“Can We Stay Forever?”

(p. A8) “Anyone who knew my mom knew Disney was her happy place,” said Jodie Jackson Wells, a business coach in Boca Raton, Fla., who in 2009 smuggled a pill bottle containing her mother’s ashes into Walt Disney World.

Once inside, Ms. Wells helped spread ashes on the platform of It’s a Small World near a head-spinning bird, a moment in the ride that always made her mother laugh. Later in the day, overcome with grief, Ms. Wells hopped over the barricade surrounding the lawn outside Cinderella’s castle and ran across the grass, flinging them as she crossed.

“I had two fistfuls of the ashes and I literally leapt like I was a dancer,” she said.

. . .

Caryn Reker of Jacksonville, Fla., remembers her father growing emotional while watching the Wishes fireworks show outside the ice-cream parlor on Disney World’s Main Street. When time came for her to spread his ashes, in 2006, she opted to do it in numerous spots around the area.

“It’s a sweet way to giggle and remember—he’s here. . . and there. . . and a little over there. . . yep, there, too,” she wrote in an email. She returned to Disney World last week to spread the ashes of her brother, an Epcot enthusiast who died this year.

. . .

Shanon Himebrook, a 41-year-old state-government employee from Kansas City, Mo., grew up making summer trips to Disney World with her father, a worker at a plastic factory in Indiana.

At Disney, “he wasn’t my tired, graveyard-shift Dad,” she said. “He was, ‘Let’s get you the Mouse ears! Let’s get your name stitched in it!’ It’s like, ‘I love this dad! Can we stay forever?’”

Ms. Himebrook spread his ashes earlier this year near the park gates.

. . .

Kym Pessolano DeBarth, a 47-year-old optometrist-office worker from Northfield, N.J., dumped a small amount of her mother’s ashes in the water underneath It’s a Small World. “I didn’t want to clog the filter,” she said.

In December [2018], she’ll return to the park to commemorate the 15th anniversary of her mother’s death.

“Instead of going to a grave,” she said, “I go to Disney World.”

For the full story, see:

Erich Schwartzel. “Disney World Has a Secret: Family Ashes.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018): A1 & A8.

(Note: bracketed year, and ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipses internal to a sentence, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 24, 2018, and has the title “Disney World’s Big Secret: It’s a Favorite Spot to Scatter Family Ashes.”)

Drones Bringing Vaccine May Be Interpreted by Some as Cargo Cult Vindication

(p. A10) In the village of Cook’s Bay, on the remote side of the remote island of Erromango, in the remote South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, 1-month-old Joy Nowai was given shots for hepatitis and tuberculosis that were delivered by a flying drone on Monday.
It may not have been the first vial of vaccine ever delivered that way, but it was the first in Vanuatu, which is the only country in the world to make its childhood vaccine program officially drone-dependent.
“I am so happy the drone brought the stick medicine to Cook’s Bay as I don’t have to walk several hours to Port Narvin for her vaccines,” her mother, Julie Nowai told a Unicef representative. “It is only 15 minutes’ walk from my home.”
.. . .
. . . , about 20 percent of Vanuatu’s 35,000 children under age 5 do not get all their shots, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
So the country, with support from Unicef, the Australian government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, began its drone program on Monday. It will initially serve three islands but may be expanded to many more.
In the future, that expansion may run into some unusual turbulence — Vanuatu is one of the few places where “cargo cults” are still active, and the drones match their central religious dogma: that believers will receive valuable goods delivered by airplane.
That will have to be handled carefully, a Unicef representative said.
. . .
. . . : Vanuatu still has adherents of the John Frum movement, one of the South Pacific cargo cults whose adherents pray for valuables arriving from the sky.
The cults date back more than 100 years, but reached their zenith during and after World War II.
Islanders whose ancestors had been kidnapped by whites to work on plantations in Australia and Fiji watched “silver birds” flown in by the Japanese and American militaries disgorge vast amounts of “cargo” — food, medicines, tools and weapons — which was sometimes shared with them.
The legend spread that the cargo was gifts from the ancestors, but that it had been intercepted and stolen by the foreigners. After the war ended, the cults built airstrips and model planes to lure the “birds” back.

For the full story, see:
Donald G. McNeil Jr. “‘A Buzzing Thing in the Sky’ Delivers Vaccines to Vanuatu.” The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 17, 2018, and has the title “An Island Nation’s Health Experiment: Vaccines Delivered by Drone.”)

Idyllic Golden-Age Hunter-Gatherers

(p. A8) Before he was killed by an isolated tribe on a remote Indian Ocean island, John Allen Chau, a young American on a self-propelled mission to spread Christianity, revealed two things: that he was willing to die, and that he was scared.
. . .
He tried to give gifts. A boy shot an arrow at him. He expressed fear, fatalism, frustration and some humor.
The people Mr. Chau chose for his mission are among the most impenetrable communities in the world, known for their intense hostility to outsiders. They have killed or tried to kill many outsiders who attempted to step on their rugged island 700 miles off India’s mainland, where they are one of the last undiluted hunter and gatherer societies.
. . .
Mr. Chau was trying to accomplish the impossible. The people on North Sentinel have not accepted anyone outside their society. Anthropologists, filmmakers and government officials have tried to approach them. Just about all have been driven back by bows and arrows.
. . .
The fishermen said he had told them to give the letter to a friend, in case he did not come back.
In one passage, he asked God if North Sentinel was “Satan’s last stronghold.” In another: “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”
“It’s weird — actually no, it’s natural: I’m scared,” Mr. Chau wrote. “There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain — is it worth me going a foot to meet them?”
He added, “I don’t want to die!”
Still, he went back.
On the afternoon of Nov. 16, the fishermen told police officers, Mr. Chau reassured them that he would be fine staying on the island overnight and that the fishermen could go. They motored out, leaving Mr. Chau alone for the first time.
When they passed by the island the next morning, they saw the islanders dragging his body on the beach with a rope.
No one knows what exactly happened. Police officials said the islanders most likely killed him with bows and arrows.
Mr. Chau’s body is still on the island, but several police officers said they were worried about retrieving it, lest the same thing happen to them.

For the full story, see:
Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz. “American’s Last Letter Before Being Killed by Tribe on a Remote Indian Island.” The New York Times (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 23, 2018, and has the title “A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island.”)

“The Stigma of Being ‘Drivers'”

(p. 6) They were arrested, suspended from jobs, shunned by relatives and denounced by clerics as loose women out to destroy society. Their offense? They did what many in Saudi Arabia considered unthinkable: getting in cars and driving.
Their protest in 1990 against the kingdom’s ban on women driving failed, and the women paid dearly for it, with the stigma of being “drivers” clinging to them for years.
So last month, when King Salman announced that the ban on women driving would be lifted next June, few were happier than the first women to demonstrate for that right — almost three decades ago.
. . .
Many restrictions on women remain, including so-called guardianship laws that give Saudi men power over their female relatives on certain matters. But the original protesters are overjoyed that their daughters and granddaughters will have freer lives than they did, thanks to the automobile.
“That I am driving means that I know where I am going, when I’m coming back and what I’m doing,” said Ms. Alaboudi, the social worker.
“It is not just driving a car,” she said, “it is driving a life.”

For the full story, see:
BEN HUBBARD. “27 Years After Protest, a Victory Lap for Saudi Women.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, October 8, 2017): 6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 7, 2017, and has the title “‘Once Shunned as ‘Drivers,’ Saudi Women Who Fought Ban Now Celebrate.”)

Barcelona Fines 136-Year-Old Basilica for Lack of Building Permit

(p. A4) The Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona has worldwide fame as an architectural treasure, the dreamlike masterpiece of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, which draws millions of visitors a year though it is still under construction, 136 years after work began.
What it has not had for more than a century, according to the city, is a valid building permit.
The Sagrada Familia basilica has agreed to pay city authorities 36 million euros, or about $41 million, over 10 years to settle the dispute over the legality of the work and help pay for transportation improvements around the basilica.
. . .
The Sagrada Familia’s board had denied any wrongdoing, saying that it had a building permit — one issued in 1885 by Sant Martí de Provençals, which was an independent town at the time. Barcelona officials contend that after Sant Martí was absorbed into the city several years later, the construction required a Barcelona permit; the board says that for more than a century, no one asked for any such thing.

For the full story, see:
Raphael Minder. “A Barcelona Gem, And a Scofflaw?” The New York Times (Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018): A4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 19, 2018, and has the title “Sagrada Familia, a Barcelona Masterpiece, and Scofflaw?”)

Buddhist Monks Fear Death

(p. C4) A recent paper in the journal Cognitive Science has an unusual combination of authors. A philosopher, a scholar of Buddhism, a social psychologist and a practicing Tibetan Buddhist tried to find out whether believing in Buddhism really does change how you feel about your self–and about death.
The philosopher Shaun Nichols of the University of Arizona and his fellow authors studied Christian and nonreligious Americans, Hindus and both everyday Tibetan Buddhists and Tibetan Buddhist monks.
. . .
The results were very surprising. Most participants reported about the same degree of fear, whether or not they believed in an afterlife. But the monks said that they were much more afraid of death than any other group did.
Why would this be? The Buddhist scholars themselves say that merely knowing there is no self isn’t enough to get rid of the feeling that the self is there. Neuroscience supports this idea.
. . .
Another factor in explaining why these monks were more afraid of death might be that they were trained to think constantly about mortality. The Buddha, perhaps apocryphally, once said that his followers should think about death with every breath. Maybe just ignoring death is a better strategy.

For the full commentary, see:
Alison Gopnik. “Who’s Most Afraid to Die? A Surprise.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 9, 2018): C4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 6, 2018.)

The print version of the Cognitive Science article discussed above, is:
Nichols, Shaun, Nina Strohminger, Arun Rai, and Jay Garfield. “Death and the Self.” Cognitive Science 42, no. S1 (May 2018): 314-32.

Origin of “Round Up the Usual Suspects!” at End of Casablanca

(p. C5) David Thomson’s “Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio” is the latest in the exemplary Yale Jewish Lives series, which now stretches from Jacob the Patriarch to Jacob Wonskolasor, known to the world as Jack L. Warner (1892-1978).
. . .
Jack told Julie Garfinkle that “people are gonna find out you’re a Jew sooner or later, but better later.” Julie became John Garfield. I can’t resist adding that Jack approached Phil and Julie Epstein with the same advice. After turning him down they snuck into his office and stole a piece of stationery. To the newly arrived Don Taylor, a fellow Nittany Lion, they wrote, “All of us at Warner Bros are looking forward to your great career as an actor and to a long and fruitful relationship with you under your new name of Hyman Rabinowitz. Sincerely, Jack L. Warner.”
. . .
(p. C6) As this fine book progresses, Mr. Thomson turns his attention away from the brothers and their studio and onto individual actors and films. These form a remarkable series of critiques and vignettes–cranky, idiosyncratic, sometimes improbable, but always ingenious, and now and then inspiring.
. . .
Of course he has the most to say about “Casablanca,” much of it insightful and cogent. On the one hand, it’s an “adroit masquerade,” yet also part of what it was, and no less is, to be American: “Wry, fond of sentiment yet hardboiled, as if to say we’re Americans, we can take it and dish it out, we’re the best, tough and soft at the same time.” Thus did the qualities of this film, and others, pass “into the nervous system of the country,” making it what it remains to this day.
I am in a position to point out one of the few outright mistakes, not of judgment but of facts, in this book. Mr. Thomson naively accepts screenwriter Casey Robinson’s claim that he created the ending of “Casablanca.” The truth is that the ending was thought up at a red light on the corner of Sunset and Beverly Glen, when Phil and Julie turned to each other, as identical twins will, and cried out, “Round up the usual suspects!” By the time they reached Doheny they knew Maj. Strasser had to be shot and by the time they reached Burbank they knew who was going to get on the plane with whom.

For the full review, see:
Leslie Epstein. “The House That Jack Built; Warner Bros was the smartest, toughest studio, and Jack L. Warner its smart, tough driving wheel.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017): C5-C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 4, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Thomson, David. Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.