll Go!' is adorned with a series of annotations.  The comments are threaded among the passages of Dr Seuss's well-known rhymes and were written by every adult who has taught Brenna at school, starting with her kindergarten teachers.  Brenna's graduation present has a cash value of less than $20, but to her, it was 'truly priceless.'
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 Brennamartin Pla Book

My early teachers mention my "Pigtails and giggles," while my high school teachers mention my "Wit and sharp thinking.." But they all mention my humor and love for life.

'It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful. I can't express how much I love my dad for this labor of love.'

On second thought, unless you are talented at drawing, you probably won't be drawing a picture of your son every day from tantrums to dentist trips like this woman did, but what a family treasure it is.  Go see the other drawings the talented at her blog Doodlemum.

 Angiestevens1 
 Angiestevens2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

Nora Ephron, R.I.P.

I doubt if there's a single adult in America who hasn't seen and laughed at one of Nora Ephron's movies.  She caught the best of the zeitgeist and ignored the rest which makes her very smart .  If you ever read any of her books, you know she was laugh-out-loud funny.  Those who knew her say she was a wonderful friend.

New York Times Writer and Filmmaker with a Genius for Humor

Nora Ephron, an essayist and humorist in the Dorothy Parker mold (only smarter and funnier, some said) who became one of her era’s most successful screenwriters and filmmakers, making romantic comedy hits like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally…,” died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71.

She was a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director — a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men. Her later box-office success included “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.” By the end of her life, though remaining remarkably youthful looking, she had even become something of a philosopher about age and its indignities.
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Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers. That was no surprise; writing was the family business. Her father, Henry, and her mother, the former Phoebe Wolkind, were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote, among other films, “Carousel,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.”

“Everything is copy,” her mother once said, and she and her husband proved it by turning the college-age Nora into a character in a play, later a movie, “Take Her, She’s Mine.” The lesson was not lost on Ms. Ephron, who seldom wrote about her own children but could make sparkling copy out of almost anything else: the wrinkles on her neck, her apartment, cabbage strudel, Teflon pans and the tastelessness of egg-white omelets.
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She was also fussy about her hair and made a point of having it professionally blow-dried twice a week. “It’s cheaper by far than psychoanalysis and much more uplifting,” Ms. Ephron said.

-Nora+Husband Nickpileggi
Nora and her husband Nick Pileggi

Nora Ephron's Hollywood Ending

And she had a brilliant career, actually several at once, and took risks in all of them. She had two sons and true love. She was a feminist who despised self-pity and self-importance.
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Most of all, Nora was happy. It made her generous, with her friends, with collaborators who needed a screen credit, with younger writers looking for a break — or a party invitation — and even with hairdressers. She invited the two young Russian stylists who blew out her hair to the premiere of “You’ve Got Mail.” She let her friends — and their kids — be extras in her movies. And then took them to dinner at Balthazar during breaks.

It’s hard to be funny without malice, and discontent is so often the flint for humor. Nora turned dross to gold and didn’t hold on to rancor.

Remembering Nora Ephron -- a great New York dame

By John Podhoretz

Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday night at the age of 71, may have been the quintessential Manhattanite of her time. The island was her muse, and she its great romanticized.

When the world began to think of New York City as a crime-riddled sewer, Ephron cast a glorious glow over it and kept the glow going until the city could restore the glow to itself.

Down on Houston Street, Ephron the screenwriter had Meg Ryan mimic a sexual climax while the crowd at Katz’s Deli looked on in “When Harry Met Sally.” At the 91st Street garden in Riverside Park, Ephron the writer-director had Ryan discover to her delight that her enemy Tom Hanks had been her secret e-mail crush all along in “You’ve Got Mail.” And a Baltimorean and a Seattleite magically found each other at the top of the Empire State Building at the unforgettable conclusion of “Sleepless in Seattle.”

She loved it, every inch of it, and why not? Has any city ever been better to anyone? Arriving here as a Wellesley grad in 1962, she became an unparalleled success in every realm of modern media.

