Archive for October, 2015

31
Oct
15

ghosts

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It wouldn’t be Halloween without a mention of ghosts.

haunting-of-hill-houseAccording to a 2005 Gallup poll, 37% of Americans believe in haunted houses, and according to a 2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll, 45% believe in ghosts.

In 2009, CBS asked their American viewers if they believed in ghosts or not, and if they have ever seen one. According to that poll, a majority (48%) of Americans believe in ghosts, and a slight minority (45%) say they do not. The remaining 7% didn’t know.

Almost a quarter of people (22%) think they have seen or experienced a ghost.

Now please don’t take this as misogynistic, but most of the people (56%) believing in ghosts were women, and the minority (38%) were men. And please don’t take this as an example of ageism, but 54% of the believers were under 45 years old, while 41% were over 45 years old.

Of the people who believe they’ve seen a ghost (I remind you, 22%), 29% were women, and 14% were men. Most of the believers apparently didn’t answer.

Whether they were believers or non-believers in ghosts, most Americans (78%) believe there is life after death, and a minority (14%) believe there isn’t. This is a view shared by 90% of the people attending religious services regularly and 70% of the people who rarely or never attend religious services.

But all these statistics beg the question: what in hell do Americans know, anyway? The majority of people still believe the Bush Administration’s story about 9/11.

Yet there’s nothing more thrilling than a good ghost story, and this one is a popular (and true?) story from the Chicago area near where I grew up. It is of the “vanishing hitchhiker” variety, and it takes place outside Resurrection Cemetery in Justice IL, a few miles southwest of Chicago.

Since the 1930s, several men driving northeast along Archer Avenue near the cemetery have reported picking up a young female hitchhiker. This young woman is dressed somewhat formally in a white party dress and is said to have light blond hair and blue eyes. There are other reports that she wears a thin shawl, dancing shoes, carries a small clutch purse, and that she is very quiet. When the driver nears the Resurrection Cemetery, the young woman asks to be let out, whereupon she disappears into the cemetery. According to the Chicago Tribune, “full-time ghost hunter” Richard Crowe has collected “three dozen . . . substantiated” reports of such a young woman from the 1930s to the present.

ona-norkus-a-k-a-resurrection-maryIn early summer of 1927, Ona Norkus (or Anna, which is a translation of her Lithuanian name) was on the brink of her thirteenth birthday. Ona had pleaded with her father, August Norkus, to take her dancing at the popular Oh Henry Ballroom (today renamed the Willowbrook Ballroom) in nearby Willow Springs, along Archer Avenue.

It was the only birthday gift she asked for. Devoted to his only daughter, August Norkus agreed to the arrangement, much against the norms of the day.

On the night of July 20th, Ona left her Southside home at 5421 S. Neva with her father, his friend, and his friend’s date. The unusual foursome must have had a terrific time, for they left the Oh Henry at closing time, 1:30 am.

As Ona’s father steered the group toward home, surely weary and with his daughter closely nestled, August Norkus lost control of the car near Harlem and 67th Street. Dropping into an unseen 25-foot-deep railroad cut, the vehicle was nearly completely destroyed. Ona was instantly killed. Almost unfortunately, her father survived.

After the tragedy, August Norkus underwent horrific abuse. Accusations ranged from affronts to his driving skills to rages against his very fatherhood. Why, some demanded, would he have taken a mere child to a dance hall until 1:30 in the morning?

An inquest was scheduled, to be held at Sobiesk’s Mortuary in Argo, a nearby town. For a full month, six jurors reviewed the facts of the devastating case, finally declaring guilty the Chicago Streets Department for not having clearly marked the hazard.

With the  body released, the neighborhood prepared for Anna’s burial.

Mary Nagode, the woman who would tell the tale many decades later to cousin Frank Andrejasich, was pressed into service as part of the funeral party. Mary had been a classmate of Ona’s, another twelve-year-old who had recently made her First Communion. When the accident occurred, Nagode had been working for the summer on an asparagus farm in nearby Willow Springs. She was recruited for the funeral procession on the basis of her friendship with Ona—and because she, like Ona, owned a beautiful white Communion dress, recently worn, which would certainly “show up” well in the funeral line.

Ona was supposed to be buried on one of three lots at St. Casimir Cemetery which had been purchased by the Norkus family in recent months. It is believed by Andrejasich, Nagode and others that, because of a gravediggers’ strike at the time of her death, Ona was instead placed in a temporary grave in Resurrection Cemetery, one of the central Catholic burial grounds in the region.

