Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Lazarus Effect

Last week I posted some items about Lazarus and in passing mentioned the Lazarus Effect. Coincidentally yesterday I saw an item about it that (to me at least) seems pretty impressive: 
Lazarus rising 
Will Pavia
The Australian  
March 30, 2013  
EARLIER this month, a woman with heart disease died in a New York hospital. She showed no signs of life for an hour and 15 minutes after suffering cardiac arrest. At any other hospital she would have been declared dead.  
This patient, however, had collapsed at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, a leading centre for research on reviving the clinically dead. After resuscitation failed, doctors chilled her body to slow brain-cell degeneration and applied a sensor to her forehead to measure the saturation of oxygen in her brain (the normal level is 60-80 per cent).  
"We've found that if the brain saturation remains less than 30 per cent, people will never come back," says Dr Sam Parnia, the director of resuscitation research. After doctors attached the woman to a machine that oxygenates the blood, "the oxygen levels in her brain shot up to 70 per cent. Her heart restarted. She made a full recovery."  
Such revivals are now increasingly common, Parnia says. He has written The Lazarus Effect, detailing how the dead may be reanimated hours after their hearts have stopped and calling on all hospitals to adopt similar techniques. So long as the underlying disease is treatable, death may be but a temporary affliction. 
A few weeks earlier The Australian had reprinted an item from The Times that described the same technology: 
Lazarus effect of ecmo heart machine 
SCIENTISTS have developed technology that can bring people back from the dead up to seven hours after their hearts have stopped - and want it installed routinely in hospitals and even ambulances.  
Ecmo machines, which act like heart bypass systems but can be fitted in minutes, are already used widely to save cardiac arrest victims in Japan and South Korea, where they are credited with reviving people long after they have apparently died.  
Such machines take blood out of the body, remove the waste CO2 and then pump it back into the body laden with oxygen, effectively replacing the heart. In recent years they have become quicker to fit, small enough to put in ambulances and relatively cheap.  

Iconic Figures: John Bull

John Bull is the national personification of Britain and, in particular, of England, especially in political cartoons. 

The character John Bull was created in 1712 by Dr John Arbuthnot in his pamphlet The History of John Bull as a means of assisting the Tory Government in its efforts to end the Spanish War of Succession. The figure of the country farmer as representative of England caught on quickly. By the 1760’s he was depicted as a stout, middle-aged, country dwelling farmer, a jolly, matter-of-fact man. He is also often depicted with a bulldog, a further symbol of England, and a low top hat, sometimes now called a John Bull topper. His girth, commonly described as “stout”, comes from an age where rosy cheeks and plump faces were a sign of good health. 

John Bull was further popularised by being depicted by cartoonists in Punch in the mid and late 19th centuries but the image has been less used since the 1950’s. 

He was originally depicted as wearing a pale waistcoat and a blue frock coat. By the 20th century his waistcoat depicted the Union Jack. 

John Bull's surname is reminiscent of the alleged fondness of the English for beef, reflected in the French nickname for English people les rosbifs (the "Roast Beefs"). 

He is a well intentioned character with sound commonsense. Whereas the later Uncle Sam image is a figure of authority, John Bull is not characterised by power or defiance. Instead he is a country small landowner and farmer, a prosperous one who likes domestic peace and a glass of beer. At the same time he is a plain speaking, plain dealing, hardheaded, bold individual. 

During the Napoleonic Wars, John Bull became the national symbol of freedom, of loyalty to king and country, and of resistance to French aggression. He was representative of the ordinary man in the street, willing to stand up to Napoleon no matter what. 

By the 1800’s he had become a more assertive figure in domestic politics, someone who was prepared to criticise not only the government but also the royal family. 

A 1904 German cartoon commenting on the Entente Cordiale: John Bull walking off with Marianne, turning his back on Germany. (Marianne is a national emblem of France, representing the state and values of France, differently from another French cultural symbol, the "Coq Gaulois" [Gallic rooster] which represents France as a nation and its history, land and culture). 

WW1 recruiting poster 

Today John Bull remains the personification of the character of the English: honest, generous, straightforward, enjoying life and ready to stand up and fight for what he/she believes in. 