The London Telegraph  Nora Ephron: The heroine of her life, not the victim

When Nora Ephron was asked to write her autobiography in six words, she put: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.” (Her third, final and happiest marriage was to author and scriptwriter Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the screenplays to Goodfellas and Casino). Her mother, characteristically, had already beaten her to it in half the words: “Everything is copy,” she said. It was a maxim by which Ephron lived her whole life.
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But it was the disintegration of her second marriage, to the investigative reporter Carl Bernstein, who broke the news of Watergate, that really tested her resilience. ...“Everyone always asks, 'Was he mad at you for writing the book?’ And I have to say, 'Yes. Yes he was. He still is.’ It is one of the most fascinating things to me about the whole episode: he cheated on me, and then got to behave as if he was the one who had been wronged because I wrote about it!”
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Heartburn was a bestseller. Ephron wrote a screen adaptation that starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, and went on to become a successful screenwriter and director, establishing herself as a cultural weather-maker with movies such as Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and, latterly, Julie and Julia.
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Above all,” said Ephron, in an address to the graduates of Wellesley in 1996, “be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
She did it herself, and with her journalism, her fiction, her films and her funny, courageous essays, she taught a generation of women young enough to be her daughters how to do it, too.

Business Insider has put together what it considers her Greatest Quotes & Movie Moments.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:44 PM | Permalink

Announcement. UPDATED

For the next few days, I will not be posting so that a long-delayed migration to Word Press can begin.    As soon as I am able I will be back with a new blog that aggregates posts from Business of Life and Legacy Matters on one page.  The new name, The Business of Life and Legacy. 

Your bookmarks and RSS feeds will still work for the two separate blogs, and there will be added new RSS feeds for the combined blog.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE:  Well, I'm told the database migration is completed but the new look isn't quite ready yet.  Still, I can post while people continue to work backstage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2012

Terry Teachout on his long goodbye to his mother

Terry Teachout on The long goodbye.  A beautifully honest piece.

Sooner or later, the approach of death imposes an iron economy of illusion. The euphemisms that once sustained you start to cloy, and at length a time comes when you can no longer bear to speak or hear them. I saw it happen to a friend of mine who was dying by inches of a degenerative disease. One day he told me that he could no longer stand the company of optimists who urged him to "think positive." He knew he was dying and that the end would be terrible, and his only comfort, such as it was, came from being able to talk about it honestly with those of his friends who were willing to hear him do so. Not many were.

I remembered that conversation when the bottom fell out of my mother's life last December. She, too, was dying by inches, but none of us, including her, had been ready to face the truth until she was assaulted by pain of the most savage and unrelenting kind, an agony to which all normal remedies were unequal. Then, on the night after Christmas, she looked at me and said, matter-of-factly, "I think I'm going to die."
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What is true for the dying turns out to be no less true for those who love them. Set aside the language of hope and you soon start speaking in another tongue, one that is frank enough to horrify innocent outsiders who don't know what it's like to watch a parent die. I loved my mother no less after I accepted the awful fact of her coming death, but I also caught myself saying things out loud that not so long before I wouldn't have allowed myself even to think. First came It's time, then She'd be better off dead, and eventually If she dies tomorrow, I won't have to reschedule our flight to California. It was crass and callous and I hated myself for it, above all because I knew that it was nothing more than the plain truth.

Try as you will, you can't ignore the daily necessities. As W.H. Auden wrote of human suffering in Musée des Beaux Arts, "It takes place/While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along." Barely an hour after my father died, I took my mother to a Burger King around the corner from the hospital, where we ordered Whoppers and chatted lovingly about his quirks and foibles. He was dead, after all, and we hadn't eaten the whole day long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

Create peace and dignity at the end of life

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy Create peace and dignity at the end of life

A huge gap exists between what Americans want for end-of-life care and what they actually receive. 90% of people wish to die at home, yet nearly 80% of us actually die in institutions (hospitals and nursing homes.)

So, how did we end up here? How have we tolerated such an extreme disconnect between our desires and our reality? Such a profound disconnect is fundamentally un-American.
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This crisis was unintentionally created by our modern beliefs and practices regarding death and dying.
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1, Death has become a “medical event” that must be treated in a medical facility.
2, We have become hopeful that high technology can “cure” us of death or at least delay it for a later or more appropriate time.
3. We don’t talk about death socially, so therefore, no one plans for it (ex: living wills, powers of attorney, etc).
4. We have lost deep connectedness and intimacy with others in the modern world. This translates into a scramble to keep the actively dying alive at all costs in efforts to gain time for creating closure and saying the things which need to be said.

These four issues have created this very real social crisis and they contribute to the strain that exists within the Medicare and Medicaid systems.

