In Memoriam: Kirk Douglas

One of the giants of the cinema screen has left us.  Kirk Douglas died yesterday at the age of 103. If you don’t know much about him, you can read his potted biography on Wikipedia.  I highly recommend his first book and autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son“.  It’s from the 1980’s, and therefore leaves out the last three decades of his life (and was superseded by later accounts), but in my opinion it’s his best work. His movies were a source of enjoyment and inspiration to millions.  I’ll never forget such classics as “Spartacus“, “The Vikings” and other early works.  He towered above

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Sunday morning music

This morning’s post is by way of a eulogy for Neil Peart, late drummer and lyricist for Canadian rock band Rush.  He died of brain cancer a few days ago. It’s almost impossible to praise too highly Peart’s contribution to rock music, and the role of percussion instruments in that genre.  He won no less than 38 awards from Modern Drummer magazine.  He won the “Best Rock Drummer” award every year from 1980-1986, and had to be taken off the nominee list and given his own emeritus mention, just so that others could have a chance at the title!  In his obituary, the magazine

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In memoriam: Marie Fredriksson of Roxette

I was saddened to read of the death of Marie Fredriksson, one of the duo who formed the Swedish pop/rock group Roxette in the 1980’s.  I enjoyed their music at the time, finding it a welcome distraction from some of the nastier events taking place in South Africa back then.  Britain’s Daily Express reports: Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson has died at the age of 61. The Swedish popstar co-created Roxette with Per Gessle in 1986 and was best known for her hits It Must Have Been Love, Joyride, Listen To Your Heart and The Look. Marie died on Monday morning after suffering from a long-term illness for 17 years.

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Pain can do that to you . . .

I was saddened to read that a Belgian athlete has chosen euthanasia as the only way she could see to end her pain. Belgian paralympian Marieke Vervoort, who won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, died by euthanasia Tuesday, officials said. Vervoort, 40, suffered from incurable, degenerative spinal pain. She said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro three years ago that she only got about 10 minutes of sleep some nights and described the pain that caused others to pass out from just watching her. She said sports

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In memoriam: Harold Bloom

An academic legend has left us.  Prof. Harold Bloom died earlier this month.  The New York Times offers a lengthy obituary. Professor Bloom was frequently called the most notorious literary critic in America. From a vaunted perch at Yale, he flew in the face of almost every trend in the literary criticism of his day. Chiefly he argued for the literary superiority of the Western giants like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Kafka — all of them white and male, his own critics pointed out — over writers favored by what he called “the School of Resentment,” by which he meant multiculturalists, feminists,

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A sad, lonely end for a very dangerous man

I’m not sure how many of my readers are familiar with the story of Thomas Silverstein.  He was convicted of multiple murders while behind bars, and as a result spent the last 35 years of his life in almost continuous solitary confinement.  He died in hospital in Colorado last month. Silverstein was profiled in Pete Earley’s 1992 book “The Hot House:  Life Inside Leavenworth Prison“.  He became something of a celebrity as a result . . . largely to those who had little or no idea just how very dangerous this man was, and how utterly evil his actions were. (By the

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It’s about time funeral homes got shaken up

In my years as a pastor, I became very cynical and negative about the funeral home “industry”.  I saw far too many grieving families, particularly older bereaved partners, conned into spending far more money than necessary on funeral arrangements.  The funeral home directors and employees were experts at playing on emotions, tugging at heartstrings, and using the natural grief and lack of concentration of the bereaved to persuade them to buy unnecessarily elaborate coffins, flower arrangements and other impedimenta, pay for unnecessary funeral home and graveside services, and generally open their wallets to being outrageously abused. To my fury, I

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The first Memorial Day

Memorial Day, celebrated today in the United States, wasn’t always called that.  It was named Decoration Day by the man who started it, General John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of veterans of the Civil War Union forces.  The celebration was first observed on May 30, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery.  It was renamed Memorial Day in 1967. Here’s the original Proclamation that started the ball rolling. General Order No. 11 Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868 I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the

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A sobering reminder of an eternal reality

Daniel Greenberg, who blogs at Sultan Knish, is going through the slow, but inevitable loss of a loved one.  He’s written about it, very personally and very movingly. Our lives are defined by numbers. Our deaths are defined by them too. Somewhere out of sight, in the world or in our bodies, a clock ticks insistently away. Most of the time we are fortunate enough to be deaf to the relentless clockwork march of time. Until we begin to hear. And are unable to stop. There are many clocks in the hospital room where she lies dying beneath a plastic blanket inflated

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