Funnily enough, there was a real John Bull, pictured above. He lived between 1562 and 1628, long before 1712 when John Bull as a character first appeared. The real John Bull was an English composer and musician, well known as an organist and a virginalist. A what? No, that’s correct, a virginal was a form of keyboard instrument with a mechanism for plucking rather than hammering the strings. Which is not to say that his passion was only for music. After numerous scandals involving females, he fled England for the Netherlands in 1613 to escape various charges, including adultery, and to escape the wrath of both King James 1 and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The latter had said of him in 1612 “The man hath more music than honesty and is as famous for marring of virginity as he is for fingering of organs and virginals.” 

In a connection with the symbolism of the literary John Bull, the real John Bull is often credited with having written the British national anthem God Save the Queen/King.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Life, Death and Strange Last Rites of Gram Parsons, Part 2

Last week’s instalment looked at the life of Gram Parsons, remembered today as the father of country rock, the fusion of country music and rock.  His music influenced Elvis Costello, U2, Tom Petty, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones and Emmylou Harris among others. Born Cecil Ingram Conner in 1946, his father committed suicide when he was 12. Parsons’ mother remarried not long afterwards to one Robert Parsons, inspiring a name change to Gram Parsons. Although he had a dedicated cult following, especially amongst fellow musicians, he never achieved commercial success and died at the age of 26 of an overdose of morphine and tequila. 

Dan Swinhoe's book review of a new work about him, Jason Walker's Gram Parsons - God's own Singer, contains an accurate summation of his life and influence:
Had Gram Parsons lived he would have been 65 years old by now, but instead biographies recounting the man’s short but explosive life are being released. Widely known as the founder of Country-Rock despite hating the term, Parsons died aged 26 in 1973 after destroying himself with booze and drugs. Though he saw little acclaim or success in the few years he was making music, he managed to create a legacy that still resonates today. 
But his personal life wasn’t never as smooth as his music; a rich boy who’s father committed suicide when he was twelve while his mother slowly drank herself to death, his life was filled with constant ups and downs. Addiction and loss were commonplace throughout his time, as was a longing to succeed that was never fully satisfied. This book documents the man, the music, and his early and unfortunate burn-out. 
Parsons life was a contradicting roller-coaster; a rich boy playing music of the poor man, constantly lauded for his talents but success constantly out his reach. For every victory or good thing that happened, the Jinx of Parsons would strike, and he’d be left back at square one. Sometime fate was against him, sometime his own self-abuse, selfishness or stupidity would cause him problems. Yet everyone interviewed talks of his kind nature and charm, making it difficult to dislike him, despite his flaws.

The following account of the death and last rites of Gram Parsons is a reprint from a web site, Byrd Watcher, A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. The item – The Strange Death of Gram Parsons – sets out in detail the final days in the life and death of Gram Parsons and is well worth the read: 

Joshua Tree: 

Gram Parsons had been hanging out at the Joshua Tree National Monument for several years -- he went there regularly, with Chris Hillman when they were band mates, and later with Keith Richards, to get high, commune with the cactus, and watch the sky for UFOs. He reserved two rooms at the nearby Joshua Tree Inn, a modest cinder-block motel whose owners had come to know Parsons after several visits. Along with Parsons on this trip were his "valet" and chum, Michael Martin; Martin's girlfriend Dale McElroy (no fan of Gram Parsons); and an old friend from his high school days in Florida named Margaret Fisher. 

Joshua Tree Inn

Gram parsons at Joshua Tree

The events of that trip have been recounted by Dale McElroy, who told her story to Ben Fong-Torres when he was writing Hickory Wind, then retold it in her own words in Phil Kaufman’s 1993 bio. Other accounts differ, but hers seems the most reliable. 

[Phil Kaufman was a road manager for Gram Parsons, his first gig as a roadie. Kaufman produced and released Charles Manson's album LIE and spent time living with the Manson family.  His autobiography Road Mangler Deluxe records his experiences in the music business.)

The foursome arrived Monday, September 17, 1973. That day they indulged sufficiently that Martin returned to Los Angeles the next morning to score more marijuana -- even though Martin theoretically went along on the trip so he could look after Parsons. Parsons dragged the women out to the airport for lunch, throughout which he drank Jack Daniels non-stop. 

When they returned from lunch, McElroy excused herself -- she couldn't drink because she was recovering from hepatitis, and she wasn't having any fun watching Parsons drink. 

