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Personal: Fall Break Dissertating; The Goonies; Articles on Last Titanic Survivor & on John Paul II

It has been a quiet weekend of dissertating from my apartment since the libraries both close in the late afternoon through our four-day fall break here at Marquette. But I've been getting a good stretch of work done, going back over my historical section and tightening up the whole thing, making the whole of it flow and fit together in ways it didn't when it was just a series of isolated articles written over a few months, with the significant interruption of doing all the job application stuff. It's actually been rathe pleasurable, with a real sense of being on a roll, before going back to entirely immerse myself in the communion ecclesiology business I mentioned a few days ago.

It's been a bit bleak, as I really had to throw myself into all this to make up for that job application hiatus so as to try to finish this chapter by the end of the month. So I didn't even try to do anything social over the last week. My wildest moment of pure entertainment was probably watching the used DVD of The Goonies over dinner last night that came in the afternoon's mail. I don't remember the flick being nearly so popular when it came out as it has since become, especially among the undergrad generation I've known at Marquette, but I always thought it captured something fabulous of childhood fantasy in the bike-riding age, even moreso than E.T., which had enough straight sci-fi in it to have less a pure fantasy edge. I remember being geeked enough by it that I picked up the novelization, which maybe made a bit more sense in the days before I could hold my breath and buy the DVD shortly after its run. Mostly, though, I just found myself imagining the nieces and nephew seeing this for the first time and when they'd be ready for it. (Probably late junior high would be best, I figured.)

A few news stories caught my eye the other day as historical curiosities, one about the last survivor of the Titanic disaster and one about John Paul II. The former just kind of illustrates for me what a whirl of change the 20th century is, the Titanic seems two civilizations ago.

It seems almost fantastical for us to imagine a world where each generation doesn't have its own separate civilization. I know that my own lifetime seems just one such "age" to me, but already among the undergraduates I know that the looming spectre of nuclear war is not something they've ever really considered, much less experienced, and Grace's six year-old amazement when I described a world without cell phones hints toward such another generational divide in her own imagination. When I explained to her how recent an electrical world was, and what came before, she was starkly amazed. It was fascinating seeing the very beginnings of historical perspective starting to appear behind her eyes: I couldn't have left her more dumbfounded if I'd laid an egg in front of her....

Titanic survivor sells mementos to pay for care
Aide: Pope John Paul II wounded in 1982 stabbing

Titanic survivor sells mementos to pay for care
Oct 16, 3:46 PM (ET)


LONDON (AP) - Millvina Dean was only 2 months old when she was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat from the doomed Titanic. Now 96, the last survivor of the tragic sinking is selling mementos of the disaster to help pay her nursing home fees.

Rescued from the bitterly cold Atlantic on that April 1912 night, Dean, her 2-year-old brother and her mother were taken to New York with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Before returning home to England, they were given a small wicker suitcase of donated clothing, a gift from New Yorkers to help them rebuild their lives.

Now, Dean is selling the suitcase and other Titanic mementos to help pay her nursing home fees. They are expected to go for $5,200 at an auction of Titanic memorabilia Saturday in Devizes in western England.

Among the items are rare prints of the Titanic and letters from the Titanic Relief Fund offering her mother one pound, seven shillings and sixpence a week in compensation.

But the key item in the sale is the suitcase, said auctioneer Andrew Aldridge. "They would have carried their little world in this suitcase," he said Thursday.

Dean has lived at Woodlands Ridge, a private nursing home in the southern city of Southampton - Titanic's home port - since she broke her hip two years ago.

"I am not able to live in my home anymore," Dean was quoted as telling the Southern Daily Echo newspaper. "I am selling it all now because I have to pay these nursing home fees and am selling anything that I think might fetch some money."

A spokeswoman for Woodlands Ridge said Dean was too tired Thursday to speak to The Associated Press.

She said rooms at the nursing home cost between $1,000 and $1,550 a week, depending on the level of care the resident needs, but declined to discuss Dean's situation, saying it was a private matter.

Although Britain has a free health care system, private providers offer more comprehensive services for a fee. In the case of nursing homes, state-run facilities are available and cost much less than private ones. But they are more spartan and offer fewer amenities, such as shared rooms and no private TVs.

Local authorities often pay a portion of the costs of private nursing home care based on an individual's assets; anyone with more than $39,000 in assets has to pay their own fees.

In 1912, baby Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean and her family were steerage passengers emigrating to Kansas City, Mo., aboard the Titanic.

Four days out of port, on the night of April 14, 1912, it hit an iceberg and sank. Billed as "practically unsinkable" by the publicity magazines of the period, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats for all 2,200 passengers and crew.

Dean, her mother Georgetta and brother Bertram Jr. were among 706 people - mostly women and children - who were rescued by the steamship Carpathia and survived. Her father, Bertram Dean, was among more than 1,500 who died.

Dean did not know she had been aboard the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother, who was about to remarry, told her about her father's death.

She has no memories of the sinking and said she preferred it that way.

"I wouldn't want to remember, really," she told The Associated Press in a 1997 interview.

Dean said she had seen the 1958 film, "A Night to Remember," with other survivors, but found it so upsetting that she declined to watch any other movies about the disaster, including the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic," starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet.

Dean began to take part in Titanic-related activities in the 1980s, and was active well into her 90s. She visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, to see where the ship was built, attended Titanic conventions around the world - where she was mobbed by autograph-seekers - and participated in radio and television documentaries about the sinking.

The last American survivor of the disaster, Lillian Asplund, died in 2006 at the age of 99. Another British survivor, Barbara Joyce West Dainton, died last November at 96.

Aldridge said the "massive interest" in Titanic memorabilia shows no signs of abating. Last year, a collection of items belonging to Asplund sold for more than $175,000.

"It's the people, the human angle," Aldridge said. "You had over 2,200 men, women and children on that ship, from John Jacob Astor, the richest person in the world at the time, to a poor Scandinavian family emigrating to the States to start a new life. There were 2,200 stories."


On the Net:

Henry Aldridge and Son auctioneers,

Aide: Pope John Paul II wounded in 1982 stabbing
Oct 16, 5:52 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - The longtime private secretary of the late Pope John Paul II revealed in a film screened Thursday that the pope was lightly wounded in a 1982 knife attack by a priest in Portugal. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz made the revelation in "Testimony," a movie on John Paul's life that was screened for Pope Benedict XVI and top clergy at the Vatican.

It was known that John Paul was assaulted by a knife-wielding Spanish priest while visiting the shrine of Fatima in Portugal to give thanks for surviving an assassination attempt. He was shot by a Turkish gunman in St. Peter's Square in 1981 and seriously injured.

But it was not known in 1982 that the pope had been cut by the knife.

"Today I can say what up to now we have kept secret," Dziwisz said in the movie. "That priest wounded the Holy Father."

The ultraconservative priest, Juan Maria Fernandez Krohn, was opposed to the reforms adopted by the Catholic Church and attacked the pope in a Fatima square. He was stopped by police and spent several years in jail.

Dziwisz said blood was found on the pope's vestments after the attack but John Paul was not seriously injured and was able to continue with his schedule.

Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow, served the pope for 39 years from his years as bishop there until his death in Rome in 2005 and has often said John Paul was "a father" to him.

The movie is an all-Polish production based on Dziwisz's book titled "A Life with Karol" - a reference to John Paul's real name, Karol Wojtyla.

Benedict said he was "deeply moved" by the film which allowed him to relive John Paul's life and said he was sure his predecessor "is with us from above in this moment."

"By revealing unknown episodes, the movie shows the humanity, the steadfast courage and finally John Paul's suffering, faced until the end with the strength of a mountaineer and the patience of a humble servant of the Gospels," Benedict said after the screening.

The movie, narrated by Dziwisz and British actor Michael York, combines documentary footage, including images of the pope's 1982 visit to Fatima, with dramatizations.

Speaking in Polish, voiced-over into Italian, Dziwisz revealed other episodes of John Paul's personal and public life.

In one case, he said, John Paul performed a successful exorcism on a woman who was brought into the Vatican writhing and screaming in what Dziwisz said was a case of possession by the devil.

The aide also recalled a letter to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in which the pope said his native Poland had "a right to be free" from Communist rule. The letter was never answered, Dziwisz said.

Recounting John Paul's efforts against Communism, Dziwisz said that in 1983, on his second papal trip to Poland, the pontiff threatened to return to Rome unless the country's leaders allowed him to meet with Lech Walesa, the head of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement. The meeting took place in a lodge in Poland's Tatra mountains.

Dziwisz also recalled private details, like the pope's fondness for Polish Christmas cakes and sweets. He said he followed John Paul on road trips outside the Vatican without security to go hiking and skiing, with pope camouflaged in a black hooded cloak.

The film traces Wojtyla's life from his birth in 1920 in Wadowice near Krakow, through the German occupation of Poland in World War II, to the years as priest, bishop and cardinal in postwar Communist Poland, to his election on Oct. 16, 1978 and his subsequent 26 years as pope.

It was shown at the Vatican to mark the 30th anniversary of his election. The film will be shown in theaters in Poland and there are plans to have it translated for distribution in other countries.
Tags: dissertation, grace, historical, john paul ii, movies/film/tv, personal

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