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

December 20, 2013

Walking into a Hidden Time Capsule

A guest host for the radio show Antique Talk tells this story.  Walking into a Hidden Time Capsule

I met Ron, who had nothing for me to appraise but told me about the antebellum house that he was moving from a small town near Birmingham onto a plot of land that his family has owned since before the Civil War. He told me all about the house; large, framed and formerly owned by a pair of spinster sisters. The sisters—there originally had been three but one had died many years ago of tuberculosis—had been prominent Deb’s. Ron also mentioned something about some secret rooms and the sister dying in the house. They had inherited the house from their widowed father and had been left, apparently, comfortably well off, judging by the condition of the house when Ron bought it. The last surviving sister, dying in her 90s, had willed the house to some obscure cousin—we’ll call him Junior—who feigned indifference to the white elephant and put it immediately on the market it after auctioning off the contents for a small fortune,
---
Weeks later I received a call from Ron on the show. It was one of those “remember me” calls. Well of course I remembered him. I filled in the listening audience with Ron’s story and he began to tell the update. The house had been delivered, secured onto its new foundation, columns put in place and the plumbing and wiring had started to be installed. Apparently, when the electrical contractor was putting in the new wiring they ran into a snag: They had too much new line and nowhere to put it, Ron explained. When running the line on the second floor, they ran into a wall. Based on the square footage, this wall, which terminated at the end of a hallway, should have not existed.
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I  was wrapping up the show when Ron called back. “I was knockin’ all over the back hallway wall and you’re right; I went out side and took a long look at the house, came back in, figured where, and hit a hollow sounding spot. I did the most logical thing, I got out the sledgehammer and starting to knock into the wall and you won’t guess what I found.”

I needed no prodding to ask, “What?”

“A doorway. A closed-off, locked doorway. And you’ll never guess, the key was in the lock.”….

“Should I open the door?” Ron asks. Should I open the door! I’m thinking, “No, Ron, don’t open the door leave us all in suspense. Of course open the door!”

“Open the door Ron,” I shout down the line. This is live radio, and dead air is dead in the water. My producer is screaming in my ear through the headphones that she has 70 callers all saying, open the damned door. We all hear more wall being knocked away, the phone being dropped, the sledgehammer bashing through plaster and lathe, then, collectively, we exhale as we hear Ron trying to turn the key in the lock, we hear a snap and hear Ron push open the door.

“Holy expletive! You are not going to believe this.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2013

"He was alone in a room with me, he was without his trousers, and he was very, very dead."

The victim of the first big mistake I ever made was a gentleman to whom I had never been properly introduced (and whose name I still do not know) but who was possessed of three singular qualities: he was alone in a room with me, he was without his trousers, and he was very, very dead.

How can you not read on?

Simon Winchester writes about his summer working in a mortuary to earn money for passage to Canada to see his girlfriend.

  My First Mistake 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2013

Deathbed confession

 Cheeky Gnome

Deathbed confession solves mystery of phantom gnomes

FOR years residents in a picturesque village had hunted in vain for the joker who had been sneaking around late at night and placing gnomes in their gardens.

Over the past decade the ornaments have also appeared at the bus stop, by the duck pond and on the village green in Brattleby, Lincs and all attempts to unmask the culprit failed.

Now the mastermind behind the prank has been revealed following his deathbed confession.

The mystery was finally solved when mourners attended the funeral of Peter Leighton, 61, who died from prostate cancer earlier this month.

Mr Leighton’s son and co-conspirator, David, 32, made the admission as he read out his father’s eulogy on Monday.

Mr Leighton, who works for a pharmaceutical firm in Australia, said: “My cousin came round one day after his first ever visit to a pound shop in Lincoln and one of the items he bought was a gnome. Dad said it would be funny to scatter gnomes around the village. Me and my friend Ben had a map of the village and worked out a route of who had security lights and who didn’t.

“We carried two big rucksacks full of gnomes and had to contend with barking dogs and gravel. It was so much fun dad decided we should do it again.”

He added that his father once told him that reporters and film crews had descended on the village in an attempt to uncover the truth. “He was really laughing. He couldn’t believe it.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

May 16, 2013

Bill Murray recalls the last time he saw Gilda Radner

Old Love

“Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.

So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”

We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know.

And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.

It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2013

The Victorian lady undertaker

Lady of Ashes

has as its heroine a Victorian undertaker, Violet Morgan. Although Violet marries into the profession she becomes quickly adept at running the family business. While her husband Graham becomes involved in a shady enterprise involving blockade running for the Confederacy, Violet assumes full control of operations at Morgan Undertaking. Graham complains that she is neglecting the house, even though he does not leave her with many options, since he is unwilling to devote himself to the care of corpses. Violet, however, sees her role not just as work but as a vocation, burying the dead being a work of mercy. She approaches the dead with respect and the survivors with sympathy and comfort
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What I appreciate most about this novel is the fascinating information on Victorian mourning customs. People in mourning, especially widows, were allowed to withdraw into seclusion. Everyone understood the requirements of the grieving process, at least where the middle and upper classes were concerned. Outward expressions of sorrow were not only commonplace but expected. In our eyes the accoutrements of mourning may seem exaggerated, since now many do not have burial services but "celebrations of life." In Victorian times, a period of mourning was part of the healing process,
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Did you know that Victorians did not embalm their dead?  In fact, the practice only took off in the United States during the Civil War, in order to cope with preserving dead soldiers—on both sides—while being sent home on trains.

Do you know why the Victorians didn’t embalm their dead?  They thought it an unseemly—and un-Christian—practice to fill a body with chemicals before placing it in the ground. 

Guess why lilies are traditionally associated with funerals?  Their scent is so intense that they masked the odor of decomposing bodies.  While Prince Albert’s coffin stood inside Windsor Chapel in 1861, the profusion of lilies was so overpowering that the guards had to be switched out every hour to prevent them from fainting.

First class or coach?  The Victorians were still a class-conscious society, even if some of those barriers were breaking down.  In planning your funeral, the undertaker—wearing a top hat swathed in black crape—would offer your family options appropriate to your social status.  For example, if you were of high enough rank, you might have a funeral car with glass sides, interior curtains, and plumes adoring the top.  Were you just middle class?  Well, a smaller carriage then, no curtains and no plumes.  For those of little means, your funeral carriage was more like a long, black open cart.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2012

The Best of All Summers

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

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

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

“And what band would that be son?”

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

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

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

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

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

November 30, 2012

“PLEASE don’t leave me”

Some of the sad stories behind the Over 200 dead bodies on Mount Everest

“PLEASE don’t leave me,” the dying woman cried.  Two climbers heard the screams of Francys Arsentiev, an American woman who had fallen after succumbing to snow blindness and found herself separated from her husband.  They were in the “death zone,” low on oxygen, and the woman was on the side of a steep cliff; carrying her was not an option.  The trip just to get down to her would be a risk for their own lives.  The two climbers, Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd, climbed down to her and did what they could to keep her company, but it was too late.  They administered oxygen and tried to tend to Fran, but there was nothing they could do. Ian and Cathy returned down to base camp to ask for help and report their findings.

 Dead Body Mt Everest-

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2012

The Irish relationship with death

Up below we live - The Irish relationship with death and the finest writers, James Joyce and Paddy Kavanagh included

Then there is the Irish and their relationship with death which always fascinates. I know many a professional wake attendee, my father included.  Talking recently with a friend, the singer and All-Ireland tin whistler Kevin Guerin, he asked how the parents were.

“I haven’t seen your Dad in a while,” said the Clare man. “No one died lately.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

"Tell me everything you remember about my Dad"

Our responsibility to orphans is first to tell them the stories we know about their parents  but sometimes Words Do Not Suffice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2012

Amazing story of a loyal dog guarding his dead master

Loyal dog ran away from home to find his dead master's grave - and has stayed by its side for six years

A faithful dog has refused to leave the side of his dead master's grave for six years, it was reported today.

 Loyal Dog Capitan


German shepherd Capitan ran away from home after the death of Argentinian Miguel Guzman in 2006.  A week later Mr Guzman's family went to pay their respects and found the heartbroken pet sitting by his owner's grave, wailing.  Since then the grieving dog has rarely left the spot at the cemetery in the town of Villa Carlos Paz, central Argentina.

Mr Guzman bought Capitan as a present for his 13-year-old son Damian in 2005. He died suddenly in March the next year, but by the time his family had returned home from the funeral Capitan was gone.

Mr Guzman's widow Veronica told Argentina's Cordoba newspaper: 'We searched for him but he had vanished. We thought he must have got run over and died. The following Sunday we went to the cemetery and Damian recognized his pet. Capitan came up to us, barking and wailing, as if he were crying.' She added: 'We had never taken him to the cemetery so it is a mystery how he managed to find the place. 'We went back the next Sunday, and he was there again. This time, he followed us home and spent a bit of time with us, but then went back to the cemetery before it started getting dark.

'I don't think he wanted to leave Miguel on his own at night.'

The cemetery's director Hector Baccega remembers the day he first saw the dog. He said: 'He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master. 'During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o'clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave stays there all night.' Mr Baccega said staff at the cemetery are now feeding and taking care of Capitan.

Mr Guzman's son Damian said: 'I've tried to bring Capitan home several times, but he always comes straight back to the cemetery. I think he's going to be there until he dies too. He's looking after my dad.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2012

People who faked their own deaths

10 Insane Stories of People Who Faked Their Own Deaths via Neatorama

Here they are, but you have to go to the link to read the stories

Connie Franklin: Called As Witness in Own Murder Trial

Lord Timothy Dexter: 3000 People Came To His Phony Funeral

Ken Kesey: Faked Suicide, “Flew” Over The Border To Escape Pot Bust

Corey Taylor: Pretended To Be Dead To Get Out Of Cell Phone Contract

Allison Matera: Faked Death But Attended Funeral

William Grothe: Posed as His Own Murderer

Aimee Semple McPherson: Pretended To Die and Went To…?

Gandaruban Subramaniam: Faked Death for 20 Years, Remarried Wife, and Had Another Child

Hugo Jose Sanchez: Faked Death, Caught Because of Elvis CD Purchase

Bennie Wint: Faked Death For 20 Years For No Reason

Though my favorite is Francis "Turk" Moriarty,  a bank robber who did hard time before he got a job at the Boston Housing Authority, drinker and poet who Threw Himself a Funeral Every Year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

April 15, 2012

Things I didn't know about the Titanic

There are thousands who "Just found out Titanic really happened!'  Brittany tweets, "Nobody told me titanic was real:/I thought it was just another movie I haven't seen."

Father Thomas Byles, a Catholic priest who gave up two spots on a lifeboat to stay behind and hear confessions.

Agnes McCoy, one of the survivors, says that as the great ship sank, Fr. Byles “stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him.”

“Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish,” she told the New York Telegram on April 22, 1912, according to the website devoted to his memory, FatherByles.com.

Did anti-Catholic sentiment help doom the unsinkable ship?

Harland and Wolff, the East Belfast shipyard  where the ship was manufactured, was notorious for not hiring Catholics.In the 1900’s the workforce was entirely  Protestant and virulently anti -Catholic.

“At Harland and Wolff it was not unknown for workers to paint on the sides of ships under construction the words “NO POPE” in letters ten feet high or more,” writes naval historian David Allen Butler.

There were widespread stories that each rivet hammered into the Titanic was accompanied by a ‘f.. the pope epithet

Daily Mail archives reveal how Britain learned of the Titanic disaster

The BBC News on Five Titanic myths spread by films

Neoneocon on the complex truth behind Class and gender on the Titanic

there is no escaping the conclusion that gender was an even greater factor than class, and that this was deliberate: Many first-class male passengers either elected to die in order that third class female passengers might live, or were forced by the crew to refrain from saving themselves at the expense of those third class women. That’s a different–and more accurate–narrative, although it’s not quite as politically correct. And it’s one that has gotten very little traction over the years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

December 26, 2011

"She has a legacy now"

Jackie Oddo thought it was too late when she  learned of the death of her birth mother whom she never meet.  Still, she felt compelled to go to her wake. 

When Grief bears a gift of joy,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2010

A Most Determined Suicide

From Futility Closet, A Most Determined Suicide

A gentleman passing through the United States, on the Union and Pacific Railroad, was one morning telling the guard about a relative of his lately committing suicide.

‘Very sad, indeed,’ replied the guard, ‘but the most determined attempt at suicide happened the other day down Sacramento (California) way. A young man went down to the beach when the tide was out, with a long pole, sharpened at one end, and a hook in the other; he had also a rope with a noose in it, a phial of poison, a pistol, and a box of matches. He drove the pole into the sand, and climbed up it until the tide had risen high enough to drown him, when he swallowed the poison, set his trousers on fire, put the noose round his neck, and then fired his pistol. The bullet, instead of entering his forehead, grazed the top of his head and went through the rope; the rope, being weakened, snapped, and dropped the unfortunate man into the sea, which, of course, put the fire out, and swallowing some sea water made him vomit the poison, and in two or three minutes he was washed ashore alive, and only suffering slightly from the effects of his immersion.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

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.
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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.

 Salinger&Catcher

“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.”
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.”

 Salinger-Cover-Time-Mag


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.
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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.
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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."
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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

October 13, 2009

Fetal Remains

The New York Times has a slide show about Monica Miller, a  photographer who captures the humanity of aborted fetuses.

Behind the Scenes: Picturing Fetal Remains

James Pouillon, the anti-abortion protestor was carrying a sign displaying one of Miller's photographs when he was shot dead outside a high school.   

In the NYT companion piece, Abortion Foes Tell of Their Journey to the Streets.

But as the personal stories of Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Brewer and Ms. Anderson suggest, the motivations of many protesters are more complicated. They see themselves as righteous curbside critics, prophets warning the world with what they describe as the horrific truth no one wants to see. They have endured insults, threats and even estrangement from their families because they have found what nearly every activist craves: conviction, camaraderie and conflict.
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Ms. Anderson smiled. “I can’t tell you how many babies have been saved because of abortion protesters outside the abortion mills,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2009

Caught and saved

 Man Of The Week

My man of the week, Construction worker Jason Oglesbee dangles from a crane as he stretches his hand to a drowning woman caught in a swirl of water at the base of a dam.  Her boat overturned and her husband died but not before he yelled to his wife to put on her life jacket.

I just told her to hang on tight. I won't let go,' Oglesbee recalled

 Drowning Woman Caught

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2008

Being dead on and off has made her life a hassle

The problems starts when someone in Florida died and Laura Todd's social security number was accidently typed in.

Woman Says Being Dead Ruins Her Life

The IRS says I'm dead. Everybody says I'm dead," she said.

She said being dead off and on has made everyday life a hassle. She said her bank closed her credit card account and attached a note of sympathy: "Please accept our condolences on the death of Laura Todd."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2007

Mark Twain's obsession with death

David Kipen explores  Mark Twain's lifelong preoccupation with death in Twain's most chilling time was a fall in San Francisco

A cheerful approach it isn't, but a careful scrutiny of Twain's life and career discloses a man fascinated with suicide, murder, funerals, wakes, corpses, damnation and reincarnation to a degree well beyond mere morbidity. Rumors of Mark Twain's obsession with death cannot possibly be exaggerated.

Ultimately, of course, death is one of the few things we all have in common. However, Twain survived a youth more shadowed by mortality than many, and they were deaths of a particularly immediate and grisly kind.

Not only did his forbidding father, Judge Clemens, die of pneumonia when Twain was 11, but Twain is said to have witnessed the autopsy through a keyhole. Not only was he at his "sinless" brother Henry's bedside as he lay dying after a steamboat explosion, but Twain would forever blame himself for getting Henry his fateful job on board.
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But the uncanniest evidence for Twain's fixation on mortal matters is simply this: that in his two most enduring books, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and its habitually underrated junior partner, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," both title characters essentially attend their own funerals

Twain came very close to suicide in San Francisco in 1866. 
When Twain put the pistol to his head that day in San Francisco, he couldn't know that he was holding the future of American literature at gunpoint. No man in that position ever knows just how much one bullet can wing. As always, best not to chance it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

February 26, 2007

Fraud Exposed by ITunes, Widower Confesses

Joyce Hatto was a little known pianist in London when she fell ill and moved to New Zealand.

Her recordings, CDs made when she was in her late 60s and 70s, are staggering, showing a masterful technique, a preternatural ability to adapt to different styles and a depth of musical insight hardly seen elsewhere.
--
Little wonder that when she at last succumbed to her cancer last year at age 77 — recording Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26, “Les Adieux,” from a wheelchair in her last days — The Guardian called her “one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced.” Nice touch, that, playing Beethoven’s farewell sonata from a wheelchair. It went along with her image in the press as an indomitable spirit with a charming personality

In her obituary, the Guardian called her "one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced...Her legacy is a discography that in quantity, musical range and consistent quality has been equalled by few pianists in history.

But it was all a fraud that fooled many music critics that only came to light after her death last year - exposed by  iTunes.

You have to read Shoot the Piano Player to find out how.

Now it appears her widower William Barrington Coupe passed off other people's recordings as his wife's to give her the illusion of a great end to an unfairly overlooked career.  Or at least that's what he said in a letter to Gramophone Magazine

I Did It For My Wife.

Now he deeply regrets what has happened. He feels that he has acted stupidly, dishonestly and unlawfully. However, he maintains that his wife knew nothing of the deception

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Mr Noodle

The ramen noodle, a dish of "effortless purity" that attains a "state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water"  and satisfies more than 100 million people every day was invented by a single man who died last week at 96 in Japan.

  Ramen

Mr. Noodle is appreciated in the New York Times.
Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.

His Times obituary is here
Momofuku Ando, who — to the delight of dormitory students and other kitchen-resistant customers worldwide — invented those small packets of preflavored dried noodles that require just a three-minute boil, died Friday at a hospital in Osaka, Japan. Mr. Ando, the founder of the Nissin Food Products Company, was 96.
--
In July 2005, the company vacuum-packed portions of instant noodles so that a Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, could have them on the space shuttle Discovery. Mr. Ando said at the time, “I’ve realized my dream that noodles can go into space.”

Update:  There's an unofficial ramen website here whose founder Matt Fischer says,
Instant Ramen is more than a food for cash-strapped college students (although thats where many of us “picked up the habit”). My neighbor’s health-conscious (and pregnant) wife has gone back to ramen as a comfort food. I offer my final proof of the widespread consumption of ramen, with this data from the Wikipedia: an estimated 70 Billion servings were sold in 2004. That’s enough ramen for about 11 servings per person per year! So, when you consider that ramen is just a simple food or a minor invention, think of what other things in the world have grown from 1 to 70,000,000 servings in the past 49 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:44 AM | Permalink

June 16, 2006

Memory Holes

From a New York Times book review by Russell Shorto of

"Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War" (Nathaniel Philbrick)

Not long after the Pilgrims set anchor in the harbor they called Plymouth in 1620, the Wampanoag leader Massasoit paid them a visit near their makeshift settlement and made a wary offer of friendship.

It took several months for two of the Pilgrims to venture into the wilderness and return the gesture. When they did, they noticed circular pits alongside the trails, which, the natives told them, were storytelling devices. Each of these
"memory holes" was dug at a place where a remarkable act had occurred; every time Indians passed by these spots, they recounted the deeds.

The Pilgrims, Nathaniel Philbrick says in his vivid and remarkably fresh retelling of the story of the earnest band of English men and women who became saddled with the sobriquet of America's founders, "began to see that they were traversing a mythic land, where a sense of community extended far into the distant past."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2006

Leaving a blood trail for police

Some people leave fingerprints, Adam Warner left his finger.

Over Memorial Day, Warner had himself a good time toppling some 53 headstones in an upstate N.Yl. cemetery until one fell on him severing his finger.

Police followed the trail of blood he left and arrested him for criminal mischief, criminal trespass and cemetery desecration.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2006

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

David Dornstein, while at Brown, had an idea for a fictional autobiography.

''The idea?" his brother would write later. ''An unknown young writer dies in a plane crash leaving behind lots of notebooks and bits of stories, and the narrator sets out to piece it all together into a story of the unknown writer's life."

Only 25 when the Libyan terrorists blew Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1968, David Dornstein fell 6 miles to earth.

Fortunately, he had left lots of notebooks and story ideas from which his brother Ken pieced together David's life and his own.

From Beyond Biography, a book review by Daniel Akst in the Boston Globe

Ken didn't just visit the remains of the Boeing aircraft and determine where David sat in relation to the fateful load of Semtex explosives. He pored over his brother's most private writings. He interviewed David's friends. He tracked down his brother's childhood sexual abuser. He became romantically involved with not one but two of David's main love interests. Eventually he married one of them.


"The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky : A True Story" (Ken Dornstein)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2006

Tapping the Admiral

Some years ago, the father of a friend of mine brought a fairly enormous house in the middle of Bodmin Moor, a sort of Georgian/Regency house built on the site of an older farmhouse.

In the capacious cellars they found half a dozen very large barrels. 'Oh, good!' said mother. 'We can cut them in half and plant orange trees in them.'

So they set to work to cut the barrels in half, but they found that one of them was not empty, so they set it up and borrowed the necessary equipment from the local pub. The cellar filled with a rich, heady Jamaican odour.

'Rum, by God!' said the father. It was indeed, so they decided to take advantage of some fifty gallons of the stuff before cutting the barrel in half.

About a year later, after gallons of rum punch, flip and butter had been consumed, it was getting hard to get any more rum out of the barrel, even by tipping it up with wedges. So they cut it in half, and found in it the well-preserved body of a man.

The legend of drinking liquor from a barrel used to preserve a body has a long history. Barbara Mikkelson tells you all including what "tapping the Admiral" means.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

December 5, 2005

Coming Back from the Dead

Chris Rose tells us what is it like driving by the "haunting messages and mystical artifacts [that] adorn the homes of neighborhoods struggling to come back from the dead. Via Ernie the Attorney

I drive around and try to figure out those Byzantine markings and symbols that the cops and the National Guard spray-painted on all the houses around here, cryptic communications that tell the story of who or what was or wasn't inside the house when the floodwater rose to the ceiling.
In some cases, there's no interpretation needed. There's one I pass on St. Roch Avenue in the 8th Ward at least once a week. It says: "1 dead in attic."
That certainly sums up the situation. No mystery there.
---
I wonder who eventually came and took 1 Dead in Attic away. Who knows? Hell, with the way things run around here -- I wonder if anyone has come to take 1 Dead in Attic away.
And who claimed him or her? Who grieved over 1 Dead in Attic and who buried 1 Dead in Attic?
--
I wonder if I ever met 1 Dead in Attic. Maybe in the course of my job or maybe at a Saints game or maybe we once stood next to each other at a Mardi Gras parade or maybe we once flipped each other off in a traffic jam.
1 Dead in Attic could have been my mail carrier, a waitress at my favorite restaurant or the guy who burglarized my house a couple years ago. Who knows?
My wife, she's right. I've got to quit just randomly driving around. This can't be helping anything.

On the other hand, there are the Mardi Gras Indians

On several desolate streets that I drive down, I see where some folks have returned to a few of the homes and they haven't bothered to put their furniture and appliances out on the curb -- what's the point, really? -- but they have retrieved their tattered and muddy Indian suits and sequins and feathers and they have nailed them to the fronts of their houses.
The colors of these displays is startling because everything else in the 8th is gray. The streets, the walls, the cars, even the trees. Just gray.
So the oranges and blues and greens of the Indian costumes are something beautiful to behold, like the first flowers to bloom after the fallout. I don't know what the significance of these displays is, but they hold a mystical fascination for me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2005

Just by chance?

He changed his mind about going to the market so he could check on his cattle says the AP.

"While I was emptying wtaer, I walked up to check on my hay. Then I saw something red hanging on the fence" said William King, a cattle farmer in Tennessee.

When he walked closer, he saw an unconscious woman covered in blood.

"I hollered at her but she never did move or anything. I thought she had been shot. I thought she was dead"

He called the police and he and the officer cut Shelley Morales, 23, out the barbed wire and she began to regain consciousness telling them she had been there for 2 days.

She's still in intensive care with memories flitting in and out so nobody knows yet how and why she got caught in the fence with a broken leg.

Was it just chance that she was found? What good forces caused William King NOT to go to the market?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

October 31, 2005

The Differences Among Ghosts

BeliefNet explains the differences among ghosts. There are spirits of the dead, crisis apparitions, phantoms, poltergeists and psychic residue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2005

The helmet-wearing corpse on a bike

This is just too weird, I'm just going to excerpt this story, Something you don't see too often.

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - A motorcyclist with a helmet-wearing corpse strapped to his back crashed in this Mexican city on the U.S. border on Friday and fled on foot, setting off a police murder hunt.

The unidentified driver was trying to ride with the body through the center of Tijuana, south of San Diego, California., when he lost control rounding a curve.

He fled the scene, leaving the dead passenger on the curb. Police said the corpse, which had head injuries and bore strangulation marks, had died at least six hours earlier.

"When the police arrived they took the helmet off the corpse, believing at first that he had died in the crash," said Francisco Castro, a spokesman for the Baja California state police's homicide division.

"But he had adhesive tape stuck to his face, a knife wound to his forehead, and showed signs of strangulation," he added.

Castro said the dead man had wraps of methamphetamine in his pocket and an unkempt appearance, which led investigators to believe the killing was drug related.
"We think the killer was trying to take the body to a more deserted area to dispose of it," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2005

Suicide Powerpoint Presentation

From the Onion

Project manager Ron Butler left behind a 48-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining his tragic decision to commit suicide, coworkers reported Tuesday.

-----
In the presentation's first section, a three-dimensional bar graph illustrated the growth of Butler's sorrow during the two years since his wife and only child died in a car accident.

"We all got Ron's message loud and clear when that JPEG of his wife wipe-transitioned to a photo of her tombstone," coworker Anne Thibideux said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2005

A Daughter's 'Soul' Preserved by the "Enemy"

This story will give you the chills and give you some sense of the power of your personal Legacy Archives and the marvelous hand of fate.

A fiery book, a daughter's soul, the 30 year sore of a military intelligence officer and a publishing phenomenon in Vietnam. Vietnamese family reunites with fallen daughter by Elliott Blackburn.

Doan Ngoc Tram fell to her knees before the small cardboard box.
Her three daughters crowded close, holding her, as two small bone clasps were carefully undone and the lid of the box lifted. Two small, brown books sat side by side.

Ngoc Tram wept. The stoic woman clutched the diaries of her eldest daughter against her chest for the first time.

"This is the spirit of my sister," her daughter Dang Hien Tram later said through an interpreter. "This is my sister's soul."

The family had traveled thousands of miles from home to see the memoirs Wednesday, now held at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center.

The diaries hold the intimate details of the last few years of a young battlefield surgeon's life. They describe hiding in a trench filled with water to the neck, reciting poetry to pass the time. They share the private anguish of a young doctor's losing war on death.

They are of skies of fire and cratered earth, of battle-ravaged hospitals staffed with revolutionary fervor, of the love of family and country.
They are tales captured by an enemy that protected them for three decades; two diaries that joined two families separated by war.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

Whitehurst was a military intelligence officer in his twenties, a self-described country boy from North Carolina who arrived in Vietnam in March 1969. As a non-commissioned officer in military intelligence, he interviewed prisoners and combed through captured documents with the help of South Vietnamese translators.

Documents with military value were sent to Saigon, but there was no place to store the captured poetry, letters from home and personal documents written by North Vietnamese soldiers or sympathizers.

Whitehurst routinely burned thousands of such documents in a 55-gallon barrel on the site, per military orders. But he was struck when a translator thumbed through a diary he had picked up from the pile and stopped him.

"Don't burn this one, Fred," Whitehurst remembered him saying. "It has fire in it already."

--
The sore
Fred held on to the diary for more than 30 years, hoping to return the book to Thuy's family.

"It was one of those unfinished things; it was like a sore that continued to bother and bother him," Robert said. "We talked about it on and on for 30 years."

At first, there was no way to find the family - Vietnam was off limits during the 1970s, he said. Fred considered a book or movie based on the diaries to attract the attention of the family. He dreamed of using any profit from the deal to build a hospital in Vietnam, a dream he now sheepishly described as childish.

"That's a stupid idea, a movie idea," Fred said.

The translations grew more refined. Robert, a riverboat pilot in the Vietnam War, spoke the language. Now a tugboat captain in New Orleans, he would spend each month he wasn't at sea translating the diaries his brother had recovered, struggling with his rusty Vietnamese and immersed in the story.
---

Finding Madam Tram

Ted Engelmann woke up to a ringing cell phone and splitting headache.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

Now he was awake with a searing stress headache and Dang Thuy Tram's very excited sister on the phone.

"When can you be here?" she asked.

Engelmann said he moved every six months or so to different countries, and had developed contacts in Vietnam. He had landed in Hanoi carrying the disc, and sought the help of Lady Borden, a Quaker with good connections in the country.

Engelmann explained his mission to two of her assistants, expecting little. They called a hospital on the outskirts of the city referenced in the first recovered diary, but made no immediate progress, so he left. He was now in Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), where he planned to shoot his final frames on the 37th anniversary of the fall of the capital.

The phone call was confusing, but the woman was insistent, he remembered.

"Then I realized who they were," Engelmann said. "Half my brain was hurting like hell, and the other half was trying to figure out how to help."

Tram's sisters and brother-in-law picked him up at the Hanoi airport. They traveled to a narrow concrete home with cream-colored walls. Engelmann carried his laptop and the CD of diary images in through the front door to a living room, and almost stepped back out in shock.

The house was packed with relatives and television camera crews.

"There were just so many people in there, and I didn't know who any of the people were," Engelmann said.

The entire home was not much larger than a typical American living room, he said. About 15 or 20 people crowded a small den of cushioned chairs and couches. A vase of white flowers - Thuy's favorite, he was told - stood next to one couch. Beyond was a small kitchen with a large table set for a great meal. Upstairs, under a ceiling that made the 6-foot-1-inch Engelmann bend over to stand, were bedrooms.

He took the place of honor at a kitchen table. He turned on his laptop, loaded the CD, and showed the family the two folders of images of the diaries.

"After that, I moved out of the way," Engelmann said.

Tears welled in the eyes of Thuy's mother, a gentle but strong 81-year-old matriarch, he said. He learned that earlier that year, in three major Vietnamese newspapers, the family had participated in news articles asking if anyone had any information about their fallen daughter. For months there had been no response.

Now an American veteran, an enemy soldier, had appeared unannounced to hand them their daughter's most intimate thoughts and memories on a disk.

"Here's a mom who's getting something back about her daughter," Engelmann said. "I was the guy who was able to give it to her, and I was just overwhelmed."


The believable hero

Ted Engelmann changed his plans, and finished his book with photographs from a trip he took with the Tram family to honor Thuy's grave. Fred Whitehurst was overjoyed to learn that the family had been almost immediately found, and traveled with his brother to Vietnam in August to meet the mother and sisters of the author who had haunted him.

Fred worried for years that the family would simply accept the diaries and then close the door. He returned with an adopted mother and sisters, he said.

"They really adopted us," Fred said. "How crazy is that?"

They quickly learned that the diaries had touched more than the Whitehurst family.

A normal press run for books in Vietnam is 1,000 - maybe 5,000 for very popular novels, said Quang Phu Van, a professor of Vietnamese Language and Literature in the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies.

The Dang Thuy Tram diaries, published this summer, have hit 200,000 according to the Vietnam Center.

Unlike previously published stories of war heroes issued by the government, tales of almost superhuman sacrifice and dedication, Vietnamese can relate to the stories of Thuy Tram and another recently published diary from a North Vietnamese soldier, Van said.

"This is something very genuine, and that's become a phenomenon in Vietnam," he said, adding that his father carries a copy of the diaries with him. "Someone who shared a loss of innocence, the guilt; this is something that people have a chance to see something different. Everyone talks about it."

Such stories are rare, said Vietnam Center associate director Stephen Maxner, though he wondered if more diaries kept by American soldiers would come forward after this.

Changing lives
The family wiped tears from their eyes and leafed through the diaries Wednesday morning at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center. At first overwhelmed with emotion, Thuy Tram's sisters thanked the archivists for preserving her diaries. Kim Tram hoped the stories would help bring the U.S. and Vietnam closer.

The Tram family found their sister and daughter again. The two handmade books with clean blue cursive writing had soul, they said.

"When we came to touch the diary, I had a feeling she'd come back with us," Kim Tram said through an interpreter.

Though they were not present, the experience had changed the Whitehurst brothers, too.

"I understand a lot more about the whole thing I was involved in as a young man because of this," Robert said. "I don't think I'll ever completely let go of it."

Fred dismisses his role in the story: "All I am is the camel that carried the water across the desert." He does not want closure from the war, does not want to forget what happened, he said. He does not want accolades.

He wants his mother to meet his adopted mother, which they will do later this week. And he takes joy in one final bit of serendipity - the popularity of the books has inspired a drive to build a hospital in Dang Thuy Tram's name, he said.

"Every flipping penny of it is going to a hospital in Pho Cuong," Whitehurst marveled. "My foolish, kind of childish dream of hospital beds in Duc Pho, it's coming true. To continue her life's work through such a bizarre path - me? It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2005

A River of Gold

From the American Digest, reposted, a personal memory of September 11 from Brooklyn Heights, seeing it all in real time and real space. Gerard Van Der Leun, The Wind in the Heights

In time, everyone had passed by as well and the street was empty except for the settling smoke. I looked outside the window where a small maple grew and noticed that its leaves were covered with small yellow flecks. I looked down at the sill outside the windows and saw the yellow flecks there as well.


At some point in the next few minutes it dawned on me that there would be no bodies to speak of found in the incinerating rubble across the river. I knew then -- as certainly as I have even known anything -- that all those who had still been in the towers had gone into the smoke and that, in some way, the gleaming bits of yellow ash were their tokens, were what they had become.

And I knew that all they had become had fallen upon us as we ran in the smoke; that we had breathed them in when the wind reached us; that they were covering the houses and the sills and the cars and the sidewalks and the benches and the shrubs and the trees all about us.

What they had become was what the wind without a storm had left behind. Now that it had passed everything was, again, silent and calm with the blue sky above the houses on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights beginning to emerge from the fading smoke as the breeze of the harbor shifted the plume away from us and moved it uptown, into Manhattan, leaving the Heights again as an elite enclave, above and to the side of New York City.

The yellow flecks stayed like small stars on the surface of everything in the Heights for three days until the first rains came on a late afternoon to wash them away. I walked out into that rain and back down Pierrepont to the Promenade where for months the fires would burn across the river. The rain came straight down and there was no wind. As I walked down the sidewalk I noticed the rainwater running off the trees and the buildings and moving down the gutter to the drains that would take it to the harbor and the sea. And that water was, for only a minute or so before it ran clear, the color of gold.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:15 PM | Permalink

August 28, 2005

The Namesake

Don't miss this story by Gerard Van der Leun  the namesake of an uncle he never knew.  The Name in the Stone

Cut into the stone amongst a tally of the dead.

If you have an unusual name, there's nothing that prepares you for seeing it in a list of the dead on a summer Sunday afternoon in Battery Park in 1975. I don't really remember the feeling except to know that, for many long moments, I became suddenly chilled.

When that passed, I knew why my name was in the stone. I'd always known why, but I'd never known about the stone or the names cut into it.

"Gerard Van der Leun" was, of course, not me. He was someone else entirely. Someone who had been born, lived, and died before I was even conceived. He was my father's middle brother. He was what my family had given to stop Fascism, Totalitarianism and genocide in the Second World War. He was one of their three sons. He was dead before he was 22 years old. His body never recovered, the exact time and place of his death over the Atlantic, unknown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink

Tap on the shoulder

From Monastic Skete, The Tap on the Shoulder. a moving story by Brother Dan in Tennessee.

It was one of those requests for a 6 a.m. visit before surgery. Some of these can be strange, like the man who didn't want prayer but just a witness as he changed his will and wrote it on a napkin.


This request was a bit unusual. They wanted me to walk with the patient from his room to surgery. After our short conversation and prayer the attendant began moving the bed toward the door. When it was almost to the door I reached out to Maria, the patient Rick's wife, and said, "Here is a prayer by Thomas Merton I often pass out to patients.


She glanced at the prayer, then her husband Rick began to cry. Maria said, "last night before he went to sleep he said I wish I had that prayer by Thomas Merton." Tears came to my eyes then. I knew something special was going on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 AM | Permalink

August 26, 2005

Michael Yon's Gates of Fire

What is it like to be facing death in Iraq?  What do the soldiers go through?    What are the stories you're not hearing?

Michael Yon tells us in Gates of Fire.

Reaching around the corner, I fired three shots into the shop. The third bullet pierced a propane canister, which jumped up in the air and began spinning violently. It came straight at my head but somehow missed, flying out of the shop as a high-pressure jet of propane hit me in the face. The goggles saved my eyes. I gulped in deeply.

Gerard Vanderleun says it's one of the greatest pieces of front-line reporting in the past 60 years and without a doubt the single greatest dispatch to come out of the Iraq war.

He's right. 

Michael Yon has found his purpose and is making his legacy alongside American troops stabilizing the situation in Iraq. 

Hats off to Michael and all the soldiers at Deuce Four.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 AM | Permalink

August 22, 2005

Planet Dad

The son of a spy tries to unravel the puzzle of his paternity.

From His Father's Secrets

Fathers as foreign entities: It's a familiar theme. But in his book, My Father the Spy which is subtitled "An Investigative Memoir," Richardson, now 50, takes us deep into the life of a CIA agent, both professional and personal, noble and tragic.

Others knew his father in ways he could only imagine. They knew a completely different man.
"I was jealous, more than anything else," he says. "I loved that he was like that" -- like the man in the early letters. "I loved that guy. And yet that was not a guy I ever met.
---
One day, he's sitting on his father's patio, chatting amid the bougainvillea and lemon trees. They're chatting about Vietnam, sort of. And the son decides to ask his father the big question.
"I asked him how he felt about the blood on his hands," Richardson recalls in the interview.
In the book, he writes: "I'm thinking in a general sense about Diem and the war. But he looks hurt and puzzled and doesn't answer. Later, mom gets angry at me. 'He never killed anyone or ordered anyone to be killed. You know that.'
"
But he didn't know that. Not even at the very end in 1998, when his dad is dying and gasping for breath and the son is sitting on the edge of the bed. So much he would never know.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2005

Bonded Black and White

When you begin to write the stories of your life and your family, wonderful things can happen.

From the Washington Post, Faded Sketch Propels Families Across a Racial Divide, by Sudarsan Raghavan.

An elderly black woman drove up to the sand-colored mansion of a frail old white man in Prince George's County. She parked and walked slowly to the back entrance, as if by instinct. Under one arm, she carried a framed, faded sketch. Under the other, a roll of genealogy charts.

The sketch was of her great-great-grandparents, Basil and Lizzie Wood. They were long dead when Anna Holmes was born, but she had come to know them like her shadow.

Oden Bowie had met Basil and Lizzie. They worked for his family and may have been his ancestors' slaves. But until that chilly day in February 2002, Holmes had resisted asking for Bowie's help in writing this chapter of her family's history. For much of her life, reaching out to the white world meant crossing into a forbidding realm.
---

It also unearthed something within her that had been buried by decades of discrimination.

"If you bonded with someone, you're going to be bonded whether they are black or white," she said.

---
She is writing an autobiography to pass on to her descendants. She wants them "to know where they came from," she said, because "this is who they are." She will proudly tell them how they are now connected to one of Maryland's first families. She will tell them how Eugene Roberts now calls her "extended family."

One day, she sat her grandchildren down and told them about the kind white man whose gift she unravels every day.

"He could have just said, 'Oh, yeah, they are buried over here,' and that's the end of that," she told them. "He could have closed the door.

"But he didn't choose to do that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 PM | Permalink

August 5, 2005

No naked burial

I can't think of a single comment to this deliciously written story from the BBC

He came into this world naked, spent much of his time in it nude, but will - against his specific wishes - depart it fully clothed.

Robert Norton, of Pekin, Illinois, was often prosecuted during his lifetime for gardening and wandering outside his house in the nude.

The 82-year-old said he wanted to be buried in his birthday suit - but his family are having none of it.
---
Brenda Loete said she never spoke to Norton despite living next door to him for more than a decade.

"We didn't really know him. We just had him arrested," she said.

She had spent years taking her daughter to the park rather than letting her play in the garden because of the naked old man next door, she said.

"Normally, if we had him arrested in the spring he'd be gone for the summer and we wouldn't have to worry about him until the next spring."
---
The cycle of arrest and prosecution lasted over four decades, until the World War II veteran was admitted to a nursing home.

He fought 20 arrests for indecency since his first in 1962, arguing that he had a constitutional right to public nakedness, the Associated Press reported
.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

Zubaida's transformation

A big round of applause to Dr. Peter Grossman, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, for what he accomplished with a badly burned Aghani girl named Zubaida.

After the Iranian doctors sent her home to die, her father approached the Americans.

The amazing transformation can be seen in three photos.

Zubaida was featured on ABC's 20:20 and you can see the video here
and learn the whole story, a great legacy in the making.

HT Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

The story isn't really about the miracles of medicine and surgery. It is bigger than that, much bigger. It is the story of the human potential to do good, in all of us. It is the story of how we, using the gifts and capabilities we have, can achieve that potential

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2005

A Christian Pharisee

To understand what a story from your life told honestly and written beautifully can mean to others, read the comments after the story.

And that has made all the difference (seeing Jesus through a porn star).

An extraordinary story by Natala who thought she found God as a Christian only to realize she had become a Pharisee.  It's long and well worth it.

and at the time i had desperately wanted the story to end, in this way:

"and then marie prayed the sinners prayer, and she stopped every thing she was doing, and became a missionary who now helps young girls."

that is what i wanted.

but instead, perhaps the beauty of god is not only found in the neatly packaged salvation stories. perhaps the beauty of god, is instead found in the depth and ugliness of our lives.
god is found in the sadness, the messy parts, the depression the anger, and the hurt.

and in the mess that was marie's life....
seeing jesus in her was not hard.
she was loving, caring, and honest.
she would have done anything for me.
and the truth is that before i was a christian i would have done anything for her.

HT The Anchoress

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2005

Losing Job for Being 'Dead'

Just back from vacation, a Romanian man learned he had lost his job because he had been declared dead. 

Valentin Lefter, 20, from Focsani, said he was shocked because he'd only been away for two weeks.

He returned from his summer break to find a letter from wine-bottling company Prodecam Vanatori.

"The letter, addressed to my wife, apologised for my passing away and said any outstanding payments would be sent to her within the next month," said Lefter.

When he rang company bosses, they apologised and said the letter had been sent out because of a computer error.

But they said he could not have his job back because they had already employed someone in his place, reported local media.

He now plans to sue the company for £10,000.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2005

A bit of a runner

She refused to be slaughtered like the others.    She fought against death, regained her freedom in a "daring James Bond-style escape", swam to a small island and survived for weeks on daffodils.

Her Welsh name is Myfanwy - hard to pronounce unless you're Welsh, hard to forget when you think of her courage and spirit.

Myfanwy, is a ewe, a female sheep who refused to go along with the other sheep, has now been adopted as the farm pet, safe from the slaughterhouse.  Daring Escape

According to the BBC, her farmer Philip Robinson said,

"You get to know the problem sheep but she had not shown herself before. We decided to give her a reprieve - she's like a pet now, out in the field with the rams but you can't really get near her.

"She's a bit lively and a bit of a runner!"

I'll say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

May 30, 2005

Leather time capsules

Crews demolishing old military barracks on this sprawling base near Paso Robles stumbled on a surprising find: wallets.

Tumbling out of heating ducts suspended from the ceilings, the wallets were stuffed with remarkably well-preserved personal belongings dating from World War II and the Korean War.

Love letters. Religious medals. Base passes. High school identification cards. Driver's licenses. Dog tags. Snapshots. Tips for surviving an atomic blast.

The only thing missing was money.

........

Air Ducts Hide a Trove of Memories


The fact that there is no money in any of these wallets leads us to believe they were stolen," said California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. "The thefts usually involved a trusting guy from a small town who set his wallet down, then got distracted.

"Someone else, in one fluid motion, nabbed the wallet, snatched the cash and chucked the rest into the heating duct overhead."

Over the decades, the heat turned the leather into something resembling beef jerky, but left everything inside intact.

Murotake, who is in charge of tracking down the owners, said the wallets become instant "touchstones,"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2005

Cream of the Crop

The week's going by faster than I thought.  While I was out yesterday, the Carnival of Vanities hosted by John Behan, the Commonwealth Conservative and the Internet's first elected blogger, went live.  My post Time Travelling at MIT and digital stories was among the Cream of the Crop.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

May 11, 2005

Death cheats cemetery

An actual headline and story.  Death pleads guilty to cheating cemetery.  Death will be sentenced on July 11, 2005.  Stay tuned

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2005

Death by Internet

You'd be surprised at the number of people who believe this story about 54 year old Childress Wanamaker who died of starvation because he couldn't tear himself away from his computer. I link, Therefore I am.

He was glued to his computer 24/7," she said tearfully. "He was so afraid he was going to miss an opportunity to contribute a comment or start a discussion, that he just stopped eating." She added that Wanamaker's last words were "OK Picard, stick that in your pipe and smoke it..."

In what must be a record, Wanamaker was linked into to over 15,250 other community members, many of whom he exchanged notes with daily. He also contributed to 375 blogs and was expected to start an online column about the impact of interactive communications on health, when he died.

A virtual memorial service will be held online at a date to be determined.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

Get in Line

I think I need a new category for funeral jokes I want to passalong.

A woman was leaving a convenience store with her morning coffee when she noticed a most unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery.

A long black hearse was followed by a second long black hearse about 50 feet behind the first one. Behind the second hearse was a solitary woman walking a pit bull on a leash. Behind her, a short distance back, were about 200 women walking single file.

The woman couldn't stand her curiosity. She respectfully approached the woman walking the dog and said,

"I am so sorry for your loss", I know now is a bad time to disturb you, but I've never seen a funeral like this.

Whose funeral is it?"

"My husband's."

"What happened to him?"

The woman replied, "My dog attacked and killed him."

She inquired further, "Well, who is in the second hearse?"

The woman answered, "My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my husband when the dog turned on her."

A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence passed between the two women.

"Can I borrow the dog?"

"Get in line." 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

German children, American fathers

By 1955 up to 67,700 German children had been fathered by US soldiers.  It's a scandal that even today there is no legal agreement between Germany and the US regarding paternity claims.

Like many of the children fathered by occupying soldiers, Anthoefer grew up in an orphanage in Germany without knowing his father. "In Germany in the 1950s, if you were an unwed mother, the state usually took custody of your child," he explained. His father, an American stationed in Rastadt, had wanted to marry his mother. "But as soon as a serviceman got a woman pregnant, he would be transferred, and the army would refuse to pass on any information," he said. "If you kept asking, they would maintain they no longer had any records."

As a teenager, Anthoefer was determined to locate his father. "The American authorities deliberately gave me misleading information," he said. "They just gave me the runaround." In 1971, he got a visa to visit the US and finally tracked down his father. But it was too late. He discovered his father, the mayor of a small town in West Virginia, had died just weeks previously.

After collecting enough evidence to convince the German courts this man was indeed his father, Germany recognized the paternity claim, although the US didn't. Twenty years later, Anthoefer went to court and got permission to have his father's body exhumed for DNA testing. He had to wait three years for the result, and in the meantime, he was arrested as an illegal immigrant and deported. Today, he is still barred entry to the States, which means he cannot pursue his quest to prove his parentage.

"If I can prove I am my father's son, then I am an American citizen," he said. "It's the only connection I have to my father -- the inheritance of his nationality. I belong to nowhere, and all I want is American citizenship. That's all I want."

A not-so-great Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2005

Secret or Story?

If you are harboring a secret that you DON'T want your family and friends to know about EVER, but you need to tell someone, try PostSecret.

PostSecret is a ongoing community art blog where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.  Of course, there's no way to check on the truth of what's in them, but fascinating nonetheless.

  9:11

  Condom Broke

  Parking Ticket

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 PM | Permalink

April 6, 2005

An intimate tale of his humanity

Roger Cohen, a reporter for the International Herald Tribune, tells a family story about Pope John Paul II when he was a seminary student in Poland and the Jewish girl he saved.

Edith Zierer was 13 years old when she emerged from a Nazi labor camp on the verge of death, scarcely able to walk.

Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?" Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents. 

The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese. They talked about the advancing Soviet Army. Edith said she believed that her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.

"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried and failed. He carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak and made a small fire.
----------
Edith fled from Karol Wojtyla when they arrived at Krakow in 1945. The family on the train, also Jews, had warned her that he might take her off to "the cloisters." She recalls him calling out, "Edyta, Edyta!" - the Polish form of her name - as she hid behind large containers of milk.
But hiding was not forgetting. She wrote his name in a diary, her savior, and in 1978, when she read in a copy of Paris-Match that he had become pope, she broke into tears

  Pope And Jewish Girl

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2005

Ice Cream for the Soul

Kids are amazing.  Here's a passalong story from Beliefnet

Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my son asked.

"Cross my heart." Then in theatrical whisper he added, indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing, "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2005

J.K Rowling's Desk

J.K Rowling's desk is messier than mine and a lot more fun with "portkeys"  that transport you to different areas of her site.  Her links page is the coolest one I've ever seen with living pictures and books that when clicked on open to display  information.  Move your cursor around to see the many hidden delights  - even in her trash can.  What she has done with her short biography would make any scrapbooking enthusiast proud.  If your kids or nieces and nephews are Harry Potter fans, this official JK Rowling site will delight them.  You can amaze them with Harry Potter arcana and even store them (the arcana that is, not your kids) in your own scrapbook on the site.

  Jk Rowling Desk
I know, I know for real fans, it's just marking time until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6 is published on July 16, 2005.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2005

Passalong Stories

Because I'm constantly marvelling at the scope and breadth and depth of the human experience, from time to time, I plan to bring you a collection of stories to show you what I mean.  Here is the first collection.
If you have any good stories, pass them along to me.

Her Jewish parents were forced to flee the Nazis in war-time Greece.  The little baby Reina Gilberta was protected first by a family friend and later by nuns at the Convent of St Joseph together with Mama Lina who baptised her to get the proper papers the Nazis required.  While war waged throughout Europe, Reina had a happy, secure and loving  childhood.  After the war, she reunited with her real parents thanks to one courageous nun and after 40 years reunited with Lina's family.

...with your words, your letter, your voice on the telephone, my mother came to life again, my little sister, she loved you so much and you loved her too...She loved you so much she said "no" to my father and me when we wanted to keep you. Little Gilberta, you said your first words in our house. Instinctively you said "mama," to the woman who was holding you in her lap. And she, lovingly, said "no, I'm only mamma-Lina. Your real mother will come back."   The whole story

After your 17 year old mother has aborted you, you survive but are not expected to live.  After being placed with a foster family, you learn how to walk.  Today, you train for marathons and have become a song-wrier and performer.  Everyone wants to hear Gianna Jessen's story.  Caution, this is a pro-life story

My biological parents made some really poor choices," she said. "I forgive them for what they did (but) I live every day with the result of the 'choice' that my biological mother made 27 years ago. So it's ridiculous to think our choices on a moment-by-moment basis only affect us. They always affect someone else, for good or ill."

Hanneke A 19 year old nurse in Holland is drawn to a 40 year woman in a coma who had no living relatives.  Night after night, Hanneka talked to the woman in a coma and told her all about her parents who had died in a car crash when she was quite young.  There's an extraordinary twist in the story of the Voice in the Night.

What makes him do it? Listen to what  Don Vermilyea, a 54 year old man from West Virginia, has to say after walking 10 years and  13,000  miles 

People think this is Donnie's Big Adventure, but it isn't. It isn't that at all. This is real. I hurt 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I hurt all night and all day.
Want to go on a ten year walk all by yourself? Wanna talk about scary? Try doing this."
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't dream of quitting,
We need to slow down and stop taking care of each other more,
Not just as Christians but just as human beings."

The last is a "passalong" -  which according to Beliefnet is one of those emails that have been forwarded so often, no one knows their origin or veracity It's called The Miracle of the Deer and how they are drawn to the purest, most loving heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 PM | Permalink

December 30, 2004

Jillian's Choice

We will be hearing many more amazing stories like this one.  Via The Command Post doing its usual wonderful job as a newsblog collective with this post by Alan Brain.

From The Australian: Woman releases son in tsunami

An Australian woman was forced to let go of one of her children to save another when a wall of water struck their Thai holiday destination.  Jillian Searle, of Perth, was near her Phuket hotel pool with sons Lachie, five, and Blake, two, when the tsunami hit on Sunday.  Her husband Brad watched the calamity unfold from the vantage point of his first-floor room.    Ms Searle was faced with a terrible choice as she fought to stay alive amid the raging waters.  "I knew I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I'd better let go of the one that's the oldest," she told Sky News.  "A lady grabbed hold of him for a moment but she had to let him go because she was going under. "And I was screaming, trying to find him, and we thought he was dead."  Sky News said Lachie was found safe two hours later after surviving the raging torrent by clinging to a door.

How lucky she was.  Consider the parents looking for their children in the make-shift morgues.  This photograph by Jason Smith on assignment from The Sydney Morning Herald via Tim Blair doing his usual splendid job in Australia.

Dead Baby

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2004

Little Girl with Teddy Bear Saves Lives

I've often thought that all of us pay too little attention to the goodness of people around us. Not surprisingly, William Wordsworth said it a lot better, "The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love."

Consider the large ripple effects of two good men. Spirit of America was founded by Chief Wiggles and now run by Jim Hake with a mission is to extend the goodwill of the American people to assist those advancing freedom and peace broad. You choose the project you want to support from providing sewing machines to carpentry tools to library books and you can rest assured that 100% of your donation goes to the project you want.

We live in a world that is more interconnected than we can ever imagine. A quick check in the mail that someone sent to Spirit of America for toys to Iraqi children just may have saved the lives of many soldiers. This story about a brave little girl with a teddy bear comes from BlackFive, the paratrooper of love and is called The Heart of America.

    Via Seamus, this email is a thank you from a Marine Gunnery Sergeant in Iraq.  It was sent two days ago:
    Just wanted to write to you and tell you another story about an experience we had over here.
    As you know, I asked for toys for the Iraqi children over here and several people (Americans that support us) sent them over by the box. On each patrol we take through the city, we take as many toys as will fit in our pockets and hand them out as we can.  The kids take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks.  We are as friendly as we can be to everyone we see, but especially so with the kids.  Most of them don't have any idea what is going on and are completely innocent in all of this.
    On one such patrol, our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street.  This is not normal and is very unsafe, so the following vehicles began to inquire over the radio.  The lead vehicle reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge.  The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they did. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.
    As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back.  Feeling an immediate connection to the girl, I radioed that we were going to stop.  The rest of the convoy paused and I got out the make sure she was OK.  The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward me. As I knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a mine in the road.
    Immediately a cordon was set as the Marine convoy assumed a defensive posture around the site. The mine was destroyed in place.
    It was the heart of an American that sent that toy.  It was the heart of an American that gave that toy to that little girl.  It was the heart of an American that protected that convoy from that mine. Sure, she was a little Iraqi girl and she had no knowledge of purple mountain's majesty or fruited plains.  It was a heart of acceptance, of tolerance, of peace and grace, even through the inconveniences of conflict that saved that convoy from hitting that mine.  Those attributes are what keep Americans hearts beating. She may have no affiliation at all with the United States, but she knows what it is to be brave and if we can continue to support her and her new government, she will know what it is to be free.  Isn't that what Americans are, the free and the brave?
    If you sent over a toy or a Marine (US Service member) you took part in this. You are a reason that Iraq has to believe in a better future. Thank you so much for supporting us and for supporting our cause over here.
    Semper Fi,
    Mark
    GySgt / USMC

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2004

Utah Phillips

Before today, I never heard of Utah Phillips which I think is one of the all time great names I've ever heard. I was reading Chris Corrigan in Stories as Expressions of Our Truth who told a story about Utah Phillips

Years ago I heard Utah Philips tell a story. He told of a time when he was a young man and he had an opportunity to visit a cowboy who knew dozens of songs from the great cattle drives of the 19th century. The cowboy lived in a small house in New Mexico and was dying. It was a tremendous opportunity to get these songs from the mouth of a man who had been on these cattle drives so Phillips arranged a visit.

When he arrived at the cowboy’s house he was met at the door by a nurse who said that although the cowboy was in poor health, he was looking forward to the visit. It would take a few minutes to get him ready so Phillips was invited to make himself at home in the living room.

Phillips began perusing the bookshelves and was immediately struck by the huge number of books from the ultra conservative John Birch Society. His initial reaction was to ask himself what he was doing there, about to have a conversation with a man who was bound to feed him political babble that Phillips would find deeply offensive.

And then he caught himself and he realized that he wasn’t there to talk politics with the cowboy, he was there to get songs. He realized that talking politics with the cowboy would only result in a conversation full of canned ideas recited from a book. Phillips was after the truth, and in concluding the story he said, “if you ask people about what they truly know. They will always tell you the truth.” And what they truly know is not contained in the books they read, it is contained in the stories about who they are and what they do and what is close to their heart.

That story has informed my approach to learning about what is important to people ever since. Whether I am working in a consultation process or helping a team find their way through a project, I’ll always go to the stories of the people in the room, and invite that level of truth to come forward.

Chris Corrigan, a Celtic Indian, is a consultant using stories to facilitate organizational and community change particularly with the aboriginal or First Nation communities in Canada with a blog called Parking Lot.

Who could resist finding out more about Utah Phillips, a folk musician who describes himself as the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest" and by others as a true eclectic, archivist, historian, activist, philosopher, hobo, tramp, member of the IWW, and just about everything in between. Visit Utah and listen to moose turd pie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2004

Reagan's Dead and he'll be deader

Some of best obituary writers in the world were gathered in New Mexico last weekend for the Sixth Annual Great Obituary Writers International Conference. Here's a first hand account of what happened when they heard the news that President Reagan had died.

via Buzzmachine's "Six column inches under"
(This links to the original article in the UK's Media Guardia but a cumbersome registration process is required).

    In the closing minutes of the 6th Great Obituary Writers' International Conference (their title), one of the events that obituarists hate the most burst in on them. Just as Tim Bullamore, a Bath city councillor who writes for Fleet Street newspapers and the British Medical Journal, began an elaborate slide show on the glories of his city, where the conference takes place next year, someone rushed in and shouted: "Reagan's died!"

    Gasps of astonishment, cries of surprise, uproar and confusion. Several delegates sprinted to the hotel lobby's public call boxes or grabbed cellphones. The bringer of the news was surrounded and peppered with questions. Bullamore's presentation was ruined. Finally, he grabbed the microphone and bellowed: "Reagan's dead and he'll be deader. Let's go on with the show."

    He resumed his slides, but it wasn't the same. The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had died inconveniently and thrust obituarists into disarray. But really, they loved it. One delegate, her eyes sparkling, gushed: "Isn't this just wild?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2004

Library of Congress - Calling for VET Stories

I've never been to the beaches of Omaha or Normandy. Even though I've read a lot about D-Day, I am most moved at just seeing pictures of the thousands of graves of brave young Americans who died so we and Europe could be free.

Now I can listen tol first person accounts of what it was like to prepare for and then storm the beach. Thanks to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress, the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times are preserved.

If you know of a vet who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf,
encourage them to contribute their stories.

With WW2 veterans dying every day, the Library of Congress
has embarked on an ambitious project to collect the wartime memories of ordinary people. Aging Veterans tell their stories for posterity Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY writes

    Under the gentle prodding of an adult son, Bill Pendergast's wartime memories spilled out like faded snapshots a half-century old. Settled into a dining room chair, comforted by the eagerness of his listener, Pendergast, 71, began sharing Korean War recollections: the ice-cold Coca-Cola someone handed him when the Army first lobbied him to join its Counterintelligence Corps; the battle-scarred South Korea cityscape with not ''two panes of glass still in one piece'' in the city of Seoul; and the prisoners he was required to interrogate. ''Most of the interrogations were of young Chinese or North Korean men just as scared as I was,'' Pendergast said. Hostilities ended the year he was there, 1953.

    His recorded words have been shipped to the Library of Congress), making the Pendergasts participants in one of the broadest national efforts to preserve eyewitness accounts of Americans serving in war. It seeks the stories of those who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

    And unlike many academic efforts, in which historians or trained researchers conduct the interviews, the Library of Congress enlists sons, daughters, friends and students to do the work......

    ''People don't think about history until it's about to be gone,'' says Sarah Rouse, a senior program officer with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

    And time is running out. Jim Parkel, president of the 35 million-member AARP, says that although an estimated 19 million men and women who are veterans of American wars are alive today, they are dying at the rate of 1,600 a day. With their passing, he says, ''you are losing a history that is very important.''....

    The Library of Congress program, barely two years old, may be the most ambitious effort both in scope -- covering every major American war of the 20th century -- and in method, appealing to the public for broad participation. It also carries the imprimatur of a government project within the nation's largest and most prestigious library.

    Partially financed by a $3 million AARP grant and supported and promoted by chapters in that organization and service groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars, the program focuses on gathering oral histories as well as photographs, letters and war diaries.

    A Web site (www.loc.gov/folklife/vets/) offers start-up kits with sample questions and guidelines: ''Find a quiet, well-lit room to use for the interview. Avoid rooms with fluorescent lights, chiming clocks, or heating and cooling systems that are noisy. . . . Try to keep your questions short. Avoid complicated, multipart questions.''


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2004

Hear Here - The Soul is in the Voice

David Isay is a 38 year old radio producer who wanted to "take oral history and put it in the hands of regular people." Winner of a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation, and inspired by the 1930's Federal Writers Project, he developed StoryCorps to celebrate the lives of the uncelebrated. As Studs Terkel said, "[T]he ones who make the world go around, these millions of people who have never expressed themselves." (See David Taylor's article "Hear Here" in the Smithsonian, June, 2004). Photos are great but static. Nothing compares to the sound of a voice, especially when it's telling a great story.

New York City's Grand Central Station now has a tiny recording studio next to track 14 where more than 600 stories have been recorded. You can make an interview appointment on the website, get interviewing tips, then professionally record your interview with the help with an interview facilitor, get a CD of the interview and, with your permission, a copy goes to the Library of Congress. All for $10. You can also listen to excerpts from interviews on the website.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

June 19, 2003

Some of the best family stories are like this

When I was a young girl, we had a record called Pardon My Blooper. My siblings and I rolled around laughing at a pompous announcer who introduced the President of the U.S as Hooobert Heeever. We guffawed at any toilet joke.
About a good third of them we didn't get at all but my father across the room had tears rolling down his face trying to control his laughter.

This is one of the funniest emails if a bit raunchy, Ive ever gotten. I don't know where it originated

    Subject: Take back the words? Ever spoken and wished that you could take the words back...or that you could crawl into a hole? Here are a few stories of people who did and do.... 1) How much for. I walked into a hair salon with my husband and three kids in tow and asked loudly, "How much do you charge for a shampoo and a blow job?" I turned around and walked back out and never went back. My husband didn't say a word... he knew better. Melinda Lowe, 39, Seguin, TX 2) I think I like.. I was at the golf store comparing different kinds of golf balls. I was unhappy with the women's type I had been using. After browsing for several minutes, I was approached by one of the good-looking gentlemen who works at the store. He asked if he could help me. Without thinking, I looked at him and said, "I think I like playing with men's balls." Colleen Collins, 31, Ferndale, MI 3) Nuts about You My sister and I were at the mall and passed by a store that sold a variety of nuts. As we were looking at the display case, the boy behind the counter asked if we needed any help. I replied, "No, I'm just looking at your nuts." My sister started to laugh hysterically, the boy grinned, and I turned beet-red and walked away. To this day, my sister has never let me forget. Faye Emerick, 34, Ellerslie, MD 4) I saw Mommy kissing... While in line at the bank one afternoon, my toddler decided to release some pent-up energy and ran amok. I was finally able to grab hold of her after receiving looks of disgust and annoyance from other patrons. I told her that if she did not start behaving "right now"she would be punished. To my horror, she looked me in the eye and said in a voice just as threatening, "If you don't let me go right now, I will tell Grandma that I saw you kissing Daddy's pee-pee last night!" The silence was deafening after this enlightening exchange. Even the tellers stopped what they were doing.. I mustered up the last of my dignity and walked out of the bank with my daughter in tow. The last thing I heard when the door closed behind me were screams of laughter. Amy Richardson,Stafford, Virginia 5) What kind do you want? A lady picked up several items at a discount store. When she finally got up to the checker, she learned that one of her items had no price tag. Imagine her embarrassment when the checker got on the intercom and boomed out for all the store to hear, "PRICE CHECK ON LANE THIRTEEN, TAMPAX SUPER SIZE." That was bad enough, but somebody at the rear of the store apparently misunderstood the word "Tampax" for "THUMBTACKS." In a business-like tone, a voice boomed back over the intercom. "DO YOU WANT THE KIND YOU PUSH IN WITH YOUR THUMB OR THE KIND YOU POUND IN WITH A HAMMER?" Diane E. Amov 6) For the last time.. Have you ever asked your child a question too many times? My three-year-old son had a lot of problems with potty training and I was on him constantly. One day we stopped at Taco Bell for a quick lunch in between errands. It was very busy, with a full dining room. While enjoying my taco, I smelled something funny, so of course I checked my even-month-old daughter, and she was clean. Then I realized that Danny had not asked to go potty in a while, so I asked him if he needed to go, and he said "No." I kept thinking, "Oh Lord, that child has had an accident, and I don't have any clothes with me." Then I said, "Danny, are you SURE you didn't have an accident?" "No," he replied. I just KNEW that he must have had an accident, because the smell was getting worse. Soooooo! I asked one more time, "Danny, did you have an accident?" This time he jumped up, yanked down his pants, bent over and spread his cheeks and yelled. "SEE MOM, IT'S JUST FARTS!!" While 30 people nearly choked to death on their tacos laughing, he calmly pulled up his pants and sat down. An old couple made me feel better by thanking me for the best laugh they'd ever had! 7) About last night... This had most of the state of Michigan laughing for 2 days and a very embarrassed female news anchor who will, in the future, likely think before she speaks. What happens when you predict snow but don't get any....a true story...We had a female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn't, turned to the weatherman and asked: "So Bob, where's that 8 inches you promised me last night?" Not only did HE have to leave the set, but half the crew did too they were laughing so hard!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 PM | Permalink