The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'death'
In addition to inventing the death machine, helping terminally ill patients end their lives and serving eight years in prison for murder for having done so, Jack Kevorkian also painted. His paintings weren't like the all-too-ignorable kitsch painted by other historical figures like Hitler or Churchill, though, but something heavier odder; they had the surrealism ponderous, didactic symbolism of Eastern European poster art, and Kevorkian's obsessions—death and suffering—were everywhere:
During his prison years, Kevorkian published an anthology called glimmerIQs: A Florilegium, which compiled his serial limericks, philosophical manifestos and scientific treaties, reproductions of his paintings, and even handwriting samples and a natal chart, in case anyone wished to analyze him astrologically. In a chapter called “On Art,” Kevorkian rhymes:Kevorkian's artworks are on display at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.The subjects of art should be more
Than the aspects of life we adore;
Because dark sides abound,
Surreal paintings profound
May help change a few things we abhor.
Margaret Thatcher is still alive, but sooner or later, she will go the way of all historical figures, and when she does, it's likely that she will have the first state funeral of any British Prime Minister since Churchill. As part of their repudiation of socialism in all its forms, New Labour pledged a state funeral for the Iron Lady, who arguably vanquished socialism as Churchill did Nazism, and it's unlikely that the Tory-led coalition will argue (though some Lib Dems may sputter and fume theatrically about it, especially if a punishing election is approaching).
Now a petition has been set up for Thatcher's state funeral to be privatised, in what the petitioner says is an appropriate tribute to her legacy and philosophical principles:
In keeping with the great lady's legacy, Margaret Thatcher's state funeral should be funded and managed by the private sector to offer the best value and choice for end users and other stakeholders. The undersigned believe that the legacy of the former PM deserves nothing less and that offering this unique opportunity is an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded.And here is some commentary from the Grauniad's Sunny Hundal, suggesting that the stakeholders in the funeral could sell memorabilia, such as photographs of Thatcher with her close friend and ideological compatriot Augusto Pinochet, that the proceeds from the television rights could be used to build a private memorial library, and that, when Tony Blair's time comes, the exercise should be repeated.
Today's big question: does country music increase suicide rates? The authors of this paper think that it does, and that country music fans are at significantly higher risk of suicide than nonfans, for reasons involving gun ownership, marital discord and the inherent job and financial stresses affecting America's working poor (which are often referred to in country song lyrics). The authors of this paper, however, dispute this, claiming methodological errors and that there is no evidence of country music making people more likely to off themselves than any other genre. (Whether music in general, or music with lyrics more specifically, correlates to depression or suicide risk, of course, is another question.)
The latest project from Peter Saville, who designed Factory Records' covers and posters and contributed to their coolly enigmatic image: a headstone for the late founder of Factory, Tony Wilson, which is appropriately stylish and minimal and yet with a gravitas outside of the throwaway realm of pop culture:
The headstone, which is made of black granite and set in Rotis, was unveiled just over three years after Wilson passed away; one could probably make a reference to Saville delivering Factory gig posters after the actual gig. It does not have a Factory catalogue number, as Wilson's casket, FAC 501, was the last one ever to be issued.
Website of the day: Is Margaret Thatcher Dead Yet?. Arguably in rather poor taste, rather like, say, the "Gotcha!" headline upon the sinking of the Belgrano.
A few years ago, New Labour offered Thatcher the first state funeral for a PM since Winston Churchill, as if to further underscore their non-socialist credentials. Meanwhile, anarchists and socialists of various stripes have, for some years, been planning a massive party in Trafalgar Square on the Saturday after her death. I imagine the police are aware of this and have made plans to deal with it.
I can see why people whose communities were impoverished, as if in a campaign of collective punishment for having supported Labour, by the somewhat callous way Thatcher presided over the economic readjustments might rejoice in her passing. though, given that Britain is facing the most severe economic cuts since 1918, I imagine their celebrations will be somewhat muted.
Skeptic PZ Myers recounts how, when he was a child, a crazy Christian lady converted him, unwittingly, to atheism:
And then she told us to kneel down in the gravel by the side of the road and put our hands on her Bible, which we did, because at this point I was afraid if I didn't our Mommy and Daddy would find our little corpses with our throats slit and a mad woman dancing in our blood. Then she recited some lengthy vow with lots of Jesus in it, looked at us expectently with another mad-eyed grin, and we mumble-whispered "yes, ma'am" and she let us go, throats uncut, hearts still in our chests, heads still attached to our necks, while she capered off triumphantly, having secured two more souls for her lord and master. She thought. But, as you can know now, all she actually managed to do was make me aware that people who believe in Heaven and Hell are freakin' nutbag insane.Myers goes on to tear apart the ideas of an eternal afterlife, using the power of reason, starting with Hell in its various guises, from the absurdly corporeal (lakes of fire, with the damned being magically suspended for eternity in the state of a very physical death-agony; i.e., the stuff designed to scare the less sophisticated thinkers), and then working up to more subtle variations:
Other visions of Hell are a bit more sophisticated — it's a place of psychological torture, unending despair and futility, where you feel regret and sorrow for all time, or suffer because you are deprived of the presence of God. That's a bit more plausible for a disembodied self, I suppose, but still…throw a mob of people in a Slough of Despond for a long, long time, and at some point someone is going to get together with someone else and form a Glee Club, and there will be singing in Hell. And then a rugby match will break out, and there will be cheering and betting, and thespians will be pestering Shakespeare for some new plays, and before you know it, culture will emerge and it won't be Hell so much anymore.
But all right, let's assume God has figured out ways to permanently suppress the human spirit among all those deceased spirits, and actually has contrived a truly painful Hell, one that I can not imagine but that he can, being God and all. Now we've got the problem that the loving God we're all supposed to worship is an imaginative, creative death camp commandant, one who also maintains a luxury spa on the side.Heaven, alas, doesn't fare any better. The visions of the blissful eternal reward awaiting the virtuous (or, in more liberal theologies, everyone) all fall down on closer examination. Some seem, frankly, hellish (an eternity of singing praises to God, surrounded by puritans?), and others are either inconsistent with human nature or have the nihilistic qualities of an eternal crack cocaine binge:
A paradise is also inhuman (I know, one can get around this by arguing that after death you can't be human anymore, by definition; but then that requires throwing away the idea of life after death, which is what most people find appealing). Think about what defines you now: it's how you think, your personality, your desires and how you achieve them — by what you strive for. Finish one project, and what do you do (after a little celebration, of course)? You look for something else to strive for, a new goal to keep you interested and occupied. But now you're in heaven. All wishes are fulfilled, all desires achieved, we're done with everything we've ever dreamed of, making Heaven a kind of retirement home where everyone is waiting to die. Waiting forever.Of course, one could imagine ways around this. Perhaps there would be entire legions of angels whose job would be to lay on the entertainment, distracting the saved souls from eternal boredom in the way that one amuses a housecat (which, remember, is a territorial predator with no prey and nothing to defend its territory against) with a laser pointer. Actually, the idea of one of the newly-dead exploring and pushing against the logical constraints of a heaven, and discovering the infinite layers of distracting angels required to keep it heavenly and keep God's side of the contract to His faithful departed, and coming up against an infinitely sophisticated machinery moulded to the logical necessities (however odd) of keeping humans entertained for eternity, could be a good premise for a sci-fi (or, more accurately, phil-fi) story.
As problematic as the common Western idea of heaven is, the alternative involves the annihilation of the self as we know it in a supernova of infinite, mindless ecstasy, like a heroin overdose that goes on forever. (Blessed are the junkies?) And while that may be plausible, it doesn't sit well with the Abrahamic religions or most people's idea of heaven:
There are some religions that embrace this sublime vision of an ultimate end that does not include the mundane humanity of its believers — the Buddhist afterlife does seem to be a kind of selfless oblivion — but that does not include the Abrahamic religions. They've still got the cartoonish anthropocentric version of an afterlife, where you've got a body with limbs and tongues and penises and vaginas, and you get to indulge in the senses within certain confining rules. You get to meet Grandma and Grandpa again, and they aren't all subsumed in the godhead — they're there to give you hugs and a plate of cookies. And that's just silly. I can't believe a word of it.
