December 19, 2012

Thanatotic Therapy

This is a new one for me.

To be and not to be: Thanatotic Therapy

Reuters photographer Sheng Li reports on “death experience therapy” at Ruoshui Mental Health Clinic in Shenyang, China:
Then I met 42-year-old Mr. Yang, who had booked his therapy appointment for that day. During the psychological preparation talk, I learned that Yang had lost his mother when he was only 11 months old. Lacking maternal love and constantly being insecure in his childhood made him unable to cope with the pressure of work and daily life, and thus he became profoundly pessimistic.

With his wife’s accompaniment, he followed the therapist’s instructions and got in the coffin while the funeral music began. Maybe it was the music – I found myself completely absorbed in the atmosphere, and felt somewhat sad during the entire process. Mr. Yang told me later that for a few seconds he really felt as if he were dead inside the coffin, and his desire to keep on living became stronger. And when he heard his wife reading a letter to him, he cried. He said that it was so strange that when he was “dead,” he actually felt closer to his wife and loved ones.

Since the clinic’s opening in 2009 more than one thousand people have “attended their own funerals”, as it were, each one lasting between four and five hours, during which the “patient” lies in the coffin listening to eulogies prepared by family and friends. Tang Yulong, a therapist at the clinic, says many burst into tears upon their “resurrection”.
A slightly different (and less expensive) form of “coffin therapy” can be found in Eastern Europe, where one coffin maker allows patrons to settle in and “slowly get used to eternity”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

Aloha Daniel Inouye

 Older Inouye

NYT  Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s Quiet Voice of Conscience in Senate, Dies at 88

Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who went to Washington at the birth of his state in 1959, dominated public life in the Hawaiian islands for more than 50 years and became a quiet voice of national conscience during the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair, died on Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 88.

Daniel Inouye won wide admiration for his patience and persistence as a member of the Senate Watergate committee in 1973.
A statement by his Washington office said he had died of respiratory complications at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His last word was “aloha,” the statement said.

The Daily Mail Senator Daniel Inouye, who played key role in Watergate investigation, dies at age 88

Born September 7, 1924, to immigrant parents in Honolulu, Inouye was 17 and dreaming of becoming a surgeon when Japanese planes flew over his home to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changing the course of his life.

In 1943, Inouye volunteered for the Army and was assigned to the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which earned the nickname 'Go For Broke' and was one of the most decorated units of the war. Inouye rose to the rank of captain and earned the Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Star. Many of the 22 veterans who received Medals of Honor in 2000 had been in the 442nd.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is shown in uniform when he was a member of the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team
Unlike the families of many of his comrades in arms, Inouye's wasn't subjected to the trauma and indignity of being sent by the U.S. government during the war to internment camps for Japanese Americans.

'It was the ultimate of patriotism,' Inouye said at a 442nd reunion. 'These men, who came from behind barbed wire internment camps where the Japanese-Americans were held, to volunteer to fight and give their lives. … We knew we were expendable.'
Inouye said he didn't feel he had any choice but to go to war.

Ace of Spades

His long Senate career began in 1963 (date corrected) but was also a highly decorated WWII veteran.

 Young Inouye

His Medal of Honor citation:

Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

He was shot, then lost an arm to a grenade, all while continuing to attack the enemy and lead his men…American hero.

Day by day we lose more of these great Americans, thankfully new generations of American heroes continue to step forward to continue the tradition of excellence and honor.

RIP Senator, from a grateful nation.

[UPDATE] Inoyue didn't just throw grenades at the Germans, he threw one after he lost his arm…by prying it out of the hand on his nearly amputated arm.

"I looked at it, stunned and disbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore," Inouye wrote in his 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington," written with Lawrence Elliott.

Inouye wrote that he pried the grenade out of his right hand and threw it at the German gunman, who was killed by the explosion. He continued firing his gun until he was shot in the right leg and knocked down the hillside. Badly wounded, he ordered his men to keep attacking and they took the ridge from the enemy.

Holy SHIT.

Added: Inouye was featured in Ken Burns "The War". An amazing reminder that some people loved America when America didn't always love them. I'm always awed by the stories of men like Inouye and black WWII vets who served, fought and often died for a country they were not always able to participate in fully. They knew that the promise of America was real and would be kept someday. They fought to ensure that it has been.

Daniel Inouye, Long-Serving Hawaii Senator and War Hero, Is Dead at 88, an appreciation by David Graham.