In those days, gravedigging meant hard labor and low wages. Strikes were common and led to the temporary internment of many bodies at large cemeteries like Resurrection, where dozens of the dead could be buried in shallow graves for many weeks at a time, until strikes passed and the deceased could be transferred and reinterred at their permanent plots.

In the summertime, the rapid decomposition of unembalmed corpses often meant that the dead went misidentified. When the time came to move them, bodies went the wrong way a surprising number of times. Could Ona Norkus have ended up a permanent resident of Resurrection Cemetery, despite her lot at St. Casimir’s, miles away?

Frank Andrejasich thinks so. In fact, an awful lot of people think so. In October of 1998, Ona Norkus’s First Communion photo appeared on the cover of the revised edition of the book, Chicago Haunts. Since then, a number of men who have claimed encounters with “Resurrection Mary” over the last seventy years have come forth to say, “That is the girl that I saw.”

Another thing: Ona was particularly devoted to the Virgin Mary and took her name as one of her middle names. Hence the “Resurrection Mary” name by which the story is popularly known makes a little more sense.

Jerry Palus, a Chicago southsider, reported that in 1939 he met a person who he came to believe was Resurrection Mary at the Liberty Grove and Hall at 47th and Mozart (and not the Oh Henry/Willowbrook Ballroom). They danced and even kissed and she asked him to drive her home along Archer Avenue, exiting the car and disappearing in front of Resurrection Cemetery.

In 1973, Resurrection Mary was said to have shown up at Harlow’s nightclub, on Cicero Avenue on Chicago’s southwest side. That same year, a cab driver came into Chet’s Melody Lounge, across the street from Resurrection Cemetery, to inquire about a young lady who had left without paying her fare.

There were said to be sightings in 1976, 1978, 1980, and 1989, which involved cars striking, or nearly striking, Mary outside Resurrection Cemetery. Mary disappears, however, by the time the motorist exits the car.

Columnist Bill Geist detailed the story of a cab driver, Ralph, who picked up a young woman—”a looker. A blonde. . .she was young enough to be my daughter—21 tops”—near a small shopping center on Archer Avenue.

“A couple miles up Archer there, she jumped with a start like a horse and said ‘Here! Here!’ I hit the brakes. I looked around and didn’t see no kind of house. ‘Where?’ I said. And then she sticks out her arm and points across the road to my left and says ‘There!’. And that’s when it happened. I looked to my left, like this, at this little shack. And when I turned she was gone. Vanished! And the car door never opened. May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.”

Geist described Ralph as “neither an idiot nor a maniac, but rather [in Ralph’s own words] ‘a typical 52-year-old working guy, a veteran, father, Little League baseball coach, churchgoer, the whole shot’.” Geist goes on to say: “The simple explanation, Ralph, is that you picked up the Chicago area’s preeminent ghost: Resurrection Mary.”

Could it really be true?

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Lady of Kinsale.

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Brown Lady of Raynham Hall by Captain HC Provand 1936.

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70° and Partly Cloudy, Rain in the Late Afternoon

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30
Oct
15

internet junkie

internet-addiction.

Before dawn on Saturday morning last week, the phone and Internet went out, and I felt like a junkie without his fix or a teenager without his smartphone. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I realize how dependent I have become on this connection with the outside world.

I should have just gone back to sleep, but I couldn’t. If I were guilty of having not paid my phone bill, I would have accepted responsibility for this isolation—but I signed up with the phone company for automatic withdrawals of their monthly fee from my checking account, so I knew that I was paid up. I hate giving anybody unfettered access to my small stash of money, and I feel as if a sacred compact had been violated.

The next evening, this time during “prime time,” the connection went out again. It was driving me nuts, and I realized how irrational my reaction was. It was making me really angry.

Now a report has aired on the radio, and a Russian submarine was observed doing something suspicious in the vicinity of one of the 300 fiber-optic cables that link the US to the rest of the world. The Internet relies on these cables, each one the size of a garden hose. What would happen if one or more of these cables were severed in some international incident? If ISIS had a submarine, this prospect would not be an “if” but “when.”

But you don’t need a submarine to crash the Internet or other critical infrastructure including banks, gas pipelines, and the power grid. Since the discovery of the Stuxnet computer virus in 2012, we have discovered that the Internet is surprisingly vulnerable to hacking and crashing via thousands of entry-points—and the fact is, an amazing amount of damage can be done from basements, coffee shops, dorm rooms (as well as from secret high-tech security facilities) everywhere. Regardless of the players, it is bound to happen someday—just like an asteroid. Just wait.

“Internet Addiction Disorder” (IAD) was originally proposed in 1995 in a satirical hoax essay by Ivan Goldberg MD, although some later researchers have taken his essay seriously. He took pathological gambling, as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), as the model for his description. IAD receives coverage in the press, and its possible future classification as a psychological disorder continues to be debated and researched in the psychiatric community.

I’m actually thankful for the occasional outage. It helps me prepare myself for the inevitable. I hope that you will be similarly forearmed.

internet-addiction 2.

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69° and Partly Cloudy, Rain at Night

29
Oct
15

no more virtue

I heard this guy on the radio the other day delivering a college address, and I immediately thought I should share it with you because his insights provide a brilliant context for so many of the socio-economic-political problems we are facing today.

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Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent, has established himself over the past 50 years of his career as one of America’s most distinguished journalists. The former Times Washington Bureau Chief has gone on to publish five books and produced more than 50 hours of long-form documentary television. His most recent book, Who Stole the American Dream?, which came out in September 2012, landed on The New York Times national bestseller list, and remains a bestseller in a number of cities.

Spending 22 minutes watching this presentation is better than any amount of time you might devote to the ideas I am prepared to write about today. Please give it a chance. I think you will find it well worth your time investment.

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70° and Clear, Rain at Night

28
Oct
15

thank you ben fields

By now, everyone in the world (who isn’t living under a rock) has seen the video which has gone viral of school resource officer Ben Fields over-reacting to a Columbia SC female student who refused to stop using her cell phone in a classroom at Spring Valley High School.

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ben-fieldsWithin a few hours Monday, Fields went from a virtually unknown South Carolina deputy sheriff to the target of nationwide condemnation after a video showed him yanking a student from her desk, slamming her to the ground, and dragging her several feet across the floor.

The officer’s judgment and record of use-of-force may possibly illustrate, more than anything, why we must get cops out of our schools and demand that school officials accept responsibility for disciplinary matters which are not criminal acts by kids, but merely normal misbehavior of youths who are forced to attend school yet not predisposed to behaviors consistent with learning.

Luckily, the student was reportedly not injured (though I have learned she now wears an arm cast) or taken into custody (though I’m sure her pride was bruised), but the incident involving the use of police force has already attracted worldwide attention and disgraced our entire nation. One of my readers from Europe alerted me to the incident, which is receiving huge play in the European media. It is receiving nationwide attention in the US, and the FBI has been called in to investigate. Politicians from multiple jurisdictions and school officials at all levels are embarrassed by what it means. Ben Fields has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, and almost nobody is defending him or his judgment.

However, Reginald Seabrooks, one of the students who captured the incident on video, added this to his YouTube posting: “The officer in this is a cool dude, he is not Racist!!!. Girl was asked her to put the phone away, but told teacher no and Administrator was called and asked her to come to his office. She told him no, he then called the resource officer. When he got there he asked her nicely to get up. Over and over he did nothing wrong. They asked her to get up but she wanted to show off. To some it looks bad but she wanted to prove that she was bad.”

Fields joined the sheriff’s office in 2004 and joined the school resource officer program in 2008.  He had been given a “Culture of Excellence Award” by a Richland County elementary school, where he also worked as a school resource officer in 2014. He worked at the Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School and was “an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects,” a sheriff’s department newsletter said. He no longer works at that elementary school since he was reassigned to the high school.

Though many would prefer to cast the incident in black-and-white terms (pun intended), a thorough investigation will probably show that in this incident, good people are caught in a bad system that sets them up for dysfunction. Fields was doing what he was trained to do; the female student may be playing her newly-found fame for all it’s worth. Her alleged injuries should be confirmed by independent medical authorities. Maybe this incident will help bring an end to the bad practice of policing schoolchildren when non-criminal sanctions will do.

But only time will tell.

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69° and Partly Cloudy

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PS: It was announced today that Ben Fields was fired. “He picked a student up, and he threw the student across the room; that is not a proper technique,” Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County SC  said at a news conference in Columbia, where he told reporters, “Deputy Ben Fields did wrong this past Monday, so we’re taking responsibility for that.”

The deputy’s dismissal came after department officials conducted an internal review that, according to the sheriff, found that Deputy Fields had used a maneuver that violated the agency’s training and procedural standards. But Sheriff Lott also criticized the student, a sophomore, in harsh tones for “having started this whole incident with her actions.”

Sheriff Lott said he expected that the student, who was arrested on a charge of disturbing the school, would still face prosecution. There was no comment from a lawyer for the student on Wednesday.

PPS:

On Friday morning, a group of Spring Valley High School students walked out of class to protest the firing of school resource officer Ben Fields.

“They said, ‘Bring back Fields.’ Everybody was saying that,” Spring Valley senior Ty’Juan Fulton, 18, said of the former deputy. Plans for Friday’s demonstration were hatched on social media and by word of mouth, said Fulton, a football player.

A racially diverse group of about 100 students gathered in Spring Valley’s atrium about 10 am Friday to express their opinions about Fields’ firing. The protest lasted about 10 minutes.

Ty’Juan Fulton called Fields a “nice guy,” and termed Monday’s incident a “misunderstanding.”

“He didn’t have to take it that far, but (the student) should have listened at the same time,” when she was asked to leave the classroom.

27
Oct
15

reincarnation redux

Over half the people in the world believe in reincarnation, but the belief doesn’t have much of a foothold in the Western world, where the Abrahamic religions hold sway over 75% of the population. The Christian Gnostics believed in the transmigration of souls, but this belief was suppressed by the early 4th century, when the Gnostics were kicked out of the Church.

This is beginning to change, in part because of the research work of Jim Tucker and his concentration on the experiences of American children and what those experiences have to teach.

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Dr. Jim B. Tucker, MD, is an associate psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia Medical Center’s Division of Perceptual Studies. Since Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918–2007) retired in 2002,  Jim Tucker has been continuing his work, and extending it, at the University of Virginia. He is also the author of Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives, which presents an overview of over four decades of reincarnation research at the Division of Perceptual Studies.

For nearly 15 years, Tucker has been investigating claims made by children, usually between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, who say they’ve had past lives. The children are sometimes able to provide enough detail about those lives that their stories can be traced back to an actual person—rarely famous and often entirely unknown to the family—who died years before.

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Last year he was interviewed by Rachel Martin on National Public Radio, which can be heard here.

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One of the stories related by Tucker is that of James Leinenger, a little boy (now age 17) who may be the reincarnation of Lt. James Huston, Jr., a Navy pilot who was killed during World War II at Iwo Jima:

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If you want to read more about this remarkable case, James’ parents have written a book about their family’s experience called Soul Survivor.

Carol Bowman, the woman to whom the Leiningers originally turned, is a researcher and author of Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child and Return From Heaven: Beloved Relatives Reincarnated Within Your Family. She has distilled children’s past life memories into four characteristics which seem to indicate authentic—not imaginative—experiences:

  1. Matter-of-fact tone
  2. Consistency over time
  3. Knowledge beyond experience
  4. Corresponding behavior and traits

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, you must at the very least agree this is a compelling story.

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85° and Clear

26
Oct
15

war on meat

The destruction of the world isn’t enough; now the World Health Organization says you’re killing yourself.

Where will it end?

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meat 1.

WHO: Processed meat linked to cancer; red meat also risky

by The Associated Press

October 26, 2015

meat-guns.

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66° and Clear

25
Oct
15

comfort food

My work was finished for the day, and I laid down to relax and (if sleep should overcome me) take a nap. I checked Netflix for a movie I’d already seen—that way, if I fell asleep in the middle of it, no big deal. I would already know what I’d missed.

The choice du jour was Love Actually, a 2003 British romantic comedy written and directed by Richard Curtis. I’ve written about it before. I’m not especially proud of the choice, but I’m not too embarrassed, either. It’s an aggregation of short bits that tell the intertwined stories of ten pairs of “impossibly attractive” characters who are in love. Some critics judged it a “sugary confection,” but I wasn’t in the mood for anything challenging or serious. After all, I chose the film with the expectation that I would end up sleeping through part of it.

If I were to compare the film to comfort foods, it would fall somewhere between macaroni-and-cheese and prime rib—meatloaf, I should think. If this were a typical Facebook post about a restaurant meal, I would feel obligated to show you the entree. So here it is:

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As it turns out, I did fall asleep through part of the film. And… sorry about this post, but you can’t expect a major production every day. Here life as usual is pretty mundane.

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70° and Clear

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PS: Last night I got a call from my friend Ronny, and Vinnie has reopened his doughnut shack after a several-month hiatus caused by electrical problems. So Ronny and I resumed our Sunday morning ritual of imbibing in the best comfort food out here. I had planned to consume two pigs-in-a-blanket and buy three cinnamon rolls to enjoy at home—one for me, and two for my neighbors Aliana and Bill. But Vinnie didn’t have any pigs, so I took Ronny to breakfast at the Motor Inn. Not the same, but just as good.