Meanwhile, Parsons scored some heroin in town and then topped it off with morphine he acquired from a drug connection, who was staying at the Inn. Several hours later, a wasted Fisher showed up at McElroy's door in a frantic state. Parsons had overdosed, she said. They grabbed some ice and went to Room 1, where he was passed out on the floor, blue. There Fisher revived him with an ice cube suppository -- an old street remedy for overdoses. When McElroy left the two alone again, he was walking around the room, seemingly recovered. 

After another hour or so, at about 10:00, Fisher returned to McElroy's room and asked her to sit with the sleeping Parsons while she went out to get some dinner. McElroy grabbed a book and went to Parsons' room -- Room 8. After a few minutes, she realized that his breathing had gone from normal to labored. McElroy had no experience with drug overdoses and no training in CPR. Believing (incorrectly) that there were no other people in the hotel, she never called out for help. Instead she tried to get him breathing again by pumping his back and his chest and giving him mouth-to-mouth. "I tried to figure out whether to stay and keep him breathing or leave and get some help.... I figured if I left, he might die." 

After about a half hour of futile pumping and pushing, McElroy realized that Parsons was probably beyond help. At this point Margaret Fisher returned, then left to call an ambulance. The rescue crew arrived quickly, but concluded that CPR would not be successful. They got Parsons to the nearby Hi-Desert Memorial Hospital in Yucca Valley by 12:15 AM. The doctors there found no pulse and, after trying unsuccessfully to restart his heart, declared him dead at 12:30 AM, Wednesday, September 19, 1973. 

The press were told that Parsons had died of natural causes, but after performing an autopsy, the coroner listed the cause of death as "drug toxicity, days, due to multiple drug use, weeks." A blood test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.21% -- high, but nowhere near fatal standing alone. No morphine showed in the blood test, though it did turn up in more than trace amounts in urine and liver tests. The urinalysis also revealed traces of cocaine and barbiturates. Since substances may accumulate in the body over a long time, it's unclear from the urine and liver tests whether Parsons used morphine, cocaine or barbiturates that day. 

Fisher and McElroy were questioned by the police at the hospital. McElroy called Phil Kaufman in Los Angeles, who persuaded the sheriff that he could answer all their questions as soon as he arrived. The sheriff then permitted Fisher and McElroy to stay at the motel until Kaufman arrived. When Kaufman got to the hotel, the women gave him Parsons's drugs, which they had gathered up before the ambulance and police arrived. Kaufman took the drugs and hid them in the desert, then called the police station. He promised the police he would bring McElroy and Fisher in for further questioning, then piled them in his car and drove them straight back to LA, where he hid them out for a few days. The Joshua Tree police never sought out the two women. 

Both Margaret Fisher and Alan Barbary, the son of the hotel owners, told conflicting versions of that night's events, which added to the confusion and exaggeration that soon surrounded the death of Gram Parsons.

Safe at Home: 

When the news of his stepson's death reached Bob Parsons, he immediately realized that his own interests would be best served by having the body buried in Louisiana, where the senior Parsons lived. Parsons knew that under Louisiana's Napoleonic code, his adopted son's estate would pass in its entirety to the nearest living male -- Bob Parsons -- notwithstanding any Will provisions to the contrary. But the code would only apply if Bob Parsons could prove that Gram Parsons had been a resident of Louisiana. Burying the younger Parsons in New Orleans would bolster the tenuous arguments for Louisiana residency. Bob Parsons booked a flight to LA to claim the body. At stake was his stepson's share of the dwindling but still substantial Snively fortune. 

When Phil Kaufman learned of the plan to bury his friend in New Orleans, he became distraught. He knew that Parsons had no connection whatsoever to that city. He knew that Parsons had little use for his stepfather, and would not have wanted any of his estate to pass to him. He knew that Parsons had not wanted a long, depressing, religious service with family and friends. Most of all he knew he had made a pact with Parsons, at the funeral of Clarence White: whoever died first, "the survivor would take the other guy's body out to Joshua Tree, have a few drinks and burn it." 

After a day of vodka-enhanced self-recriminations, Kaufman decided he had to try to make good on his promise. Thus began one of the most unforgettable episodes of what hackers call "social engineering." For the full story, check out Kaufman's biography, Road Mangler Deluxe, which describes the whole episode in Kaufman's own inimitable fashion. What follows is only a taste of Kaufman's tale. 

Kaufman called the funeral parlor in the town of Joshua Tree and managed to learn that the body would be driven to LAX and then flown on Continental to New Orleans. He called the airline's mortuary service and found out that the body would arrive that evening. Kaufman recruited Michael Martin, who knew about the pact, and commandeered a hearse of Dale McElroy's, which she and Martin used for camping trips. It had no license plates and several broken windows, but it would do. They tried on suits, but decided they looked so ridiculous that they changed into their tour clothes -- Levi's, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and jackets with the legend "Sin City" stitched on the back. They loaded the hearse up with beer and Jack Daniels and headed for LAX. 

Kaufman and Martin arrived at the loading dock just as a flatbed truck rolled up with the Parsons casket. A drunken Kaufman somehow persuaded an airline employee that the Parsons family had changed its plans and wanted to ship the body privately on a chartered flight. 

While Kaufman was in the hangar office, signing the paperwork with a phony name, a policeman pulled up, blocking the hangar door. Kaufman was sure his operation would be shut down, but the officer didn't do anything -- he just sat there. So Kaufman walked out to him, waved his copies of the paperwork, and said, "Hey, can you move that car?" The officer apologized, moved the car, and then, remarkably, helped Kaufman load the casket onto a gurney and into the back of the unlicensed, liquor-filled hearse. 

Martin, also liquor-filled, got in the hearse and headed out of the hangar, only to run into the wall on his way out. The officer observed all this, and commented ruefully, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes now." Then he left, and the two drunk bodysnatchers departed the airport with the body of their friend. They stopped at a gas station and filled a gas can with high test ("I didn't want him to ping," Kaufman says.) Then they headed back for Joshua Tree.

They reached the Monument and drove until they were too drunk to drive any farther. There, near the Cap Rock, a landmark geological formation, they unloaded their friend's coffin. Then Kaufman saw car lights in the distance and concluded the police were coming. He quickly doused his friend with fuel and lit him. The two watched as a giant fireball rose from the coffin, sucking his ashes into the desert night. Then they abandoned the charred remains and headed for LA. 

After a trip home filled with close calls, Kaufman and Martin laid low. The morning after their return, the papers were full of the story of the rock star's hijacked and burnt corpse, playing up baseless speculation by local police that the amateur cremation may have been "ritualistic." 

Kaufman knew the police were looking for him, so after a few weeks, he and Martin just turned themselves in. They appeared in West L.A. Municipal Court on Parsons' 27th birthday -- November 5, 1973. Since a corpse has no intrinsic value, the two were charged with misdemeanor theft for stealing the coffin and given a slap on the wrist: $708 in damages for the coffin, and a $300 fine for each of the bodysnatchers. Kaufman has surely made that amount back just dining out on the story -- his misadventures have been legendary in rock and country music circles ever since. 

The aftermath of the court's sentence was as unlikely as the events leading up to it. Kaufman threw himself a party to raise the fine money -- Kaufman's Koffin Kaper Koncert. They pasted beer bottles with some homemade labels featuring a bad likeness of Parsons and the legend, "Gram Pilsner: A stiff drink for what ales you." Dr. Demento served as deejay, and live music was provided by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers of "Monster Mash" fame and a young band being managed by Tickner and Kaufman at the time, Jonathon Richman and the Modern Lovers. Despite the gruesome streak running through the party, it was a memorable wake for their friend.

On the other side of the country, some other friends mourned Parsons in a somewhat quieter fashion. Emmylou Harris met with John Nuese, Bill Keith, and Holly and Barry Tashian for a quiet weekend at the Tashians' cottage in Connecticut, where they listened for the first time to finished versions of the sessions from Grievous Angel.

  • What remained of Parsons' body was eventually buried in Garden of Memories of Metairie, Louisiana. 
  • The site of Parsons' cremation was marked by a small concrete slab and was presided over by a large rock flake known to rock climbers as The Gram Parsons Memorial Hand Traverse. The slab has since been removed by the U.S. National Park Service, and relocated to the Joshua Tree Inn. 
  • There is no monument at Cap Rock noting Parsons' cremation at the site. 
  • Joshua Tree park guides are given the option to tell the story of Parsons' cremation during tours, but there is no mention of the act in official maps or brochures. Fans regularly assemble simple rock structures and writings on the rock, which the park service sand blasts to remove from time to time. 

  • Robert Parsons was unsuccessful in his claim to his stepson’s funds. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Funny (Good) Friday



The following potpourri of Easter humour from Sickipedia is sometimes irreverent . . . 


How to make Easter easier - replace the t with an i. 


A real Easter miracle would be for Jesus to turn water into reasonably priced petrol. 


I sent my obese neighbours a card which said "Happy Eaters".

Now I've got to convince them I'm dyslexic. 


God, it makes me laugh to think about all the lies my parents told me when I was a kid. Like how Santa Claus left presents for me under the tree for being a good boy all year, and how the Easter Bunny hid chocolate eggs around the house for praying hard to Jesus, and how the Sodomy Fairy bought me a bike for not saying anything to my mum... 


What did Jesus say to his 12 apostles as he was being nailed to the cross?

"Don't touch my Easter eggs, I'll be back on Monday." 


For Easter I made my girlfriend a life-size model of a bunny rabbit purely from my own belly button fluff.

But it was creepy apparently.

Turns out she really wanted a 'Lindt' Bunny. 


So Easter is coming up, a holiday that we use to celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the dead... By eating chocolate eggs... That are delivered by a rabbit

Who, was smoking what, when they came up with that shit? 


I'm combining Easter and April Fools day this year - I'm sending the kids out to look for eggs I haven't hidden. 


Trying to work out an anagram for Easter is a real teaser 


(The following item has been posted previously in Bytes but is worth reposting for Easter).

Years ago in Ireland, there was a priest who was very anti-British. Every Sunday he would blast them from the pulpit, becoming so notorious that the Pope himself summoned the priest to Rome for an audience. 

"Father," said the Pope, "I want to see peace between the British and the Irish. You're not helping matters at all. I want you to kiss my ring and swear by the Blessed Virgin that you'll never so much as mention the British in public again." 

"But Your Holiness, I ... I ... " the priest stammered. 

"No buts," said the Pope. "Swear it here and now or there'll be trouble!"

"Aye, Holy Father," sighed the father. "All right. I swear it."

The very next Sunday just happened to be Easter, and the priest was back at his pulpit in Ireland, giving his annual Easter sermon. 

He got to the part of the Easter story where Jesus said, "And one of you shall betray Me." 

The priest continues: "Saint Andrew jumps up and says, 'Is it I, Lord?' and the Lord says, 'Nay, Andy darlin', it's not you. Sit down now and dunna worry. Eat your supper.'

Then Saint John the Divine gets up with tears in his eyes and cries, 'Is it I, Lord?' And the Lord says, 'Nay, Johnny me boy, it's not you. Sit ye down now and dunna fret yourself. Eat your supper.'

"Then that dirty dog Judas Iscariot slowly rises to his feet. And he looks the Lord right in the eye and says, 'Cor blimey, mate. You fink it's me?'" 


Corn Corner:

It's a while since we've had some corn and this is a good one. . . 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was upset that his mum never got him any Easter eggs.

She said, "I thought that you didn't like Easter anymore!" 

Arnie replied, "I still love Easter baby!"



And a Happy Easter to all the Byters

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How the Hell did you do that?

My son reminded me, on reading yesterday’s post about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead as a magician’s trick, that Rowan Atkinson has made similar comments in a very funny sketch. It has Atkinson as a minister reading the lesson about Jesus’ miracles and it can be viewed at: 

The skit raises the issue of tricks becoming portrayed as miracles.

There are a number of versions online and on disc, some omit the final lines about the Son of God. The above clip includes them, the following text does not . . . 
And on the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. And it came to pass that all the wine was drunk. And the mother of the bride came to Jesus and said unto the Lord, "They have no more wine." And Jesus said unto the servants: "Fill six water pots with water." And they did so. And when the steward of the feast did taste from the water of the pots, it had become wine. And they knew had come.  
But the servants did know, and they applauded loudly in the kitchen. And they said unto the Lord: "How the hell did you do that?" And inquired of him: "Do you do children's parties" And the Lord said.."No." But the servants did press him, saying; "Go on, give us another one!"  
And so he brought forth a carrot and said: "Behold this, for it is a carrot." And all about him knew that it was so. For it was orange, with a green top. And he did place a large red cloth over the carrot and then removed it, and lo, he held in his hand a white rabbit. And all were amazed and said, "This guy is really good! He should turn professional."  
And they brought him on a stretcher a man who was sick of the palsy. And they cried unto him: "Maestro, this man is sick of the palsy." And the Lord said: "If I had to spend my whole life on a stretcher, I'd be pretty sick of the palsy, too!" And they were filled with joy. And cried out: "Lord, thy one-liners are as good as thy tricks! Thou art indeed an all-round family entertainer." 
And there came unto him a woman called Mary, who had seen the Lord and believed and Jesus said unto her: "Put on a tutu and lie down in this box." And then took he forth a saw, and cleft her in twain. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But Jesus said: "Oh ye of little faith!" And he threw open the box and lo, Mary was whole! And the crowd went absolutely bananas. And Jesus and Mary took a big bow. And he said unto her: "From now on you shall be known as Trixie, for that is a good name for an assistant."  
And the people said unto him: "We've never seen anything like this. This is great. You must be the son of God! You shouldn't be wasting your time in a one camel town like Cana. You should be playing in the big arenas in Jerusalem!" And Jesus did harken to their words. And he did go on to Jerusalem and he did his full act before the scribes and the Pharisees and the Romans.  
But alas, it did not please them in their hearts. In fact, they absolutely crucified him.  
Here ends the lesson. 
In the UK, Atkinson released this on an audio cassette as part of a collection called "Not Just a Pretty Face". 

That version includes the words 
And the people said unto him: "We've never seen anything like this. This is great. You must be the son of God!” And the Lord said ”No. I am he who comes before.” And the people were sore amazed and said unto Him “Then tell us, Lord, tell how we should know the true Son of God”. And Jesus replied “By his name shall ye know him. And he shall have a slightly religious name. And Daniel shall he be called. And Paul shall be his name.” “Daniel Paul!” the people shouted. And Jesus said, “Yes. Something like that.”  
Here endeth the lesson.
Paul Daniels is a British magician and television performer who achieved international fame through his TV series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on the BBC between 1979 and 1994. 

There is apparently an American version by Atkinson which uses the name David Copperfield instead.

Youtube, it appears, doesn't allow clips of the skit with the Son of God references included.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lazarus (and others) rising

Last Saturday was Lazarus Saturday. If you have never heard of it, you are not alone, I wasn’t aware of it until Graham, who runs the weekly trivia nights in which we have a team, brought it to my attention. 

According to Wikipedia: 
Lazarus Saturday, in the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, is the day before Palm Sunday, and is liturgically linked to it. The feast celebrates the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany, the narrative of which is found in the New Testament Gospel of John (John 11:1-45). It is the first day of Holy Week. 
I mention this because our trivia team name is Lazarus, so named because we put the team back together after a couple of years’ hiatus. It was therefore appropriate to have some sort of celebration on our namesake’s day, which we did with dinner and which doubled up as a birthday celebration for Graham. 

I also mention it so that I can show you our birthday card to Graham since I love the cartoon that was on the card: 

The card

The cartoon

Some Lazarus information: 
  • Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days, is the restored to life four days after his death in the Gospel of John. The raising of Lazarus both illustrates and symbolises Jesus’s power over death. 
  • There is another Lazarus mentioned in the Bible who is generally regarded as being a different person to lazarus of Bethany. He appears in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 16:19-31) where it is told that a rich man went to Hades when he died whereas a beggar, Lazarus, went to the bosom of Abraham,. The latter explains that whereas in life the rich man had all the good stuff, now he gets the crap; Lazarus had the crap in life and now is comforted. Seems a bit unfair to me, not even a yellow card first.
  • The name “Lazarus” in Latinised Hebrew means “God is my help”.
  • There has been speculation that Lazarus may have written the Fourth Gospel, not John, or that at the least he may have provided written source material. 
  • When John Howard lost the leadership of the Liberal Party of Australia, he rated his chances of regaining it as "Lazarus with a triple bypass". Howard did regain the leadership and went on to become prime Minister of Australia.
  • Lazarus syndrome or autoresuscitation after failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation is the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation. Its occurrence has been noted in medical literature at least 25 times since 1982. It is also called The Lazarus Phenomenon. 
  • The Lazarus sign is a reflex which can occur in a brain-dead person, thus giving the appearance that they have returned to life. 
  • The scientific term “Lazarus taxon”, which denotes organisms that reappear in the fossil record after a period of apparent extinction. It should not be confused with "waxon", which is a means of learning karate.

By the way: 

Lazarus isn’t the only person who Jesus brings back from the dead. There are other corpses that Jesus raises, plus various other resurrections in the Bible: 

Widow of Zarephath's son 
(I Ki 17:17-24) 
Raised by Elijah 
Elijah, a great prophet, raises the son of the widow of Zarephath by laying on the body three times and then praying. Penn and Teller would be envious. 

Shunamite's son 
(II Ki 4:20-37) 
Raised by Elisha 
Elisha friends in Shunem had a son who died. They summoned Elisha who he laid himself over the boy's body and paced back and forth in the house. The boy came back to life. What is it with laying on bodies? 

Man tossed into Elisha's tomb 
(II Ki 13:21) 
Raised by God's Spirit 
People about to bury a man saw a band of raiders coming and so threw the dead man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the corpse touched Elisha's bones, he revived. 

Widow of Nain's son 
(Lk 7:11-16) 
Raised by Jesus 
Jesus stopped a funeral procession as they were carrying the casket to the cemetery. Feeling sorry for the mother of the deceased He told her to stop crying and raised her son from the dead. 

Synagogue ruler Jairus' 12-year-old daughter 
(Mk 5:35-43) 
Raised by Jesus 
Jairus asked Jesus to come heal his dying daughter. By the time Jesus arrived she had already died. Jesus sent the mourners out but took the girls' parents and Peter, James and John into the room where the dead girl lay. He said, "Little girl, get up." She did. 

(Jn 11:1-44) 
Raised by Jesus 
Lazarus had been in the grave four days when Jesus approached his tomb. Jesus asked the people to take away the stone. Then Jesus called out, "Lazarus, come forth." Lazarus came out, still wrapped in the strips of cloth. Mental image of Zombie Apocalypse, did anyone see that movie? 

Tabitha also known as Dorcas 
(Acts 9:36-41) 
Raised by Peter 
Tabitha (not the daughter of Samantha and Darrin Stephens), a seamstress who did many good deeds, became sick and died. Since Peter was in a nearby town they asked him to come. Peter had everyone leave the room where Tabitha lay. He knelt down and prayed and then he said to the body, "Tabitha, arise." She opened her eyes and then sat up. 

(Acts 20:7-12) 
Raised by Paul 
One night Paul was speaking to a group of believers. A young man sitting in the window, listening, fell asleep.
Rule No 1: Don’t fall asleep sitting in an open window 3 floors up. 
Rule No 2: If you break Rule 1 and fall to your death, have a holy man nearby who can raise from the dead. 
When the man fell to his death, Paul ran down, laid himself over the body (there we go again!!??) and then embraced him. The man was alive again. 

Men raised upon Jesus' death 
(Mt 27:51-53) 
Raised by God 
When Jesus died there was a violent earthquake and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The Bible says tombs were opened and many bodies of saints arose from the dead. It also says that after Jesus' resurrection they went into Jerusalem where many people witnessed their return to life. Now that would be a zombie movie scene. . . 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

10 Street Art Pics

I don't know what it is that appeals to me about street art, perhaps that the good stuff is quite imaginative; that it makes you think; that it can make you sad, happy, depressed, stirred; that it is free art of the people, by the people for the people. Street art and public installation art can turn grey, uninspiring walls and barricades into delightful commentaries.

The funny thing is that I don't see much of the imaginative, better quality street art in my area, it's mostly just tags and graffiti. There is some in Newtown and Erskineville, and some in Ashfield (the latter professionally done, pretty picture style, so that it diminishes in comparison to the urban guerilla street artists). Not all street art is by Banksy, nor is it all whimsical or angry messages pointing out what is wrong with society. 

Whatever the reasons, I like it . . .

A simple, not so subtle message that contains a lot of truth and wealth of meaning,


I love this one and the technique. . . 

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they're having a piss.” 
- Banksy

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Life, Death and Strange Last Rites of Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons (1946-1973) has been called the father of country rock, the fusion of rock and country music. The term refers to the wave of rock musicians who began to record country-flavoured records in the late 1960s and early 1970s, beginning with Bob Dylan and The Byrds, reaching its greatest in the 1970s with artists such as Emmy Lou Harris and the Eagles. Notwithstanding his influence in that musical sector, Parsons today is more remembered for his death and the events that followed his death. 

The first posting of a 2 part article, below, looks at the life of Gram Parsons. Part 2 next week will look at his death in detail and the strange events which followed immediately thereafter. 


Born Cecil Ingram Connor in 1946 into a wealthy family, he learned the piano from age 9, the same year that he saw Elvis Presley perform at his school, an event that inspired him to want to become a musician. His father committed suicide 2 days before Christmas Day in 1958 when Parsons was aged 12.  He and his mother then moved in with his grandparents in Florida. Parsons’ mother remarried a year after the move, to Robert Parsons.  Gram changed his name to Parsons and shortened Ingram to Gram.  He would thereafter be known as Gram Parsons. From age 14 he played in a band The Pacers and in 1963 he formed a folk group The Shilos which played throughout Florida. Parsons graduated from high school 2 years later. Sadly, his mother died of alcohol poisoning on the day of his graduation. 

Parsons enrolled at Harvard to study theology but spent more time playing music than attending classes. He dropped out of college, moved to New York City in 1966 and performed with the band that he had helped form, The International Submarine Band. Playing country-influenced rock and roll they released an album in 1968, Safe at Home, but by the time it was released the band had already disbanded. 

Later in 1968 Parsons joined the lineup of a rebuilt the Byrds, a group that had been formed in 1964. The group underwent constant membership changes and had had commercial success for a period, disbanding in 1973. The Byrds are today considered by critics to be one of the most influential bands of the 1960s. Not only did they pioneer folk rock, a fusion of The Beatles and other British invasion bands with contemporary and traditional folk music, they were also influential in originating psychedelic rock, raga rock and country rock. The band's signature blend of clear harmony singing has remained influential on popular music up to the present. Best known hits are Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! 

Parsons was the person responsible for the group’s shift towards country music with the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, however he left the group in late 1968 because of his refusal to tour South Africa due to the country’s support of apartheid. He and ex-Byrds Chris Hillman then formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, also in late 1968, and released The Gilded Palace of Sin in 1969. The album was critically received but had little commercial success. 

Gram Parsons is second from right 

Parsons' famous "nudie suit", now in the Country Music Hall of fame in Nashville, 

The group had a dedicated cult following which included musicians such as the Rolling Stones, with whom Parsons began to spend time. Parsons and friend Keith Richards were heavily into substance abuse, supported by Parsons large trust fund. The Burritos were the support act to the Stones at the infamous Altamont Music Festival. 

A second album by the Flying Burrito Brothers, Burrito Deluxe, was released but by that time Parsons had already left that band as well. Most of his time was spent hanging out with the Stones and/or doing drugs and alcohol. 

Parsons spent part of 1971 and the first half of 1972 writing material for a solo album. Having met Emmylou Harris, he asked her to join his backing band and she accepted. Merle Haggard declined an invitation to be part of the band. The album, GP, was released in 1972. As with other albums, it received good reviews but had poor sales. 

Parsons toured following the release of GP with Emmylou Harris as his duet partner and Phil Kaufman as road manager. Performances did little to improve sales. A second album, Grievous Angel, was recorded in 1973 and was released after his death that same year. It received even more critical acclaim than GP, the most celebrated song being a duet cover of Love Hurts with Harris. 


In the late 1960’s Parsons had become attracted to Joshua Tree National Monument, now Joshua Tree National Park, a designated wilderness area famed for its spectacular sunsets, located in Southeastern California and named after the Joshua trees which grow there. After the completion of the album Parsons took time off at Joshua Tree, spending most of his time doing drugs and alcohol.  He died there in 1973 of an overdose of morphine and tequila. He was 26. 


Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic describes Parsons as "enormously influential" for both country and rock, "blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other. ... His influence could still be heard well into the next millennium." In his essay on Parsons for Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Artist" list, Keith Richards notes that Parsons' recorded music output was "pretty minimal." But nevertheless, Richards claims that Parsons "effect on country music is enormous, this is why we're talking about him now."

Part 2 next weekend.