Monday, February 25, 2013

Radio Stories

Yesterday, while listening to the radio, I heard tell of a 101 year of man from India who ran a marathon. It was not the full 26 miles this year but an abbreviated race, six-point-something miles. He did, however, run a full marathon in 2011 when he was one hundred.

The story goes that he took up running at age 89 to deal with his depression after witnessing the horrific death of his son in a freak accident. It’s hard to imagine that in 2011 he ran 26 miles and didn’t receive any kind of acknowledgements from the Guinness Book folks, but here’s the rest of the story. He did not have a birth certificate. Problem is, he was born before they issued birth certificates in India. It doesn’t count that his passport says he was born in 1911. The decision-makers want that birth certificate. With or without it, in April he will be 102.

There was another story I heard yesterday on the radio that was also interesting. The correspondent was at a funeral home in Cleveland that spent $22,000 to deck out its parlors with monitors and a high tech system that allowed family members and close friends who lived far away to attend funerals conducted there via the internet.

Flying home for a funeral would be expensive enough, but tickets are doubly expensive when purchased at the last minute. Weddings may be placed on calendars months in advance, but I know of few funerals that are so scheduled.

So it is that there are a growing number of funeral homes that are creating setups where family members can Skype in from afar. I know that had it been possible I would have been present in such a manner at my own father’s memorial service several years ago.

This past week I watched two films based on novels by Graham Greene, The Third Man and The Tenth Man. The former is a stellar classic starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. The latter is an exceptional story starring Anthony Hopkins. And so it was with interest that I listened to a radio interview with Keith Jeffrey, who wrote a book about the British Secret Service branch M16. The book has a three star rating on Amazon.com but that doesn't keep it from selling hard and fast. Perhaps it has something to do with last year's 50th anniversary of Dr. No, the James Bond film that initiated Hollywood's Bond franchise.

At one point they were talking about authors who had been recruited to be spies. I’ve known for some time that Greene had been used by the British Secret Service. What I did not know was how many other writers of note worked as spies, amongst them (and to my greatest surprise) Somerset Maugham and Malcolm Muggeridge.

I've not read Jeffrey's book, but I can imagine it was not an easy one to assemble. It is an "authorized" story, which means there must have been many people looking over his shoulder to approve what was left in and what was taken out. A lot of the reviewers expressed disappointment at the outcome.

For what it's worth, there’s a great line in The Tenth Man that gets repeated twice. “Everyone is tested sooner and later, and then you know what you are.” If your time of testing comes and you fail, may you be fortunate enough to get a second chance.

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