So, now I ask you: How do we solve the 90-80 dilemma? How do we find a way to allow those who desire it, to pass away in the peace and comfort of their own homes, surrounded by those who love them most; instead of dying alone, in an ICU, in the middle of the night, or in a nursing home.

Here are my 4 recommendations to solve the 90-80 dilemma:

1. Take a natural view of death. Understand that death is a natural event that can usually be comfortably and peacefully managed at home or in a pleasant hospice setting.
2. Understand that the most appropriate use of medical technology at the end of life is the aggressive treatment of pain or any uncomfortable symptoms, and not the selection of medical technology that artificially prolongs the dying process such as ventilators, ICU admissions, and CPR.
3. We must effectively move from “high tech” to “high touch” medicine at the end of life.
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4. we must discover the power and gifts inherent in the end-of-life period. In the face of the sure knowledge of coming death, an emotional window of opportunity opens—love may be freely expressed, old grudges may fall away in insignificance, and closure may be obtained that remained elusive at other times of life. We must focus on creating quality of time at the end of life so that these gifts may be enjoyed.

In another post, she tells a story about decision-regret, "I should have taken him home".

She was shaking her side to side, staring into the distance down the hall. “He just wanted to die at home.”

“We all do,” I said. Quoting medical literature, I explained, “90 percent of us want to die in our own homes, but nearly 80 percent us die in hospitals or nursing homes. Whenever I talk to families in this room like you guys, the majority of them wish they had made different choices a few weeks or even months before. The problem is that we doctors don’t speak the truth. We don’t tell people where they really are in curve of life, so you don’t have the knowledge and resources to make the decisions to get your loved one home for the dying process. The medical system has failed you and it has failed Mr. Barnes tonight. I am keeping him alive with my machines, in a state and in a place that neither of you wanted; but you were never asked the right questions so that you could make the right plans. I am very sorry.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 PM | Permalink

June 14, 2012

The Last Moment Robot

'You are not alone, you are with me': The Last Moment Robot, designed to offer soothing words of comfort to dying patients

Imagine for a moment you are lying in a sterile hospital bed, in the last few quiet moments of your life, taking your final breaths.

A smooth white robot starts gently rubbing your arm with a swing-saw motion and then, with a metallic voice, says: 'I am the Last Moment Robot. I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on Earth.

'I am sorry that your family and friends can't be with you right now, but don't be afraid. I am here to comfort you. You are not alone, you are with me. Your family and friends love you very much, they will remember you after you are gone. '

Far too creepy.  Thank God it's only an art project.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

"Simple and cheap"

That's what Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wanted for his burial.  His daughter explains what happened in the funeral home.

With my father's directives firmly in mind, we planned our trip to the funeral parlor to pick out a coffin. We had chosen Gawler's Funeral Home in Washington, D.C., recommended as a place used by many government officials [now owned by SCI]. Our group included three family members—my brother, my step-brother, and myself—and two Supreme Court Justices—Byron White and William Brennan.
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The casket room was elegantly appointed. The carpeting, wall paneling and piped in music set a tone for coffin shopping in undisputed good taste. On entering, one's eye was immediately drawn to the extreme left wall where a superbly crafted dark wood coffin, softly spot-lighted to show the fine wood grain, was perched high on a velvet-draped dais. It looked like a throne coffin. However, we were steered counter clockwise, starting our search at the right. The caskets were arranged head to toe in a semi-circle leading up to the throne coffin, and it was obvious that we were going from least to most expensive.

The first coffin we came to—the cheap-est—was covered with pink organza, pink satin bows, with a pink ruffled skirt around the bottom. Tasteless and frilly, it seemed totally out of place.
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We moved to another emotional dimension—common at wakes—going from a deep grieving sadness to an almost playful mood. Right there, in that elegant room, we knew that together we could do one last thing for my father. No one was going to talk us out of cheap! When pressed, the coffin salesman allowed that the throne coffin cost thousands of dollars. That settled that.
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To the salesman's horror, Justice White began to scrutinize the first pink organza coffin and then asked what was under the frills. The salesman said it was just a plain, unfinished pine box. Then someone asked about the most expensive cloth-covered casket. That, too, was a plain pine box. When asked the difference between the boxes, the salesman—now completely befuddled—whispered that the more expensive had a "better shape." We looked and thought the shapes were identical.

Huddling for a final conference, some-one asked, "Shall we get the pink, the cheapest?" and we all gave a resounding "YES." We said we would buy the pink for $165 with the cloth stripped off. The salesman said that was impossible, it would look terrible. We, however, wanted to see for ourselves since this was our coffin of choice. First one of us pulled away a little cloth to take a peek, then another ripped more forcefully, and finally we all started ripping off the fabric with careless abandon. Off came the bows, the coffin skirt, and all but a few patches of stubbornly glued pink organza. There stood a perfectly fine plain pine box. The debris littered the elegant carpet, but we were practically euphoric. We had followed my father's directive almost to a tee, with added bonus of deflating pretensions in this very pretentious room.
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Dean Sayre of the National Cathedral made a final request in the spirit of my father's wishes. He asked that at the funeral we have the casket displayed without the American flag or flowers on top of it. He, as my father, had long been concerned about the excessive cost of burying the dead and the financial burden this put on living loved ones. He wanted people to see that the cost of a coffin did not symbolize the abiding love of the living for the dead, nor did it reflect the stature of a man.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

'Pillaging, plundering and looting' a $162 million estate in probate

Like the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, litigation over a will consumed years and exhausted its entire worth.

Entrepreneur's $162m estate 'entirely eaten up by lawyers' after 26-year court battle over his will

Mr D'Addario, from Trumbull, Connecticut left his estate to his wife, three daughters and two sons.

After more than a quarter of a century of legal tangles in the state's probate courts, it has been claimed that most of the wealth has disappeared, according to the Hartford Courant.

The businessman was head of D'Addario Industries in Connecticut and had been on his way to inspect an Illinois waste treatment plant when his twin-engine plane came down killing him and four others in icy weather conditions.

The Hartford Courant reports on this case that spent 25 years in probate.

D'Addario's oldest son David and the Cadle Corp, which has sought payment of about $3.1 million from the estate over the decades. The Cadle lawsuit seeks to settle some of that, charging that D'Addario's millions evaporated in years of "plundering, pillaging and looting.''
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As recently as last fall, Probate Judge Joseph Egan, who took over the case in 2010 after a previous judged recused himself, declared that "this case should have been settled a long time ago,'' according to the Cadle Company lawsuit. Egan said it was "mind boggling" that the estate had remained open and unsettled for 26 years. Egan, through an aide, declined to comment for this column.

The Cadle suit alleges that "there has been no meaningful judicial review" of the case "for over 20 years."
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The lack of oversight and attention by the probate court has allowed a $162 million estate to virtually disappear, according to lawyers for Cadle, which purchased some of the debt owed to a New Haven bank and has long sought payment from the D'Addario estate.

For years, the D'Addario file in probate was sealed, which prevented Cadle's lawyers from examining the estate. When it was opened last fall, lawyers for Cadle say they found it insolvent.

"What kind of country do we live in when you can't even look at a court file," said Ed Taiman, a Hartford lawyer for Cadle. "This has changed my whole opinion of the probate system. It makes me very wary of what goes on in probate courts."

No doubt many lawyers sent their kids to college and graduate school on the fees they earned.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

Death by eating

Obese mother who refused to stop eating after having gastric bypass choked to death on food that couldn't fit into her stomach

Dianne Bernadette Cooper-Clarke, 64, died after food clogged her throat and stopped her from breathing.  She had undergone gastric bypass surgery but kept it secret from her family and started eating too much after the operation.
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Pathologist Hugh Jones, from the Royal Cornwall Hospital, carried out a post-mortem examination and said a back-log of food had stopped her breathing…'The tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach was swollen and food had built up all the way to the throat' he said.

'There was too much food in there. Doctors found no evidence of cancer and experts confirmed the gastric operation was carried out properly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

June 9, 2012

"She liked her hair flowing in the wind…now she's dead"

 Larson Killed No Helmet

Mother's heartbreak as daughter, 22, dies in motorcycle crash without a helmet

A Minnesota woman died of severe head injuries on Wednesday when she was thrown off her motorcycle and hit by an SUV.Brittany Larson, 22, was not wearing a helmet when she hit road debris and was thrown into the path of the large vehicle on Interstate 694 in Ramsey County.

Her devastated mother, Inge Black, is now pushing the state's lawmakers to force motorcyclists to wear helmets, claiming her daughter would have been saved had she been wearing one.

Ms Black said she had argued with her 'extremely feisty daughter' about getting a helmet prior to the fatal crash but she had resisted.  Young people 'think they are infallible,' said Ms Black.  'She liked her long hair flowing, and now I've lost my daughter.'

Her daughter was wearing flip-flops on her ride home to White Bear Lake from her new clerk's job in Columbia Heights. 'She wasn't dressed properly for the bike,' Ms Black said.

If she had worked in an emergency room or seen one crash, I've no doubt she would have worn a helmet. 

Condolences to her family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:36 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2012

San Francisco beach lined with tombstones to prevent erosion

San Francisco beach lined with 100-year-old tombstones of those whose families were too poor to pay for graves to be moved to new cemetery

A woman walking along a San Francisco beach found an eerie surprise when she realized that one of the rocks along the shoreline was in fact a tombstone.

Teresa Trego was not the first person to spot old tombstones next to the small pebbles along Ocean Beach.

 Tombstone Sfran Beach

While there are no longer bodies at the site, it once was used as a cemetery and the tombstones were left to help stave off erosion in the early 1900s.

It's kind of poignant but it's also kind of what San Francisco's all about: we're a small town, we reuse everything,' Ms Trego said.

In the late 1800s, people in the burgeoning city of San Francisco set up a cemetery at Laurel Hill,  which was then considered far out from the beginnings of the city. San Francisco Bay reports that as the urban area grew, however, the city and the families of the deceased moved their bodies further inland to Colma, but left the tombstones in place.

'Golden Gate was a cemetery where people weren't necessarily wealthy, and so those people and their descendants were less likely to have the means to move the gravestones back down to the new graves,' one park official told Fox News.

I doubt that explanation.  If families had the means to excavate the bodies, they would take the tombstones as well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

"The holy retreat that led to an ugly death"

Mysterious Buddhist Retreat in the Desert Ends in Grisly Death

BOWIE, Ariz. — The rescuers had rappelled from a helicopter, swaying in the brisk April winds as they bore down on a cave 7,000 feet up in a rugged desert mountain on the edge of this rural hamlet. There had been a call for help. Inside, they found a jug with about an inch of water, browned by floating leaves and twigs. They found a woman, Christie McNally, thirsty and delirious. And they found her husband, Ian Thorson, dead.
Related

The puzzle only deepened when the authorities realized that the couple had been expelled from a nearby Buddhist retreat in which dozens of adherents, living in rustic conditions, had pledged to meditate silently for three years, three months and three days. Their spiritual leader was a charismatic Princeton-educated monk whom some have accused of running the retreat as a cult.

Strange tales come out of the American desert: lost cities of gold, bandit ambushes, mirages and peyote shamans. To that long list can now be added the story of the holy retreat that led to an ugly death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

Fahrenheit 451 was one of the most influential books I ever read.  Only on his death, did I realize how many of his books I haven't read and can look forward to.

New York Times obituary Brought Mars to Earth with a Lyrical Majesty

Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

 Bradbury 1997 Booksigning

…By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century,

More than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages. They include the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
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Though his books became a staple of high school and college English courses, Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He went so far as to attribute his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway . He paid homage to them in 1971 in the essay “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated From Libraries.”

Mr. Bradbury referred to himself as an “idea writer,” by which he meant something quite different from erudite or scholarly. “I have fun with ideas; I play with them,” he said. “ I’m not a serious person, and I don’t like serious people. I don’t see myself as a philosopher. That’s awfully boring.”

He added, “My goal is to entertain myself and others.”
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While Mr. Bradbury championed the space program as an adventure that humanity dared not shirk, he was content to restrict his own adventures to the realm of imagination. He lived in the same house in Los Angeles for more than 5o years, rearing four daughters with his wife, Marguerite, who died in 2003. For many years he refused to travel by plane, preferring trains, and he never learned to drive.

In 2004, President George W. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts.

Washington Post obituary

Ray Bradbury, a boundlessly imaginative novelist who wrote some of the most popular science-fiction books of all time, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and who transformed the genre of flying saucers and little green men into literature exploring childhood terrors, colonialism and the erosion of individual thought, died June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
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His body of works, which continued to appear through recent years to terrific reviews, encompassed more than 500 titles, including novels, plays (“Dandelion Wine,” adapted from his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel), children’s books and short stories. His tales were often made into films, including the futuristic story of a book-burning society (director Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” in 1966), a suspense story about childhood fears (“Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983) and the more straightforward alien-attack story (“It Came From Outer Space” in 1953).

 Fahrenheit-451

About Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury said

Many observers linked the anti-book-burning message and that “Fahrenheit 451” was published at a peak moment of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-Wis.) anti-communist crusade. Mr. Bradbury said “Fahrenheit 451” was not necessarily about top-down censorship.

“The real threat is not from Big Brother, but from little sister [and] all those groups, men and women, who want to impose their views from below,” he told the Times of London in 1993. “If you allow every minority to grab one book off the shelf you’ll have nothing in the library.”
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He never learned to drive and grew compulsively wary of the potential dangers of modern mechanized life; he took his first plane trip in 1982, and only then after drinking three double martinis.
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I can’t name a writer who’s had a more perfect life,” Mr. Bradbury told the New York Times in 1983. “My books are all in print, I’m in all the school libraries, and when I go places I get the applause at the start of my speech.”

In a 2009 interview, Ray Bradbury said Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted.  We, Not Government, Are Enslaving Ourselves.

Ray Bradbury, in a 2009 interview with LA Weekly at his Cheviot Hills home, explained with gusto a fact that shocked millions of fans: Fahrenheit 451 was not a warning about government mind control. The world got that wrong. His warning was, we are doing it to ourselves -- enslaved to glowing screens.

The charming elder of sci-fi began divulging in 2007 that, read deeply, Fahrenheit 451 predicted TV's mastery of humans. Written in 1953, it foresaw "flat" panels on walls that would mesmerize, isolate and produce atrophied attention spans and minds. He was a brilliant futurist, six decades early in seeing digital isolation, smartphone addiction, gaming addiction:


The Telegraph obituary has a good discussion of his novels

This reputation was cemented by Fahrenheit 451, his first novel proper, which took its title from the ignition point of paper. Set in a dystopian future in which books are banned, it followed the rebellion into reading of a book-burning “fireman”, and his final escape to a pastoral community of exiles who are named for the titles of the books they have memorized. Bradbury, who completed the novel in nine days in the Powell library, often wrote of the importance of reading and frequently made appearances (for which he never charged a fee) in public libraries, which he thought more important than universities. The book became a staple of school reading lists and was stylishly filmed by François Truffaut in 1966.

London Telegraph, Ray Bradbury imbued alien landscapes with the green grass of home

Also in the Telegraph Tim Stanley, Ray Bradbury's alien worlds were all too human, which is why science fiction remains so popular.

The death of Ray Bradbury has led to an outpouring of grief and praise. President Obama said that his “gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world,” while director Steven Spielberg called him “my muse.” Stephen King captured the man’s work best when he told the Hollywood Reporter, “The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.” Bradbury deserves all these accolades and more, and they attest to the new status that science fiction enjoys in the West. Something that was once the preserve of geeks and cyber freaks is now über cool.

Ray Bradbury wrote modern myths, not science fiction

Stefan Kanfer on The Nonagenarian Whiz Kid

Young writers who asked for advice received the same kind of Midwest aphorisms he had uttered from the beginning: “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

Virginia Postrel on Bradbury's Power of Memory

When I was in high school, I chose a passage from "Fahrenheit 451" to memorize and recite as a literary interpretation exercise in a speech class. Nearly four decades later, only fragments remain. The most important is this one:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
---
When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. A
nd when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.

Ray Bradbury was only 33 when he published that standard for a life well lived. Over the next six decades, he lived up to it.

Novelist.  Poet. Visionary.  America's best-loved science fiction writer was also a kindly mentor

I have a letter from Bradbury written on the day he returned, by sea, to America from Paris. It was in response to a batch of my students’ work which I had sent him. He wrote:

Thanks for your kind letter and all the enclosed material from your warm bright students. I deeply appreciate having all these to read and sat down on my return from France this day Sunday, July 28th, to read and enjoy every one. Bless you all. What a fine gift to receive on my Homecoming! I send you my love and the best hope for all of your futures.

Yours with gratitude.

Ray Bradbury

Also appreciated the art work.

RB

 Raybradbury Books

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

Dead woman sets crematorium ablaze

Dead obese woman had so much body fat she set the building on fire during her cremation

Austrian crematorium officials have blamed a deceased woman's obesity for causing a blaze which had to be tackled by firefighters.  Firemen in the southern city of Graz were covered in thick sticky soot as they tried to prevent the blaze from taking hold of the building.

The case has been widely reported in Austrian media, including in the ORF - the country's equivalent of our BBC - and has ignited calls for a weight limit on bodies to protect against future fires.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink