Thursday, January 31, 2008

Organ Donor Deal

Has Vermont got a deal for you. In an effort to drum up more organ donors, Vermont is offering a trade - organ donation - after death, naturally - in exchange for no driver's license fees for the rest of your life.

Me, I think they should kick in some Ben and Jerry's too! : )

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Interesting Findings on Napoleon's Death

Was the French emperor whispering his last words, "Head of Army! While he was poisoned by wary enemies? Recent days scientists say Napoleon Bonaparte died from an advanced case of gastric cancer and not arsenic poisoning as some had speculated.

Thus far we know that the cause of his death was from arsenic found in his hair concluding a death of poisoning. However, attempting to solve the puzzle a new study combining current medical knowledge, autopsy reports, Bonaparte's physician memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and family medical histories, found that gastrointestinal bleeding was the immediate cause of death.

Well one question is answered, but a new one has risen: What caused the gastric cancer?

By the original autopsy descriptions indicated that Bonaparte's stomach had two ulcerated lesions: a large one on the stomach and a smaller one that had pierced through the stomach wall and reached the liver. Based on autopsy reports, it is impossible to determine conclusively that the tumor that reportedly killed Napoleon's father was cancerous. And none of Napoleon's siblings were subject to autopsy, making his sister's stomach cancer diagnosis dubious.

I believe this is one of those controversies that will live on forever. (source: Notelay)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Bottle Houses! Get Your Fill at This Site!

Who knew that bottle houses were so common. If you read my post about the house built from embalming bottles, you might be quite suprised to know that there are quite a few of these homes across the world. Interesting enough; Knotts Berry Farm (the Jelly People) have one called Calico House: Nothing is known of the Calico House's origins. It might have been created in Calico or brought there from another ghost town, possibly even Nevada. But it is also possible that this is a modern reproduction.

Walter Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm amusement park fame) bought the ghost town of Calico in 1951 and restored it from old photos. Therefore, Calico is a mix of original buildings and replicas built on remaining foundations. In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County.

Knott's Berry Farm has a simulated ghost town and a Bottle House made from over three thousand whiskey bottles (another account says over five thousand bottles). It is used as the "Indian Trader" store today. Knott visited the Rhyolite Bottle House in the early 1950s and took pictures which were used in building this miniature replica.

For a great read check out this site "Other Bottle Houses" which gives you the why, how and where. And, for more bottle houses go to the 2nd page ... you'll get your fill on the subject : )

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Treasured Memory Bears - Something to Hold on to for Comfort

Beautiful Site. Beautiful Idea. Treasured Memory Bears. They make beautiful keepsake teddy bears out of cherished clothing. Here is how it works:

  • A client sends us clothes that have meaning. Here are some examples of clothes that our clients have sent:
  • Wedding Dress
  • Christening Gown
  • Dad’s Favorite Bathrobe
  • Communion Dress
  • Mom’s Favorite Housedress
  • Overalls
  • Jeans and Rock Concert T-Shirt
  • Flannel Shirt
  • Mom’s Last Nightgown
  • Baby Clothes and Bibs
  • Unfinished Quilt
  • Dog Blanket and Leash

After discussing the overall design with the client and photographing each piece of clothing, they will construct the bear using the fabrics provided. Since the entire body of the bear will be made with the clothing provided, the stiffness or softness of the bear will depend upon the fabric provided. They add a childsafe nose and a pair of child-safe eyes and any finishing touches.
The bear is photographed and then shipped back to the client.

I think the price is very reasonable and it is something to hold onto during grief. Hospice gave me one when my mom passed away. It wasn't made from any of her belongings, but I was touched by the gesture. This would be awesome. Oh, and these people make quilts too! Plus, you can have one made if your pet passes. This is a very good site!!!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Post Mortem - Info and Photos of Victorian Funerals

Came across a really cool site this morning called "Post Mortem". Lots of historical and interesting information and victorian photos. Worth a look seek ....

Did you know that in the late 1800's and early 1900's, funeral parlors would allow family members to take photos of their loved one's as a way of remembrance (they still do it in the south) or, if the family was too poor to have one taken while they were still alive, sometimes the funeral parlor would take on for them.

And, did you know....

...that most wood caskets do not seal? If you want one that seals, you have to specify that when picking or ordering one.

...that casket come in a huge variety of materials? They range from hard cloth covered compressed cardboard, to particle-board, fiberboard, pine, oak, maple, ash, mahogany, etc. Then there's 16, 18 & 20 gauge stainless steel caskets. Copper & bronze caskets can go as high as 48 ounce. There's also casket made from manufactured stone. There used to be cast iron caskets w/ glass viewing window.

...that in the old days, they would pack the funeral parlor (or the family's home if the wake was held there) with tons of flowers as a way of masking the odor of a decaying corpse? Embalming wasn't really perfected until the 20th century, and caskets were often placed on a cooling board, which resembled a tub or crate of ice under the body to slow down the decaying process.

...that around that late 1800's & early 1900's, businesses used for funeral purposes were just called Undertaker. (You've probably seen this in old western movies) The term "Undertaker" was forced to change to funeral home (or parlor) in order to sound less morbid?

for more victorian info and history check out this interesting site!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bobby FIsher - - Game Over

How sad, how sad, how sad.

I am not into Chess. I did however know who Bobby Fisher was ... a chess champion; but had no idea how important and impressive he really was. So when I read this morning that he had died, I was very amazed at his obit. "The U.S. chess Grandmaster Bobby Fisher died at age 64 of an unknown illness, (the Post and Sun -- said Kidney Failure) -- the national radio station in Iceland reported on Friday. Fisher moved to Iceland in 2005 and later obtained his citizenship, after the U.S. authorities pursued in arresting him mainly for violating President George H. W. Bush’s executive order in 1992 of not engaging in economic activities with Yugoslavia (Fisher chose to play against Spassky, despite the order).

The former world chess champion was pronounced dead on Thursday, at a Reykjavik hospital, but no further details have been released to the press. Fisher was the first and only U.S.-born champion, in a sport where the Soviets always had the lead. “It’s really the free world against the lying, cheating, hypocritical Russians,” he used to say.

In 1972, Fischer was propelled to international fame after his thrilling world championship win over the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in Reykjavik.

The victory in the classic Cold War showdown made Fischer America's first world chess champion in more than a century.

However, Fischer quickly became known more for his idiosyncrasies than for his talent.

In 1975, Fischer forfeited his title to another Soviet, Anatoly Karpov, when he refused to play against him in Manila.

In 1992, after years in recluse, Fischer agreed to play Spassky again in an exhibition rematch on the Yugoslav resort island of Sveti Stefan.

Because of the location of the match, Fischer became a wanted man in the U.S. for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia.

He then disappeared until after the 9/11 attacks. In an interview with a Phillippine radio station, Fischer applauded the strikes and said he wanted to see the U.S. "wiped out," reports Reuters.

Frank Brady, author of "Bobby Fisher: Profile of a Prodigy", told CTV Newsnet on Friday that the man's anti-Semitic remarks and anti-American statements helped to propel his infamy.

"Certainly he was the greatest chess player that every lived and he was famous because of what he did on the chess board, but he was certainly infamous for what he did off the chess board," Brady said.

Brady said Fisher's antics became increasingly more bizarre as he aged.

"He just sort of went bad, he went mean in the latter part of his life," he said.

However, Brady said the chess genius never uttered a controversial word prior to 1972, leading the first half of his life as a "polite" yet "arrogant" champion.

In July 2004, Fischer was held in a Japanese detention centre after having been caught trying to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport.

Following his release in March 2005, Fischer unzipped his pants near the airport entrance and gestured as if he was going to urinate on the wall.

The outspoken Fischer accused Japan and the U.S. of "kidnapping" him.

Known for his anti-Semitic views, Fischer also said he was being hounded by the U.S because it was "Jew-controlled."

Reached in France, Spassky told The Associated Press he was "very sorry" to hear of Fischer's death. (sources: post, sun, CVAT, eflux)


The more I read about Fisher the sadder it was. It seems he was a genius trapped in his own mind of genius. According to press; he was a recluse, angry, disoriented, could not follow conversation and unusual .... He ditched his family years ago, his country and, well, I don't quite know what to say. For some reason, his death bothers me in that he was so smart, yet his genius made him mentally different from everyone else and himself .... I wish that mental illnesses could be addressed better from both a medical point of view, financial point of view and stereotyping point of view.... I wish people could realize when they need help. There is so much more I could ramble about on this issue - because you see and hear so much, but I won't. I'll just close in saying I find it very sad that someone of his intellect and genius did not live what I would consider a full life (he may have felt he did live a full live), or at least one that was not as angry and incoherent as he was.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Self Destructing Palm Tree.... Wicked

Interesting story. A palm tree that kind of mimics the legendery Phoenix. A self-destructing palm tree that flowers once every 100 years and then dies has been discovered on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, botanists said Thursday.

The name of the giant palm and its remarkable life cycle will be detailed in a study by Kew Gardens scientists in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society published Thursday.

"It's spectacular. It does not flower for maybe 100 years and when it's like this it can be mistaken for other types of palm," said Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, who works for the London botanical gardens in Madagascar. "But then a large shoot, a bit like an asparagus, grows out of the top of the tree and starts to spread. You get something that looks a bit like a Christmas tree growing out of the top of the palm," he said. The branches of this shoot then become covered in hundreds of tiny white flowers that ooze with nectar, attracting insects and birds.

But the effort of flowering and fruiting depletes the tree so much that within a few months it collapses and dies, said botanist Dr. John Dransfield, author of the study.Dransfield noted that "even for Madagascar this is a stupendous palm and an astonishing discovery."

The palm tree, which grows to 66 feet in height and has about 16-foot leaves, is only found in an extremely remote region in the northwest of the country, some four days by road from the capital. Local villagers have known about it for years although none had seen it in flower until last year. The bizarre flowering ritual was first spotted by Frenchman Xavier Metz, who runs a cashew plantation nearby. After seeing it he notified Kew Gardens.

Puzzling Dransfield is how botanists had missed such a "whopping palm" until now. According to him it is the largest palm species in the country but there appear to be only about 100 in existence. source

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Death .... Flying High! Pets can too!

Pretty cool story. The Eternal Ascent Association; where you can be cremated and placed in a balloon. Your loved one or pet can now be safely transported to the heavens in a giant helium-filled balloon, (only from the Eternal Ascent Society.) According to their home page, they started out as a party store: "Gift in a Balloon" selling wedding and party related items with the main focus being balloons with various items inside (i.e., hats, flowers, chocolates, etc.). One night they were having dinner with friends and they were discussing a mutual acquaintance who was very ill. The conversation turned to "what do you want to have done with you after you are gone?" When it was Clyde's turn (the owner)he said, "I don't care. Just have me cremated, put me in a balloon and send me off". The idea for the Eternal Ascent Society was born.

Their service is elegantly simple. After processing the cremated remains they place them in a 5-foot, biodegradable balloon. They inflate the balloon with Helium inside a patented inflation chamber, transport the balloon in the inflation chamber to a site chosen by the family and release it to the heavens. When released, the balloon slowly ascends to a height of approximately 30,000 feet. During the balloon's ascent it expands and at a height of approximately 6 miles (where it is 40 degrees below zero) it freezes and fractures, scattering the ashes to the four winds.
This is really pretty cool. My only problem is that I am now humming the "Rocky" theme song - " ... flying high now, gotta fly now...." The girl can't help it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Photographer Captures Thoughts, Death and Life Beautifully

You know, there are many types of death. You can be alive and dead at the same time. And, some people can grasp this concept through the lens of a camera or some other artistic way. I came across this site that is both disturbing and beautiful at the same time. Either way, this guy makes you think. I pulled up two pictures that really struck me. One, an empty church... superimposed over a hymnal. You have to pull the picture up to see the beauty and the thoughtfulness of the shot ... the photographer did a wonderful job. His photos capture the present, the past, the truth and how people are. Love his words which explain his shots. And then, an abandoned psychiatric hospital...

Very worth checking out this beautiful site (by it looks like a young artist.) Also looks like he sells some prints. His minds eye is on target and really makes you think. Would love anyone's comments on this artist .... (Vaporiss) (Click on picture to get to direct link to picture).

Artist's Comments:

i went alone this time.
into the church.
the floor was flooded.
i'd like to think of it as holy water.
stack of books.
cover reads "the hymnal for youth"read the writing.
every other page the word "snake".
other words revealing the youth.
the youth that once flooded the church.

It's sad to see someones entire life on a piece of paper.
Laying on the floor.
Covered in dust.
I won't forget you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Woman Found Dead in Tow Yard

The body of an elderly woman was discovered in the front passenger side of a crumpled car in a San Fernando Valley towing company's yard -- a day after paramedics had removed her son from the same vehicle after a crash, authorities said. The woman, whose identity was not released, had apparently been left in the car at the accident scene in Tarzana even as her son was taken to a hospital, police said. The car was towed away and no one thought anything of it until the family reported there were two people in the car.

Police conducted a follow-up to the tow yard, and discovered the woman inside the vehicle," she was dead."LAPD detectives and officials swarmed the vehicle lot at Howard Sommers Towing Inc., an official police impound and tow yard in Canoga Park, trying to determine how city paramedics and traffic officers had failed to spot the woman in the damaged vehicle. The slightly built woman had been concealed beneath an air bag that had deployed during the accident, police said. The vehicle was badly banged-up after crashing into a building. [LA Times]

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Anatomist .... Gray's Anatomy Revealed

Found a great "downtime"read The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy . As anyone in the medical field, mortuary field; any field involving the body.... or just plain curiosity knows; "Gray's Anatomy" is a staple.

Think about it. The book was written before computers, videos; Medical Shows (Dr. Gannon; Dr. Kildare or heaven forbid Dr. McDreamy ; ). This was the book that showed how the body "fit together." First published in 1858, "Gray's Anatomy" has NEVER been out of print and is one of the most enduring and famous textbooks in the English language. It's detailed anatomical diagrams and descriptions continue to influence the artists of today and the past.

"The Anatomist" written by Bill Hayes attempts to reveal the man behind the diagrams, Henry Gray. As you read, you find out that "Gray's Anatomy" is pretty much all that remains of the London medical student who became one of the reading anatomists of his day prior to his death in 1861 at age 34. None of Gray's letters, journals or manuscripts have survived.

Interestingly enough, Hayes also announces another discovery... that thought the book bears his name, Gray did not actually draw any of it's 400 diagrams. The drawings were the handiwork of Gray's collaborator, H.V. Carter, whose name was left off some subsequent editions of the book.

If you are looking for something to read, "The Anatomist" will delight, surprise and interest you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chet Fitch's Cards Were Truly Heaven Sent

This is one of the warmest, funniest and nicest stories I read over the holidays. I wish more people could have Chete Fitch's personality, warmth and humor.

Even in death, Chet Fitch is a card.

Fitch, known for his sense of humor, died in October at age 88 but gave his friends and family a start recently: Christmas cards, 34 of them, began arriving - written in his hand with a return address of "Heaven."

The greeting read: "I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't (tarry) there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.

"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"

A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said, "All I could think was, 'You little stinker.'" "It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet, always wanting to get the last laugh."
The mailing was a joke Fitch worked on for two decades with his barber, Patty Dean, 57. She told the Ashland Daily Tidings this week that he kept updating the mailing list and giving her extra money when postal rates went up. This fall, she said, Fitch looked up to her from the chair. "You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards," he told her. "I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

He died a week later. (source)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Northstar Gallery ... Great Selection of Cemetery Art

Interesting site: Northstar Gallery. Great photos by a person who photographs memorial and cemetery art from around the world. This project explores the conscious and unconscious themes and symbolic content of the art. At issue is of course man's struggle with transcendence and his own mortality. As the project progressed, he began to discover many very sensual images of beautiful young women depicted in the memorial art in the cemeteries Intriguing questions emerged around the significance of this particular art form in the cemetery. How is it that these very powerful images have come to offer solace at times of loss, what is the significance of the link between Thantos and Eros in this very powerful art form? These questions have launched an extended research project on the issue. The research continues, however to date the following information and insights have emerged. I would greatly welcome viewer comments on this work. It is my intent that this project will emerge as a book in the near future. To view more classic memorial art click here.