October 26, 2017

The Only Man Buried on the Moon

An ounce of his ashes actually.

Eugene Shoemaker Is Still the Only Man Buried on the Moon

To date, the late scientist Eugene Shoemaker is still the only person whose remains have been sent to the moon. Even casual stargazers are likely to recognize Shoemaker’s name from the famed Shoemaker-Levy comet (which had broken into fragments) that impacted Jupiter in 1994. The comet, which Shoemaker discovered with his wife Carolyn alongside David Levy, was remarkable because it marked the first time humans were able to witness a first-hand planetary collision....

 Eugene Shoemaker Moon Model

Shoemaker enjoyed a celebrated career combining his main discipline of geology with more astronomical applications, helping to create the field of planetary science. He studied a number of craters here on Earth, and in the early 1960s, he founded the Astrogeology Research Program within the United States Geological Survey. Shoemaker used his knowledge to train a number of Apollo mission astronauts about what they could expect to find on the surface of the moon, in terms of terrain.

His fascinating life came to an abrupt end on July 18, 1997, when he died in a car crash while exploring a meteor crater in Australia. ....A close colleague of Shoemaker’s, Carolyn Porco, had decided to try and finally get the deceased scientist, who had wanted to be an astronaut in life but was disqualified for medical reasons, to the moon. "It was legend in the planetary science community that Gene had always wanted to go to the moon as an Apollo astronaut and study its geology firsthand," Porco said. "He said only last year, 'Not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer has been the biggest disappointment in life.' I felt that this was Gene's last chance to get to the moon, and that it would be a fitting and beautiful tribute to a man who was a towering figure and a pioneer in the exploration of the solar system."
On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector blasted off for the south pole of the moon, looking for ice, and carrying an ounce of Shoemaker’s ashes. According to a memorial website set-up by Porco, the ashes were carried in a polycarbonate capsule provided by Celestis. It had been wrapped in a piece of brass foil, laser-etched with his name and dates over an image of the Hale-Bopp Comet; an image of Arizona’s Meteor Crater, where he had trained the Apollo astronauts; and a quote from Romeo and Juliet.

 Shoemaker Tribute Composite
Source Tribute composite

On July 31, 1999, the mission ended when NASA deliberately crashed the craft on the surface of the moon, taking Shoemaker with it, and making him the first and only person to be buried off-world.

Eugene Shoemaker - Biographical Memoirs

Eugene Merle Shoemaker

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2017

Death as a Career Move

"Forty years ago Elvis Presley passed ...into a stunningly successful new phase of his career." Mark Steyn has been marking the anniversary of Elvis Presley this week with several posts

The Man Who Invented Elvis

Back in 1954 it was Sam Phillips who told Elvis to sing the country song ("Blue Moon Of Kentucky") kinda bluesy and the blues song ("That's All Right") kinda country, and, as Elvis was a polite 19-year old who obliged his elders, somewhere in the crisscross something clicked.  It's the Phillips tracks that redeem Elvis for everything that came afterward. Critics still insist that Elvis's The Sun Sessions is the all-time greatest album. As Robert Hilburn put it, on the Sun set "you hear rock being born" - not to Tin Pan Alley hacks and big-time corporations, but in a one-story brick studio where a kid walked in off the street

Rock-a-Hula Baby from the guy who wrote more Elvis songs than anybody else.

And concluding with All Shook Up: On death as a career move.

 King Elvis Dead

It was his widow Priscilla who turned Elvis into a brand name. In life he was a most naive superstar: there were no shrewd investments, no offshore funds - just a million bucks sitting in the same kind of no-interest checking account a minimum-wage waitress would have. His most valuable copyrights had been sold to RCA for a pittance, and the reason he never did any overseas tours turned out to be because Colonel Parker, who claimed to be the son of West Virginia carnie folk, was actually an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands and didn't have a passport.

To secure Lisa-Marie's inheritance, Priscilla set about the belated professionalization of her husband's career. He was posthumously all shook up. She opened Graceland, so that fans could make their pilgrimage to his home and his grave, which now attracts more annual visitors than President Kennedy's. Before Elvis, it was an established legal concept that "the dead have no rights." Priscilla decided to reclaim exclusive rights to her late husband – his image, his identity. The Celebrity Rights Law, passed by Tennessee in 1983 and since taken up by other jurisdictions, effectively extends to Elvis' estate the rights of a living person. Whether you believe he and Osama are working the night shift at the Dubuque Burger King is up to you. But, in the legal sense, Elvis is most definitely alive; it's just that he's changed his name to Graceland Enterprises Inc.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2017

"Zero risk is a fantasy"

French philosopher who wrote book on risk-taking dies rescuing children

 Anne Dufourmantelle

Anne Dufourmantelle entered the water at Pampelonne beach near St Tropez on 21 July after the children got into difficulty. Witnesses say she immediately tried to reach them but was swept away by a strong current. Attempts to resuscitate her after she was recovered failed, according to local media reports. The children were later rescued by lifeguards, unharmed.
French culture minister, Françoise Nyssen, said Dufourmantelle was: 'a great philosopher, a psychoanalyst, she helped us to live and think about the world today.'

'Life begins with risk': A great mind on why 'zero risk is a fantasy'

In 2015, she told French daily Liberation that the idea of a life with 'absolute security - like "zero risk" - is a fantasy.
'When there really is a danger that must be faced in order to survive, as for example during the Blitz in London, there is a strong incentive for action, dedication, and surpassing oneself,' she said. 'It is said: 'to risk one's life', but perhaps one should say 'to risk life', [because] being alive is a risk,' Dufourmantelle added. 'Life is metamorphosis. It begins with this risk.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2017

The Good Cemeterian

This Florida man is 'Good Cemeterian'

 Andrew Lumash

Andrew Lumish, 46, has made it his life's mission to restore forgotten and decaying headstones of military veterans in order to honor the contributions they have made to their country. Lumish, an owner of a cleaning service, spends spends his free time cleaning veterans' tombstones. He has scrubbed away time on more than 300 tombstones over two years time.

 Lumish With Cleaning Tools

A particularly aged tombstone can take up to four months to fully clean and Lumish takes the time in between to learn about the person, in order to bring their memory and resting place back to life. 

 Funete Restored Tombstone

Johnny Fuente was an immigrant from Spain who served in the U.S. Air Force in WWII and Korea.


Lumish said: 'If [people] can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person'  'Whereas if you properly restore the monuments, you can begin an entire conversation, and potentially -- in a figurative sense -- bring that person back to life'

You can follow The Good Cemeterian on Facebook  where he posts photos and the stories behind the restored tombstones and even details of the cleaning products he uses.

CBS did a lovely short video on Andrew Lumish which you can see here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

September 5, 2016

There's something about frugal New Englanders

In Vermont. Janitor Secretly Amasses $8Mil Fortune, Leaves it to Library and Hospital

Ronald Read always lived frugally – which is why his family was astonished to discover that the former JC Penny janitor and gas station attendant had saved an $8 million fortune.

 Ronald-Read-Frugal Librarian

Read had owned 95 stocks before he passed away, including big names such as Dow Chemical, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, and CVS Health. Favoring paper and ink rather than modern phone apps, Read had kept stacks of his investment certificates locked in a safe deposit box for decades.

When the 92-year-old Brattleboro, Vermont resident passed away in June 2014, he had bequeathed $1.2 million of his savings to the Brooks Memorial Library where he frequented, and $4.8 million to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital where he had an English muffin with peanut butter and coffee every morning.

In New Hampshire. Longtime UNH librarian leaves $4 million to school

Robert Morin worked nearly 50 years at the University of New Hampshire library and never seemed to spend any money.  He lived alone, rarely bought clothes, had Fritos and soda for breakfast, drove a 1992 Plymouth, and spent spare time reading almost every book — in chronological order — that had been published in the United States from 1930 to 1938.

 Robert Morin Librarian
Now, more than a year after his death at age 77, a lifetime of frugality has become UNH’s unexpected gift: Morin left his alma mater his entire estate of $4 million — a gold-plated nest egg that few people knew he had.

“His whole life was the library,” said Edward Mullen, Morin’s longtime financial adviser.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2016

Remembering a dissident

Jamie Glazov offers a tribute to his father  - who passed away 17 years ago - for his courageous battle against the Soviet Empire  Remembering a Dissident

One day, when I was nine years old, my father and I were on our way to Church. As we neared the entrance, I spat on the ground. Reflexively, my dad’s arm shot out across my chest like a railway barrier, blocking my motion forward. We stood there, frozen in time, for some three seconds until my father uttered, in a very serious but patient way: “It is ok to spit outside of KGB headquarters, but never in front of a place such as this.” I registered the message and indicated my understanding — and we proceeded on our way.

That was my dad’s moral clarity and sharp, quick-witted way with words; and the sacred values that spawned those words made a profound impression on me from the moment of my birth. I was born into a family of Russian dissidents — a father and a mother, Yuri and Marina Glazov, who put their clenched fists up and went toe-to-toe with the Evil Empire.
My father was a scholar at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and a professor at Moscow State University. His main field of study concerned Oriental languages and cultures, with a specialty in the Chinese, Sanskrit and Tamil areas. Despite his rewarding career, my dad put everything on the line and began to attend human rights demonstrations in Moscow on behalf of political prisoners. He also started to sign letters of protest against the political repressions that were heightening in the country in the 1960s, connected as they were to the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union after the Khrushchev thaw. The activities my dad engaged in could land a Soviet citizen in the gulag or a psychiatric hospital for decades.

 Yuri Glasov

The picture of my dad, shown above, was taken by a friend who had come to visit him the evening of the day he was expelled from the Academy. My father had been at a meeting at the closed section of the Supreme Soviet of Scholars. Before the committee announced his expulsion, he had delivered a strong speech about political repressions in the country and finished by talking about his hope that the days of freedom would one day come to his beloved Russia.

After his expulsion, my father received a labor card with a special secret code that meant that he was blacklisted and could not receive employment anywhere in the country. He even tried to get a job cleaning streets, but was refused once an employer saw the poisoned markings. In a Soviet Catch-22, because of his “unemployment,” the KGB began to persecute my father for “parasitism” — a law in the Soviet Union that criminalized unemployed people and subsequently shipped them off to labor camps in Siberia.

Under these circumstances, my dad’s health broke down. He became very sick, came down with sepsis (blood poisoning) and was hospitalized. The Communist Party was as cold and unforgiving as the Siberian winter, and the KGB sharks waited for him to either die or to arrive home from his sickbed, upon which they would continue their persecution of him. Because of very brave friends like Dr. Anna Marshak who provided Western medication to my father, he survived. His sickness and several other developments threw the unfolding narrative down a different path....

Upon hearing this, my dad knew the KGB was going for the jugular and that he only had one hand left to play. He immediately sent a letter to the Department for Exit Visas in which he said: give me a job or let me out of the country. Shortly afterwards, in April 1972, before Nixon’s visit to Moscow — and perhaps because of that visit — my father received the Exit Visa to emigrate from the Soviet Union. In escaping the Soviet hell, he was able to bring his family (my mom, my sister Elena, my brother Grisha and me) to the West.....

My father never stopped fighting the Soviet system and the murderous, anti-human ideology that spawned it. He never fell into silence about the genocide and monstrous oppression communism engendered everywhere it set foot. He was always outspoken on behalf of political prisoners that languished in communist gulags around the world....

When my dad arrived in the U.S. via Italy, he first taught at New York University and then at Boston College as Professor of Russian Studies. He then moved to Canada in 1975 to teach at the Department of Russian Studies at Dalhousie University. He loved to teach Fyodor Dostoevsky and the history of Russian ideas.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

Awarded the Legion of Merit at her funeral for her work as a secret spy

Groundbreaking female spy finally gets Legion of Merit on the day of her funeral for her services in WWII

For nearly six decades, she was the wife of a famed military aviator. Nobody - not even close family - knew she was a hero in her own right, a spy who reported on Soviet troop movements from behind what came to be called the Iron Curtain.  Now Stephanie Czech Rader is finally being recognized for her work.  Rader received the Legion of Merit posthumously on Wednesday, during funeral services with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
 Funeral Stephanie Rader
She died in January at the age of 100, a longtime resident of Alexandria and native of Poughkeepsie, New York.

 Stephanie Radar
Rader worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA.  The daughter of Polish immigrants, her fluent Polish caught the attention of the OSS. The office recruited her from her job with the Women's Auxiliary Air Corps and put her in Poland from October 1945 to February 1946.  She was employed as a clerk at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, but her real job was to report on Soviet troop movements.

She traveled the countryside on her own and while her bosses offered her a gun for protection, she refused it, saying 'What was I going to do with a dumb gun?', according to Charles Pinck, president of The OSS Society in Falls Church.
Her bosses recommended her for the Legion of Merit in 1946, but the recommendation was never acted upon — perhaps because she was a woman, and perhaps because the OSS soon dissolved and there was no organization to advocate for her.
Pinck said OSS was ahead of its time in employing women. About a third of the 13,000 people who served in the OSS were women, he said. He estimated that OSS veterans still alive number only in the hundreds now. In 2008, when records of the OSS were declassified, The OSS Society and other historians learned of Rader's work and began to lobby for her to receive the award.
Rader served in the OSS under her maiden name, Stephanie Czech, but went on to marry William S. Rader, a decorated World War II bombing commander who became an Air Force brigadier general and himself received the Legion of Merit.  They had been married for 57 years when he died in 2003.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:51 PM | Permalink

May 30, 2016

May they rest in honored glory

Never have the "honored dead" been more eloquently extolled than when Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address  on November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

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

Five years later came the first national celebration of the holiday on May 30th, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried, following the order of  John A. Logan, Commander in Chief  of the Grand Army of the Republic who designated May 30th as Memorial Day.... "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land."  In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Why They Died: The Motivations of American Soldiers in 12 Great Wars

12. The Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) -- 383 deaths.
11. The Indian Wars (ca. 1817-1898) -- 1,000 deaths.
10. The War of 1812 (1812-1815) -- 2,260 deaths.
9. The Spanish-American War (1898-1901) -- 2,446 deaths.
8. The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) -- 4,435 deaths.
7. The Global War on Terror (2001-?) -- 6,888 deaths.
6. The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) -- 13,283 deaths.
5. The Korean War (1950-1953) -- 36,574 deaths.
4. The Vietnam War (1964-1973) -- 58,220 deaths.
3. World War I (1917-1918) -- 116,516 deaths.
2. World War II (1941-1945) -- 405,399 deaths.
1. The American Civil War (1861-1865) -- 650,000 to 850,000 deaths.

Every year on Boston Common flags are planted in memory of every fallen Massachusetts service member from the Revolutionary War to the present.  In this photograph by Brian Snyder of Reuters you are seeing a few of the 37,000 planted this year.

 Memday Bostoncommon

The "battlefield cross" is far starker, part of the unofficial military ceremony that men and women often hold, either in the field or back at their home base, to memorialize a deceased comrade. 

 Battlefield Cross
This “cross” is not a cross but a field weapon, a rifle, with fixed bayonet thrust into the ground. A helmet sits on the top of the butt of the rifle. This inverted-rifle icon is at the center of a ceremony that enables comrades to pause, to bend a knee, to remember, to grieve, to say farewell. There is often a final roll call, understanding that one—or more—of the names shouted out will elicit no response....The boots are a forceful and personal reminder, symbolizing the “final march of the last battle.”

Jim from Galveston writes For Love Of Country  And of our fellow man.

Dignity, honor, respect and a day of remembrance is all that they ask now of us. Especially, remembrance. So, this weekend, set aside if only for a day, thoughts of (D) or ®. Rail not against your fellow American, nor wish harm to him, his party or his creed. Not on this day.

The men and women in those graves are no longer Democrats or Republicans. They are still and eternally though Americans, and are forevermore worthy of this day given but to them.  Honor the Day. Honor Them.

From their dark and silent graves, they give more honor to our Nation than any one politician, party or officeholder dares ever imagine.  Dignified beyond words, with nobility above the highest offices of government, these silent warriors speak loudly of what it is to be American.  They did not die for the Republicans. Nor for the Democrats, Greens or Libertarians.

Whether in combat, or fifty years later surrounded by only the memories of comrades long since passed, the men and women resting forever under those flags once marched proudly under that banner. They have earned nothing less than the unqualified respect of a grateful Nation, and her grateful people.

The last full measure of devotion is an awesome, terrible thing. Yet, magnificent; and it is upon the altar of their sacrifice that we enjoy the freedom of the greatest Nation in the history of the world.

Stand and salute, and remember them.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

May 12, 2016

Peter Stefan is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go

Never have I read of a man who so completely fulfilled the 7th corporal work of mercy - to bury the dead - no matter how dangerous it was or how many death threats he received.  With his example of courage and compassion for the most needy, he will leave a Great Legacy.

The Man Who Buries Everyone  Peter Stefan has a job few people ask for: laying to rest society’s forgotten and unwanted.

 Peter Stefan
He is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go  - AIDS patients in the ’80s and ’90s; the homeless and impoverished living near his funeral parlor, Graham Putnam & Mahoney, in Main South, one of Worcester’s toughest neighborhoods; and the elder of the two brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon three years ago.
In Massachusetts, the state medical examiner told the State Senate that 29 bodies were currently in holding, with just three funeral homes willing to accept them for the state’s paltry $1,100 fee. “Of these, only one funeral director routinely handles the majority of our cases,” wrote the medical examiner — referring, of course, to Stefan.
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” Like many funeral home directors, Stefan likes to paraphrase this quote from William Gladstone, the 19th-century Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but most funeral home directors don’t make it their mission the way Stefan does.
Stefan got his embalming license in 1966, but the funeral business wasn’t his first career. Stefan played the saxophone and traveled between clubs and studios across the country while working his way up in the local funeral home in Dorchester. ....Stefan continued to work as a musician until the ’90s because, even as he took on more clients, his funeral parlor still wasn’t making any money, and he needed another source of income to keep his doors open. Eventually, though, his reputation as the man who would bury anyone made him busy enough that he could afford to quit jumping in at nightclubs and focus on his family life and the parlor.
“I got a call from them down there,” Stefan remembers — a funeral parlor in North Attleboro where the body arrived during the middle of a wake, complete with a coterie of protesters and media. “They were basically living in a state of terror,” and they needed Stefan to come collect the body as soon as possible. “They were thinking of waiting until the morning, but they said, ‘Nah, we better do something now.’ So we went and got the body in the middle of the night,” Stefan recalls.
“We bury the dead, that’s what we do,” Stefan says. Doesn’t matter who it is. I can’t separate the sins from the sinners.”

This is how I met Stefan. I was assigned to stand outside the funeral home for my job as a daily reporter at the time. I was there the morning the news broke that Tsarnaev’s body was in the city where I lived and worked. During an unseasonably warm week, I watched protesters shouting from across the street. As the death threats streamed in, Stefan worked the phones among his contacts at cemeteries, searching for a burial plot. Eventually, he connected with a cemetery in Richmond, Virginia that agreed to do the burial, and on May 9, Tsarnaev’s body was moved.

“I never kept a nickel,” Stefan says. “I didn’t want anyone to say, ‘You did the funeral for the money.’ I didn’t get a dime.” Instead, he put the money he received for it into a fund for people who can’t afford prescription medication. It’s something he’s been doing for the last five years as he advocates for a medicine recycling bill in the state. It’s not something he has to do, but it’s like Stefan to turn take something positive from a bad situation.

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

 7 Worksmercy Masterofalkmaar,
Seven Works of Mercy by Master of Alkmaar, 1504,  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In the Catholic Church, six of the seven corporal works of mercy are listed in the Biblical parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25 vv 31-46) as the model criteria by which Christ will judge people.  They are a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They are corporal because they are practical deeds aimed at relieving the bodily distress of our fellow humans. 

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the harborless (today interpreted as shelter the homeless)
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive (today interpreted as visit the imprisoned)
  • To bury the dead.

By the third century, burying the dead was added because it is highly praised in the Book of Tobit (Tobit 1, vv 17-19) to bring the number up to seven, a sacred number. Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things. 

Here are the relevant verses from the Book of Tobit which illustrate how dangerous burying the hated dead can be.

17 If they were hungry, I shared my food with them; if they needed clothes, I gave them some of my own. Whenever I saw that the dead body of one of my people had been thrown outside the city wall, I gave it a decent burial.

18 One day Sennacherib cursed God, the King of Heaven; God punished him, and Sennacherib had to retreat from Judah. On his way back to Media he was so furious that he killed many Israelites. But I secretly removed the bodies and buried them; and when Sennacherib later searched for the bodies, he could not find them.

19 Then someone from Nineveh told the emperor that I was the one who had been burying his victims. As soon as I realized that the emperor knew all about me and that my life was in danger, I became frightened. So I ran away and hid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2016

Mother Angelica . Requiescat in Pace

John Allen writes We shall not look upon the likes of Mother Angelica again

With the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday, the Church has lost the most charismatic American Catholic media personality of her time, as well as someone who proved beyond any doubt that a determined and savvy woman can, after all, wield real power inside an organization often perceived as a boys’ club.

Ninety-two at the time of her death and largely withdrawn from the world, Mother Angelica at the top of her game was feisty, smart, alternately stern and hilarious, all wrapped up in the habit of a seemingly ordinary Franciscan nun. There was nothing “ordinary” about her, however, because for much of the 1980s and 1990s, she was simply the most riveting Catholic figure on the airwaves.

She also had an instinctive grasp of the media business, which allowed her to found the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and develop it into the global juggernaut it’s become.  In that sense, Mother Angelica was sort of a cross between Rupert Murdoch and the nun who taught you 3rd grade religion.

  Mother Angelica

NYT  Mother Mary Angelica, Who Founded Catholic TV Network, Dies at 92

In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mother Angelica described how a visit to a television studio in Chicago ignited her entrepreneurial drive, and led to the birth of her worldwide enterprise.

“I walked in, and it was just a little studio, and I remember standing in the doorway and thinking, it doesn’t take much to reach the masses,” she said. “I just stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Lord, I’ve got to have one of these.’”

WSJ: Mother Angelica Created a Catholic Media Empire: 1923-2016

Mother Mary Angelica, a Roman Catholic nun, used entrepreneurial flair and saucy humor to create a religious television, radio and publishing empire with global reach.

Mother Angelica, who died March 27 at age 92, deployed her Eternal Word Television Network to spread her homespun version of the Catholic faith. Her “Mother Angelica Live” TV show had an unpromising concept: A grandmotherly nun sits in an easy chair and discusses religion for an hour in a high-pitched voice. Yet viewers loved her plain talk on matters spiritual and profane.
Her advice to the lovelorn: “People will rave and rant and cry: ‘Oh, he left me! I’m going to die.’ No, you’re not. Just shut up and you’ll feel better.”
The television and radio organizations she started are nonprofits and provide free programming to cable and satellite-TV services, radio stations and other outlets around the world. The Eternal Word network estimates that its programs are available to 265 million households. The network has about 500 employees and an annual U.S. operating budget of $64 million.

A Most Diligent Mother: Angelica by John Zmirak who wrote this piece in 2009 and Crisis magazine republished it following the news that she had died.

Leaving aside the popes, the person who has served as the public face of the Church in the United States for the past two decades is a little, crippled, chronically ill, old Italian-American lady who chats with Jesus daily, used to speak in tongues, and leaps before she looks. As I write this, she is quite ill, and we can’t predict how long she will be with us. But the global media empire planted by this contemplative Poor Clare has put down mighty roots, with millions of viewers who love its dogged loyalty to the teachings of the Church. Indeed, in large swathes of the country where parishes have either closed or turned de facto Methodist, EWTN’s broadcasts serve the isolated faithful like Allied broadcasts into Occupied Europe.
But Mother Angelica had come to see a pattern in her life: Faced with grinding pain and apparent futility, she would always respond with several steps, in this order:

1. Ask God His will in prayer.
2. Once she knew it, throw caution to the wind and trust that He would make her efforts fruitful.
3. Work like a madwoman, wheedling support from the uncertain and shunting aside doubters and dissenters who got in her way.
4. Rinse, repeat.
Mother Angelica has flouted powerful men, the conventional wisdom, and the voice of prudence so many times that for her it’s almost routine. Her intimate contact with Christ has helped her to keep, in the midst of outrageous success and mounting power, the simplicity of her founders—Francis and Clare.
Mother Angelica knew how to hornswoggle Baptists into laying free pipe for nuns, to charm the socks off jaded cable-TV execs, bend the ears of visiting cardinals, and impress the pope. She worked without ceasing, except to pray. It’s hard to imagine that she will ever rest, even in Heaven. Perhaps those with really high-end satellite dishes will someday be able to tune into “Eternal Life with Mother Angelica.”

Mother Angelica is an inspiration to Catholic women who want to achieve great things

Mother Angelica could be vociferous in defending Our Lord and she sparred with important men of the cloth.
One of the most unstoppable nuns to have ever lived in my view, Mother was the only woman to found and run a TV network for 20 years.
Her apostolate in Catholic media, even from the early recordings explaining God’s love for each person, was a bold endeavour to give the masses what the nuns of her childhood had not given her: the empowering knowledge of Jesus’s love for us.

Mother Angelica’s life and works prove that her love for Our Lord was genuine: this is precisely why she is an inspiration to Catholic women. Angelica alone shows that a Catholic woman driven by love of Jesus can achieve great things; even in our times when many young women like me are told that being successful and being a Catholic are incompatible

The Spiritual Legacy of Mother Angelica  Bishop Robert Barron

I would like simply to draw attention to three areas of particular spiritual importance in the life of Mother Angelica: her trust in God’s providence, her keen sense of the supernatural quality of religion, and her conviction that suffering is of salvific value.

Mother Angelica: A Strong Woman in Love with Jesus by Mitch Pacwas

The history of Catholicism in the United States will need to include a section, if not a chapter, on Mother Angelica. Hardly any other woman has had so much influence, except Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. St. John Paul II once said, “Mother Angelica—she is very strong woman.” No physical pain, opposition from inside or outside the church, no overwhelming odds or threats stopped that strong woman in love with Jesus.

In Honor of an Uppity Nun by Timothy George, a Baptist theologian

Her desperate life was made worse by illnesses and accidents, one after another, the scars of which she bore for the rest of her life. Mother Angelica believed in divine healing and miracles, and received several in the course of her ninety-two years. But she also learned to accept suffering as a part of God’s overcoming purpose in a fallen world. Her pain was providential, she believed, a part of her purification. Through brokenness, she came to know Jesus Christ and to share in what St. Paul called “the fellowship (koinonia) of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).

Mother Angelica once summarized her life in this way: I am just “some street woman who got sick and was given many things.”
Someone said this of Mother Angelica: She was out of the ordinary, and into everything.” As Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who served on the board of EWTN, has said, “Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. Mother Angelica inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision.”
When Mother Angelica arrived in Birmingham in 1961, the city was rife with racial tension and religious discrimination, much of it inspired by a virulent KKK. Some older citizens still remembered the brutal murder of Father James E. Coyle, who had been shot to death on the steps of his church by a Protestant minister in 1921. In 1962, while the first monastery was still under construction, there was an assault by several gunmen, and Mother Angelica herself literally dodged a bullet. She later said, You never saw a crippled nun run so fast in all your life!”

Holiness is not for wimps  Remembering Mother Angelica and a few of her memorable words

“If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.”

“Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, it’s a requirement.”

“Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia - A Man in Full

Antonin Scalia, 1936-2016.  His accomplishments as a Supreme Court Justice for over thirty years are well-known as his brilliance, his vivid writing, and his quick wit.  Unknown, except for those who knew him, are many of his personal qualities that make his legacy great.  His Catholic faith was real and deep. Married for over fifty years, he and his wife raised nine children and delight in all their 30 plus grandchildren.  He had a deep capacity of friendship with all sorts of people  and a skill in mentoring to which more than 180 of his law clerks attest.  He was a man of self-discipline who would not go beyond the words of the laws he interpreted to do what he thought ought to be done. And he was a man of humility who could embrace a woman with lashing sores to comfort her.  He was a man in full who leaves a great legacy.

 Antonin Scalia Official Scotus Portrait Crop

LA Times obit "An eloquent conservative who used a sharp intellect, a barbed wit and a zest for verbal combat to resist what he saw as the tide of modern liberalism, has died. He was 79.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, the only child of a Sicilian immigrant who became a professor of Romance language and a mother who was an elementary school teacher, "Nino"  was rejected from Princeton (“I was an Italian kid from Queens, not quite the Princeton type,” he said years later) and went to Georgetown University, and then  to  Harvard Law School in Cambridge, where he met and married Maureen McCarthy, a Radcliffe student.

He began practicing as a lawyer with Jones, Day, but soon became a law professor at the University of Virginia and a few years later a lawyer at the Department of Justice, then its head of the Office of  Legal Counsel under President Ford.  In the Reagan administration he was named to the US Court of Appeals until  President Reagan appointed him U.S, Supreme Court Justice in 1986.

Despite his conservative credentials, Scalia had an easy time at his Senate hearing. He coolly puffed on a pipe and joked with the senators. When Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, a fiery liberal Democrat from Ohio, noted that the nominee had beaten him on the tennis court, Scalia replied: “It was a case of my integrity overcoming my judgment, senator.” He drew a laugh and went on to win a unanimous confirmation.


President Obama paid tribute to Scalia as a "brilliant" jurist who “influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students.” He said Scalia “will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Telegraph obit

Antonin Gregory Scalia was born March 11 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey. His parents were Sicilian immigrants who became teachers. Scalia was an only child and an academic high achiever. He earned his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and his Law degree at Harvard graduating with honours from both.  While at Harvard he met Maureen McCarthy, an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, on a blind date. The couple wed in 1960.

Scalia and his wife Maureen in 2012

In 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It was here that Scalia built his reputation. He became famous for his occasionally witty, frequently acerbic, questioning of lawyers arguing before him. Some very high-priced advocates were made to feel like students in a law school seminar by his pointed questioning. Indeed, many Washington lawyers would turn up in his court just to watch the show. For Scalia the Court of Appeals proved to be a successful stepping stone to the Supreme Court and in 1986 Reagan appointed him an Associate Justice.
At the time Scalia’s conservatism was well-known. He was an advocate of a legal theory called “originalism”, which seeks to interpret legal questions through the original intent of the authors of the Constitution. For Scalia, originalism provided a way of pushing back against the liberal decisions that characterized the Court’s rulings of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the landmark ruling Roe v Wade in 1973, the decision that effectively legalized abortion.  Scalia’s view, simply summarized, was that the authors of the Constitution did not discuss abortion, therefore it was not their “original intent” to make abortion a constitutional right.
At his death Scalia was arguably the most important and effective conservative in America. Praise came from many quarters but a statement of Vice-President Joe Biden from 1993 was in the tone that Scalia himself might have appreciated: “The vote that I most regret of all 15,000 votes I have cast as a senator … was to confirm Judge Scalia.” The reason? “Because he was so effective.”

New York Times obit

His transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court,
Justice Scalia and his wife, the former Maureen McCarthy, had nine children, the upshot of what he called Vatican roulette. “We were both devout Catholics,” Justice Scalia told Joan Biskupic for her 2009 biography, “American Original.” “And being a devout Catholic means you have children when God gives them to you, and you raise them.”
In a C-Span interview in 2009, Justice Scalia reflected on his role and legacy, sketching out a modest conception of the role of a Supreme Court justice.

“We don’t sit here to make the law, to decide who ought to win,” Justice Scalia said. “We decide who wins under the law that the people have adopted. And very often, if you’re a good judge, you don’t really like the result you’re reaching.”

The Economist

Words had meaning. He revered them and used them scrupulously, even in insult. The law was written in words, and those ideally laid down bright lines for everyone to follow. As a committed textualist, he wasted no time looking to legislative history, the purported purpose of a law or the comments of some egregious congressman. It meant what it said.

"We were best buddies," said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg


In an colorful statement that began like a theater review, Ginsburg wrote:
Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: "We are different, we are one," different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve.

From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.

Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the "applesauce" and "argle bargle"—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.

Scalia’s Little Acts of Faith Emerge in Letters, Recollections

After attending the funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., which was held at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Va., Scalia wrote to Dr. James C. Goodloe to tell him “how reverent and inspiring I found the service that you conducted.”

Scalia lamented that often the eulogy is the centerpiece of a funeral, “rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that.” Praise for the deceased “can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner,” he said.

Jeffrey Tucker from the Foundation of Economic Freedom writes  Justice Scalia's Great Heart.

Now that he is gone from this earth, I can tell a story I’ve held inside for many years, a scene that touched me deeply and profoundly. I cannot think of him without remembering this moment.

It was a spring afternoon some years ago, and he was attending church services, sitting in a back pew, holding his prayer book in his hands. The Mass had ended and most people had gone. He was still saying prayers, alone in the back pew.

He finally got up and began to walk out. There were no reporters, nobody watching. There was only a woman who had been attending the same services. She had no idea who he was. I was a bystander, and I’m certain he didn’t know I was there.

What was a bit unusual about this woman: she had lashing sores on her face and hands. They were open sores. There was some disease, and not just physically. She behaved strangely, a troubled person that you meet in large cities and quickly walk away from. A person to avoid and certainly never touch.  For whatever reason, she walked up to Justice Scalia, who was alone. He took her hands, though they were full of sores. She leaned in to say something, and she began to cry.

He held her face next to his, and she talked beneath her tears that were now streaming down his suit. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t try to get away. He just held her while she spoke. This lasted for perhaps more than 5 minutes. He closed his eyes while she she spoke, gripping her back with his hand.

He didn’t recoil. He stood there with conviction. And love.

There were no cameras and no other onlookers besides myself, and he had no idea I was there.

Finally she was finished. What he said comforted her, and she gained composure. She pulled away, ready to go. He held her rough, sore-filled hands and had a few final words that I could not hear. He gave her some money. And then she walked away.

And then he walked away, across the green grass, toward the Supreme Court building, alone. He was probably preparing for an afternoon of work.

This story, more than any other, moved me almost to tears.  What a great man.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2015

Google's tribute to a Great Legacy

 Google Doodle Hedy Lamarr
On YouTube Hedy Lamarr's 101st Birthday Google Doodle

Actor-inventor Hedy Lamarr: Is today’s stunning animation the greatest Google Doodle yet?

Lamarr made “Ectasy” when she was just 18, and it was released the same year that she married one of Austria’s richest men, a munitions manufacturer who did business with Mussolini and, according to Lamarr’s autobiography, hosted Hitler at their castle home.

Lamarr, who was of Ukrainian-Hungarian Jewish heritage, eventually made her escape from spouse and situation — she wrote that she fled to France in disguise — and was discovered in Paris by MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer.

Lamarr, billed as the “world’s most beautiful woman,” spent the next decade acting opposite such stars as Clark Gable, Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy and Judy Garland.

During World War II, though, Lamarr also put her mind to the war effort, determined to invent something that would help defeat Hitler. (Her first marriage had resulted not only in reportedly hosting the Fuhrer, but also in gaining knowledge of torpedoes.)

She and California neighbor/composer George Antheil co-created a frequency-hopping system (using a player-piano roll) so radio-guided torpedoes could avoid interference jamming — an invention for which they received a patent in 1942, though the U.S. military would not employ the technology for two decades, during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Last year, a century after her birth, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Va. “Although Lamarr and Antheil never profited from their invention during their lifetime,” the Hall of Fame site says, “it was acknowledged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997 as an important development in wireless communications.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2015

Khaled al-Asaad, Martyr to Civilization

A martyr for civilisation: The 83-year-old archaeologist who devoted his life to saving Syria's sublime ruins… and who refused to flee even when he knew ISIS savages would behead him

 Khaled Al-Assad

Khaled al-Asaad was as unlike an Islamic State fighter as could be imagined. Eighty-three years old, he was clean-shaven, silver-haired and bespectacled. He looked, in short, like the eminent scholar that he was.  Yet this learned and decidedly unmilitant man, taken prisoner by Islamic State fighters, demonstrated a bravery that put their own pretensions to courage to shame. Rather than give in to their menaces, he maintained his dignity and defiance.

Taken to a public square, he was decapitated. His body was hung upside down from a pillar, and his severed head placed at its base. A placard tied to his corpse accused him of the crimes for which he had been killed: attending 'infidel conferences' and serving as a 'director of idolatry'.
His life had been devoted to the study of his country's ancient past. As learned in the languages spoken by its vanished civilisations as he was familiar with its archaeology, he had an international reputation.  At the 'infidel conferences', he was respected and admired. Yet his very learning was what condemned him. To care for the statues and temples of vanished gods is, in the opinion of Islamic State, to rank as a pagan. Hence the death sentence it passed: that Khaled al-Asaad was guilty of 'idolatry'.

It is hard to over-emphasise just how bleak the implications of this are for the study of ancient civilisation.
Palmyra is a place of resplendent beauty. Perhaps only Angkor Wat, the temple complex long lost to Cambodian jungle, and Machu Picchu, the abandoned Inca city in the Andes, can compare with it among the world's archaeological sites for sheer romance.
The measure of its wealth was an increasingly spectacular array of monuments. Most of these appeared classically Roman.
There was a beautiful theatre with Corinthian columns, a complex of baths, and a sweeping colonnade, complete with no fewer than 350 pillars. Many of the influences, though, were older by far than the Roman Empire.

The city's most imposing temples were raised to gods worshipped across the Middle East for millennia. Palmyra was a city where Syrians, Arabs and Persians could feel quite as at home as Romans.
Palmyra slumped into provincial obscurity. Its monuments were swallowed up by dunes. When an expedition of European antiquarians reached there in 1751, they were stunned by its state of preservation. Ever since, it has been cherished by archaeologists as one of the pearls of global civilisation: 'The Venice of the sands.'  This was the incomparable treasure to which Khaled al-Asaad devoted his life. Born and raised in Palmyra, he served for 40 years as its head of antiquities, excavating it, curating it and writing books on it. He even named one of his daughters Zenobia.
Understandably, then, as the shock-troops of Islamic State closed in on the site, he was active in making sure that such treasures as could be moved into safe- keeping were evacuated.  But even as the lorries packed with masterpieces from his museum rumbled away down the desert road, al-Asaad refused to contemplate accompanying them. This was a gesture of astonishing courage. He must have anticipated what his fate would be when the militants came knocking.

Open-eyed and unflinching, he sacrificed his life to Palmyra. Sources have reported that he was killed for refusing to reveal the location of concealed antiquities. The truth of this is impossible to know — but of one thing we can be certain: Khaled al-Asaad, humane, learned and committed to the preservation of his country's heritage, was exactly the kind of Syrian ISIS is committed to eradicating.
Then, this week, came the most devastating act of vandalism yet. One of the most perfectly preserved buildings in Palmyra, a temple to an ancient Syrian god that beautifully combined classical and Egyptian styles, was blown up with a series of bombs stored in blue barrels.
A supreme architectural masterpiece that had stood intact for almost two millennia was reduced in seconds to rubble. It is hard to look at photos of its destruction and not dread that the rest of Palmyra may soon have a similar fate.

All of which makes it only the more pressing to enshrine the example of a man who refused to abandon it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink

July 29, 2015

The "Hold On, Wait Man" and his Great Legacy

A retired Japanese police officer has saved an estimated 500 lives in the past decade after devoting himself to preventing suicides.

Yukio Shige patrols the Tojinbo cliffs in Fukui Prefecture with a pair of binoculars, on the lookout for people who are about to jump.    The 70-year-old has come to be known as the ‘chotto matte man’, meaning the ‘Hold on, wait man.

 Shige Saved 500-Lives

Although a popular tourist site, the Tojinbo cliffs on Japan’s west coast have also developed a reputation as a notorious suicide spot. Mr Shige goes to the cliffs every day, accompanied by his three volunteers.Together, the team spot potential jumpers and try to talk them out of it.

His selfless mission was inspired by the tragic suicide of a friend, and he can clearly remember the day he got a call from the police to inform him of the death.

"They told me he killed himself. He rented a car in north eastern Japan and drove into the ocean,’... Odditycentral.com. I’ve seen so much grief. I don’t wish to hear any more mourning….If you stop and picture that scene; someone sitting and believing that their only option is to end everything, alone with their shadow, I truly feel that they want help….They want someone to step in and save them.’

But Mr Shige doesn’t just haul people back from the cliff edge. He has devoted his life to improving the lives of others and to persuading them that suicide is not the answer, and helps them get their lives back on track.

‘We take those that want our help to the six apartments we own, so that they can repair and rebuild their lives,’ he continued.‘We help them get their lives back. This is what I do.’

The first time that Mr Shige came into contact with a suicidal person was in 2003, and the experience shook him to the core. He was on one of his last patrols of his career, before he was due to retire, and he met an elderly couple who owned a pub and were struggling to cope with the soaring debt. They confessed to him their plan to throw themselves into the sea at sunset. But Mr Shige talked them out of their decision, calling a patrol car for them and taking them to a public welfare bureau. Despite his desperate attempts to get the couple welfare support, the couple were turned away and five days later they hanged themselves.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2015

D-Day 71 years ago cost more than 2500 lives of American young men

On the 71st anniversary of D-Day, David Smith argues that it was the most important day of the 20th century


Gerard Vanderleun has a splendid post on what it felt and smelled like that fateful day. June 6: A walk across a beach in Normandy

Here's a Reporter's firsthand account on June 6, 1944

Rick Moran on D-Day as recounted by Steven Ambrose

Hitler lost, largely because “the Boy Scouts had been taught to figure their way out of their own problems,” writes Ambrose. Americans were trained to use their own initiative and not blindly follow orders, like the Germans. This proved decisive on Omaha Beach, as nothing went as planned, and the first and second waves of the landings were being slaughtered. And then, one by one — mostly NCO’s — began to realize that staying put was death and they began a slow, painful climb up the bluffs. There was no mass charge, but rather small groups of two and three soldiers taking it upon themselves to get the job done. Ambrose points out that never could have happened in the German army.

But the most shocking is the data visualization of  The Fallen of World War II, a worthy, even must-see documentary of war and peace, about 18 minutes long. 

Some  2500 American soldiers died on Omaha Beach on that one day. more than all the American lives lost in the 13 years of the war in Afghanistan.  They were all men with an average age of 23.  We can never be sufficiently grateful.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

February 19, 2015

Nutella founder dies

Nutella Founder Dies, Said Secret of Success Was Our Lady of Lourdes

His company, founded in 1946 in Italy, produced the popular hazelnut chocolate spread along with Mon Cheri, Kinder eggs, Ferrero Rocher, Fiesta, and Pocket Coffee treats.

As Michele Ferrero said at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company: "The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes, without her we can do little." And indeed, a small statue of the Virgin is present in each of the Ferrero establishments worldwide.

Michele Ferrero was the richest person in Italy, with a net worth, according to Forbes Magazine of $23.4 billion. He was a man endowed with a strong faith who spent his life away from the spotlight and the tabloids. Each year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes taking his top manager. He also organized a visit to the French shrine for his employees.

According to the Guardian newspaper, which published a profile of him in 2011, the company’s Rocher pralines are rumored to have been inspired by the craggy rock grotto, called the Rocher de Massabielle,  at the shrine in Lourdes.

He built his empire valuing the best of Italy with quality products and innovation. But his greatest talent was knowing how to involve employees and show special attention to employees when training them. "My only concern,” he once said, “is that the company is increasingly solid and strong to guarantee all workers a secure place."

Under his leadership, his products were available in 53 countries with over 34,000 employees and 20 production facilities, and nine agricultural enterprises." 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

My Own Life

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.
While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Via Ann Althouse, a wonderful interview, Sachs Appeal, in The Guardian

He has allowed himself one small indulgence, though - a short book, Oaxaca Journal, about an expedition to Mexico on the trail of rare ferns. Sack loves ferns. "They're harmless, benign, and they're ancient," he enthuses. "They go back a billion years. The way they coil up, like watch-springs…" He is lost in thought. "They give me a feeling of the future. The future, all coiled up."

Also via Althouse, an astonishing photo of Oliver Sachs on a motorcycle in 1961 by Douglas White.

From Wikipedia

Beginning in 1970, Sacks wrote of his experience with neurological patients. His books have been translated into over 25 languages. In addition to his books, Sacks is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as other medical, scientific, and general publications.[\ He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science in 2001.

Sacks' work has been featured in a "broader range of media than those of any other contemporary medical author"and in 1990, The New York Times said he "has become a kind of poet laureate of contemporary medicine" His descriptions of people coping with and adapting to neurological conditions or injuries often illuminate the ways in which the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

November 24, 2014

"Love is never finished"

"Love is never finished," wrote Pope Benedict XVI and the story of John Silva shows that.

 Widower Dines Out With Photo Dead Wife

EXCLUSIVE - The true love story of the widower who dined at a burger bar with his wife's picture: 'I carry her photo everywhere and tell her how much I love her. I'm waiting for the day we can be together forever.'

Mr SIlva, 87, said he was taken aback at the attention the picture had attracted - but touched that so many people had been affected by his love story.

'I had no idea that someone took my photo. I found out from a relative who saw it on the Internet. I'm 87 years old, I don't want too much excitement. I was a lucky man to marry the girl I loved,' he said.

How they met as teenagers in Massachusetts is a storyline fit for a classic romantic comedy. One of his teammates threw him the ball but fate meant John missed the catch and Cupid kindly rolled it to the feet of his late wife. He doffed his cap and she blew him a kiss but they later lost each other in the crowds. It would be a decade of heartache until their paths crossed again and they wed one year later in 1954.
John is visibly moved by his own memories but a sense of pride takes over his emotion when talking about Hilda's legacy.
'When things took a turn for the worse it was heartbreaking, she fell down and banged her head at our home. There was blood everywhere and she couldn't walk again,' he told MailOnline. 'I promised her I'd never put her in a nursing home but her conditions grew worse, she had a stroke and a tumor in her belly. She was in the home for two and a half years, I spent 21 hours a day there for that entire time. I'd only come home to wash and then go back again, I'd sleep there too.
'It was a miracle she opened her eyes and pushed herself forward with all of the strength she had left and said: 'John, I love you. I've always loved you and in a million years you'll still be my husband.'
And then she put her head back and that was it, I put my head on her head and sang our song, Frank Sinatra's It's Got To Be You.

After her sad passing, relatives intervened to stop John returning home in fear he might not be able to cope with the trauma and put him under a constant watch. He insists while they worried he may have been tempted by suicide he would never give it a thought because he 'wants to go to Heaven'.
'I'll never stop carrying her photo. In the car, when I go out to eat, everywhere. She's not gone, she's only on vacation. And she's rich because she's still wearing all of her diamond rings.' The baseball fanatic rationalized: 'The surest thing in this world is death but I made my life the best I could and that's because of Hilda.
'I was the luckiest man in the world and I still am.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2014

"Love story worthy of a Hollywood script" "

'I can't live without him': Last words of wife, 97, who 'died of a broken heart' just hours after her husband of 76 years passed away

It is a love story worthy of a Hollywood script.  A devoted couple who were inseparable for more than seven decades of marriage have died within hours of each other – on their 76th wedding anniversary.

War hero Clifford Hartland passed away on July 29 at the age of 101 and his 97-year-old wife Marjorie followed him 14 hours later.

 Clifford+Marjorie Hartland
Their daughter Christine said her mother had 'died of a broken heart'.  A frail Clifford passed away at Saint Martin's Rest Home in Coventry hours after his wife was discharged from hospital with a broken leg.  'We think he was waiting for her to come back to the room they shared before he died,' said Christine.

'Afterwards, Mum just kept saying, 'I can't live without him'. That night, Mum rang me.  'She was upset and I told her to think about all the happy times they'd shared in their marriage while she drifted off to sleep.  'She died at 1am, and I like to think that's exactly what she was doing.

'It's a perfect love story. I'm devastated they're gone but so happy for them - they've never really had to live without one another.'
The couple fell met in Cardiff before the war and married soon after in 1938.

But their love story was soon dealt a blow when Clifford, a gunner in the 7th Coast Regiment Royal Artillery, was sent to Singapore on October 1, 1941. When his regiment surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Clifford was one of four survivors and he was forced to work as a prisoner of war on the infamous Thailand-Burma railway line.  Conditions were brutal, and 13,000 prisoners died and were buried along the route.

An 11-stone young man when he left Liverpool Dock, Clifford weighed a pitiful five stone when he returned.  Clifford and Marjorie's daughter Christine, 67, said: 'I don't know how Dad survived - mainly luck and determination, I think. There were 700 men in his regiment when they went out, but only four ever came back. Dad was the last to die from his regiment.

'But every day, on her way to work, Mum would go into the church she passed and pray that Dad would come home. She lived without him for four years, but she never believed he was dead.'  Clifford had been mercilessly tortured, starved, and worked to the brink of death by the Japanese.  He was forced to trek for miles each day through leech-filled swamps.
Mother-of-two Christine said her father had once been caught smoking banana leaves in one of the 15 prison camps he had been sent to.  The Japanese officer who discovered him pushed a poisoned bamboo shoot through his leg, leaving a lifelong scar.
Last year, Clifford said: 'The worst thing was when we had to dig our own graves. We were due to be shot on the day the war ended.

'Then the 'all-clear' sounded. You can guess how I felt.' Clifford came home to a street party in Cardiff, and even a letter of thanks from the King. But his wife's welcome was the most treasured of all.

The war hero was discharged from the army in 1945, and Christine - the couple's only child - was born a year later.
The family moved to Hipswell Highway in Wyken, Coventry in 1947, and Clifford worked for Morris Engines as a factory foreman until he retired. Christine said: 'Dad was in hospital for a while after he came back from Burma, but neither of them cared. They were just so happy to be together again.

'They had an incredible marriage. They never, ever argued. Dad idolised Mum and she adored him.
'When they'd go to a restaurant, Dad would eat the same thing that Mum ordered.
'They loved dancing together, and they loved singing, too. Dad had been a choirboy at Gloucester Cathedral.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

August 10, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2014

Funeral of Hero Firefighter

Heartbreaking moment fallen firefighter's daughters are presented with his helmets at funeral as thousands of comrades line the streets to honor the hero

Pain and sadness were almost palpable in Staten Island today as the community said a final farewell to a New York City firefighter killed in the line of duty.  Amidst a crowd of sombre uniformed men and grieving women stood Lt Gordon 'Matt' Ambles' two little girls, Gabriella, 7, and Giovanna, 5, each of them wearing one of dad's old fire helmets.

 Firefighters Daughters

Lt. Ambelas died Saturday night searching for victims in a burning, cluttered Brooklyn high-rise apartment building. His was the first Fire Department of New York line-of-duty death in more than two years.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his eulogy that the 40-year-old FDNY veteran was dedicated, hardworking, kind and, above all, a family man.  'All members of the FDNY but really, all New Yorkers, are feeling this moment with pain and sadness because we’ve lost a true hero,' de Blasio said. 'Our city is inspired by his courage and deeply saddened by his loss.'  That theme was poignantly accentuated when fire helmets from Ambelas’ old commands were placed on the heads of his daughters Gabriella, 8, and Giavanna, 5.

Lt Ambelas was a 14-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department who only recently was honored for saving the life of a seven-year-old boy

 Lt-Ambelas Firefighter Hero

Thousands of uniformed firefighters from across the country gathered for the funeral of the fallen fireman who the mayor said was ‘a true hero.’

 Firefighters Ambelas Funeral
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

Couple laid to rest in one casket

'The way they looked at each other - you could see their love': Couple who were married for 63 years die hours apart and are laid to rest in one casket

 Bob+Barbara Pettis 2  Before they were married                                                                                                           Bob+Barbara Pettis  On their 50th wedding anniversary
A couple who were happily married for 63 years have been laid to rest together after they both passed away on the same day.  Bob, 85, and 82-year-old Barbara Pettis of Holdenville, Oklahoma, had both been battling health problems for several years when they died mere hours apart on June 30.

Their oldest son Clay, 59, told NewsOK that they were so close in life, it was no surprise that they ended up leaving the earth together.  Clay - who, with his wife Jana, had been his parents' primary caretakers for two years - said it took him a while to fully realize just how special they were.  'We had something growing up that a lot of kids don't get. The thought of them divorcing was inconceivable to me,' he said. 'We had that kind of security with them that it never crossed our minds growing up.'
Per Barbara's wishes, she was cremated. Clay and his two siblings, Leslie and Jim, laid their parents to rest on July 2nd, placing their mother's urn in Bob's casket so they could be eternally together…..

Their lives were celebrated at a joint memorial service at Calvary Baptist Church in Holdenville, where they were both active members - Bob a deacon and song leader, and Barbara a pianist and organist.

The couple are survived by their three children, 11 grandchildren five great-grandchildren, with another great-grandkid due to be born this month.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 AM | Permalink

June 10, 2014

Murder miniatures, nutshell dioramas of death

Murder in Miniature by Rachel Nuwer in Slate
One woman’s ghastly dollhouse dioramas turned crime scene investigation into a science.

 Diorama Bedroom Crime Scene

Dorothy’s deathscape—dubbed the Parsonage Parlor—is one of 20 dollhouse crime scenes built by a woman named Frances Glessner Lee, nicknamed “the mother of forensic investigation.” Lee’s murder miniatures and pioneering work in criminal sciences forever changed the course of death investigations.

Lee, who went by the name Fanny, was born in 1878 to millionaire parents who made their money selling agricultural equipment. She grew up in Chicago and later said she suffered from a sheltered, lonely childhood. When Lee was 4 years old, her mother—also named Frances—recorded in her diary that her daughter had stated, “I have no company but my doll baby and God.” Along with her older brother, she was home-schooled in a fortresslike house that one architect described as “pathologically private.” Lee learned feminine skills such as sewing, embroidery, painting, and the art of miniatures from her mother and aunts, but at the same time had a fondness for Sherlock Holmes stories and medical texts….

After her brother left for Harvard University, Lee’s requests to also attend school were rebuffed. As her father liked to say, “A lady doesn’t go to school.”

She wasn't allowed to attend school …shortly before her 21st birthday, she married Blewett Lee, a lawyer and professor at Northwestern University. The couple had three children, but things soon fell apart and they divorced in 1914..
Despite being free of an unhappy marriage, years passed before Lee could truly come into her own. She was dependent on her family for financial support, but in 1929, that began to change. Her brother passed away, and a few years later her mother followed him to the grave. In 1936, her father died, passing on the family fortune to his daughter.

Lee, meanwhile, had begun nursing a passion for forensics, inspired by one of her brother’s friends, George Burgess Magrath, who served as Boston’s medical examiner and was famously skilled at solving perplexing murder cases of the day….

Lee decided to take it upon herself to reform the country’s legal medicine system. As a start, she donated money to Harvard to create a professorship for a legal medicine expert—which Magrath filled—and also created the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine, which was soon followed by the country’s first forensic pathology program….

Despite these successes, however, Lee felt that more was needed to teach students the emerging art of evidence gathering. It was impossible to bring them to crime scenes, so Lee decided to create her own miniature crime scenes to use for training. She called her creations the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. “She came up with this idea, and then co-opted the feminine tradition of miniature-making to advance in this male-dominated field,” ….

The 20 models Lee created were based on actual crime scenes, and she chose only the most puzzling cases in order to test aspiring detectives’ powers of observation and logic.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2014

Maya Angelo, RIP

 Maya-Angelou Telegraph

Telegraph Maya Angelou: 'her autobiographies secure her place in literary history'

Was there anything Maya Angelou didn’t do? Anyone she didn’t know? Any significant moment of black American history from the last 86 years that passed her by?

When Joe Louis fought Primo Carnera in 1935, she was a child in Arkansas listening to the radio and wondering "if the announcer gave any thought to the fact that he was addressing as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ all the Negroes around the world who sat sweating and praying, glued to their ‘master’s voice'". In 1958 she was in Los Angeles when Billie Holiday visited her house and sang Strange Fruit. Angelou had to scold her son for interrupting to ask "What’s a pastoral scene, Miss Holiday?", but Holiday’s "scornful" answer – "it means when the crackers are killing the niggers" – reveals another historical moment.

When she was 16 Angelou became San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor. Her friends included Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, she recited a poem that urged Americans "to give birth again / To the dream". In 2010 Barack Obama awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. Is it surprising to learn that her most famous poem is entitled "Phenomenal Woman"?

But it’s not her poems nor her performances that will ensure Angelou a place in American literary history, but her autobiographies, particularly the first of the seven, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings…..

 Maya Angelo Caged Bird

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores the poverty and violence of racial segregation in 1930s Arkansas and relates the story of Angelou’s rape at the age of seven by a boyfriend of her mother. Angelou testified at the man's trial but he was released and kicked to death outside the courthouse. In response Angelou stopped speaking for five years, believing that her voice was a "killing machine". "When I pick up the pen to write," she told an interviewer once, "I have to scrape it across those scars to sharpen the point." Harold Bloom has spoken of her "almost unique tone" as one that "blends intimacy and detachment".
As she relates it, the turning point in Angelou’s life came when she heard her teacher, Mrs Flowers, read from Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities: "Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing."
By the time she was 19, she had worked as a short-order cook, a prostitute, a nightclub waitress and dancer, and had a two-year-old son to support. Many more jobs and relationships followed, before she became a successful dancer, singer and actor, adapting her first husband’s name to become, finally, Maya Angelou. And that was only the start. We read of meetings with Martin Luther King, life as a journalist in Ghana and an editor in Egypt, directing plays and films, playing the part of Kunte Kinte’s grandmother in the acclaimed television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots, romance, motherhood and inspiration.

While she eventually became a kind of one-woman industry, lending her name to all manner of inspirational souvenirs, including a series of Hallmark cards, and acting as mentor for another phenomenon, Oprah Winfrey,

Daily Mail.  The caged bird who helped free the minds of racist America: Poet Maya Angelou is found dead aged 86 after final prophetic tweet
Maya Angelou was found dead by her caretaker Wednesday morning at her home in Winston-Salem North Carolina… Her son Gary B. Johnson, her only child, issued a statement about the author's death: 'Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.
'She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.'
On Thursday - just one day after her death - her official portrait will be installed in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

 Maya Angelo Old

Angelou had been struggling with health problems in recent weeks ….She remained active, even as her health began to deteriorate. On May 23, five days before her death, she tweeted, 'Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.'

Peggy Noonan

Reaction to Maya Angelou’s death is going to be broader and deeper than people realize. They’ll say she was a great writer, a teller of experience, a witness. All true. But at the end she was a mystic. A friend who saw this interview, with Oprah Winfrey, said: “She was so close to Heaven.”

Angelou said love is an invisible electric current that lights the world and everything in it, and we don’t even notice. She spoke of the shattering yet building moment when she understood for the first time that “God. Loves. Me.” “It still humbles me that this force which made the leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you—loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything and do it well, any good thing, I can do it.”

She was not embarrassed to talk like this. She wanted you to understand what she knew; she wanted, graciously, to share it, so you’ll know the current too.

On YouTube and with Oprah The Revelation That Changed Dr. Maya Angelou's Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

April 1, 2014

The Death of a True Hero

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., Vietnam POW and former U.S. senator, dies at 89

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89….

Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction…..he remained widely known for his heroism as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and particularly for two television appearances that reached millions of Americans through the evening news during the Vietnam War.

In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence for which he later received the Navy Cross.  In the second television appearance, during Operation Homecoming in 1973, he became the first freed POW to step off a plane at a U.S. air base in the Philippines. He spoke through tears before cameras, expressing his gratitude for having had the opportunity to serve his country under “difficult circumstances.”
Adm. Denton was subjected to four years in solitary confinement. Living in roach- and rat-infested conditions, he endured starvation, delirium and torture sessions that sometimes lasted days....Adm. Denton once reflected on his survival in North Vietnam.

“If I had known when I was shot down that I would be there more than seven years, I would have died of despondency, of despair,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “But I didn’t. It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything.”

Jeremiah Denton for the Ages   Remembering an exceptionally courageous POW and an American hero.

Here he is blinking morse code - T-O-R-T-U-R-E

RIP with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

Nancy Wake, dead at 95, left a Great Legacy

Blisteringly sexy, she killed Nazis with her bare hands and had a 5 million-franc bounty on her head. As she dies at 98, the extraordinary story of the real Charlotte Gray

A male comrade-in-arms in the French Resistance summed her up as: ‘The most  feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. And then she is like five men.’ She lived up to both parts of that compliment.

So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman. In that same outfit, she jumped from a  moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint.

 Nancy Wake

And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special  Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.

Passionate and impulsive, with a tendency to draw attention to herself, she was not the ideal undercover agent. Her superiors didn’t think she would last long behind enemy lines.

But Wake proved them wrong and died this week, aged 98, in a nursing home for retired veterans in London. Her death brought to an end a life of such daring, courage and glamour that she was the inspiration for the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett.

Much of Wake’s extraordinary life was lived under assumed identities. She carried papers as Nancy Fiocca (her married name) and Lucienne Cartier. Her official SOE identity was Andree, though a gay friend in the  service called her ‘Gertie’. On one operation she was tagged ‘Witch’. But the best-known name was the one the Gestapo gave her when they put her on their ‘most wanted’ list, with a five million franc price on her head — that of ‘the White Mouse’, because she always managed to wriggle out of their traps.

Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, a difficult child who took the first opportunity to leave the Antipodes for Europe. There, she partied between assignments as a journalist, before marrying a rich businessman from Marseille who could indulge her taste for champagne, caviar and the good life.

Nancy was visiting London, for, of all things, a slimming course, when war was declared in September 1939. When she tried to join up to fight she was pointed, to her disgust, in the direction of a Naafi (Navy, Army and Air Force) canteen. So she went back to France and, when that country fell to the invading Germans, she proved herself as brave and as aggressive as any man — and more than most.

In 1940, in the half of France unoccupied by the Nazis, Marseille was a magnet for downed RAF crew and British soldiers left behind after the Dunkirk evacuation, all hoping to make their way home via Spain.  An escape route over the Pyrenees was organised underneath the noses of the pro-German French authorities. Nancy’s wealthy husband, Henri, financed operations, while Nancy herself, dressed up to the nines, carried messages between members of the group.

Then she progressed to escorting the ‘packages’ — escaped Allied soldiers and airmen — along the coast to the border. It was dangerous work, with constant fear of discovery or betrayal. At one stage, she was arrested by French police and interrogated in prison for four days. The leader of the escape line bluffed his way in and  secured her release. After that, it was clear her days were numbered and she went to ground.

Six weeks before D-Day, she was parachuted into the heavily-forested and mountainous Auvergne region of central France to prepare local Resistance groups, the Maquis, for the job of harrying the Germans and delaying their reinforcements once the invasion began

The 7,000 partisans were disorderly, disorganised and riven by personal rivalries, more of a  rabble than an underground army that would do damage to the Germans. They had little interest in newcomers from across the Channel sorting them out, particularly a woman.

Nancy proved her mettle, arranging air drops and hiding supplies of weapons, travelling between the groups, paying out money, urging them to co-operate, knocking them, as best she could, into shape. She was as tough as the old army boots she eschewed for heels. With an escort of Maquisards, she shot her way through enemy patrols and roadblocks.
The sadness was that after the liberation she returned to  Marseille to discover that Henri was dead. Shortly after her flight from the city, he had been caught, imprisoned and tortured. The Gestapo shot him.
She blamed herself for his death. If he’d told them where she was, he might have lived. But he refused.
She was festooned with honours — a British George Medal, the French Legion d’Honneur and three Croix de Guerre. She remarried, returned to Australia to live, took up politics for a while, then came back to Britain to retire in 2001.

Her body is to be cremated, but at her request the ashes will be scattered in the Auvergne.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2013

He drove this same car for 82 years and it still looks great

Here's Longevity for You!

 Allen Swift's Rollsroyceroadster

Mr. Allen Swift ( 1908-2010 Springfield, MA ) received this 1928 Rolls-Royce Piccadilly-P1 Roadster from his father - brand new - as a graduation gift in 1928.    He drove it up until his death last year at the age of 102.

He was the oldest, living owner of a car that was purchased new….It was donated to a Springfield museum after his death.

It has 1,070,000 miles on it, still runs like a Swiss watch, dead silent at any speed and is in perfect, cosmetic condition at 82 years of age. That's approximately 13,048 miles per year, 1,087 miles per month.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:25 PM | Permalink

Peter O'Toole, Rest in Peace

New York Times obituary by Benedict Nightingale

Peter O’Toole, an Irish bookmaker’s son with a hell-raising streak whose performance in the 1962 epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” earned him overnight fame and established him as one of his generation’s most charismatic actors, died on Saturday in London. He was 81.
Blond, blue-eyed and well over six feet tall, Mr. O’Toole had the dashing good looks and high spirits befitting a leading man — and he did not disappoint in “Lawrence,” David Lean’s wide-screen, almost-four-hour homage to T. E. Lawrence, the daring British soldier and adventurer who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks in the Middle East in World War I.

 Peter O'toole Lawrence-1

The performance brought Mr. O’Toole the first of eight Academy Award nominations, a flood of film offers and a string of artistic successes in the ’60s and early ’70s. In the theater — he was a classically trained actor — he played an anguished, angular tramp in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and a memorably battered title character in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.” In film, he twice played a robust King Henry II: first opposite Richard Burton in “Becket” (1964), then with Katharine Hepburn as his queen in “The Lion in Winter” (1968). Both earned Oscar nominations for best actor, as did his repressed, decaying schoolmaster in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” in 1970 and the crazed 14th Earl of Gurney in “The Ruling Class” in 1973.
His carousing became legend, particularly in the 1970s. As he himself said, he had long been “happy to grasp the hand of misfortune, dissipation, riotous living and violence,” counting Burton, Richard Harris, Robert Shaw, Francis Bacon, Trevor Howard, Laurence Harvey and Peter Finch among his drinking companions. He lost much of his “Lawrence” earnings in two nights with Omar Sharif at casinos in Beirut and Casablanca.

Though he won many lesser awards during his career, triumph at the Academy Awards eluded him, perhaps in part because he had made no secret of his dislike of Hollywood and naturalistic acting, which he considered drab. He was nothing if not ambitious, but success would come on his own terms, not the movie industry’s.

Mr. O’Toole liked to tell interviewers that his background was “not working class but criminal class.” The father was left with a bad right hand after all its knuckles were systematically broken, presumably by creditors.
Apart from his three children — Kate, Pat and Lorcan, who survive him — cricket was Mr. O’Toole’s most lasting love. Indeed, he took a diploma as a professional coach when he was 60, the better to instruct his son and train a London boys’ team.
In 2000, he was honored with the Outstanding Achievement citation at the Laurence Olivier Awards in London. In 2003, one nomination away from setting a record among actors for the most Oscar nominations without winning — he received an honorary one for lifetime achievement.

At first reluctant to accept, fearing it would somehow signal the end of his career, Mr. O’Toole eventually agreed to the honor as something well earned and started his acceptance speech by saying, not without a note of triumph: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride — my foot. I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death us do part.”

London Telegraph obituary

-O'toole By Phil Coburn

Peter O'Toole, the Irish-born actor who has died aged 81, was one of the most charismatic, unpredictable, eccentric and individualistic players of his generation.

Hailed both as a classicist and as an exponent of post-war realism in the new British drama, he seemed destined for greatness on the stage until David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) turned him into a film star.  It was one of the most spectacular screen breakthroughs of the post-war years.

O’Toole was as famous in his private life for hell-raising exploits, alcoholic benders and independence of artistic judgement, as for his wildly variable performances on stage and screen. The traditional distinction between the actor and the role soon became something of a blur.

Tall, lean, blue-eyed, watchful, whimsical — and, by middle age, so emaciated that his friends feared for his health — O’Toole seemed regularly to veer close to self destruction. A self-confessed lover of sleaze, he once said: “I can’t stand light; I hate weather; my idea of heaven is moving from one smoke-filled room to another.”
His acting ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. It could be subtle, reserved, sensitive and deeply affecting. It could also be loud, self-regarding, mannered and imitative of the worst of the 19th-century barnstormers.
The year 1992 also saw the publication of the first volume of his autobiography, Loitering With Intent. Besides committing to record his own account of a life rich in myth and hyperbole, O’Toole revealed a genuine writing talent whose promise is sadly cut short.

Having been denied as best actor Oscar many times, in 2003 O’Toole received a special honorary award, effectively for his lifetime’s work. He joked about this when, in 2006, he received yet another best-actor nomination, playing a 70-year-old roué in Venus, who romances his best friend’s grand-niece. The lifetime’s recognition, he quipped, had been premature because there was life in the old dog yet.

Peter O’Toole married, in 1960 (dissolved 1979), the actress Sian Phillips, with whom he had two daughters. He married secondly, in 1983, Karen Brown, with whom he had a son. The second marriage also ended in divorce.

Boston Globe obituary by Ty Burr, "God, he was beautiful."

 "Beautiful Peter O'toole

He was possibly the most charismatic, handsome, and gifted of his acting peers, remarkable when you consider that his fellow actors in the 1954 graduating class of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art included Richard Harris, Albert Finney, and Alan Bates.
For a while, O'Toole had it all, but after a decade-long run from 1958 to 1968 that included two stage Hamlets, two filmed Henry IIs, and a career-defining title role in David Lean's 1962 "Lawrence of Arabia," the momentum slipped away. It may have been all the carousing, which achieved iconic proportions until the actor gave up drinking (more or less) in 1975. Or it may have been a curious indecision about celebrity itself. ….O'Toole made hesitancy his metier. His T. E. Lawrence is the hero terrified of what heroism may bring -- a larger-than-life adventurer when seen from a distance, a tremulous blue-eyed existentialist when encountered up close. The tension, majesty, and sorrow of the performance came from some mysterious place between the two.

Thoughts from Roger L Simon, 'Nothing is Written'

For people of my generation who went into film as writers, directors or practically anything else, no movie was of deeper import, of greater inspiration, than Lawrence of Arabia.
The film has remarkable resonance, since it was based (rather loosely) on the book  by T. E. Lawrence, which had, as its core subject, the West’s relationship with what, until Edward Said wagged his angry finger, was called the Orient…..

Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people. Greedy, barbarous and cruel, as you are.

Tribe against tribe?  Where have we heard all that before? Back in 1962, who among us knew about Sunni versus Shiite (or the Howitat and the others, for that matter)? In 2013, who among us doesn’t?

What Peter O'Toole said he wanted on his tombstone

"Many years ago I sent an old, beloved jacket to a cleaner, the Sycamore Cleaners. It was a leather jacket covered in Guinness and blood and marmalade, one of those jobs . . . and it came back with a little note pinned to it, and on the note it said, "It distresses us to return work which is not perfect." So that will do for me. That can go on my tombstone."

Peter O'Toole: 20 best quotes

On fame after Lawrence of Arabia
1. "I woke up one morning to find I was famous. Bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum. Nobody took any f---ing notice, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself."

On drinking
2. “I did quite enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one’s local in Paris and woke up in Corsica.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

November 26, 2013

The Great Legacy of the ''Prison Angel'

Antonia Brenner, a nun who gave up her Beverly Hills life to live in a Mexican prison, dies at 86

Mother Antonia became a nun at age 50 and called Tijuana's most notorious prison, La Mesa Penitentiary, home since 1978.

Mary Brenner was married and divorced twice and had seven children before she decided to become a nun. She founded a new order called Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour for older women who want to serve the poor.
Brenner didn't hesitate to intervene in thorny conflicts at the prison, which is marred by a history of violent clashes, including one in 2008 that left about two dozen inmates dead.
'I'm effective in riots because I'm not afraid, I just pray and walk into it,' she told The Associated Press in 2005. 'A woman in a white veil walks in, someone they know loves them. So silence comes, explanation comes and arms go down.'

Brenner also counseled and supported prison guards and police, creating Brazos Abiertos, or Open Arms, a group that provides financial support and holiday meals to families of slain Tijuana police officers.

Guards and inmates in La Mesa penitentiary referred to Brenner as the prison angel. In the cellblocks she was known as 'Mama.'

 Sister Brenner Prison Angel-1

She lived as any other inmate, sleeping in a 10-by-10-foot cell, eating the same food and lining up for morning roll call.

She would walk freely among thieves and drug traffickers and murderers, smiling, touching cheeks and offering prayers. Many were violent men with desperate needs. She kept extra toilet paper in her cell, arranged for medical treatment, attended funerals.

Guards and inmates alike started referring to her as the prison angel. In the cellblocks she was known simply as "Mama." "There isn't anyone who hasn't heard my lecture on victims," she said in a 2002 Times story. "They have to accept that they're wrong. They have to see the consequences. They have to feel the agony. … But I do love them dearly."
Brenner often visited her family in Southern California, where she would regale her more than 45 grandchildren and great-grandchildren with stories about her charity work. "She was a tiny woman with a little fire and a lot of passion," Christina Brenner said. "We called her the Eveready battery. She wouldn't stop. She was always going."

Probably the most inspiring and heroic incidents of her ministry were the ending of two prison riots.

One was in 1989. The police raided the cells of drug traders, active with drugs even while they were behind bars. Prisoners began throwing coke bottles at the police and the police fired their guns. Mother Antonia walked in, right in the path of the bottles and bullets, with her hands raised high over her head. The policemen and inmates yelled for her to stay away, but she kept on walking, saying, "Mis hijos, mis hijos ['my sons']. Stop this. You must stop this now." Astonishingly, the dozens of police and guards and hundreds of rioting inmates put down their weapons.

 Sister Antonia Brenner Consoles Inmate

The second riot in 1994 took place on Halloween when one prisoner overpowered a guard and took his gun.

Mother Antonia, coming back home from an errand, was stopped by the assistant warden, who told her that she could not enter, that it was too dangerous. She persuaded him to telephone the warden, who at first told her the same thing. She argued with him that it is her mission to be inside with the inmates. The warden knew that there was the possibility of a massacre and that the prisoners listened to her. He finally ordered the prison personnel to let her in.

Inside, it was dark because the guards had turned off the electricity before they left. She made her way to the punishment cells on the third floor. She heard the cells' inmates and called out to them. She came upon an inmate she knew as "Blackie." She fell to her knees, pleading with him. "It's not right that you're locked up here, hungry and thirsty. We can take care of those things, but this isn't the way to do it. I will help you make it better. But first you have to give me the guns. I beg you to put down your weapons."

"Mother," Blackie said softly, looking down at her. "As soon as we heard your voice, we dropped the guns out the window."

Even while ministering to inmates of La Mesa Penitentiary, Mother Antonia founded a women's religious order, the Servants of the Eleventh Hour, designed to give older women a way to dedicate their lives to working with the poor. The normal entry age is 45 years to 65 years, and divorce in one's life is not an impediment to entry.

"I think prison freed me, " she once said in an interview

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2013

“Life is a creeping tragedy,” the minister used to say. “That’s why we must be cheerful.”

Why does a brush with death make people turn to religion?

Sir John Tavener’s final broadcast on the BBC's Today programme brought home with force the truths of faith.

 John-Tavener-Simone-Canetty-Clarke John Tavener

I listened with unusual interest to Start the Week (Radio 4) on Monday. In January, the programme’s presenter, Andrew Marr, though only in his early fifties, suffered a stroke. He has recently returned to broadcasting. His post-stroke speech has the vocal equivalent of a very slight limp. On Monday, this made what he had to say the more affecting.

Marr told his audience that he is not religious but that, as he has convalesced, he has found himself reading religious poetry and listening to religious music. He has encountered “the possibility of sudden death”, and it has changed him. He reads the 17th-century poems of George Herbert and listens to the cantatas of JS Bach. Why might this be, he wanted to know. Why, in a culture which seems less and less interested in the formal teachings of religion, do many people feel that religious poetry and religious music matter more than ever?
Sir John explained that he had recently had a near-death experience. Since he had been ill, he had been looking back on his life a lot. Although he had moved from the Presbyterianism of his childhood, through Roman Catholicism, to a rather unorthodox version of eastern Orthodoxy, he remembered fondly a Protestant pastor of his youth. “Life is a creeping tragedy,” the minister used to say. “That’s why we must be cheerful.”
At first, Sir John’s illness had “shut everything down. God seemed to have vanished”; but then, as he recovered strength, his belief in God and his capacity to compose music – which, he said, had always gone together – returned. Now his music had become “more essential; more terse”.
Tavener complained that there was “a notable lack of joy in modern art”. He had just set three of Herbert’s poems to music (they will be performed for the first time next year). He quoted Dante: “All my thoughts speak of love.”
John Drury read out one of Herbert’s most famous poems, Love (III). It takes the form of a dialogue between the unworthy soul and Love (who is God, though not so named). The soul is inclined to refuse Love’s invitation to sit at his table, but Love, the perfect host, persuades him. In the dialogue, said Dr Drury, “Love has fewer words, but they are sprightly. In the end, it is Love that matters.” On Tuesday, the end came for John Tavener.

George Herbert, though high-born and ambitious, eventually chose the simple life of a parish priest. He wrote his poems, but never attempted to publish them in life. As he was dying, he asked them to be given to a trusted friend, saying that they were “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts which have passed between God and my soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master”. He asked him to read the book and “if it may turn to the advantage of any poor dejected soul, let it be made public”; if not, he should burn it.

For Herbert, that dejection he referred to was important. It was a horrible thing, but also a grace. In one of his most famous and beautiful poems, The Flower, Herbert compares his formerly depressed self to the plant that seems to die, but doesn’t: “And now in age I bud again,/After so many deaths I live and write;/I once more smell the dew and rain,/And relish versing: /Oh my only light,/ It cannot be/That I am he/On whom thy tempests fell all night.”
[I]f  people do not believe what religion says, why do they turn to its utterances when sick or dying or in fear?

The obvious, cynical, but not completely wrong answer is “Any port in a storm”. But I would argue that something else is going on, too. The chief message of 21st-century Western culture is one of self-empowerment. With technology, money, know-how, rights, medicine, problems can be solved: “You can do it!” Often this is true. But an encounter with really serious things – and nothing is more serious than death – tells you that ultimately you cannot. When you realise this, the paradoxes that are central to the great religions (especially to Christianity, which is the most paradoxical) come home with unique force. When I am weak, then am I strong; you must die to live.

In our culture, millions of people only think about these things too late, if at all. So the people who think about them all the time are helpful – and brave. Which is good reason to give thanks for the life and work of Sir John Tavener.

 Sir John Tavener

Sir John Tavener -  obituary

Sir John Tavener, who has died aged 69, was one of the leading British composers of the day; his predominantly religious and contemplative music — dubbed “holy minimalism” by some critics — was as passionately admired by large numbers of listeners as it was derided by others.
On the occasion of Tavener’s 50th birthday in 1994, the BBC honoured him with a four-day festival of his works on Radio 3, with broadcasts from Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the Barbican.

A striking figure, 6ft 6in tall, with long, flowing hair and the ascetic face of a monk, Tavener was received into the Orthodox faith in 1977. Mother Thekla, an Orthodox nun, was not only his spiritual guide but also the librettist of several of his works
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

Her Great Legacy was the development of wrinkle-free cotton

Woman who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton - freeing generations from hours of tedious housework- dies at the age of 97

The inventor who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton has died at the age of 97.  Dr. Ruth Benerito, who created the material in the 1950s, died on Saturday at her home in Louisiana.  She is credited with saving the cotton industry as the introduction of synthetic fibres in the 1930s and 1940s led many consumers to turn to the the easy-care fabric.

The achievement 'is considered one of the most significant technological developments of the 20th century.'

 Dr. Ruth Benerito

Her obituary in the New York Times reads: 'A chemist long affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Benerito helped perfect modern wrinkle-free cotton, colloquially known as permanent press, in work that she and her colleagues began in the late 1950s,'.

Dr Benerito grew up in New Orleans, and started at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of Tulane University at 15.  The daughter of a civil engineer and an artist, she credited her parents as being her inspiration saying: 'My father was the one who believed in education. He said the only thing we would get would be a good education and nobody could take them away from you.'
She went to work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Southern Regional Research Laboratories in New Orleans, where she spent most of her prolific career.
In the 1950s Benerito’s research team began to look into cotton and discovered how to treat cotton fibers so that these chainlike cellulose molecules were chemically joined. 

The Chemical Heritage Foundation writes: 'At the time, chemists knew that cellulose molecules could stick to each other by way of hydrogen bonds, but hydrogen bonds are weak and easily broken, making cotton fabric prone to wrinkling.

'The new treatment strengthened the bonds between cellulose molecules by inserting short organic molecules between them, rather like the rungs of a ladder. The new product was one enormous molecule with different properties from the original cellulose molecules. This “crosslinking” made cotton wrinkle-resistant.'
The same chemistry also faciliated the ability to incorporate flame retardants into children's sleepwear, mattresses and uniforms for firefighters and the military.
But Benerito repeatedly denied she was the sole inventor of wrinkle-free cotton.

'I don’t like it to be said that I invented wash-wear, because there were any number of people working on it, and there are various processes by which you give cotton those properties,' she said.

'No one person discovered it or was responsible for it. But I contributed to new processes of doing it.'

In later years, while she continued to research cotton fibers, Benerito taught classes part-time at Tulane and at the University of New Orleans.
She retired from the USDA in 1986 but kept on teaching at the University of New Orleans until she was aged 81.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

The Death of an Edwardian Lady

A June Bouquet  Of Peonies and Edith Holden

My walk reminded me of a book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden, a British artist, teacher and self-taught naturalist who wrote and illustrated this homey diary of her excursions in 1906 in the countryside surrounding her home in Olton, Warwickshire.
Holden could never have been sick of spring. In fact, she died from the exact opposite of what afflicted the owner of the peonies. She was over-enthusiastic.

With a rush came the memories of being totally charmed by her book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, which was republished in 1977 with great success long after her death in 1920.

 Edith Holden Country Lady

But I never knew about her death until The Thinking Housewife quoted from Wikipedia:

On Tuesday, 16 March 1920, she was found drowned in a backwater of the River Thames, near Kew Gardens Walk. On the prior Monday morning Edith had complained to Ernest of a headache, but this was not uncommon and the matter had not been dwelt on. The main subject at breakfast had been the impending visit of some friends for Easter, to which Edith was looking forward. Ernest left for the studio at St. James's Palace and Edith said that she would probably go down to the river later to see the University crews practicing.

When Ernest [her husband] returned home that evening his wife was out but the table had been laid for the evening meal, and Ernest assumed that she was with friends. It was not until the next morning that he learned the truth. Her body had been found at six o’clock on the Tuesday morning. The inquest established that she had tried to reach a branch of chestnut buds. The bough was out of reach and with the aid of her umbrella Edith had tried to break it off, fallen forward into the river and drowned.

You can see examples of her work here

She has left us a great legacy with the beauty of her paintings and illustrations, the accuracy of her observations of nature and the example she leaves of the wonder experienced by all naturalists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

Henry Hope Reed's Great Legacy of 'Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur'

Henry Hope Reed,  an architecture critic and historian whose ardent opposition to modernism was purveyed in books, walking tours of New York City and a host of curmudgeonly barbs directed at advocates of the austere, the functional and unornamented in public buildings and spaces, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 97.

 Henry Hope Reed

Remembering Henry Hope Reed

He was not so much an historian as a public advocate for the Classical spirit in all the arts – from painting and sculpture to architecture and city planning, from decorative arts to gardens, from lampposts to Central Park.

He was a tireless campaigner for beauty in the built environment, issuing such declarations as “a room without ornament is like a sky without stars” and “there is nothing sadder than a blank pediment.” A native New Yorker, he advocated for public art everywhere in his many books, essays, lectures and his famous walking tours.

NY Sun How Henry Hope Reed Saved Architecture

Mr. Reed basically invented the New York City architectural or historical walking tour, in 1956, for the Municipal Art Society. He then led his tours for the Museum of the City of New York. Those walking tours helped build the constituency for the preservation movement, which led to the Landmarks Law of 1965, and to a general revolution in urban consciousness that has yet to be adequately chronicled, yet should not be underestimated.
Mr. Reed helped found Classical America in 1968. In the 1970s, this organization began to offer courses in drawing the classical orders - courses that had been stripped from the curricula of every architecture school in America. Later, the New York-based Institute of Classical Architecture took up the call of the classical training of architects. A few years ago, the Institute merged with Mr. Reed's organization to form the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America, of which Mr. Reed is honorary president and scholar-in-residence.
As for Mr. Reed himself, he has in recent years done the best scholarly work of his career, producing a trio of magnificent books, each on one of the greatest buildings in America. "The New York Public Library" and "The Library of Congress "have this year been joined by "The United States Capitol: Its Architecture and Decoration" (W.W. Norton, 210 pages, $50), the book Mr. Reed was born to write. With this book he makes clear that our Capitol is not merely the beloved symbol of our democracy, but also the touchstone for all the best that has been accomplished in American architecture and in the arts of decoration.

As for that latter, the arts of decoration, Mr. Reed firmly believes, and has been saying for more than half a century, that they should not be divorced from architecture. Painting and sculpture, in Mr. Reed's view, are essential to buildings. The absence of ornamentation and decoration, of what Mr. Reed likes to call "embellishment," in modern architecture led him to coin the term "anorexic art."

Henry Hope Reed, Defender of Decoration  by Catesby Leigh

More than any cultural figure of his generation, Reed perpetuated an awareness of the classical tradition’s enduring role as the indispensable means for improving the human habitat—starting with the city, man’s greatest creation.
Henry Hope Reed was a man with a deep appreciation for luxury, which might sound like a trait unbefitting a Christian gentleman. For Henry, the luxurious decoration of a public square, the luxurious ornamentation of a building, even the luxurious embellishment of one’s own person were essentially a matter of enriching our visual experience of the world. To be the designer or craftsman of beautiful things was to fulfill man’s natural role as what Henry called a “decorating animal.”
General MacArthur’s famous watchwords were Duty, Honor, Country. Henry’s were Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur. These ideals were inextricably bound up in his mind with a heightening and refining of the emotions, inextricably bound up with a sense of life governed more than anything by a sense of the measure of things.
For Henry the achievement of beauty in the arts of form offered a foretaste, perhaps the merest inkling, of that culminating glory. He also believed in embodying the noblest aspects of human endeavor in emphatically dimensional, monumental terms, with depth of relief, with depth of formal complexity. The path to grandeur lay in discerning patronage and the artist’s own depth of discipline and knowledge. These last two qualities Henry knew to be the basis of all creative liberty.

The battle he fought was against the flattening of human experience. Flat, blank facades on buildings conceived as commodities—or just oddities—rather than works of civic art; flat modernist pictorial abstractions; the flattening of cultural history into pseudo-history packaged as what Henry dismissed as “applied sociology”—all spoke to him of something far more ominous, the abasement of man and the crude negation of his proper relationship to nature as embodied in the great tradition.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2013

Paul Cellucci, R.I.P.

 Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci remembered for his compassion, integrity -

Former Gov. Paul Cellucci — who lost his valiant battle with ALS yesterday — was remembered as a loving family man and a compassionate politician who brought Democrats and Republicans together.

Cellucci, 65, died at his Hudson home surrounded by family, according to University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he helped raise research money for ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Paul Cellucci was simply one of the finest human beings I have ever met,” said former Gov. William Weld. “I happened to know him in the realm of politics and government, but anyone who knew him in any other arena

would have found the same man: a person of rock-hard integrity, keen intelligence, considerable humor, abundant compassion, and deep 
devotion to family and country. We are all immensely impoverished by his loss.”

Cellucci was elected lieutenant governor in 1990 and was sworn in as acting governor in 1997, when Weld left to pursue an ambassador appointment. Cellucci won his own campaign for governor the following year, but left 
office in 2001 when he was named ambassador to Canada, a position he held for four years.

Howie Carr. Paul Cellucci was not a nuisance.

That’s what H. L. Mencken  wrote on the passing of  another Republican governor of Massachusetts — Calvin Coolidge — and can there be any higher praise for a politician, especially one of the Bay State variety?
he really always did try to do the right thing, and when he departed office in 2001, the state was in immeasurably better shape than when he and Bill Weld took over in the wreckage of the Dukakis disaster known as the Massachusetts miracle.

They were elected saying they’d cut taxes, and they cut taxes.
They said they’d work with the Democrats in the Legislature, and they did. Maybe because Cellucci was almost a Democrat, not in the new pejorative RINO sense, but just as an average guy who went along to get along.

Joe Fitzgerald  We'll remember how he lived

When you’ve been the governor of a politically vibrant state like Massachusetts, and the U.S. ambassador to a prominent neighbor such as Canada, no more needs to be said about your substance and your skills.
He died the way he lived, a man of towering integrity whose greatest quality was knowing what really matters in life.

Boston Globe.  Paul Cellucci, former governor and US ambassador to Canada, dies at 65 from ALS

Mr. Cellucci, whose political experience spanned more than three decades and who never lost an election, was central to the creation of a new brand of Massachusetts Republicans, built on fiscal conservative principles, a strong environmental agenda, and advocacy of liberal social policies.

His close personal and political association with Governor William F. Weld, with whom Mr. Cellucci served as lieutenant governor, set the stage for a Republican resurgence in the 1990s that broke the Democratic liberal grip on Beacon Hill policymaking.
While Mr. Cellucci spent four years as President George W. Bush’s ambassador in Ottawa and wielded huge influence on Beacon Hill, he never moved from Hudson, the small working-class town midway between Boston and Worcester that formed his character and his political instincts. He was the only governor in the past few decades to speak with a distinct Massachusetts accent.

“He was a completely different type of governor in terms of his background,” said Rob Gray, who served as a chief political adviser to Mr. Cellucci.
“Growing up outside the Boston-Route 128 bubble and continuing to hang out with average people on a daily basis really shaped his views of the issues,” said Gray, president of Gray Media Group. “Paul was staunchly antitax and very frugal when it came to the budget, but he knew that certain types of government spending helped average people. He wasn’t just symbolically a man of the people; that’s what he really was.”
Mr. Cellucci’s election as governor in his own right in 1998 was an important personal triumph over the media and political skeptics who viewed him as a minor figure. He handily beat back a spirited challenge from Joe Malone, a popular state treasurer, in the GOP primary, then defeated the sitting attorney general, Scott Harshbarger.

In a statement, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, “Our city and our Commonwealth will miss him deeply and his type — a leader who wanted to help people.

“He was one of the very first people to reach out after I became mayor to offer a hand, and he did that over and over again. I will never forget what Governor Cellucci meant to Boston and to me.”
In 2011, Mr. Cellucci teamed up with Weld in what he called his “last campaign,” to raise money for Brown’s ALS research at UMass Medical School. “This is a big, big cause and they’re getting very close not just to ALS but a lot of other neuro-degenerative diseases,” Mr. Cellucci said.
The fund has raised $1.7 million.

“He managed America’s closest ally very well during an extremely challenging time,” Card said.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Canadian airports agreed to take in more than 200 planes diverted from the United States, and Canadian citizens opened their doors to thousands of stranded passengers and crew.

“Paul helped manage that phenomenal hospitality, and he traveled the breadth and width of Canada to thank people,” said Card, who had served as Bush’s chief of staff.

Mr. Cellucci also worked to get Canada to join the US coalition on the war against terror. And later, when Bush visited Canada, Mr. Cellucci had to deal with the antiwar protesters.

“He was highly respected by the Canadian government, business leaders, and the people,” said Card.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 AM | Permalink

May 28, 2013

"He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “

A wonderful obituary in The Economist about a man who made a difference in the lives of untold numbers of Brits.

Bill O’Hagan  Bill O’Hagan, pioneer of Britain’s sausage renaissance, died on May 15th, aged 68.

THE best sound in the world to Bill O’Hagan was the slow crescendo of sausages sizzling in a pan; the best smell, the charred skins of the same; the best sight, a glistening heaped plateful of the same, with mash; the best taste, a succulent tongue-teasing blend of minced lean pork, rolled oats, fresh eggs, sea-salt, chervil and winter savoury, generously dosed with real ale. He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “Sausages? I love ’em!” he would cry, before the interviewer had asked one question; and twitching aside his striped butcher’s apron he would show, on his own plump anatomy, the best bits of a pig for his purpose.

British commercial sausages, before he arrived on the scene, were poor limp things, flaccidly pink, that would burst and stick in the pan (hence “banger”) and lie heavy on the stomach. They tasted of nothing much, and that was just as well, because they were composed of muscle, gristle, head-meat and tail, padded out with rusk, injected with 11 chemicals and stuffed in a plastic tube. “Bloody rubbish!” Mr O’Hagan called them, unworthy of the name of sausage, though post-war Britons, with their propensity to chew stoically on anything, liked them well enough. Doused with brown sauce they became a national dish, of sorts; together with flabby fish and chips eaten out of yesterday’s newspaper, and jam roly-poly pudding.

 Bill O'hagan

Mr O’Hagan was the man who, from the 1980s, started to change all that. First, he put proper meat into sausages. Second, he removed the bready filler. Then he took the chemicals and additives out, replacing them with alecost, tansy and woodruff, plants of the hedgerows, which were natural preservatives. “No nasties!” his flyers promised. Once the true nobility of the British sausage was restored (a nobility that needed no pricking, for a proper sausage never exploded), he began to play about with flavours, adding apples or brandy or blue cheese, or ginger, or coriander. He reckoned he had tried 2,000 variations, of which about 160 went into regular production. They included Pork, Banana and Honey, made at the request of children when he featured on a TV show.
His apogee came when the British Sausage Appreciation Society crowned him the best sausage-maker in the country. He had won his laurels largely as an amateur. For years he made the sausages in his garden shed, and he combined this labour of love with being a night editor on the Daily Telegraph, sweeping in to work in a black cape “like a ruddy-cheeked vampire”, one colleague said, with packed coolboxes of his produce to sell to hungry subs. At 4.30am, when he left again (many pints of good beer to the wind, and driving a decommissioned black cab, which he claimed was less likely to be stopped by the police), the boxes would be empty. Sausage-making at last took him over in 1988, when he opened the world’s first fresh-sausage shop in Greenwich. By 1991 he was selling 2m a year, and super-premium sausages had become the rage throughout the land.
Apart from that, there was no bitterness in his nature. He failed to make a fortune, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself. By tradition a British butcher is a jolly chap; and few could be jollier than a man whose life was devoted, first, to making the perfect sausage, and, second, to matching it with the perfect foaming pint.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2013

"He died in the most horrific way possible"

'He died in the most horrific way possible': Wife's devastation over her British soldier husband hacked to death by Muslim fanatic

 Drummer Lee Rigby

Serving his country on the dusty battlefields of Afghanistan, he risked his life facing Taliban bullets and roadside bombs.  Back in Britain after a gruelling deployment in one of the most dangerous places imaginable, Drummer Lee Rigby would have been thankful to have emerged unscathed.

But, four years later, on a supposedly safe London high street, the young soldier was brutally cut down in his prime, butchered by crazed Islamic fanatics wielding cleavers and knives.

In broad daylight, Drummer Rigby, 25, the married father of a little boy, was run over then hacked to death in front of horrified onlookers.

The pair, who were known to the security services, shouted ‘Allah Akhbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is great’ – as they mercilessly slaughtered the defenceless serviceman.

A statement released by his family said: ‘Lee was lovely. He would do anything for anybody, he always looked after his sisters and always protected them. He took a “big brother” role with everyone.

‘All he wanted to do from when he was a little boy was be in the Army. He wanted to live life and enjoy himself.

‘His family meant everything to him. He was a loving son, husband, father, brother, and uncle, and a friend to many.’

A brother in law of the soldier’s wife Rebecca, 30, said she was ‘absolutely in bits’.

Speaking from her family’s home in Halifax, he said: ‘He died in the most horrific way possible, it’s shocking and unimaginable.’

Murdered soldier Drummer Lee Rigby 'would do anything for anybody’

Family and colleagues pay tribute to loving father and talented parade drummer Lee Rigby, who served with distinction in Afghanistan .

Drummer Rigby’s colleagues from 2nd Bn The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, described him as one of its “great characters”. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, the commanding officer of the Second Fusiliers, led tributes to the “dedicated and professional soldier”, a talented parade drummer who performed outside the Royal Palaces and whose strong personality marked him out to work in Army recruitment.
“He was a real character. Larger than life, he was at the heart of our Corps of Drums. An experienced and talented side drummer and machine gunner, he was a true warrior and served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany and Cyprus.

Horrific is right.  May he rest in peace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 AM | Permalink

April 18, 2013

Noonan on the Thatcher funeral

 Thatcher-Funeral Casket Roses

Britain Remembers a Great Briton

Thatcher's funeral was striking in that it was not, actually, about her. It was about what she thought it important for the mourners to know. The readings were about the fact of God, the gift of Christ, and the necessity of loving your country and working for its betterment. There were no long eulogies. In a friendly and relatively brief address, the bishop of London lauded her kindness and character. No funeral of an American leader would ever be like that: The dead American would be the star, with God in the position of yet another mourner who'd miss his leadership.
At the end of the funeral they all marched down the aisle in great procession—the family, the queen, the military pallbearers carrying the casket bearing the Union Jack. The great doors flung open, the pallbearers marched forward, and suddenly from the crowd a great roar. We looked at each other. Demonstrators? No. Listen. They were cheering. They were calling out three great hurrahs as the pallbearers went down the steps. Then long cheers and applause. It was electric.

England came. The people came. Later we would learn they'd stood 30 deep on the sidewalk, that quiet crowds had massed on the Strand and Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill. A man had held up a sign: "But We Loved Her."

-Thatcher-Funeral "We Loved-Her"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2013

Fr Emil Kapuan, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, A Hero and a Saint

Capt. Emil Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest from Kansas, died in a POW camp in Pyoktong, North Korea in 1951, six months after he was taken captive, at age 35.

 Emil Kapaun Posed

Last Thursday, President Obama awarded him a posthumous Medal of Honor.   Kapaun's story is extraordinary and moving but the President captured it in his remarks: 

This year, we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War -- a time when thousands of our prisoners of war finally came home after years of starvation and hardship and, in some cases, torture. And among the homecomings, one stood out.

A group of our POWs emerged carrying a large wooden crucifix, nearly four feet tall. They had spent months on it, secretly collecting firewood, carving it -- the cross and the body -- using radio wire for a crown of thorns. It was a tribute to their friend, their chaplain, their fellow prisoner who had touched their souls and saved their lives -- Father Emil Kapaun.

This is an amazing story. Father Kapaun has been called a shepherd in combat boots. His fellow soldiers who felt his grace and his mercy called him a saint, a blessing from God. Today, we bestow another title on him -- recipient of our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. After more than six decades of working to make this Medal a reality, I know one of Father Kapaun’s comrades spoke for a lot of folks here when he said, “it’s about time.”
After the Communist invasion of South Korea, he was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”

That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack -- perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land -- dragging the wounded to safety.

When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay -- gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on -- comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.

When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end -- that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives.

 Kapaun Medal Honor

After the Communist invasion of South Korea, he was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”

That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack -- perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land -- dragging the wounded to safety.

When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay -- gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on -- comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.

When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end -- that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives.

Then, as Father Kapaun was being led away, he saw another American -- wounded, unable to walk, laying in a ditch, defenseless. An enemy soldier was standing over him, rifle aimed at his head, ready to shoot. And Father Kapaun marched over and pushed the enemy soldier aside. And then as the soldier watched, stunned, Father Kapaun carried that wounded American away.

This is the valor we honor today -- an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live. And yet, the incredible story of Father Kapaun does not end there.

He carried that injured American, for miles, as their captors forced them on a death march. When Father Kapaun grew tired, he’d help the wounded soldier hop on one leg. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up. When they wanted to quit -- knowing that stragglers would be shot -- he begged them to keep walking.

 Emil Kapaun Korea

In the camps that winter, deep in a valley, men could freeze to death in their sleep. Father Kapaun offered them his own clothes. They starved on tiny rations of millet and corn and birdseed. He somehow snuck past the guards, foraged in nearby fields, and returned with rice and potatoes. In desperation, some men hoarded food. He convinced them to share. Their bodies were ravaged by dysentery. He grabbed some rocks, pounded metal into pots and boiled clean water. They lived in filth. He washed their clothes and he cleansed their wounds.

The guards ridiculed his devotion to his Savior and the Almighty. They took his clothes and made him stand in the freezing cold for hours. Yet, he never lost his faith. If anything, it only grew stronger. At night, he slipped into huts to lead prisoners in prayer, saying the Rosary, administering the sacraments, offering three simple words: “God bless you.” One of them later said that with his very presence he could just for a moment turn a mud hut into a cathedral.

That spring, he went further -- he held an Easter service. I just met with the Kapaun family. They showed me something extraordinary -- the actual stole, the purple vestment that Father Kapaun wore when he celebrated Mass inside that prison camp.

As the sun rose that Easter Sunday, he put on that purple stole and led dozens of prisoners to the ruins of an old church in the camp. . And he read from a prayer missal that they had kept hidden. He held up a small crucifix that he had made from sticks. And as the guards watched, Father Kapaun and all those prisoners -- men of different faith, perhaps some men of no faith -- sang the Lord’s Prayer and “America the Beautiful.” They sang so loud that other prisoners across the camp not only heard them, they joined in, too -- filling that valley with song and with prayer.

That faith -- that they might be delivered from evil, that they could make it home -- was perhaps the greatest gift to those men; that even amidst such hardship and despair, there could be hope; amid their misery in the temporal they could see those truths that are eternal; that even in such hell, there could be a touch of the divine. Looking back, one of them said that that is what “kept a lot of us alive.”

Yet, for Father Kapaun, the horrific conditions took their toll. Thin, frail, he began to limp, with a blood clot in his leg. And then came dysentery, then pneumonia. That’s when the guards saw their chance to finally rid themselves of this priest and the hope he inspired. They came for him. And over the protests and tears of the men who loved him, the guards sent him to a death house -- a hellhole with no food or water -- to be left to die.

And yet, even then, his faith held firm. “I’m going to where I’ve always wanted to go,” he told his brothers. “And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” And then, as was taken away, he did something remarkable -- he blessed the guards. “Forgive them,” he said, “for they know not what they do.” Two days later, in that house of death, Father Kapaun breathed his last breath. His body was taken away, his grave unmarked, his remains unrecovered to this day.

The war and the awful captivity would drag on for another two years, but these men held on -- steeled by the memory and moral example of the man they called Father. And on their first day of freedom, in his honor, they carried that beautiful wooden crucifix with them.

-Kapaun Saying Mass

In DODlive, A two-part series on the life and service of Emil Kapaun

During World War II, Kapaun served in India and the Burma theater, from 1945-1946, Hotze said.

The men who served with him during World War II told stories about Kapaun always being where the fight was, according to Hotze. “At that time, most of the fighting was over … but they said there would be pockets of resistance where they would hear gunfire. It was kind of a bet among the men as to how quickly Kapaun would be able to get to where the … shooting was, because he felt that was where the men needed him.

A riveting series at the Wichita Eagle by Roy Wenzel on The Miracle of Father Kapaun that had me in tears.  My excerpts are extensive because the story is so remarkable.

Part 1 Father Emil Kapaun: In Korea, Kapaun saves dozens during Chinese attack

Twenty thousand Chinese, who the generals said were not in North Korea, had rushed out of the hills at the 3,000 men of the 8th Cavalry; the 1st and 2nd Battalions withdrew south.

Kapaun and a private named Patrick Schuler drove toward the fighting, then ran into enemy soldiers blocking the road. Kapaun and Schuler loaded a few of the wounded and brought them south.

"Stay with the jeep and say your prayers," Kapaun told Schuler. "I'll be back."

He ran to find more wounded, but the Chinese attacked, and Schuler in desperation set the empty jeep on fire to destroy it. He never saw Kapaun again.

Most of the 1st Battalion would escape; some of the 2nd Battalion, too. But the 800 men of 3rd Battalion covered the withdrawal, and they were overrun.
GIs saw Kapaun running from foxhole to foxhole, dragging wounded out, saying prayers over the dying, hearing confessions amid gunfire, ripping open shirts to look at wounds. Men screamed at him to escape, but he ignored them.

Kapaun called McGreevy and others into a huddle.

"I'm going to give you guys the last rites," he said. "Because a lot of you guys are not going to make it home."

McGreevy noticed how calm Kapaun looked. The priest called out the sacred words in English, not Latin; the GIs were from all shades of belief.

Part 2  Father Emil Kapaun: Through Death March, Father Kapaun perseveres and inspires

Father Emil Kapaun was considered an unusual man even before the 8th Cavalry’s 3rd Battalion was overrun at Unsan. Many devout Christians believe, for example, that they must overtly preach Christianity, but Kapaun by all accounts never lectured, never forced it. What he did instead was scrounge food for soldiers, write letters to their families, pass his tobacco pipe around for a few puffs, and run through machine gun fire, rescuing wounded. If he brought up religion in foxholes, he asked permission first: “Would you care to say a prayer with me?” He treated Protestants, Jews and atheists the same way he treated Catholics — and he treated Catholics like loved ones. Some GIs did not like some chaplains. They loved this one.

Riding Kapaun’s back, Miller felt guilty. He had never attended the priest’s Masses in camp or on the battlefield, though he knew the guy was well liked. Miller had never met him until the priest stopped his execution.

Sometimes other people helped carry Miller, and the priest carried others, or urged men to carry stretchers, which they made from tree branches and rice sacks scrounged from nearby farms.

The branches would dig into the men’s shoulders. Sometimes, when carriers would set the stretcher down to change positions, the Chinese would yell to move along, and the wounded soldier was left to die.
When he got tired he would let Miller slide down his back, and Miller would hop on one foot with one of the priest’s arms around him. Miller did not want to wear out the priest, but hopping made his ankle bleed badly, so Kapaun or somebody else would carry him some more.

Miller had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day six years before; he had fought many battles, but he had never seen anybody like this priest.

Miller could feel Kapaun’s skinny back. There did not appear to be a lot of muscle there, but the guy seemed to be made of iron. He kept going hour after hour, living on nothing but the little ball of millet they got once a day from the guards.

“Father,” Miller said. “You need to put me down.”

Kapaun shook his head.

“If I put you down, Herb, they will shoot you.”

Part 3 Father Emil Kapaun: In icy POW camps, Kapaun shares faith, provisions

Three weeks after their capture, after 75 miles of marching, the starving survivors of the 8th Cavalry and 19th Infantry straggled into a mud-hut village called Pyoktong, on the banks of the Yalu River, two miles from Manchuria.

They’d barely set foot in the village when American bombers roared in overhead and firebombed it. Horrified villagers spat at the prisoners, threw rocks.
Guards took them south again, 12 more miles. Men and discipline broke down in the snow and ice; men left their wounded to die in ditches, ignoring orders from officers to pick them up. They would not ignore Father Emil Kapaun, though. He walked the line, asking men to help. Many did.

Mike Dowe picked up a stretcher on this march one night, turned around and spoke to the tall soldier carrying the pole behind him.

“Who are you?” he asked.

The soldier reached out a hand. “KuhPAWN,” he said.

Dowe grinned. This was the heroic chaplain that 8th Cavalry prisoners told stories about.

“Father Kapaun! I’ve heard all about you!”

“Well,” Kapaun said, in a self-mocking tone, “don’t tell the bishop.”
The POWs began to steal food. The man most insistent about stealing was the chaplain from Kansas.

“Steal, or starve,” Kapaun told them. “It’s obvious.

He led them out into the countryside at night, sneaking past guards. They came back with bits of wood, ears of corn, red peppers torn from frozen bushes, an old pumpkin. They stole from warehouses where guards stored food.

Kapaun, not feeling comfortable with stealing, lined them up and announced that this sin was sanctioned, and that they should pray to Dismas, patron saint of thieves, the “good thief” who was crucified beside Christ.

He had surprised them for months with his bravery, and now with his ingenious thieving. A notorious thief, Esensten thought. Incredibly devious.

Kapaun would prowl fields, find potatoes or corn the farmers had hidden. Or he’d conspire with Mayo, who would start an argument with guards at the crib where food was stored, while Kapaun would sneak inside, stuff his pockets with soybeans or salt, then heave a grain sack on his back and sneak out.

Decades later, Pentagon analysts said the Sombakol prison camp had far fewer deaths than others during that period of the war. Esensten said Kapaun was the main reason.

Part 4.  As hundreds die, Kapaun rallies the POWs

By February 1951 the Allied prisoners at Pyoktong, North Korea, were dying so fast on ground frozen so solid that unburied bodies lay in stacks three to four feet high, 30 to 40 yards long. Men hoarded food or stole it from the weak, and left sick men to die in their own defecation.

Many soldiers were in their teens and early 20s, not mature enough to deal with that level of suffering. Father Emil Kapaun never yelled at them; he let his actions speak.
Kapaun did a thousand things to take care of them, Wood said. Wood watched one day as Kapaun sneaked into the officer’s compound with a bag holding about 100 pounds of rice.

Another POW, David MacGhee, hunted for rice bags in root cellars with Kapaun when the two slipped away from burial details. MacGhee would tease: Isn’t stealing wrong? Men were losing frostbitten fingers or toes, the skin turning black and falling off, leaving bones as dry as sticks poking out. Kapaun brought them to the doctors, who amputated dead bone with a butcher knife they hid from guards.
Amid the filth one day, Wood learned that Kapaun could have avoided all this.

Kapaun had served in Burma and India in World War II. After that, Kapaun said, he went back to Masses and baptisms in Kansas. “Then how did you end up here?” Wood asked. “I volunteered.” “Father Kapaun!” Wood almost shouted. “My God, Father! Why did you come back?” “I wanted to come back to men like these,” Kapaun said. “Serving in those parishes . . . it didn’t work out.” Kapaun grinned. “I mean . . . my God, Bob!” Kapaun said. “Have you ever had to deal with one of those women’s committees of a church Altar Society?”
McGreevy had withered from 180 plus to 100 pounds. But like Funchess, he felt a strange thing happen in the presence of Kapaun: He’d forget he was starving, that the Chinese might shoot them someday soon. Two minutes in a huddle with Kapaun, and all the fear melted away.

They prayed with him every night in the huts.
The miracle of Father Kapaun, Funchess would say later, was not just that he patched leaky buckets or stole food. It was that he rallied men to embrace life when life looked hopeless. When starvation inspired betrayals, Kapaun inspired brotherhood.

One day, as more men stole or hoarded food from each other, Kapaun walked into a hut, laid out his own food and blessed it.

“Thank you, O Lord, for giving us food we cannot only eat but share.”

Soldiers describing that scene to Maher years later, said that act put a stop to much of the stealing and hoarding.

Part 5.  Father Emil Kapaun: Leads camp prisoners in quiet acts of defiance

He had talked atheist guards into letting him hold an Easter service, a favor they soon regretted.

No one there would ever forget this day. The most moving sight the POWs ever saw.
Every time Kapaun defied them, it was a reminder to starving prisoners that standing up was the opposite of giving up.

A Chinese officer one day, outraged by POW defiance, told them he would shoot them all, and bury them “so that your bones will forever fertilize the soil of North Korea.”

There was a brief silence. Then Kapaun spoke:

“What a dumb son of a bitch!”

Part 6 Father Emil Kapaun forgives guards, welcomes death

Over the next six weeks, the POWs in the Pyoktong prison camp began a cloaked and daring effort to save Emil Kapaun’s life.
Funchess asked about forgiveness.

"Of course we should forgive them," Kapaun said of the guards. "We should not only forgive our enemies but love them, too."

But they shot wounded soldiers, Funchess said. They abused prisoners.

It doesn’t matter, Kapaun said.

"If we fail to forgive, we’re rejecting our own faith."
Men sobbed like children. Kapaun handed his gold ciborium to Mayo. “Tell them I died a happy death.”

Phil Peterson, who had helped Kapaun say rosaries, put a hand on Kapaun’s arm.

"I’m terribly sorry."

"You’re sorry for me?" Kapaun said. "I am going to be with Jesus Christ. And that is what I have worked for all my life. And you say you’re sorry for me? You should be happy for me."

Kapaun beckoned to another prisoner.

"When you get back to Jersey, you get that marriage straightened out. Or I’ll come down from heaven and kick you in the ass."

Dowe by this time was sobbing nearby.

"Don’t take it hard, Mike," Kapaun said. "I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go. And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you."

Kapaun looked at Nardella. In heaven, he said, he would pray for Nardella’s return home. Then he glanced around at the Chinese waiting at the hospital. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He looked at a Chinese officer. “Forgive me,” Kapaun said. They laid him down alone in a room filthy with feces and maggots.

McGreevy was a former football player from Cumberland, Md. He knew as an athlete that he needed to get his leg muscles moving or they would atrophy, and he would die. He crawled into a corner where he could get his big hands on two walls.

He took a deep breath.

He braced his hands against the walls, gathered his feet, and prayed a prayer he had never prayed before.

A Catholic, he had been taught that when all hope was lost, you prayed to a saint who you thought had the ear of God.

He prayed now to a man who fit that description. For all anyone knows, he became the first person to pray this particular prayer. He would not be the last.

"Father Kapaun," McGreevy prayed, "Help me."

And then, for the first time in weeks, McGreevy stood up.
They were inches from starving to death. All hope seemed lost. The guards had just murdered their best man.

But little by little, as the first shock wore off, men began to tell and retell the stories of Father Kapaun: his friendship, his jokes, his deeds, his faith.

That frail man, who died alone, who lay now in an unmarked grave, had never told them what to do. He’d never pushed religion on them. But he had somehow taught them to stand up for themselves, to forgive, and to help each other.

It was not long before they rallied; it was not long before the Chinese finally began to feed them a little better. It was not long before they pulled themselves together and told each other that the man who had died for them deserved a gift in return:

Their survival.

Part 7 Emil Kapaun: POWs call him 'a hero and a saint'

The legend of Father Kapaun and the quest to elevate him to sainthood began in September 1953 as soon as Communist guards released prisoners at the end of the Korean War. A little band of fierce-looking Americans, with balding and blunttalking Ralph Nardella at their head, carried Emil Kapaun’s gold ciborium and a rugged wooden crucifix, an inch shy of four feet tall. They had risked their lives in a final act of defiance to bring those items across the fence line; the guards wanted to confiscate them, but Nardella and the others had threatened to stay in North Korea.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say it,” O’Connor said in a wire-service story that appeared in The Wichita Beacon, “but he was the best food thief we had.”

The stories appeared in papers around the world and made Kapaun an international hero.
“I am a Jew,” Sidney Esensten, another doctor, told the reporters. “But I feel deeply the greatness of the man, regardless of religion.”
Even a tough Muslim POW named Fezi Bey told Fink that Kapaun had awed all the Turks.

“He is not of my religion, but he is a man of God,” Bey said.
Fink was a Jew with little interest in Christianity. He was also an artist, and he hated the guards. When Nardella said he wanted a shrine to honor Kapaun and defy the guards, Fink vowed to do something profound.

What happened became the next chapter in the Kapaun legend: the Jewish warrior carving a sculpture of the crucified Christ in a mud-hut hell.

Fink spent weeks picking over firewood. He selected pieces of scrub oak for the cross and fine-grained cherry wood for the body.

Other prisoners, including Mayo’s buddy Phil Peterson, showed Fink how to tear up old GI boots, removing the steel arches. Fink and Peterson spent weeks filing steel on rocks until they had sharp blades.

Fink made a chisel out of a broken drainpipe; he spent months carving a 47-inch-by-28-inch cross. He carved a 2-foot-long body and a bearded face that others said looked surprisingly like the face of Kapaun.

He twisted radio wire to make a crown of thorns. He sneaked up to the building of the camp commander, smashed a window, and used the ground glass to sand the sculpture.

Guards demanded to know who the face was.

“Abraham Lincoln,” Fink lied. The guards regarded Lincoln as a kindred spirit.

But when at last they saw it was Christ, some guards spat at it; others threw Fink into a punishment hole. But they seemed afraid to touch the sculpture.

Part 8 Father Emil Kapaun: Former POWs say his miracle was providing them hope

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2013

McCandlish Phillips, R.I.P.

McCandlish Phillips, Who Exposed a Jewish Klansman, Is Dead at 85, obituary by Margalit Fox.

McCandlish Phillips, a former reporter for The New York Times who wrote one of the most famous articles in the newspaper’s history — exposing the Orthodox Jewish background of a senior Ku Klux Klan official — before forsaking journalism to spread the Gospel, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.
Mr. Phillips, who was with The Times from 1952 to 1973, stood out….He stood out as a tenacious reporter and a lyrical stylist — an all-too-rare marriage on newspapers then — and in his hands even a routine news article seldom failed to delight.  Consider Mr. Phillips’s 1961 account of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, an annual millstone for the city’s general-assignment reporters:

“The sun was high to their backs and the wind was fast in their faces and 100,000 sons and daughters of Ireland, and those who would hold with them, matched strides with their shadows for 52 blocks. It seemed they marched from Midtown to exhaustion.”

In his 2003 memoir, “City Room,” Arthur Gelb, a former managing editor of The Times, called Mr. Phillips “the most original stylist I’d ever edited.”
Mr. Phillips joined The Times as a copy boy in November 1952, later working as a clerk on the city desk and in the Washington bureau. In 1955, he was made a cub reporter and consigned to prove his mettle in the paper’s Brooklyn office, then a dank, decrepit outfit near Police Department headquarters in the borough’s nether regions.

His account of life there, written for Times Talk, the newspaper’s house organ (“It is impossible to tell a plainclothes detective from a mugger here. You just have to wait to see what they do”), so delighted the newspaper’s management that his sentence was commuted to service in the main newsroom.
Mr. Phillips’s most renowned article appeared on Page 1 on Sunday, Oct. 31, 1965, under the headline “State Klan Leader Hides Secret of Jewish Origin.” It was a rigorously reported profile of Daniel Burros, a 28-year-old Queens man who was the Grand Dragon of the New York State Ku Klux Klan, a chief organizer of the national Klan and a former national secretary of the American Nazi Party.

Mr. Burros, the article went on to document, was also a Jew — a former Hebrew school student who had been bar mitzvahed at 13.

The article remains a case study in a reporter’s perseverance in the face of intimidation. It is also a case study in the severe, unintended consequences that the airing of fiercely guarded truths can have for the guardian: despite threatening to kill Mr. Phillips if the article went to press, Mr. Burros, in the end, killed only himself.
In October 1965, The Times received a tip about Mr. Burros’s Jewish upbringing. Assigned to pursue it, Mr. Phillips, aided by newsroom colleagues, spent days reconstructing his life, scouring school, military, employment and police records; amassing photographs; and interviewing neighbors and associates.

The one thing they lacked was an interview with Mr. Burros: efforts to reach him had been unsuccessful. Finally, on a return visit to South Ozone Park, the Queens neighborhood in which Mr. Burros lived, Mr. Phillips glimpsed him on the street — “a round, short, sallow young man who looked a little like a small heap of misery,” he would later write in Times Talk.

He approached Mr. Burros, and they went into a luncheonette. The conversation, which ranged over Mr. Burros’s brilliant scholastic record — he had an I.Q. of 154 — and his rise to power in the Klan, was cordial.  Then, nearly 20 minutes into the interview, Mr. Phillips raised the subject of Mr. Burros’s Jewishness.

“If you publish that, I’ll come and get you and I’ll kill you,” Mr. Burros said. “I don’t care what happens to me. I’ll be ruined. This is all I’ve got to live for.”

By the time the two men parted, Mr. Phillips later wrote, Mr. Burros had threatened his life half a dozen times.
Over the years, Mr. Phillips was asked whether he felt responsible for Mr. Burros’s suicide. He felt “a vague sense of sadness,” he said, but no guilt.  His stance — the view from the prospect where his faith and his journalism converged — was encapsulated in a remark he made to Mr. Gelb.  On the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1965, Mr. Gelb phoned Mr. Phillips to tell him, very gently, that Mr. Burros had shot himself.

“What I think we’ve seen here, Arthur,” Mr. Phillips replied, “is the God of Israel acting in judgment.”
Mr. Phillips resigned from The Times in late 1973 for a life in religion.

In 1962, he had helped found the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a Pentecostal congregation in Manhattan. Its tenets, as Ken Auletta wrote in a 1997 New Yorker profile of Mr. Phillips, include the belief that “pornography, drugs, abortion and any form of fornication (including premarital sex and homosexuality) are sins.”

More samples of his work from the Times' city room blog.

His deceptively simple-sounding declarative voice could make just about any subject seem irresistibly droll.

“Two kinds of people wait in the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square. Some are waiting for buses. Others are waiting for death.”

Ken Auletta called him The Man Who Disappeared in a New Yorker profile.  Terry Mattingly in Memory Eternal  writes

I guess that was true, journalistically speaking, but it was totally wrong from a Christian point of view and, for Pastor John, the eternal point of view was what really mattered. That’s why I called my response to The New Yorker, “The man who didn’t disappear.” Here are a few key paragraphs from that:

Phillips arrived in 1952 and landed a copy-boy job a day after, he said, God ordered him off the train he was riding home to Boston. A year later, he looked around the Times newsroom and realized he was the only conservative Christian there. So he stayed. He walked away in 1973, at the peak of his writing powers, to become a Pentecostal preacher with a small urban flock.

A lengthy New Yorker profile of Phillips called him “The Man Who Disappeared.” But the man didn’t disappear. The reporter did. …

Phillips has disappeared in the same way that a seed disappears in the soil. Friends on New York sidewalks know that “Pastor John” has invested his life in new believers, including more than a few journalists.

Eric Metaxas, My very dear friend, the truly great John McCandlish Phillips, died this morning at age 85. He was nothing less than a living saint. Here's a Wall Street Journal article about him from 2009. Rest in Peace, sweet brother in Christ.

Here is the piece  A Calling Higher Than Journalism: Who Knew?,

He was well known among his colleagues for his lanky stature, which earned him the nickname "Long John"; his sweet temper; and his uncompromising devotion to his Christian faith. "I don't remember anybody quite like him in all my years of being around people who worked for newspapers," said Gay Talese, a fellow Timesman in those days. "Newspaper people tend to be cynical. He's the very opposite of that." In the secular temple of the big-city newsroom, Mr. Phillips conspicuously placed a Bible on his desk, calling it "a statement I made of who I was and where I stood."
But Mr. Phillips did not disappear. He channeled his imagination into the church he had co-founded with Hannah Lowe a decade or so earlier, the Manhattan-based New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a small Pentecostal congregation. His dream was to spur a massive evangelizing campaign in New York City that would result in waves of born-again Christians.

"What everyone in this city needs, with scarcely anyone knowing of it, is the one salvation that God has provided in His son, Jesus Christ," he told me in a recent interview. "My life was changed in a moment of time, permanently, by an act of evangelism [in 1950]. I know its power. And I have no chiefer desire than to see as many individuals as possible come to that same threshold and cross it."
Mr. Phillips admits disappointment that his great hopes for the evangelization of New York City have not come to fruition. He characterized the response at Central Park as "fairly remote." But who knows what the future holds? When it is pointed out to him that some of his best stories placed their greatest weight on the final line, he chuckles. A 1966 masterpiece about a U.S. Marine killed in Vietnam concluded with the wrenching words, "He was 19 years old."

"I don't anticipate being a prime mover of a spiritual awakening," he said. "But I greatly desire to see it, and whatever its origins is thoroughly fine with me. It will come at a time chosen by God."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2013

The Great Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable woman whom I admired from afar.  I knew she was a remarkable leader with intelligence and conviction, but it took her death before I fully appreciated how great a leader she was.  Below are excerpts of what I think are the best articles.

The historian Paul Johnson on The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher    Not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence.

Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around—decisively—the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. "Thatcherism" was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.
She was not a feminist, despising the genre as "fashionable rot," though she once made a feminist remark. At a dreary public dinner of 500 male economists, having had to listen to nine speeches before being called herself, she began, with understandable irritation: "As the 10th speaker, and the only woman, I wish to say this: the cock may crow but it's the hen who lays the eggs."

Her political success once again demonstrates the importance of holding two or three simple ideas with fervor and tenacity, a virtue she shared with Ronald Reagan. One of these ideas was that the "evil empire" of communism could be and would be destroyed, and together with Reagan and Pope John Paul II she must be given the credit for doing it.

Among the British public she aroused fervent admiration and intense dislike in almost equal proportions, but in the world beyond she was recognized for what she was: a great, creative stateswoman who left the world a better and more prosperous place, and whose influence will reverberate well into the 21st century.

Financial Times Margaret Thatcher: ‘Iron Lady’ who remade Britain

She changed us all. We went from being a people who saw ourselves as eternally on the downward slide to a nation that was proud to be British again. On the world stage too, she made Britain count once more. She was a startling presence who brought a strong and controversial style to our diplomacy after years of Foreign Office blandness.

The London Telegraph: Baroness Thatcher: a champion of freedom for workers, nations and the world Charles Moore, Baroness Thatcher's authorised biographer, analyses her personal strengths – and her weaknesses.

After the Conservative government of Edward Heath lost the general election of February 1974, Mrs Thatcher realised, quite suddenly, that her nation was failing. At home, trade union power, over-government, over-borrowing, high taxes, inflation, were destroying it. On the international scene, Soviet Communism was threatening the future of freedom in the West. Until that time, she had believed, almost deferentially, that the men in charge could put things right. Now she saw that they hadn’t, and couldn’t. She began to think that perhaps a woman could.
She believed there was little the British people could not do if only government would let them. Thus she was strongly against the compulsory wage control which was the fashion of the age. She wanted people to get richer, but by work, not by trade union muscle. ''We back the workers, not the shirkers,’’ she said. With the rhetoric of the housewife, she turned economics from the dry terrain of technicians into the stuff of daily life and the subject of political combat.

She also knew the value of enemies. It was the Soviet Union who bestowed on her the title of ''the Iron Lady’’ in 1976, after she had attacked the orthodoxy of detente which was then weakening the defences of the West. The Soviets meant it in mockery, but she could see it was a badge of honour, and she grabbed it.
It is said, and there is truth in it, that Mrs Thatcher was a divisive figure. But it is important to remember that the reason she won her first general election in 1979 was that the country had been deeply divided by the “Winter of Discontent”. Far from being the apostle of selfishness, Mrs Thatcher led the public disgust with the organised selfishness of the union bosses. Her strongest appeal was not to true-blue voters, but to upper-working-class people disillusioned with Labour. It was clear that the ''Social Contract’’ and other devices to deal with organised labour had failed. Her talk of proper rewards for hard work, her offer of discounts for people who wanted to buy their council houses, her promise of government that could actually govern, these offered hope.
The same two-edged point applies to her extraordinary character. Her courage, eloquence, energy and passion were all huge virtues – as was her less noticed political cunning. But they had a flipside. She was hard for Cabinet colleagues to work with and often unnecessarily combative. Being a woman, she was impatient with their clubby male complacency – another virtue, but one which contributed to her downfall. In later years, her light shone so bright that it became intolerable for those in its shade. She never knew when to stop.

Andrew Sullivan describes just how bad England was and how he saw Thatcher as a Liberator.

The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.
I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does.

Telegraph obituary.  Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 from a stroke, was not only Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she was also the outstanding peacetime leader of the 20th century.    So great were her achievements, her obituary is in 10 parts.

1. Early life  The grocer's daughter and her Oxford degree in natural sciences (chemistry)
2. Entering politics  Married, she became the mother of twins and earned a law degree, specializing in tax law.  In 1958, she won a seat in Finchley as a conservative.  Her first position was the Parliamentary Secretary at  the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.
3. Life in the shadow cabinet  of Edward Heath as Education Secretary
4. The rise to leader. It took the strikes of the winter of 1978-79, the so-called “Winter of Discontent”, to cause Margaret Thatcher finally to conclude that the boil of union misrule must finally be lanced, and, equally important, that there was now sufficient support in the country for the operation.
5. From Opposition to Government    A "Labour isn't Working" campaign put her in the right spot to be elected Prime Minister in May 1979
6. War on the Left and in the Falklands; re-election The restoration of British rule in the Falklands was a personal triumph for the Prime Minister.Economic progress, though, continued. It was now that privatisation — first of state-owned businesses, later of public utilities — gathered pace.
7. The miners’ strike and her second term.  Victory in this strike finally broke the back of militant trade unionism and established Britain’s reputation as a safe place in which to invest.    The economy was growing
8. Third term in office.  The work of Margaret Thatcher’s third parliament was intended to be heavily focused on reforming the public services in order to promote choice and efficiency.
9. Ousted from Downing Street and the leadership. By the summer of 1990, Margaret Thatcher’s position within her own Cabinet was exposed — far more so than she or the civil servant advisers on whom she increasingly relied were prepared to recognise.
10. Life after politics. Margaret Thatcher left office temporarily dazed and embittered, but sound in mind and body, full of energy and initially with nothing to do except write her memoirs — upon which she embarked the following year.

The Independent: 'A heroine and a hate figure' - for better or worse, Baroness Thatcher remade our nation

Few British prime ministers have given their name to a political philosophy.

Marvel at Margaret Thatcher – the outsider who beat the system

Unlike most politicians today, she had courage, integrity and a clear sense of who she was.

Washington Post editorial Margaret Thatcher: In every sense, a leader

Ms. Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, had changed not only her country’s direction but also its standing in the world. She continued to be passionately detested by some and admired and respected by others long after she left office, and her record will be debated for decades — or centuries. What is hardly debatable is the proposition that she was, in every sense of the word, a leader.

Mrs Thatcher's personal assistant and life long friend writes My chum Maggie loved Vogue, hated trousers and only used Clinique on her porcelain skin

Jennifer Rubin on Thatcher as a Conservative Heroine

That grounding in the real world, far from the inner sanctum of British elites, gave her a thorough appreciation of the strengths of free markets. She took her country by the scruff of the neck, shook loose the trade unions that had strangled the once-great British economy and remade Britain from a socialist basket case to a thriving power, wisely keeping the Continent at arm’s length. (Among her great contributions was to keep Britain out of the euro zone.)
She stood up to terrorism (the IRA) before most in the United States had any understanding of the methods and mindset of groups who specialized in killing innocents. Like Reagan she survived an assassination attempt (her hotel in Brighton was blown up in 1984). And like Reagan she did not take kindly to international aggression (in the Falklands or elsewhere). She was an indefatigable Cold Warrior, and she was ultimately a successful one at that.
She was for me, and no doubt many women of the 20th century, a towering figure who attained real power by virtue of her own hard work and excellence. She did not derive her power from men or from victimology. In contrast to the 20th century feminists, she was painfully aware of sexism but did not obsess about it. She simply got the job done.

George Will on Margaret Thatcher’s vigorous virtues

She aimed to be the moral equivalent of military trauma, shaking her nation into vigor through rigor. As stable societies mature, they resemble long-simmering stews — viscous and lumpy with organizations resistant to change and hence inimical to dynamism. Her program was sound money, laissez faire, social fluidity and upward mobility through self-reliance and other “vigorous virtues.” She is the only prime minister whose name came to denote a doctrine — Thatcherism. (“Churchillian” denotes not a political philosophy but a leadership style.) When she left office in 1990, the trade unions had been tamed by democratizing them, the political argument was about how to achieve economic growth rather than redistribute wealth, and individualism and nationalism were revitalized.
Like de Gaulle, she was a charismatic conservative nationalist who was properly resistant to what she called the European federalists’ attempts to “suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the center of a European conglomerate.” She left the British this ongoing challenge: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level.” As long as her brave heart beat, she knew there are no final victories.

New York Times 'Iron Lady' Who Set Britain on a New Course

Glenn Reynolds asks Was there anything she couldn't do?  Turns out she helped invent soft-serve ice cream!.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

I always liked Roger Ebert and would search out his reviews, usually after I saw a movie, just to read what he had to say about it. 

Ebert's Leave of Presence April 2, 2013

I must slow down now, which is why I'm taking what I like to call "a leave of presence."

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.
"On this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

 Ebert Pulitzer

LA Times  obit  Roger Ebert gave independent films popular appeal, and his 'thumbs-up, thumbs-down' ratings on TV were both coveted and scorned. The prolific critic continued to write reviews while battling cancer in recent years.

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic whose gladiatorial "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" assessments turned film reviewing into a television sport and whose passion for independent film helped introduce a new generation of filmmakers to moviegoers, has died. He was 70.
As the longtime and prolific critic for the Chicago newspaper, he wrote reviews while co-hosting a popular nationally syndicated TV show that, in the 1980s, was known as "At the Movies." Ebert was the first movie critic to win journalism's most prestigious award, collecting his Pulitzer in 1975, but he had the greatest impact through his TV forum, which began that same year on Chicago public television.

The TV reviews were not always the most sophisticated or reasoned, but they were widely influential. Ebert and his co-host — most famously, rival Chicago Tribune newspaper critic Gene Siskel, his broadcast partner for 23 years — would quarrel over a film's merits, then render judgment with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down score.
"What Siskel and Ebert did was to pioneer the middle ground," said Robert J. Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "They had a significant impact on film criticism."
His writing ease amazed and annoyed colleagues. While others agonized, he was known to stroll into the office half an hour before deadline, tell some jokes, then pound out his piece.
Ebert was "the most hated guy in my life," Siskel once said. Ebert later said, "I think each of us initially said yes because we didn't want the other guy to do it first." Well after the show was a hit, they could refuse to share an elevator.
By the end of the first season, the show was on more than 100 public television stations. In 1978, it was named "Sneak Previews" and moved to PBS, reaching 180 markets, making it the highest-rated entertainment show in the history of public broadcasting, Television Week reported.
Ebert often said what he admired most about Siskel was his obvious love for his wife and children. When Ebert married Chaz Hammelsmith, an attorney, in 1992, she was a divorced mother of two in her 40s. He was 50.

He was "so grateful to have a family," Marsha Jordan, a Chicago television producer, said in 2005. "This woman came along at a time when she brought exactly what he needed."

New York Times  A Critic for the Common Man

It would not be a stretch to say that Mr. Ebert was the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted. The force and grace of his opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture. Not only did he advise moviegoers about what to see, but also how to think about what they saw.

President Obama reacted to Mr. Ebert’s death with a statement that said, in part: “For a generation of Americans — especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical.”
Mr. Ebert liked to say his approach — dryly witty, occasionally sarcastic, sometimes quirky in his opinions — reflected the working newspaper reporter he had been, not a formal student of film. His tastes ran from the classics to boldly independent cinema to cartoons, and his put-downs could be withering.

“I will one day be thin, butVincent Gallowill always be the director of ‘The Brown Bunny,’ ” he wrote.
Mr. Ebert — who said he saw 500 films a year and reviewed half of them — was once asked what movie he thought was shown over and over again in heaven, and what snack would be free of charge and calories there.

“ ‘Citizen Kane’ and vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream,” he answered.

A.O Scott  Ebert Was a Critic Whose Sting Was Salved by Caring

Every movie blogger, entertainment journalist, critic and film buff who had crossed paths with Roger Ebert or absorbed his influence — which is to say just about all of us — posted an elegy or a reminiscence. Along with those collegial and filial tributes came salutes from filmmakers and a statement from the White House after his death at 70, almost surely the first time a film critic has been eulogized by a president.

Roger Ebert: America's Street Corner Preacher of the Cinema

Roger Ebert was America's great evangelist for film. ….But even with all that, the man's pure love of movies, and his unpretentious, old-time newspaperman's desire to tell the story of film to all and sundry shown through every piece he wrote.

There was no ironic distance in Roger Ebert. When one thinks of the literally thousands of terrible films he had to endure in his long career (to get to the good ones) it is almost super-human that he could still be so devoted to, and earnest about, the medium. But week in, week out, in every review, Ebert treated each movie he saw as something that, for better or worse, deserved to be taken seriously
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 PM | Permalink

March 29, 2013

Jesus of Nazareth, obituary

 Obit Jesus

From the blog Stories, etc.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2013

Rabbi Herschel Schacter, R.I.P.

Rabbi Who Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.

It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.

That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald.

By late afternoon, when the rabbi drove through the gates, Allied tanks had breached the camp. He remembered, he later said, the sting of smoke in his eyes, the smell of burning flesh and the hundreds of bodies strewn everywhere.

In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.

“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.

He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!” — “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.

As he passed a mound of corpses, Rabbi Schacter spied a flicker of movement. Drawing closer, he saw a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror behind the mound.

“I was afraid of him,” the child would recall long afterward in an interview with The New York Times. “I knew all the uniforms of SS and Gestapo and Wehrmacht, and all of a sudden, a new kind of uniform. I thought, ‘A new kind of enemy.’ ”

With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schacter picked the boy up. “What’s your name, my child?” he asked in Yiddish.

“Lulek,” the child replied.

“How old are you?” the rabbi asked.

“What difference does it make?” Lulek, who was 7, said. “I’m older than you, anyway.”

“Why do you think you’re older?” Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling.

“Because you cry and laugh like a child,” Lulek replied. “I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?”

Rabbi Schacter discovered nearly a thousand orphaned children in Buchenwald. He and a colleague, Rabbi Robert Marcus, helped arrange for their transport to France — a convoy that included Lulek and the teenage Elie Wiesel — as well as to Switzerland, a group personally conveyed by Rabbi Schacter, and to Palestine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2013

Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City, dies at 88, RIP

New York mourns the death of its 'irrepressible icon': Former mayor Ed Koch - the man who saved the city from financial ruin - dies aged 88

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the combative, acid-tongued politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin when he took over office in 1978, died today at the age of 88.
After leaving City Hall in January 1990, Koch battled assorted health problems and heart disease.  Mayor Bloomberg led the tributes for 'a great mayor, a great man, and a great friend'. 'In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader,' he said.
'I don't think there was anybody who had more fun being mayor as Ed Koch,' City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is in the race to be the city's next mayor, said at the event.

When Koch took over the city from accountant Abe Beame in 1978, reporters covered him around the clock because of 'the Koch factor' - his ability to say something outrageous any place, any time. The larger-than-life character, who breezed through the streets of New York flashing his signature thumbs-up sign, won a national reputation with his feisty style.

'How'm I doing?' was his trademark question to constituents, although the answer mattered little to Koch. The mayor always thought he was doing wonderfully.  Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city's 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.
'You punch me, I punch back,' Koch once memorably observed. 'I do not believe it's good for one's self-respect to be a punching bag.'
Among his favorite moments as mayor was the day in 1980 when, seized by inspiration, he walked down to the Brooklyn Bridge during a rare transit strike and began yelling encouragement to commuters walking to work.
'I began to yell, "Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We're not going to let these b******* bring us to our knees!" And people began to applaud,' he recalled at a 2012 forum.

 Ed Koch

“Who Can Imagine Ed Koch Anywhere But in New York?”  Loving a broken city, which mostly loved him back.

Koch had no glamour when he was elected, and he managed not to acquire any during three terms in office. He was that rare politician who somehow became more ordinary, more real, even as he grew larger-than-life. He was obnoxious but not pretentious, deeply loved and deeply loathed, all of which only confirmed his essential New York–ness. We know that he achieved international fame, that he met statesmen and women all over the world, but who can imagine Ed Koch anywhere but in New York?

Neo  Quintessential New Yorker…

…and former NY Mayor Ed Koch is dead of heart failure at 88.  He was mayor from ’78 to ’89. The adjectives that quickly come to my mind—and probably to everybody’s mind—when thinking of him are colorful, flamboyant, outspoken. He was a special kind of character that New York City seems to specialize in.
The following is just about what you’d expect of Koch, isn’t it?:

Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants Louis and Joyce Koch. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, NJ.

The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II, earning his sergeant stripes.

I hadn’t known this, either:

While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor,” ”Politics” and “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” written with Cardinal John O’Connor. He wrote seven other nonfiction books, four mystery novels and three children’s books after leaving office.

In The New York Times, a 2007 interview, Last Word, Ed Koch

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

Chris Kyle, R.I.P.

Renowned Navy SEAL sniper shot dead at Texas gun range; suspect charged

Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history,” was reportedly shot and killed at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas on Saturday.

Kyle, a former Navy SEAL sniper and author of the best-seller “American Sniper,” and a friend were found dead at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range. According to WWFA-TV in Dallas, “Kyle was shot point-blank while helping another soldier who is recovering from post traumatic stress syndrome.”

Jack Murphy at the Special Operations Forces Situation Report (SOFREP) published a post regarding the tragic murders on Saturday night, reading in part: “Chris had been volunteering his time to help Marine Corps veterans suffering from PTSD and mentoring them.  Part of this process involved taking these veterans to the range where one of them snapped and killed Chris and his neighbor for reasons that remain unknown at this time.  The perpetrator then stole Chris’ vehicle in an attempt to escape but we have received word that the police have arrested him.”

 Chris Kyle American Sniper

Untouchable in Iraq, Ex-Sniper Dies in a Shooting Back Home

From his perch in hide-outs above battle-scarred Iraq, Chris Kyle earned a reputation as one of America’s deadliest military snipers. The Pentagon said his skills with a rifle so terrorized Iraqi insurgents during his four tours of duty that they nicknamed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and put a bounty on his head.

The insurgents never collected, and he returned home to become a best-selling author and a mentor to other veterans, sometimes taking them shooting at a gun range near his Texas home as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars, friends said. One such veteran was Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine who had served tours in Iraq and Haiti. 

But on Saturday, far from a war zone, Mr. Routh turned on Mr. Kyle, 38, and a second man, Chad Littlefield, 35, shortly after they arrived at an exclusive shooting range near Glen Rose, Tex., about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, law enforcement authorities said Sunday. The officials said that for reasons that were still unclear, Mr. Routh shot and killed both men with a semiautomatic handgun before fleeing in a pickup truck belonging to Mr. Kyle.

“Chad and Chris had taken a veteran out to shoot to try to help him,” said Travis Cox, a friend of Mr. Kyle’s. “And they were killed.”

Mr. Routh was captured a few hours later near his home in Lancaster, a southern Dallas suburb, following a brief pursuit. He will be charged with two counts of capital murder, law enforcement officials said.

“He served this country with extreme honor, but came home and was a servant leader in helping his brothers and sisters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Mr. Cox, also a former military sniper. “Everyone has their own inner struggles, but he was very proactive about the things he was dealing with.”

In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the Fitco Cares Foundation to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise and the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease into civilian life.

Mr. Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas with his wife and their two children, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the Navy SEALs. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units.
In an interview with The New York Times in March, Mr. Kyle — who received two Silver Stars and five Bronze medals for valor — said he had hesitated to write about his experiences. But he was persuaded to move forward after hearing that other books about members of the SEALs were in the works.

“I wanted to tell my story as a SEAL,” he said. “This is about all the hardships that everybody has to go through to get the respect and the honor.”  But he also wanted his sense of humor to come out, he said, noting that he tried to “write in a Texas drawl.”

This man of valor who served his country with honor leaves a wife and two children behind as well.  He also leaves a great legacy but the manner of his death was a fitting one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2012

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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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!”
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.

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

November 27, 2012

"With unimaginable courage – and despite being a marked woman – she remained defiant to the very end"

How Mexico's fearless female mayor sacrificed herself to save her daughter's life as she was abducted by drug gang, tortured and executed

The woman mayor who was kidnapped and murdered by a Mexican drug gang pleaded with her attackers for her young daughter’s life, it emerged today.  Maria Santos Gorrostieta, who had already survived two assassination attempts, was driving the child to school at around 8.30am when she was ambushed by a car in the city of Morelia.  The 36-year-old was hauled from her vehicle and physically assaulted as horrified witnesses watched, according to newspaper El Universal.  They described how she begged for her child to be left alone and then appeared to get into her abductors’ car willingly. The little girl was left wailing as her mother was driven away on Monday November 12.

For the next week, her frantic family waited by the phone for a ransom call that never came.  Gorrostieta’s body – stabbed, burned, battered and bound at wrist and ankle – would finally be found eight days on dumped by a roadside in San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township.  She left behind her daughter and two sons as well as her second husband Nereo Delgado Patinoran.

Hailed as a heroine of the 21st century, her death has prompted much soul-searching in a country ravaged by violence.

 Maria Santos Gorrostieta

The decision to withdraw her security team in November last year – and her police escort in January – has come under particular scrutiny.
Gorrostieta was elected as mayor of Tiquicheo, a rural district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City, in 2008.

Almost immediately, she received threats. The first assassination attempt came in October 2009 when the car she was traveling in with her first husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen in the town of El Limone. The attack claimed his life but Gorrostieta lived. She battled back from her injuries in the face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to know peace.

The next attempt on her life was just three months later, when an masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on the road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was traveling in was peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her.  This time her wounds were more severe, leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left in constant pain.

But with unimaginable courage – and despite being a marked woman – she remained defiant to the very end.

In a statement to the public made at the time, the devout Catholic said: 'At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leader of my Tiquicheo.

'But today, no. It is not possible for me to surrender when I have three children , whom I have to educate by setting an example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of my three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and to fight for them. Although he is no longer with us, he continues to be the light that guides my decisions.'

Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drug gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive in 2006.  More than 50,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozen mayors have been murdered.  The cartels have ruled the streets with fear for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery and torture.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

The Last Lonely Walk

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wade Bennett, a bomb disposal expert, was on his third tour in Afghanistan. It proved to be his last. 

Bomb Disposal Expert Takes His Last ‘Lonely Walk’

 Bennett And Daughter

Bennett was on his third combat tour there and this time he had left behind a pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter. ...

“No bye bye, Daddy,” the girl said. “Don’t go away.”

“One more time, honey,” he told her.

As he spoke he had a patch on his uniform that is more respected in the military than four stars even before the scandal. The patch read EOD and it identified him as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, one of those extraordinarily brave souls such as are depicted in the movie The Hurt Locker.

Two months after that walk with little Lila across a parking lot near his unit’s headquarters in Fort Lewis, Wash., he was making that loneliest of walks into the most mortal danger in Afghanistan. He had made this walk many times in his three deployments and his motivation remained as simple as it was noble. It was what makes the EOD patch a true badge of honor.

Whatever the status of the war, whatever the latest American geopolitical objectives, whatever the outcome of the presidential election, whatever the behavior of generals, Bennett routinely faced sudden and incredibly violent death with the single and singular goal of saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. He had only to be told that he was needed and a grace would descend on him. He would once more become a figure made scruffily holy by another demonstration of that greatest love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2012

Fiddlers Farewell at Funeral of Larry Reynolds, Chieftain of Traditional Irish Music

Who thinks to bring a fiddle to a funeral?  Only those whose love of Irish music was inspired by this much-loved man.  What else could they do to pay tribute at his final sendoff?

 Fiddlers Farewell

Larry Reynolds, fiddler of local renown, is mourned

Frank Joyce had to keep his funeral home in Waltham open a lot later than planned Wednesday night. Larry Reynolds’s wake was supposed to last for six hours. But it took more than nine hours to get everybody through the line.

“At least a couple of thousand people,” Joyce said. “They just kept coming.”

It seemed like half of them returned to Waltham on Thursday morning, to St. Jude Church, where Larry Reynolds was dispatched from this world with the two things that embodied him: kind words and beautiful music.

A Waltham cop, perplexed by the size of the crowd that spilled out of the church onto Main Street, tugged at a photographer and asked, “Who was this guy?”
If the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem led the renaissance of traditional Irish music worldwide, Larry Reynolds led it here in and around Boston. When he first got here, he played at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square in Roxbury. He took the music to the suburbs, playing at the Village Coach House in Brookline, the Skellig in Waltham.

His hands were a contradiction. The skin that covered them was coarse, the skin of a working man who swung a hammer. But his fingers were the digits of an artist, as dexterous as a surgeon’s. For all his talent, he was a humble man. He blushed at praise. He carried his union card, Carpenters Local 67, and his fiddle case wherever he went.

He was an easy man to find on Monday nights. For a quarter century, you could find him every Monday, sitting in the Green Briar, a pub in Brighton. He didn’t go there to drink. He went there to play music, to teach music, to evangelize, really. He was a missionary, spreading the good news. Traditional music was a restorative force to Reynolds, a relaxing, mystic tonic for increasingly frenetic times.

His wife, Phyllis, is an accomplished pianist, and she threw open their Waltham home to a never-ending stream of musicians and dancers and singers. Larry and Phyllis Reynolds were married for 58 years, had seven kids, and gave birth to countless musicians.

It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people, many of them without anything remotely Irish about them, became purveyors or lovers of traditional music because of Larry Reynolds.

And that is why, in this day and age of celebrity, thousands of people came to Waltham to say goodbye to someone who was neither rich nor famous.

Even at 80, Reynolds was in no rush to leave this world. But he would have enjoyed his funeral. He always found the liturgy of the Mass comforting. And there were even more musicians than priests in the church, and they sent him off with a slow air, “For Ireland I’d Not Tell Her Name,” which he loved.

You can hear the fiddlers farewell at the end of a rather shaky Youtube video here
Irish Central Obituary

To be in Reynolds’s presence was to feel the full experience of the Irish in America who were proud to love two countries at the same time, and he embodied the best attributes of America and Ireland.

Reynolds’ name would not be known in many households of Irish America or as famous as one of Paddy Moloney’s Chieftains bandmates.  But Larry was a chieftain of traditional Irish music in the greater Boston area who touched all the local musicians and visiting musicians on tour with his sincerity, generosity and encouragement and his indefatigable love of sharing tunes and stories.

 Larry Reynolds File Photo 3-10-11

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong, an American hero with footsteps on the mood, R.I.P.

 Neil Armstrong1

Made ‘Giant Leap’ as First Man to Step on Moon, New York Times obituary

In “First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong,” James R. Hansen wrote that in Mr. Armstrong’s first year at Purdue, Charles E. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1. It was exciting but bittersweet for the young student. He thought aviation history had already passed him by.

“All in all, for someone who was immersed in, fascinated by, and dedicated to flight,” Mr. Armstrong told his biographer, “I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”
In “First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong,” James R. Hansen wrote that in Mr. Armstrong’s first year at Purdue, Charles E. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1. It was exciting but bittersweet for the young student. He thought aviation history had already passed him by.

All in all, for someone who was immersed in, fascinated by, and dedicated to flight,” Mr. Armstrong told his biographer, “I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”
About six and a half hours after the landing, Mr. Armstrong opened the hatch of the four-legged lunar module and slowly made his way down the ladder to the lunar surface. A television camera followed his every step for all the world to see. A crater near the landing site is named in Mr. Armstrong’s honor.

Mr. Armstrong and Colonel Aldrin left a plaque on the Moon that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

After leaving the space program, Mr. Armstrong was careful to do nothing to tarnish that image or achievement. Though he traveled and gave speeches — as he did in October 2007, when he dedicated the new Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue — he rarely gave interviews and avoided the spotlight.


The Economist obituary

He had an engineer’s reserve, mixed with a natural shyness. Even among the other astronauts, not renowned for their excitability, Armstrong was known as the “Ice Commander”. Mike Collins, one of Armstrong’s crew-mates on the historic moon mission, liked his commander but mused that “Neil never transmits anything but the surface layer, and that only sparingly.” In one famous incident, Armstrong lost control of an unwieldy contraption nicknamed the “Flying Bedstead” that was designed to help astronauts train for the lunar landing. Ejecting only seconds before his craft hit the ground and exploded, Armstrong dusted himself off and coolly went back to his office for the rest of the day, presumably to finish up some paperwork.
Unlike some of his fellow astronauts (two of whom became senators), Armstrong chose a comparatively quiet retirement, teaching engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He returned to NASA twice, both times to serve on boards of enquiry, the first into the near-disaster of Apollo 13, and the second into the disintegration of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. He spent his final years on his farm in rural Ohio, flying gliders in his spare time (it was, said the supposedly emotionless engineer, the closest humans could come to being birds).

Telegraph obituary

Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut, who has died aged 82, cemented a unique place in the history of mankind by becoming the first person to walk on the Moon; though his personal achievement was a product of the Cold War’s bitter technological and political rivalry, the successful completion of his mission proved a transcendent moment that captured the imagination of the entire planet.

It was a success that owed much to Armstrong’s clarity of thought and split-second ability to make life-saving decisions. During Apollo 11’s final, hazardous descent to the surface of the Moon on July 20 1969, his instrument panel was dogged by computer failures that would have justified aborting the mission. Having decided to press on, Armstrong discovered that automatic systems were steering his lunar module on to the steep banks of a large, boulder-filled crater. Sitting next to Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, he seized manual control and guided the craft to a graceful touchdown with just 20 seconds of fuel remaining. Moments later he announced to the world: “Houston. Tranquillity Base here. Eagle has landed.” The two astronauts, until then relentless in their pursuit of an objective that had been set out eight years and two months earlier by President Kennedy, paused to shake hands.
Armstrong did not have the time either to celebrate the safe landing, or to worry that he had fluffed his lines. “We could not luxuriate in those feelings,” he said in a rare interview with Alex Malley in Australia last year. Even President Nixon’s congratulatory call from the White House was “memorable but instantaneous. There was work to do. The checklists were all over us. We weren’t there to meditate.” During a moonwalk that lasted two hours and 19 minutes, the two men collected soil and rock samples, took photographs and video images, and planted equipment and the Stars and Stripes in the lunar soil, all the while bounding easily across the landscape, unhindered by the Moon’s minimal gravitational pull. Some 240,000 miles away, back on Earth, hundreds of millions watched on agog, following their progress on live television broadcasts.


Armstrong's family

We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.  Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits. As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.


Armstrong's words "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," spoken on July 20, 1969, as he became the first person ever to step onto another planetary body, instantly became a part of history.

Those few words from the Sea of Tranquillity were the climactic fulfillment of the efforts and hopes of millions of people and the expenditure of billions of dollars. A plaque on one of the lander's legs that concluded "We came in peace for all mankind," further emphasized that Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were there as representatives of all humans.

Neil Armstrong's television exist almost as quiet as his life.

By the yardstick of history, Neil Armstrong was among the most accomplished men ever to walk on the planet that he looked upon from afar one magical week in July 1969.
Armstrong’s determined effort to live a quiet, private life after his astronaut days also left TV at a disadvantage. There was relatively little tape on hand to roll from interviews reminiscing about his experiences, reunions with old astronauts or public appearances. No Armstrong chats with David Letterman. No appearances in music videos. There was the moon walk, and not much else.
Not so with Neil Armstrong. His death was like his life: strangely muted given the magnitude of his achievements.

Obama: Armstrong 'Among  Greatest  American Heroes

President Obama called astronaut Neil Armstrong, who passed away today at age 82, “among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”

“When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.  They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable – that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House this afternoon.

“Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown – including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure – sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step,” he added.

Remembering Neil Armstrong, a Man of Profound Skill and Preternatural Calm

The first man on the moon survived three near-fatal incidents and spent the rest of his life trying to avoid the spotlight.

Armstrong was a man of almost preternatural imperturbability. That, of course, is true of all of astronauts — especially those from the early era. He, like so many others, was a military pilot. In his case, the piloting included 78 combat missions over Korea, during one of which his plane was crippled by antiaircraft fire. He managed to stay airborne long enough to limp back into American-held territory before he bailed out. He retired from the Navy after the war and became a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA‘s predecessor) and flew 900 different types of aircraft—all of them fit only for test pilots because no one could say with any certainty whether the things would perform as designed or would simply shake themselves to rivets once they reached flight speed.

It wasn’t until 1962 that Armstrong joined NASA — in the second crop of astronauts chosen after the glorious Original Seven. On at least three occasions that followed, the machines he flew tried to kill him.
He was only 38 when he walked on the moon, but he surely knew that if he lived to be 100 — or 82 as we now know it worked out — his life would forever be framed and defined by the 151 minutes he spent on the moon.

Armstrong’s America

First, there were the traditional small-town virtues of the Ohio town where he was born in 1930 and raised. That was where his father followed the career that’s the butt of every late night comedian, as an accountant, and Neil became what every liberal activist now despises, an Eagle Scout. But small-town didn’t mean small horizons then any more than it does now. Neil’s greatest dream was to fly, and he earned his pilot’s license before he learned how to drive.

Then there was the United States Navy, where Neil trained as an aviator and flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War. He always said those missions were far more dangerous than anything he did as an astronaut or test pilot; they were certainly more important in terms of shaping his outlook on life. The Navy taught him the importance of friendship, but also the discipline to deal with the pain when those friends crash and die. Combat “builds a lot of character,” he once told an Australian interviewer. “It builds a lot of backbone.”

It certainly did. Later when he learned people were hawking his autographs for money, he stopped signing them. When he learned his barber had sold a snippet of his hair for $3,000, he threatened to sue unless the barber gave the money away to charity (the barber did).

Neil Armstrong knew there were more important things to life than being liked. Today, of course, we live surrounded by a media bubble that teaches the opposite.
And Neil Armstrong was confident that someday, despite the end of NASA’s manned space flights, someone would “fly back up there and pick up that camera I left there.” Everyone who met him was always struck by the same thing, his humility. I think it was because he knew that he was no TV image Superhero. Behind all his amazing feats was something greater, an America that believed in character over celebrity, in accomplishment over image and solving problems instead of blaming someone else.

Neil Armstrong reflecting on the 1969 Apollo II mission to the moon

I was certainly aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade and that the nation's hopes and outward appearance largely rested on how the results came out. With those pressures, it seemed the most important thing to do was focus on our job as best we were able to and try to allow nothing to distract us from doing the very best job we could. . . .
…this was a project in which everybody involved was, one, interested, two, dedicated, and, three, fascinated by the job they were doing. And whenever you have those ingredients, whether it be government or private industry or a retail store, you're going to win.

The Best Speech Nixon Never Gave was written by William Safire in the event the astronauts were stranded on the moon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2012

Dr. Donald Liu, R.I.P.

Top children's surgeon dies a hero after he drowns saving the lives of two young boys drowning in Lake Michigan

Chicago is mourning one of its most talented children's surgeons today, after he died while trying to save the lives of two young boys.

Dr Donald Liu, 50, drowned in Lake Michigan as he went to help the children, who were struggling in choppy waters.

Dr Liu’s widow, Dr Dana Suskind, said the couple had been spending Sunday morning at a friend’s beach-side home with their children Genevieve, 13, Asher, 10, and Amalie, 7, when disaster struck.  After seeing the two boys in difficulties, the doctor went out to help before rescue workers could arrive. The stricken boys survived the traumatic incident and were safely returned to the beach, but Dr Liu perished after being caught in a riptide at around 10am.

Tributes have poured in for the father-of-three, who was surgeon-in-chief and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago. 
In an email to medical staff, the dean of the University of Chicago’s Medical School, Dr. Kenneth S. Polonsky, wrote: 'Don’s death personifies a life that was devoted to saving children.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

August 1, 2012

Maeve Bincy R.I.P.

I've read or listened to many of her books and always felt I was in fine company and just relaxed and surrendered to her storytelling.

Maeve Binchy dies aged 72

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has led tributes to popular novelist Maeve Binchy, who has died at the age of 72. The best-selling author died peacefully in hospital yesterday with her husband, children's writer Gordon Snell, by her side.

Binchy penned 16 novels and sold more than 40 million books worldwide during her career.

Mr Kenny said Ireland had lost a national treasure and offered his deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and the Irish people, to her family.

"Across Ireland and the world people are mourning and celebrating Maeve Binchy," he said.  "She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished.  Today, as a nation, we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy."

 Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy: The Irish novelist who shunned the dark side  Maeve Binchy found success by pursuing her sunny instincts, and leaving out the sex.

Maeve metamorphosed from the sometimes sharp reporter into a novelist whose take on life was sunny, warm, generous, even wholesome. Hemingway once said that a writer must find an inner truth, and Maeve found her success through a truthful pursuit of her own instincts.
When she presented her first book, Light a Penny Candle, to her publishers, they liked it, she told me, but were unhappy that it contained no explicit sex scenes. It was an established formula that there should be a bedroom scene every 19 pages in a modern novel. Maeve said, rather bashfully, that as she hadn’t had a very colorful sex life herself she didn’t really know how to write sex scenes, and if she made them up, they might strike a false note.

The book was a bestseller and made her name. Her approach to storytelling went down especially well in the United States. She told me about visiting some Midwestern town on a book tour where the ladies would approach her and say, “Oh Miss Binchy, we’re so grateful to have stories with no pornography and no profanity – I’ll have four copies, two for my aunts, one for the pastor’s wife and another for myself…” One of her greatest fans in America was Barbara Bush.

LA Times obit

"A hallmark of a Binchy book is a cast of characters Dickens would relish," Mary McNamara wrote in The Times in 1999, "all pairing and sundering, congregating and dispersing in an operatic minuet. Plots and subplots surface and submerge" in a story that invariably ends in "acceptance and growth."

Binchy considered herself a writer of escapist works popular with people going on vacation.

"I was just lucky," she told the BookReporter website, "I lived in this time of mass-market paperbacks."

The Daily Mail has a Biography of a Beloved Irish Writer In Her Own Words

I was lucky enough to be fairly quick at understanding what was taught, but unlucky enough not to be really interested in it so I always got my exams but never had the scholar’s love of learning for its own sake. And even though I was fat and hopeless at games, which are very unacceptable things for a schoolgirl, I was happy and confident. That was quite simply because I had a mother and a father at home who thought I was wonderful. They thought all their geese were swans. It was a gift greater than beauty or riches, the feeling that you were as fine as anyone else.

Maeve Binchy: Ireland's national treasure
  Maeve Binchy, who has died aged 72, was a skillful storyteller and a warm and generous person.

... no amount of high-minded tut-tutting could alter the fact that Maeve Binchy’s books were compulsive page-turners. In a survey of Ireland’s 100 bestsellers in the 20th century compiled in 1998, she took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100, outselling not only Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, but more recent writers such as Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney and Edna O’Brien. Her work also spawned two Hollywood films, Circle Of Friends, starring Minnie Driver, and Tara Road, with Andie McDowell.

The appeal of Maeve Binchy’s writing lay in strong characterization, good storytelling and heart-warming evocations of a cosy world in which good triumphs and community spirit always prevails. In a Maeve Binchy story, people — especially women — survive their troubles by sticking together and providing a shoulder to cry on.

Big, funny and warm, Maeve Binchy was the living embodiment of the novels that made her one of the world’s top-selling authors and one of Britain’s richest women, and her success was testament to the advice so often meted out to aspiring novelists — write what you know.

It was apt that she chose Édith Piaf's Non, Je ne regret rein as one of her favorite songs and she answered the question “Have you been lucky in life?” once with the splendid reply: "I have been luckier than anyone I know or even heard of. I had a very happy childhood, a good education, I enjoyed working as a teacher, journalist and author. I have loved a wonderful man for over 33 years and I believe he loves me too. I have great family and good friends, the stories I told became popular and people all over the world bought them. If anyone heard me complaining I should be taken out and shot!"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

July 31, 2012

"Water is Life"

The Remarkable Legacy of  nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith

In anticipation of her 9th birthday, Rachel Beckwith informed her mom that she didn’t want  presents; instead, she asked friends and family to donate $9 to charity: water, so that kids her age in Africa would have clean water to drink.  She fell shy of her goal of $300, which is enough to give 15 people clean drinking water. But she pledged to do better when her 10th birthday rolled around.

Tragically, Rachel was killed in a car accident in Seattle just a month after turning 9.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  It was just the beginning. 

The Deacon has the video and you will be 'moved, uplifted and humbled' when you watch it..

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2012

Stephen Covey R.I.P.

 Stephen Covey

From Forbes, Stephen R. Covey, '7 Habits' Author, Dies At 79

A bright light has gone out today.  Professor Stephen R. Covey dies at age 79

Dr. Stephen R. Covey passed away at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at 2:15 a.m. after suffering residual effects from a bicycling accident on the steep foothill roads of Provo, Utah in April. He has 9 children and 52 grandchildren and passed away surrounded by his wife, Sandra, and each of his children.

He was the author of the wildly popular “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” that was published in 1989 and has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages. He was included among Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans in 1996. I feel comfortable abbreviating the full book name to ’7 Habits’ in the title because everybody and their dog has now written a book playing off of Dr. Covey’s original book.

Yes, he was the first, and he was original.
Dr. Covey and his famous book brought a new language to business….Many of his principles have become cliche, but even though they are commonly used in language, they still aren’t commonly used in practice.

From The New York Times, the Herald of Good Habits

Mr. Covey’s book sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and also became the first audiobook to sell more than a million copies. After conferring with Mr. Covey over Thanksgiving in 1994, President Bill Clinton said American productivity would greatly increase if people followed Mr. Covey’s advice. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies flocked to use a consulting company he had founded.

Mr. Covey was a bit baffled by his success. He said he was simply telling people what he thought they already knew: the efficacy of good behavior. All that people had to do was form habits out of their best instincts, he said, calling his seven nuggets of knowledge natural laws, like gravity. They are:

1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think “win-win.”
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the saw; that is, undergo frequent self-renewal.

“We believe that organizational behavior is individual behavior collectivized,” Mr. Covey said.
Stephen Richards Covey was born on Oct. 24, 1932, in Salt Lake City, and grew up on an egg farm outside the city. A promising athletic career was cut short by degeneration in his legs, causing him to use crutches for three years as a teenager.  In an interview with Fortune magazine in 1994, he told of his parents’ constant encouragement. “You’re going to do great on this test,” he remembered his mother saying as he went to sleep the night before a school exam. “You can do anything you want.”

He entered the University of Utah at 16 and earned a degree in business administration. He spent two years in Britain as a Mormon missionary before returning to the United States to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He sometimes preached the Mormon doctrine on Boston Common.
After another missionary stint, in Ireland, he earned a doctorate in religious education from Brigham Young University. His thesis was on “success literature” in American history.

Salt Lake Tribune, ‘7 Habits’ gave business guru Stephen R. Covey fame, fortune
Management guru was praised as one of business world’s most creative thinkers.

Son Sean Covey said his father had been in Montana on a family get-together when he began to decline and was rushed to Idaho Falls, the closest hospital.

"Our family, all nine kids and our spouses and my mom, were able to gather together again to be with him for the last few hours of his life, which is what he always wanted," Sean Covey said in an email.
Lee Perry, a professor of human and associate dean at the Marriott School of Management at BYU, said he first encountered Covey as a missionary when his mother sent him quotes from a 1973 Covey book, "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations." Perry then took a class from Covey as a BYU undergraduate, and when he returned as a professor of organizational behavior, he occupied Covey’s old office.

"Steve was an original thinker but he was also was a great collector of ideas," Perry said. "His real genius was in taking a mixture of his own ideas, ideas imbedded in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from other academics — primarily in organizational behavior — and creating this ingenious blend that resonated with people."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2012

Marian Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, dies at 91. R.I.P.

Marion Cunningham, best known for writing cookbooks including The Fannie Farmer Cookbook dies at 91.   

From her obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle

Marion Cunningham, who championed home cooking long before Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart, and became a mentor to many of the nation's food giants, died Wednesday morning at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She was 90.

Mrs. Cunningham suffered from Alzheimer's disease and was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday after having difficulty breathing, said family friend John Carroll, who confirmed her death.

 Marion Cunningham

She is best known for writing cookbooks, including "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook," and teaching culinary classes, where her goal was to demystify home cooking.

Mrs. Cunningham, who spent her early adult years as a housewife with a penchant for cooking in her family's Walnut Creek ranch home, didn't enter into her professional food career until she was 50. Former Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl later mused that Mrs. Cunningham had completely reinvented herself at midlife and never thought it even remotely remarkable.

"Not only did she know everyone and everything, she was the person you called when you had a triumph or when things weren't going so well," Reichl said, adding that she thought of Mrs. Cunningham as her adopted mother. "She was the person who kept us all together during the early days of the food movement."

Her metamorphosis from amateur to pro started in 1972 when Mrs. Cunningham, an agoraphobic and a self-described alcoholic who had recently quit drinking, let a friend prod her into going on a road trip to Oregon to take a cooking class with the famous Manhattan cookbook author James Beard. Despite her panic disorder, she forced herself to cross the Bay Bridge, leave California and embark on the two-week adventure.

That trip, which Mrs. Cunningham said was the first time she felt a sense of power and hope in many years, was the beginning of a journey that would change not only her life but the Bay Area culinary community.

Amazing how lives intersect.  I learned to cook using the The Fannie Farmer and for that I have to thank a woman whose name I didn't even know before today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

June 28, 2012

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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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

June 8, 2012

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.”
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.”
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.
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).


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.”
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.
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.


 Raybradbury Books

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

The Great Legacy of Roy Campbell, who hid St John of the Cross’s letters from Spanish militiamen

Joseph Pearce recalls the extraordinary life of Roy Campbell, who hid St John of the Cross’s letters from Spanish militiamen,

The poet who saved a saint's priceless letters

It was March 1936. A series of anti-clerical riots swept through Toledo. Churches were burned and priests and monks were attacked in the streets. During these disturbances several Carmelite monks, disguised in lay clothes, sought shelter in the home of the South African poet, Roy Campbell, who had moved to the city with his wife, Mary, and their two young daughters in the previous year. Four months later, on July 21, republican forces advanced on the city. Under cover of darkness, the Carmelite monks once again called on the Campbells. This time, however, they were not seeking refuge for themselves but for their priceless archives, which included the personal papers of St John of the Cross. Campbell agreed to take possession of these precious archives and that night a heavy trunk of ancient documents was delivered secretly from the Carmelite library to the hallway of the Campbells’ house.

During the following day republican forces advanced through the city, forcing the defenders to fall back towards the Alcazar. Without the soldiers of the garrison to defend them, the priests, monks and nuns fell prey to the republican militiamen. The 17 monks from the Carmelite monastery were rounded up, herded into the street and shot

During this search of his home, as he revealed in a radio interview several years later, Campbell had prayed to St John of the Cross, making a vow that he would translate the saint’s poems into English if his family’s lives were spared. Campbell fulfilled his obligation to St John, translating the poems to great critical acclaim. The poet and critic Kathleen Raine, writing in the New Statesman, encapsulated the critical consensus that Campbell’s translations represented a superlative achievement in English verse: “Of all living English poets Roy Campbell is the most masterly in his use of rhyme, and he is able to use metro so as to convey a sense of intense passion. He has reproduced the Spanish rhymes and metros as closely as possible, and yet his English versions have the freshness of original poems.”
Tired of the brief interlude of urban life, the Campbells moved to the village of Altea, near Alicante, in May 1934. It was here that the whole family was received into the Catholic Church. “I don’t think that my family and I were converted by any event at any given moment,” Campbell wrote later. “We lived for a time on a small farm in the sierras at Altea where the working people were mostly good Catholics, and there was such a fragrance and freshness in their life, in their bravery, in their reverence, that it took hold of us all imperceptibly.”
In April 1957, Roy and Mary set off in their tiny Fiat 600 from their home in Portugal, destined for the Holy Week celebrations in Seville. En route they stopped off for several days in Toledo, “this heavenly place which means more than all the world to me”, as Campbell described it in a postcard sent to a friend. Throughout the week of processions in Seville, Mary noticed that her husband was unusually quiet and particularly serious in his devotions.

On April 23 they set off back to Portugal, crossing the border in the early afternoon. A front tyre burst, and the car swerved out of control and hit a tree. Mary survived but Roy died at the scene of the crash. Thus ended, at the age of 55, the life of one of the finest and most controversial poets of the 20th century, a poet who counted George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, T S Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis among his friends.

As regards his friendship with Tolkien, it is one of Campbell’s intriguing claims to fame that he was part of the inspiration for the character of Aragorn, who was played by Viggo Mortenson in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

April 24, 2012

Chuck Colson, A Man Redeemed R.I.P.

I remember hating Colson when he worked for Nixon.  His famous quote, "If you grab them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow" seemed to summarize his politics first learned in Massachusetts.  I distrusted his seemingly too easy conversion.  But in the years that followed his conversion, my admiration for his work grew the more I learned about it.
His life began again with his conversion and he to me is the perfect example of a life redeemed by grace.

The Denver Post Chuck Colson, political saboteur for President Nixon, dies at 80.

The New York Times, Charles W. Colson, Watergate Felon Who Became Evangelical Leader Dies at 80

Charles W. Colson, who as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon masterminded some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born again,” died on Saturday in Falls Church, Va. He was 80.
In 1956, Mr. Colson went to Washington as an administrative assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall, a Massachusetts Republican. He met Nixon, who was then vice president, and became, in his words, a lifelong “Nixon fanatic.” The two men “understood each other,” Mr. Colson wrote in “Born Again,” his memoir. They were “prideful men seeking that most elusive goal of all — acceptance and the respect of those who had spurned us.”
A sympathetic biography, “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed” (2005), by Jonathan Aitken, depicts him in these years as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, amoral man with three young children — Wendell Ball II, Christian and Emily Ann — and a failing marriage. He divorced his first wife and married Patricia Ann Hughes in 1964.

 Chuck Colson

On Chuck Colson:Can Reports See Past Watergate?

It’s pretty interesting to read the obituaries of Charles Colson by those who were alive during Watergate and those who weren’t. It’s clear that some reporters are stuck in the 1970s, apparently unaware of how the state of evangelicalism was shaped by Colson’s complex life and legacy.
Part of what seems to complicate the media’s relationship might be that the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein are the real heroes for journalists coming out of Watergate. Someone like Colson, who had a conversion experience and spent time in jail, does not fit the narrative of who was on right side at that time

Chuck Colson found freedom in prison writes Michael Gerson

Following Chuck’s recent death, the news media — with short attention spans but long memories — have focused on the Watergate portion of his career. They preserve the image of a public figure at the moment when the public glare was harshest — a picture taken when the flash bulbs popped in 1974.
Many wondered at Chuck’s sudden conversion to Christianity. He seemed to wonder at it himself. He spent each day that followed, for nearly 40 years, dazzled by his own implausible redemption. It is the reason he never hedged or hesitated in describing his relationship with Jesus Christ. Chuck was possessed, not by some cause, but by someone.
It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfillment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell. Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance.

From Watergate to Redemption

After Chuck Colson passed away on Saturday, obituaries naturally remembered him first and foremost as the lawyer and Watergate conspirator who went to jail for obstructing justice.  They also noted that, while in prison, he found Christ and dedicated himself to prison ministries.  Alas, the mainstream media can be so dismissive of faith that many saw him only as a political warrior of the religious right, instead of a man who lived his faith and bridged the chasm between parties with his message of forgiveness and redemption.
Colson took literally Christ’s command to visit and comfort those in prison, a ministry that middle-class congregations had previously ignored.  He got prisons to set aside wings or buildings for inmates who wanted to live in a structured, faith-based environment.  He got congregations to see it as part of their mission to partner with prisons and individual inmates, leading prison programming aimed at turning men’s lives around.  Most of all, he got law-abiding citizens on the outside to encounter inmates, face to face, not as nameless, faceless threats but as their brothers to be redeemed.
Concern for prisoners used to be the exclusive province of the left and the whipping boy of the right.  By the end of his life, Colson had laid the foundation for the left and religious right to come together to endorse restorative punishment followed by forgiveness.  He brought Christian forgiveness and mercy into discussions of criminal justice, helping to break the ratchet that inexorably jacked up sentences and permanently exiled wrongdoers irrespective of need or public safety.

Symposium on Colson's Life and Legacy

Charlotte Allen
Charles Colson’s 35-year career as an unabashed Christian and evangelizer to prisoners won my profound respect. He combined compassion for the incarcerated with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and he refused to blame “society” for the self-destructive habits that landed criminals behind bars. Colson also had to take a lot of guff from the mainstream media over his supposedly opportunistic conversion in 1973, and he bore that with admirable patience and charity.

William Bennett
It may not be possible to count the ways mean-spirited liberals hated Chuck Colson. His muscular Christianity was one. His fortitude on behalf of “the least of these” made him a true servant-leader. He used his strength and conviction to speak out and work in behalf of the weak and defenseless outside prison and the stunted souls inside prison.

Michael Cromartie
My very first job out of college was working for Chuck Colson. He had just been released from prison and was starting a prison ministry. I was his first “research assistant/travel companion.” Chuck had been humbled and broken by his experience in prison and vowed when he left never to forget those he left behind. And he did not. Despite job offers that would have paid him seven figures after prison, he turned them all down to start Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Chuck Colson and Second Chances

Still, for nearly four full post-Watergate decades, Colson, who died this past Saturday at age 80, steadfastly practiced what he preached about prisons, prisoners and penal reform. Where criminal justice was concerned, he was God's good man, not Nixon's bad man. He gave his ministry most of his adult life and almost all of his money, including royalties on about two dozen books, speakers' fees, and the $1 million Templeton Prize for spiritual endeavors that he won in 1993. While maintaining his Break Point radio show, he worked endless hours raising the tens of millions of dollars a year that supported the ministry's operations.

In the 2000s alone, Colson's Prison Fellowship mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers to work in 1,329 prisons from coast to coast and also mustered nearly 15,000 volunteers each year to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 350,000 children of prisoners. Recognizing that about 700,000 prisoners are released each year, the Colson ministry created eight InnerChange Freedom Initiative prisoner re-entry programs across five states, and found jobs for about 60% of all IFI parolees.

But Colson's most consequential criminal-justice legacy is still in the making. He nearly single-handedly put America on a bipartisan path to zero prison growth. With another born-again ex-prisoner, former California state legislator Pat Nolan, he led the charge against states' mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and for the federal government's Second Chance Act, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help ex-prisoners find jobs, get drug treatment, and reconnect with loved ones.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2012

Levon Helm, R.I.P.

 Theband Woodstockny-1
The Band, Woodstock, N.Y.  From left, Richard Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson

Levon Helm, Drummer and Rough-Throated Singer for the Band, Dies at 71

Levon Helm, who helped to forge a deep-rooted American music as the drummer and singer for the Band, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71 and lived in Woodstock, N.Y.
In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.

Mr. Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs, largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel, spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.

After the Band broke up in 1976, Mr. Helm continued to perform at every opportunity, working with a partly reunited Band and leading his own groups. He also acted in films, notably “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980). In the 2000s he became a roots-music patriarch, turning his barn in Woodstock — which had been a recording studio since 1975 — into the home of down-home, eclectic concerts called Midnight Rambles, which led to tours and Grammy-winning albums.
Mark Lavon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine, Ark., the son of a cotton farmer with land near Turkey Scratch, Ark. In his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band,“ written with Stephen Davis, Mr. Helm said he was part Chickasaw Indian through his paternal grandmother. He grew up hearing live bluegrass, Delta blues, country and the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll; Memphis was just across the river.
His voice strengthened, and the core of his Midnight Ramble bands became a touring and recording group; it performed in 2009 at the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on its site in Bethel, N.Y., although Mr. Helm was unable to sing that night. Mr. Helm’s 2007 and 2009 studio albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” won Grammy Awards, as did his 2011 “Ramble at the Ryman,” recorded live in Nashville and broadcast on PBS.

Nearly to the end, Mr. Helm spent his life on the bandstand. “If it doesn’t come from your heart,” he wrote, “music just doesn’t work.”

A wonderful video appreciation from the Wall St Journal's Jim Fusilli


London Telegraph obit

Regarded as one of rock’s greatest drumming polymaths — he also played mandolin, rhythm guitar and bass — Helm laid down a warm, dry “thuddy tom-tom” beat that drove The Band’s rootsy sound. With their stories of medicine shows and moonshine, many of his songs recalled his Deep South upbringing, notably The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek.

 Levon Helm 2011-1

Chicago Tribune obit

Levon Helm was the rarest of musical multi-taskers: an unflappable drummer and a singer who wrung soul out of every note. He also was a terrific team player and bandmate; he made the people around him sound good.

Helm was "the only drummer who could make you cry," critic Jon Carroll once wrote.

"It's nearly impossible to sing so smoothly and hit that hard at the same time," singer Neko Case wrote on Twitter this week.

In the Atlantic, Jack Hamilton says Levon Helm Was Perfect

Levon Helm, who died Thursday at age 71, might have been the greatest drummer to ever play rock and roll, a player of such boundless musicality and invention that his kit seemed to build and rebuild whole worlds. He was born in Marvell, Arkansas in 1940 and displayed astonishing talent from a young age. Upon graduating high school he joined the Hawks, a band fronted by rockabilly singer and fellow Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins. In 1959 Helm and Hawkins moved to Canada, and by the early 1960s had reassembled the Hawks with a collection of youngsters from southern Ontario: bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson, and guitarist Robbie Robertson.

Gerard Vanderleun of the  American Digest appreciates the man who sang , 'Vergil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville Train.        Do not miss the first clip.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

April 15, 2012

Miami mourns its Cuban "Saint"

"A Holy Man, A 'Friend of God'" -- Miami Mourns Its Cuban "Saint"

Bishop Agustín Román -- the retired Miami auxiliary revered as the "godfather" of the Cuban exile community on these shores -- died Wednesday night at 83.

Expelled from the island at gunpoint alongside some 130 other clerics in the wake of the Castro Revolution, Román served as the exile's spiritual "beacon" in South Florida since the late 1960s, when he was charged with building the National Shrine to Cuba's patroness, the Caridad de Cobre. Named the US' first Cuban bishop in 1979, he continued to live in a one-room apartment at the Ermita -- built facing Cuba on Miami's Biscayne Bay -- following his 2003 retirement, and died there just before he was to teach an evening catechism class in a new facility on its grounds that bears his name.

Famed for an example of deep humility, tireless spirit and simple wisdom, the prelate (who never stopped perceiving himself as the "peasant" of his boyhood) made national headlines in 1987 after defusing an outbreak of riots in US prisons led by Cuban detainees. Having cared for many of the rioters' family members over the years of their confinement -- a witness that, so it's said, led the men to drop their weapons at the mere sight of him -- Román reportedly declined Hollywood overtures to buy the rights to the story for a film.

 Bishop Augustin Roman

Miami Herald

"He was a saint to me," said Silvia Gonzalez, 66, who went to school with Román in Cuba and had since kept in touch. "He devoted his entire life to God. He never even took a vacation."

Gonzalez last saw Román at a Mass during Holy Week.

"We've lost someone who was tremendous," Gonzalez said, her eyes filling up with tears. "But from Heaven, he'll be with me -- and all Cubans."

A humble, gentle man with an iron will and a steadfast moral compass, he was viewed by older Cuban exiles as a champion of freedom and faith
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 AM | Permalink

April 11, 2012

His Heroic Last Year

Ulysses S. Grant, Commander of the Union Army and President for two terms, became embroiled in a Ponzi scheme that wiped out his entire fortune.  Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with terminal mouth and throat cancer. 

Wanting to leave his widow financially secure, he rushed to write his account of the war, something he had no interest in before he was financially ruined.

Ray Nothsine reviews  Grant's Final Victory

As he toiled away with his pen, sometimes writing as many as 25 – 50 pages a day, The New York Times and publications across the country offered daily updates on Grant’s condition. His suffering was immense. His throat had to be constantly swabbed with cocaine to relieve the pain. As the illness progressed, it literally began to suffocate him and he would often wake at night in a panic, trying to gasp for air. Just swallowing was especially agonizing.
Grant received an abundance of personal letters and well wishes from North and South. He felt his illness was helping to further heal the sectional divide and noted as much.
Grant had his share of well wishers in the South because of the respect he showed for General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and the brave men of the Army of Northern Virginia. Grant also later intervened on Lee’s behalf when President Andrew Johnson and others in the federal government wanted to arrest Lee and have him tried and hung for treason.
Grant died three days after completing his memoirs in 1885. He dedicated the publication to the “American soldier and sailor.” When it was suggested that maybe he should change the dedication so that it read “the Union soldier and sailor,” he declined.
The well wishes poured in for one of the most beloved leaders in American history. Church bells across the country chimed 63 times, one for each year of Grant’s life. The former Confederate General James P. Longstreet called him “the soul of honor,” adding that Grant “was the highest type of manhood America has produced.”

His funeral procession was 7 miles long.

Charles Bracelen Flood is the author of Grant's Final Victory available at Amazon.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:44 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2012

'They killed that woman. They killed her and kept going.'

Driver charged with hitting woman, 58, in wheelchair who was run over by THREE vehicles and left to die...on the same road she lost her leg in hit-and-run 25 years ago

All three drivers fled the scene in Philadelphia

'They killed that woman. They killed her and kept going.'

In another hit and run, Heroic grandmother dies after pushing grandson out of the path of hit and run driver on their way back from church

I'll tag the first, No Way to Go and the second, a Great Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

March 3, 2012

James Q Wilson, R.I.P.

James Q Wilson, co-author of "Broken Windows' policing theory, dies at  80. Washington Post obituary.

Political scientist James Q. Wilson, whose “broken windows” theory on crime-fighting helped trigger a nationwide move toward community policing, died Friday at a Boston hospital. He was 80....We was being treated for leukemia.

Wilson wrote or co-authored more than a dozen books on various topics, but his study of police work and the importance of quickly attacking even small signs of disorder have resonated for decades. He was a distinguished scholar in Boston College’s political science department at the time of his death.
Co-author George Kelling said... the article instantly resonated with law enforcement and also caught the general public’s attention because the “broken windows” metaphor was so effective.

“That was pure Wilson,” said Kelling, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The thing about a metaphor is it takes a complex thing and simplifies it and makes it readily graspable.”
“Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing,” they wrote.


Peter Wehner on His Moral Sense

With the death of James Q. Wilson earlier today, America has lost a towering intellectual figure. The mind reels when thinking about the issues Professor Wilson wrote about with such precision, intelligence, originality, and elegance: crime and human nature;  drug legalization, science, and addiction; moral character; benevolence; free will; families and communities; race; business ethics and capitalism; American government; democracy and the Islamic world; and much more.

James Q. Wilson was not only America’s pre-eminent political and social scientist, he was one of our leading moral philosophers. There was no subject, it seemed, on which he couldn’t deepen our understanding.
He was a man who deeply loved his country. In reading his books and essays over the years, it seemed to me that what animated him most of all was a commitment to citizenship, virtue, and the moral good. He believed in our capacity to improve, even if imperfectly, the human condition.

And he understood as only a few others have that the task of civilization is to educate the hearts and minds of the young; to shape, in the right way, the habits of the heart.

He ends with this wonderful quote from the professor's book on The Moral Sense

Mankind’s moral sense is not a strong beacon light, radiating outward to illuminate in sharp outline all that it touches. It is, rather, a small candle flame, casting vague and multiple shadows, flickering and sputtering in the strong winds of power and passion, greed and ideology. But brought close to the heart and cupped in one’s hands, it dispels the darkness and warms the soul.

Arthur Brooks on Wilson, Social Science with a Soul

Arguably, no social scientist had more influence over American public policy, on topics ranging from deregulation to welfare reform. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush and advised five decades of American presidents. Pat Moynihan once reportedly told Richard Nixon (who was known for his disdain for intellectuals), "Mr. President, James Q. Wilson is the smartest man in the United States. The president of the United States should pay attention to what he has to say."
Life for Wilson was like a roadside curio shop, full of hidden and unrecognized intellectual treasures.
Many authors over the decades have demonstrated the self-evident truth that without a healthy moral culture, a democratic capitalist society cannot survive. But Wilson showed—not with vague philosophy but with natural experiments and data analysis—that the moral sense is so much more than just what we need to prosper. It is the rhythm of our human flourishing. Wilson understood that the moral sense is what statist regimes crowd out with technocratic socialism—and why they ultimately deliver unhappiness. The moral sense is the reason freedom and individual responsibility give us the best chance at a meaningful life.

Boston Globe obit

James Q. Wilson, a political scientist who coauthored the influential “Broken Windows” article in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982, which became a touchstone for the move toward community policing in Boston and cities across the country, died early this morning in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dr. Wilson, who was 80 and lived North Andover, returned to Boston a few years ago to become the first senior fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College, and a distinguished scholar in the college’s political science department.

He told the Wall Street Journal that he and his wife, Roberta, moved back to New England to be closer to their children and grandchildren, joking that his descendants “feel a legal obligation to live within 30 minutes of Fenway Park.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart RIP

Andrew Breitbart's death at 43 shocked everyone this morning.  Apparently he collapsed while taking a walk near his home.

 Andrew Bretibart

On his websites, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Government and Big Peace appeared this notice

Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles.

"We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior," the post said. "Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love."

And then they quote Andrew himself

I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and—famously—I enjoy making enemies.

Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I’ve lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I’ve gained hundreds, thousands—who knows?—of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night.

Matt Drudge in a personal note on the Drudge Report

DEAR READER: In the first decade of the DRUDGEREPORT Andrew Breitbart was a constant source of energy, passion and commitment. We shared a love of headlines, a love of the news, an excitement about what's happening. I don't think there was a single day during that time when we did not flash each other or laugh with each other, or challenge each other. I still see him in my mind's eye in Venice Beach, the sunny day I met him. He was in his mid 20's. It was all there. He had a wonderful, loving family and we all feel great sadness for them today.

What Andrew Breitbart meant to politics in The Washington Post

Based in the liberal enclave of Los Angeles, Breitbart viewed himself as a one-man conservative gang and he took to the task of delivering rhetorical body blows — primarily via the web but also through television appearances — with a gusto rarely seen even in these hyperpartisan times.

“There was no stopping Andrew Breitbart from fighting the good fight with every fiber of his soul,” said Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter
His biggest coup came in 2011 when he was at the center of a controversy regarding lewd pictures that New York Rep. Anthony Weiner had taken of himself and sent to a number of women who were not his wife.

Weiner initially denied that the photos — of his underwear-clad groin — were of him but Breitbart was dogged. On NBC’s “Today” show, he insisted he had more x-rated pictures of Weiner and threatened to release them if the New York Democrat attempted to get back at him for breaking the story.

And, in a final indignity to Weiner, Breitbart hijacked the Democrat’s press conference to demand that Weiner tell the whole truth. It was a surreal moment — the sort of truth is stranger than fiction stuff that makes politics fun to cover. And it was vintage Breitbart.
Breitbart also understood before many others that the world of politics — and the way in which it was covered — was rapidly transforming itself into a form of entertainment for the public.

Ed Morrissey , Andrew Breitbart, "Our merry prankster"

He was willing to take risks and look foolish in order to make a point or win an argument, with more courage than most would muster.  No one who saw it will ever forget how he seized the podium at Anthony Weiner's press conference and demanded vindication from media outlets who had been disparaging him and defending Weiner when the former Congressman got caught literally with his pants down.  Few men have had the kind of impact Andrew did in such a short time, and he leaves behind a media empire that is still gaining strength.

Greg Gutfield

He was the spiritual leader of the modern conservative, libertarian cause. He was immersed in pop culture and wished to drag the right into the modern world - knowing this is how America speaks to the world. He was the heart of the matter. The fighter. Losing him is like a fiery planet going dark.

Breitbart's Unfinished Quest for a Punk Rock Republican in the Atlantic Wire

John Podhoretz in Commentary

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

Jonah Goldberg

Andrew left there (Drudge Report  and went on to hugely exciting things. He founded Big Hollywood and Big Government and BreitbartTV and I’ve lost track of what else. He picked fights for fun and profit, but most of all for patriotism and an honorable sense of indignation at the hubris and hypocrisy of the mainstream media and the Left. We didn’t agree on everything and we differed on style. Hell, everyone differed with Andrew when it came to style.

Matt Welch Farewell to a Friend

Before talking about that "go out and create our media" part, which will be Breitbart's true legacy, I would like to stress here that Andrew's broader point about media bias, while always hyperbolic, was also based on something broadly true.
But as Nick Gillespie mentioned this morning, Breitbart's real accomplishment was his innovative, hyper-kinetic 21st-century media creation. Who else could say they helped make both The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post what they are today? Operating with budgets the fraction of daily newspapers you will never hear of, Breitbart consistently and gleefully produced about the highest impact-per-dollar political muckraking in the mediasphere.
A totally doting husband and father of four, and typing those words is kind of devastating me right now. RIP, Andrew, and my heart goes out to Susie and the kids.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

"At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar."

New York Times obituary by Marglit Fox

He crossed the Atlantic because it was there, and the Pacific because it was also there.

He made both crossings in a rowboat because it, too, was there, and because the lure of sea, spray and sinew, and the history-making chance to traverse two oceans without steam or sail, proved irresistible.

In 1969, after six months alone on the Atlantic battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness, John Fairfax, who died this month at 74, became the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean.

In 1972, he and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, sharing a boat, became the first people to row across the Pacific, a yearlong ordeal during which their craft was thought lost. (The couple survived the voyage, and so, for quite some time, did their romance.
For all its bravura, Mr. Fairfax’s seafaring almost pales beside his earlier ventures. Footloose and handsome, he was a flesh-and-blood character out of Graham Greene, with more than a dash of Hemingway and Ian Fleming shaken in.

At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.

At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar
. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé, which lately included a career as a professional gambler.
He later studied literature and philosophy at a university in Buenos Aires and at 20, despondent over a failed love affair, resolved to kill himself by letting a jaguar attack him. When the planned confrontation ensued, however, reason prevailed — as did the gun he had with him.

In Panama, he met a pirate, applied for a job as a pirate’s apprentice and was taken on. He spent three years smuggling guns, liquor and cigarettes around the world, becoming captain of one of his boss’s boats, work that gave him superb navigational skills.

 John Fairfax Rowboat

John Fairfax, obituary London Telegraph

John Fairfax, who has died aged 74, was a British adventurer in the classic mould, and achieved celebrity in 1969 as the first person to row solo across the Atlantic.

Fairfax had already led a colourful existence as a smuggler in Panama when he decided to realise his ambition of rowing the Atlantic, conceived 15 years earlier when he had read in Reader’s Digest an account of two Norwegians, George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, who in 1896 had become the first to cross the ocean in a small boat with only oars for propulsion. No one, however, had done it solo.

But Fairfax needed financial backing, and in the summer of 1966 he came to London to find sponsors. To get fit, every day he ran two miles, did two hours of swimming and weightlifting at the YMCA, and three or four hours’ rowing on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. When asked why he was doing it, Fairfax — who, under the “Occupation” field in his passport, described himself as “Adventurer” — would reply: “Because almost anybody with a little bit of know-how can sail. I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw.”
Fairfax had several encounters with sharks. Once a dusky shark rammed his boat, sending him sprawling on to the deck. Later, as he was swimming beneath Britannia scraping away the barnacles with a knife, he encountered a mako. With no time to get out of the water, Fairfax flattened himself against the boat and plunged his knife into the creature, which “pulled away from me, and, in doing so, ripped himself open from mouth to tail. I climbed into Britannia in record time. ”

John Fairfax was born in Rome on May 21 1937 to a Bulgarian mother and an English father, who worked for the BBC in London. John would meet his father only once, when he came to London in the late Sixties, but the encounter was not a success. “We had money,” Fairfax later recalled of his childhood, “and I got everything I wanted. What I lacked was a father for an authority figure. It made me an opinionated little brat.”

Professional adventurer John Fairfax  dies at 74 in Las Vegas

His wife said: 'He was a man of unbelievable strength and courage and confidence in everything he did. He thought nature was a worthy challenge, and he loved nature.'

John Fairfax used two different custom-made boats on the ocean journeys and looked to the stars to help him navigate.

He survived by eating up to eight pounds of fish a day and had a system to convert ocean water into drinking water.

Mrs Fairfax said: 'On the Pacific, a shark took a big chunk of his arm out when he was spearing fish. There you are on the Pacific Ocean and there's no hospital, and you need to row. He was an amazing, amazing human being.'
He also spoke five languages, was a talented chef and regularly played the card game baccarat at Las Vegas casinos, his wife said.

She added: 'He believed a human could accomplish anything if they had confidence. When he would get an idea in mind,

Ms Cook, 73, who lives near London, remained lifelong friends with Mr Fairfax.

She told the New York Times after his death: 'He's always been a gambler. He was going to the casino every night when I met him - it was craps in those days. And at the end of the day, adventures are a kind of gamble, aren't they?'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Jefffrey Zaslow, R.I.P.

Remembrance of Jeffrey Zaslow, a lovely man whose column "Moving On'  in the Wall St Journal I very much enjoyed and often quoted.

 Jeffrey Zaslow

Life’s Frailty, and the Gestures That Go a Long Way by Tara Parker-Pope

I thought about our conversation this weekend when I learned the terrible news that Jeff had died in a car accident on snowy roads on his way to his Detroit-area home, returning from a book-signing event in northern Michigan. “The Girls From Ames” became a best seller, and remains my favorite among the books he wrote. But many people know Jeff as co-author of “The Last Lecture,” with the Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who delivered that now famous lecture after learning he had pancreatic cancer. 

Mr. Zaslow was also co-author of memoirs with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who safely ditched a damaged airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. Despite the disparate subject matter, Mr. Zaslow noted that much of his writing centered on the theme of love, commitment and living in the moment.

“We don’t know what moment in our lives we’re going to be judged on; that’s true for all of us,” he said at a TED talk last year, explaining what he had learned from Captain Sullenberger. “We’ve got to be honorable, be moral; we’ve got to work our hardest.”

Despite his success as a memoir co-author, Jeff’s true labor of love was his latest book, “The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters.” Dedicated to his daughters, the book focused on a bridal shop in Fowler, Mich., as a way to tell a story of parents’ hopes and dreams.
Jeff often said he honed his skills for listening and offering advice during a stint as an advice columnist, a role he won in a contest to replace Ann Landers.

Wall St Journal breaks the news of its columnist, Jeffrey Zaslow, 53 killed in a car crash.

Jeffrey Zaslow, a longtime Wall Street Journal writer and best-selling author with a rare gift for writing about love, loss, and other life passages with humor and empathy, died at age 53 on Friday of injuries suffered in a car crash in northern Michigan.
He was twice named best columnist by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and in 2000 he received its Will Rogers Humanitarian Award.

In a statement Friday to the staff of the Journal, editor Robert Thomson said: "Jeff's writing, for the Journal and in his books, has been a source of inspiration for many people around the world and his journalistic life has been a source of inspiration for all journalists."
More recently, he became one of America's best-selling nonfiction writers, known internationally for such books as "The Girls from Ames," the story of a 40-year friendship among 10 women, and "The Last Lecture," about Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor who in 2007 was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live.

Chicago Sun Times obit

Jeffrey Zaslow — a former Chicago Sun-Times columnist who went on to sell millions of books with themes of compassion, inspiration and empathy — was killed Friday in a car crash in northern Michigan.

Mr. Zaslow teamed up with some of the country’s most inspirational people to help tell their stories, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Randy Pausch, the subject of Zaslow’s huge hit The Last Lecture, which has been translated into 48 languages and sold more than five million copies in English.
Mr. Zaslow, the father of three daughters, was killed in a crash near the northern Michigan town of Elmira at 9 a.m. Friday, according to FOX 2 Detroit, where his wife, Sherry Margolis, is an TV anchor.

Police said Mr. Zaslow lost control of his car and was hit by a semi-trailer truck on a snow-covered road. He had been in the area previously for a book-signing.
“Jeff was just a bundle of energy,” said Sue Ontiveros, Sun-Times deputy features editor, who spent time as Zaslow’s editor. “He did so well with the column, and his subsequent books, because he was such a compassionate man who was interested in people. He was kind and funny and so humble about his talents. And oh, how he loved Sherry and their girls.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2012

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain”

A Murder at Paradise

The next time somebody mindlessly bashes a “federal bureaucrat,” as if the term itself were a parasitic disease, remember the bright young woman we said goodbye to here a few days ago: Margaret Anderson, a park ranger in a flag-draped casket.

 Npranger Margaret Anderson

On that first day of this year, an Iraq war veteran named Benjamin C. Barnes was steaming toward Paradise after a night of gunfire and partying. He blew past an initial stop where drivers were told to put chains on their tires. No one knows for sure what his intentions were, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate, as many in law enforcement have, that he might have fired on people enjoying the snow at Paradise.

Anderson was the daughter of a Lutheran minister, 34 years old, a mother of two little girls. She was the kind of park ranger familiar, by necessity, with flora, fauna and firearms. Just below Paradise, Anderson set up a road block.

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain,” said her father, the Rev. Paul Kritsch, “and the people at the other end.” The gunman opened fire on the ranger. At least two shots, one to Anderson’s head, the other to her torso, were enough to kill her. Barnes plunged into waist-deep snow. The next day he was found, dead of exposure and drowning, in the icy creek that drops quickly into a waterfall, the subject of countless pictures.
“Margaret Anderson is a hero not because she died,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the Park Service, “but because of why she died.”

You could not help asking that question — the why — as the horse at the center of the funeral procession passed by on a winter day, boots reversed in the stirrups of an empty saddle, in the military tradition. On both sides of the street were cops and park rangers, hundreds of them from all over the West and Canada, uniforms crisp, faces downcast.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

January 7, 2012

Joan of Arc

The Enduring Power of Joan of Arc

JOAN OF ARC was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks. But type her name into Amazon’s search engine and you get more than 6,000 results. France’s national archives include tens of thousands of volumes about her. She has been immortalized by Shakespeare, Voltaire, Twain, Shaw, Brecht, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Rubens; more recently, her life was fodder for the CBS television series “Joan of Arcadia.”

What is it about Joan of Arc? Why is her story of enduring interest more than a half a millennium after her birth?

Illiterate and uncouth, Joan moved purposefully among nobles, bishops and royalty. So intent on vanquishing the enemy that she threatened her own men with violence, she herself recoiled at the idea of bloodshed. To avoid having to use her sword, she led her army carrying a 12-foot-long banner emblazoned with the words Party of the Kingdom of Heaven. Witnesses said she was luminous in battle, light not glinting off her armor so much as radiating from the girl within. Her enemies spoke of clouds of butterflies following in her wake, a curiously beatific report from men who said she was in league with the devil.

In the aftermath of combat she didn’t celebrate victory but mourned the casualties; her men remembered her on her knees weeping as she held the head of a dying enemy soldier, urging him to confess his sins. Her courage outstripped that of seasoned men at arms; her tears flowed as readily as any other teenage girl’s.

Wikipedia's short bio 

Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: Jeanne d'Arc,[1] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[2] – 30 May 1431), is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was 19 years old.  Twenty-five years after the execution, Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr.  Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.[2] She is – along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux – one of the patron saints of France.

Joan asserted that she had visions from God that instructed her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

One of the great classics of silent film is The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Th Dreyer .  Many call it a masterpiece. 
A restored version was released in 1985.  The faces are extraordinary, the editing amazing and Maria Falconetti is luminous as Joan in what some call the "greatest performance in the history of film".

Not many know that Mark Twain was fascinated by Joan of Arc . He wrote, " She is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced."

Under a pseudonym, he wrote Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte,

-Jeanne D' Arc (Eugene Thirion)

Twain  said "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others need no preparation and got none."  You can read it for free online.

But the character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, judged by all of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.

When we reflect that her century was the brutallest, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle of such a product from such a soil. The contrast between her and her century is the contrast between day and night. She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; she gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other great minds wasted themselves upon pretty fancies or upon poor ambitions; she was modest and fine and delicate when to be loud and course might be said to be universal; she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honourable in an age which had forgotten what honour was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; she maintained her personal dignity unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities; she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; she was spotlessly pure in mind and body when society in the highest places was foul in both - she was all these things in an age when crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black with unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and bestialities.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2012

The courage of Chesshire

In a terrific obituary from the Telegraph on the amazing life of John Chesshire who demonstrated courage throughout his life.

In March 1944 Chesshire, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), was serving as Medical Officer to 1st Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment (1 SSR), part of 77th Indian Infantry Brigade. In the middle of the month the Brigade blocked the railway at Henu, northern Burma. Faced with this threat to their supply lines, the Japanese attacked and, on March 17, the regimental aid post manned by Chesshire and a colleague, Captain Thorne, was overrun.

The two officers continued to operate and tend the wounded until a counter-attack repelled the enemy. Days of heavy shelling followed, but Chesshire carried on with his work even though it meant standing in the open while others were able to take shelter. During the first two weeks of the month-long battle, he was senior MO to the Brigade. OOn at least five occasions shells landed close to his operating theatre.

The citation for his MC estimated that 500 men had passed through his hands during the campaign. It paid tribute to his tireless energy under dreadful conditions, which had saved many lives and provided a great boost to morale.

Chesshire Portrait

handsome devil too

Chesshire subsequently returned to Knighton and became a hill-farmer, rearing Welsh ewes and Hereford cattle. During the lambing season he converted a large wooden crate into a shepherd’s hut, had it taken to the top of Stowe Hill and camped with just a primus stove for warmth.

When the missionary in him emerged once more, he set off for Borneo. On one occasion, on a trip into the jungle to attend someone who was ill, he experienced severe stomach pains. A self-diagnosis confirmed his fears. He had acute appendicitis and he was the only medical practitioner for many miles.

He did, however, have a medical orderly with him whom he instructed to set up a primitive operating table with a mirror over it. Chesshire then gave himself a large dose of local anaesthetic and, with the aid of the mirror, proceeded to guide the orderly through an operation to remove the appendix.

He retired from farming in the late 1970s but continued to practise medicine and enjoyed fishing into old age. An accomplished fly fisherman, when his legs were not strong enough to support him, he would tie himself to a tree to avoid falling into the water. Geology was another absorbing interest and he achieved some striking results using boot polish to make paintings of rock formations.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 AM | Permalink

December 26, 2011

At the deathbed of Kateri Takawitha, the first American Indian saint

Ever since I learned about the Lily of the Mohawks, she has fascinated me.  I learned much more about  Kateri Takakwitha, daughter of a Mohawk war chief and a captured Christian Algonquin mother, in this article by Brian Fraga.

She will be the first American Indian saint.

During a Dec. 19 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the miracle needed to canonize Blessed Kateri, whose intercession is credited with the miraculous healing of a Washington state boy who had been afflicted with a flesh-eating bacteria.

The young future saint’s parents gave her the name Tekakwitha, which means “she who puts things in order” or “she who advances or opens the way before her.”
In 1660, when Tekakwitha was 4 years old, smallpox, most likely originating from a nearby Dutch settlement, swept through the Mohawk settlement, killing many members of the tribe, who had never been exposed to the disease.

Tekakwitha’s father, mother and a young brother died in the epidemic. Tekakwitha also became deathly ill, but she was nursed back to health by the Mohawk matrons. However, the disease damaged her sight and scarred her face.
“Her prayer life was so strong and very deep,” said Sister Kateri Mitchell. “She is definitely a model for us of what it means to be a follower of Christ. She radiated that. She lived out her strong convictions and her strong relationship with God to follow that sacred path one day at a time, despite her own weaknesses.”

Kateri Dorothyspencer

Watercolor by Dorothy M. Speiser

In time, she took vows as a woman religious.

However, a year later, she fell fatally ill. She died on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 17, 1680. Her last words were Iesos konoronkwa (“Jesus, I love you.”).

Those gathered around her said her body suddenly took on a brilliant radiance. The mourners watched in astonishment as the scars disappeared from her face.

Jesuit Father Pierre Cholenec, a witness at her deathbed, later wrote that at the time of her death Kateri’s face, “so disfigured and so swarthy in life, suddenly changed about 15 minutes after her death, and in an instant became so beautiful and so fair that just as soon as I saw it (I was praying by her side) I let out a yell, I was so astonished....”

More on Father Pierre Cholenac's testimony

....and I sent for the priest who was working at the repository for the Holy Thursday service. At the news of this prodigy, he came running along with some people who were with him. We then had the time to contemplate this marvel right up to the time of her burial. I frankly admit that my first thought at the time was that Catherine could well have entered heaven at that moment and that she had -- as a preview -- already received in her virginal body a small indication of the glory of which her soul had taken possession in Heaven. Two Frenchmen from La Prairie de la Magdeleine came to the Sault on Thursday to be present at the service. They were passing by Catherine's cabin where, seing a woman lying on her mat and with such a beautiful and radiant face, they said to each other, Look at this young woman sleeping so peacefully and kept going. But, learning the next lminute that it was a dead body, and that of Catherine, they returned to the cabin and went down on their knees to recommend themselves to her prayers. After having satisfied their devotion for having seen such a wonderful scene, they wished to show their veneration for the dead girl by constructing then and there a coffin to hold such cherished remains
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2011

Vaclav Havel, He Lived in Truth

He died in his sleep after many years of suffering with respiratory problems aggravated by the years he spent in prison.  Vaclav Havel's body now lies in state at Prague Castle.  His countrymen are paying their last respects before the state funeral on Friday at Prague's St Vitus Cathedral.
It will be the first in the history of the Czech Republic

 Mourners Wait Repsects Havel

Czechs mourn death of Vaclav Havel

"When I heard about his death I cried," said Jiri Moucka, one of the constant stream of mourners. "I owe him so much. He saved us from the mess we had to live in. I had to come here." Zuzana Hronova, from the eastern town of Pardubice, brought her two young children to Prague.

BBC obituary

from Mourning Havel slideshow in the Guardian

Telegraph obit

The tendency of communist officialdom to evolve modes of communication which masked its true meaning became a constant theme in Havel’s work...

The Memorandum, Tom Stoppard has observed, is the play “that best shows off the hallmarks of Havel’s gift: the fascination with language; the invention of an absurd society raised only a notch or two above the normal state of bureaucracy; and not least the playfulness, the almost gentle refusal to indulge a sense of grievance, the utter lack of righteousness or petulance or bile”.

He was the Playwright who rewrote history in The Australian.

The hero of Czechoslovakia's 1989 Velvet Revolution, which ended communist rule and inspired much of central Europe to rise against Soviet hegemony, was as resolute and uncompromising as ever in his pursuit of the humanity, decency and honesty that will be his epitaph...

Following his death, Mr Havel is being hailed as the greatest European of our times. His devotion to the pursuit of truth and principle has compelling relevance to political leadership across the globe. "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred," he famously declared.
At a time of growing disenchantment with political leadership just about everywhere, the manifold achievements of the playwright who became a president show how different things can be, how honesty can win, how the good guys can triumph. Not that Mr Havel enjoyed the trappings of political office. He was always happiest in Prague's restless intellectual milieu. But after Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring in 1968 and his works were banned, he saw involvement in politics as the only way the communist system of deceit and lies he ridiculed as "absurdistan" could be defeated. He was, as former US president George Bush put it, one of liberty's great heroes. Millions owe their freedom to his courage in confronting tyranny.

Time magazine

The Czechs have lost an irreplaceable moral leader. He led them out of totalitarianism and into democracy. He made the world care about their country and became the conscience of a confused region searching for a post-communist order.

Vaclav Havel Crushed Communism By Speaking the Truth

Europe's outpouring of grief over the death of Vaclav Havel, hero of Czechoslovakia's great Velvet Revolution, says much about its longing for more like him. His honesty and courage liberated Europe.

Some 75,000 Czechs bearing roses and candles lined up in Wenceslas Square beginning Sunday, as they once did in 1989, to pay tribute to one of the greatest freedom fighters of the 20th century. Havel died Sunday at age 75 after liberating his country, leading his nation as president from 1989-2003, and voicing his moral authority to scourge lingering tyrants in Cuba, Burma and China.

Havel, a playwright whose health had been weakened by years spent in communist dungeons, was an unlikely and yet perfect leader for leading Eastern Europe's liberation from communism. He unshackled Europe with the only weapon in his arsenal — words, which he animated and empowered by expressing them truthfully.

"We live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions. ... Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all-powerful," Havel told his nation after being elected the first president of the restored democracy in December 1989.

Vaclav-Havel-Smiling-New Yorker

Richard Fernandez on The Last of the Old

What Havel had — and which seems to have been forgotten — was the self-possession that comes with an abiding faith in individual man. He did not live in a position of moral inferiority vis-a-vis the bullies of the world. Not Kim Jong Il; not the Soviet Union itself:

In the company of John Paul II and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Havel believed that political renewal starts in moral and personal renewal. In one letter from prison he wrote, “But who should begin? Who should break this vicious circle? The only possible place to begin is with myself. … Whether all is really lost or not depends entirely on whether or not I am lost.”

Bruce Bawer, Why We Need More Leaders Like Vaclav Havel

In 1978 Havel wrote a long essay that would have an extraordinary impact and that should be required reading in Western schools. “The Power of the Powerless” explained on a profound human level why Communist tyranny should be resisted with all one’s heart and mind and soul. It wasn’t a dry political treatise — it was a work of deep thought and feeling that accomplished the apparently impossible: it enabled many Eastern Europeans to look with fresh eyes at the oppression that they had long taken for granted as the way of the world. And in doing so, it persuaded them to abandon their meek passivity and stand up for their liberties. Only on a very few occasions in history has a writer attained a unique insight into his society and expressed it in words that moved mountains; Havel is one such writer. His essay took Eastern Europe by storm.
Communist ideology, Havel pointed out, obliges people to “live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.” Moreover, while life in free societies “moves toward plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution, and self-organization,” life under Communism “demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline.”

Vaclav Havel was both a political and intellectual hero

Havel, who died today in the Czech Republic, was something rare in history. He was one of the heroes of the anti-Communist movement, but uniquely he was both one of the great intellectual heroes of the Eastern Bloc and one its political heroes. Indeed in politics, where more often than not vapidity and managerialism is rewarded, he was an unusual thinker-statesman. How many other politicians of his era had a Samuel Beckett play dedicated to them, or were genuine friends of leading musicians and poets? While the Communist leadership was ugly, old, predictable and pedestrian, its number one critic was cooler than a rock star.

It was Havel who helped, as much as anyone, to put across the idea that Communism was built on an illusion and that, once people began to doubt the illusion, it would collapse.

The courage of Vaclav Havel

It is given to few people to change the course of history. Václav Havel, who died yesterday aged 75, was one of them.

The Guardian obit

It is hard to think of a better provisional epitaph than that supplied in the midst of his later troubles by Martin Palouš, one of the first signatories of Charter 77: "Havel was the man who was able to stage this miracle play. The sacrifice was to cast himself in the main role."

Heartfelt quotes from leaders around the world

— “The most subversive act of the playwright from Prague was telling the truth about tyranny. And when that truth finally triumphed, the people elected this dignified, charming, humble, determined man to lead their country. Unintimidated by threats, unchanged by political power, Vaclav Havel suffered much in the cause of freedom and became one of its greatest heroes.’’ — President George W. Bush..
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 PM | Permalink

November 7, 2011

Police official, father of 4 and Catholic monk and priest

Jim Murray, D.C. police force recruiter who later became a priest

Jim Murray, 85, who as a top civilian official in the D.C. police department led a minority recruitment drive that diversified the force after the rioting that followed the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died Oct. 31 at St. Bede Academy, a monastery in Illinois .

Mr. Murray had lived there for more than two decades, since undergoing a spiritual awakening that led him to become a Benedictine monk and an ordained Roman Catholic priest. He had cancer, said his son, Matt Murray, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal and the author of a 1999 memoir about his father, “The Father and the Son.
he was credited with leaving a much larger department and with adding 842 black officers to the force.

The year after Mr. Murray left for a job with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, his wife died of breast cancer. He did his best to continue working and finish raising his children, but he spoke of feeling “a lack of depth” in his life, his son wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The day after he retired in 1979, he began to attend Mass daily, a sign of a transformation in his approach to Catholicism. Among the signs of that change, his son wrote, were the tears that streamed down his face during the church service.

Always a reader, he exchanged his old books for works on the lives of saints. One by one, he sold his possessions, including his home in Bethesda, and began to live like a “suburban mendicant,” his son wrote.

In 1985, he moved to St. Bede, where he took the vows that made him first a monk and then a priest.

“I just abandoned myself to God,” he told his son.
Survivors include four children, David Murray of St. Louis, Jonathan Murray of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Sarah Murray of Alameda, Calif., and Matt Murray of the Bronx; and four grandchildren.

In a telephone interview from the monastery weeks before his death, Mr. Murray said he saw a theme in his life. It ran from his boyhood to his personnel management work, and, finally, to his time at St. Bede. Abbot Philip Davey, the monastery’s leader, said more than 60 people regularly visited him there for spiritual guidance.

“I was a poor boy growing up,” said Mr. Murray, who was known as Father James. “People . . . looked right through, like you didn’t exist. I really vowed never to do that. I never treated people as if they didn’t exist.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2011

An American Hero

Kristoffer Domeij is an American Hero, killed on his 14rh deployment to Iraq.

  Domeij Kit

Domeij, an Army sergeant, was deployed an astounding 14 times before he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Saturday. He enlisted two months before Sept. 11, and he'd been in combat ever since.

Domeij left his family members with explicit instructions: "If I'm ever killed, I don't want you talking to the media, making a big deal out of it."

And they are following his wishes, but there is so much to say. Domeij was part of the group of Army rangers who rescued Jessica Lynch from her Iraqi captors in 2003.

"Those are my heroes," said Lynch of her rescuers. "Those are my true-fact heroes."

Domeij served four deployments in Iraq, then took part in an original airborne assault into Afghanistan. Amazingly, he would be deployed to Afghanistan nine times. In all, there were 14 deployments for this warrior hero -- more than any other Army ranger killed in action.  He received two bronze stars, and a third will be awarded posthumously.

"This was a ranger you wanted at your side when the chips were down. He is irreplaceable - in our formation and in our hearts," said his battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Hodne.

In all, Domeij had a combined total of 48 months of deployment in combat. And in that time, he may have been part of more than 5,000 combat missions.

Domeij was 29 years old. He lived in Lacey with his wife and two young daughters.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2011

"It was the perfect moment"

We all recognize and admire extraordinary sacrifice for another when we see it.  The ultimate sacrifice is the best thing a human being can do. 

Woman dies of cancer after refusing treatment in order to save unborn child.

An Oklahoma woman died of cancer last month after refusing chemotherapy that would have threatened the life of her unborn child, newsok.com reports.

Stacie Crimm was 41, single, and unexpectedly pregnant, when she was diagnosed with head and neck cancer this past July. Faced with the agonizing decision of whether to expose her unborn child to a potentially fatal course of chemotherapy, Crimm decided to put her own life on the line instead.

Her daughter, Dottie Mae, was born August 16th by emergency C-section after Crimm collapsed in her home.

Doctors managed to save the 2-pound baby and resuscitate the mother, placing both in intensive care units in separate buildings. While Crimm seemed to be improving at first, her condition soon deteriorated until three weeks later she stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated again. Her family was told that she was dying.

In a recent interview, Crimm’s brother Ray Phillips told newsok.com about Crimm’s first meeting with her baby, which happened just before she died.

According to Phillips, doctors had initially told the family that it would be impossible for Crimm to hold her child. However, two nurses intervened, and found a way to safely move the baby, who was still in an incubator in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“They laid Dottie Mae right on her chest and they just looked at each other. Nobody really said anything. It just got real quiet,” Phillips related. “It was the perfect moment. That’s what I always call it.”

Phillips and his wife, Jennifer, who have four children of their own, are now Dottie Mae’s guardians.

Reading this story about Stacie and her baby will bring a tear to your eye.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:06 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, We shall not see his like again


The co-founder and, until last August, CEO of Apple Inc was the most celebrated person in technology and business on the planet. No one will take issue with the official Apple statement that “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he told the Stanford graduates. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
It seemed Jobs had come to terms with his fate. He would spend time with his family and do what he could at Apple.

 Steve Applepic


Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.  Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

The Anchoress

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? — Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Well, we are stardust, finally. And what a force has passed, like a comet, through our era!


New York Times obituary by John Markoff

In his early years at Apple, his meddling in tiny details maddened colleagues, and his criticism could be caustic and even humiliating. But he grew to elicit extraordinary loyalty.

“He was the most passionate leader one could hope for, a motivating force without parallel,” wrote Steven Levy
Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”
Mr. Jobs’s genius lay in his ability to simplify complex, highly engineered products, “to strip away the excess layers of business, design and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.”
Mr. Jobs’s own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
In a commencement address given at Stanford in 2005, he said he had decided to leave college because it was consuming all of his parents’ savings.  Leaving school, however, also freed his curiosity to follow his interests.
If he had a motto, it may have come from “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which he said had deeply influenced him as a young man. The book, he said in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005, ends with the admonition Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

“I have always wished that for myself,” he said.

Best round-up in The Daily Mail The man who changed the world: Apple founder Steve Jobs, 56, dies weeks after quitting as boss of firm he started in his garage

To see his legacy, look around you

Everywhere you look, you can see people playing games and talking on their iPhones, reading books on their iPads, and browsing the web on their MacBooks. But Jobs didn't want to make devices that were only fit for consuming content, he wanted to help people make it. What we can't see are the countless books, artworks, movies, websites, apps, and songs that were made on Apple products and have enriched the world.

 Thankyou Steve

How he met his wife Laurene

Steve first met Laurene after noticing her in the front row at one of his speeches at Stanford University. He asked her out to dinner that night.

"I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, 'If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?' I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she'd have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we've been together ever since."

His family's statement

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

'In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

'We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.'


May he rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 PM | Permalink

October 5, 2011

The Great Legacy of Lee Davenport

MIT News obituary

Lee L. Davenport, who worked at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory during World War II and has been credited with helping to bring an end to the war, died of cancer on Sept. 30 at the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center. He was 95.

After the war, Davenport received his doctorate for his design for remote controling a missile over a radar beam without being taken over by an enemy, which was effectively the first guided missile and precursor of today's drones.
 Lee Davenport

Lee Davenport obituary in The Boston Globe

Lee Davenport, a physicist who developed a radar device that helped bring Allied victories on major World War II battlefronts in Europe and the Pacific, died Friday of cancer in Greenwich, Conn.  He was 95.

Dr. Davenport was working toward his PhD in physics at the University of Pittsburgh when he joined the secret Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in February 1941.  Bringing together leading scientists and financed by the federal government, the Rad Lab, as it came to be known, forged technology for America’s anticipated entry into the war.
He oversaw the day-to-day work and the testing that created the SCR-584 (for Signal Corps Radio), a microwave radar device with a sophisticated scanning technique to track an enemy plane and a computer to adjust automatically the angle of antiaircraft guns to shoot it down.

 Obit Davenport 605

Lee Davenport leaning against his invention an SCR-584

Dr. Davenport, meanwhile, had gone to England, where he waterproofed SCR-584 units for the D-day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Soon after the landings, he went to France to oversee use of the SCR-584 there.

“They issued papers for me to be known as a captain in the Signal Corps,’’ he told The Greenwich Citizen, a weekly newspaper, last year. “I had all the dog tags and identification.’’ He said that if the Germans had captured him and known he was a civilian, he would have been “shot as a spy.’’

In mid-June 1944, the Germans began using pilotless aircraft known as buzz bombs, which crashed and exploded in London and surrounding areas.

Dr. Davenport returned to England to put his radar units into action against the barrage, only to find that some gun crews had not learned how to operate them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2011

An engineer with heart

Wilson Greatbatch, the 'humble tinkerer' who invented the pacemaker, dies at 92

Wilson Greatbatch, who saved countless lives with his invention of the implantable cardiac pacemaker, has died at the age of 92.

 Wilson Greatbatch

A family spokesman confirmed that Mr Greatbatch died yesterday at the Oxford Village assisted living centre in Canterbury Woods, a suburb of Buffalo, New York state. His family was by his bedside, according to staff at the centre.

Referring to himself as a 'humble tinkerer', Mr Greatbatch was responsible for more than 320 inventions, and he received more than 150 patents. Throughout his life he researched heavily into plant-based fuels, invented tools used in AIDS research and a wide range of medical applications. He even invented a solar-powered canoe, which he took on a 160-mile voyage on the Finger Lakes in New York on his 72nd birthday.

But it is his invention of an implantable pacemaker, first used in humans in the U.S. in 1960, that he will be best remembered.

The American Heart Association says that more half a million pacemakers are now implanted every year.

Mr Greatbatch served as a rear gunner on bombers in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. As a chief petty officer, he also taught in the Navy's radar school - an extension of a childhood hobby of ham radio.

After the war Mr Greatbatch was trained as an electrical engineer at Cornell University and the University at Buffalo. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, in 1988.

He lived with his wife of more than 60 years, Eleanor - the maker of his trademark bow ties - in an 1845 converted schoolhouse about 15 miles east of Buffalo. The couple had five children and had recently moved to their assisted-living residence. Mrs Greatbatch died in January at the age of 90.
Despite his fame, fortune and undoubted contribution to science and medicine, Mr Greatbatch remained a humble man who believe that God had guided him through his greatest works.
In his memoir, The Making Of The Pacemaker, published in 2000, he said: 'To ask for a successful experiment, for professional stature, for financial reward or for peer approval, is asking to be paid for what should be an act of love.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

Heart-wrenching photo reminds us what we lost when the 22 Navy Seals were killed

On August 6 in Afghanisatan,  a rocket -propelled grenade shot down a Chinook helicopter carrying 30 American service  members, including 22 Navy Seals, "the best of the best".    All were killed.  Petty Office John Tomilson of Rockford Iowa was one of them.

 Jon Tumilson

Last Friday the remains of Jon Tomilson were flown to the Mason City airport in Iowa and from there taken to his funeral in Rockford.

The white hearse carrying the Navy SEAL's remains was escorted by many law enforcement and fire department vehicles, as well as more than 500 motorcycle riders.
Putnam was one of more than 50 people gathered alongside Iowa 122 near the Interstate 35 overpass to pay their respects to Tumilson.

Putnam's son Justin Schriever rode in the motorcycle convoy.

"Words don't describe it," Putnam said. "Jon was Jon. He was outstanding. Whatever he did was always to the best.

"My son and him had the best of times. He was just a great kid."

At the funeral, Jon's cousin, Lisa Pembleton, captured this photo showing Jon's Labrador retriever Hawkeye

‘I felt compelled to take one photo to share with family members that couldn't make it or couldn't see what I could from the aisle'

 Hakeye Funeral Dog
During the service, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert Bradshaw told Mr Tumilson's parents that they helped raise an ‘outstanding man - a hero’.

Family, friends and servicemen, along with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, packed the school's gymnasium.

Mr Tumilson, who joined the Navy in 1995, was known to friends as J.T.

‘J.T. was going to be a Navy SEAL come hell or high water,’ friend Scott Nichols said. ‘He wasn't afraid of dying.’

 Jon And Hawkeye

I feel such sadness over the loss of the 22 Navy Seals, a tragedy that should not have happened but did.  Their families, friends and the entire nation grieves over their loss.  The photo of Hawkeye, lying by his master's coffin touches our hearts and reminds us of all that we have lost. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:38 PM | Permalink

"Good work Ruth"

We are continually enriched by the contributions of people unknown to us.  How many of us ever heard the name of Ruth Kadish who died last week in San Francisco, age 95.

In Obituary for Ruth Kadish, Michael Phillips writes that she created an important global institution at age 65.

While serving on the San Francisco Airport Commision, Ruth conceived and implimented a long art and culture gallery in a United Airlines wing.  The gallery gets several million visitors a year.

After Ruth created this airport gallery, her idea was copied in airports all over t he world.  She created a market for art and cultural artifacts that had never existed before.  Good work Ruth.

RIP, Ruth and thank you.

 Ruth Kadish

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2011

Nancy Wake, R.I.P.

Blisteringly sexy, she killed Nazis with her bare hands and had a 5 million-franc bounty on her head. As she dies at 98, the extraordinary story of the real Charlotte Gray

A male comrade-in-arms in the French Resistance summed her up as: ‘The most  feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. And then she is like five men.’ She lived up to both parts of that compliment. 

So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman.
In that same outfit, she jumped from a  moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint.

And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special  Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.


But Wake proved them wrong and died this week, aged 98, in a nursing home for retired veterans in London. Her death brought to an end a life of such daring, courage and glamour that she was the inspiration for the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett.

Read more of her extraordinary story at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

August 7, 2011

"This is just an extraordinarily bad day for America"

"This is just an extraordinarily bad day for America" writes Claire Berlinski

Thirty-one U.S. special forces members in Afghanistan died aboard a NATO helicopter that crashed Saturday in an area reported to have insurgent activity, officials said.

The crash occurred in the eastern province of Wardak, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said in a statement.

It is among the worst single-day losses of American lives in the Afghan war.

Among the 25 U.S. special operations forces killed in Wardak province were 22 Navy SEALS, considered to be the "best of the best." Seven Afghan troops also died.

The majority of the Navy SEALs who died belonged to the same covert unit that conducted the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, though they were not the same men, the military official said.

The troops died during a "quick reaction" mission to assist military personnel pinned down by insurgents in a fierce firefight, a U.S. military official told CNN.

She asks 

Reportedly, the helicopter was shot down. The Taliban are taking credit, but they would. If indeed they shot it down, it is very alarming--the obvious question would be, with what?

"We will draw inspiration from their lives," said President Obama.

It was not clear if the Taliban had deliberately targeted the helicopter as an act of revenge.

But its shooting down is bound to be greeted in many parts of the Arab world as terrible vengeance for the death of the Al Qaeda leader.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2011

Scot sabotaged the 'Bridge on the River Kwai' with termites

Hero who sabotaged bridge with termites

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.
He fought with the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Slim River but was cut off behind enemy lines.  With a group of stragglers and carrying a wounded man for two days, he set off towards Singapore.  They had marched 100 miles before being ambushed.

He escaped into the jungle, but surrendered when his name was called out to save the others from being shot.
Both his legs became paralysed from poisoning and he was hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur. After recovering, he volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

After the railway was completed, the Japanese segregated Mr McLeod and the other officers from the enlisted men and marched them away. He later discovered they were all to be murdered.

Their lives were saved with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, forcing the Japanese surrender.

May he rest in peace and his memory preserved.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2011

"A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free"

Born in Italy, ordained a priest in San Diego, Cesare Mazzolati  began his most challenging mission in  Sudan, almost 30 years ago.  In 1990, he was appointed apostolic administrator of the war-torn Diocese of Rumbek where "he zealously set to work, re-opening missions and negotiating humanitarian assistance and the freedom of very young slaves."

He was consecrated bishop in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.  The diocese stated: "He took to heart the mandate given to him on that day by the Holy Father, John Paul II, namely, to relieve 'a people who have suffered too much for too long' from 'the anguish of an unjust war' and 'to help them to restore the dignity of their human rights.'

Following the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005 and after decades of civil war,  South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9 of this year.  Bishop Mazzolati presided over the official opening prayer during the Independence Day celebrations.

Just one week later, the South Sudan Bishop died while celebrating Mass.

"A week later," a communiqué from the diocese announced, "God called home his faithful servant during Eucharist, at the moment of consecration. Surely, it was a privilege from God for Bishop Cesare Mazzolari to die in the presence of Jesus during the Eucharist, in his own cathedral and among his priests, religious and faithful."

The faithful of the diocese expressed "deep and heartfelt appreciation of his dedicated service and lifelong faithful witness to the Gospel among the people of South Sudan."

 Bishop Mazzolari2

A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, R.I.P.

London Telegraph obit

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4 aged 98, began his public life as the infant Crown Prince of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ended it as Father of the multinational European Parliament.
Within that neatly closed circle lay all the major political dramas of the 20th century, most of which he witnessed and some of which he influenced. He was centre stage for one of them — the unequal struggle against Hitler for the survival of his Austrian homeland, which he tried to conduct as an exiled Pretender in the 1930s. Not for nothing did the Führer call the triumphant march-in of March 12 1938 “Operation Otto”.

 Habsburg Statue

The New York Times obit

Otto von Hapsburg, the onetime heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, who during a long career in European politics was a strong proponent of unifying the divided continent, died Monday at his home in Pöcking, Germany. He was 98.

Otto was the eldest son of Charles I, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, who ruled for just under two years, until the end of World War I also brought an end to his multiethnic empire in the heart of Europe and sent the family into exile.

Otto did not, however, fit the part of the exiled would-be monarch waiting for his throne to be restored. He remained deeply involved in the turbulent events of the last century, opposing the Nazi annexation of Austria and later serving two decades as a member of the European Parliament.

But you get a much better sense of the man when you read Lunch With the Holy Roman Emperor by Seth Lipsky

So, your excellency," I said during a lull in the conversation, "What do you make of the speculation that Waldheim, during part of his time at the United Nations, was a Soviet spy?"

That's when the Holy Roman Emperor turned to me, put down his fork and said, "I don't have the slightest doubt that Waldheim was a Soviet spy throughout his entire time at the United Nations." He surmised that the Soviet regime had known about Waldheim's service with the Nazis in Yugoslavia and had been using its knowledge against him throughout the postwar years.

 Otto Hapsburg

Europe bemoans death of the last heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire

Habsburg “peacefully passed away” yesterday morning (Mon), his family announced. They explained all of his seven children were at his death bed in Pöcking, Bavaria, Germany. He will be laid to rest at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) in the Austrian capital Vienna on 16 July. Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn will hold a requiem mass at the city’s St Stephen’s Cathedral earlier on the same day.
“Whole Europe is crying,” Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Othmar Karas said when being informed about the death of Habsburg.

Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann praised Habsburg for his clear stance against fascism, while CSU boss Horst Seehofer said he did a lot to help tearing down the Iron Curtain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

April 26, 2011

Singer, songwriter Phoebe Snow dead at 60. R.I.P.

A popular bluesy singer and songwriter in the 70s, Phoebe Snow died yesterday at 60 from complications of a brain hemorrhage she suffered over a year ago.

I played her first album, Phoebe Snow, over and over again because I loved her unique voice, her range and her songs  described here

Snow was hard to categorize musically; a Times reviewer early in her career called her style "a helter skelter amalgam of pop, jazz, blues, gospel and folk." She explained to the New York Times in 2003, "No creative person should ever produce the same thing over and over."

Dennis Hunt, writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1976, said her voice had "a marvelous 'cracked' quality" and she "glides through and glances off notes in an appealing offbeat manner."

Poetry Man was her big breakout hit and this is what it sounded like and what the album cover looked like.

Here she is singing the song in a live performance


Snow's manager Sue Cameron said the singer endured bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure since her stroke.

"The loss of this unique and untouchable voice is incalculable,Phoebe was one of the brightest, funniest and most talented singer-songwriters of all time and, more importantly, a magnificent mother to her late brain-damaged daughter, Valerie, for 31 years. Phoebe felt that was her greatest accomplishment."

What a wonderful woman she turned out to be

Not long after Snow's "Poetry Man" reached the Top 5 on the pop singles chart in 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage, and Snow decided to care for her at home rather than place her in an institution.

"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Valerie, who had been born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain cavity that inhibits brain development, was not expected to live more than a few years. She died in 2007 at age 31.

A few months later she gave an interview to the Record of Bergen County and talked about her grief at her daughter's death.

"Right now it's beyond a hole. It's a black hole,  I don't even know how to describe that vacancy because it was such an intense relationship. We lived together for 31 years. She was a perennial child. I was her primary caregiver. … We were best friends. It was beyond a loss. I don't even know what word to use."

Rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2011

"Grief is a lonely and entirely personal place "

The Solitude of Grief

Why read about someone else’s grief? Because the reader might happen upon a frame of words that defines his own experience, points a path out of his own morass. Or find the occasional morsel of wisdom. Or, sometimes, discover a hit of pure poetry or perception wrung out of the depths of a misery given generously to all.

Grief is a democratic wrecking ball of loss, love, guilt and a soul-shattering understanding of the disposability of all we hold dear, including ourselves. To write about it is like planting a flag on the smoldering pyre of death and memory. Steeping oneself in death, through words, can paradoxically be a way of talking oneself back into the rhythms and habits of life – a writer’s life.

We want to acknowledge the griever’s pain, because we also know it as our own. We offer our hand, our clumsy platitudes, a cup of broth. But at some point we itch to move on to our lives, and leave the mourner to move on to his or hers. Not out of callousness, but out of the knowledge that in the end, grief is a lonely and entirely personal place. What we wish for the grieving is that they learn to pull away from the wild, unruly currents of mourning and rejoin us, knowing that nothing we say can really matter, because we know grief’s dark allure. In grief we sound the depths of our love. In that regard, it’s a private privilege. Society has no place there.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 1, 2011

Paul Baran, R.I.P.

I didn't know of Paul Baran before I read Michael Malone's lovely and moving appreciation of A Different Kind of Life

Paul Baran also achieved something else of such magnitude that its implications may not be fully recognized for another generation:  he was the first true lifelong entrepreneur. In that, he may very well prove to be a pioneer of a cultural phenomenon that will help define the rest of this century.
Baran created his first enterprise in 1968.  He was working on his last, one of the most ambitious of his career, on the day he died.  In between, Baran, often teamed with his business partner, Steve Millard, and later his son Dave, founded as many as a dozen companies.  As with any entrepreneur, many of these companies failed. But Baran also had as many hits as anyone. Once, after I introduced him as having founded four $1 billion public companies, he quietly corrected me: “Only three. The fourth was only $700 million.”
Baran never lost that exquisite timing, even in his eighties. He had an almost supernatural ability to know when an advancing technology and a needy market were about to collide … and he positioned himself there just before impact. Cable modems, computer printers, airport metal detectors, wireless Internet, smart electrical meters, medical home diagnostics — he was almost always in place (usually with a pocket full of patents) before his future competitors even identified the opportunity.
For the first time, I understood that entrepreneurship could not only be a job, a career, but a lifelong approach to the world. And that the work of starting new enterprises wasn’t just for the young. On the contrary, old folks had certain advantages — experience, perspective, stability, personal wealth, and a lack of ego — that youngsters could never duplicate. Paul Baran taught me — and I suspect his example will teach millions in the years to come — that there is no set age or duration to being an entrepreneur.

Guardian Obituary

Paul Baran, who has died aged 84, was one of the two inventors of packet switching, the technology that underpins the internet. The origins of the internet go back to the 1960s, when scientists at the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) were wrestling with the problem of how to connect many geographically dispersed computers. Unbeknown to Arpa, the problem had already been solved several years earlier, in an entirely different context, by Baran, an unassuming and greatly admired engineer who made his scientific breakthrough at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and went on to found several hi-tech companies.

Obituary LA Times

Paul Baran, who helped build the foundation for the modern Internet by devising a way to transmit information in chunks, has died. He was 84.

He died Saturday at his home in Palo Alto of complications from lung cancer, said his son David,

Paul Baran became one of the pioneers behind "packet switching," which helps a communications network withstand an attack by bundling and dispatching data in small packages, while working on Cold War military research for the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica in the 1960s. The Department of Defense used that concept in 1969 to create the Arpanet, which laid the foundation for the modern Internet.

President George W. Bush acknowledged Baran's contribution by presenting him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008, a year after he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Vinton Cerf, a vice president at Google Inc. who is considered one of the fathers of the Internet, said Monday that his longtime friend was a "technological iconoclast," an unusually prolific thinker and inventor who, over a career that spanned six decades, dreamed up "holy cow" ideas years before anyone else thought them possible.

Baran had more than two dozen patents and started seven companies, five of which went public. He is credited with advancing innovation in cable modems, computer printers, satellite transmissions, interactive television, remote reading of power meters, even airport metal detectors.
Paul Baran never sought credit for himself, always distributing it to others, his friends and former colleagues said. "He believed innovation was a team process," longtime friend and Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo told The Times on Monday.

Baran was born April 29, 1926, in Grodno, Poland. His parents moved to the United States in 1928, and he grew up in Philadelphia. He graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1949.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2011

More on Dame Elizabeth Taylor

Eight marriages, 50 movies, two Oscars, 100 operations, a fortune of £360m, but only one... Elizabeth the Great

She was born with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and suffered back problems which were partly to blame for her subsequent addiction to painkillers and alcohol. But she never gave up.

She had both hips replaced and beat skin cancer,a brain tumour, diabetes, seizures and a stroke. She endured an estimated 70 illnesses and had 100 operations, 20 of them major surgery.

Elizabeth Taylor: her time on Twitter

Her last tweet: 'My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!

Her parents were told that their new-born daughter had a mutation. 

"Well, that sounded just awful," the girl's mother later recalls, "a mutation . But, when he explained that her eyes had double rows of eyelashes, I thought, well, now, that doesn't sound so terrible at all."

No, indeed. In fact, it is more evidence, as if any were needed, that the greatest camera subjects are, in strict biological terms, genetic freaks. Or as pal Roddy McDowall later put it: "Who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?"
    Violet Eyes to Die For

The life of a woman whose idea of morality was to marry every man she slept with.

"Always a bride.  Never a bridesmaid."

National Velvet to a national treasure: Elizabeth Taylor - a life in pictures

 Taylor Lassiecomehome

The woman who always had to be in love: A personal tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

She’s the last of the great stars of the silver screen. She was like a goddess who prowled her way through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and into the Seventies and, although her box-office stature had waned, she had an allure that held a strange sway over us.

There were few who knew how to seduce a man in a movie. ’I’ve done it in real life so I know how to do it’, she told me once.
She had a luminosity that most stars today don’t possess let alone know how to spell.

Elizabeth Taylor: famous like no-one else

She will be remembered as larger-than-life character who, for all her excesses, could inspire great affection. At her peak, she was a shining example of the ability enshrined in Hollywood’s fantasy factories to unearth talent. That four-letter word ‘star’ has suited very few people quite so well.

Elizabeth Taylor and a Lust for Hollywood Life

In contrast to so many other actresses, she seemed as desiring as desirous, with the gift of a thrillingly unladylike appetite. She was a great lover of food, of course, as her cruelly documented weight gains make evident. Yet the appetite that appeared to drive, at times even define her, exceeded mere food to include everything, and her consumption of men, booze, jewels and celebrity itself was an astonishment.

An Alluring Beauty Exempt From Fashion’s Rules

She was short. She didn’t have the greatest legs in the world for a sex symbol, which she wasn’t anyway. She was overloaded with hair and bosom, a dreadnought of glamour rather than an elegant swan, and for that reason she did not fit as naturally on best-dressed lists as Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly did. But Elizabeth Taylor’s style told a great deal more.

The most fleshly of all actresses 

Not fleshy—though there were periods when her gloriously abundant, ever-changing body qualified for that adjective, too—but fleshly, vibrantly incarnate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P.

A towering movie star that we all grew up with is now gone and her like will not be seen again.


The Financial Times, obit by Nigel Andrews

Few film stars ever attracted more acres of newsprint, from the adoring to the acerbic, than Elizabeth Taylor. For most of her life in the cinematic spotlight she was the answer to a gossip columnist’s prayers. When there wasn’t a triumph there was a crisis; when there wasn’t stardom there was scandal.

Los Angeles Times, obit by Elaine Woo

Elizabeth Taylor, the glamorous queen of American movie stardom, whose achievements as an actress were often overshadowed by her rapturous looks and real-life dramas, has died. She was 79.

During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two Oscars and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, whom she married twice. She took her cues from a Who's Who of directors, including George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Vincente Minnelli and Mike Nichols.

Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS

 Elizabeth-Taylor 2

London Telegraph Dame Elizabeth Taylor dies in Los Angeles

Statistics related to her lifestyle filled more column inches in the press than assessments of her acting ability. Her $1 million fee for appearing in Cleopatra (1963) set a new record at the time, as did the film’s ultimate $37 million budget. It was a moot point whether the cost of the diamonds bestowed upon her by her fifth (and sixth) husband, Richard Burton (they divorced and remarried), notched up more millions than they weighed in carats.

A woman of exceptional physical beauty, she grew into the most photographed Hollywood film star of all.
Her career was long and many-stranded. She began as a child star and, with Natalie Wood and Judy Garland, shared the rare distinction of enjoying even greater fame as an adult. Her affair with, and subsequent marriage to, Richard Burton catapulted her into world headlines and gave her waning popularity a fillip just when it was needed. With Burton she embarked on a long series of films which, at least at first, became box-office hits thanks to curiosity alone, regardless of their quality.
To her credit, she was a tireless fund-raiser on behalf of Aids and cancer research and a generous supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes following her conversion from Christian Science to Judaism, the religion of her third husband, Mike Todd. This resulted in her films being banned in many Arab countries.


New York Times, obituary written primarily by Mel Gussow who died in 2005

Elizabeth Taylor, the actress who dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty and whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 79.

In a world of flickering images, Ms. Taylor was a constant star. First appearing onscreen at age 9, she grew up there, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from “National Velvet” to “A Place in the Sun” and from there to “Cleopatra” as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2011

Hidden Treasure

Revealed: Treasure trove of amazing pictures that were kept hidden from the world

She scoured the streets day and night, venturing into strange and sometimes dicey neighbourhoods. She wore a hat, sturdy shoes and a camera, always a camera, around her neck and at the ready.

Fractions of seconds, captured by Vivian Maier a half century ago or more - fleeting moments of life on the streets at a time when men wore fedoras and dragged on Lucky Strikes, when women favored babushkas, when families piled in Studebakers and DeSotos for Sunday drives.

Maier observed it all without judgment. This was her hobby, not her job. But over the decades, it also was her life. She shot tens of thousands of photos. Most were never printed. Many weren't even developed. And few were seen by anyone but her.
She and her photos seemed destined for obscurity until a young man with an eye for bargains stopped by an auction house one day. He paid about $400 for a huge grocery box stuffed with tens of thousands of negatives.
John Maloof had stumbled upon an undiscovered artist whose photography is now being compared to the giants, a reclusive woman who, in death, is attracting the kind of attention and acclaim she would have shunned in life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2011

Last Journey for soldier and dog

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was on patrol in Afghanistan with his sniffer dog Theo when he was killed in a firefight.
His dog suffered a seizure from the stress and died shortly after his master.

Together they had saved "countless lives" by located IEDs.

Expert dog handler killed in Afghanistan saved 'countless lives'

In a statement, L/Cpl Tasker’s family said: "There are three words that best describe Liam: larger than life. He lit up every room he walked into with his cheeky smile.

“He died a hero doing a job he was immensely passionate about. We are so proud of him and everything he's achieved.

"Words can't describe how sorely he will be missed.”

The body of L/cpl Tasker and the ashes of Theo were flow back to England in the same aircraft .

Dog lovers gather for repatriation of soldier and spaniel from Afghanistan

Dog lovers brought their pets in tow as they lined the streets of Wootton Bassett yesterday to pay their respects to an Army dog handler and his Springer spaniel who died in Afghanistan.
The sombre lines of mourners remained silent but dogs could be heard barking as a solemn bell rang out to mark the arrival of the cortege.
His mother Jane Duffy added: “I would like to believe he (Theo) died of a broken heart to be with Liam.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2011

Saintly Scientist

He was the brilliant young French geneticist who discovered the cause of Down syndrome

and one day, he decided, “I cannot accept abortion,” not because he is Christian, but because he knows as a geneticist that life starts at conception. And he had to say it. He had to protect the ones whom they want to kill, who are too young to protect themselves.

So he started this fight as a scientist, saying, “I have to tell the truth. I’m not judging anyone; I’m not saying anything else besides the truth of the science, and I have to testify about that.”

I  remember it so clearly. I was 10 years old, and, one day, he came home for lunch. The day before, on television, there was a movie about a family where a woman had a child with Down syndrome, and she wanted to abort, and she couldn’t do it then.

After, there was a debate about abortion of the diseased children, and a boy came to his consultation with his mom, and he was crying, and my father said, “Why are you crying?” And his mother said, “He saw the movie, and I couldn’t stop him crying,” and then he jumped in my father’s arms, and he was only 10 with Down syndrome. He said, “
You know, they want to kill us. And you have to save us, because we are too weak, and we can’t do anything.” And [my father] came back home for lunch, and he was white, and he said, “If I don’t protect them, I am nothing.” That’s how it started.

And then his career came down. He didn’t have money for his research. He was like a pariah, and so on, but he accepted that because he thought he was doing that which was his duty.

Remembering Jerome Lejeune, now declared a "Servant of God" whose cause for sainthood is now being postulated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:15 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2011

Missionary Americans killed by pirates

 Yacht Victims Pirates

Scott and Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle.

Four Americans killed by Somali pirates before SEALS boarded yacht

Somali pirates slaughtered a former Hollywood director and three other Americans on Tuesday on a Bible-packed yacht before Navy SEALs could save them.

Scott Adam and the other hostages were gunned down after one of the pirates stopped negotiating and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the destroyer Sterett - 600 yards away.

Then gunfire "erupted from inside the cabin of the Quest," Navy Vice Admiral Mark Fox said.

By the time SEALs boarded the yacht, the hostages were mortally wounded or dead - and some of the pirates were standing on the bow "with their hands in the air in surrender," Fox said.

Not all the pirates gave up without a fight.

Special forces killed one with a knife and shot another aboard the ship dead, officials said.

Adam, who worked on shows such as "The Love Boat" and "The Dukes of Hazzard," lived in California and owned the 58-foot yacht with his wife, Jean.

Their bodies are now headed home on the USS Enterprise.

For three harrowing days, the hijacked yacht was sailing toward the Somali coast with four American hostages and 17 pirates packed on board.

The purpose of their global cruise was to bring bibles to far-flung corners of the world.

In their 2011 travels, the Adams visited Phuket, Thailand; Galle, Sri Lanka; and Cochin, India. They passed out Catholic Bibles from the American Bible Society and New International Version Bibles from the International Bible Society.

On their website they spoke of finding “homes” for their Bibles as a part of “friendship evangelism.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2011

"I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age."

Bernard Nathanson Dead at 84

Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died at his home in New York Feb. 21 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 84.

After performing his last abortion in 1979 and declaring himself to be pro-life, Nathanson produced the 1985 film
The Silent Scream, which shows sonogram images of a child in the womb shrinking from an abortionist’s instruments, and the documentary film Eclipse of Reason, which displays and explains various abortion procedures in graphic detail. Both films had a significant impact on the abortion debate, solidified his credentials among pro-life advocates and earned him the scorn of his former pro-abortion friends and colleagues.
He often admitted that he and other abortion advocates in the 1960s lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions at that time, inflating the figure from a few hundred to 10,000 to gain sympathy for their cause.

In his 1996 autobiography
The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby. Outlining the enormous challenge of restoring a pro-life ethic, he wrote, “Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage … is ludicrous beyond words. Yet that is our charge — a herculean endeavor.”

He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”

Yet the advent of ultrasound technology eventually convinced him that a true human being is killed in abortion, and he began to develop what he called the “vector theory of life.” By this he meant tha
t from the time of conception, the unborn child has a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby. He knew this was not “potential life,” as the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

February 21, 2011

"Washington is the mightiest name on earth" Abe Lincoln

I never liked Presidents' Day because of its slide into moral equivalency.

We do Washington, and the nation, two great disservices by calling today Presidents Day. Doing so elevates rogues and mediocrities to Washington's level and lowers Washington to the level of a mere President.

So let's celebrate the remarkable man our first president was, a truly transformative leader that founded a great nation and changed the world.

His motto: "For God and My Country".  His other personal motto: "Deeds not words".

What did this home-schooled man accomplish?

• Elected Surveyor of Culpepper County - 1749-1751
• Appointed Adjutant General of Virginia militia - 1752, an adjutant general is the chief administrative officer of the militia, this made him a Major at the age of 20
• Appointed Lieutenant and Colonel of Virginia Regiment - 1754
• Commander of Virginia Military - 1755-1758
• Elected to Virginia House of Burgesses - 1759-1774
• Justice of the Peace - Fairfax County, Virginia - 1760-1774
• Delegate to Continental Congress - 1774-1775
• Appointed Commander-in-Chief of Continental Forces by Continental Congress - 1775-1783
• Presiding officer over Constitutional Convention - 1787
• First President of the United States - 1789-1797 - elected twice

• Chaired Constitutional Convention in 1789
• Averted war with France or Britain in early part of his presidency, always promoting neutrality toward conflicts between other nations
• Stopped the first uprising against Federal government, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, in 1794
• By voluntarily retiring at the end of his second term, Washington established the American precedent of a non-violent transfer of power to new administrations
• Oversaw creation of first National Bank
• Oversaw creation of Jay Treaty which ended many conflicts remaining with Britain at the end of the Revolutionary War

What King George III said when he learned that Washington was going to retire as Commander of the Continental Forces

"If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world

This is what Abraham Lincoln had to say about George Washington

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-day of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2011

Child of Destiny

Michael Barone on Ronald Reagan whose 100th birthday is being celebrated with a spate of articles including the cover of Time.

Ronald Reagan a true believer who caught destiny's eye

"I wasn't a great communicator," said the man who talked his way into college, into radio, into the movies, into politics and into the presidency, "but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full blown from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries." The president who voted for more winning presidential candidates than any other president seems to have always regarded himself as a child of destiny, and it turns out he was. But the destiny, he insisted, was not his own but that of the people of the United States of America.   


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2011

Sargent Shriver, "Serve, serve, serve"

Bono prays tribute What I learned from Sargent Shriver

The Peace Corps was Jack Kennedy’s creation but embodied Sargent Shriver’s spirit. Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty but Sarge led the charge. These, and the Special Olympics, were as dramatic an incarnation of the ideas at the heart of America as the space program.

Robert Sargent Shriver changed the world more than a few times and, I am happy to say, changed my world forever. In the late ’90s, when the Jubilee 2000 campaign — which aimed to cancel the debts that the poorest nations owed to the richest — asked me to help in the United States, I called on the Shriver clan for help and advice. What I got were those things in spades, and a call to arms like a thump in the back.

In the years since, Bobby Shriver — Sarge’s oldest son — and I co-founded three fighting units in the war against global poverty: DATA, ONE and (RED). We may not yet know what it will take to finish the fight and silence suffering in our time, but we are flat out trying to live up to Sarge’s drill.


Toward the end, when I visited Sarge as a frailer man, I was astonished by his good spirits and good humor. He had the room around him laughing out loud. I thought it a fitting final victory in a life that embodied service and transcended, so often, grave duty, that he had a certain weightlessness about him. Even then, his job nearly done, his light shone undiminished, and brightened us all.

Sargent Shriver left behind an astonishing legacy of faith and service and transformed lives.


Los Angeles Times obit
R. Sargent Shriver, a lawyer who served as the social conscience of two administrations, launching the Peace Corps for his brother-in-law, President Kennedy, and leading the "war on poverty" for President Johnson, has died. He was 95.

Shriver died Tuesday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., his family said in a statement. His health had been in decline since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003.--By then, a lifetime as a public servant — a title he embraced tirelessly and unaffectedly — was behind him. "Serve, serve, serve" was Shriver's credo. "Because in the end, it will be the servants who save us all."

He started such innovative social programs as VISTA, a domestic version of the Peace Corps; Head Start, an enrichment program for low-income preschoolers; the Job Corps, to provide young people with vocational skills; and the aptly named Legal Services for the Poor. Shriver was "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation," President Obama said in a statement.

--  Yet Shriver's record of public service and innovation was "unmatched by any contemporary leader in or out of government," Colman McCarthy wrote in 2002 in the National Catholic Reporter.

In the 1950s, Shriver was president of the Chicago Board of Education, and for decades he served on the board of the Special Olympics — the athletic games for the mentally disabled that was started in his backyard by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

The view from Britain, the Guardian
Related by marriage to the Kennedy family, Sargent Shriver, who has died aged 95, had powerful political credentials in the US and sought high office several times – without success. However, through insider appointments in Washington DC, he did more to improve American lives than many influential elected statesmen.

A devoutly conservative Roman Catholic, but liberal in his politics, Shriver represented a kind of American now largely disappeared from national affairs. He was the scion of an old east coast family, born into wealth, but with a devotedly unselfish – though patrician – feeling for public service. If along the way this brought influence and fame, then that was the natural order.

-- Once, while drinking with steelworker voters in an Ohio bar, the chorus went up for another round, in which Shriver's voice was heard enthusiastically ordering Courvoisier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2011

The self-sacrifice of a boy and a judge

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

We have two remarkable examples, one a judge, one a boy, who sacrificed their lives for others and we cannot but stand in awe at their last actions before dying.   

Arizona federal Judge John Roll appears to have died while saving the life of another man during the shooting rampage here on Jan. 8, according to an investigator who has viewed surveillance video from the crime scene.

As the shooting starts, the video shows Judge Roll pushing another man, Rob Barber, onto the ground, Mr. Nanos said. "It looks to us as though he is pushing against Ron Barber to move him out of the way." Both men fall to the ground; both are shot. The judge was shot in the back and died.

"It's pretty evident to me that Judge Roll was a hero … if Judge Roll had not pushed Mr. Barber his wounds might have been fatal," Mr. Nanos said. "Judge Roll's actions are of a man trying to save another man's life."


In the devastating floods in Australia, a boy told rescuers to 'save my brother first'
Jordan Rice, 13, was killed in the city of Toowoomba, 80 miles west of Brisbane, as his family car was swamped. The teenager had insisted that rescuers take his 10-year-old brother, Blake, first. Seconds later, Jordan and his mother Donna, 43, were swept away.
"I had the boy [Blake] in one hand, the rope in the other. I wasn't going to let go but then the torrent came through and was pulling us down," said Warren McEr lean, a rescue worker. "Then this great big tall fellow just came out of nowhere, bear hugged us and ripped us out of the water. When I got back [carrying Blake], I turned … the rope snapped and the car just flipped."
"Jordan was swept off," said John Tyson, 46, Ms Rice's partner of 30 years and Jordan's father. "As soon as he went, Donna just let go, you know, trying to clutch at Jordan. The poor little boy, they just both drowned.''
He added: "He [the rescue worker] went to grab Jordan first, who said, 'Save my brother'. I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body.
"He won't go down with any fanfare or anything like that – I don't think anyone will even wear a black armband for him – but he's just the champion of all champions, a family hero."


Later we learned from his father
"Jordan can't swim and is terrified of water," his father, John Tyson, told the Toowoomba Chronicle. "But when the man went to rescue him, he said 'save my brother first.'"
At the funeral of his son who was buried alongside his mother, the father said
"The fire of my heart will continue to burn until it's my time to join them,"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2011

Funeral for 9-year-old Christina Green

Mourners Gather

Outside the church, more little girls — and hundreds of other people — wearing white and waving American flags lined both sides of the street for more than a quarter-mile to show their support. Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard and more than a dozen residents were dressed as angels.


Reminders of the innocence of the bubbly girl born on Sept. 11, 2001 were everywhere: A group of little girls dressed in frilly dresses and white tights craned to see as their friend's casket rolled into the church and Christina's best friend sneaked them a wave from her place in the processional line.

Family, Friends, Dignitaries Honor Youngest Tucson Shooting Victim

Green's small casket was brought into the church underneath a flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11, a tribute to a young girl who was born on the day the Twin Towers fell and died in another tragedy outside of an Arizona supermarket. Green's family members met the casket and solemnly escorted it into St. Elizabeth-Ann Seton Catholic Church for the afternoon ceremony.

_National_9/11flag.jpg _Green_family.jpg

"Christina-Taylor Green, I can't tell you how much we all miss you," John Green said. "I know you would be very proud to have a 9/11 flag here today."--
"I do know she's affected a lot of people in Tucson and we are very proud to be a member of that community. Just looking around us, we know that we have people who love her, love her family. And everybody is going to be okay. She would want that."

Also in the pews were many of Green's young friends, classmates and Little League teammates. About one-quarter of the attendees were children, according to Arizona Daily Star's Stephanie Innes, who attended the service as a pool reporter.

"She wanted to make a difference in her life. She wanted to make her mark, and she did so in so powerful a way that even she cannot imagine," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas during his homily, adding that the slain 9-year-old was also an organ donor.


Hymns during the service included "Amazing Grace" and "Like a Child Rests." After the University of Arizona choir sang Ave Maria, Christina-Taylor's father spoke directly to his daughter.

Trappist monks in Iowa handmade her casket

A spokesperson for the abbey told CNN that Green's family had reached out to them after the shooting, and the casket arrived in Tucson Wednesday morning.

"We didn't want to send an adult coffin that would be too big, we wanted something just for her," said the spokesperson. The casket was crafted from red oak, and was made especially for Green, the spokesperson said. The lid of the casket was inscribed with her name, date of birth and death, and a cross. The family also will receive five small keepsake crosses hewn from the same wood as the casket.

President Barack Obama spoke extensively about Green in a nationally televised address in Tucson Wednesday night.

Mr. Obama said that it is incumbent upon the country to live up to the vision of it held by Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001 and aspired to be a political leader and a Major League Baseball player.

"Imagine," the president said. "Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."


Christina Taylor Greene, a face of innocence and goodness, R.I.P.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2010

Denis Dutton RIP

I was sad to learn that the founder of one of my favorite web sites died. Arts & Letters Daily was one of the first aggregator sites with links to commentary on arts, literature and events and hailed as the best website in the world in 1999 by the Guardian newspaper. He leaves behind a great digital legacy.

Charlotte Hays calls it 'the most literate site on the web".


Denis Dutton, Founder of ‘Arts & Letters Daily,’ Dies December 28, 2010,

Denis Dutton, founder and editor of Arts & Letters Daily and a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has died. Born in California, Mr. Dutton received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He created Arts & Letters Daily in 1998. The Chronicle of Higher Education purchased the widely praised site in 2002.

“Denis was the creative force behind Arts & Letters Daily and wrote all the items on the page himself, even when he was on vacation,” said Phil Semas, president and editor in chief of The Chronicle. “He is nearly irreplaceable. Even so, we intend to continue Arts & Letters Daily in the spirit in which Denis created and nurtured it.”

Adam Kelper writes

AL Daily, which Dutton founded in 1998 and edited ever since, is a catalogue of essays, articles, and reviews from around the web. Dutton’s nose for interesting essays and his ear for clear writing kept AL Daily highbrow without ever being hifalutin. The site surely owes much of its enormous popularity to its simplicity — just a few links every day, each with a pithy and enticing blurb. Dutton understood that in an age of overabundant information, less can be more. (He used a similarly spare approach for another site he co-founded, Climate Debate Daily.) Through AL Daily, Dutton forwarded the careers of many dozens of young writers without ever knowing them, since a link from the site can lead an essay to be debated in the blogosphere, noticed by editors, and picked up by book publishers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2010

The Lives They Lived

As the year draws to end, The New York Times gives us its idiosyncratic collage of The Lives They Lived, a "collection of narratives that celebrate lives",

From Benoit Mandelbrot

He turns out to have belonged to the select handful of 20th-century scientists who upended, as if by flipping a switch, the way we see the world we live in.

He was the one who let us appreciate chaos in all its glory, the noisy, the wayward and the freakish, from the very small to the very large. He gave the new field of study he invented a fittingly recondite name: “fractal geometry.”

to Philippa Foot, a philosopher who reached back to St. Thomas Acquinas to find

If you focus on traditional virtues and vices like temperance and avarice instead of abstract concepts like goodness and duty, you can see the concrete connections between the conditions of human life and the objective reasons for acting morally. (Why is cowardliness a vice? Because courage is needed to face the world’s challenges.) In the ’80s, after considering how we evaluate what is “good” for plants and animals, she developed the argument, presented in “Natural Goodness,” that vice is a defect in humans in the same way that poor roots are a defect in an oak tree or poor vision a defect in an owl: the latter two assessments have clear normative implications (“oughts”), yet are entirely factual. Even from a secular scientific vantage point, you could locate good and evil in the fabric of the world.

“I’m a dreadfully slow thinker, really,” she said. “But I do have a good nose for what is important.”

and Talitha and Emmanuella Termilus

Termilus had a wife, two daughters and a son. That morning, his daughters — Talitha and Emmanuella, who were 12 and 11, and whose preternatural intelligence had caused their teachers to promote them to the eighth and seventh grades — dressed their 3-year-old brother, Benedict, each slipping a shoe on a foot and tying it for him. They shared everything like this. They were the kind of girls, pigtailed and smiling and outgoing, for whom an excursion to the beach, or for ice cream, often meant packing the car with friends; Frantz at the wheel often marveled at the sweet jabber of children.


Grief is a walk to the ending you already know, and during the seventh and eighth miles, a feeling overtook Termilus, a wish for only one thing: that he might stumble upon someone he knew in the streets — anyone — just to grab hold of the living and tell them the truth: that he loved them. Why hadn’t he ever said so before?

When he came to the school, there was no school. All four stories had come down. And everything all at once left his body — all the hope and energy he’d mustered to match the horror — and even now he couldn’t say how long he stood there, gazing upon the gravestone of that school. In his mind, he still stands there.


There was no phone service, but it wasn’t hard to know that the city was bedlam. Word of mouth traveled: hospitals had been destroyed. There were no services, no potable water. The prison had broken open — and now 5,000 inmates were loose, including all the kidnappers. There were caches of weapons that needed to be secured. And there were more children, trapped, orphaned, injured. He was on the verge of being consumed by memory, but instead of mourning before that pile of rocks, he dusted off his shirt — his badge, the epaulets. He straightened his uniform and went to work.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2010

Heather must remarry

Get Religion is where I go to see how the mainstream press handles stories that have a religious angle. Often I find well-written juicy stories from the heartland that otherwise I would never come across. Like this one. Mother of 5, widowed at 31.

The featured story is Eric's last wishes in the Des Moines Register.

In bed beside him lay his wife, Heather, three months pregnant and barely starting to show. It wasn’t yet 5 a.m., and Heather was fast asleep. So were their four boys, ages 1 through 6.

Eric was scared, confused. He’d just had a terrible dream: That he died too young. That he left behind a wife and five children, and so many unfinished things. And that he needed to do something about it before it was too late.

He got out of bed. He crept past the boys’ bedrooms, down both sets of stairs of their split-level home in Ankeny, and into the basement toy room. He was surrounded by Legos, board games, cars, trucks, a plastic kitchen. His blond hair, or what was left of it after 31 years, was askew. Then Eric Jacobs — a father who devoted every Sunday to family day, an evangelist who’d handed over his soul to Jesus Christ, a man whose life was filled with joy and promise — turned on the lights, sat on the floor next to the furnace closet, looked into a camera mounted on a Dell laptop, and clicked record.

The link above is part 1.

Part 2 'Pray and pray often'

Four months after that dream, on a chilly evening in November, Eric had been a passenger on a small plane that tumbled out of the sky and into an Indiana cornfield.

That was two days ago. Yesterday, she’d told their four boys, ages 1 through 7, that their father had died. Heather was seven months pregnant. She felt dazed, sick to her stomach, unable to sleep. And now this.


  Eric Jacobs takes a deep breath. He centers the camera on his face. “Hello, everybody,” he says calmly. “If you’re watching this, something bad’s probably happened to me. I had this dream last night, or, this morning, only a few minutes ago, that I died early. And I don’t know what to take of it.” The family watched in silence, one floor above where Eric had made this video months before. It felt like Eric was in the room with them; it felt like he was beamed in from heaven. “I don’t know if this is God’s way of saying, 'Record this,’ and it was divinely inspired, or if I’m just paranoid,” Eric says. “So I wanted to record my thoughts while I had them. And then if it was divinely inspired, then this is God’s way of showing that he truly does work through people’s lives. And I want you to show this to people to witness to them. Because my life was cut short.”


“OK, Heather, this is tough,” he says. “But I need to tell you that I don’t expect you and I don’t want you to be single. Raising these boys is way too tough. Your job — if you choose to accept it — no, you don’t get to choose, you have to accept this: I need you, I want you to remarry.” He’s crying. “I’m not crying out of jealousy. I’m crying because I’m thinking of being gone from you.” A dozen times, he says this: That Heather must remarry. That she must find a good Christian man to be a spiritual leader for their boys. That if he’s not a Christian, she should keep looking. At one point, he brings his nose to the camera for emphasis. At another point, he closes his eyes to pray for her future husband.

Part 3 'I cannot imagine a day of my life without you'

Eric was always with her, but as time went on, Heather realized she needed to tuck those memories away. She’d packed his clothes in boxes in the basement; she’d removed her wedding band and put it in her jewelry box.

Still, she didn’t want to dive right in. She needed to do her homework about this guy, learn more than just the basics: that he was 42, had five kids and worked at a Des Moines veterinary supply company. The baseball coach was Dan’s boss, so Heather asked the boss’s wife about Dan. He’s a great guy, she said, a hard worker, a solid Christian. But then she mentioned a huge roadblock: Dan was divorced. Three times.

What struck me about the story was how helpful that video was in helping the entire family to cope with the sudden loss of Eric and how to grow beyond that to get on with their lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

November 24, 2010

"It was an honor that I was used for the big purpose"

A remarkable life of a man who risked his life for a "big purpose", suffered imprisonment and severe torture but never broke, who eschewed bitterness and who survived to live an exemplary life. It always amazes me to think about how much we owe to people we've never met.

A great legacy indeed.

Resistance Courier Ferried Secret Data.
Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London. Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses.

After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke. -- His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn't prove it. "I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network," he said in the oral history. "And I told them, 'Are you crazy? I couldn't have done this.' "

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche's will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn't eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics. He ran Ghent University's electron-microscope department. In 1965, he moved to the U.S. and later became an executive at the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co.
In the 1980s, he began visiting Europe to reconstruct his wartime activities, and recounted them in a 1988 book, "Gaston's War." He came to believe that his spy networks had been purposely exposed by his masters in London, as a diversion to convince the Germans that D-Day invasions were planned for the Low Countries instead of Normandy. He called it "le grand jeu"—the great game—in his memoir.

"Now I'm not bitter at all," he said in the oral history. "It was an honor that I was used for the big purpose."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

October 27, 2010

A young man's sacrifice, a family's grief

I missed this beautiful encomium to Mark Daly, his family and America by Christopher Hitchens until Bookworm Room followed up on her post about meaningful lives and early death.

A Death in the Family

"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … "

I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.?
I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.
I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."

 Mark Daily

R.I.P. Mark Daily

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot, R.I.P.

He showed us beauty deep down and  changed the way we looked at the world.

In the Telegraph, the obituary for Benoit Mandelbrot

Before Mandelbrot, mathematicians believed that most of the patterns of nature were far too complex, irregular, fragmented and amorphous to be described mathematically. Euclidian geometry was concerned with abstract perfection almost non-existent in the real world. Mandelbrot's achievement was to conceive and develop a way of describing mathematically the most amorphous natural forms – such as the shape of clouds, mountains, coastlines or trees – and measuring them. His work has become the foundation of Chaos theory – the mathematics of non-linear, dynamic systems.

New York Times obituary

Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed the field of fractal geometry and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.
Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.
In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.


Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline.

“Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”
When asked to look back on his career, Dr. Mandelbrot compared his own trajectory to the rough outlines of clouds and coastlines that drew him into the study of fractals in the 1950s.

“If you take the beginning and the end, I have had a conventional career,” he said, referring to his prestigious appointments in Paris and at Yale. “But it was not a straight line between the beginning and the end. It was a very crooked line.”

How Mandelbrot's fractals changed the world

A tiny sand dune or a puddle in a mountain track have the same shapes as a huge sand dune and a lake in a mountain gully. This "self-similarity" at different scales is a defining characteristic of fractals.

The fractal mathematics Mandelbrot pioneered, together with the related field of chaos theory, lifts the veil on the hidden beauty of the world. It inspired scientists in many disciplines - including cosmology, medicine, engineering and genetics - and artists and musicians, too.

The whole universe is fractal, and so there is something joyfully quintessential about Mandelbrot's insights.

I just bought my first fractal vegetable, Romanesco broccoli and when I eat I will think of Benoit Mandelbrot.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2010

Hearing her dead daughter's heart beat

Extraordinary moment a mother hears her dead 13-year-old daughter's heart beat again...  inside chest of transplant patient

Taylor Storch, 13, died in a skiing accident on the last day of a family holiday in Colorado in March this year.

Her organs were donated - and through an extraordinary series of events - six months her parents Todd and Tara Storch found themselves face to face with the woman who was alive only because she had received their daughter's heart.

At the link, scroll to the very bottom to see the video.

 Dead-Daughter's Heart Beating

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2010

A Manly Death

What real men do - protect women and children and,  if necessary, sacrifice their lives.

Facing Crash, Vancouver man sacrifices self to save pregnant wife

 Brian And Erin Wood

Brian Wood, a 33-year-old resident of Vancouver, B.C., was killed in an auto collision on September 3, when the driver of an oncoming SUV lost control of the vehicle and crossed the road into his lane. His wife, Erin Wood, said that Brian acted just in time to save her, and their unborn child expected to be born in November, by sacrificing himself.

Evidence from the crash, which also killed two passengers in the other vehicle's back seat, supported Ms. Wood's description of her late husband's final act: unable to avoid the errant SUV, Brian Wood slammed the brakes and swerved his side of the car toward the oncoming vehicle, ensuring his certain death but protecting his wife, pregnant with their first child.
Erin Wood told the Today Show that the final sacrifice made by her husband of five years was in keeping with the way he had lived, “It's not a surprise at all. He was very excited for this baby, and always … incredibly loving towards me, and putting me first.”

His final act of love, she said “breaks my heart, and it also fills me with gratefulness.” Ms. Wood received only a black eye and a relatively minor blow to her head. The unborn child, a boy, was not harmed.

Wood said that although it was impossible to “cope well” with a situation such as hers, she was drawing consolation from recalling that she was alive because of her husband's decision to save her life and the life of their child.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

August 27, 2010

Mother Teresa on dying

August 26, 2010, was the centennial of the birth of young girl in Albania who grew up to take vows as a missionary nun, taking the name of Teresa, in the Irish order the Sisters of Loretto . She taught school for some 17 years in India before she received “the call within the call” to leave the convent and to help the poor while living among them.

With permission from the Vatican to pursue her call, she began a school but soon turned to care for people dying on the streets of Calcutta. The Missionaries of Charity was formally recognized by the Vatican in 1950 with the mission to care for, "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."


From the Wikipedia entry

In 1952 Mother Teresa opened the first Home for the Dying in space made available by the city of Calcutta. With the help of Indian officials she converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, a free hospice for the poor. She renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart. Those brought to the home received medical attention and were afforded the opportunity to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites.

"A beautiful death," she said, "is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted."

Recently, an Italian journalist, Renzo Allegri published a new book of his memories of Mother Teresa. Here is an excerpt that touches on what she thought and felt about dying. Love until it hurts.

One day I asked her spontaneously: “Are you afraid of dying?”.  I had been in Rome for some days. I met her a couple of times and had gone to greet her because I was returning to Milan. She looked at me almost as wishing to understand the reason for my question. I felt I had done wrong in speaking of death and tried to correct my mistake....She remained again for some seconds in silence; then, going back to the question that I asked her, she continued:
“I would be as happy as you if I could say that I will die this evening. Dying I too would go home. I would go to paradise. I would go to meet Jesus. I have consecrated my life to Jesus. Becoming a sister, I became the spouse of Jesus. See, I have a ring on my finger like married women. And I am married to Jesus. All that I do here, on this earth, I do it out of love for him. Therefore, by dying I return home to my spouse. Moreover, up there, in paradise, I will also find all my loved ones. Thousands of persons have died in my arms. It is now more than forty years that I have dedicated my life to the sick and the dying. I and my sisters have picked up from the streets, above all in India, thousands and thousands of persons at the end of life. We have taken them to our houses and helped them to die peacefully. Many of those persons expired in my arms, while I smiled at them and patted their trembling faces. Well, when I die, I am going to meet all these persons. It is there that they await me. We loved one another well in those difficult moments. We continued to love one another in memory. Who knows what celebration they will make for me when they see me. How can I be afraid of death? I desire it; I await it because it allows me finally to return home.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:55 PM | Permalink

August 17, 2010

Those medical aid workers killed by the Taliban


Their devotion was perhaps most evident in what they gave up to carry out their mission: Dr. Thomas L. Grams, 51, left a thriving dental practice; Dr. Karen Woo, 36, walked away from a surgeon’s salary; Cheryl Beckett, 32, had no time for courtship or marriage.

Most of all, the 10 medical workers massacred in northern Afghanistan last week — six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans — sacrificed their own safety, in a calculated gamble that weighed the risk against the distribution of eyeglasses and toothbrushes, pain relief and prenatal care to remote villages they reached on foot.


Aid groups vowed Monday to continue their work despite the attack, which one organization called “the worst crime targeting the humanitarian community that has ever taken place in Afghanistan.” Abed Ayoub, for instance, the chief executive officer of said that “currently, there are no immediate plans to decrease our work or staff size in the country.
The New York Times has a good slideshow showing each worker to accompany the piece by Shaila Dewen on the Slain Aid Workers Were Bound by Their Sacrifice
May they all rest in peace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

August 16, 2010

He risked his life to save his brother

It's a sad story, but also one of "friendship, faith and the ultimate sacrifice".

Donor dies after live liver transplant at CU Hospital

AURORA, Colo. - A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help save his brother died just four days after the transplant procedure at The University of Colorado Hospital.It's the first death of a living liver donor in Colorado and only the fourth in the U.S


In the initial days following the procedure, both men were recovering at different rates. Ryan's family says one minute Chad was doing better, and then Ryan, and vice versa.

On July 30, Ryan was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, on the evening of July 31, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.
He died two days later, on Aug. 2.
Ryan Arnold was healthy, active and strong. He was a husband and father of three little boys, ages 1, 4 and 6.
Chad is now recovering at home. He's tired and weak, but otherwise doing well.
He described to us how he first learned of his brother's death.
"My dad came to my hospital room and grabbed my feet. He leaned forward and said, 'I've got some bad news." He was holding back the tears. "Ryan's gone, but we still serve a good God.' He couldn't have said it better," Chad told us. Ryan gave Chad the gift of life, a gift which led to his own death. And because of that, Chad refuses to place the focus on himself
"This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this," Chad says.
And while there's a huge scar on the outside, there's one on the inside as well. Chad is now committed to living his life the way Ryan lived his: with faith, compassion and humility.
"Ryan gave without hesitation. It's the ultimate sacrifice, but he'd do it again."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal R.I.P.

The actress, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1963 film 'Hud,' persevered through a life that was marked by a succession of tragedies.

LA Times obituary by Jack Jones

Actress Patricia Neal, who rebuilt a troubled career to win an Academy Award only to face a more desperate battle for survival when three strokes left her paralyzed and unable to speak or remember, has died. She was 84.
A succession of tragedies marked the life of the actress whose bright promise on Broadway in the mid-1940s took her to Hollywood and into a succession of lackluster films, as well as a desperate love affair with actor Gary Cooper and marriage to British writer Roald Dahl.

Her infant son's brain was damaged when his stroller was struck by a New York City taxicab, a daughter died as a result of measles and then — only a year after she finally won critical acclaim and an Oscar for her portrayal of the weary housekeeper in the 1963 film "Hud" — she suffered three strokes that appeared to end her career.

With the determined help of her husband, Neal recovered sufficiently to return to films, but then lost Dahl to another woman whom she had accepted as a friend.

 Patricia Neal

Creative Minority Report

When Neal was young she fell in love and had an extended affair with her married co-star Gary Cooper. When Neal became pregnant with his child he urged her to have an abortion which she did. Gary Cooper's daughter Maria Cooper famously spat on Neal for carrying on an affair with her father.

Later, however, Maria Cooper and Neal became great friends and it was Maria Cooper who helped bring Neal back to her Catholic faith by having her spend some time at a convent where former actress Sister Dolores was prioress.

From a tribute to her by Monsignor Lisante when she received a pro-life award.

And I said, "In your life, Pat, if there was one thing you could change, what would it be?" And Patricia Neal said, "Father, none of the things you just mentioned." But she said, "Forty years ago I became involved with the actor Gary Cooper, and by him I became pregnant. As he was a married man and I was young in Hollywood and not wanting to ruin my career, we chose to have the baby aborted." She said, "Father, alone in the night for over 40 years, I have cried for my child. And if there is one thing I wish I had the courage to do over in my life, I wish I had the courage to have that baby."

Patricia Neal has put herself on the line in saying to many, many women who have experienced abortion or thought about abortion, "Don't make my mistake. Let your baby live." What's particularly painful, but poignant in this story is that some years later, Patricia became good friends with Maria Cooper, the only child of Gary Cooper and his wife. And Maria Cooper said, "You know, I know you had the affair with my father and I have long ago forgiven that. But one thing I find it hard to accept is that as an only child, I so wish that you'd had my brother or my sister. Because in so many ways, I wish so much that you had chosen life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2010

The Man behind Cheese Doodles, dead at 90

A quintessential American life, Morrie Yohai

New York Times obit, 'Mr Cheez Doodles' Dies at 90


“Is this Mr. Cheez Doodles?” a cashier once asked Mr. Yohai’s wife, Phyllis, when he accompanied her to a local supermarket. Mrs. Yohai liked to let everyone know of her husband’s contribution to between-meal crunchies, according to a 2005 Newsday profile. Their sumptuous home overlooking Long Island Sound was “the house that Cheez Doodles bought,” she liked to say.

Mr. Yohai (pronounced yo-high) was the president of Old London Foods, the company founded by his father in the early 1920s and then called King Kone, which first produced ice cream cones and later popcorn, cheese crackers and Melba Toast.

“They were looking for a new salty snack and became aware of a machine that processed corn meal under high pressure into a long tube shape,” Robbie Yohai said on Monday. “They also discovered that if they used a high-speed blade, similar to a propeller, they could cut three-inch-long tubes, which then could be flavored with orange cheddar cheese and seasonings.” Then baked, not fried.

Although Mr. Yohai insisted on the “we” credit for the recipe, he did say that he came up with the product name.
One of his duties, he said, was sitting around a table with other executives and choosing which tiny toys would be stuffed into Cracker Jack boxes.

Newsday obit
He also was an accomplished photographer, poet, professor and businessman whose quiet wisdom left a deep impression on his family and friends.

Morrie R. Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business, then went to work for the Grumman aircraft company on Long Island.
During World War II, Yohai interrupted his career to enlist in the Navy and begin flight training, said Yohai's son, Robbie Yohai of Berkeley, Calif.

"He decided since he was making planes, he figured he could fly a plane," Robbie Yohai said of his father, who had never taken an airplane ride before. "The first time he was ever in an airplane, he was the co-pilot."

Morrie Yohai transferred to the Marine Corps and eventually served as a pilot in the South Pacific, shuttling injured troops and cargo back and forth, Robbie Yohai said
"He was excited by the experience," his son said. "He was happy to be a Marine and was very proud of it."
He left the company when Borden relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and soon began teaching at the New York Institute of Technology. He eventually became the associate dean of the school of management, Robbie Yohai said.

"It turned out that he loved teaching," Robbie Yohai said. "He could see he was making a difference in a lot of these young people's lives.

In his later years, Yohai turned his attention to Torah study, Jewish mysticism and writing. Robbie Yohai said his father wrote more than 500 poems and published two books of poetry.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2010

Deep sea photographer dies in underwater shoot

 Wes-Skiles-Underwater Photographer

Wes Skiles, 52, a freelance deep-sea photographer, died while filming an underwater shoot near Florida for the National Geographic.

His obituary in the Palm Beach Post

Skiles and other members of a film crew were working around a reef east of the Boynton Inlet Wednesday afternoon when Skiles signaled to his colleagues that he was going to head to the surface to get more film, sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.

He ascended alone. A few minutes later other members of the group heading for the surface too found him lying on the ocean floor.

His colleagues pulled him onto their boat and attempted to revive him, Barbera said. He was transported to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was pronounced dead.

From The National Geographic blog
A photograph by Skiles is the current (August) cover story of National Geographic. Editor in Chief Chris Johns devoted his "Editor's Note" to the photographer in the same issue.

"Wes was a true explorer in every sense and a wonderful spirit," Chris Johns said today. "He set a standard for underwater photography, cinematography and exploration that is unsurpassed. It was an honor to work with him, and he will be deeply missed."

The stunning final images of the veteran deep-sea photographer killed while filming underwater

 Last-Photo Wes Skiles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2010

" So far, it feels like the truth.’’

“Under my promise to always tell you the truth, I have discontinued chemo and other treatments,’’ he wrote, adding, “I’m beyond the place where chemo can help me. I have come home to die. I am near the end of my journey.’’

Father Field, who had stood in the pulpit month after month, performing pastoral duties through intense pain, sat in a wheelchair on June 27. Speaking into a microphone, he asked if anyone had questions. There were none. Instead, the parishioners took their turn to stand. They began to clap, their applause echoing through the church for minute after minute, as if to prolong his time with them.

A masterful teacher who deftly discovered new insights in familiar Gospel passages, Father Field spent the past two years using his own life as a lesson in how to let life shine in the shadow of death. “I am in a place of great peace and gratitude,’’ he wrote. Father Field, who lived in the church rectory, died Monday. He was 59 and had celebrated his 20th anniversary as an ordained priest last month.

As days dwindled, priest let his life be his lesson

While he said his illness provided “a teachable moment’’ for parishioners, it also helped him live a lesson he had taught, and learned, over and over.

“I believe we go into the hands of the God who loves us, and what’s next, we just can’t imagine how wonderful it must be,’’ he said in the interview. “This is a time when you have to figure out — do you believe this or not. You’ve been saying this your whole life. Is this really the truth or not? And, so far, it feels like the truth.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

June 23, 2010

Manute Bol, R.I.P.

Manute Bol, the Dinka tribesman who became a player in the NBA, died at 47 of an adverse drug reaction, the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. called Stevens Johnson Syndrome or SJS.

Anyone, at any age, can contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome,” Jean McCawley, the founder of the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, said in a statement. “The biggest issue we see is a lack of awareness about adverse drug reactions. Even with the unfortunate passing of Mr. Bol, there have been many incorrect statements made about SJS.”

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome causes blistering of mucous membranes, typically in the mouth, eyes, and vagina and patchy areas of rash. According to the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, almost any medication including over-the-counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, can cause the disorder. Most commonly implicated drugs are anti-convulsants, antibiotics (such as sulfa, penicillin and cephalosporin) and anti-inflammatory medications. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to death.

there is no mandatory reporting for allergic drug reactions, so there’s no way to know how many people contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome each year.

New York Times obituary

 Manute Bol-Obit-

Manute Bol, a towering Dinka tribesman who left southern Sudan to become one of the best shot blockers in the history of American basketball, then returned to his homeland to try to heal the wounds of a long, bloody civil war, died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, according to Sally Jones, a spokeswoman for the hospital. He was 47 and lived in Olathe, Kan.
Enlarge This Image

After his N.B.A. career, Bol worked as an advisory board member of the Sudan Sunrise foundation.
The cause was severe kidney trouble and complications of a rare skin disorder known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, said Tom Prichard, who runs Sudan Sunrise, a foundation that is building a school near Bol’s birthplace in Turalei. Bol had been hospitalized since late May when he fell ill during a layover on a trip home from Sudan, Mr. Prichard said

A fine appreciation by the slacktivist  who writes

It was often said that Bol lacked the "killer instinct" that great players need. I suppose that was true -- even if it's a strange thing to say about the only NBA player who ever killed a lion with a spear.

Yes, Manute Bol really did that. As a teenager. He was raised in a Dinka village in southern Sudan, a place shaped by subsistence farming and herding. He killed the lion to protect his herd. With a freaking spear.

But what I think people meant about Bol's "killer instinct" was that he never seemed to take the game of basketball quite seriously enough. He hadn't chosen this game, it had chosen him. It discovered him in that Sudanese village and plucked him out of it, whisking him halfway around the world. All for the sake of a game.

Bol always seemed bewildered and slightly amused by that. Eugene McCarthy said that politics was like being a football coach, "You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important."

Manute Bol never seemed to master the second part of that equation. He always seemed to think we Americans were a little crazy, imagining that this game was such an important thing. It was never the most important thing to him. He had other priorities.

Those priorities weren't something he chose either. They were, for him, the unavoidable consequence of where he came from and the things that were happening there: war, slavery, oppression, genocide.
he viewed basketball as a way to raise money and awareness to do whatever he could to help the people of his country. Manute Bol earned about $6 million dollars during his decade in the NBA. He spent it all on the Sudan -- backing peace talks and political movements, building hospitals and schools.

"I don't work for money, I work to save people," he said. "I can always make more money, but you can't bring back those that are gone."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2010

Simple kindness is surprisingly effective to stop someone bent on suicide

God bless this life insurance agent who has saved some 160 people from committing suicide.

Man saves scores of Australians at suicide spot

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia's most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called the Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life.

"You can't just sit there and watch them," says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. "You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple."

Pretty simple too is his way - a calm demeanor, a warm smile and and an invitation to join him for tea.

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

By offering compassion, Ritchie helps those who are suicidal think beyond the terrible current moment, says psychiatrist Gordon Parker, executive director of the Black Dog Institute, a mood disorder research center that has supported the council's efforts to improve safety at the Gap.

"They often don't want to die, it's more that they want the pain to go away," Parker says. "So anyone that offers kindness or hope has the capacity to help a number of people."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2010

Catching up with Wooden, Linkletter and the Memorial Ladies

I've been too busy gardening to do much blogging so here are a few articles and posts I never got around to.

John Wooden's Love Letter to his wife Nellie.   

The New York Times obituary

John Wooden, a staid Midwesterner who migrated to U.C.L.A. and became college basketball’s most successful coach, earning the nickname the Wizard of Westwood and an enduring place in sports history, died Friday at Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26. He was 99.
Wooden was a dignified, scholarly man who spoke with the precise language of the English teacher he once was. He always carried a piece of paper with a message from his father that read:

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”
Abdul-Jabbar recalled that there “was no ranting and raving, no histrionics or theatrics.” He continued: “To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents.

“In essence,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “he was preparing us for life.”

The National Memorial Ladies help given fallen national salute.

The number is probably around 1,700, but Cheryl Whitfield has never counted.

She doesn't know the number of times over the past couple of years she's donned her uniform of black vest and slacks, crossed her heart with a white-gloved hand as the flag-draped casket passed, or bent to squeeze the palm of an old soldier's widow, whispering a few words of consolation and gratitude for his service.

The Champions-area grandmother just knows, like many of the other 28 women who make up the “National Memorial Ladies,” what she does at the Houston National Cemetery is her mission, her calling.

“I want people to know these guys are not forgotten,” Whitfield says.

Art Linkletter was always a favorite of mine.  May he rest in peace.  The deacon has a clip that captures his charm.  Ann Althouse has another.

She recalls the tragic death of his young daughter who leapt from a window to her death after ingesting LSD.

Mr. Linkletter, rather than retreating from the attention, became a crusader against drug use and an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon on drug policy...
Oh, how we callow youths mocked the poor man who, having lost his daughter, wanted to spoil our good times. LSD became associated with the urge to leap from windows and rooftops — an idea that many took seriously but many others — e.g., everyone I knew — thought was hilarious. Some of us seem to remember a National Lampoon illustration picturing the daughter at her window gazing at a hallucination of Art Linkletter floating in the air and beckoning to her.  I hope we won't go to hell for laughing at things like that.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2010

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 AM | Permalink

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2010

Lena Horne, RIP

When I was a young law school grad, my  first job was with a very big Wall St law firm .  My boss, who was also the managing partner of the firm, adored Lena Horne.  At that time, she was singing at a New York Hotel, the Waldorf or the Plaze, and my boss, very much a New England WASP, went to see at least twice a week while she was there.  Knowing that I had never seen her live, he invited me one evening to join him  (we all worked at least to seven every night  so we could get a cab ride home on the firm) and I did.  Her allure of mystery and elegance, the precision of her diction, the intensity of of her emotions, the beauty of her voice  and her sassy sexiness had everyone mesmerized.  A truly remarkable performer, formidable.

Here is the incomparable Lena Horne singing Stormy Weather


Mark Steyn on her lifelong association with the song

She was "radiantly beautiful" into her eighties, and a bigger star, outlasting almost all her contemporaries, not only the big band songbirds but the anodyne blondes at 20th Century Fox. And say what you like but that angry one-woman show broke box-office records and won her a Tony, two Grammys and a Kennedy Center honor.

An appreciation from the LA Times

Toward the end of her very full life, Lena Horne suggested to a PBS interviewer that, after decades of struggling to define her image as an artist and a black woman, she finally had seized possession of her identity.

"I don't have to be a symbol to anybody," said Horne, who died Sunday night in a New York hospital at the age of 92. "I no longer have to be a 'credit.' "

Americans born before 1960 will recognize Horne's fragmented reference to a phrase that, mercifully, has now been confined to history's ash heap: "a credit to her (or his) race."
Reviewing the show in the New York Times, critic Frank Rich noted that Horne had sung her signature tune "Stormy Weather" twice: first as a belt-it-out showstopper, then in the second act as an emotional coup de theatre that left Horne "blind with sweat and tears."


Time magazine, A Great Lady Makes Her Exit

Gorgeous, gifted and preternaturally poised, the 24-year-old actress-singer came to Hollywood in 1941 and quickly became the first African-American movie star.
Horne might have been black America's first ambassador to the rest of the country — an artist with perfect features and a sultry sweetness, who would teach the benighted to accept the glamour and talent, the full humanity, of an oppressed minority that had so profoundly enriched the official culture.

The Boston Globe, That face, that voice

Horne never pretended to be anyone she wasn’t, which meant that by the 1950s, racism had more or less made her sick of Hollywood. She’d become an activist, and after a while, it was obvious she was wasting her time trying to broaden the minds of movie studio executives. Slimming her career down was her best move. Horne was one of those performers who got better, stronger with age. In front of a live audience, she was both theatrical (the stage belonged only to her) and cinematic (Mr. DeMille, she can make her own close-ups, thank you).

As a singer, she didn’t have range or pyrotechnics. Her voice had drama, texture, and shape. It had character. She was a very alluring singer (defiant, sexual, wise, so amazingly cool), and a very comical one, too — she knew where the joke was in a piece of music or in the stage banter between songs.

Obit magazine Transcending Stormy Weather

She didn’t mind being introduced as “the beautiful Lena Horne,” even if that moniker barely hinted at the talent behind the face. But in later years, the veteran singer/actress/civil rights activist did mind being called “the still-beautiful Lena Horne” – understandably, although it was a small price to pay for one of the great Indian summer careers of modern show business. 

New York Times obituary

Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Here she's glad she's not young anymore.

Everyone should hear Yesterday when I was young

I ran so fast that time, and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think, what life, was all about,
And every conversation, I can now recall,
Concerned itself with me, and nothing else at all

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2010

Anthony Flew, R. I.P.

He was the famous British professor of philosophy who argued for atheism most of his life until he dramatically changed his mind.

Times of London obituary

Anthony Flew was one of the best-known atheists of his generation but he finally repudiated the label. As an academic philosopher he subjected the question of God’s existence to careful, non-polemical analysis. When he declared himself a theist in his old age he annoyed many of his admirers — which might have been the intention.
In the 1960s he became well known for his atheism, speaking in public debates with energy, clarity, and courtesy. In God and Philosophy (1966) he argued that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God surfaces. He developed this evidentialist approach in The Presumption of Atheism (1984). His atheist image is somewhat surprising, for by the standards of today’s public atheists he was far from zealous: he showed real interest in the arguments of believers, and respect for the cultural effects of religion. In 1987 he debated the resurrection of Jesus with the US theologian Gary Habermas, declaring that the evidence for the resurrection was much better than that for other Christian miracles but still did not convince him. He enjoyed religious discussions, not because he enjoyed rubbishing belief but because he thought it important that Christian tradition was carefully reflected on.
Flew returned to public attention in 2004 when he announced that he had moved from atheism to the form of theism known as deism. It holds that God exists but is more like the distant designer of the universe than an active, personal agent.

“It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design,” he said. “It seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.”

Telegraph obituary


When Flew revealed that he had come to the conclusion that there might be a God after all, it came as a shock to his fellow atheists, who had long regarded him as one of their foremost champions. Worse, he seemed to have deserted Plato for Aristotle, since it was two of Aquinas's famous five proofs for the existence of God – the arguments from design and for a prime mover – that had apparently clinched the matter.

After months of soul-searching, Flew concluded that research into DNA had "shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved". Moreover, though he accepted Darwinian evolution, he felt that it could not explain the beginnings of life. "I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature," he said.

Flew went on to make a video of his conversion entitled Has Science Discovered God? and seemed to want to atone for past errors: "As people have certainly been influenced by me, I want to try and correct the enormous damage I may have done," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2010

The Fields of Less Than Nothing

Just an amazing, horrific, inspiring story by Matt Labash called Love Among the Ruins about the amazing Father Rick Frechette in Haiti.

Every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

 Father Rick Labash.Haiti

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life.
He’s been doing the morgue runs for 15 years, but has never gotten used to the smell. It makes him so sick, he brings along rum and cigarettes. “People ask me if I smoke,” he says. “Only on Thursdays.” The Haitians avail themselves of the goods, but for Frechette, they’re not optional. Without the spirit’s fumes and cigarette smoke chasing the smell of the dead out of his nostrils, he vomits, which his Haitian colleagues find amusing.

When he returned to Haiti right after the earthquake, there was an overflow crowd at the morgue, literally thousands of dead laid out in the street in front of it. “They were picking them up with backhoes and bucket-loaders, dumping them into trucks,” says Frechette, adding that the machines crunched the bodies against the walls in order to be able to scoop them. “They were hanging out the sides like crabs in a bucket. Really, really terrible. It was so shocking, so disgusting, I yelled, ‘Give me a cigarette!’

When I ask him how he could head back into the jaws of Haiti just a day after burying his mom, he tells me of her death. She knew it was happening, and she had time to prepare, had the best care, had lived a full life, and died with her family surrounding her. When he asked his mother why she wasn’t afraid, knowing she’d die, she told him that she “believes in God, and if she looks at the whole trajectory of her life, life has been very good, why start mistrusting it?” “I think the fuller your life is, the less death is a threat to you,” says Father Rick. “Empty people are scared to death to die.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 22, 2010

"A thumb in the eye of the Nazis"

2000 living descendants

WHEN Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants.

Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average and whose ranks of descendants can multiply exponentially. But even among Satmars, the size of Mrs. Schwartz’s family is astonishing. A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis.
Mrs. Schwartz had a zest for life and a devotion to Hasidic rituals, faithfully attending the circumcisions, first haircuts, bar mitzvahs, engagements and weddings of her descendants. With 2,000 people in the family, such events occupied much of the year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:57 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2010

Dick Francis, Jockey and Writer, R.I.P.

One of my very favorite mystery writers, Dick Francis, has died at 89.  If ever I was feeling depressed, I would listen to one of his audiobooks, and feel by the end that some order had been restored to my world.

Telegraph obituary
As a National Hunt jockey, Francis had ridden in 2,305 races and ridden 345 winners. He became part of racing folklore when, in March 1956, he rode the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the Grand National.

Francis and Devon Loch had just jumped the last fence, well clear of the rest of the field and set to break the previous record time, when suddenly, 30 yards from the winning post, with the race commentators screaming "Francis wins!", Devon Loch sank on his hindquarters, his front legs sprawling; having pulled a muscle in doing so, he could not recover to win the race.

 Devon Loch Grandnational1956

Whatever the cause, Francis's failure to win the Grand National remained the great sorrow of his life, though it was his determination not to be labelled for all time as "the man who lost the Grand National" that spurred him on to become a writer.

He had more than his fair share of accidents and breakages, which he liked to recount with pride mixed with a certain gory relish. He reckoned to fall off once every 11 or 12 races: "I've had a fractured skull, six broken collar bones, five broken noses, no end of ribs. Well, you simply stop countin'."
This was typical Francis and, like their author, his fictional heroes endure all manner of pain and physical and mental torment with exemplary patience and composure. Thirtyish, usually dark-haired, sallow-skinned, mild-mannered and self-deprecating, the typical Francis hero is as intrepid and resourceful and as vigorously heterosexual as James Bond; but unlike the caddish Bond they are also decent and chivalrous, and the reader knows they will turn into faithful, passionate husbands: "What it comes to," Francis liked to say, "is that I never ask my main character to do anything I wouldn't do myself."

Where other thriller writers probed the darker crannies of the soul, Francis reaffirmed the values of human decency and the struggle between the man of good against the forces of lust for power, dishonesty and greed. Heroes can expect to be chained, beaten, burned or flayed two or three times per book – but good always triumphs in the end.
Like his heroes, Francis was a man of stern self-discipline. From 1962, when his first novel, Dead Cert, was published, he produced a book a year, starting to write on January 1 and delivering the typescript to his publishers by April 8 for publication in September. Only once, when his wife was ill, did he deliver two weeks late.

London Times Obituary

Richard Stanley Francis was born 1920 in the village of Lawrenny on the Cleddau river in Pembrokeshire. His grandfather had been a keen amateur rider. His father was a horse-dealer, steeplechaser and farmer, and became the manager of a hunting stable near Maidenhead. Dick learnt to ride when he was 5 and won his first race at the age of 8.
In 1939 he joined the RAF as a tradesman, but was soon commissioned as a pilot and, during the next five years of war, flew both fighters and bombers operationally. In 1945 he met, at his cousin’s wedding, a university educated and highly literate schoolmistress, Mary Margaret Brenchley, whom he married two years afterwards despite considerable opposition from both families on the ground that they had so little in common.

It was to be an outstandingly happy marriage.

New York Times obituary
Dick Francis, whose notable but blighted career as a champion steeplechase jockey for the British royal family was eclipsed by a second, more brilliant career as a popular thriller writer, died on Sunday in the Cayman Islands, where he had a home. He was 89.


This self-contained world was, of course, a reflection of a broader universe in which themes of winning and losing and courage and integrity have more sweeping meaning. As the critic John Leonard wrote, “Not to read Dick Francis because you don’t like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don’t like God.”
Typically, the Dick Francis hero is a modest, decent fellow, a model of British valor and integrity, who restores order by asserting his superior moral values — and by going mano a mano with a ruthless villain who subjects him to unspeakable torture.
“Writing a novel proved to be the hardest, most self-analyzing task I had ever attempted,” Mr. Francis said, “far worse than an autobiography.” He went about his unaccustomed chore cautiously and methodically, as he might have approached a skittish horse. Working in pencil in an exercise book, he would labor over one sentence until he was satisfied that he could do no better, then move on to the next sentence.
One of the most honored of genre authors, Mr. Francis was named to the Order of the British Empire and later made a commander. He won the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America three times and was made a grand master, the group’s highest honor, in 1996. He also received the Diamond Dagger award, the highest honor of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, in 1990.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

February 12, 2010

Charlie Wilson, R.I.P.

Charlie Wilson, an American original, died Wednesday in Texas; a cardiopulmonary  arrest ended his life at 76.

The thrice-married Congressman from Texas was able to secure covert funding for the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invaders in the 1980s and turn back the the Communist invaders

His story is so great , Mike Nichols made a movie of Charlie Wilson's War.


The Wall Street Journal calls him the Democrat who helped win the Cold War.

His greatest work, however, was in collaborating with the Reagan Administration and the CIA to provide arms to the Afghan rebels. These included small arms at first, but the tide of the war turned once the mujahideen received Stinger antiaircraft missiles that compromised Soviet dominance of the skies. The Soviet military left Afghanistan after suffering fearsome casualties, the first time the Communists had been forced to cede territory they had taken in the post-Stalin era.
Defeating the Soviets was not foreordained. It required the conviction of men like Wilson and Reagan.

The New York Times obituary

When the Soviets deliberately killed camels and mules to cripple the Afghan fighters’ supply lines, he flew in Tennessee mules. When the Central Intelligence Agency refused to provide the guerrillas with field radios for fear that mujahedeen transmissions would be picked up by the Soviets, he sent an aide to Virginia to buy $12,000 worth of walkie-talkies from a Radio Shack outlet.

Particularly helpful were Stinger missiles from the United States, which were used to shoot down Russian helicopters and became what many consider a decisive factor in wearing down the Soviets. By February 1989, the Soviets had withdrawn.
In an interview with Washingtonian magazine in 1996, Mr. Wilson said Texas voters put up with his antics in part because of the vicarious thrill they got in watching him. He added that he did not lie or whine when caught.

“I just say, ‘Well, yeah, I guess I goofed again’ and go about my business,” he said. “Those good Christians, you know, believe in the redemption of sin.”

Defense Secretary Gates, a CIA veteran, remembers him well. 

As the world now knows, his efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close,” Gates said. “After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatized country to its fate -- a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today”

The London Telegraph obituary

Wilson's favourite reading was the Flashman series, and with his good looks, bad behaviour and womanising ways, he resembled George MacDonald Fraser's roguish anti-hero in any number of respects.

Like Flashman, Wilson seemed to prove that a winning smile and a taste for the high life could have a unexpectedly significant impact on international affairs. "Good Time Charlie" may have been a lowly Texas congressman, but he was at various times credited with ensuring the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan; the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union; and glorious victory for the West in the Cold War.


The London Times obituary

Charlie Wilson was a handsome 6ft 4in Texan who changed history with his role in Russia’s defeat in Afghanistan — an event which presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 Charlie Wilson (Marcy Nighswander) photo by Marcy Nighswander

Although on his white horse with his Stetson hat and Texas boots he looked the part, he was far removed from the Hollywood image of an all-American hero. The newspapers called the Democrat Congressman “Good-time Charlie” for his outrageous lifestyle, his womanising, his alcoholism and his tendency to share drugs in hot tubs with cover girls and beauty queens.

The New York Times called him “the biggest party animal in Congress”. He seemed to promote his vices and hide his virtues, but there was another side to Wilson: he knew how to work the system on Capitol Hill.
It was typical of Wilson that he should be drawn into the superpower confrontation over Afghanistan through meeting a glamorous Texas socialite. Dubbed “the Queen of Texas”, Joanne Herring gave fabulous parties for kings, sheikhs and politicians and entertained Houston with her own television show.
“If there is a single man who has played a part that shall be recorded in history in golden letters, it is that right honourable Congressman Charles Wilson,” said President Zia. “All I can say is that ‘Charlie did it’.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

Louis Auchincloss, R.I.P.

I consider Louis Auchincloss one of the finest writers of our times.  He wrote some 50 books over his life while a full time practicing lawyer and I have about 20 of them.  I began reading him while working at a law firm on Wall Street just so I could begin to understand the old line New York WASP.    The insights I gained were invaluable and soon I became hooked on his literary ability to tell revealing stories about a segment  of the population that is otherwise opaque.

Of hIs most famous book, The Rector of Justin,  Jonathan Yardley wrote in the Washington Post
"The Rector of Justin" is a "prep school novel" in the same way that "Moby-Dick" is a "whaling novel." It uses the environment of a fictitious Episcopal school for boys, Justin Martyr -- "named for the early martyr and scholar who tried to reconcile the thinking of the Greek philosophers with the doctrines of Christ" -- to explore grand, universal themes, all of them centered on its protagonist, the school's founding father, Francis Prescott. It is, I now realize, a minor masterpiece of 20th-century literature.

 Louis Auchincloss 2

AP obituary by Hillel Italie

He wrote more than 50 books, averaging about one a year after the end of World War II, and crafted such accomplished works as the novel "The Rector of Justin" and the memoir "A Writer's Capital," not to mention biographies, literary criticism and short stories. He was a four-time fiction finalist for the National Book Award, his nominated novels including "The Embezzler" and "The House of Five Talents."

"I'm rather inclined to be edgy when I'm not writing," Auchincloss said in a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. "In (a) ... book on Jack Kennedy, it says he told (British) Prime Minister (Harold) Macmillan that if he didn't have a girl every three days he'd get headaches. I thought that was rather extreme, but writing is little bit like that for me."

Auchincloss lived up to the old world ideal of being "useful," bearing the various titles of writer, attorney, community leader and family man. He was a partner at the Wall Street firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood and the father of three. He served as president of both the Museum of the City of New York and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Last of His Kind by Kevin Mims

In many ways Louis Auchincloss was more like a 19th century man of letters than a 20th century one. He didn’t publish a big self-important mega-tome every ten years that attempted to reinvent the art of fiction a la Pynchon or DeLillo. Instead he reliably produced a new book (sometimes two) in just about every year of his literary career. His first book was published in 1947. His latest was published in 2008. Like Jane Austen he focused on the foibles and frailties of the small segment of society on which he was an expert. He tilled a small patch of literary ground but from it he brought forth nourishing and abundant fruit.

 Last-Of-Old-Guard Auchincloss

New York Times obituary by Holcomb B. Noble,

Chronicler of New York’s Upper Crust, Dies at 92
Like Wharton, Mr. Auchincloss was interested in class and morality and in the corrosive effects of money on both. “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs,” Gore Vidal once wrote. “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”

The author Bruce Bawer, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said that Mr. Auchincloss had the bad luck to live “in a time when the protagonists of literary fiction tend to be middle- or lower-class.”

“These days,” he added, “the general public, though fascinated by the superficial trappings of privilege, seems to have little interest in the deeper truths with which Mr. Auchincloss is passionately concerned — with, that is, the beliefs, principles, hypocrisies, prejudices and assorted strengths and defects of character that typify the American WASP civilization that produced what was for a long time the country’s undisputed ruling class.”

“Class prejudice” was Mr. Auchincloss’s response to his critics. “That business of objecting to the subject material or the people that an author writes about is purely class prejudice,” he said in an interview in 1997, “and you will note that it always disappears with an author’s death. Nobody holds it against Henry James or Edith Wharton or Thackeray or Marcel Proust.”
He dropped out of Yale before his senior year and entered the University of Virginia law school.  To his surprise he found he liked the law, particularly estates law, and in 1941, after earning a law degree, he joined the Wall Street firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. When World War II began Mr. Auchincloss enlisted in the Navy. He served in Naval intelligence, then commanded a craft that shuttled troops and the wounded across the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.

He also was the recipient of the 2005 Medal of  Arts.

 Louis Auchincloss With President Bush

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

J.D. Salinger. R.I.P.

New York Times obituary by Charles McGrath who calls Salinger the "Garbo of Letters" a wonderful phrase

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.
Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.


“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
In 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “
There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art

London Times obituary

After receiving critical acclaim for his short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish, which was published in The New Yorker in 1948, J. D. Salinger shot to worldwide fame with his novel The Catcher in the Rye, which appeared in 1951. With its disenchanted adolescent anti-hero, perpetually at war with adulthood, especially as embodied in his own parents, it seemed to encapsulate the mood of an entire generation. Perhaps more remarkably it simultaneously exercised a considerable effect on that generation’s behaviour.
He attended three universities: New York, Ursinus College (Collegeville, Pennsylvania), and Columbia. The result of this was, he later tersely wrote, “no degrees”.

In the spring of 1942, a few months after America had been drawn into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Salinger was drafted into the US Army, where he was to serve until demobilisation in 1946. After training he was posted to the 12th Infantry Regiment in the Fourth Infantry Division of the US Army — most of the time as a staff sergeant — through five campaigns. As the build-up of American forces in Britain developed apace with the preparations for the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, he was stationed in England, at Tiverton, Devon, and
he was among those who landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
He saw service throughout the Allied advance through North West Europe, notably during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45. He was assigned to a counter-intelligence unit in which he interrogated German prisoners.
His wartime experiences, which included witnessing the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, affected him deeply. He later told his daughter: “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nostrils — no matter how long you live.”


AP obituary by Hillel Italie

"The Catcher in the Rye," with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made "Catcher" a featured selection, advised that for "anyone who has ever brought up a son" the novel will be "a source of wonder and delight — and concern."

Enraged by all the "phonies" who make "me so depressed I go crazy," Holden soon became American literature's most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn. The novel's sales are astonishing —
more than 60 million copies worldwide — and its impact incalculable. Decades after publication, the book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams — to never grow up.
Salinger was writing for adults, but teenagers from all over identified with the novel's themes of alienation, innocence and fantasy, not to mention the luck of having the last word. "Catcher" presents the world as an ever-so-unfair struggle between the goodness of young people and the corruption of elders, a message that only intensified with the oncoming generation gap.
The world had come calling for Salinger, but Salinger was bolting the door. ..Meanwhile, he was refusing interviews, instructing his agent to forward no fan mail and reportedly spending much of his time writing in a cement bunker. Sanity, apparently, could only come through seclusion.
"I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes," Holden says in "Catcher."
"That way I wouldn't have to have any ... stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something, they'd have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. I'd build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made."

Salinger's alleged adoration of children apparently did not extend to his own. In 2000, daughter Margaret Salinger's "Dreamcatcher" portrayed the writer as an unpleasant recluse who drank his own urine and spoke in tongues.
Ms. Salinger said she wrote the book because she was "absolutely determined not to repeat with my son what had been done with me."

Indeed, Jemima Lewis writes in the Telegraph, The reclusive novelist could hardly have made himself more interesting if he'd tried,

David Warren speaks of the pernicious effects of the perpetual adolescence of Holden Caulfield

The book has had a remarkable and, to my mind, infernal influence on society, owing in part to its author's literary skill in the manipulation of colloquial language, in part to the emotional and even hormonal power in that peculiar explosion of sex and ego that is adolescent narcissism itself. The proof is in the pudding, and the fact that Catcher in the Rye went on to inspire at least three celebrity assassins (Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley Jr., and Robert John Bardo), along with who knows how many "little league" psychos and suicides, speaks to its real power.

Now the question is what will happen to all his unpublished novels and manuscripts?  We'll be hearing about J.D. Salinger for years to come

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

Robert Parker, author of Spenser, R.I.P.

While I was away, Robert Parker died, a good death, writing at his desk.

Who among us hasn't spent enjoyable hours with his richly imagined character Spenser?

New York Times obit on the Prolific Author Who Created Spenser

Robert B. Parker, the best-selling mystery writer who created Spenser, a tough, glib Boston private detective who was the hero of nearly 40 novels, died Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 77.

The cause was a heart attack, said his agent of 37 years, Helen Brann. She said that Mr. Parker had been thought to be in splendid health, and that he died at his desk, working on a book. He wrote five pages a day, every day but Sunday, she said.

Mr. Parker wrote more than 60 books all told, including westerns and young-adult novels, but he churned out entertaining detective stories with a remarkable alacrity that made him one of the country’s most popular writers.
A conscious throwback to hard-boiled detectives like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, but with a sensitivity born of the age of feminism and civil rights, Spenser is a bruiser in body but a softie at heart, someone who never shies from danger or walks away from a threat to the innocent. Mr. Parker gave him many of his own traits. Spenser is an admirer of any kind of expertise. He believes in psychotherapy. He’s a great cook. He’s a boxer, a weightlifter and a jogger, a consumer of doughnuts and coffee, a privately indulgent appreciator (from a distance) of pretty women, a Red Sox fan, a dog lover. (Mr. Parker owned a series of short-haired pointers, all named Pearl, like their fictional incarnation.)

Most crucially, Spenser is faithful in love (to his longtime companion, Susan Silverman, a psychologist) and in friendship (to his frequent partner in anti-crime, a dazzlingly charming, morally idiosyncratic black man named Hawk). And usually with the two of them as seconds, he has remained indomitable, vanquishing crime bosses, drug dealers, sex fiends, cold-blooded killers, corrupt politicians and several other varieties of villain.
Robert Brown Parker was a large man of large appetites that were nonetheless satisfied with relative ease. He was as unpretentious and self-aware as Spenser, his agent, Ms. Brann said.

“All he needed to be happy was his family and writing,” she said. “There were always wonderful things in his refrigerator. People were always after him to do cookbooks.” She paused.

“He loved doughnuts,” she said.

 Robert Parker

Kate Mattes, founder and owner of Kate's Mystery Books, on The humor and generosity of Robert Parker

Before Bob, the hard-boiled private eye was a loner who couldn’t trust anyone, and mainly fought crime and corruption on the West Coast. Bob changed all that. He was the first to tinker with the image of the American hard-boiled detective when, in the 1970s, he created Spenser - a knight-errant with equal parts honor and humor. Bob created a “family’’ for Spenser, which included a monogamous relationship with a feminist, a best friend who was black and a young boy, abandoned by his parents, who Spenser “adopted’’ and supported in his desire to become a ballet dancer. Up until then, private detectives didn’t have anyone they could count on, or who depended on them, especially over time, in one book after another. Today it seems almost passé, but Bob breathed new life into the genre, paving the way for most crime writers today.

Bob did more than open creative doors, though. He wrote blurbs for young writers, helped them find editors and agents, and helped them navigate the tricky worlds of TV and film. As he became more prosperous, he and his wife, Joan, supported local arts and community groups with their many donations. Neither of them looked for attention for their generosity. They did what they could to help.

Boston Globe obit by Gary Goshgarian, A man of virtue and wit.

This week it’s a little dimmer in Boston. A brilliant light is out. A literary light. Robert B. Parker, extraordinarily successful author of dozens of books about Boston sleuth Spenser, as well as other novels and young adult stories, died on Monday at his writing desk. There isn’t a bookstore or airport in the free world that doesn’t have his titles on their shelves. And although he didn’t put Boston on the map, he helped keep it there, making this great city accessible to the reading public - its glory and feisty independence, its rich and varied culture, its history and beloved teams. Collectively, his Spenser books are a symphony to this city by the sea.

But I didn’t know Bob Parker just through his novels. He was my oldest and closest friend
He wrote about the things that were most important to him: love, family, and human decency. Behind the scenes, he lived a quiet, simple, and ordered life, spending most of his days at his writing desk, surrounded by photos of Joan and his sons, his dog Pearl on the couch. It was a life well-composed, just as he had wanted it - and perhaps his most successful creation.

So was his death - in a brilliant flash at his keyboard.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2010

Homeless veteran saved 5 in fire

A former Marine, he struggled with the drink and lived homeless for years under a Cleveland bridge, a father of five children.

Ray Vivier began to put his life back on track with a job as a welder and a room at a boarding house. When an arsonist set the boarding house ablaze, it was Ray who saved five people from that house and lost his life in so doing.  His body lay unclaimed

Thanks to a soup kitchen volunteer, he was given a proper burial and 15 years later, his ashes were inurned at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.

Homeless veteran who saved 5 in fire laid to rest.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2009

Irish folk singer Clancy dead at 74

Liam Clancy, who died on December 4 aged 74, was the last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the first and arguably the most authentic of the Irish folk groups to make an impact far beyond their homeland over the last half-century; rated by Bob Dylan "the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life", he was also a fine guitarist.

Times Online
Liam Clancy was one of the great ambassadors of Irish music, popularising its rich seam of traditional folk songs around the world. He spent much of his career in America, where he was a strong influence on the folk revival of the early 1960s centred on Greenwich Village, New York, and on the young Bob Dylan in particular.

“Liam was it for me,” Dylan once declared. “I never heard a singer as good as Liam, ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life. Still is, probably.”
His early success came singing in the Irish folk group the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who in their trademark cable-knitted Aran sweaters delivered a slick repertoire of classic Irish ballads and rebel songs to become Ireland’s first pop stars, paving the way for the likes of the Dubliners and the Chieftains. Every inch the lovable Irish rogue with a roving eye, in the 1960s he suffered his fair share of problems with women, alcohol abuse and the American tax authorities, and lost most of his money. He later chronicled these difficulties in an extremely frank autobiography
A proud and sometimes sentimental patriot, he once claimed that there were only two kinds of singers in the world — the Irish and those who wished they were.

An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 catapulted them to national fame and a contract with Columbia Records, for which they recorded prolifically throughout the rest of the decade. By 1962 they were selling out the Carnegie Hall and performing for President Kennedy at the White House. On a triumphant visit back home in 1963, they were greeted as conquering heroes who had turned old Irish songs into a new form of polished popular entertainment without compromising their spirit, and in Dublin they sang out of a theatre window for the crowds in the street, who were unable to get a ticket for the sold-out concert.


Here he is telling stories and talking about Greenwich Village and Bob Dylan as a young man

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

November 20, 2009

Not an ordinary man but a Harvard Law Hero

Harvard Law Hero from Jules Crittenden

They keep coming out of the woodwork. Harvard war heroes. This one, when all the other Harvard Law graduates headed off to the white-shoe law firms, the non-profits, community organizing, that kind of thing, he headed off to the United States Marine Corps. Three combat tours later, it was the DEA because, his dad said, unlike CIA and other agencies, he could be assured of frontline action there. He found it in Afghanistan.

 Michael Weston Harvlaw Hero

Peter Gelziniz  tells the story in Crittenden's paper The Boston Herald.  Final salute to a singular hero

On Oct. 26, Special Agents Weston, 37, Forrest N. Leamon, 37 and Chad L. Michael, 30, were part of an elite DEA-Special Forces strike team, which had just completed a successful night raid on an Afghan drug bazaar.

After a fierce, hour-long firefight, 31 enemy insurgents and heroin traffickers were dead, and a stockpile of drugs, IEDs and weapons were seized. Mike Weston and his team boarded the choppers for the flight back to their outpost in the western city of Herat, certain they had made a difference in the blackness before the Afghan dawn.

“A lot of what we do is done quietly,” said Matthew Murphy, in Boston’s DEA office. “The public isn’t generally aware of the dedication of character it takes to place oneself on the front lines of narco-terrorism . . . these were not ordinary men.”

Condolences and grateful thanks to his family, especially his wife Cindy whom he married on Memorial Day.  Cindy was the widow of his best friend at Harvard Law, Helge Boes, who died in 2003 while serving as a CIA officer in Afghanistan.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

November 9, 2009

Nien Chang, R.I.P.

Nien Cheng dies at 94; survivor of torture during China's Cultural Revolution

At a time when China's Communist leader Mao Tse-tung was trying to purge political rivals and reassert his authority, Cheng, the wealthy widow of an oil company executive, was one of untold numbers of professionals who were evicted from their homes by the Red Guard. She was arrested in August 1966 and falsely accused of being a spy.

Cheng endured 6 1/2 years of solitary confinement and torture in prison, refusing to confess or bow to the will of her interrogators. On her release, she discovered that her only child was dead, purportedly by suicide, but actually beaten to death by Red Guards.

In simple, exquisite detail, Cheng's 1987 book describes the maddeningly circular reasoning of those caught up in the revolution.
"Far from depressing, it is almost exhilarating to witness her mind do battle," Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in the New York Times review of her book.

By 1980, she had managed to leave China for Canada. Three years later she moved to Washington, using money her husband had left her in overseas bank accounts. In 1987, she was a guest at a White House state dinner, where she chatted with President Reagan. Her book was excerpted at length in Time magazine. She became a U.S. citizen in 1988.

"There were many Chinese who fought back and many who suffered much more. Some of them have never recovered," she said. "But my privilege has been to write about it, and that's only been possible because I could leave."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

November 4, 2009

"The bravest and most courageous man I have ever met"

British Soldier killed defusing 65th bomb

A British soldier responsible for making safe 64 bombs during five months in Afghanistan, died as he tried to defuse another.

Staff Sgt Schmid, born in Cornwall, lived in Winchester with his five-year-old stepson and wife.

Christina Schmid said: "Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five-month tour.

"The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work."

" His courage was not displayed in a fleeting moment of time; he stared death in the face on a daily basis,"  Lt Col Gareth Bex

Michael Yon on Great Britain loses one of its finest

His crew was competent and confident, and worked faster to clear bombs than any I had seen.  If not, the soldiers could never have completed this mission, because there simply were too many bombs.  They say all beekeepers get stung, but these are not bees.  These soldiers were facing an extraordinary number of bombs and booby-traps that are designed to kill the team.


Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding officer of 2 Rifles Battle Group, said: "Staff Sgt Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2009

" Elderly men and women with no one else to care for them are given exquisite attention."

Newly canonized St Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, devoted her life to the care of the elderly poor.  Her remarkable story as Humble Friend of the Poor can be read here. 

"Making the elderly happy, that is what counts", Jeanne Jugan


George Weigel writes about her in his inimitable way

Born during the virulently anti-Catholic French Revolution, Jeanne Jugan learned early in her life that fidelity to Christ and his Church could be costly. A history of the period of her childhood sums things up neatly: “In spite of the persecution, the people of Cancale kept the faith. During dark nights, in an attic or a barn, or even in the middle of the countryside, the faithful gathered together, and there in the silence of the night, the priest would offer the Eucharist and baptize the children. But this happiness was rare. There were so many dangers.”

Jeanne Jugan knew poverty as well as persecution, and developed a marked sensitivity to the humiliation that those who have fallen through the cracks of society’s net of solidarity can feel. She declined an offer of marriage because, as she put it, “God...is keeping me for a work which is not yet known, for a work which is not yet founded.” That work came into clear focus when, at age 47, she met an elderly, blind and sick woman, whom she took into her care; from that seemingly random encounter was born a tremendous work of charity. The congregation of women religious she founded dedicated itself to the care of the poor and elderly—and supported itself by begging, with the foundress, Jeanne Jugan, as chief beggar.  The Little Sisters of the Poor spread rapidly throughout Europe, America and Africa, but the going was never easy for Jeanne Jugan.

In 1843, Jeanne Jugan’s re-election as superior was quashed by the community’s priest-advisor, Father Augustin Marie Le Pailleur. Refusing to contest what others would have deemed an injustice (but which she thought to be the will of God), Jeanne Jugan accepted this curious decision and went on the road, supporting her sisters by begging. For the last 27 years of her life, she lived at the order’s motherhouse in retirement, again according to the orders of Father Le Pailleur; her role as foundress was never acknowledged during her lifetime. Yet the novelist Charles Dickens could write, after meeting Jeanne Jugan, that “there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.”
To enter a house of the Little Sisters of the Poor today is to recapture what Dickens experienced. Elderly men and women with no one else to care for them are given exquisite attention; the dignity of every patient is honored, no matter how difficult that dignity may be to discern amidst the trials of senility and disease. The Little Sisters of the Poor and their patients are living reminders that there are no disposable human beings; that everyone is a someone for whom the Son of God entered the world, suffered and died; and that we read others out of the human family at our moral and political peril.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2009

Irving Penn, R.I.P.

Elegant was the word for Irving Penn, the fashion photographer who died at 92.

London Telegraph obituary

"He never stopped working," said Peter MacGill, a longtime friend whose Pace-MacGill Galleries in Manhattan represented Penn's work. "He would go back to similar subjects and never see them the same way twice."

Penn, who constantly explored the photographic medium and its boundaries, typically preferred to isolate his subjects – from fashion models to Aborigine tribesmen – from their natural settings to photograph them in a studio against a stark background. He believed the studio could most closely capture their true natures.
"A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page," he once said. Accordingly, he spent countless hours in his studio creating prints with costly platinum salts – a process that had been mostly abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, but favoured by Penn because of its glowing results. (Most photographic prints use a solution of silver on the paper rather than platinum.)

Parting Glance: Irving Penn, a slideshow.  My favorite is this portrait of Colette, the French novelist.

 Penn's Colette

New York Times obituary by Andy Grundberg

Irving Penn, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential photographers of fashion and the famous, whose signature blend of classical elegance and cool minimalism was recognizable to magazine readers and museumgoers worldwide, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan.
A courtly man whose gentle demeanor masked an intense perfectionism, Mr. Penn adopted the pose of a humble craftsman while helping to shape a field known for putting on airs. Schooled in painting and design, he chose to define himself as a photographer, scraping paint off his early canvases so they could serve a more useful life as backdrops to his pictures.

He was also a refined conversationalist and a devoted husband and friend. His marriage to Lisa Fonssagrives, a leading model, an artist and his sometime collaborator, lasted 42 years, until her death at the age of 80 in 1992. Mr. Penn’s photographs of Fonssagrives captured a slim woman of sophistication and radiant good health and set the aesthetic standard for the elegant fashion photography of the 1940s and ’50s.

 Lisa By Penn Fosgraves

Penn expressed himself and his subjects best through a Shaker-style restraint.
Two decades later he expanded on these portraits during trips to Dahomey (now Benin), to Morocco, to New Guinea and elsewhere, using a portable studio to provide a textured but seamless background. The pictures, both in color and in black and white, were featured annually in Vogue. In 1974 they were published in “Worlds in a Small Room,” which seemed to emphasize the perseverance of cultural diversity. Mr. Penn was also capable of making Western culture seem strange and fascinating. In the early 1950s he made a series of portraits of tradesmen in Paris, London and New York. Again relying on his spare studio to separate his subjects from their surroundings, he nevertheless insisted that the tradesmen wear the clothes and tools of their work: pastry chefs in white aprons and toques hold rolling pins; a fishmonger carries a fish in one hand and a rag in the other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 2, 2009

Victory in Death

On June 19, 2009, Pope Benedict inaugurated a "Year for Priests" in celebration of the 150th anniversary of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide.

Because I am just learning about many priests as the year passes. it's all news to me.  So, from time to time, I will post about a particular one.

Blessed Miguel Pro, Jesuit priest and martyr

The plan of the president of Mexico was simple: arrest Miguel Pro, bring him before the firing squad, watch him deny his faith in an attempt to save his life, then capture his cowardice on film and thereby disgrace the Church, especially its priests. That was the plan of the president, Plutarco Elias Calles.
The first step of the president’s plan seemed promising. Miguel, a Jesuit priest, was arrested along with his brothers Roberto and Humberto. They were taken to the Mexico City jail, locked in cells, and subjected to frequent questioning. Though unable to prove them guilty of crimes deserving capital punishment, President Calles ordered Padre Pro’s execution, together with his brother Humberto. Moreover, the president invited government officials, members of the press and photographers to be present for the execution to witness and to capture on film the spectacle of disgrace that he was certain was about to occur.

At 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1927, the prisoner was taken from his cell and led across the compound to the execution site. Even before he reached the place of his martyrdom, the plan began to unravel. As Padre Pro walked with his crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, one of the policemen who had helped to capture him a few days before broke ranks and approached him with tears, begging the priest to forgive him for his part in the ordeal. Reaching out to him as a brother, Padre Pro said, “Not only do I forgive you, I also give you thanks.”

Upon arrival at the wall of execution, the priest asked permission to pray before being executed. Being granted his wish, he knelt before the wall riddled with bullet holes from previous executions and, clasping the crucifix and the rosary next to his heart, he asked God for the grace of a holy death. Then, he rose, kissed the crucifix, extended his arms in the form of a cross and, facing the firing squad, declared: “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” Finally, as the firing squad took aim, Padre Pro said in a calm and steady voice, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
The plan of President Calles was in shambles. The Plan of God, on the other hand, moved full steam ahead. Despite the president’s order that the photographs not be published, they were printed and distributed across the country and indeed around the world. People who had never heard of Miguel Pro now admired him as a martyr. Within days, he had become the most popular priest in Mexico and he remains so even today.

 Miguel Pro Execution

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. His feast day is Nov 23.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 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 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 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 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

August 9, 2009

Harry Patch, Britain's last World War 1 Warrior

John Burns on Britain's Oldest Warrior

He was a 19-year-old private when he was struck by the burst of a German shell over the British trenches in September 1917 and sent home to recover from his wounds. Working as a plumber in Wells until his retirement, he lived to the age of 111 before he died on July 25, when he was listed by Britain’s Defense Ministry as the last survivor among the millions of British soldiers who fought in the trenches on the Western Front. The last French and German veterans of the trenches died earlier this decade.
In his last years, he became a national celebrity, memorialized in a poem written by Andrew Motion, then the poet laureate, and in a song fashioned from Mr. Patch’s own words about the fighting in the trenches that was recorded by the pop group Radiohead (“I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground/I’ve seen hell upon this earth.”) He met it all with the same modesty, saying that it was not he who should be honored but the men who fell at the battlefront, “the ones who didn’t come home.”
When Mr. Patch finally broke 80 years of silence, it was in the final decade of a life that was honored by thousands of mourners who gathered at his funeral on Thursday in this quiet cathedral town set in rolling green hills 140 miles west of London. But his message was not the traditional story of valor and patriotism under fire. Rather, he took as his themes the futility of war and the common humanity of soldiers who meet as enemies on the battlefield.
the feature that would have been likely to please Mr. Patch more than any other was the presence, as honorary pallbearers, of two German soldiers in full dress uniform, part of a six-man contingent that also included soldiers from Belgium and France. A German diplomat, Eckhard Lübkemeier, offered a New Testament reading from Corinthians that spoke of Christ’s “message of reconciliation.”
A  Belgian diplomat read an excerpt from Mr. Patch’s 2007 autobiography, “The Last Fighting Tommy,” in which he described an offensive during the battle at Passchendaele, the bloodiest chapter in the Ypres fighting, when he came across a fellow soldier “ripped from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel” during a British assault on German lines.

The episode reinforced in Mr. Patch, a devout Christian, the belief that there is a life after death. “When we got to him, he looked at us and said, ‘Shoot me,’ ” he recalled. “He was beyond all human help, and before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother!’ It wasn’t a cry of despair, it was a cry of surprise and joy.”

He added, “I’m positive that when he left this world, wherever he went, his mother was there, and from that day, I’ve always remembered that cry, and that death is not the end.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2009

Corazon "Cory" Aquino, R.I.P.

London Times

Corazon Aquino was propelled into office as President of the Philippines in an extraordinary sequence of events which began with the assassination of her husband and culminated in the unceremonious ejection of a military dictatorship.

In 1986 the country’s ruler, Ferdinand Marcos, declared himself winner of the general election, but the contest had been so obviously rigged that a wave of what was called “people power” swept him into exile. Four US Air Force helicopters spirited Marcos and his wife, Imelda, out of their impoverished country after 20 years of dictatorship during which she famously accumulated 2,700 pairs of expensive shoes.

Into office in their place came Mrs Aquino, a slight, bespectacled mother of five who had been widowed when her husband, Benigno, was shot dead in broad daylight at an airport ringed by Marcos’s troops. The killing spelt the beginning of the end for the Marcos regime. Many in Washington and elsewhere had backed him, despite his trademark brutality and corruption, because he seemed a bulwark against communism.
Into office in their place came Mrs Aquino, a slight, bespectacled mother of five who had been widowed when her husband, Benigno, was shot dead in broad daylight at an airport ringed by Marcos’s troops. The killing spelt the beginning of the end for the Marcos regime. Many in Washington and elsewhere had backed him, despite his trademark brutality and corruption, because he seemed a bulwark against communism.

But the public murder of a political rival sealed his fate. Mrs Aquino’s coming to power was greeted with huge international approval, but her term in office would turn out to be beset with difficulties, both for her country and for herself. The first woman President of the Philippines, she inherited a political and economic mess which she called the “basket case of South-East Asia”. When she left office in 1992 few of the high hopes she raised had been fulfilled. Yet she had the satisfaction of achieving a peaceful handover of power to an elected successor, no mean feat in a country which had little enough experience of democracy.

Cory Aquino Madame-President
Madame President - Time magazine

Richard Fernandez

And the most incredible aspect of it was that at the center of this gift was not an atom bomb, but an ordinary woman. A woman who had until then remained almost invisible within her husband’s shadow; whose deepest beliefs would laughed to scorn in any fashionable salon. Yet she was the real thing. Fearless beyond measure, honest in the way that only a person who really believes in honesty can be. Cory had the power to awe not only the simple, but the cynical: the simple because she was like them, only greater; and the cynical because she was unlike them and yet still greater.

Philippines President Arroyo said, "The nation lost a national treasure. An icon of democracy."

Time magazine People Power's Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino

Midnight always threatened Aquino but never struck; and she was a good woman whose goodness alone, at the very end, was what proved enough, if only by an iota, to save her country.
Benigno Aquino,  returned to the Philippines after three years of exile in the U.S. only to be shot dead even before he could set foot on the tarmac of Manila's international airport. Filipinos were outraged, and suspicion immediately fell on Marcos. At Benigno's funeral, mourners transformed Corazon into a symbol.

Cory Aquino Obit 03
The Martyr's Wife - Time

The devout and stoic Roman Catholic widow became the incarnation of a pious nation that had itself suffered silently through more than a decade of autocratic rule. Millions lined the funeral route and repeated her nickname as if saying the rosary: "Cory, Cory, Cory."
But it would be nearly three years before she would learn to take advantage of her power. Instead, she concentrated on the fractious opposition, using her moral influence to help it choose a leader to oppose Marcos.

 Woman Of The Year Time

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

Leszek Kolakowski, R.I.P.

“We learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are.”

Leszek Kolakowski, Jefferson Lecture 1986

 Leszek Kolakowski 2

The Economist

HIS life was learning—about history, about his times, about himself. Like some other erstwhile true believers, he became one of most cogent critics of his former faith. Having spent his youthful years as an ardent communist and atheist, Leszek Kolakowski, one of the great minds of the modern era, turned into Marxism’s most perceptive opponent, and one with a profound respect for religion.

His intellectual life started in the misery of Nazi-occupied Poland—he had to study in secret, mostly alone—and finished in one of the nicest places imaginable: Oxford’s All Souls College. In a university tailor-made for gifted misfits, Mr Kolakowski was happy: he was left alone to read, write, and, less often, talk. All Souls provided a glorious academic retreat: the only obligation is to dine there regularly. His distinctive hat, craggy features, idiosyncratic English and perspex walking stick established him as a landmark even in a city studded with oddities and treasures.

London Telegraph

Leszek Kolakowski, the Polish-born philosopher who died on Friday aged 81, began as an orthodox Marxist but moved towards "Marxist humanism" in the 1950s and 1960s, and was closely involved in the movement towards liberation that led, in 1956, to Poland's brief "October dawn"; later dismissed from the Communist Party, in 1968 he moved to the West, where he became a trenchant critic of Communism and its western apologists.
In an article published in 1975, he observed that the experience of Communism had shown that "the only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils – State ownership of the means of production – is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world – with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history".

 Leszek Kolakowski

New York Times

Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher who rejected Marxism and helped inspire the Solidarity movement in his native land while living in exile, died Friday in Oxford, England. He was 81.

Early in his life he embraced Communism as a reaction to the destruction inflicted upon his country by Nazism, greeting the Red Army as liberators after years of German oppression. But a trip to Moscow intended as a reward for promising young Marxist intellectuals proved instead to be a turning point, exposing for him what he described as “the enormity of material and spiritual desolation caused by the Stalinist system.”
His most influential work, the three-volume “Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution,” published in the 1970s, was a history and critique that called the philosophy “the greatest fantasy of our century.” He argued that Stalinism was not a perversion of Marxist thought, but rather its natural conclusion.
Mr. Kolakowski published more than 30 books in a career spanning more than five decades. He was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honor, and the MacArthur Foundation fellowship known widely as the genius grant.

In 2003 he became the first recipient of the United States Library of Congress’s $1 million John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences, given in fields where there are no Nobel Prizes. In announcing the prize, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, noted not only Mr. Kolakowski’s scholarship but also his “demonstrable importance to major political events in his own time,” adding that “his voice was fundamental for the fate of Poland, and influential in Europe as a whole.”

George Weigel

Just as unforgettable, though, was the walk I took with Leszek the next day. A kind of tent city had been set up at one end of Red Square, full of poor people from the countryside who had come to Moscow to ask for redress of their various grievances, many of which were displayed on crudely fashioned homemade posters. The exquisite sensitivity with which the great philosophical pathologist of Marxism engaged one after another of these sad souls -- listening carefully, offering words of encouragement -- bespoke a decency and a capacity for human solidarity that was nothing short of inspiring.
Another colleague and I decided to spend a few free hours exploring the Kremlin, and we enlisted as guide and translator a bright young Russian who had been hanging around the hotel lobby, obviously looking to practice his English. He took us to one of the newly restored cathedrals inside the Kremlin walls, where we soon found ourselves standing before a brilliant fresco of the Last Supper. There was no doubt that it was the Last Supper; it couldn't have been anything else. Yet this obviously intelligent young Russian looked at us and said, "Please tell me: who are those men and what are they doing?"

That was what 70 years of Marxism had done to a generation: it had lobotomized them culturally. Leszek Kolakowski's philosophical project was a long, rigorous, deeply humane protest against that kind of spiritual vandalism. Kolakowski knew that European civilization was built on the foundations of biblical religion, Greek philosophy, and Roman law. It was built, that is, on the conviction that life is not just one damn thing after another; a robust confidence in the human capacity to get to the truth of things; and a settled determination to order societies by means other than sheer coercion. Leszek Kolakowski's defense of the civilization of the West against the barbarism he was convinced was inherent in the Marxist enterprise was an impressive intellectual accomplishment. It was also the accomplishment of a noble soul.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 PM | Permalink

July 31, 2009

Martyred and Murdered

From TehranBureau

Photos and brief bios of some of the people who died in the post-fraudulent election showdown in Iran

Martyred and Murdered


This is the grave of Neda Agha Soltan shot on the street by a sniper, when all she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted.

Her death, captured on camera and shown around the world, showed the true face of the current regime and inspired some Iranian artists and poets.


40 Days Ago We Died

 I Am Neda

I am Neda

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 PM | Permalink

July 29, 2009

Letter to my children

Whittaker Chambers , an American writer and editor, was once a Communist party member and Soviet spy.  After he  renounced communism, he became an outspoken opponent and became most famous or infamous for his testimony against Alger Hiss ten years later, a U.S. State Department employee whom he accused of being a Soviet spy. 

In 1952, Chambers's book Witness was published to widespread acclaim. The book was a combination of autobiography, an account of his role in the Hiss case and a warning about the dangers of Communism and liberalism. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called it one of the greatest of all American autobiographies, and Ronald Reagan credited the book as the inspiration behind his conversion from a New Deal Democrat to a conservative Republican.

President Reagan awarded Chambers posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to "the century's epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism.

The excerpts below is a letter to his beloved children, from the forward to Witness.

I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists? How did it happen that you, our gentle and loved father, were once a Communist? Were you simply stupid? No, I was not stupid. Were you morally depraved? No, I was not morally depraved. Indeed, educated men become Communists chiefly for moral reasons. Did you not know that the crimes and horrors of Communism are inherent in Communism? Yes, I knew that fact. Then why did you become a Communist? It would help more to ask: How did it happen that this movement, once a mere muttering of political outcasts, became this immense force that now contests the mastery of mankind? Even when all the chances and mistakes of history are allowed for, the answer must be: Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.
The revolutionary heart of Communism is not the theatrical appeal: "Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain." It is a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: "Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world."
How did you break with Communism? My answer is: Slowly, reluctantly, in agony. Yet my break began long before I heard those screams. Perhaps it does for everyone. I do not know how far back it began. Avalanches gather force and crash, unheard, in men as in the mountains. But I date my break from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. It was shortly before we moved to Alger Hiss's apartment in Washington. My daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I liked to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the Hoor. My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear-those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: "No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design." The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.
The crisis of Communism exists to the degree in which it has failed to free the peoples that it rules from God. Nobody knows this better than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which it is indifferent to God. It exists to the degree in which the Western world 'actually shares Communism's materialist vision, is so dazzled by the logic of the materialist interpretation of history, politics and economics, that it fails to grasp that, for it, the only possible answer to the Communist challenge: Faith in God or Faith in Man? is the challenge: Faith in God.
My dear children, before I close this foreword, I want to recall to you briefly the life that we led in the ten years between the time when I broke with Communism and the time when I began to testify-the things we did, worked for, loved, believed in. For it was that happy life, which, on the human side, in part made it possible for me to do later on the things I had to do, or endure the things that happened to me.

Those were the days of the happy little worries, which then seemed so big
The farm was your kingdom, and the world lay far beyond the protecting walls thrown up by work and love.
Thus, as children, you experienced two of the most important things men ever know-the wonder of life and the wonder of the universe, the wonder of life within the wonder of the universe. More important, you knew them not from books, not from lectures, but simply from living among them.

via American Digest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

John Barry, R.I.P.

New York Times  John S. Barry, Main Force Behind WD-40, Dies at 84

John S. Barry, an executive who masterminded the spread of WD-40, the petroleum-based lubricant and protectant created for the space program, into millions of American households, died on July 3 in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. He was 84.
The company says surveys show that WD-40, the slippery stuff in the blue and yellow aerosol can, can be found in as many as 80 percent of American homes and that it has at least 2,000 uses, most discovered by users themselves. These include silencing squeaky hinges, removing road tar from automobiles and protecting tools from rust.

Mr. Barry was not part of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953, when its staff of three set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry in a small lab in San Diego. It took them 40 attempts to work out the water displacement formula. The name WD-40 stands for “water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt.”
Under Mr. Barry’s leadership, annual sales increased from $2 million in 1970 to $91 million in 1990. WD-40 reported sales of $317 million in 160 countries in its most recent fiscal year.

 John Barry

"You only need two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn't, use the tape".  Clint Eastwood says it best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2009

Henry Allingham at 113, R.I.P.

The oldest man in the world,  Air Mechanic Henry Allingham , British Veteran of World War I died on Saturday aged 113, in his sleep.

John Burns writes the most lyrical obit in the New York Times

An iconic figure to many in Britain, Mr. Allingham did wartime service including stints on land, in the air and at sea. In 1915, he flew as an observer and gunner in the Royal Naval Air Service, hunting zeppelins over the North Sea. He was aboard one of the Royal Navy ships that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, in which Britain lost 14 ships and 6,000 seamen.

He transferred to the western front in France the following year, where he was a mechanic transferred by the naval air service to the Royal Flying Corps, again flying as an observer and a gunner in sorties over the battlefields of the Somme. In later life, he recalled his time in the Somme trenches as the most searing of all his wartime memories.

He described standing in water up to his armpits, surrounded by the smell of mud and rotting flesh. “I saw too many things I would like to forget, but I will never forget them, I can never forget them,” he said.
Snowy-haired and bowed with age, Mr. Allingham carried a wreath of poppies on his lap at the remembrance ceremonies last November. Insisting he lay the wreath himself, he was wheeled forward to the plinth of the Cenotaph, the memorial to Britain’s war dead near Britain’s Defense Ministry, and was assisted by a military aide in placing the wreath.

 Allingham Wwi Vet

For many years, according to family members, he buried his wartime memories, avoiding reunions and refusing even to discuss his experiences with his family.

But as he grew older, he relented, at least as far as agreeing to appear and speak in public. Even then, he continued to resist all efforts to depict him as a hero. On a visit to the Somme in 2006, he was asked how he wanted to be remembered. “I don’t,” he said. “I want to be forgotten. Remember the others.”
London Telegraph

With a clear mind until his own death, Allingham could recall the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Wright brothers' first flight, and seeing WG Grace bat at the Oval in July 1903 – when he scored 15 and 19 in each innings.
He would attribute his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women" then add that there had only been one woman for him – his beloved wife, who died in 1970.
His experience of the trenches came was when he was looking to salvage spares from the remains of aircraft that had been shot down. "We were moving forward at night," he would recall. "I was very apprehensive. It was dark. One of those nights you got where the night time seems to surround you. There were booby traps everywhere."

Suddenly his foothold gave way: "I fell into a shell hole. It was full of arms, legs, ears, dead rats – a lot of dead, rotten flesh. I was up to my armpits in water. I can't describe the smell of flesh and mud mixed up together. I turned to my left, and that's what saved me. It got shallower to the left, and I was able to lift myself out of the water. I lay there in the dark, not daring to move, cold and with my uniform stinking. I was frightened. I was scared. I was so relieved when it finally got light and I could move."

Despite such a gruesome experience, Allingham counted himself fortunate: "I think I had an angel hanging over my shoulders. I still do, I hope."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, R.I.P.

 Farrah Fawcett

For so long, she was such an icon of glowing health with her million dollar smile and tousled hair that every girl wanted and so did every guy, that it was shocking to learn that she had cancer.  Now she's dead at 52.

Farrah Fawcett, the blonde-maned actress whose best-selling poster and "Charlie's Angels" stardom made her one of the most famous faces in the world, died Thursday. She was 62....Ryan O'Neal, Fawcett's romantic partner since the mid-1980s, and her friend Alana Stewart were with Fawcett at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, when she died.
New York Times obituary

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Fawcett’s cancer battle was played out in public, generating enormous interest worldwide. Her face, often showing the ravages of cancer, became a tabloid fixture, and updates on her health became staples of television entertainment news.

In May, that battle was chronicled in a prime-time NBC documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” some of it shot with her own home video recorder. An estimated nine million people viewed it. Ms. Fawcett had initiated the project with a friend, the actress Alana Stewart, after she first learned of her cancer.

 Farrah-Fawcett Poster

Ms. Fawcett’s career was a patchwork of positives and negatives, fine dramatic performances on television and stage as well as missed opportunities.

She first became famous when a poster of her in a red bathing suit, leonine mane flying, sold more than twice as many copies as posters of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable combined. No poster like it has achieved anywhere near its popularity since, and, arriving before the Internet era, in which the most widely disseminated images are now digital, it may have been the last of its kind.
The poster that ignited Ms. Fawcett’s career was shot at the Bel Air home she shared with Mr. Majors. “She was just this sweet, innocent, beautiful young girl,” said Bruce McBroom, who took the photograph. Searching for a backdrop to Ms. Fawcett in her one-piece red swimsuit (which she chose instead of a bikini because of a childhood scar on her stomach), he grabbed an old Navajo blanket from the front seat of his 1937 pickup.
Ms. Fawcett herself described her career succinctly. “I became famous,” she said in her 1986 Times interview, “almost before I had a craft.”

The Guardian has the best obituary by far.
Fawcett herself recognised this when she commented about Charlie's Angels, the crime-busting TV series that made her a star: "When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra."

Consequently, Fawcett was mostly given roles where her trend-setting hairstyle was the most dramatic part of the film. However, when she was later offered meatier parts, she proved herself up to the task, and was nominated for three Emmy awards and five Golden Globes, though the juries always held back from giving her the actual prize.

The Telegraph
In the 1980s Farrah Fawcett bravely tried to reassert herself as a serious actress — no easy task with her teeth still gleaming on several million bedsit walls — and took hard-edged parts in made-for-television films.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2009


Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old student of philosophy, became known around the world in a matter of hours through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube because a video captured her death on a street in Tehran

 Nadia Falls

Neda falls in the street, shot in the heart by a Basiji sniper.  She is laid down by her companions when blood begins pouring from her mouth then across her face and it becomes clear that, in a matter of moments, she is dead  The very graphic YouTube video is here.

Some 19 people were killed on June 20, but Neda is the one who has come to symbolize the crisis in Iran. One university student describes the difference between the generations, How Neda Divided My Family.

Neda’s name means “voice” in Farsi. Even though she has been silenced by a Basiji bullet, her death has given new voice to our generation’s demand for reform. Our parents may not understand it yet, but soon they will have to come to terms with the fact that our voices are the future. They can no longer make decisions for their children—or for the Iranian nation yet to come.

 Neda-Agha-Soltan Dying

photos from LA Times

In an interview with the BBC, her fiancee said (scroll down to 1:03 pm)
Neda was not a firm backer of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad -- she simply "wanted freedom and freedom for all."

From the LA Times, an a obituary for the young woman as Family, friends mourn Iranian woman whose death was caught on video

Her friends say Panahi, Neda and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m. After stepping out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. Within a blink of the eye, he realized Neda had collapsed to the ground.

"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet."

Blood poured out of the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.

"I'm burning, I'm burning!" he recalled her saying, her final words.

Neda in an undated photo

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.

"All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted."

 Neda's Photo Dying Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2009

Domestic jihadist murders U.S. soldier in Little Rock, Arkansas

Private William Long, newly out of basic training was on a short-term assignment as a military recruiter,  was shot three times and killed outside the Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock Arkansas by a domestic jihadist who also wounded another soldier.

The alleged killer Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23,  was born in Tennessee as Carlos Leon Bledsoe and converted to Islam as a teen-ager.  He just opened fire on the soldiers with an SKS assault rifle and he said he fully intended to kill them, in fact, he would have killed more if he could, he told police.

From Maggie's Notebook
He had been under FBI investigation - - the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force - since he returned from a trip to Yemen.
He was carrying a false Somali passport and was arrested at that time. The same report says Muhammad had "ties to a number of global locations linked to extremists, including Yemen, Somalia and Columbus, OH..

Atlas Shrugs reports that he was arrested for serious weapons possession and gun running, but prosecutors filed only a single charge that was dismissed four months later.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the suspect said he didn't think the shooting was murder because U.S. military action in the MIddle East made the killing justified- "Islamic justified".

"I do feel I'm not guilty," Abdulhakim Muhammad told The Associated Press in a collect call from the Pulaski County jail. "I don't think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason...what I did is Islamic justified"

"Yes, I did tell the police upon my arrest that this was an act of retaliation, and not a reaction on the soldiers personally," Muhammad said. He called it "a act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the world, and also a retaliation on U.S. military."

Private Long was laid to rest as a Soldier, Hero


The day before he died, U.S. Army Pvt. William Andrew "Andy" Long floated the Buffalo River with his sister, Vanessa Rice. If he had his way, she said, the pair would have gone skydiving.

"I'm so blessed to have had that day with Andy," Rice tearfully told guests at her brother's funeral Monday at Harlan Park Baptist Church in Conway. "My brother meant the world to me. Andy loved to be outdoors, to travel, and he couldn't wait to get to Korea to serve his country."

The service was followed by a burial with full military honors Monday at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.


Pastor Johnny Harrington of Long's church, Sunny Gap Baptist Church in Conway, praised Long's commitment to the Army and recent appointment to the Army's Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program in Little Rock. He said Long is a fourth-generation armed services member. Long's father, Daris Long, is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps.

"No one is more military, no one is more patriotic than this family right here," Harrington said. "Military runs through their hearts and their blood. No one is more dedicated to it than they, and I know that they couldn't be prouder of Andy and his desire to serve his country.

"I asked Daris what's the one word he'd use to describe Andy, and he said two: soldier and hero."

Private Long's father was at work when he got the call; his mother was in the center's parking lot waiting to give their son a ride home.  She heard the shots.

Most moving of all is the interview of Darius Long, father of the slain soldier, gracious and grateful in his grief.  (HT Ace).    My condolences to all his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2009

"He was a voice for Christ among the poor."

Killed on Mission: An Oblate "Saint"

long known for "taking risks" to aid those in need, Oblate of Mary Immaculate Fr Larry Rosebaugh was shot and killed in a carjacking last week in Guatemala, where he lived and worked with the poor for the better part of three decades.

Rosebaugh lived through two civil wars, and most of his days were marked by the violence of the Latin America slums where he worked, ate and slept. And yet his life was dedicated to nonviolence and peace. For those who loved Rosebaugh, that made the end of his life all the more poignant.

Linking Rosebaugh's murder to his political advocacy for the poor came naturally for those who knew the skinny, soft-spoken, bespectacled man, who sported thrift-store clothes and a huge, bushy white beard, and whose life thoroughly blended the political and the holy.

"He was driven by his desire to be with the poor," said Mary Lou Pedersen, a friend from Chicago. "That's where he wanted to be and that's where he went."

Among tributes to Rosebaugh came one from his Oblate confrere and seminary classmate, now Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

The murdered priest's work "was not just philanthropy," the USCCB chief told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

"He was a voice for Christ among the poor."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

Msgr William Kerr died while preaching a sermon

Matthew of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping delivers the sad news that Msgr William Kerr who baptized him in 1983, was felled by a massive stroke while in the pulpit last week at the co-cathedral of St. Thomas More. 

There is a fascinating connection to Ted Bundy, the story of which you click the link to read.  I want to focus on his last remarkable and unfinished homily.

Today, I want to share with you an anniversary that is important to me. I speak of the anniversary of my ordination as a deacon and of my first assignment. On my way to receiving that first assignment, I stopped by the chapel to go over my resume with God. This was in St. Louis and ten parishes and a hospital were to be assigned to deacons. I told God, "I would do well in a parish. You know I'm not good with hospitals."

After that, I stepped over to the bishop's office. I met with the bishop and received my assignment – it was the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately directed to the burn unit. This particular hospital was famous for its burn unit and very gravely injured burn patients were brought here. I learned that the chaplain was out for the day and I was faced with this daunting task without any instructions. It was the doctor and me. He advised me to look in the patients' eyes and not at their disfiguring injuries.

My first patient was a young man who had been burned by an explosion. He was in critical condition. This young man, who came to have a tremendous influence on my life, worked in a factory. He had been tasked with picking up rags and spent containers. He disposed of them in an incinerator. This was a chemical factory and unfortunately the containers held chemicals that exploded, seriously burning him in the process.

His name was Michael, Michael Anderson, and he said, "'Father,'" (he called me 'Father,') I always wanted to be a priest, and now I won't get to – so I am offering my suffering to strengthen you in your ministry.

Amazed and almost at a loss for words, I said to him, "Now, Michael, we will get through this, together." But Michael, who probably had a better sense of his situation than I did, responded by insisting he would offer his suffering for me and my ministry.

Next to Michael was another patient who was well known in the area. He heard Michael's conversation with me and told him to put in a good word for him in heaven.

The doctor told me it was important for the patients to scream, to help them relieve their agonizing pain. But Michael never screamed. He held his suffering to himself until he died.

During the next few hours, I got to know Michael. The singular circumstances of our meeting led to friendship, and a special bond between us. And, over the course of my life, I have repeatedly felt that bond and that friendship. Many times I have asked Michael to pray for me to strengthen me in my ministry.

I often think about the priceless blessings I received from being assigned to that hospital and from meeting Michael. God knows us and he knows where we belong, even if we do not know ourselves. We must pray… we must pray…Michael…

R.I.P. Requiescat in pace

A.P. Obit

Whether he was visiting refugees in Rwanda or Bosnia or sharing Thanksgiving dinner each year with his longtime friend Roger Staubach , the former Dallas Cowboys and Navy star quarterback, Kerr touched lives, his friends say.

"He was as good a person as you would ever want to meet," Staubach told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "He was always dedicated to others."

Post-Gazette Obit

Monsignor William Kerr, a former president of La Roche College whose pursuit of peace touched presidents and prisoners, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke May 3 during Mass in a Florida cathedral. He was 68.
When serial killer Ted Bundy murdered two women and severely injured two others in a sorority house in 1978, Monsignor Kerr was called to give last rites. Mr. Bundy sought counseling from Monsignor Kerr, who last visited him two days before his 1989 execution.

By then, Monsignor Kerr had spent five years as vice president for university relations at Catholic University. In 1992 he became president of La Roche.

"Under his leadership, La Roche College was transformed from a regional coeducational, liberal arts college into a global community of learners with a burgeoning international presence," said Sister Candace Introcaso, the current president.
"For a man who gave his life to the church delivering the word, that's a pretty sweet way to go," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2009

Jack Kemp R.I.P.

David Goldman's appreciation in First Things

Former vice-presidential candidate, congressman, and Housing secretary, he was the most improbable and the most important hero of the Reagan Revolution after the Gipper himself. Without Jack’s true-believer’s passion for tax cuts as a remedy for the stagflation of the 1970s, Reagan would not have staked his presidency on an untested and controversial theory.
It was impossible to be cynical in Jack’s vicinity. He radiated sincerity and optimism. Corny as it sounds, Jack was the real thing, an all-American true believer in this country and in the capacity of its people to overcome any obstacle once given the chance.

Jack was a leader who loved his country and put it before personal gain. When he left office he had the equity in his house and not much else. But he had four children, including two sons who played professional football, and seventeen grandchildren. By the time I got to know him he was full time on the lecture circuit, putting his family finances in order before joining the Washington thinktank Empower America. He considered a run for president in 1996 but deferred to Steve Forbes, then running as the tax-cutting candidate. His outstanding career as a Republican leader was coming to an end, but what a glorious run it was.

A devout Christian, Jack made far more of a difference than an ex-quarterback with a physical education degree from Occidental College had a right to. He earned our gratitude not only for what he accomplished, but for what he proved about the character of the United States.


New York Times obit

Jack Kemp, the former football star turned congressman who with an evangelist’s fervor moved the Republican Party to a commitment to tax cuts as the central focus of economic policy, died Saturday evening at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.

Mr. Kemp was an unlikely leader for a political cause based on a theory of economics. He had majored in physical education while playing football at Occidental College in Los Angeles. When he entered politics, many Washington veterans dismissed him as a “dumb jock,” and as a junior House member in 1977, he did not even serve on the tax-writing Committee on Ways and Means.
Mr. Kemp had also convinced Bill Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, that the issue was political gold. “He said, in effect, we need to restore the essence of our party, which is growth, which is jobs, which is creativity,” Mr. Brock said in an interview this year. “And the way to do that is to free people of the burden of excessive taxes.”
“Jack Kemp is the indispensable political leader of the modern conservative economic revival,” Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution in Washington, said recently, adding, “Jack’s role in developing and exploring the potential of supply-side economics in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for Reagan’s economic program.”

Quarterback Jack

Kemp was an autodidact. He focused on sports in his early life, becoming quarterback of the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL. Yet he nourished a nascent interest in politics by reading, reading, reading — WFB, Ayn Rand, economics, history. He honored ideas with the fervor of a young lover. His second passion, equal to his devotion to tax cuts, was his concern for black advancement. This was part conviction, part experience: As his friend Newt Gingrich liked to say, Jack had showered with people that most Republicans never meet. Kemp believed that the party of Lincoln had to regain its role as the champion of black America. The welfare state had not completed the civil-rights revolution; free-enterprise programs targeted at the inner city (such as enterprise zones) would do the trick instead.
Churchill said that being with FDR was like having a glass of champagne. Being with Jack Kemp was like chugging a can of Red Bull. How could someone so alive be gone? And yet it is so. R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2009

From a 7-year-old girl, a great legacy

From the Anchoress, a 7 year old's incredible legacy

That was Catie O’Brien, 7, then a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where she was undergoing treatment for a rare type of pediatric cancer called Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor. After her diagnosis last June, Catie spent most of the latter half of 2008 in the hospital’s care. She returned home to Mechanicsburg, Pa., in December after doctors discovered her tumor was back, despite aggressive radiation, chemotherapy and stem-cell recovery treatments.

Catie died Jan. 25, surrounded by family, including parents Kevin and Christine and five siblings, all members of St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg. The last two months of her life were jam-packed with holiday celebrations and a family trip to the waters in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The little girl’s dying wish, according to Kevin, was for her friends and family to raise enough money to cover all of the operating costs for St. Jude Hospital for one day a year in her name, preferably her April 23 birthday.

“That was her wish,” Kevin said. “After she had found out that her tumor had come back, she wanted to leave a legacy.”
As of last week, Kevin reported that donors had already contributed $930,000 toward her first $1.4 million birthday present.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

April 27, 2009

"In the Green Room to the River Styx"

Christopher Buckley on Growing Up the Only Child of the Charismatic and Complicated Buckleys

One realization does dawn upon the death of the second parent, namely that you’ve now moved into the green room to the River Styx. You’re next. Another thing about parental mortality: No matter how much you’ve prepared for the moment, when it comes, it comes at you hot, hard and unrehearsed.

This excerpt in the New York Times Magazine is part of Chris Buckley's New Book "Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir"

 Losing Mum And Pup

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2009

Taking Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

March 1, 2009

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

ABC News - Radio Legend Paul Harvey Dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Post , Beloved Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey Dies at 90

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2009

"Have We Mourned Like This Before?"

Rocco Palmo over at Whispers in the Loggia has the story of the funeral of Seoul's Cardinal Stephen Kim.

The first Korean cardinal, Kim -- who led the Seoul church for three decades, watching it grow sixfold in the process -- died Monday at 86. Including the country's current and former presidents, some 400,000 mourners of all faiths were said to have filed past his coffin over its four-day lying in state in the city's Myeongdong Cathedral.

Hailed as a "true guiding light" and the last "reliable leader in Korean society" despite the church's minority status -- around 15% of South Korea's 38 million citizens are Catholic -- the outpouring of reaction at the cardinal's death moved one newspaper to lead its coverage with a headline asking "Have We Mourned Like This Before?"

Religious leaders from Protestantism, Buddhism, Won-Buddhism and Cheondoism took up the first-row at the funeral Mass.

As one editorial said
The mourning transcended age, social status and political ideology.

People gathered at the cathedral from 2 to 3 a.m., and by 6 a.m., when people were allowed in to pay their condolences, a line stretching for 3 km had already formed, while people continued to pour in until midnight when the cathedral closed its doors. Mourners had to wait three to four hours in the freezing cold, but there was no jostling, shouting or cutting in line. Rather, people yielded their spots to let the elderly go first.

A wise society uses the deaths of great people to mark the era that preceded that event and to prepare for the next one. The 58 years that transpired from 1951, when Cardinal Kim was ordained as a priest, until his death in 2009, were a microcosm of Korea’s history of trials and accomplishments, ranging from war and devastation, the division of a nation, dictatorship, industrialization and democratization to social polarization. Cardinal Kim embraced all Koreans living in such difficult times, consistently urging us to be patient. He told us that there is an end to pain. And in doing so, he gave us both courage and hope.

 Cardinal Kim Korea

To understand his Great Legacy, read Called Home from Korea

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2009

Eulogy for George Washington

Pat McNamara, a church historian, gives us the eulogy to the first president by the first Roman Catholic bishop, John Carroll.

The last act of his supreme magistracy was to inculcate in most impressive language on his countrymen… his deliberate and solemn advice; to bear incessantly in their minds that nations and individuals are under the moral government of an infinitely wise and just Providence; that the foundations of their happiness are morality and religion; and their union among themselves their rock of safety… May these United States flourish in pure and undefiled religion, in morality, peace, union, liberty, and the enjoyment of their excellent Constitution, as long as respect, honor, and veneration shall gather around the name of Washington; that is, whilst there still shall be any surviving record of human events!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2009

John Updike, R.I.P.

An American literary giant, John Updike died at 76, after a long bout with lung cancer.

 John Updike

New York Times obituary
, a "prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventure in the postwar prime of the American empire."

John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76. Updike, best known for his four ''Rabbit'' novels, died of lung cancer at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass., according to his longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir ''Self-Consciousness'' and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He released more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s, winning virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for ''Rabbit Is Rich'' and ''Rabbit at Rest,'' and two National Book Awards.  His settings ranged from the court of ''Hamlet'' to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb, the great new territory of mid-century fiction.

Born in 1932, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by ''penny-pinching parents,'' united by ''the patriotic cohesion of World War II'' and blessed by a ''disproportionate share of the world's resources,'' the postwar, suburban boom of ''idealistic careers and early marriages.''  He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation's confusion over the civil rights and women's movements, and opposition to the Vietnam War. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment.
Updike learned to write about everyday life by, in part, living it. In 1957, he left New York, with its ''cultural hassle'' and melting pot of ''agents and wisenheimers,'' and settled with his first wife and four kids in Ipswich, Mass, a ''rather out-of-the-way town'' about 30 miles north of Boston. ''The real America seemed to me 'out there,' too heterogeneous and electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that people used to come to New York to escape,'' Updike later wrote. ''There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange.''

An appreciation by Thomas Mallon

Perhaps the keenest compliment one can pay him as a man is to say that his life will make for a lousy biography: Just about no scandal; precious little feuding; almost no phony contretemps and posturing. He was deeply interested in sex and God, but more than anything he was interested in working—steadily and prodigiously. The Rabbit books, taken together, are the great American novel of the second half of the twentieth century. Even when he was through with them, he kept writing fiction as if, culturally, it still counted—as if it could still land a writer on the cover of Time. He loved his country, avoided political faddishness, was a devoted Democrat and got both of his national medals—one in the arts and another in the humanities—from Republican presidents.

In the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney eulogizes his "jeweled prose and quicksilver intellect"

"He was obviously among the best writers in the world," said David Remnick, editor the New Yorker, Mr. Updike's literary home for more than half a century.A master of many authorial trades, Mr. Updike was novelist, short story writer, critic, poet - and in each role as prolific as he was gifted. He aimed to produce a book a year. Easily meeting that goal, Mr. Updike published some 60 volumes.
Mr. Updike could be brilliant even about his own diligence, writing in his memoir "Self-Consciousness" (1989) of "my ponderously growing oeuvre, dragging behind me like an ever-heavier tail." Or there was the description of Fenway Park, "a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," in Mr. Updike's classic account of Ted Williams's final game, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."
Yet beneath the comfortableness of the affluent, suburban settings Mr. Updike most often wrote about, and the glittering surface of his prose, were profound and piercing concerns. One was an ongoing examination of his native land. "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy," he wrote in the 1980 story collection "Problems."

A link to his fabled essay "Hub fans bid Kid Adieu"

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg.
The affair between Boston and Ted Williams was no mere summer romance; it was a marriage composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories.

An interview last fall with Mark Brown of the London Telegraph

Among the many wise observations that John Updike has made in a career spanning more than 50 years, few can compare with his remark - made in his memoirs, Self-Consciousness - that 'Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face'.
This is how it goes with Updike. He is a ruminative man, fond of digression, whose conversation ambles through literature, politics, film, but who wears his erudition lightly - a rare combination of formidable intelligence and lightness of being, whose abiding sense is of astonishment and gratitude not only for being a successful author, but also for having the extreme good fortune to be an author at all.
Updike once described his task as a writer 'to give the mundane its beautiful due'....Family, Updike seems to be saying, is the point of it all. 'The genes living on… the tussle of family life, the clumsy accommodations and forgiveness of it, the comedy of membership of a club that has to take you in at the moment of birth.'
It is a fact of aging, he says, that life seems to grow lighter rather than heavier....

'Nothing seems to matter quite as much. I no longer think about death in the concentrated way I once did. I don't know… you get so old and you sort of give up in some way. You've had your period of angst, your period of religious desperation, and you've arrived at a philosophical position where you don't need, or you can't bear, to look at it.

'If you've had the Biblical three score and 10, and then a bit more on top of it - and I've already outlived my father - then you certainly should be content. As you get closer, as death becomes more real, so it becomes friendlier. I say this as a man who still wakes up at three in the morning horrified at my cosmic position. But in the daytime, sitting here, I'm able to see it.'

Update: A lovely vignette by David Pryce Jones

One fine summer day, I was walking home through the park. When I sat down on a bench, I noticed that the man already on it was wearing khaki fatigues and heavy combat boots. He had a huge notebook on his knee, and was writing in it in green ink, very very very carefully, one word at a time—a long pause, pen in air—and then one more word. The whole page was entirely free from erasures. This procedure was fascinating. I squinted in order to read what he could possibly be writing. It was pure vituperation against his wife and his marriage by someone staying in a Holiday Inn. I shrank away, and looked at this man next to me on the bench. He had a nose as shaped and individual as the nose of Federico di Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, in Piero della Francesca's magnificent portrait. The penny dropped. The boots and fatigues were misleading. I had had the privilege of catching John Updike in the midst of his astonishing method of composition. It happened that Updike had not long before reviewed very generously a book of mine. I was just working out how to introduce myself without seeming a Peeping Tom when a beautiful woman arrived, he folded his notebook and off they sauntered arm in arm under the evening sun. Oh, the style of the man and the writer!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

January 16, 2009

Sir John Mortimer, R.I.P.

Sir John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, dies at 85.    I loved Rumpole and consider his adaption of Brideshead Revisted, one of the greatest programs ever to be shown on television.

 Sir John Mortimer
From the National Portrait Gallery, by Mark Tillie

From the New York Times obituary

John Mortimer, barrister, author, playwright and creator of Horace Rumpole, the cunning defender of the British criminal classes...
Mr. Mortimer is known best in this country for creating the Rumpole character, an endearing and enduring relic of the British legal system who became a television hero of the courtroom comedy.

To read Rumpole, or watch the episodes is to enter not only Rumpole’s stuffy flat or crowded legal chambers, but to feel the itch of his yellowing court wig and the flapping of his disheveled, cigar ash-dusted courtroom gown.

Rumpole spends his days quoting Keats and his nights quaffing claret at Pommeroy’s wine bar, putting off the time that he must return to his wife, Hilda, more commonly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Using his wit and low-comedy distractions, Rumpole sees that justice is done, more often than not by outsmarting the ‘’old sweethearts” and “old darlings” of the bench and revealing the inner good — or at least integrity and inconsistency — of the accused, including clans like the Timsons, whose crimes have kept generations of police officers busy.
Mr. Mortimer also adapted Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” for television, years after he became enthralled with the book as a young man. Somehow, despite the demands of his chosen careers, a “schizoid business of being a writer who had barristering as a day job,” Mr. Mortimer also found time to pursue his lifelong interest in women, do some writing for newspapers and keep up the garden nurtured by his father, whose outsized shadow remained with him all his life.
“Dying is a matter of slapstick and pratfalls,” he wrote in “The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully” (2000). “The aging process is not gradual or gentle. It rushes up, pushes you over and runs off laughing. No one should grow old who isn’t ready to appear ridiculous.”

U.K. Telegraph obituary

Sir John's agent, Anthony Jones, said: "He died at home, surrounded by his family. He had been unwell for some time."

A trained lawyer, Sir John drew on his experience to create Rumpole, the shambolic barrister who became one of the best-loved characters on British television. His extensive writing career included the acclaimed adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981. He was knighted in 1998.

Sir John had four children from his two marriages, including the actress, Emily Mortimer. In 2004, it emerged that he had a another child, of whom he never knew, by the actress Wendy Craig. Their son was the product of an affair in the early 1960s. Although the discovery came as a shock, he professed himself "very happy" with the news.

Although wheelchair-bound towards the end of his life, Sir John gleefully defied health edicts and continued to enjoy fine wine and good living, beginning each day with a glass of champagne for breakfast.

In one of his last interviews, given in July 2008, he said: "I drink brandy and soda, and I don't eat a meal without drinking white wine. I've smoked all my life and, although I'd given up a bit, I now force myself to smoke because of the ban."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

Patrick McGoohan R.I.P.

 Parick Mcgoohan

Obituary Boston Globe

Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show "The Prisoner," has died. He was 80.

Mr. McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said.

Mr. McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama "Columbo" and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film "Braveheart."

But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small enclave known only as the Village, where a mysterious authority named Number One constantly prevents his escape.

Mr. McGoohan came up with the concept and wrote and directed several episodes of the show, which has kept a devoted following in the United States and Europe for four decades.

"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy, and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our reimagining of 'The Prisoner.' "

"Arrows cost money, Use up the Irish"  from Big Hollywood

McGoohan was married to the same woman for 57 years, and included in the contract for his first TV series, “Danger Man,” three special clauses: 1) no kissing, 2) each fight had to be different, and 3) his character must always try to use his brains before resorting to a gun.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 AM | Permalink

January 10, 2009

John Pryor, R.I.P.

A Hero in Scrubs

JOHN Pryor would have frowned at all the attention

John Pryor

Like so many truly good men, he was humble. While so many athletes and movie stars give little and claim much, he gave life with his hands and claimed nothing in return.

This was a person you encounter once or twice in a lifetime if you're lucky. Fortunately, many Philadelphians were.

And because they had the privilege of knowing him, they gathered at the cathedral this week to mourn. But, mostly, they were there to celebrate a luminous soul that burned brightly among them all too briefly.
Pryor was the leader of the trauma team at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he'd worked since 1999.

He was married to Carmela, a pediatrician, and they had three young children. He was from Albany, N.Y., a Boy Scout, a Catholic, a teacher, a soldier. A healer. A man who would have laughed at the idea of being thought special, but who was clearly better than most of us will ever be.

After the Twin Towers crashed on 9/11, he rushed to New York and worked through the night at Ground Zero. He wanted to be in the thick of it, healing wounds and grieving for those he couldn't save.

He wasn't a mere observer but the most compassionate of participants. He was also angered by the carnage in Philadelphia, having watched too many young men die "without honor, without purpose, for no country, for no one," as he wrote in a poignant essay in the Washington Post.

He joined the Army Reserve Medical Corps and went to Iraq in 2006, and then again on Dec. 6, to care for those who, contrary to the fallen in our own streets, did have honor, purpose and country.

He was killed by an enemy mortar on Christmas Day. He was 42.

His funeral filled the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

Father Richard John Neuhaus, R. I. P.

Joseph Bottum quite movingly announced the death of Fr. Neuhaus.

Our great, good friend is gone.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather, for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

New York Times obit by Laurie Goodstein

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a theologian who transformed himself from a liberal Lutheran leader of the civil rights and antiwar struggles in the 1960s to a Roman Catholic beacon of the neoconservative movement of today, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 72 and lived in Manhattan.
Father Neuhaus’s best-known book, “The Naked Public Square,” argued that American democracy must not be stripped of religious morality. Published in 1984, it provoked a debate about the role of religion in affairs of state and was embraced by the growing Christian conservative movement.

In the last 20 years, Father Neuhaus helped give evangelical Protestants and Catholics a theological framework for joining forces in the nation’s culture wars.

The Associated Press
A native of Canada and the son of a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus began his own work as a Lutheran minister at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church in a predominantly African-American Brooklyn neighborhood. He was active in the civil rights movement and other liberal causes. In 1964, he joined the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan as the first co-chairmen of the anti-war group Clergy Concerned About Vietnam.  But he eventually broke with the left, partly over the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

In 1990, he converted to Catholicism and a year later was ordained by New York Cardinal John O'Connor.  "I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others," he wrote.

 Richard John Neuhaus

Father Raymond de Souza on Neuhaus as a Catholic intellectual.

With the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus on Jan. 8, the Catholic Church lost one of its greatest public intellectuals, a theologian who brought the light of the Gospel to the world of public life.

More than that, though, Father Neuhaus made possible a new world of intellectual engagement with the culture.

By the 1990s, Father Neuhaus had, along with his friends George Weigel and Michael Novak, wrought a sea change in Catholic intellectual life. With the obvious favor of Pope John Paul II, Father Neuhaus and his colleagues articulated a new, confident Catholicism which sought less to adapt to the secular culture as it did to challenge it with a fresh application of the Catholic tradition

A few months before his reception into the Catholic Church, Richard John Neuhaus launched a new journal, First Things, which became the most prominent and influential “journal of religion and public life” in America.

Read by religious leaders both Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, influential figures in theology, law and politics, and bright students in universities all over, First Things made widely available the thought of its editor in chief, but also a whole cadre of established Catholic thinkers: Avery Dulles, George Weigel, Mary Ann Glendon, Russell Hittinger, as well as new voices such as the current editor, Jody Bottum.

A generation of orthodox, engaged Christian writers was launched by First Things.

‘First Blog’

Yet, it remains true that for most readers, the first thing about First Things was Father Neuhaus himself, who pioneered in print what today might be called the first blog.

Death on a Thursday Morning by the editors of the National Review

Richard John Neuhaus, who died earlier today in New York, was the most influential Catholic and Christian theologian and writer in America during the second half of the 20th century. His influence can be compared to that of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, with one important distinction: Fulton Sheen exercised his sway over the public directly, through his radio and television sermons. Father Neuhaus did so less directly, through his books and articles, through his editorship of two important magazines devoted to religion and politics, through his friendship with Pope John Paul II, and through his impact on other theologians both in the Catholic Church and in other Christian congregations. Partly for those reasons, however, Neuhaus’s influence is likely to be the deeper, longer-lasting and more extensive one.

Neuhaus began his adult life as a Canadian, a left-winger, and a Lutheran. He never lost his love for his country of birth — he spent six weeks of every year vacationing, reading, and reflecting in the Quebec countryside — his respect for a liberalism shaped by charity, or his admiration for the Lutheran tradition. He became nonetheless an American, a conservative, and a Catholic. And from these three conversions he forged for himself a distinctive religious identity that was conservative and generous, traditional and open, charitable and — yes — combative.

Reflections by Raymond Arroyo in the Wall St Journal
Of his work with Martin Luther King Jr., he once wrote that God "used his most unworthy servant Martin to create in our public life a luminous moment of moral truth about what Gunnar Myrdal rightly called 'the America dilemma,' racial justice. It seems a long time ago now, but there is no decline in the frequency of my thanking God for his witness and for having been touched, however briefly, by his friendship, praying that he may rest in peace, and that his cause may yet be vindicated."
And though he enjoyed a series of presidential appointments, in the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administration, he never lost sight of his role as a priest. He would write: "Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2008

He threw his life away for God

Avery Cardinal Dulles, R.I.P.

New York Times obit

Cardinal Avery Dulles, a scion of diplomats and Presbyterians who converted to Roman Catholicism, rose to pre-eminence in Catholic theology and became the only American theologian ever appointed to the College of Cardinals, died today died Friday morning at Fordham University in the Bronx. He was 90. ..

Cardinal Dulles, a professor of religion at Fordham University for the last 20 years, was a prolific author and lecturer and an elder statesman of Catholic theology in America. He was also the son of John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the nephew of Allen Dulles, who guided European espionage during World War II and later directed the Central Intelligence Agency.
His spiritual passage to Catholicism was like a fable. A young scholar with a searching mind, he stirred from his establishment Presbyterian family to face questions of faith and dogma. By the time he entered Harvard in 1936, he was an agnostic.

In his second book, “A Testimonial to Grace,” a
1946 account of his conversion, Cardinal Dulles said his doubts about God on entering Harvard were not diminished by his studies of medieval art, philosophy and theology. But on a gray February day in 1939, strolling along the Charles River in Cambridge, he saw a tree in bud and experienced a profound moment.

The thought came to me suddenly, with all the strength and novelty of a revelation, that these little buds in their innocence and meekness followed a rule, a law of which I as yet knew nothing,” he wrote. “That night, for the first time in years, I prayed.”

His conversion in 1940, the year he graduated from Harvard, shocked his family and friends, he said, but he called it the best and most important decision of his life.

 Avery Cardinal Dulles

From a 2001 interview with Avery Cardinal Dulles by Michael Paulson in the Boston Globe. (He came to faith in my parish, St Paul's in Cambridge.)

Dulles, a brilliant student passionate about learning, found himself ravenously consuming the new works of French Catholic theologians, and one day he marched into a Catholic bookstore and asked, "How do I get into your church?"

Q. What drew you to Catholicism?

A. Perhaps it was the studies of the Reformation period. We had to read Luther and Calvin and the decrees of the Council and Trent and all those sorts of things, and I just found myself resonating with the Catholic positions in all those controversies, and also feeling that the culture of Europe was destroyed or ruptured by the Reformation in a way that was unfortunate. And then I discovered the Catholic Church as it existed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it was a very vital, vibrant thing. St. Paul's parish there - the liturgy was very well performed, and Sunday evening they were having benediction, they were all singing the hymns of Thomas Aquinas in Latin, and I said, `This is the church for me.'

Q. Your journey to Catholicism strikes me as having been more intellectual than spiritual.

A. I think that's probably true. I hope there was some spiritual aspect to it, but I've never had any great taste for what's called spirituality. I think it deals so much with emotions and feelings. I don't have many emotions or feelings. I tend to have ideas. I was interested in Catholicism ideally, intellectually. I was convinced that it was true. I was interested in truth.

His obituary by Joseph Bottum at First Things

By the time of death, from the after-effects of the polio that he had contracted during the war, Dulles had published more than 700 theological articles and 27 books, becoming, along the way, the most important American Catholic theologian of the twentieth century.
“Christian tradition is marked by a deep reverence for its own content, which it strives to protect against any dilution or distortion,”
he once wrote, and he saw that the purpose of theological writing is not intellectual surprise or verbal fireworks. It is, rather, “to impart a tacit, lived awareness of the God to whom the Christian Scriptures and symbols point.”

This anecodote comes from the London Timesonline 

After his consecration as a cardinal in Rome on February 21, 2001, the Gregorian University hosted a meal in his honor. Over the rattle of after-dinner coffee cups, various high-ranking ecclesial figures rose to praise Dulles’s life and work. The most revealing moment, however, may have come when, unexpectedly, one of his Dulles cousins stepped to the podium.  An aristocrat of that strange, old American variety — tall and puritanically thin, well but primly dressed, a daughter of stern Protestant New England — she explained that she had overheard as a child the outraged family discussions of the young Avery’s conversion. Uncle Allen, Aunt Eleanor, John Foster, all the senior family members gathered around to complain that the best and brightest of the family’s next generation seemed determined to throw his promising life away. “And, of course, they were right,” she said. “He did throw that life away. He threw it away for God.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2008

Quick bites of Goethe

As heirs to Western civilization, our common legacy as is so vast and so great, we can not take it all in.    At best, we dip into it from time to time, sometimes as a citizen when we vote or speak against the government without any fear ; sometimes as believers when we gather in faith communities to worship God without any thought that we may be endangering our lives.  Other times we are transported in a museum before a Renaissance painting or a Greek sculpture or in a symphony hall listening to Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.

But often we depend on others to communicate the greatness of someone long dead but whose legacy still nourishes minds and hearts.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was such a man. 

According to George Eliot, Goethe was "Germany's greatest man of letters. —poet, critic, playwright, and novelist—and the last true polymath to walk the earth."  I suppose he holds a similar position in the German imagination as Thomas Jefferson, another polymath, holds in the American imagination. 

 Goethe By Steiler, Karl Joseph

The Reader's Companion to World Literature says
Goethe comes as close to deserving the title of a universal genius as any man who has ever lived.  though he will be considered here as a man of letters, it is important to remember that he had an intelligent grasp of all the arts, that he successfully carried burdensome responsibilities as a public administrator, and that his scientific interests led him to make significant contributions to mineralogy, optics, comparative anatomy and plant morphology.

Today we look to bloggers who write about what they love.  Elizabeth Powers is the Goethe girl, a writer and literary scholar with a Ph.D in German literature and a consultant to the Metropolitan Museum.  She loves Goethe and has begun a blog Goethe Etc. that vibrates with sympathy with this great man and, like him, is interested and learned about many things. 

Maybe that's how we ordinary people can preserve Western civilization.  By writing about what we love and value, sharing our appreciation with the world and passing it on to the people we love.

Maybe we only have time for quick bites of what we most need - the accumulated wisdom of the past.  For me, quick bites are quotes and here are some:

On Character:  Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

On Courtesy: There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love.—From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior....There is no outward sign of true courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation.

On Happiness: The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and the beginning of his life.  One has only to grow older to become more tolerant. I see no fault that I might not have committed myself.

On Kindness: Kindness is the golden chain by which society  is bound  together.

On Life:  Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character. Life is the childhood of our immortality.

On Love: We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

On Immortality:  Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this.

On Architecture: I call architecture frozen music.

On Nature: Nature is the living, visible garment of God.

On Riches: Riches amassed in haste will diminish, but those collected by little and little will multiply.

On the Bible: It is a belief in the Bible, the fruit of deep meditation, which has served me as the guide of my moral and literary life.—I have found it a capital safely invested, and richly productive of interest.

And others I liked
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.

Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.

First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

November 3, 2008

He accomplished the American Drean

He started off as a window washer and later founded a maintenance company with his brother-in-law

Hyman Golden, Co-Founder of Snapple, Dies at 85

Then, in 1972, Mr. Marsh introduced Mr. Golden to Arnold Greenberg, a childhood friend who ran a health food store in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The three decided to join forces and founded a company — called Unadulterated Food Products — selling juices to health-food stores.

In 1980, the company introduced a line of all-natural juices with the Snapple name, which came from one of its first products, a carbonated apple juice that had a “snappy apple taste.”

“When it first came out,” Mr. Greenberg told The New York Times in July 1994, “we sold 500 cases. The next month we sold 500 more cases and got some calls from distributors. ‘You’ve changed your formula,’ they said. ‘This Snapple’s tasting better and better.’ Then one day in our warehouse the tops of the bottles started shooting off. Bang! Pop! We found out it was fermenting. We’d made Champagne.”

The company enjoyed modest success with its natural sodas in the early 1980s, but it was when it introduced its iced tea in 1987 that sales began to skyrocket. Amid a nationwide boom in health consciousness, Snapple became perhaps the only ready-to-drink iced tea promoted as having natural ingredients and being made from real brewed tea. Consumers increasingly chose it over its carbonated competitors.
By the time the company was purchased by Quaker Oats Company for about $1.7 billion in 1994, it had annual sales of $700 million, and its bottles of juices with their familiar blue-and-white logos could be found in delis, supermarkets, vending machines and homes across the country.

“He accomplished the American dream,” she said. “When he and his partners would get together for events and celebrations, their favorite song to sing was ‘God Bless America,’ because they were so appreciative.”

“In their wildest dreams,” she added, “they never thought that this would be the end result.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2008

Robert Furman

Scientific American on the death of Robert Furman, atom bomb spy leader, at 93

Robert Furman, a civil engineer who helped round up German scientists suspected of building the atomic bomb for the Nazis during World War II, has died. He was 93.

As chief of foreign intelligence for the U.S. bomb project in the last two years of the war, Furman coordinated the kidnapping of German scientists, including physicist Werner Heisenberg. Eventually, Heisenberg and nine other scientists were spirited out of Soviet reach and into a detention center in France called the Dustbin, according to the Times.

Under German sniper fire, Furman and his team also seized 31 tons of uranium ore in Belgium that was  eventually shipped to the U.S.

Furman worked closely with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez  to track down  German nuclear activity. They searched for “heavy water” – water containing a heavy isotope of hydrogen used in the making of bombs – in the Upper Rhine and Lake Constance between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Los Alamos lab historian emeritus Roger Meade told the Times.

Furman’s spy team, code-named Alsos, ultimately found that Germany’s bomb project wasn’t as advanced as the U.S. had believed. “Instead of being two years ahead, they were two years behind,” historian Robert S. Norris wrote in Racing for the Bomb, according to the Times.

New York Times obituary

Robert R. Furman, a former Army major who as chief of foreign intelligence for the American atomic bomb project in World War II coordinated and often joined harrowing espionage missions to kidnap German scientists, seize uranium ore in Europe and determine the extent of Nazi efforts to build the bomb, died Oct. 14 at his home in Adamstown, Md. He was 93.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2008

Dean Barnett R.I.P.

Dean Barnett, a well-known conservative columnist and blogger,  died too young at 41 but lived longer than he expected since he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. 

Living with a fatal disease can embitter one or make one more joyful for the life still left to live. Tributes around the blogosphere attest to Dean's joy and high spirits, great wit and good humor.

Boston Globe obit

"All his life he's been aware that he had this terminal disease but it never stopped him from doing everything and enjoying life to the fullest," his brother said. "Whether it was writing about politics, or working on his golf game, or spending time with friends and family."

"He very much enjoyed that he touched people, inspired people, provoked thoughts. It was perhaps the most fulfilling thing he did professionally," Keith Barnett said. "Although he didn't set out to do this, he was an example to the entire cystic fibrosis community that one could still build a life with meaning and I think he took pride in that."

From his book, The Plucky Smart Kid with the Fatal Disease comes these wise words

As I grew sicker, I had what for me was an extremely comforting insight. I came to view serious and progressive illness as an ever constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; others that were once thought precious get forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: family, faith, love. These things stay with you until the day you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left. But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along, they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile right up until the end.

Here a column about Heroes Among Us

At one point during my interview, the questioner asked me if I expected to see a cure to CF in my lifetime. I answered no, but that it doesn’t really matter. When you see death up close, a couple of things become clear. One is that we all die, and that death is just part of the deal. The other is that life is such a blessing, that’s it just so great, even though you know the inevitable might be near you still want as many bites of the apple as possible.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

Tony Hillerman, R.I.P.

When I was at the Department of the Interior,  I was fortunate to spend some time with Tony Hillerman, a lovely man who was simply delighted to receive a special departmental award for his novel, "A Thief of Time) and the pubic awareness he created about theft of Indian relics from public land.   

At that time, he was recovering from a heart attack and still a bit weak.  Fortunately, he lived many more years and wrote several more books to the delight of his fans.

Boston Globe  obituary
Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes, Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.
His daughter said the Navajo values of family, community, generosity, and enjoying the beauty of the world, resonated with her father's own Catholic values. He felt blessed in his life and saw the needs of the Navajo Nation and responded, she said.

"He was a storyteller at heart, and so when people started buying his books and he didn't have to struggle so hard financially, he felt it was a good way to share the blessings," she said.
"I want Americans to stop thinking of Navajos as primitive persons, to understand that they are sophisticated and complicated," Mr. Hillerman once said.

New York Times obit
In the world of mystery fiction, Mr. Hillerman was that rare figure: a best-selling author who was adored by fans, admired by fellow authors and respected by critics. Though the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with an avowed purpose: to instill in his readers a respect for Native American culture.
“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” Mr. Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”
Mr. Hillerman wrote with intimate knowledge of the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes; he grew up with people very much like them. “I recognized kindred spirits” in the Navajo, he wrote in an autobiographical essay in 1986. “Country boys. Folks among whom I felt at ease.”

For all the recognition he received, Mr. Hillerman once said, he was most gladdened by the status of Special Friend of the Dineh (the Navajo people) conferred on him in 1987 by the Navajo Nation. He was also proud that his books were taught at reservation schools and colleges.

“Good reviews delight me when I get them,” he said. “But I am far more delighted by being voted the most popular author by the students of St. Catherine Indian school, and even more by middle-aged Navajos who tell me that reading my mysteries revived their children’s interest in the Navajo Way.”

Read the whole obit to learn more about his remarkable life.

May he rest in peace surrounded by beauty.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2008

The French Mother Teresa Dies

Sister Emmanuelle, France's "Mother Teresa," dies aged 99.

Sister Emmanuelle, France's answer to Mother Teresa, who has died aged 99 was an unorthodox nun who spent 20 years helping the poor in a Cairo slum before returning to France to defend the homeless.

The diminutive Roman Catholic nun, whose real name was Madeleine Cinquin, was best known in France for her frequent appearances on television to campaign passionately for the poor and homeless.

She came to media attention with her work with some of the world's poorest people, the residents of the Ezbet El-Nakhl slum in Cairo who eke out their living by scavenging in the garbage produced in the giant city.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sister Emmanuelle was a woman who "touched our hearts," a "woman of action for whom charity meant concrete actions of solidarity and fraternity."
The Vatican said her work, like that of Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa, "showed how Christian charity was able to go beyond differences of nationality, race, religion."

           Sister Emmanuelle

Rocco Palmo writes about her funeral in "Life Does Not End For Those Who Know to Love"

Sent off by her expressed request from the small-town convent where she spent her last years, Paris came to a halt yesterday to commemorate Soeur Emmanuelle -- the "French Mother Teresa" who died Monday at 99. 

Following her private funeral liturgy and burial at Callian in the country's southeast, the capital's Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois celebrated a nationally-televised memorial Mass in Notre-Dame, its high-watt congregation led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor Jacques Chirac and -- in a tribute to the two decades the self-described "rag woman with the rag pickers" spent working among the poor in Cairo -- Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, as a crowd of thousands packed the square outside.

She left a message with her publishers.

"When you hear this message, I will no longer be there. In telling of my life -- all of my life -- I wanted to bear witness that love is more powerful than death," she said, according to the text.

"I have confessed everything, the good and the less good, and I can tell you about it. Where I am now, life does not end for those who know how to love."...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2008

Paul Newman

When I heard about Paul Newman's death, I was away for the weekend for my high school reunion so I didn't have a chance to what others had written, but then I already knew he was a remarkable man. I had already  written about the legacies he was creating.  Paul Newman's Legacies

  "If I leave a legacy, it will be the camps," Newman says.

  Newman Photos-Tm

Breitbart obit
Paul Newman, known for his piercing blue eyes, boyish good looks and stellar performances in scores of hit Hollywood movies, has died, his foundation said Saturday. He was 83.
"Paul Newman's craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," Foundation Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester said.

Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies. He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.  Two of his most popular movies included "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Sting" (1973), in which he co-starred with an equally popular and handsome actor, Robert Redford.

Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- a race car enthusiast and a leftist political activist.

New York Times, Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood

If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless.

Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into a craggy, charismatic old age even as he redefined himself as more than Hollywood star. He raced cars, opened summer camps for ailing children and became a nonprofit entrepreneur with a line of foods that put his picture on supermarket shelves around the world.
he remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”

Daily Mail online

Newman's own departure was long and gentle, until cancer took hold. By choice, he faded from films gradually, taking fewer and fewer major roles - a diminuendo that was all the more striking when compared with Redford's sustained career as an actor-director.

In truth, though he had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures Newman preferred his private life to the feverish fakery of Hollywood.

The Boston Globe Blue-eyed idol put an indelible stamp on movies, philanthropy

Burial plans are unknown, although Newman expressed a desire to have his ashes strewn across the lake where he built the first Hole in the Wall Camp.

"I always admired the fish," he said.

Neoneocon didn't need to remind me of how sexy he was and how he aged awfully well.  She found the YouTube videos, only one of which I borrowed 

He was a Man of Natural Virtue.

Gerard Vanderleun in A Life and a Love Less Ordinary pays tribute to the Newmans' marriage

I watch this montage and I think of the old 60s poem that ends, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world." And I also think that sometimes, if you are careful and keep your vows, love can endure. All in all, it would seem that Newman's life and love and marriage were, in the end, his greatest achievement. His films were merely the means.

An appreciation in the New York Times,
Paul Newman wore his fame lightly, his beauty too.

My favorite may be Dahlia Lithwick's piece on Slate

One version of the story has the kid look from the picture of Newman on the Newman's Own lemonade carton to Newman himself, then back to the carton and back to Newman again before asking, "Are you lost?" Another version: The kid looks steadily at him and demands, "Are you really Paul Human?"

Paul Newman left a Great Legacy of how to be a great man even if a movie star.  Thankfully, we'll always have his movies and by buying his salad dressings, his lemonade and his popcorn, we can support his legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

Funeral for a Saintly Man

2000 people packed the pews for the funeral of Thomas S. Vander Woude, the Father who died saving his son  

Among the attendees were his wife of 43 years, Mary Ellen, more than 70 priests, including the bishop of Arlington, and the friends accrued over decades who came to pay respects to a man who inspired them, right up until his final breath.

If Vander Woude saw the throng, he'd say, "Are you kidding me? . . . Don't waste your gas," said one of his sons, Steve Vander Woude of Nokesville, after the service. But "this guy did something saintly, and they wanted to come be a part of it."

Another of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons, Tom Vander Woude, pastor at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, gave the homily. In it, he likened his father to Saint Joseph, a man who patiently and quietly supported his family, did odd jobs for those in need and was content to worship God and not seek the limelight, Tom Vander Woude said.

At a reception at Seton School in Manassas, where six of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons went to school, friends and neighbors traded stories about how Vander Woude had gone out of his way to help them. Fittingly, Tom Vander Woude observed, they were standing on the gym floor that his father had installed.

His dying act was, "truly saintly" and "the crown of a whole life of self-giving," Bishop Paul S. Loverde said at the Mass. "May we find in his life inspiration and strength."

He was one of the unknown saints among us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2008

Father Died Saving Son

In the Washington Post, Jonathan Mummolo writes that the Father Who Died Saving Son Known for Sacrifice

If you ever ran into Nokesville dad Thomas S. Vander Woude, chances are you would also see his son Joseph. Whether Vander Woude was volunteering at church, coaching basketball or working on his farm, Joseph was often right there with him, pitching in with a smile, friends and neighbors said yesterday.

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son's side.

"That's how he lived," Vander Woude's daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. "He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family."

Vander Woude, 66, had gone to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville on Monday, just as he did every day, and then worked in the yard with Joseph, the youngest of his seven sons, affectionately known as Josie. Joseph apparently fell through a piece of metal that covered a 2-by-2-foot opening in the septic tank, according to Prince William County police and family members.

Vander Woude rushed to the tank; a workman at the house saw what was happening and told Vander Woude's wife, Mary Ellen, police said. They called 911 about 12 p.m. and tried to help the father and son in the meantime.

At some point, Vander Woude jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck, while Joseph's mom and the workman pulled from above.

For those who knew him, Vander Woude's sacrifice was in keeping with a lifetime of giving.

"He's the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," said neighbor Lee DeBrish. "And if he didn't have one, he'd buy one for you."

Vander Woude was a pilot in Vietnam, a daughter-in-law said. After the war, he worked as a commercial airline pilot and in the early 1980s moved his family to Prince William from Georgia. In the years to come, he would wear many hats: farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband for 43 years.

What a remarkable man.  May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2008

The Voice Silenced

We all know and will all miss Don LaFonaine: The Voice

AP Obit
- The omnipresent baritone and gravely bass undertones of Don LaFontaine's distinctive voice had the unique ability to seamlessly embellish big-screen kisses, slice through over-the-top explosions, perfectly pair with robust musical scores, glide alongside car chases and effortlessly co-star with any A-list talent in Hollywood.

''He was the originator of the modern voiceover for movie trailers,'' said voiceover artist Jim Tasker. ''He is the standard for which all other voiceovers for movie trailers are measured. For the past 30 years, his voice has been the gauge for all of us in the industry.'
'When you die, the voice you hear in heaven is not Don's. It's God trying to sound like Don.''

Washington Post a clever appreciation by Hank Stuever,  In a World of Don LaFontaine.

In a world where marketing is far more important than content . . . came one man . . . with a Voice....

In a world that believed deeply in the potency of the words Coming Soon. . .

In a world where eyewitnesses describe real things, real events as being "like, in a movie" .

In a world suddenly without Don LaFontaine, who died Monday at 68 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of lung failure, brought on by undetermined causes . . . (Cedars-Sinai being a world where the famous newly dead go on to other coming attractions).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2008

James Hoyt, Liberator of Buchenwald, R.I. P.

He was one of the four soldiers first sent into the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, but when he returned to Iowa, he rarely spoke of it. 

Even 63 years after the liberation, Hoyt suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and attended a weekly group therapy session at a Veterans Affairs facility.

"Seeing these things, it changes you. I was a kid," he said. "Des Moines had been the furthest I'd ever been from home. I still have horrific dreams. Usually someone needs help and I can't help them. I'm in a situation where I'm trapped and I can't get out."

James Hoyt , mail carrier, spelling bee champion and liberator of Buchenwald died at 83.

At Hoyt's graveside Thursday, a 12-veteran color guard gave him a traditional 21-gun salute. Hoyt's casket was draped with the American flag, and that flag was folded, as is tradition, 12 times.

Retired Gen. Robert Sentman gave the flag to Doris Hoyt. Sentman had earlier told mourners about the Buchenwald liberation.

"When the prisoners saw Jim, they picked him up and threw him in the air, that's how happy they were after seeing such horrors. Prisoners had been hung from hooks to die. He saw a lampshade made from a prisoner's tattoo. Jim carried those horrors with him forever. He never got what he had seen out of his mind. If you ever wondered about Jim, think about what he saw."

"When you were discharged, no one really gave a hoot about you. It was difficult for a compassionate person like Jim to forget what he saw. He was a hero.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2008

Solzhenitsyn's Great Legacy

I was away and offline when Alexander Solzhenitsyn died. which is the only reason why I didn't write any posts about him.

Some are still reflecting on his great legacy.  Theodore Dalrymple writes in Seer of Evil that Solzhenitsyn rendered illusion not just stupid, but wicked.

Solzhenitsyn’s achievement was to render such illusion about the Soviet Union impossible, even for its most die-hard defenders: he made illusion not merely stupid but wicked. With a mixture of literary talent, iron integrity, bravery, and determination of a kind very rarely encountered, he made it impossible to deny the world-historical scale of the Soviet evil.  After Solzhenitsyn, not to recognize Soviet Communism for what it was and what it had always been was to join those who denied that the earth was round or who believed in abduction by aliens.

Still, a man of Solzhenitsyn’s enormous stature deserves to be remembered for his greatest achievements. His efforts to memorize, and memorialize, what he had experienced in the harshest circumstances are sufficient on their own to render the rest of us humble. No writer of the second half of the twentieth century has had so profound an effect on history, and that effect was overwhelmingly beneficial. And when he reminded us that the line dividing good from evil passes through every human heart, he said something that no human being should ever forget.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2008

Catholic Priest Martyred in India

Carmelite priest massacred in Andhar Pradesh

“Father Thomas is a martyr: he sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalised.  But he did not die in vain, because his body and his blood enrich the Church in India, particularly the Church in Andhra Pradesh”. Those are the words of Msgr. Marampudi Joji, archbishop of Hyderabad and secretary of the bishops’ conference of Andhra Pradesh (a state in South East India), commenting the barbarous killing of the Carmelite priest Thomas Pandippallyil, 38, assassinated on the night of August 16th in Mosalikunta, on the road between Lingampet and Yellareddy, 90 km from the regional capital.

On the night of August 16th his body was found on the roadside by a group of people, not far from the village of Balampilly; the body of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate carried wounds to the face while the hands and legs had been crushed and the eyes gouged out.  His motorbike was found one kilometre on from the body.  According to witnesses, Saturday afternoon Fr. Thomas celebrated mass in Burgida, before setting out for another village in the district where he was to have celebrated Sunday mass. The last people to have seen him alive were religious sisters from Lingapetta convent, where the priest had stopped for supper before continuing his journey.

The archbishop forcefully denied accusations of proselytism and forced conversion and pointed out that there were only five Catholic families in the parish.
“Priests and nuns – continues the archbishop of Hyderabad – have for decades been at the service of the least fortunate in India, and this makes them targets of forces of evil who do not want the marginalized and impoverished to become empowered”.

Father Thomas Pandippallyil  was ordained a priest in 2002. He was the rector for the Chanda mission province of the CMI, and also worked as hospital administrator, school manager and mission centre director.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2008

Tony Snow, R. I. P. Great Legacy

Coming back from the weekend, I was shocked to hear that Tony Snow had died.  Of course, I knew he had colon cancer, but death, especially sudden death, is always shocking.  He was a good and decent man who became great by force of his character.  He will be missed by many but no one will miss him more than his wife and three children.  To them, the deepest condolences. 

  Tony Snow

There are a score and many more personal recollections online about the force of his character.

Yuval Levin writes about his "deep and intensely cheerful curiosity."

Bill Kristol marvels at his calm courage and cheerful optimism
His deep Christian faith combined with his natural exuberance to give him an upbeat world view. Watching him, and so admiring his remarkable strength of character in the last phase of his life, I came to wonder: Could it be that a stance of faith-grounded optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?

President Bush said
It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day,” the president said in a statement from Camp David, where he is spending the weekend. “He brought wit, grace and a great love of country to his work. His colleagues will cherish memories of his energetic personality and relentless good humor.”

Gaghdad Bob says
The essence of his soul comes through quite vividly -- his decency, his passion, his generosity, his desire to help lift mankind. ....

I don't know why there aren't more people who are able to convey the joy, excitement, creativity, expansiveness, optimism, hope, compassion, decency, humor, spirituality, and love that animate conservatism. Maybe they just don't get it the way Snow did, and connect all the dots, both horizontal and vertical.

Mark Steyn on his grace, affability and generous advice.

An NRO symposium  on Tony Snow, Happy Warrior

Susan Estrich says Tony Snow was a Gem
Tony had a sweetness about him, a sweetness that, in the mean world that Washington and the media can be, sometimes led him to believe that everyone operated from the same place he did...

He was so earnest, so dear, he liked everyone and assumed the same about everyone else; he was honorable and honest, and assumed it about others.

Kurtz wrote an appreciation of Snow called As Good as His Words.

Here's a David Gregory interview with Snow talking about living and working with cancer.  Kathryn Jean Lopez says it's impossible not to cry to hear Snow talk about his family and the 'depth of happiness' that cancer made possible in his life.

New York Times obituary
Mr. Snow’s death was announced by the White House. When a recurrence of the cancer interrupted his tenure there, he chose to talk about it openly, saying he wanted to offer hope to other patients. His message to them, he said, was: “Don’t think about dying. Think about living.”
His snappy sound bites made Mr. Snow an instant hit among Republicans. “It’s like Mick Jagger at a rock concert,” Karl Rove, the president’s former political strategist, once said.
He also had a musical flair; he grew up playing the flute, taught himself the acoustic guitar and played in an amateur rock ’n’ roll band, Beats Workin’. When they performed at the White House Congressional picnic, Mr. Bush jokingly called them “a bunch of, well, mediocre musicians.”

Washington Post obituary
In his brief tenure as Bush's public advocate, Snow became perhaps the best-known face of the administration after the president, vice president and secretary of state. Parlaying skills honed during years at Fox News, he offered a daily televised defense of the embattled president that was robust and at times even combative while repairing strained relations with a press corps frustrated by years of rote talking points.
ABC News correspondent Ann Compton, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said yesterday that Snow was "the first press secretary who chose to use the podium as a way to argue the president's case -- not just in the president's words, but in his own."

There is a new, disturbing and completely uncivil tendency for some to make partisan remarks, often quite vile, when a person dies.  Ben Johnson describes some of them in "Goebbels With Better Hair."   No one is above criticism, but people who make crude and hateful remarks about someone who has just died should be shunned says Howard Kurtz.  Amen to that.  Fortunately, they are a tiny minority, but shunned they should be.

Better than any words about him are his own and none are better than his commencement address last year to the graduates of Catholic University.  If you read nothing else, read his address, "Reason, Faith, Vocation."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 PM | Permalink

Mona - The Angel of Iran

At Freedom of Iran, Amil Imani writes of the Angel of Iran who was hanged for teaching love.

She is called the Angel of Iran, because she lived her short life angelically. The demonic Islamist Mullahs, true to their nature, couldn’t bear an angel in their midst. On June 18, 1983, they hanged the young woman, barely past childhood, for refusing to renounce her belief: the belief in love, justice, and equality for all children of God.

Her name was Mona, a 17-year old Baha’i Character School (Sunday school) teacher. Her pupils loved the indescribably gentle loving teacher who taught them to grow up as exemplary humans with hearts brimming with the love of God, all his people and his creation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2008

John Templeton, R.I.P.

"I focus on spiritual wealth now, and I'm busier, more enthusiastic, and more joyful than I have ever been."

"The question is not is there a God, but is there anything else except God? God is everyone and each of us is a little bit."

"Work at being a humble person."

The above quotes are from John Templeton who died yesterday in Nassau, the Bahamas, at 95.

 John Templeton

Boston Globe/New York Times  obit
John M. Templeton, a Tennessee-born investor and philanthropist who amassed a fortune as a pioneer in global mutual funds, then gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to foster understanding of what he called "spiritual realities,"
In a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality, and promoted a search for answers to what he called the "Big Questions" in the realms of science, faith, God, and the purpose of humanity.

Along the way, he became one of the world's richest men, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the philosopher Charles Taylor, and an array of prominent Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.

Telegraph obit
Templeton boasted one of the longest and most successful track records on Wall Street. From its foundation in 1954, his Templeton Growth Fund grew at an astonishing rate of nearly 16 per cent a year until Templeton’s retirement in 1992, making it the top performing growth fund in the second half of the 20th century
The Templeton formula was simple in theory, though not easily achieved in practice.

He looked for bargains — shares selling well below their asset values due to temporary circumstances — and would usually hold on to them for five years or more until they reached what he considered to be their true worth.

He was one of the first to invest in post-war Japan, and one of the first to sell Japanese stocks in the mid-1980s before the bear market set in.

Templeton once described his speculative activities as a “ministry”, and saw the workings of the money market as part of God’s plan for His creation.
In 1973 he inaugurated the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, an annual award to remedy the Nobel Foundation’s omission of religion from its prizes.

A brilliant publicist, Templeton guaranteed that his prize would always be worth more than the Nobel, and arranged for the Duke of Edinburgh to present the award at Buckingham Palace, thus ensuring full press coverage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2008

Harriet McBride Johnson, R.I.P

She fought against those who would say her life was not worth living.  Hers certainly was.

A Life Worth Living

When Harriet McBryde Johnson died earlier this month at the age of 50 from a congenital neuromuscular disease, obituaries called her a "disability-rights activist." This is far too narrow a description of her life. She was less a traditional activist than an acute social conscience. Ms. Johnson forced us to look at disability in a different way -- not as something that we should seek to eradicate, but as something that is integral to the human condition, a "natural part of the human experience," as the American Association of People With Disabilities puts it.
She was brutally direct when she talked about disabilities, including her own. "Most people don't know how to look at me," she wrote, describing her severely twisted spine and her "jumble of bones in a floppy bag of skin." But she abhorred the "veneer of beneficence" that overlay the arguments of those who said she would be "better off" without her disability. "The presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life," she argued, challenging Mr. Singer's support of what she called "disability-based infanticide."
People with disabilities, she said, "have something the world needs."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2008

Tim Russert, R.I.P.

Like everyone who was familiar with him on television, I was shocked at the sudden death of Tim Russert and then surprised at the outpouring of affection for him.  But I shouldn't have been surprised, I loved him and everyone who knew him and millions who didn't loved him too.  He was fair, tough, passionate and ebullient.

Tom Brokaw broke the news.
My friend and colleague collapsed and died early this afternoon while at work at NBC News...
Tim loved his family, his faith, his country, politics, the Buffalo Bills, the New York Yankees, and the Washington Nationals.

 Tim Russert Nypost

Tributes pour in from people in the media, collected at MediaBistro's TV Newser.

New York Times
Tim Russert, a fixture in American homes on Sunday mornings and election nights since becoming moderator of “Meet the Press” nearly 17 years ago, died Friday after collapsing at the Washington bureau of NBC News. He was 58 and lived in Northwest Washington.
Mr. Russert, who was also the Washington bureau chief and a senior vice president of NBC News, had just returned in the last couple of days from a trip to Italy, where his family had celebrated the recent graduation of his son, Luke, from Boston College. When stricken, he was recording voice-overs for this Sunday’s program.

With his plain-spoken explanations and hard-hitting questions, Mr. Russert played an increasingly outsize role in the news media’s coverage of politics. The elegantly simple white memo board he used on election night in 2000 to explain the deadlock in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore — “Florida, Florida, Florida,” he had scribbled in red marker — became an enduring image in the history of American television coverage of the road to the White House.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Russert’s colleagues at NBC News soon learned that he had a gift for making the most complex political machinations understandable and compelling.

“He had a better political insight than anyone else in the room, period,” said Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, who was then an up-and-coming producer.

He really was the best political journalist in America, not just the best television journalist in America,” said Al Hunt, the Washington executive editor of Bloomberg News and former Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal
In the Boston Globe, Mike Barnicle said

"Tim was uniquely without a mean bone in his body," Barnicle said last night. "He had a joy about him that was nearly unmatched. At the end of the day or the end of the week, there was a part of him that would pinch himself: 'Can you believe I'm allowed to do this show?' "
Russert was shaped by his own father, known as "Big Russ," and by his childhood in Buffalo. The city remained his emotional touchstone for his entire life. "He's better able than anybody I know to live in two worlds," Brokaw told the Globe in 1997. "He has a house in a tony neighborhood in Washington, and his heart's in Buffalo." Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, yesterday ordered all flags at city buildings lowered to half-staff in Russert's honor.

Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post

Russert wore many hats -- onetime Democratic operative, Washington insider, NBC bureau chief, MSNBC commentator, sports fanatic, committed Roman Catholic, biographer of his father, dubbed "Big Russ" -- but his greatest legacy was his sustained style of interrogation. Grounded in prodigious research, Russert would press his guests on past statements and contradictions, often for a full hour, spawning legions of imitators.

Friends were stunned by the news. "I just loved him," said Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face the Nation." "When I scooped old Tim, I felt like I'd hit a home run off the best pitcher in the league."


Despite his eventual wealth and house on Nantucket, Russert never seemed to forget the summers he spent emptying pails of spoiled food into a garbage truck. His patter was filled with average-Joe lingo and constant references to his beloved the Buffalo Bills. Russert viewed himself as a translator who made politics accessible to the average voter.

Russert wrote two best-selling books, "Big Russ & Me" and "Wisdom of Our Fathers," which brought fame to his working-class dad and enshrined Russert's reputation as a man of modest western New York roots.

Joe Klein in Time
Back when he was just starting in television — and ever since but particularly back then — Tim Russert was astounded by the joys of the job. Early on, he helped arrange an interview with the Pope for the Today Show — and Tim did it up right: He brought along red NBC News baseball caps for the Cardinals and a white one for the Holy Father. "He put it on!" Tim told me when he came home. "We have pictures!" Then he said, more quietly, "But, you know, it was really something being in his presence. You felt something holy. It was almost as if the air was different." And that was Tim — exuberant, irreverent, brilliant and devout, a thrilling jolt of humanity.

He will be missed.  Condolences to all his family and friends

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink

"The U.S. Military Equivalent to Sainthood"

Gerard Vanderleun in a terrific essay "Ain't It Cool?" writes

The American culture of cool has become a nation apart, an alternate-America that looks to the real America as merely some mechanism set up to deliver the many features and benefits of America to the culture of cool without question, by divine right of media.

The American culture of cool is not into giving back anything they have taken from the culture at large. The culture of cool is not a giving culture, it is an taking culture. --
The American culture of cool sees itself as the real soul and real intelligence of America, even as it actually rides on the broad shoulders of America like some strangling old man of the sea that, once taken up, refuses to get down.

The culture of Camp Pendleton despises the culture of cool. The culture here is composed of deeper, abiding and more fundamental things: Duty, Honor, God, Country and The Corps.

 America War Mall

While we're at the mall, some men are exemplifying the best of humanity  and  performing extraordinary acts of valor, the indifference to which is another example as Robert Kaplan points out that
separates an all-volunteer military from the public it defends

Kaplan tells us what it takes to win a Medal of Honor  in No Greater Honor

Over the decades, the Medal of Honor—the highest award for valor—has evolved into the U.S. military equivalent of sainthood. Only eight Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Vietnam War, all posthumously. “You don’t have to die to win it, but it helps,” says Army Colonel Thomas P. Smith

Here are the Medal of Honor Recipients from the War in Iraq.  Inspiring examples of courage, valor and love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2008

A Voice So Pure

The jazz, blues, folk, country, pop vocalist Eva Cassidy  died in 1996 at 33 after she noticed a pain in her hip that turned out to be melanoma that had metastatasized.

Her final public performance was Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." 

Unknown outside Washington, D.C. at her death, her posthumously released recordings have sold about six million copies.

ABC's Nightline's documentary on Eva has been rebroadcast three times and is, by one account, the most popular Nightline ever.

Now a film is being produced on her life by Amy Redford, daughter of Robert Redford.

Only because of recordings can people like me who didn't know her when she was alive experience her extraordinary voice.

The Eva Cassidy website.

Echoes of a Voice Stilled Too Early. Richard Harrington in the Washington Post

She was, for sure a diamond no longer in the rough but not yet in the proper setting that would showcase a voice so pure, so strong, so passionate that it should have found a home just about anywhere.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2008

Bo Diddley, R.I.P.

I bet there's not a person over 30 who doesn't know Bo Diddley, doesn't like Bo Diddley, and isn't sad that he's gone.

New York Times obituary

Bo Diddley, a singer and guitarist who invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself, died Monday at his home in Archer, Fla. He was 79.
In the 1950s, as a founder of rock ’n’ roll, Mr. Diddley — along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a few others — helped to reshape the sound of popular music worldwide, building on the templates of blues, Southern gospel, R&B and postwar black American vernacular culture.

His original style of rhythm and blues influenced generations of musicians. And his Bo Diddley syncopated beat — three strokes/rest/two strokes — became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll.

Telegraph obituary
Had Diddley been able to copyright the hypnotic and highly distinctive rhumba-like beat that was his musical trademark he might have been able to retire many years ago as a very wealthy man, rather than having to eke out a living in his old age, playing night-clubs, as his health deteriorated.

It was a mark of his standing as one of the founding fathers of pop music that he would become one of the first performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987.

For all his success, Diddley always maintained that like so many artists of his generation he had never received his just desserts, receiving only a flat fee for his early recordings and no royalty payments on sales. "I am owed. I've never got paid," he said. "A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."

Boston Globe obituary

"Bo Diddley is one of the seminal American guitarists and an architect of the rock 'n' roll sound," said Terry Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. "His unique guitar work, indelible rhythms, inventive songwriting, and larger-than-life personality make him an immortal author of the American songbook."

Mick Jagger

Singer Mick Jagger has paid tribute to singer-guitarist Bo Diddley as an "enormous force in music" and "a big influence on the Rolling Stones".
Jagger said the US rock 'n' roll pioneer, who has died at the age of 79, was "a wonderful, original musician".

Jagger, whose band recorded cover versions of Mona and Crackin' Up, said: "He was very generous to us in our early years and we learned a lot from him.
"We will never see his like again."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2008

Sidney Pollack R.I.P.

 Sidney Pollack

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

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

Telegraph Obituary

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

Remembering Sydney Pollack by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone

New York Times obituary

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

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

AP obituary

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2008

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

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

 Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2008

Honoring the Fallen

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

 Memorial Day

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

 Wikipedia American Dead Combat

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

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

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

Unfortunately, as Mac Owens writes

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2008

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

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

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

Hamilton Jordan dies at 63, AP obituary

ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2008

Irena Sandler, Righteous Gentile, RIP

 Irene Sandler

Photo: Reuters/Katerina Stoltz

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

From the Telegraph obituary

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

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

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

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

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

A great legacy indeed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 AM | Permalink

May 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Lecture website.

Cross-posted at Business of Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2008

"The simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero"

"The Medal of Honor is awarded for an act of such courage that no one could rightly be expected to undertake it. Yet those who knew Michael Monsoor were not surprised when he did".

From the remarks of President Bush on awarding a posthumous medal of honor to MIchael Monsoor "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty".    The medal was presented to his parents on behalf of a grateful nation in a ceremony at the White House.

               Michael Monsoor

Monsoor was a Navy Seal who on September 29, 2006 made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Mike and two teammates had taken position on the outcropping of a rooftop when an insurgent grenade bounced off Mike’s chest and landed on the roof. Mike had a clear chance to escape, but he realized that the other two SEALs did not. In that terrible moment, he had two options — to save himself, or to save his friends. For Mike, this was no choice at all. He threw himself onto the grenade, and absorbed the blast with his body. One of the survivors puts it this way: “Mikey looked death in the face that day and said, ‘You cannot take my brothers. I will go in their stead.’”

the greatest tribute to Mike’s life is the way different service members all across the world responded to his death. Army soldiers in Ramadi hosted a memorial service for the valiant man who had fought beside them. Iraqi Army scouts — whom Mike helped train — lowered their flag, and sent it to his parents. Nearly every SEAL on the West Coast turned out for Mike’s funeral in California. As the SEALs filed past the casket, they removed their golden tridents from their uniforms, pressed them onto the walls of the coffin. The procession went on nearly half an hour. And when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.

From the citation
Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates.

By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

A remarkable man, a grateful nation, may  his sacrifice never be forgotten and may he rest in peace.

 Medal Of Honor

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:15 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2008

Laura Linehan, R.I.P.

Born with the rare disorder of tyrosinemia which prevents the body from breaking down an amino acid,
Laura Linehan received a new liver when she was only 2.  Ten years later, she learned that she had hepatitis C, infected by the blood transfusion during transplant surgery.  She needed another liver.

She moved from Melrose, Massachusetts to Jacksonville, Florida where she would have a better chance on the regional waiting list.     

 Laura Linnehan

I keep telling myself I'm not going to give up," Miss Linehan wrote on her website. "This is my chance to live and that's why I am down in Florida, so that I can have a third chance at life."

A match was found Friday, but she had weakened during the wait. When doctors began operating, they found she would not survive transplant surgery, and she died that evening in the Mayo Clinic. Miss Linehan was 20.

Using the example of her own life, Miss Linehan had tried to raise awareness about the need for more organ donors, and the crucial role expediency plays in transplants. In Miss Linehan's case, her mother said, a day or two sooner might have made a difference.

"She had a job to do, and she finished it a littler earlier," Ann Linehan said. "She set her mind to it and now she's done, her time is through. I just like to think that she's in a better place, and she's no longer suffering, because she suffered terribly."
"She was the most courageous person I've ever known, read about, or encountered. She was incredibly brave; she was resilient. It seemed as though anything that could go wrong, went wrong, and she would just come back for more. And she was never discouraged."
"She had a lot of good years," her mother said of her daughter's childhood and youth. "I could not be more proud of her if she was a Harvard graduate than I am with her fight with liver disease. She worked so hard to overcome, she worked so hard to get awareness out there of the need for liver donors. I just want people to know that she was extremely successful. She certainly brought a community together - Melrose will never be the same."

Laura Linehan, at 20, used illness to boost organ donation.

Laura's website is provided by Caring Bridge which offers free personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2008

The Face of Leonardo DaVinci

How Siegfried Woldhek discovered the true faces of Leonardo DaVinci at Ted Talks.

           Faces Of Davinci

A brilliant piece of detective work by Woldhelk, a portraitist himself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2008

Dith Pran, R.I. P.

Killing Fields photographer, Dith Pran, dies at 65 of pancreatic cancer.

         Dith Pran Older Photo

The New York Times obit

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, N.J., on Sunday.
Mr. Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Mr. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

He had been a journalistic partner of Mr. Schanberg, a Times correspondent assigned to Southeast Asia. He translated, took notes and pictures, and helped Mr. Schanberg maneuver in a fast-changing milieu. With the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Mr. Schanberg was forced from the country, and Mr. Dith became a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists.
Over the next 4 ½ years, he worked in the fields and at menial jobs. For sustenance, people ate insects and rats and even the exhumed corpses of the recently executed, he said.

In November 1978, Vietnam, by then a unified Communist nation after the end of the Vietnam War, invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. Mr. Dith went home to Siem Reap, where he learned that 50 members of his family had been killed; wells were filled with skulls and bones.

         Dith Pran

He escaped, and was reunited with his wife and family in San Francisco.  In 1980 he became a photographer at the New York Times and six years later became a U.S. citizen beside his wife.

       Dith Pran Citizen Oath

Along with the above photographs, The Times has a wonderful 6 minute multimedia  piece called The Last Word: Dith Pran combining clips from the Killing Fields, interviews with Pran and Schanberg and photographs that tells his extraordinary life story.

"I promised myself that if I survived, I wouldn't stop talking about the killing fields..My people are suffering and this is their story.

From the London Telegraph obit
"I am a one-person crusade," he once said. "I must speak for those who did not survive and for those who still suffer… Like one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel, who alerts the world to the horrors of the Jewish holocaust, I try to awaken the world to the holocaust of Cambodia, for all tragedies have universal implications."

In his journal while imprisoned, Pran wrote
The wind whispers of fear and hate. The war has killed love. And those that confess to the Angka are punished, and no one dare ask where they go. Here, only the silent survive.

He survived and his words, his actions and his photos live on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2008

"His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see"

Visionary science fiction writer Arthur Clarke has died at 90 in his home in Sri Lanka.

 Arthur Clarke Sfmag Cover

Associated Press obituary by Ravi Nessman
Co-author with Stanley Kubrick of Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey," Clarke was regarded as far more than a science fiction writer.

He was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as commentator on the U.S. Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s.

Clarke's non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

New York Times obituary by Gerald Jonas
the formative event of his childhood was his discovery, at age 13 — the year his father died — of a copy of “Astounding Stories of Super-Science,” then the leading American science fiction magazine. He found its mix of boyish adventure and far-out (sometimes bogus) science intoxicating.

While still in school, Mr. Clarke joined the newly formed British Interplanetary Society, a small band of sci-fi enthusiasts who held the controversial view that space travel was not only possible but could be achieved in the not-so-distant future

All told, he wrote or collaborated on close to 100 books, some of which, like “Childhood’s End,” have been in print continuously. His works have been translated into some 40 languages, and worldwide sales have been estimated at more than $25 million.

In 1962 he suffered a severe attack of poliomyelitis. His apparently complete recovery was marked by a return to top form at his favorite sport, table tennis. But in 1984 he developed post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition characterized by muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. He spent the last years of his life in a wheelchair.

Among his legacies are Clarke’s Three Laws, provocative observations on science, science fiction and society that were published in his “Profiles of the Future” (1962):

¶“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

¶“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

¶“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Mr. Clarke’s reputation as a prophet of the space age rests on more than a few accurate predictions. His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit remembers Clarke.

I nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, but Yasser Arafat got it instead. I think it's pretty clear that Clarke would have been a better choice . . . .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 PM | Permalink

'My boy, if you don't get lost, I'm going to shoot you,"

The man who shot Antoine de Saint-Expery out of the sky has come forward. 

Sainte Exupery was a celebrated French aviator and writer who, a year before his death,  wrote the book beloved by millions, Le Petit Prince, "The Little Prince"  who so famously said,
Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Saint-Exupery was 44 when he flew for the last time over the Mediterranean until his plane was shot down on July 31, 1944.

His plane was never recovered and considered lost until a French fisherman pulling up his nets
discovered an identity bracelet engraved with the name of Saint-Exupéry's wife, Consuelo, and that of his publishers, Reynal & Hitchcock.

Mr Vanrell, a local deep sea diver, then began searching the Marseilles coastline for the remains of the writer's aircraft. In 2000 he discovered pieces of Saint-Exupéry's plane lying on the sea bed 80 metres deep near the Ile de Riou. The plane wreck was formally identified in 2004 as being Saint-Exupéry's by its serial number.

The investigation continued and as it happens, Horst Rippert, the German pilot was still alive.

So when Mr von Gartzen called Mr Rippert he was astounded by his immediate confession. "He replied straight away: 'You can stop searching, it was I who shot down Exupéry'."

Mr Rippert recounted how he had been surprised to see the French pilot's Lightning flying alone and too low in his sector near Toulouse.

"Like me, he was over the sea and flying toward the mainland. I said to myself: 'My boy, if you don't get lost, I'm going to shoot you," said Mr Rippert, who was 25 at the time. "I dived in his direction and I fired, not at the fuselage, but at the wings. I hit him. The plane crashed into the sea. No-one jumped.

"I did not see the pilot and even so, it would have been impossible for me to tell that it was Saint-Exupéry. In our youth at school we had all read him, we loved his books. I loved his personality. If I had known I wouldn't have fired. Not at him."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2008

Kidnapped Archbishop found dead and buried a second time

The New York Times reports that the archbishop, just after he was kidnapped and while in the trunk of his own car

In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said.

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,” the officials said.

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was buried Friday, two weeks after he was kidnapped in the troubled northern city of Mosul, two days after he was found dead.

The body was found buried in the ground in Al Intessar, a residential area near the city known as a haven for gangs and criminal activity. Iraqi officials in Mosul said that the church had received a phone call telling them where to find the body, and church officials dug up the body with the help of the local police.

It was not immediately clear how the archbishop died. However, Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, ..said  that the body showed no sign of gunshot wounds or other violence. He said the archbishop was in precarious health and his kidnapping could have aggravated his condition. He said the kidnappers had called on Wednesday to say that the archbishop was ill and later that he had died.

A morgue official in Mosul also said the body showed no signs of violence and that the archbishop had apparently died from natural causes. The archbishop had suffered from high blood pressure and had a heart condition.

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians mourn archbishop throwing flowers on his wooden coffin while women wailed.

Rahho's body was found a day earlier in Mosul, where his religious community has faced attacks from Sunni Arab extremists and criminal gangs.

Gunmen grabbed Rahho Feb. 29 outside his church after he had finished celebrating a prayer service. His driver and two guards were shot dead in the abduction.

According to police and church officials, the archbishop, who suffered from heart disease and diabetes, died because his captors failed to provide him his regular medications. Initially, Nineveh province police chief Gen. Wathiq Hamdani said he believed Rahho had been shot when kidnapped and died of his injuries.

Another martyr for the faith and one who will be deeply missed,

Christians remembered Rahho, who was in his 60s, for having continued to give hope to their dwindling numbers. In June, the archbishop's confidant, Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, was shot dead along with three deacons outside the Church of the Holy Spirit, where Rahho was kidnapped last month. On one occasion, Rahho was accosted by gunmen, but he walked on, daring them to shoot him, said Nabil Kashat, an advisor to the Chaldean Charity Assn.
He was encouraging Christians to stay in Mosul. He was pushing for tolerance among all factions. His loss is a big loss for all the Christians and Muslims of Mosul. It is a real shock for everyone. The Christians of Mosul will not be in a good position to believe that the city is safe for them," Kashat said.

A woman from Mosul, who identified herself as Rayat, said by phone that Rahho's death was the last straw for her. "After our holy man was killed, I don't want to stay in Mosul. Our good men are gone. When there are holy days, where will we go now?" she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley, a National Treasure

I've written Legacy Matters for several years now and I've never seen so many encomiums following a death of a great figure as I have read following the death of William F. Buckley.

The New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin, Sesquipedalian Spark of Right,  tells the story of his remarkable life and achievements.

Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism — not just electoral Republicanism but conservatism as a system of ideas — respectable in liberal post-World War II America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964 and saw his dreams fulfilled when Reagan and the Bushes captured the Oval Office.

President George W. Bush said Wednesday that Mr. Buckley “brought conservative thought into the political mainstream, and helped lay the intellectual foundation for America’s victory in the Cold War.”

In remarks at National Review’s 30th anniversary in 1985, President Reagan
You didn’t just part the Red Sea — you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism,” Mr. Reagan said.

“And then, as if that weren’t enough,” the president continued, “you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.”
“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
At the age of 50, Mr. Buckley crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his sailboat and became a novelist. Eleven of his novels are spy tales starring Blackford Oakes, who fights for the American way and beds the Queen of England in the first book.
Mr. Buckley’s spirit of fun was apparent in his 1965 campaign for mayor of New York on the ticket of the Conservative Party. When asked what he would do if he won, he answered, “Demand a recount.” He got 13.4 percent of the vote.

John Tierney on A Giant of Conservatism


Simply Superlative by George Nash focuses on his enormous productivity.
During his nearly 60 years in the public eye, William F. Buckley Jr. published 55 books (both fiction and nonfiction); dozens of book reviews; at least 56 introductions, prefaces, and forewords to other peoples’ books; more than 225 obituary essays; more than 800 editorials, articles, and remarks in National Review; several hundred articles in periodicals other than National Review; and approximately 5,600 newspaper columns. He gave hundreds of lectures around the world, hosted 1,429 separate Firing Line shows, and may well have composed more letters than any American who has ever lived.
William F. Buckley Jr. was arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century. For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure. He changed minds, he changed lives, and he helped to change the direction of American politics.

But it is the personal memories that are the most telling of his incredible generosity of spirit.  Nyron Magnet writes The Unbought Grace of Life
his whole being provided an answer to that ultimate question, How then should we live?
I saw his character become ever more clearly the unmistakable, irreplaceable Buckley: witty, cultivated, playful, urbane, gracious, brave, zestful, life-affirming, tireless, and gallant—the incarnation of grace. He taught many not only how to think but also how to be.

He did all this with singular flair and joie de vivre. Moreover, he did it with a welcoming spirit which earned the gratitude of those whose lives he touched.

While at college, David Brooks wrote a smart-aleck parody of WFB's book Overdrive and when Buckley came to the University of Chicago to deliver a lecture, he said
“David Brooks, if you’re in the audience, I’d like to offer you a job.”

That was the big break of my professional life.
Buckley’s greatest talent was friendship. The historian George Nash once postulated that he wrote more personal letters than any other American, and that is entirely believable. He showered affection on his friends, and he had an endless stream of them, old and young.

Peggy Noonan writes May We Not Lose His Kind.
Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative.... Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.
With the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind--people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful.

Larry Perelman, American born son of Russian Jewish refugees when 18 wrote to Buckley to thank him for emboldening Soviet Jews to come to this great nation and asked for the opportunity to express his gratitude by playing for him.  Fourteen years later, he had The Last Supper with WFB on the last night of his life
it was just like any other Buckley dinner — i.e., it started with cocktails and ended with cognac.

He knew well that he was the most important person in my life after the two people who had actually given me life. I will cherish hundreds of memories of his boundless acts of generosity, which changed my life forever.

Christina Galbraith, daughter of Evan Galbraith, WFB's best friend,  writes in Ember
He was a truly kind man, genuinely caring to anyone in his company. His kindness was not for show. It was discreet. He drove an hour every Sunday to take his house staff to Mass in Spanish; he opened his home to practicing musicians and supported innumerable young scholars.

Ed Capano, former publisher of the National Review,  tells of his perfect charity
He practiced what I consider perfect charity: doing things for others that no one knew about.  The Vietnam vet blinded in action who wrote to Bill asking if NR came out in Braille. NR didn't so Bill did the next best thing, he helped the vet get some of his eyesight restored by flying him to N.Y. and having a personal friend who happened to be one of the best ophthalmologists in N.Y. examine him and then successfully operate on him. Oh, and the vet married the nurse who took care of him. Or the time at a cover conference when I told him that a house I liked just came on the market and he asked me if I was going to buy it. I sheepishly told him that I couldn't afford the down payment.  A few days later his secretary brought me a personal check from Bill for the down payment with a promissory note to pay him back whenever.

"The Sacred Elixir of Life" and  Facing Death
Bill was philosophical — or better, religious — about death. His gleaming eyes, when I last saw him, seemed, at times, to look beyond you; it reminded me of what Robert E. Lee said of his own gaze in his last years: “My interest in Time and its concerns is daily fading away, and I am trying to keep my eyes and thoughts fixed on those eternal shores to which I am fast hastening.” Bill knew that he, too, was hastening towards those shores, as, of course, are we all. Not for him the megalomaniac egotism of Stalin, preposterously trying to bargain with the creator he had denied. Bill thought deeply about death; how else could he have achieved such a surpassing mastery of the obituary notice, that form which, in his hands, was not only a minor art, but also a means of understanding the value of life, even though it is lived in the shadow of death?
Bill taught us much about what Auchincloss called “the sacred elixir of life.” In the last lines of his elegy of his wife, he taught us, too, something about how to die. He spoke then of the condolence he received from “a confirmed nonbeliever,” who for once would have liked to be mistaken, and hoped that, “for you, this is not goodbye, but hasta luego.” Bill said: “No alternative thought would make continuing in life, for me, tolerable.”

Charlie Rose's moving appreciation of William Buckley who talks about  growing older and facing death.

A longer Rose tribute here where he realizes, "There is not always a tomorrow."

Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times gives us a private memory of WFB

And, Buckley recounted, instead of the outside scenery, he ended up that night in the dark cockpit watching instead his dying friend in admiration, still excited, still himself, exulting at the world's beauty as he came down slowly for a landing at the end of a long trip.

Then, Buckley looked at me and took a sip of his drink. "I hope at the end," he said, "I come in for my last landing the same way."

And so he did, after a last supper that started with cocktails and ended with cognac, he went to his desk to write and there he was found the next morning, that great generous spirit gone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2008

Steve Fossett declared dead at 63.

Five months after disappearing while flying over the Nevada desert, Steve Fossett was declared dead by a Chicago court.

Dozens of planes and helicopters spent more than a month searching 20,000 square miles of the western Nevada mountains, one of the most remote and uninhabited regions of the US.
Throughout his life Mr Fosset had set more than 90 aviation records in balloons, fixed-wing aircraft, gliders and airships and 23 sailing records. Some 60 still stand.

On his sixth attempt, in 2002, he became the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon - in one unsuccessful bid he plunged five miles into the sea off Australia.

Three years later made the first solo, non-stop, non-refuelled flight around the globe in the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.

He also swam the English Channel, completed the Ironman Triathlon and the Iditarod dog sled race and climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Everest, however, eluded him.

Mr Fossett, who earned his fortune as a financial trader, broke the round-the-world sailing record by six days in 2004 and even set world records for cross-country skiing.

The Telegraph obituary  

Steve Fossett, who has been declared dead aged 63, made his fortune on the Chicago futures exchange and embarked on a dogged campaign to break more world records than any other sportsman in history; he set 116 records in hot air balloons, sailing boats, gliders and powered aircraft, getting into numerous scrapes and surviving several brushes with death.

He was known in Britain for his friendship with Sir Richard Branson, an erstwhile rival balloonist who became a co-sponsor.

Branson once described Fossett as "a loner: half-Forrest Gump, half android" and suggested that he was not so much interested in sport for its own sake as in testing the limits of his own endurance: "If there's an ocean to swim, he'll choose Christmas Day and it must be snowing and, if possible, the only day in the last decade when the channel ices over," Branson observed. "That's Steve for you."

At some point in his thirties Fossett typed out a list of his lifetime sporting goals. These included swimming the English Channel, climbing the highest mountains on six continents, establishing eight world records in sailing, and flying non-stop around the world in a balloon. Once his business was firmly established he set out to tick items off the list. He achieved them all - and more. He became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Explorers' Club, and in 2002 won the Gold Medal of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider, R.I.P.

Roy Scheider conveyed "an accelerated metabolism" in Jaws, Klute, The French Connection and All That Jazz.

Who knew he was a history major that planned on going to law school and served three years in the United States Air Force before he turned to acting?

For several years he suffered from multiple myeloma and died of complications from a staph infection at 75.

At the time of his death, Mr. Scheider was involved in a project to build a film studio in Florence, Italy, for a series about the history of the Renaissance.

Ann Althouse found the video Bye, bye my life good-bye where Scheider plays Joe Gideon in All That Jazz.

How surpassingly strange for his widow and family to have this video so widely available.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2008

"A striking and painful image"

Ernie Pyle  was a war correspondent who reported the stories of ordinary soldiers in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Pacific and won a Pulitzer Prize.  Beloved by soldiers and generals alike, he was killed instantly by enemy machine gun fire on Okinawa in 1944.

On April 16, the Army's 77th Infantry Division landed on Ie Shima, a small island off Okinawa, to capture an airfield. Although a sideshow to the main battle, it was "warfare in its worst form," photographer Roberts wrote later. "Not one Japanese soldier surrendered, he killed until he was killed."

Ernie Pyle Death Photo Found

All these years later, his death photo was discovered.

  Ernie Pyle

"It's a striking and painful image, but Ernie Pyle wanted people to see and understand the sacrifices that soldiers had to make, so it's fitting, in a way, that this photo of his own death ... drives home the reality and the finality of that sacrifice," said James E. Tobin, a professor at Miami University of Ohio.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:30 PM | Permalink

January 26, 2008

Mother with cancer

The mother of three didn't know that she had bowel cancer probably for years.  Not until she was four months pregnant with her fourth child did she learn that she had cancer, it had spread to her liver and doctors gave her little hope for recovery.

She refused to terminate her pregnancy and delayed her chemotherapy to give her baby the best chance of life.

 Cancer Mom Baby  Lives

Mom makes ultimate sacrifice for her new baby

She told her husband: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live."

Mrs Allard, of St Olaves, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, spent just two months with her son before losing her fight for life eight days ago.

Her husband Martyn, an oil field technician, yesterday paid tribute to her as the "best wife and mum in the world".

"Lorraine was so brave. I can't begin to describe how brave she was," 34-year-old Mr Allard said.

"She knew all too well she didn't have long to live. So she put little Liam's life before her own."

Immediately after Liam was born, she began chemotherapy but to no avail.    Her husband was with her when she died.
On the day Lorraine died, she hadn't eaten for two weeks and couldn't drink.

"I laid beside her and she was gripping my hand quite tight.

"We were like that for about half an hour. I could feel against my chest that her heart was slowing down. She just slipped away after that. It was very peaceful.

"When Liam is old enough, I won't tell him that Lorraine gave her life for him, but I will say she made sure he had a good chance of life.

"She told me she didn't want him to feel bad about it."

A remarkable woman. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 11, 2008

Sir Edmund Hilary, R.I.P.

Every so often, we get a glimpse of someone who shows us how great and good a human being can be.  Sir Edmund Hillary, the beekeeper  and the first man to reach the summit of Mt Everest along with his Sherpa guide Norgay Tenzing was such a man.  His life is a model of inspiration for accomplishment and humility.

     Hillary Oil Auckland Museum

London Telegraph

Sir Edmund Hillary, who died late yesterday aged 88, made his name as the first conqueror (with Norgay Tenzing) of Everest; just as impressive, though, was the use he made of his renown over the remainder of his life.

Hillary developed a deep admiration for the Sherpa people, and through the Himalayan Trust which he established in the 1960s oversaw the building of 25 schools, two hospitals and a dozen medical clinics, as well as bridges and airfields.
James (now Jan) Morris, who covered the expedition for The Times, wrote of Hillary working in the half-light, "huge and cheerful, his movement not so much graceful as unshakably assured, his energy almost demonic. He had a tremendous, bursting, elemental, infectious, glorious vitality about him, like some bright, burly diesel express pounding across America."

Hillary remained determinedly low-key. "Having paid my respects to the highest mountain in the world," he recalled 46 years later in his autobiography View from the Summit (1999), "I had no choice but to urinate on it." Though he took Tenzing's photograph he did not bother to organise one of himself. And when he met Lowe at Camp VIII on the way down, he delivered the great news in a laconic fashion deemed too shocking for publication at that epoch: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."

 Sir Ed On First Climb

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Hillary's death at 88 calling it a "profound loss to New Zealand."

Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.

The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived. But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours - from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing.

"Sir Ed's 1953 ascent of Mt Everest brought him world-wide fame. Thereafter he set out to support development for the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. His lifetime's humanitarian work there is of huge significance and lasting benefit.

  Climbing Mt Everest Hillary

New York Times
Standing atop that pinnacle in 1953 was an experience Sir Hillary would recollect many times in lectures and quiet conversations.

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map,” he told one interviewer. “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Sir Edmund Hilary

Associated Press

"We drew closer together as Tenzing brought in the slack on the rope. I continued cutting a line of steps upwards. Next moment I had moved onto a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing by space in every direction," Hillary wrote.

"Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked round in wonder. To our immense satisfaction we realized with had reached the top of the world."

Before Norgay's death in 1986, Hillary consistently refused to confirm he was first, saying he and the Sherpa had climbed as a team to the top. It was a measure of his personal modesty, and of his commitment to his colleagues.

  Sir  Hillary Scolastic Mag

London Times
From this moment of glory, Hillary’s career opened out into a lifetime of adventure and of widening interest. His own laconic summary of his active life as merely a “constant battle against boredom" gave part of the picture and was typical of his innate modesty and of his dislike of cant.
Hillary’s achievement was crowned not only by a knighthood and by much public acclaim, by an exceptionally happy marriage to Louise Mary Rose of Auckland. They had a son and two daughters. Lady Hillary was an accomplished violinist and a woman of great vitality and goodness. Her death in 1975 in an aeroplane accident with their younger daughter was a tragedy that hit her husband very hard.

He is survived by his second wife, June Mulgrew, whom he married in 1990,  the widow of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, a fellow adventurer who died in a passenger plane crash over Antartica.

 Sir Ed Hillary Older

New Zealand news  We will not see his kind again

He died peacefully when his heart gave out. 

"He retained his sense of humour right to the end. He was cheerful and joking...I suspect he knew his time was coming to an end," his friend Tom Scott says.

A practical man, he knew only too well that death was not too far away.

In 2002 he said: "I don't think it particularly frightens me. I have had a long haul...I have had a marvellous life...I have had two wonderful wives...you can't do better than that...I have a very good life, an exciting one, many good adventures."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

January 5, 2008

Death of a Milblogger

Army Major Andrew Olmstead, a veteran blogger, was a soldier his entire life, so when ordered to Iraq to teach members of the Iraqi Army, he went;  but not before entrusting a just in case post to a friend. 

I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."

Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them.

Olmstead was killed in an ambush by insurgents.

Godspeed to a brave man who walked the walk and blogged about it.

Many bloggers weigh in with their appreciation for his character and his writings and condolences to his family here.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2007

Paul Tibbets, pilot of Enola Gay

"I viewed my mission as one to save lives.  I didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.
I didn't start the war.  But I was going to finish it."

Paul Tibbets Jr, pilot of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb at Hiroshima, died at his home in Columbus, Ohio at 92.

Washington Post obit

Gen. Tibbets became a national hero with the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a historical turning point of the last century. He said he had no regrets over the more than 100,000 Japanese killed and wounded at Hiroshima, and made a point of saying he slept easily at night.
In a public television documentary, "The Men Who Brought the Dawn," that aired on the 50th anniversary of the bombings, Gen. Tibbets said the bomb "saved more lives than we took" because an alternative would have been an invasion of mainland Japan.

"It would have been morally wrong if we'd have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die," he said.

Boston Globe obit

If you think that the bombing of Hiroshima was a mistake I urge you to read Charles McCarry, Hiroshima and the Firebombing of Tokyo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr, "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty."

"An artist of impeccable grace and beauty" read the citation for Deborah Kerr's  honorary Oscar in 1994 awarded after she was nominated six times as Best Actress, never winning one. 

She died at 86 after suffering many years with Parkinson's disease.

 Kerr "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"
Heaven Knows Mr. Allison with Robert Mitchum

London Telegraph obituary

Kerr was the unfadingly ladylike and prototypical English rose whose red-haired, angular beauty and self-possessed femininity distinguished more than 50 films in four decades of cinema.

She made serenity dramatic; and though her poise might be ruffled at critical moments in scenes of passion (most famously exemplified by her encounter on the beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity in 1953), her well-bred airs and social graces made her a model of British womanhood in Hollywood. 
......her type of refined sensuality proved refreshingly attractive, since it hinted at hidden desires and forbidden feelings, giving her acting an extra edge and interest.

You can see a clip of the famous kiss on the beach  on YouTube.

 From Here To Eternity

Ann Althouse quotes from a New York Times piece that has since disappeared in the best summary of all.

She could be virginal, ethereal, gossamer and fragile, or earthy, spicy and suggestive, and sometimes she managed to display all her skills at the same time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

October 18, 2007

Countess Andree de Jongh

What an amazing, remarkable woman, Countess Andree de Jongh  obituary in the London Telegraph.

  Andree De Jongh

She founded and organised the Comet Escape Line, the route from Belgium through France to Spain used by hundreds of Allied airmen to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe.
Dédée de Jongh made more than 30 double crossings and escorted 116 evaders, including more than 80 aircrew. But on the night of January 15 1943 she was sheltering at Urrugne with three RAF evaders when she was betrayed. The house was stormed and she was captured. When interrogated under torture by the Gestapo, in order to save others she admitted being the leader of Le Reseau Comète.

The Gestapo, however, refused to believe that such a young and innocent girl could be in charge of an underground movement whose compass stretched from from Belgium to Spain.
Dédée de Jongh was sent to Mauthausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps. For two years she lived on a diet of dirty potato and turnip soup, practising her nursing skills and trying to avoid being singled out. Although she survived, she had become gravely ill and undernourished by the time she was released by the advancing Allied armies in April 1945.
After recovering her health Dédée de Jongh went to Buckingham Palace, in 1946, to receive the George Medal — the highest civilian award for bravery available to a foreigner. After the ceremony the RAF Escaping Society gave a dinner in her honour hosted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry. The Americans awarded her the Medal of Freedom and the French appointed her a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. The Belgians appointed her a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold and awarded her the Croix de Guerre with palm. In 1985 she was created a countess by King Baudouin.

Then she went to the Belgian Congo to work in a leper colony and from there to Ethiopia.

Her philosophy was simple.

In 2000 she recalled: "When war was declared I knew what needed to be done. There was no hesitation. We could not stop what we had to do although we knew the cost. Even if it was at the expense of our lives, we had to fight until the last breath."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

October 13, 2007

"It is good work in the world to support what is Good, True and Beautiful."

Brother Thomas Bezanson lived for 25 years a sa monk at Weston Priory in New York where he spent most of his time when not praying making small ceramics - mugs and teapots which the monastery sold to support the monastery. 

So talented was he, that In 1985 he moved to become the artist in residence at Mount Saint Benedict, a convent in Erie Pennsylvania where he was the only man among a community of 140 nuns.  As he become more skilled in ceramics, using rich glazes and unexpected textures, he attracted the attention of the Pucker Gallery on Newbury St. in Boston and many other collectors.  His work is exhibited in more than 80 museums around the world.

Last December, Benzanson was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.

In a letter he wrote to Pucker when he learned he was dying, Bezanson said, "My thought is simply to help other artists as I have been helped. I am not thinking of recognizing or rewarding successful artists but to give a 'leg-up' to artists in need. I am not thinking specifically of any one medium, although I certainly have a bias towards those working in the art of fire-and-clay, the potter. . . . It is good work in the world to support what is Good, True and Beautiful."
After spending more than 50 years making pottery that earned him acclaim from museum curators around the world, the Benedictine monk - whose ceramics have sold for as much as $60,000 apiece - wanted to support artists in need.

His wish is becoming a reality.

The Newbury Street gallery that owns the largest collection of Bezanson's work - $15 million worth - is joining with the Boston Foundation, which distributes millions of dollars in grants each year, to use proceeds from the sale of his ceramics to create a fund that would support struggling artists in Boston.

Sale of monk's art will aid city's struggling artists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2007

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence

Mime Legend Marcel Marceau Dies at 84

Offstage, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said.

A French Jew, Marceau escaped deportation to a Nazi death camp during World War II, unlike his father who died in Auschwitz. Marceau worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children, and later used the memories of his own life to feed his art.

He gave life to a wide spectrum of characters, from a peevish waiter to a lion tamer to an old woman knitting, and to the best-known Bip.

His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. In turn, Marceau inspired countless young performers — Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

September 13, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, R.I.P.

From the New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin. 

Madeleine L'Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88.
“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

Terry Mattingly  has a lovely tribute to Madeleine L'Engle, entitled Tesser well

The goal, said L’Engle, was to create fiction that was unmistakably Christian, while writing to an audience that included all kinds of believers and unbelievers.

“I have been brought up to believe that the Gospel is to be spread, it is to be shared — not kept for those who already have it,” she said. “Well, ‘Christian novels’ reach Christians. They don’t reach out. . . . I am not a ‘Christian writer.’ I am a writer who is a Christian. I think that you have to be the best writer that you can be. Now, if I am truly a Christian, then that will show in my work.”

I never read her, but so many people love her work like John Podhoretz who writes another lovely appreciation of the woman who lived in the same New York building whom he got to know because the elevator kept breaking down, that I must read at least one of them. Wrinkle in Time I think.

Excerpted from the Wikipedia entry

A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing. Her parents often disagreed about how to raise her and as a result she went to a number of boarding schools and had many governesses....

She was best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regeneration in The Arm of the Starfish, and so forth.

In addition to the numerous awards, medals and prizes won by individual books L'Engle wrote, she personally received many honors over the years and received over a dozen honorary degrees from as many colleges and universities, such as Haverford College. Many of these name her as a Doctor of Humane Letters, but she was also made a Doctor of Literature and a Doctor of Sacred Theology, the latter at Berkeley Divinity School in 1984. ...In 2004 she received the National Humanities Medal, but could not attend the ceremony due to poor health.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

"She built men, not boys"

  Jane Wyman

New York Times obituary by Richard Severo
Jane Wyman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a victimized deaf woman in the 1948 movie “Johnny Belinda,” played a fierce matriarch in the 1980s television series “Falcon Crest” and was the first wife of President Ronald Reagan, died Monday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 90.

Their daughter, Maureen, was born in 1941. She died of cancer in 2001. They adopted Michael in 1945. Another daughter, Christine, died the day after she was born premature, in 1947. The marriage ended in divorce in 1949, and afterward neither Mr. Reagan nor Ms. Wyman spoke publicly at any length about their years together.

But she broke her silence about him after he died in 2004, saying “America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man.”

A son's farewell to 'a great heart'.  Michael Reagan's eulogy for his mother Jane Wyman who died Monday at age 90.

"A lot of people talk about my father," the syndicated radio talk show host said of the late President Ronald Reagan, "but I am who I am today because of my mother. She told me at the age of 10, she built men, not boys."

A Resurrection Mass was held for the devout convert to Catholicism who was interred in a modest wooden casket in a Third Order Dominican habit.

Wyman won an Oscar and Golden Globes and was nominated for two Emmys, but her friend Mary Farrell said her proudest achievement was being named to the Dominican Third Order, a Catholic fellowship of preachers and nuns said to "live in, but are not of the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

September 6, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti R.I.P.

Luciano Pavarotti died, a great voice will sing no more

  Pavarotti 2

Associated Press.
Luciano Pavarotti, opera's biggest superstar of the late 20th century, died Thursday. He was 71. He was the son of a singing baker and became the king of the high C's. Pavarotti, who had been diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer and underwent treatment last month, died at his home in his native Modena ...His wife, Nicoletta, four daughters and sister were among family and friends at his side.
For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti's voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and '70s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his thrilling performances of standards like "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" came to represent what opera is all about.

"Nessun Dorma" turned out to be Pavarotti's last aria, sung at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006.

Thanks to YouTube, you can hear him sing Nessun Dorma

 Pavrotti 3

Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe

There were many great tenors active in the second half of the 20th century, but for millions of people Luciano Pavarotti was the main man, the only one. His singing gave more pleasure to more people for a longer period of time than any other classical singer in history
A New York Times critic once wrote that Mr. Pavarotti's vocal cords were "kissed by God." When television interviewer Pia Lindstrom repeated this remark to him, Mr. Pavarotti replied, "God kissed you all over." The tenor's gregarious personality was as endearing as his voice, and he was a good colleague onstage, always willing to help a younger singer.

New York Post

Like most Italian boys, he had dreams of being a soccer player. When that failed, Pavarotti's parents urged him to find a job. For a short time, he worked as an insurance salesman and teacher.

After taking on singing as a hobby, Pavarotti caught his big break thanks to another Italian opera great, Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a London performance of "La Boheme" in 1963.
Pavarotti served as a stand-in - and a star, the likes not seen since Enrico Caruso, was born.
Pavarotti was known as the "King of the High C's" for the ease in which he tossed off difficult notes. In fact, it was his ability to hit nine glorious high C's in quick succession that first turned him into an international superstar singing the aria "Ah! Mes amis," in Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment" at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972.

Rick Moran at American Thinker

His voice - a creamy and powerful instrument that soared majestically when the Maestro used it to interpret opera's most beautiful and difficult arias - has now been stilled forever:

Some critics savaged him for "going commercial." Pavarotti's response to that was simple; if "commercial" means many millions more people see and enjoy opera, give me "commercial everyday.
Notoriously tempermental, Pavarotti will be remembered for his generosity of spirit rather than his tantrums. His numerous performances for worthy causes through the years (at times appearing with rock and pop stars) are a testament to his dedication to both his art and humanity. There wasn't a nation on earth where he was not instantly recognizable. A truly remarkable fact considering the limited fan base for opera.

Thankfully, his voice will live forever thanks to his recordings. For that, future generations will be grateful when listening to perhaps the most unique song artist the 20th century produced.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Merv Griffin, R.I.P.

He started out as a game show host, first Jeopardy, then Wheel of Fortune, sold them while retained part of the profits, when on the become even richer through his h shrewd investing and by all accounts and was an all-around great guy.

 Merv Griffin And Arthur Treacher

Pat Sajak on Merv Griffin

No one could make you feel more alive than Merv Griffin.

Tom Shales, TV critic for the Washington Post calls him The Host Who Was Everyone's Guest.

He was fun to have around, and so the news of his death yesterday, at 82, was poignantly dispiriting. Especially considering he was that form of celebrity unique to television: a professional personality, someone whose singing (despite a big-band career in the '40s) was unexceptional, whose dancing was limited to ballrooms at haute blowouts, and whose major talent may have been his prowess at dealmaking behind the scenes.

AP Obituary by Bob Thomas

From his beginning as a $100-a-week San Francisco radio singer, Griffin moved on as vocalist for Freddy Martin's band, sometime film actor in films and TV game and talk show host. His "The Merv Griffin Show" lasted more than 20 years, and Griffin's said his capacity to listen contributed to his success.
He made Forbes' list of richest Americans several times and started putting money in treasury bonds, stocks and other investments. But he went into real estate and other ventures because "I was never so bored in my life."

"I said, `I'm not going to sit around and clip coupons for the rest of my life,' " he recalled in 1989. "That's when Barron Hilton said, `Merv, do you want to buy the Beverly Hilton?' I couldn't believe it.

New York Times obit by Richard Severo and Edward Wyatt.

With his easy smile and low-key manner, he seemed the eternally jovial Irishman; few of those around him, much less his fans, thought of him as the entrepreneur he was. “I was buying things and nobody knew,” he said. “I never told anybody, because I noticed that when you walk down the street and everybody knows you’re rich, they don’t talk to you.”
When he was creating “Jeopardy!,” he realized the show needed some music to fill the time while contestants were puzzling out a question. Sitting at a piano, he plunked out a few notes, then a repetitive melody, and within about a half-hour had the show’s familiar theme music. He retained the rights to the song even after selling the shows, and royalties from the ditty “made me a fortune, millions,” he said in 2005.

How much? he was asked. “Probably close to $70-80 million.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2007

A Good Man

Fling, helper of poor, sick and blind dies at 86

John Fling, who ran a one-man ministry out of a Chevy truck with a cell phone, would deliver hearty meals to others and then fold bologna inside a slice of bread for himself.

His mission — helping the poor, the sick and the blind — carried him from luckless S.C. streets to lavish awards banquets in the nation’s capital.

Through it all, friends said, the son of Georgia sharecroppers gave away what he didn’t need
“This guy went from early in the morning to late in the evening, seven days a week, for 45 years,” said David Houck, executive director of the Federation Center of the Blind. “When he had to slow down, it was probably the hardest thing he ever had to do.”
Having lost the sight in one eye during a childhood hunting accident, Fling gave special care to blind people, running errands for them or shuttling them to appointments.
“He was a very, very simple man,” said company president Michael Love. “The most unselfish man I’ve ever met.”

What a good man.  May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2007

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, R.I.P.

Born to Polish Jews (his mother died in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz), converted to Roman Catholicism as a boy, Lustiger became a leader of the French church, the archbishop of Paris for 24 years  and an advisor to Pope John Paul II,  died at age 80.

 Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger

After the German occupation of France, he was sent with his sister to live with a Catholic woman in Orleans. Born Aaron, he changed his name to Jean Marie after converting to Catholicism at age 13, against the wishes of his parents.    He always insisted he remained a Jew.

“To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.”

"Christianity is the fruit of Judaism," he once said.

New York Times obituary
The pope appointed him archbishop of Paris in January 1981, and if the French clergy were surprised, the appointee felt burdened. “For me,” he told an interviewer, “this nomination was as if, all of a sudden, the crucifix began to wear a yellow star.”

In an early interview as archbishop, he said: “I was born Jewish, and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope, and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.”

French President Nicholas Sarkozy said France had "lost a great figure of spiritual, moral, intellectual, and naturally religious life."

Associated Press obituary by Elaine Ganley

Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, said Cardinal Lustiger's "reflections, and his personal history, led him to play an important role in the evolution of relations between Jews and Christians."

A confidante of the late Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Lustiger represented the pontiff at January 2005 commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where his mother died.

"I don't want to return because it is a place of death and destruction," said Cardinal Lustiger, who had previously visited the camp in 1983. "If I am going, it is because the pope asked me."

Cardinal Lustiger never publicly addressed the tragedy of his mother, Gisele. But during France's National Day of Remembrance to commemorate the deportation and death of French Jews during World War II, Cardinal Lustiger, taking part in the reading of names in 1999, came to his mother's.

''Gisele Lustiger,'' he intoned, then added, ''ma maman'' (my mama), before continuing, Catholic World News reported.

''The strength of evil can only be answered with an even greater strength of love,'' Cardinal Lustiger said at a 2005 mass in Lodz, Poland, in memory of the more than 200,000 Jews deported from there to Nazi death camps.

In an appreciation George Wiegel compares two students in the same Poly Sci course at the Sorbonne, one Listiger, the other Pol Pot and wonders how different the world would be if Pol Pot had taken Pascal's Wager.

He continues
To meet Jean-Marie Lustiger was to meet a man of God: He was a wonderful human being—intelligent, caring, funny in a wry way—because he had been transformed by the power of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. His great desire was that others might share in the gift that he had been given, the gift of faith. That gift led him to read situations in their true depth, often against the grain of the conventional wisdom. And this was another quality he shared with the late John Paul II—the quality of reading the dynamics of history in depth. Like the man who took a great risk in appointing him archbishop of Paris, Lustiger (who took no less a risk in accepting John Paul’s appointment) understood that the most dynamic force in history over time is neither politics nor economics but rather culture: what men and women honor, cherish, and worship; what men and women are willing to stake their lives on.

And at the heart of culture, Lustiger knew, is cult: the act of worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whether the object of our worship is worthy. Jean-Marie Lustiger lived, led, and died in the conviction that the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus is true worship, worship that can shape a truly liberating humanism. That is why everyone whose life he touched was the richer for the encounter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2007

Igmar Bergman, R.I.P.

Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century is dead at 89.

  Igmar Bergman

AP obit
Through more than 50 films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

Bergman, who approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious filmmaking.

He was "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera," Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.

His masterpiece was the Seventh Seal wherein a knight with his squire returns from the Crusades to find his country ravaged by the Plague.  To buy time, he challenges Death to a game of chess.

From the Wikipedia synopsis
the Squire (...) treats death as a bitter and hopeless joke. Since we all play chess with death, and since we all must suffer through that hopeless joke, the only question about the game is how long it will last and how well we will play it. To play it well, to live, is to love and not to hate the body and the mortal

   Death Seventh Seal

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian

Was Bergman in touch with the European mind of his generation? Perhaps he simply was the mind of his generation. Of the great post-war directors, he was the one who shouldered the burden of moral questions: is there a God? Is there a God who is exists, but is absent? Should we behave as if God exists, if we suspect he doesn't? If he is merely absent for some unknowable millennial span, then how should we interpret this indifference, or this rebuke? And why, finally, does anything exist at all?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2007

Ladybird, R.I. P

Her caretaker nurse thought the little toddler, Claudia Alta Taylor,  was a "purty  as a lady bird".

“I was a baby and in no position to protest,” Mrs. Johnson said of her nickname.

So Ladybird was how she was known all her life.    As a young girl in a one room schoolhouse, as the 21-year-old bride of Lyndon Johnson whose first campaign for Congress she helped finance with a loan from her father against her inheritance and later as a businesswoman using part of her inheritance to buy a KTBC, a small radio station in Austin, Texas.

Her investments were sound.  When sold in 2003 (they were in a blind trust when Johnson was President) they reaped about $105 million making Ladybird, the first wife of a president to become a millionaire in her own right.

Dallas News obituary

"Mrs. Johnson is every bit as complex a character as Lyndon Johnson," said her biographer, Jan Jarboe Russell of San Antonio. "Future historians will find her to be a treasure house" once her unedited diaries and tapes are made public.

As both a contrast and a complement to her husband, Mrs. Johnson used the mostly social position of first lady as a meaningful vehicle for change, embracing leadership roles to beautify America, win acceptance of racial equality in her native South and nurture children's early learning through the Head Start program.

"She's really a breakaway first lady ... she's a precursor to feminism," said Ms. Russell, who spent four years on her 1999 book, Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson. "She was a strong and persistent American woman who helped us say goodbye to the '50s."

No one alive at the time can forget that she was in the motorcade when President John Kennedy was shot or the photograph of her standing beside her husband as he took the oath of office.

"I feel like I am suddenly on stage for a part I never rehearsed," she told Texas first lady Nellie Connally at the time.

Aboard Air Force One at Dallas Love Field, Mrs. Johnson tried to express her feelings. "I said, 'Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, you know we never even wanted to be vice president, and now, dear God, it's come to this.' "

Following the assassination, the country was turbulent with racial unrest, the Vietnam war and convulsive social change, yet Ladybird as First Lady was a soothing presence with her grace and a gentle touch and a far more influential advisor to her husband than we ever knew.

Robert Caro, the biographer of her husband said, "She conducted herself, often in the most difficult circumstances, with a graciousness and dignity and total devotion to her husband that was heroic,"

Her greatest legacy was the beauty she brought to the roadsides and highways of America.  Her love of the wildflowers of Texas, her commitment to natural beauty became a national cause for conservation as she championed the  Highway Beautification Act.

  Ladybird In Flowers

Washington Post obituary, Champion of Conservation, Loyal Force Behind LBJ, photo by David Kennedy.

She died at 94 at home of natural causes.

New York Times obituary by Enid Nemy

“It has been a wonderful life,” she told Ms. Carpenter in 1992. “I feel like a jug into which wine is poured until it overflows.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 6, 2007

The Last Drifter

Via Kathryn Jean Lopez, I learned that Bill Pinkney, the last of the original Drifters, died in Florida at 81 yesterday.  She also highlights a lovely story about how the famous song by the Drifters, Save the Last Dance for Me which was played at almost school dance when I was a teen-ager.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2007

Beverly Sills, R.I.P.

Brooklyn-born, America's diva, Beverly Sills died in Manhattan at 78 of lung cancer.

Her final performance on YouTube

  Beverly Sills Farewell -1

New York Times obituary

Ms. Sills was America’s idea of a prima donna. Her plain-spoken manner and telegenic vitality made her a genuine celebrity and an invaluable advocate for the fine arts. Her life embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins, years of struggle, family tragedy and artistic triumph.
During her performing career, with her combination of brilliant singing, ebullience and self-deprecating humor, Ms. Sills demystified opera — and the fine arts in general — in a way that a general public audience responded to. Asked about the ecstatic reception she received when she made a belated debut at La Scala in Milan in 1969, Ms. Sills told the press, “It’s probably because Italians like big women, big bosoms and big backsides.”

Her husband  Greenough died last year after a long illness.  The first of their children was born deaf, the second so severely retarded he had to be placed in an institution.
In a conversation with a Times reporter in 2005, reflecting on her challenging life and triumphant career, Ms. Sills said, “Man plans and God laughs.” She added: “I have often said I’ve never considered myself a happy woman. How could I, with all that’s happened to me. But I’m a cheerful woman. Work kept me going.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

July 2, 2007

Lucky Fluckey

VIa  RIP Lucky Fluckey by Jules Crittenden, I learned about Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey,  one of the greatest naval heroes of World War II whose daring submarine attacks completely disrupted the entire Japanese shipping system .

It's a terrific story of courage and derring-do that would serve as far better plot for  a Hollywood action movie than we usually get,  in the words of his Medal of Honor citation "an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking."

The Galloping Ghost of the China Coast

In addition to the Medal of Honor and Navy Crosses (second only to the Medal of Honor), Adm. Fluckey received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and a host of lesser decorations. His greatest achievement, he often said, was that no one under his command ever received another well-known medal: the Purple Heart.

Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey, who was awarded the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses, was among the most highly decorated of any military veterans. (Navy Department)

"He was absolutely confident and absolutely fearless, but fearless with good judgment," McNitt said. "He brought his ship and his people home."

An extraordinary life, an extraordinary man, the sort you want young boys to read all about.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 PM | Permalink

Father Laurence Mancuso, Dog Lover, R.I.P.

Father Laurence Mancuso, the founding abbot of The Monks of New Skete,  who won fame for their sane and loving way of training dogs, died at 72.

New Skete is a contemplative monastic community of men and women living their Easter Orthodox Christian faith while breeding German shepherds,  smoking hams and making cheesecakes  to support themselves.

  Monks Of New Skete & Dogs-2

The Deacon's Bench has more at Man's best friend loses a friend.

New York Times obit.

I liked this image, imagining the love bond created
At New Skete, when the monks and nuns go about their daily chores, sit for meals or wander through the woods in silent meditation, they usually have their dogs leashed to their belts. So, too, did Father Laurence.

"How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)" (The Monks of New Skete)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2007

A more complex Rose Kennedy

In the Boston Globe, The Rose We Hardly Knew reveals through diaries and letters a far more complex Rose Kennedy.

Rose Kennedy

"Well, I am just an old-fashioned girl," Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy would say when someone offered a cigarette or a drink. "I don't drink and I don't smoke and I have a lot of children."

12 years after her death, Rose Kennedy's recently released diaries, letters, and personal papers reveal a more complex figure than she sometimes styled herself. An educated, ambitious woman, she struggled to maintain a sense of individuality in a culture that frowned upon independent women, in a family that considered everything a team sport, in which the women were expected to suppress their ambitions for the team.
Rose Kennedy has been the victim of a kind of affectionate type-casting -- the self-effacing spouse, the proud and grieving mother at the center of, but not quite central to, the iconic family scenes. A face in the frame more than a character in her own right.

Turns out there are a lot of things you don't know about Rose you will learn in a slide gallery that accompanies the piece.
"She was an intellectual, she didn't spare the rod, she played through pain, she was precise with money,  she was image conscious, she was a woman of faith, she worried about Jack, she found peace later on in life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 7, 2007

The Legacy of Pym Fortun

The legacy of the openly gay, charismatic, capitalistic, popular right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn who was murdered five years ago  Sunday is examined by Pieter Dorsman in Dutch Martyrs.

When asked in an interview about death Fortuyn emphatically stated that you can influence the way in which you die and that most people more or less die the way they lived. Being shot in broad daylight shortly after another media appearance does indeed seem to reflect the controversies he caused while he was alive. His mother had presaged events almost four decades earlier shortly after JFK’s death by informing the young Pim that he might one day die as tragically as his political hero.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 27, 2007

Jack Valenti, R.I.P.

Jack Valenti died at 85, an unforgettable man.

From an Appreciation by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post.

Hollywood would never have cast Jack Valenti in the role he played in real life, which was as the film industry's man in Washington. Valenti was too florid in speech, too grandiose in manner, too much of a wit to fit the cinematic archetype of the conniving Washington fixer and shadowy string-puller.
Hollywood will sorely miss Valenti's battlefield smarts and insider skills. His most famous creation was the industry's movie-rating system -- a marketing masterstroke that substituted "self-regulation" for the threatened legislative kind
But Valenti's single greatest professional coup was an obscure one.

It's worth reading the entire thing to appreciate how wired Valenti was and how cleverly he used his juice.

His obituary, A Hollywood Promoter on Both Coasts by Adam Bernstein

With an instinctive showman's flair -- notably his grandiloquent speaking style and access to movie stars -- Valenti became the dominant power broker connecting Capitol Hill and the film colony. Besides his work on the ratings system in the late 1960s, he helped open up world markets for American-made films and secured passage of copyright legislation to protect movies into the digital age, which led to the proliferation of DVDs.