With Inouye's death, the Senate -- and the nation -- lose more than just a long-serving senator. His death signals the end of an era for his state, too. It's tough to overstate the association between Inouye and his home state. Not only was his last word "Aloha," he also represented Hawaii in Congress -- first as a representative, from 1959 to 1963, and then as a senator -- for the archipelago's entire history as a state.
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As a high-school student, Inouye witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor:

I was preparing to go to church. December 7, 1941 was a Sunday and as we do every Sunday we got ready to go to church. I was just putting on my necktie and listening to the music. All of a sudden the disc jockey stopped the music and started screaming, yelling and screaming. The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor and for a moment I thought this was another replay of Orson Welles, but then he kept on screaming and yelling and so, I took my father and I said let's go out on the street and we went out.
Looked towards Pearl Harbor and there were puffs, dark puffs of anti-aircraft fire and then suddenly overhead three aircraft flew. They were gray in color with red dots -- the Japanese symbol -- and I knew that it was no play, it was real.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2012

"Just because you are dead, you should not be ­deprived of the life-enhancing power of music."

New coffin features in-built sound system

A Swedish inventor has created a musical coffin - with an in-built stereo sound ­system.

Fredrik Hjelmquist says his CataCombo Sound System is the ideal gift for music lovers who do not want to rest in peace.

It allows people to compile their own personal playlist before they die so their ­favorite music can be streamed into their grave.

The £18,500 system even allows relatives to update the songs for their dearly departed via Spotify and a Catatomb app, using a touchscreen built into the headstone.

The music is piped into the coffin via two-way front speakers, four-inch mid bass drivers, "divine" tweeters and "a hell-of-an-eight-inch subwoofer", its maker says.

They are all powered by a 2.1 amp and fine-tuned to the coffin's unique interior acoustic space, which is fitted with an external cooling system so they do not overheat.

The system is also completely soundproofed so it does not wake anyone in the neighborhood.

Mr Hjelmquist, 48, said: "This is genuine - I've already got my own ready, although I'm hoping I don't have to use it for a few years yet.

"Just because you are dead, you should not be ­deprived of the life-enhancing power of music.

"This is designed to allow customers to embrace their passion for music, in this life and the next. Hi-fi is my biggest passion in life, and I will take it to the grave."

Delusional, but I bet there will be a few who buy it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

Why I keep the dearly departed in my address book

Edward Zuckerman on Why I keep the dearly departed in my address book

I look at the names on the little screen and remember. Some were first entered when Nixon was president and have been faithfully and laboriously transferred a dozen times .
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They are an eclectic list, death’s random choices. A famous restaurateur. My cousin Henry, who somehow rode out the Holocaust in Bucharest and died years later in Israel. The sister-in-law of my partner in the killer-bee honey business. A college friend who became mentally ill and suffered paranoid delusions and, I was told, died literally of fright.
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Over the years, I have kept my address list partly up-to-date, dutifully deleting several entries upon hearing bad news — an uncle who wore out at age 96; a college roommate who collapsed suddenly, horribly, unexpectedly, at 55; a Jamaican woman who cleaned my apartment when I lived in Queens 30 years ago. But now, as I consider completing my housecleaning by deleting those numbers, I realize I not only want to leave them untouched; I want to reinstate those previously erased.

I will never call any of those people again. I do not need their e-mail addresses …. But deleting the entries of the dead feels wrong, an irrevocable step toward forgetting them entirely, almost akin to killing them a second time. Gone, and then gone again.

There is also a selfish motive here. Remembering these people means remembering me. How I knew them, where I met them, what I was doing when their paths crossed mine. Every one of those names keeps some little piece of my own life alive

I've been doing the very same thing for the past several years and, often, when I come across a name, I say a quick prayer for the repose of their souls.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2012

4 days left before the Mayan doomsday, what to read?

Despite the fact that Maya calendars actually predict that life will go on,  there's a rush on for bomb-proof survival bunkers for those who believe Only 4 days to go until the Mayan Doomsday

Too late now to get one now, so the next question is what shall we read to learn how we should act?  NPR suggests 3 books to read before the end of the world

Decameron  by Giovanni Boccaccio

A 14th century allegory about 10 Florentines who hole up in a secluded villa to flee the Black Death, entertaining each other with endless stories, the Decameron offers literature's first and perhaps best answer to the question of what to do while waiting to die. Boccaccio's answer? Stay up all night, tell stories, make jokes and ignore what's coming.

On The Beach by Nevil Shute

…deeply felt portrait of an ensemble of heroes in southern Australia, waiting for the radiation cloud unleashed by a nuclear exchange to reach their shores. Stubbornly, heroically, they cling to their humanity — to politeness and small talk, to hunting and fishing and car racing, to family and friends and the possibility of love. The moral center is Cmdr. Dwight Towers, an American submarine captain — and now the de facto admiral of the U.S. Navy — who refuses to abandon his post, and refuses even a sexual liaison out of fealty to his wife, back home in Connecticut and certainly dead.

The Children Of Men by P. D. James

Here the British author P.D. James imagines the world in 2021, when mankind has lost the ability to reproduce. With no new generations being born, civilization is in a long holding pattern, waiting to die off, and James examines what happens to government, to the art of medicine and to human relationships. It's one of the master detective writer's rare forays outside her genre; it's also rare how successfully the movie version adapts, and even deepens, the book's tone of simmering violence and melancholy. (It may just be the casting of Clive Owen, who radiates those two qualities).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2012

The Best of All Summers

A lovely story, The Best of All Summers .  We all have lovely stories if only we write them down to preserve and to share.

“Hey Paul, look what I’ve found, the Cavern has little people living under the stairs. What are you doing here, son?”

I told him I was waiting on the band and that my Dad was coming to get me.

“And what band would that be son?”

I shrugged and the man seemed to find that funny. His pal, Paul came over to have a look at me.

“You’re right John, that is one of the little people. You’ve got to be lucky to see them” and then he rubbed my head.

John said it was his band that was playing and I said I was sorry. He said not as sorry as he was and asked did I want to come to their dressing room?  Although on second thoughts, John said, there was probably more room under the stairs.

So I went with John and Paul and met the other two, George and Pete. They were all fooling around and didn’t seem to be in anyway nervous. John asked me what I wanted to do “That is, when you stop being one of the little people.”

I told him I wanted to be a writer and he said that was probably the best job in the world next to being in a band, especially his band, and he went into his jacket and gave me his pen.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:41 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2012

His self-written obituary used too soon

 Christopher Weigl Obit Too Soon

Boston University student killed in bike accident wrote his own obituary just three months earlier

A university student who was killed after being struck by a tractor-trailer while cycling to a lecture chillingly wrote his own obituary for a class assignment just three months ago.

Boston University photojournalism pupil Christopher Weigl, from Southborough in Massachusetts, died on Thursday after colliding with the vehicle in Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.

In September the 23-year-old, who was the fifth cyclist to be killed in a road traffic accident in the city this year, wrote his own obituary as part of a class assignment.

In the obituary the former eagle scout, spoke about his passion for photography and love for the outdoors lifestyle.
He said that 'he cemented his love for photojournalism' during a trip to southeast Asia after finishing at Skidmore College.

The accomplished clarinet player gained the opportunity after enlisting with the volunteer organization Operation Groundswell. He was given  the chance to uncover stories and assist with projects in both Cambodia and Thaila
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One of his professors, Mitchell Zuckoff, gave Mr Weigl the obituary writing assignment on the first day of a feature writing class.
According to the Boston Globe Zuckoff says he uses the assignment to give students the opportunity to express themselves and for him to find out more about those he is going to teach.

Of course he never envisaged that the obituary would be used so soon after it was written.

Click link for full obituary.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

Wave of grave robberies in Paris

Paris hit by wave of street muggings and grave robberies

Austerity-struck Paris has been hit by a wave of street muggings and grave robberies with thieves prepared to exhume bodies to steal gold and jewelry.

Last week, police in the French capital arrested three people as part of a widening grave robbery investigation.

There was further public outrage after two masked intruders shot dead a 52-year old precious metal worker when he tried to stop them stealing gold from his foundry in the chic central Parisian district of Le Marais.

Police said sky-high market prices for precious metals are acting as a magnet for thieves with scant regard for the living or the dead.
In Pantin cemetery, in the north of Paris, dozens of bodies have recently been dug up, with gold teeth and jewelry stolen from them.

Police sources said the three men seized last week were gravediggers employed by the city's cemeteries.

Last month, four other men – three from the same Pantin cemetery – were arrested and placed under investigation for aggravated theft, grave robbery and violating the integrity of a corpse.

Last month, four other men – three from the same Pantin cemetery – were arrested and placed under investigation for aggravated theft, grave robbery and violating the integrity of a corpse.

According to a source close to the investigation, the men removed personal belongings from corpses in the freshest graves, opening them in the dead of night.b  Two of the men were caught wearing miner's helmets and gloves. Their boots were covered in fresh earth.

One of the suspects was found to be carrying 10 gold teeth.

After the initial arrests, the mayor of Paris, Bernard Delanoe, expressed his outrage and ordered the city authorities to step up surveillance of cemeteries.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock's Final Twist

Alfred Hitchcock's Surprise Ending
A biographer said that the director, at the end of his life, shunned religion. Not true. I was there.

Alfred Hitchcock has returned to the news lately, thanks to an apparently unflattering portrait of him in a new Hollywood production. Some of his biographers have not been kind, either. Religion, too, is much in the news, also often presented in an unflattering light, because clashing beliefs are at issue in wars and terrorism. The violence provokes some people to reject religion altogether. For many who experience religion only in this way—at second hand, in the media, from afar—such a reaction is to a degree understandable.

What they miss is that religion is an intensely personal affair. St. Augustine wrote: "Magnum mysterium mini"—I am a great mystery to myself. Why exactly Hitchcock asked Tom Sullivan to visit him is not clear to us and perhaps was not completely clear to him. But something whispered in his heart, and the visits answered a profound human desire, a real human need. Who of us is without such needs and desires?

Some people find these late-in-life turns to religion suspect, a sign of weakness or of one's "losing it." But nothing focuses the mind as much as death. There is a long tradition going back to ancient times of memento mori, remember death. Why? I suspect that in facing death one may at last see soberly, whether clearly or not, truths missed for years, what is finally worth one's attention.

Weighing one's life with its share of wounds suffered and inflicted in such a perspective, and seeking reconciliation with an experienced and forgiving God, strikes me as profoundly human. Hitchcock's extraordinary reaction to receiving communion was the face of real humanity and religion, far away from headlines . . . or today's filmmakers and biographers.

One of Hitchcock's biographers, Donald Spoto, has written that Hitchcock let it be known that he "rejected suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort." That in the movie director's final days he deliberately and successfully led outsiders to believe precisely the opposite of what happened is pure Hitchcock.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

'I feel like a walking shell: empty, alone and lost.'

'Hold your children tight, love them with every ounce you have'.

A mother-of-three whose husband and children were killed in a terrifying house fire last month has described herself as 'a walking shell' in a heart-wrenching open letter to her local newspaper.

In the note, which she asked to be shared with her community in Bangor, Maine, Christine Johnson begs other parents to 'hold your children tight, love them with every ounce of love you have' and says her 'damaged soul' will never heal after the devastating loss of her family.

Ms Johnson's husband, Ben Johnson III, woke up to the couple's fire alarm early on November 10, and after saving his wife's life by putting her through a window and onto the roof he turned back into the thick, black smoke in an attempt to save their three children.

But the blaze quickly engulfed the Orrington home and the brave father died of smoke inhalation along with his children Ben IV, 9, Ryan, 4, and Leslie, 8. 

 Christine Johnson+Family

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Ms Johnson said in the note that she was distraught after losing her loving husband - a local bowler and bowling coach who worked two jobs to support the family.

'I see my children in my dreams': Mother whose three daughters and parents perished in Christmas Day blaze reveals how their 'visits' helped her overcome her grief

'I still feel the love I had for my husband, but there is no one to return it,' she wrote. 'No one to comfort me, no one to wrap their arms around me and say, "I've got you, baby doll, I've got you."

'No one to chase the nightmares away, or snuggle with on the couch after the kids have gone to sleep. And no one to tell me a joke when I'm crying, just so they can see me smile. My husband loved to make me smile. He said it was because my eyes would sparkle… Now my eyes sparkle no more.'

But she said her children were 'the ones I will forever cry over' because they 'never had a chance at life.''They never got to go on a boat, or ride a roller coaster,' she wrote. 'They never got to see Disney World, or Niagara Falls. They never got to ride on a plane to some far off land, or see a real, live moose.

'My youngest didn't even get to ride a school bus, and I remember him getting excited about the chance to get on one. My daughter never got the dance lessons that she wanted. My oldest never got to build the flying car that he kept bragging he was going to make.'

Unimaginable grief.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:44 PM | Permalink

December 7, 2012

The Queen's Corgi graveyard

Tiny headstones of Royal pets that spent years as ''loyal companions' pictured in quiet corner of Sandringham

The Queen is known to be inseparable from her beloved Corgis.  Now poignant pictures have emerged of the graves of royal pets from throughout the generations.  The little-known plot is hidden away in a quiet corner of the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

It was created by Queen Victoria after the death of her Collie, Noble, in 1887, and revived in 1959 when Elizabeth II wanted somewhere to bury her first Corgi, Susan.

 Pet+Cemetery@Sandringham


 Corgi Tombstones Sandy Sugar
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

No fuss funeral with pizza and football game

Funeral mixed with football game viewing

A Minnesota woman said the funeral for her late boyfriend will involve pizza and watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers.

Terri Moffitt of Hugo said Don Brommerich, who died of brain cancer Nov. 11 at the age of 53, was "a no-fuss kind of guy" as well as a diehard Vikings fan, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Thursday.

"I didn't want a priest or minister that Don didn't know up there blabbing for an hour about a guy he never knew," Moffitt said. "We were looking at the football stuff and I said, 'Oh, there's a Packer-Viking game on Sunday. That's it.'"

Tim Tarmann of Roberts Family Funeral Home in Forest Lake helped Moffitt plan the celebration of Brommerich's life.

"We are seeing a shift in funeral services where more and more families are wanting a unique celebration to honor their loved ones," Tarmann said. "The Viking-Packer rivalry was significant to Don, so what a perfect way for family and friends to honor his life. Just the way Don would have wanted it."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

Jean-Paul Sartre at the end of his life

Even Jean-Paul Sartre seems to have glimpsed that, for as death approached he began to speak of some sort of Messianic Judaism.  Later his mistress, Simone de Beauvoir, acidly called it “this senile act of a turncoat.”  In a testimony recorded by his friend and former Marxist, Pierre Victor,  Sartre said: “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured.  In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”
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It would be difficult to think of anyone more unlike Sartre than his contemporary political philosopher Charles Maurras who recovered his Catholic faith only late in life.  In Sartre’s better moments, in the Second World War, he resisted the barbarism with which Maurras cooperated.  But each had his last Advent.  Sartre’s last words were, “I have failed.”  As for Maurras, who had become deaf as a teenager, he said to the doctor at his bedside:  “At last I can hear someone coming.”

Fr. George Rutler on The Awkwardness of Advent

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

Dave Brubeck leaves an astonishingly great legacy

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck, 91, dies of heart failure while on his way to a cardiology appointment

Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck died from heart failure on Wednesday while on his way to an appointment with his cardiologist.

He had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine - on November 8, 1954 - and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and 60s club jazz.

The seminal album Time Out, released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It opens with Blue Rondo A La Turk in 9/8 time - nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats.

A piano-and-saxophone whirlwind based loosely on a Mozart piece, Blue Rondo eventually intercuts between Brubeck's piano and a more traditional 4/4 jazz rhythm.

The album also features Take Five - in 5/4 time - which became the Quartet's signature theme and even made the Billboard singles chart in 1961. It was composed by Brubeck's longtime saxophonist, Paul Desmond.

'When you start out with goals - mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically - you never exhaust that,' Brubeck told the Associated Press in 1995. 'I started doing that in the 1940s. It's still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements.'

Telegraph obit

The quartet which he led between 1951 and 1967 achieved a level of popularity rarely seen in jazz, before or since. Its recording of Take Five (1959) remains one of the few jazz records instantly recognized by members of the general public.

Another Telegraph obit here by Martin Chilton, online culture critic.

Brubeck was in the thick of jazz’s evolution from swing and bebop to hard bop, cool jazz, and orchestral jazz with a global flavor. He was always willing to take on a challenge, whether it was performing with classical star Yo-Yo Ma or composing a jazz-opera version of the John Steinbeck novel Cannery Row. He was the subject of an acclaimed documentary film by Clint Eastwood called Dave Brubeck – In His Own Sweet Way, in 2010.
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Brubeck performed for Pope John Paul II and for eight U.S. presidents, including Ronald Reagan, whose 1988 summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow included a concert by the jazz maestro.

Brubeck received the National Medal of the Arts, presented at the White House, and he won a Grammy in 1996 for lifetime achievement. The Brubeck Institute, whose honorary chairman is the actor Eastwood, was created by the University of the Pacific to support jazz students and promote Brubeck’s music.

“Once when asked how I would like to be remembered, I answered, ‘As someone who opened doors,’” Brubeck said.

And still another from the Telegraph, Dave Brubeck, Endless curiosity combined with stubbornness.

Brubeck didn’t have the réclame of some jazz musicians who lead tragic lives. He didn’t do drugs or drink. What he had was endless curiosity combined with stubbornness. ….

Though he was a prophet of the current trend for bringing world music into jazz, Brubeck wasn’t a complete outsider. Listen to his performance on YouTube of St Louis Blues with Gerry Mulligan and you’ll realize he could swing as much as anybody. He was a phenomenally hard-working band leader, playing the college circuit every year with his quartet until the late Sixties, when he focused more on composition. His work list is astonishing, including oratorios, musicals and concertos, as well as hundreds of jazz compositions. This quiet man of jazz was truly a marvel.

The NYT obituary is long and good enough with a lovely quote at the end -

Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to him. “One of the reasons I believe in jazz,” he said, “is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”

- but it is alarmingly incomplete because it never mentions his sacred music or his conversion to Catholicism, important elements of his life. 

I read Mollie at Get Religion who remarked on the noticeable lack of mention in the New York Times and the Washington Post about his sacred music or his religion though the AP obituary does make a few mentions….

Brubeck always felt that his successful jazz career led fans to overlook the second career he launched as a jazz-inspired classical orchestral and choral composer in 1967 after disbanding his original quartet.

His experience in World War II led him to look beyond jazz to compose oratorios, cantatas and other extended works touching on themes involving religion, civil rights and peace.

"I knew I wanted to write on religious themes when I was a GI in World War II," Brubeck said, recalling how he was trapped behind German lines in the Battle of the Bulge and nearly killed. "I saw and experienced so much violence that I thought I could express my outrage best with music."

….I decided to focus on what most of the Brubeck obituaries overlook.  In fact, Brubeck considered Upon the Rock and The Light in the Wilderness as his greatest musical accomplishments.    Otherwise, I'd be lost in his astonishing discography.

He was commissioned to write Upon this Rock which he performed when Pope John Paul II came to Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1987 before 72,000 people.  He talks about it here

One of the funniest things that ever happened for me was we were into part of my mass. And, there became a different sound in the stadium, and then silence .

And, I looked up, and the Pope was looking at us. So, when Russ finished conducting, he came over and sat on the piano bench with me because there was no place for him to sit. And I said, "Did the Pope bless us or something?" And he said, "Either that or he's trying to learn to  conduct in 4/4 time." (laughter)

And you know, this movement, from being so nervous, now I've gone into hysterics, so I pretend that I dropped my music so I could crawl under the piano where nobody could see me breaking up. Because it's the wrong to get so crazy (laughter) laughing. You don't do that .

The Light in the Wilderness: An Oratorio for Today, based on the teachings of Jesus was first performed in 1968 by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  I searched for a recording, but it is sadly out of print; however, YouTube has the Hastings College Choir singing the Sermon on the Mount. 

Ah, I found a youtube video of 40 days via T Matt's 2009 post, The soul in Dave Brubeck's jazz.

For centuries, Brubeck once told me, the world’s best composers worked to create music that would appeal to audiences in sanctuary pews as well as in elite concert halls. For him, composing a complete Mass was one of the greatest technical challenges of his career because it had to be challenging and simple at the same time.

“I really wanted it to be something that everyday people could perform,” he said. “Most of the time, the faith that really matters and really affects people is the faith out in the local churches. The Mass was written for those kinds of people — not just for professionals. … What good is religious music if it can’t be performed in churches?”

To Hope!: the jazz mass that Brubeck composed in 1980 which changed his life.  He performs it at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in 1997 .  Here is a fragment with Bobby Militello on sax, Jack Six on bass and drummer Randy Jones.  Beautiful, joyous and exhilarating. 

The very best piece was done three years ago by Mark Lombard, Dave Brubeck: Making a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord in the St Anthony Messenger.

This jazz icon sought to break racial barriers, cross national boundaries and build cultural connections. Then he found the Catholic faith.
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Brubeck canceled a television appearance and several concerts because he would not change from his integrated band, noting that prejudice is “morally, religiously and politically wrong.” He received the “deep appreciation” of the NAACP in a 1960 telegram for his “courageous stand against submitting your band to the pressures of immoral racial discrimination” and for being willing to accept the not insignificant financial loss associated with “the very valuable and tangible contribution that you have made to the fight for human rights.”
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In 1958, the quartet was selected by the U.S. State Department to make a 14-country goodwill tour of Europe (including Poland, which was then behind the Iron Curtain), the Middle East and Central Asia.  The trip left a lasting impression on Brubeck, as he incorporated the rhythms and beats of the cultures encountered in music the quartet would produce. “You’re influenced by everything you hear,” he says. “My [college] teacher always said, ‘Travel the world and keep your ears open.’”

“Music crosses any boundaries that outline a different country. The music becomes very universal,” Brubeck explains as we sit face-to-face at his home in Wilton, Connecticut. “You feed something in and you get something back. And there is your exchange, the cross-cultural exchange.”
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Most think of Dave Brubeck as the white-haired jazz pianist who has been for decades leading a famous quartet. But many may not be aware of his impact as a composer of orchestral pieces, a Catholic Mass and other sacred music.

Though he had little classical training, Brubeck acquired an interest in sacred music during the Second World War. That was when he conceived the idea for an oratorio based on the Ten Commandments, especially the prohibition “Thou shall not kill.”

It was not until two decades later that he wrote the short piece, “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled,” to comfort his older brother, Howard, whose son died tragically of a brain tumor at 16. That piece was incorporated into his first major choral work, The Light in the Wilderness (1968), an oratorio on Jesus’ teaching which he premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

“The most profound thing that Christ said was, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,’” Brubeck states. “To think that someday I would use that in the oratorio, that it was the center of The Light in the Wilderness!”
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To Hope! A Celebration was Brubeck’s first encounter with the Roman Catholic Mass, written at a time when he belonged to no denomination or faith community. It was commissioned by Our Sunday Visitor editor Ed Murray, who wanted a serious piece on the revised Roman ritual, not a pop or jazz Mass, but one that reflected the American Catholic experience.

The writing was to have a profound effect on Brubeck’s life. A short time before its premiere in 1980 a priest asked why there was no Our Father section of the Mass. Brubeck recalls first inquiring, “What’s the Our Father?” (he knew it as The Lord’s Prayer) and saying, “They didn’t ask me to do that.”

He resolved not to make the addition that, in his mind, would wreak havoc with the composition as he had created it. He told the priest, “No, I’m going on vacation and I’ve taken a lot of time from my wife and family. I want to be with them and not worry about music.”

“So the first night we were in the Caribbean, I dreamt the Our Father,” Brubeck says, recalling that he hopped out of bed to write down as much as he could remember from his dream state. At that moment he decided to add that piece to the Mass and to become a Catholic.

He has adamantly asserted for years that he is not a convert, saying to be a convert you needed to be something first. He continues to define himself as being “nothing” before being welcomed into the Church.
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He received, among other awards: Notre Dame University’s Laetare Medal, perhaps the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics; the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award; the National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of Arts award, presented by U.S. President Bill Clinton; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; induction into the International Jazz Hall of Fame and American Classical Music Hall of Fame; and the Living Legacy Jazz Award from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In 2008, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice awarded Brubeck the U.S. State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy for offering “a positive vision of hope, opportunity and freedom through a musical language that is truly American.”

And with all of his awards and jazz-related achievements, this father of six children, four of whom are musicians who have played with him professionally, describes “Upon This Rock” and The Light in the Wilderness as his greatest musical accomplishments.

A PBS video on Brubeck's sacred music and conversion to Catholicism that Deacon Greg found. 

this great piece by Bob Faw on Dave Brubeck, and it gives more dimension to his religiously themed jazz music, including his legendary jazz Mass called “To Hope!” 

Do watch.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:55 PM | Permalink

How boomers will change end-of-life care

How baby boomers will change end of life care by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

The baby boomers, the largest generation in American history, are now almost all in the last third of their lives (if average life expectancy is 78). They have spent the previous, early and middle thirds of their lives transforming cultural ideas, expectations and practices (e.g with the civil rights movement, environmental movement and women’s movement, etc).

The question now is, “Will the baby boomers also transform our cultural ideas, expectations, and practices regarding the end-of-life?”

I say yes! Here are my predictions and recommendations for this generation of “revolutionaries”:

1. Baby boomers expect to live longer and will seek out technologies to do so. We continue to see life expectancies extended (although the obesity problem may soon change that) and the boomers will focus on ways to further extend their years on the planet. I strongly recommend however that they seek technologies that will extend quality life rather than quantity alone. For example, but do not choose medical interventions that will prolong your days if those days are going to consist of lying in a bed, unable to poop or pee without assistance. Choose technology that creates quality alone, quality plus quantity, but never quantity only, at the expense of suffering.

2. Baby boomers will author and create the “natural death” movement. The natural birth movement was predominately a product of the baby boomer consciousness. Taking root in the 1960s, a movement occurred to “de-medicalize childbirth” with varying degrees of penetration into general culture.

Death will become “de-medicalized” and will again be viewed as a natural event that can be managed in natural settings such as the home. The hospice industry will see phenomenal growth to accommodate this shift in desiring to manage dying at home. (90 percent of Americans already say they want to die at home but nearly 80 percent of us presently die in medical institutions.)

3. Boomers like to be in charge and will seek more control over the dying process. One present expression of this is the right to die movement. While I am opposed to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, I understand and support the impulse to gain control over the dying process and to minimize suffering. I personally feel that this can be accomplished without choosing to ingest a life-ending substance, however. At the right time (for you), choosing comfort-focused medicine over cure-focused medicine will allow you to gain control over the dying process: physical suffering can be controlled with appropriate medications, allowing time for quality emotional, social and spiritual closure and reconciliation to be obtained between you and others. Additionally, choosing comfort-focused care more often enables you to die, expectantly, where you desire to be the most (usually at home).

4. Expect more non-traditional, cost-conscious funeral preparations. A great example of this is my husband, Kris, who is one of the trailing baby boomers, born in ’61. He wrote a great treatise on this topic entitled, “Final Resting Places and Dealing With the Funeral Industry Monopoly” (Chapter 22 of It’s OK to Die). In this chapter he argues compellingly that the funeral industry hangs us out to dry if we haven’t made plans in advance. We don’t “shop around” in the midst of our grief and just pay for whatever is easiest (but not most economical), while wiping our tears.

Kris gives unusual tips for saving thousands of dollars on funeral costs and tells a story about how we drove his deceased father, in a full–sized casket, across multiple states in an SUV to save on flight costs for the casket and the whole family. It was a very “thinking out of the box” experience (slight pun intended), which turned into a trip that gave final closure to the whole family, saved thousands of dollars, and felt like an adventure. Sounds like something every baby boomer should look into.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

In Chicago, some funerals will be treated as "gang events"

‘A Different Attitude:’ Gang Funerals Will Include Searches, Tight Security

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago police are making strong moves to confront continuing city violence—which has included violent attacks at funerals.

The mayor expressed anger that people have been shooting and carrying guns at gang-member funerals.

“The police department is going to change the way they deal with gang funerals,” he said. “If you cannot respect a place of worship, at a time of a funeral, we are going to show a different type of attitude.”

The funerals will be treated as “gang events,” with mourners being searched and patted down, among other security measures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

My husband "died like a battery hen" in the hospital

Senior MP Ann Clwyd gives a harrowing account of her dying husband’s poor treatment in hospital, saying: “He died like a battery hen.”

Ann Clwyd broke down as she spoke about the final moments of Owen Roberts, who contracted pneumonia after being admitted. They had been married nearly 50 years….  “Nobody, nobody should have to die in conditions like I saw my husband die in,” she said during a radio interview.
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Ms Clwyd, 75, was called in at 5am on the morning of the day he died.

“He didn’t have any clothes over him. He was half-covered by two very thin, inadequate sheets, his feet were sticking out of the bed at an angle," she told BBC Radio 4's World at One.

“It was extremely cold and I tried to cover him with a towel. He was very distressed, totally aware of his situation. Although unable to speak because of the oxygen mask he let us know he was cold and that he wanted to come home.”

Ms Clwyd said she had seen a nurse’s round once between 2.30pm and 10.30pm on the previous day.

“I stopped one nurse in the corridor and asked why he was not in intensive care, and she said ‘there are lots of people worse than him’ and she walked on.
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My husband died like a battery hen. He was six foot two, he was cramped, squashed up against the iron bars of the bed, an oxygen mask that didn’t fit his face, his eye was infected

“Because the air from the oxygen was blowing into it, his lips were very dry. I used my own lypsyl to try and moisten them. There were no nurses around.

“Just at eight o’clock, just before he died, all the lights of the ward went on, and somebody shouted ‘anybody for breakfast?’

“Now, it was obviously totally inappropriate when they knew there was somebody dying in that four-bedded ward.

“The man in the bed next to him had been feeling hot all along. He had a fan on and it was blowing the cold air towards my husband.

“So I really do feel he died of cold and he died from people who didn’t care.”

Breaking down in tears, she said: “It gives me nightmares. I really find it very difficult to sleep, and very difficult to talk about.”

But Ms Clwyd said she had to speak out “because I think it’s just too commonplace”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2012

Zig Ziglar, R.I.P.

Zig Ziglar, upbeat motivational speaker and author, dies at 86

Rising by one’s bootstraps through the “power of positive thinking” has long been a compelling narrative in American lore. Few messengers of prosperity have been able to sustain a relentlessly upbeat and lucrative career for as long as Zig Ziglar.

Zig Ziglar! A human exclamation point! The world’s most popular motivational speaker, as he was often described, was always excited because “you never judge a day by the weather!”
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What his words lacked in depth, they made up for in conviction.
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His first book, “Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles,” published in 1974 and later retitled “See You at the Top,” urged readers to re-evaluate their lives with a “checkup from the neck up” and to quit their “stink in’ thinkin.’ ”

A Motivational Maestro

A onetime cookware salesman who boasted he was “born in L.A. — Lower Alabama,” Mr. Ziglar wrote the 1975 motivational book, “See You At The Top,” but it was rejected by 30 firms before finding a backer in a small Louisiana publishing house. The book went on to sell more than a quarter of a million copies and remains in print 37 years later. In all, Mr. Ziglar “has written more than 30 sales and motivational books, 10 of which have appeared on best-seller lists and have been translated into more than 36 different languages,” according to an official biography
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In 1972, as his public speaking career was starting, Mr. Ziglar underwent a religious conversion, becoming a born-again Christian. He incorporated references to faith into his public talks, despite warnings that this would be career suicide. Against expectations, his faith helped to connect him to his audiences. Mr. Ziglar became a lifetime member of the National Speakers Association and was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame.

Forbes publishes a few of his inspirational quotes:  >

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

"Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."

So does Maggie's Farm

"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."

"You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have impact on a life"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

Bringing Vultures Back

Giving New Life to Vultures to Restore a Human Ritual of Death

MUMBAI, India — Fifteen years after vultures disappeared from Mumbai’s skies, the Parsi community here intends to build two aviaries at one of its most sacred sites so that the giant scavengers can once again devour human corpses.
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“Without the vultures, more and more Parsis are choosing to be cremated,” Mr. Mehta said. “I have to bring back the vultures so the system is working again, especially during the monsoon.”

The plan is the result of six years of negotiations between Parsi leaders and the Indian government to revive a centuries-old practice that seeks to protect the ancient elements — air, earth, fire and water — from being polluted by either burial or cremation. And along the way, both sides hope the effort will contribute to the revival of two species of vulture that are nearing extinction. The government would provide the initial population of birds.

The cost of building the aviaries and maintaining the vultures is estimated at $5 million spread over 15 years, much less expensive than it would have been without the ready supply of food.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink