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Gene Colan, a great artist who was also a wonderful human being, passed away a day or two ago. Apart from thanking God for this remarkable man and saying a prayer for his soul, what we should remember in such cases is how important it is to show everyone you admire and who has enriched your life just how grateful you are. You might not have the chance again.
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Two quite different but wholly admirable people left us yesterday. Yelena Bonner, the loyal and heroic wife of the hero of freedom Andrei Sakharov, has died; and Clarence Clemons, the unforgettable sax player of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, did not survive the after-effects of a stroke.
Heaven knows where the E Street Band goes from here. In fact, even though the two were different in every way, there is one thing that may be said of both: that they achieved glory - and I do mean glory - as part of a lifelong partnership that in some ways achieved the impossible. Before the steadfast and luminous heroism of the Sakharovs, impassibly defiant and loud in the face of the most monstrous repressive machinery the world has ever known, one can do nothing but reverently bow; and Clarence was virtually the other face of the E Street Band, the Boss' lifelong deputy, and their music will endure for as long as music is heard. The worst I know about him is that he collaborated with Lady Gaga, but what does that matter? For forty years, he was part of one of the greatest music machines the world has ever known, and the pleasure and inspiration he helped give to hundreds of millions of music lovers is beyond reckoning. May they both rest in peace in the light of the Lord of freedom and of beauty.
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A really great thriller writer, whose work I believe will live on, and that has given me enormous and lasting pleasure. Thank you, and rest in God's peace.
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The vulgar and superficial joke ascribed to him - "Heaven for landscape, Hell for company" - just came back to my mind as I heard, in quick succession, of the passing of three lovely and wholly different human beings, each completely unlike the others except in being safe candidates for Paradise.

A few days ago, Sir Bobby Robson died after a long illness. Millions of football fans in and out of England felt that they had lost a friend. This miner's son from the coalfields of County Durham had risen in his profession till he coached England and several leading European teams, and of course, that must involve the occasional use of force - giving orders and talking down people, forcing players to do things they may not want to, disciplining the obstinate. Twenty or thirty well-paid, widely popular young men in their twenties are not managed with a feather. But that was never the impression he left. From the first to the last, everyone who remembers him used the same word: enthusiasm. He loved football like a child: something that came out irresistibly in his very presence. One cannot help but remember him with a sparkling grin, his deeply lined face and his lovely thatch of silver hair alive with enjoyment and vitality, with that shine that simply cannot be counterfeited. And with all that, he was what coaches should always be and rarely are - a paternal presence to his players. The strange footballing idiot-savant Paul Gascoigne, whom Robson managed better than almost anyone, said quite simply that he had just lost his second father. Never was a sporting knighthood better given and better deserved - "for services to football," indeed. In the deepest sense of the word, he served both his sport and his country, and served them well. He ennobled rather than abandoned his working-class origins, expressing himself cheerfully and vigorously in the dialect of his mining ancestors, but carrying at the same time a dignity and palpable honesty. He always dressed very well, not out of pretension - he was the least pretentious of men - but out of respect to his role and the position he had achieved. He was the manager, the man in charge; he had to look it. And his players always responded. If his last job - manager of his own favourite team, Newcastle United - was at best a mixed success, it was not his fault, but the fault of a disastrous set of owners who have brought a once-great team to its knees; but the fans understood, and never blamed him. He passed with the love and affection of everyone in Britain who knows what football is.

On the same day, the news came that former President Corazon Aquino had passed away; and that her whole country had dressed in mourning. Now it is difficult to imagine a more different person - in terms of background and culture - than Sir Bobby; she was a lady born and bred, from one of the richest families in her country, educated in a top convent school and married to the son of a former Speaker of the Philipine Parliament. Even when her husband courageously took on the cause of democracy against the tyranny of Ferdinando Marcos, I do not imagine that she had any more idea than to be a good political wife, helping and loyally supporting her husband - even when he had to go into exile for his health - he was threatened with severe lead poisoning, in bullet form, if he kept bothering the tyrant. It was when the lead poisoning punctually materialized that his widow's quality became manifest. Let us be clear: Corazon Aquino would have been a great human being whether or not she was ever called to political office; she would have been a first-rate woman, justly loved by those who knew her, even if she never stepped out of her husband's shadow. The difference is that now the whole world got to see what she was made of. With an impressive mixture of grace and firmness, she took her husband's place at the head of the "people power" movement ("people power" is a literal translation of "democracy") and led it to complete victory. Nobody who ever saw it will forget her words when, standing before a joint session of Congress (the parliament of the Philipines' own former colonial power), she stated her pride in standing there as the leader of a free people. It was a lesson that went around the world; and through the eighties, one tyranny after another fell to the forces of unleashed people power, until the oldest and greatest - the Soviet Union - vanished like a nightmare in daylight. And it all had started with one charming, courageous lady in Manila.

My friend [personal profile] kikei, in turn, reports the passing of yet another good person. The head of the religious school (Madressah) back home, Alhaj Aliraza Mulla Nanji, affectionately known as 'Ada' to everyone in the community, has passed away. he'd been sick for a while, in and out of hospitals due to cancer... I feel a little bit numb. While my experience in the Madressah wasn't wholly positive, I remember that at least this man was one person who was reliable, who ran that institution with the utmost integrity and who, under the strict demeanour, was gentle and loving and cared for every child who passed through the place. As a community member he was loved, and he's one of the few people who was exactly as he appeared to be, no secrets or false faces. I almost feel weary now, because even though I wasn't related to the man, it's equivalent to losing a grandfather, that's the kind of person he was to everyone in the community, regardless of age or status... It's a sad, sad day for our community. Today, even though I'm teaching in a secular institution, I'm teaching for him, in the hope that maybe I can make some sort of a difference, not with the skills I teach but just as a person in some of my students' lives.

These are three people we are very likely to meet in Heaven, if we ever get there. And they could not possibly be more different: a miner's son turned sporting hero from North England, a Philipine aristocrat of largely Chinese descent, and a religious leader in a diaspora Shia community in Kenya. But Twain's view of Paradise - based in a provincial kind of pessimism which knew nothing better or more religious than the narrow-minded, uniform folks at home - is wrong in a deeper sense; that one could not possibly imagine being bored with the company of any of these people. Whether it was with the enthusiastic Sir Bobby, or with the courteous and well-bred Corazon Aquino, or with Ada, so stern on the outside, so affectionate and concerned with everyone on the inside, one just knows that these are the sort of people whose company one would seek, enjoy, and regret the ending.
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Trine Michelsen
Read more... )

NOTE: I corrected a few wrong dates. Most of my biographical material including all the quotes come from the Facebook group Til Minde om Trine Michelsen and from the websites of the Danish magazines Se og Hor, BT and Ekstra Bladet.
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Romeo Priotto, a former railwayman who had been in pension for one year, was having his holiday in Porto Tolle, at the mouth of the river Po in northern Italy. Suddenly he spotted two little children in serious difficulty. He threw himself in, saved both the youngsters - and then fell dead, killed by a heart attack brought upon by the exertion.

The highest decoration in the ancient Roman army was the crown of oak leaves, reserved for a soldier who had saved a Roman citizen's life. This man deserves it. Rest in peace.
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A genuine hero of liberty, one of the leaders of Solidarnosc, who fought tyranny when people died at its hands, and then went on to oppose the government of free Poland when he felt it was drifting too far in the opposite direction. Every free man on Earth has lost a champion today.

"When they ask you whether the future belongs to liberty, answer them that, much more, the eternal belongs to her." (Benedetto Croce)
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Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, Archbishop emeritus of Palermo, has died at 88. To people of my country and generation, this man stands for a time not to be forgotten: the time when, in the middle of terrible shocks and difficulties, Sicily and all Italy began to turn the corner in the struggle against the Mafia - accepting that it was a struggle, accepting that there was nothing inevitable about the Mafia, and accepting that it could be defeated. Cardinal Pappalardo himself was a Sicilian of the Sicilians in everything, beginning with his name - a name simply impossible this side of the Straits. And that was exactly the immensely important point. That a man with his name, his accent, his character - Sicilian to the point of stereotype - should assail the power of crime Sunday after Sunday, in and out of season, and should take powerful, practical steps to defy it, made an enormous impact on both sides of the Straits of Messina. Where previous archbishops had been at best accepting and at worst cooperating with the Mafia - in the name of the fatalistic belief that it could not be uprooted from Sicilian soil - Pappalardo was the first public figure to defy it and denounce it. His omilies and speeches became famous, and the younger generation of politicians and judges that arose in Sicily in the eighties, no longer in collaboration with, but in open revolt against, armed crime, all owned him as an example and master. I have no idea where he stood in the great internal issues of the Church with which I am personally very concerned, but his role in the history of Italy is, as far as I know, wholly positive. In fact, one is tempted to draw a parallel with the death of another famous old man who passed away in a Chilean military hospital at roughly the same time as Cardinal Pappalardo died in his monastic retreat... but why be unkind? God rest his soul and bring Him to everlasting light.

Jack Kirby

Sep. 16th, 2004 04:43 pm
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Criticism is one of the things I think I can do, and do fairly well. And by far the best criticism I ever wrote in my life was a series of articles about Jack Kirby, "the king of comics".

It was a matter of the subject matter raising the critic's game. The better the work, in my view (are you listening, Kenna Hijja?), the better the criticism: the more there is to seize and understand, to elaborate and connect, to explain, even to oppose. Kirby was unique: a wholly self-built genius, who had constructed, out of the most miserable cheap odds and ends of American popular culture - fifties monster movies, Houdini escapology, poster artwork, costume films about Romans and Vikings, pulp fiction, sci-fi mags of the pre-ARGOSY age - one of the most overwhelming artistic achievements, I would say THE most overwhelming, of the whole twentieth century. Visually, he was stunning. His paintings and collages, though few as compared to the immense body of his pencil comics art, are enough to stock a museum, and breathtaking; as for his comics, my calculation is that there are upwards of FORTY THOUSAND pencilled pages by him, at least half of which are visual masterpieces. And then there is the small matter of his writing...

I will not start another series of articles about him in this LJ, and I am not going to reprint my older series, because they would not work without illustrations. I do, however, enclose one of his obituaries, written one year after his death by a writer, Mark Evanier, who had known him well. It has comparatively little to say about his genius, but much - though not enough - about the human qualities that fed that genius.
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