Wikipedia has a list of unusual deaths from antiquity to the present day. They range from examples of sadistic ingenuity (how much thought has been expended throughout history on inventing fitting tortures for those who shouldn't be allowed to die too painlessly?) and parables of the mighty undone by their folly, through to the inexplicable and the highly peculiar:
1410: Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing.Death from uncontrollable laughter seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme. (Thomas Urquhart, incidentally, was an early proponent of a constructed universal language, and was a character in Andrew Drummond's excellent comic novel concerning the squabbles between utopian language proponents, A Handbook of Volapük.)
1599: Nanda Bayin, a Burman king, reportedly laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that "Venice was a free state without a king."
1660: Thomas Urquhart, Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
Other odd deaths, not involving uncontrollable laughter, include:
892: Sigurd the Mighty of Orkney strapped the head of a defeated foe to his leg, the tooth of which grazed against him as he rode his horse, causing the infection which killed him.Along similar lines: List of inventors killed by their own inventions.
1649: Sir Arthur Aston, Royalist commander of the garrison during the Siege of Drogheda, was beaten to death with his own wooden leg, which the Parliamentarian soldiers thought concealed golden coins.
1930: William Kogut, an inmate on death row at San Quentin, decided to commit suicide using only the rudimentary tools available to him in his prison cell. He began by tearing up several packs of playing cards, giving particular focus to obtaining pieces with red ink (at the time, the ink in red playing cards contained nitrocellulose, which is flammable and when wet can create an explosive mixture), and stuffed them into a pipe. He then plugged one end of the pipe firmly with a broom handle and poured water into the other end to soak the card pieces. He then placed the pipe on a kerosene heater next to his bed and placed the open end firmly against his head. The heater turned the water into steam and eventually enough pressure built up inside the pipe so that when it burst, the explosion shot out bits of playing cards with enough force to penetrate Kogut's skull, killing him. In a suicide note, Kogut stated that he and he alone should punish himself for his crimes. 1959: In the Dyatlov Pass incident, Nine ski hikers in the Ural Mountains abandoned their camp in the middle of the night in apparent terror, some clad only in their underwear despite sub-zero weather. Six of the hikers died of hypothermia and three by unexplained fatal injuries. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, one victim had a fatal skull fracture, two had major chest fractures (comparable in force to a car accident), and one was missing her tongue. The victims' clothing also contained high levels of radiation. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter.
Michael Jackson's death melts the internet:
Search giant Google confirmed to the BBC that when the news first broke it feared it was under attack.
Before the company's servers crashed, TweetVolume noted that "Michael Jackson" appeared in more than 66,500 Twitter updates.And Farrah Fawcett (whom one really has to feel sorry for; what a way to go) wasn't the only one eclipsed by the "King of Pop" going supernova; the entire Iranian protest movement was as well.
That put news of Jackson's death at least on par with the Iran protests, as Twitter posts about Iran topped 100,000 per hour on June 16 and eventually climbed to 220,000 per hour.(It's probably, in the Blairite parlance, a good day to bury bad news; I wonder whether the Iranian government has taken advantage of this to hastily machine-gun all those pesky protesters into freshly dug trenches while the world's mourning a pop star.)
Michael Jackson's death will almost certainly go down in history as one of those iconic events that everyone remembers where they were when they heard of it, like the Kennedy assassination or the passing of his erstwhile father-in-law some three decades earlier. Only, this time, it happened in a highly networked world, so the recollections will surely reflect this. I first heard of it when I saw someone log into an instant messaging service with "RIP Michael Jackson" as their status. Though one may well have found out about it by reading Wikipedia's revisions page:
(cur) (prev) 22:49, 25 June 2009 TexasAndroid (talk | contribs) m (119,637 bytes) (Removed category Living people (using HotCat))Which is somewhat less ignominious than Wikipedia's summary judgment of non-notability on Steven Wells. (Wikipedia appears to be locked in a deletionist spiral of radicalism these days, as editors prove their hard-headedness and ideological purity by being increasingly ruthless with what is deemed "notable".)
And the Register' article on the Michael Jackson Twitter meltdown ends with some speculation about what's likely to happen in the days and weeks following his death:
We can expect floods of tributes, detailing how Jackson changed the face of pop music (a reasonable claim) was the biggest record seller in history (probably) and invented the moonwalk (absolutely not).
This will be quickly followed by floods of revelations about the singer's murky private life, now that libel restrictions no longer reply - at least in the UK.
But first of all, we can expect a flood of malware spam, likely promising post-mortem pictures of the star's body.The spam, it seems, didn't take long.
In today's Graun, British comedian Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame) has an illuminating treatise on the history and mythology of zombies, of the horror-film variety:
I know it is absurd to debate the rules of a reality that does not exist, but this genuinely irks me. You cannot kill a vampire with an MDF stake; werewolves can't fly; zombies do not run. It's a misconception, a bastardisation that diminishes a classic movie monster. The best phantasmagoria uses reality to render the inconceivable conceivable. The speedy zombie seems implausible to me, even within the fantastic realm it inhabits. A biological agent, I'll buy. Some sort of super-virus? Sure, why not. But death? Death is a disability, not a superpower. It's hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.
Another thing: speed simplifies the zombie, clarifying the threat and reducing any response to an emotional reflex. It's the difference between someone shouting "Boo!" and hearing the sound of the floorboards creaking in an upstairs room: a quick thrill at the expense of a more profound sense of dread. The absence of rage or aggression in slow zombies makes them oddly sympathetic, a detail that enabled Romero to project depth on to their blankness, to create tragic anti-heroes; his were figures to be pitied, empathised with, even rooted for. The moment they appear angry or petulant, the second they emit furious velociraptor screeches (as opposed to the correct mournful moans of longing), they cease to possess any ambiguity. They are simply mean.
To begin at the beginning, Haitian folklore tells of voodoo shamans, or bokors, who would use digitalis, derived from the foxglove plant, to induce somnambulant trances in individuals who would subsequently appear dead. Weeks later, relatives of the supposedly deceased would witness their lost loved ones in a soporific malaise, working in the fields of wealthy landowners, and assume them to be nzambi (a west African word for "spirit of the dead"). From the combination of nzambi and somnambulist ("sleepwalker") we get the word zombie.
The latest manifestation of the gothic/macabre aesthetic trend: furniture containing stuffed animals:
Today's words of advice: should you ever decide to burgle a funeral parlour, it is advisable to dress the part, so that, should you be interrupted, you can blend in with the customers, unlike this guy:
Police officers arrived with the owner, and eventually found the suspect lying on a table in a glassed-in chamber used for viewings of deceased people during wakes, a local police official said from Burjassot.
"The custom here is for dead people to be dressed in suits, in nice clothes that look presentable. This guy was in everyday clothes that were wrinkled and dirty," the police official said.Also, should you have the dubious fortune to be nicknamed after a weapon of mass destruction, don't write your nickname on any items you may leave lying around.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has a beautifully poetic and thought-provoking article about the death of a recluse, found in his Helsinki apartment some three years after his death:
The odd invoice arrived, followed by their reminders, and then not even them.
Direct debit arrangements handled most of the bills, including the maintenance charge on the apartment.
The guy who comes to read the electricity meter didn’t ring the doorbell, because he didn’t need to: the meter is in the basement.
The man lay in the bathroom doorway.
At some point the bathroom lamp gave up the ghost, as they do, and he was left in the dark.
The Times has the poignant story of the death of a 42-year-old loner, whose body was not found until, two months after his death, a neighbour (who did not know him) noticed an odd smell coming from his north London council flat:
For some, the decision to disappear is gradual. It begins with an impulse, a desire to disconnect. It could mean turning the phone off and retreating under the duvet. For most people, it’s a fleeting escape. Family and friends are what keep them tethered. But what happens to those who become untethered? Or let go on purpose? Days, months, even years can pass. They have slipped through the cracks. Despite the presence of CCTV cameras and telecoms technology, which make most of us feel we are constantly monitored, it has become easier for those who live alone to avoid human contact altogether.
The pharmacist said he was always dressed neatly. He described him as “shy and pleasant – nothing mentally ill about him”, and admitted that when he didn’t see him for a while, he just assumed that Smith had moved away.
A few doors down from his flat, at No 168, Andrew’s neighbour, a postman, described Andrew as quiet, tall and thin. They lived near each other for 13 years but had only spoken to say hello when they passed each other coming and going on the stairs. In all the years he lived there, he said, he had seen no friends, ever. Andrew kept to himself.
Experiments in political psychology have shown that people become more receptive to conservatism, authoritarianism, intolerance and zero-sum "us against them" worldviews when reminded of their own mortality (going some way to explaining the "values" vote for Bush in 2004, and indeed the Howard government's successive landslides in Australia):
Their experiments showed that the mere thought of one's mortality can trigger a range of emotions--from disdain for other races, religions, and nations, to a preference for charismatic over pragmatic leaders, to a heightened attraction to traditional mores.
To test the hypothesis that recognition of mortality evokes "worldview defense"--their term for the range of emotions, from intolerance to religiosity to a preference for law and order, that they believe thoughts of death can trigger--they assembled 22 Tucson municipal court judges. They told the judges they wanted to test the relationship between personality traits and bail decisions, but, for one group, they inserted in the middle of the personality questionnaire two exercises meant to evoke awareness of their mortality. One asked the judges to "briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you"; the other required them to "jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you physically as you die and once you are physically dead." They then asked the judges to set bail in the hypothetical case of a prostitute whom the prosecutor claimed was a flight risk. The judges who did the mortality exercises set an average bail of $455. The control group that did not do the exercises set it at an average of $50. The psychologists knew they were onto something.The researchers did other experiments involving priming one group of candidates with the thought of their mortality. In one example, they found that awareness of one's mortality can induce xenophobia and distrust of difference (students at a Christian college who did the exercises had a more negative opinion of an essay they were told was written by a Jewish author than a control group did) and aggressive patriotism (those who did the exercises took a far more negative view of an essay critical of the United States, and also expressed more reverence for national icons).
After 9/11, the researchers did experiments specifically showing that Bush's popularity in the US was enhanced by Americans' awareness of their mortality:
The control group that completed a personality survey, but did not do the mortality exercises, predictably favored Kerry by four to one. But the students who did the mortality exercises favored Bush by more than two to one. This strongly suggested that Bush's popularity was sustained by mortality reminders. The psychologists concluded in a paper published after the election that the government terror warnings, the release of Osama bin Laden's video on October 29, and the Bush campaign's reiteration of the terrorist threat (Cheney on election eve: "If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again") were integral to Bush's victory over Kerry. "From a terror management perspective," they wrote, "the United States' electorate was exposed to a wide-ranging multidimensional mortality salience induction."The induction of mortality salience is also claimed to have been instrumental in popular antagonism to perceived enemies (including France, Germany and Canada), and a mass shift towards reactionary conservative positions such as the defense of tradition and religious dictates (from rising opposition to abortion, gay marriage and liberal attitudes to the rise of the "strict father" model of the family, which on 10 September 2001, seemed like a laughable relic of the 1950s):
Indeed, from 2001 to 2004, polls show an increase in opposition to abortion and gay marriage, along with a growing religiosity. According to Gallup, the percentage of voters who believed abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" rose from 17 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2002 and would still be at 19 percent in 2004. Even church attendance by atheists, according to one poll, increased from 3 to 10 percent from August to November 2001.In the 1980s, some figure associated with the Thatcher government in the UK was quoted as saying that "the facts of life are Conservative". Whether or not that is the case, it seems that the facts of death are.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 4
And another one exits this world; Kurt Vonnegut, author of Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five and chronicler of the absurd, has died, a year after coming out of retirement to write a book, A Man Without A Country, bitterly denouncing the state of America under Bush.
In the middle ages, it was the done thing to possess mementi mori, artefacts to remind oneself that life is fleeting and death is inevitable. In 1991, a gentleman by the name of David Kendrick took out a patent on a modern-day equivalent, a wristwatch that displays the (estimated) time one has left to live.
It may not surprise anyone to know that this was mentioned on Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, a veritable wunderkammer of the outré.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
From Something Awful's Choose Your Own Adventure cover photoshopping contest:
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
An elderly woman passed away whilst watching TV; two years later, her body was found, perfectly mummified thanks to her constantly-running air conditioner. In fact, it wasn't until the air conditioner broke down that either family members living downstairs or passersby noticed a funny smell and called the police.
This could start a new trend; I wonder how long until some rich eccentric decides to, upon their death, have their body placed to mummify in a crisply air-conditioned tomb, seated in front of their beloved plasma-screen TV.
(via bOING bOING) ¶ 0
While the rest of the world is closing its doors to refugees, Belarus's neo-Soviet dictator Alexander Lukashenko, is allowing them to settle and get full asylum — with the proviso that they settle in radiation-contaminated areas near Chernobyl. They will even get fully-furnished houses (as abandoned by their original residents some 19 years ago), and will live a life of luxury, as long as they don't mind getting cancer.
"Lukashenko wants to draw a line under the Chernobyl catastrophe and allow the area to regain its economic value." The government is especially keen to get the agricultural sector back on its feet again. Berries and mushrooms, which absorb radiation especially well, flourish here.
A doctor/blogger has a horrifying account of a possible coming bird flu epidemic:
I saw fifty patients that day. Almost all of them were wearing masks, some as rudimentary as handkerchiefs. One came in with a sprained ankle. Another showed up to discuss her diabetes. The other forty-eight came in with panic attacks, frayed nerves, stories of people they knew who were dead or dying, and questions galore. But it was the quiet ones, the ones with headaches and muscle aches and low grade fevers that terrified me the most.
Those persons who had received the regular flu shot in the fall gained a slight protection against the new pandemic strain of the flu. The years supply was exhausted quickly, however, and counterfeit vaccines were selling for $100 on the internet. Despite the governments warning people still paid for them. A five day course of antiviral medication was selling for $5,000, even though it was only weakly effective by February.And, further down in the comments, a few tips for how to avoid getting the bird flu (or any other type of flu):
It has recently been determined that most pulmonary illnesses are spread by hand contamination, not coughing or sneezing as previously believed. If you are out in public or around those who are during an outbreak, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer six times a day will reduce your chance of catching flu by 80%. If there is obvious contamination, use soap and water. Antiseptic soap is not significantly more effective than ordinary soap in this regard. Consciously force yourself not to touch your face in public until you have sanitized your hands.
The worst public sources for air and surface contamination are public restrooms and restaurants. Avoid them. Sanitize telephone handsets and often touched surfaces in work areas, especially doorknobs. Parts of automobile interiors can also be cleaned.
Another newly discovered trick that may work is ordinary store-bought cranberry juice, which has been determined to inhibit cellular adhesion by several viruses, in quantity. It is unknown if it would work for avian flu, but drinking copious amounts as a possible prophalaxis should not be too much an inconvenience, if that is all you've got to protect yourself with.
There will undoubtedly be shortages of several items once an outbreak has occurred. Surgical masks, protective glasses, latex gloves, sanitary wipes and rubbing alcohol may all become scarce, so it is not unreasonable to stock up now.
Drivers on a heritage steam railway in Somerset are fed up with having to stop their trains to clear the cremated remains of train buffs off the tracks:
At least eight mounds of ash, most accompanied by flowers, have been found on the track since the start of the summer. They are believed to be the mortal remains of steam enthusiasts whose last wish was to be laid to rest within earshot of a locomotive.The operators of the West Somerset Railway have offered train enthusiasts the more considerate alternative to have their ashes shovelled into the engine's firebox and puffed out of the funnel.
Rolling Stone is set to publish Hunter S. Thompson's final written words, written several days before his suicide:
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun -- for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax -- This won't hurt."
(via bOING bOING) ¶ 0
Dust off your anoraks, because a new alternative club night is opening in London; the night, Feeling Gloomy, will play only miserablist anthems. Patrons can probably expect the usuals: The Smiths, Leonard Cohen, and such, as well as a few surprises:
And Wake Up Boo, by the Boo Radleys, which far from being an end-of-the-summer anthem is apparently "about death". But just when you think the play list sounds like a trip down memory lane for those who were students or Indie kids in the mid 90s, he adds that East 17's Stay Another Day puts in an appearance. When I suggest that that particular song is just 'slushy stuff' I am told it qualifies because it is about the suicide of the songwriter's brother.
"I just created a night that I would want to go to and for people who maybe have stopped going to clubs because they don't like the music. When a flyer for a club says 'sexy, funky, fun', it makes me annoyed. It's not sexy, it's drunk girls in mini-skirts being sick."The night will also serve cheese and pickle sandwiches and cups of tea; part of the proceeds will go to the Depression Alliance.
Russia's biggest spammer found battered to death in his Moscow apartment. Insert repurposed jokes about disliked professions here.
Impaled Northern Moonforest is an Acoustic Black Metal act, and has songs for downloading, with titles like "Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum" and "Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of THe Lusting Necrocorpse". They sound exactly as you imagine them to.
Teenage stoner robs grave, steals corpse's head for use as a bong. Totally hardcore, dude!
Police in Cumbria are concerned that an underwater gnome garden which claimed the lives of 3 divers has returned. The garden, consisting of several garden gnomes surrounded by a picket fence, was established at the bottom of Wastwater in the Lake District a few years ago. News got around and divers flocked to see it; at least 3 got so engrossed in looking at or for it that they forgot to come up for air and, consequently, died. Police removed the garden in the interest of public safety, though there are now rumours that it has returned, at a deeper location where police divers cannot legally go.
(Apparently, in England, police divers can only dive to 50 metres at most; so should you ever want to establish, say, an underwater anarchist state or something, you know where to do it.)
Update: more details about the deadly gnome garden here:
One gnome is sitting on a wooden aeroplane while another is cemented onto a brick. Another has a lawnmower and one has been affectionately named Gordon.
A cross-dressing Hasidic man was charged with murder after the death of a rabbi, with whom he was sharing a flat, in New York.
Goldstein was dressed in a gray blouse with a plunging neckline, dark slacks and pink high-heeled shoes, a police source said. His face was made up with bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow that clashed with his long beard, the source said.
Life imitates Christopher Brookmyre novels: a nurse in Britain is on trial for being somewhat overzealous in tackling the bed-blocker problem, to the extent of attempting to hasten several patients' journey through death's door. In her efficiency drive, Barbara Salisbury is alleged to have given patients overdoses of diamorphine and withdrawn their oxygen supplies.
Salisbury, who was described by the prosecution as an experienced, capable and efficient nurse, is accused of attempting to murder Frances May Taylor, 88, in March 2002 in that she inappropriately administered diamorphine using the syringe pump, telling a colleague: "Why prolong the inevitable."
She is accused of attempting, 10 days later, to murder Frank Owen, 92, by instructing another member of nursing staff to lay Mr Owen on his back, allegedly adding: "With any luck his lungs will fill with fluid and he will die."
I wonder whether (assuming that the charges are true, of course) she was acting out of a personal cruel streak, or whether this is merely the most extreme manifestation of an institutional focus on patient turnover in the Thatcherite/Blairite health system in Britain (as was the plot of Brookmyre's Quite Ugly One Morning; though, granted, Brookmyre seems to write from a Scottish-socialist point of view).
Leni Riefenstahl, Edward Teller and Johnny Cash all in one week. Blimey. Someone up there must be collecting interesting characters or something.
The latest from the frontiers of science: in the future, gravestones and other such memorials may be replaced by trees containing the DNA of the deceased. Though whether people would want to eat apples containing their grandmothers' DNA is a cultural question yet to be answered. Meanwhile, science has found the perfect eyebrow shape, bringing humanity one step closer to a race of superhumanly beautiful cyborgs.
Space shuttle Columbia explodes, killing all on board, much as happened in the Challenger disaster in 1986. The shuttle's crew did include the first-ever Israeli astronaut, a fighter pilot who bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and security was reportedly extremely tight around the mission. Terrorist involvement is considered unlikely. (I wonder if any terrorist groups will rush to claim credit for it anyway.)
They do things differently in the Netherlands; for instance, a Dutch public TV station recently produced a film about a dying teenager who has a webcam installed in her coffin after she dies.
When one of the teenagers dies, the survivors must decide whether to fulfill their high-tech pledge and if so, how. One stipulation moves the story into the gothic realm of Edgar Allan Poe. The coffin is to contain a heating element that will speed or reduce the body's rate of decomposition. The temperature will then be controlled by online visitors, who can adjust an interactive thermostat on the tell-tale Web site.
The film, titled Necrocam, can apparently be viewed on its web site. (via bOING bOING)
The latest big thing among those seeking immortality: donating your body to plastination. As one candidate says, it beats being worm fodder.
More twisted spam: A few weeks after "Mortal Dance in Machine Ambulance", I found in my spam filter a missive from someone calling themself "Necro Babe", apparently advertising a Russian web site with "Women In Coffins", "Sick stories about Death and Corpses", "Real Murder Shots", and, cryptically, "Car Incidents". And, thoughtfully enough, they included a disclaimer, warning that it's 'not for so-called "normal" people'. No mention of extreme-right-wing heavy metal bands playing in ambulances this time; though it's a worry. Who would be into that kind of thing? Bored suburban teenagers? Serial-killer wannabes? Or perhaps all those jaded net porn addicts for whom milder bizarre sexual fetishes just don't do it anymore.
Denial's not just a river in Egypt A morbid new trend sweeping the USA: parents commissioning digitally retouched images of stillborn babies to make them look alive, or indeed sufficiently ungruesome to show off:
Her work is grueling -- she spends two to four hours on each picture -- but she has yet to turn down a photograph, no matter how grisly. Some of the photographs she gets are of 20-week fetuses with transparent skin. Others are of babies that have been dead in the womb for so long that their facial features have dissolved, requiring her to redraw them.
The next logical step would be to use photograph-aging software to interpolate the photographs into the life that never existed; advanced software would use the original photograph, as well as those of parents and siblings, to generate "photographs" of the phantom child at various ages, "growing up" in realtime in a frame on the mantlepiece. I can see a sci-fi/gothic-horror short story in this...
Everyone's a critic: Judge sentences photographer to 2 1/2 years jail for taking photographs of corpses in a morgue.
One of the images showed the hands of a 2-year-old boy wrapped with plastic. In another, a man's body was posed with an apple, while another showed a woman with a key between her lips.
The judge called Mr. Condon's project ''idiotic'' and questioned the photographer's remorse.
IMHO, taking the photographs without permission (of the relatives; the subjects, after all, being beyond caring about such matters) could be considered somewhat callous; however, sending someone to prison for it is just stupid, and reeks of authoritarianism and an all-American puritanism.
Stranger than fiction: Ambulance crews in the Polish city of Lodz have been deliberately letting patients die, in return for kickbacks from funeral companies. In some cases the ambulance crews even hastened the deaths of their charges by administering muscle relaxants. In return, the funeral homes paid the ambulance crews over US$300 for each stiff sent their way.
The Onion in classic form: Man Dies After Long And Painful Battle With Life.
Scare meme of the day: Drug users in the US are turning to a new kick: embalming fluid, which is comprised of formaldehyde, methanol and various other chemicals. Some of the users are robbing funeral parlours to get high. The effects of embalming fluid are said to include hallucinations, euphoria, a feeling of invincibility, and increased pain tolerance, as well as anger, forgetfulness and paranoia.
Dr Julie Holland, of New York University School of Medicine, said: "The idea of embalming fluid appeals to people's morbid curiosity about death. "There's a certain gothic appeal to it."
Coming soon to a goth club near you?
Brutal Truth Toys revisited: Ant farm teaches children about toil, death: (The Onion)
Billed as "the fun way to teach your kids to accept their miserable fate stoically," the ant farm retails for $14.95
"At some point, the Playscovery Cove ants become cognizant that their hierarchical structure has been stripped away, rendering their already near-meaningless existence totally futile. There seems to be a breaking point at about the 22-day mark when the dejected ants begin to die off en masse."... the ant farm enters what is known as the "death-pile phase." A spot is chosen by the worker ants to deposit their dead, and the burial mound steadily grows as the few remaining ants devote more of their time to gathering and burying others.
A collection of amusing epitaphs and witty obituaries: (via A&L)
Or "Joe" Carstairs, the woman who owned and ruled an island in the British West Indies, which she dotted with signs such as: "I eat brown rice in preference to white. Therefore, if brown rice is good enough for me and my household, it is good enough or even too good for the people." Viscount Barrington, whose method of timing a boiled egg "was to recite a fixed number of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam."