Posts tagged “death”

Let’s talk about death, baby


Curious to come across Death Cafe.

At Death Cafes people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake. The objective of Death Cafe is “To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives”. Jon Underwood founded Death Cafe in 2011 based on the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Bernard offered ‘Cafe Mortels’ in Switzerland and France. Jon was already developing a project to get people talking about death and immediately knew that Bernard’s vision clicked with his.

Searching on my zip code, I found (within a large-ish geographic radius) 7 events in the next 6 weeks and 3 that just passed. I can’t speak to the attendance levels or quality of the events but this strikes me as a notably well-established movement.

The Death Cafe site is one of the projects by Impermanence, “a not-for profit social enterprise that undertakes innovative work around death and dying.” Seems a challenging but wide-open area for innovating.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Is the Web Dying? It Doesn’t Look That Way [Bits Blog –] – [There's always a way to get the same data to tell a different story. ] Mr. Anderson of Wired magazine argues that a world of downloadable apps, which work through the Internet and arrive via gadgets like the iPhone or Xbox, are quickly cannibalizing the World Wide Web as consumers prefer buttoned-up, dedicated platforms, designed specifically for mobile screens. Is he right? Should we plaster R.I.P. signs all over the Web? Not exactly.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Tragic Death of Practically Everything [Technologizer] – [You can hum Jim Carroll while you read this short piece that tries to dehype tech media a teeny little bit] Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson is catching flack for the magazine’s current cover story, which declares that the Web is dead. I’m not sure what the controversy is. For years, once-vibrant technologies, products, and companies have been dropping like teenagers in a Freddy Krueger movie. Thank heavens that tech journalists have done such a good job of documenting the carnage as it happened. Without their diligent reporting, we might not be aware that the industry is pretty much an unrelenting bloodbath.
  • [from steve_portigal] BK to offer shareable Pizza Burger [Nation’s Restaurant News] – [While results won't appeal to all, exciting to see Burger King with an appetite for innovating – crazy-sounding products – and a place to sell those non-core products] Burger King plans to introduce a giant hamburger shaped and flavored like a pizza to its new Whopper Bar in NY, adding to the list of extreme sandwiches at restaurant chains. The NY Pizza Burger is made with four 1/4-pound Whopper patties, mozzarella, marinara and a Tuscan Herb Mayo. They are placed on a 9.5-inch bun, which is sliced into 6 wedges, selling at $12.99. Burger King said the pizza burger, which is intended to be shared, would likely be introduced next week. Each wedge is about 400 calories, they said. The NY Pizza Burger is currently planned just for the New York City Whopper Bar location, which opened July 31 near Times Square. The pizza burger will join the Meat Beast Whopper, also exclusive to the New York City Whopper Bar. The Meat Beast is a Whopper topped with pepperoni and bacon and sold for $6.99.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative – Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

    The cost savings can be substantial, all the more important in an economic downturn. The average American funeral costs about $6,000 for the services of a funeral home, in addition to the costs of cremation or burial. A home funeral can be as inexpensive as the cost of pine for a coffin (for a backyard burial) or a few hundred dollars for cremation or several hundred dollars for cemetery costs.

Hot Wings

My dad received the following offer in the mail: a chance to win a free cremation. If he enters, he’ll have a chance to win each month!


They don’t specify, but I guess that must be each month until you die?

What’s especially fascinating is their connection between cremation and mobility:

“With everyone moving around these days,
placing a loved one in a ‘local’ cemetery
may not be as functional as it used to be.”

Portigal Consulting has been doing some projects recently on mobile devices, but I never thought to include cremation urns in that category.

The best part of the letter is the disclaimer at the end of the second page:

“Please accept our apologies if this letter
has reached you at a time of serious illness
or death in your family.”

How compassionate.

Semi-persistence of memory

The New York Times offers some nice cultural insight on the phenomenon of decals in car rear windows as tributes to the departed. Decal Junky, cited in the piece, has six pages of memorial decals.

Arturo Ramirez of Cathedral City, Calif., who expressed his grief over the death of his friend Ernie Zamorez in a car crash in October 2004 by having 50 car decals printed at $5.50 apiece, said he sees the tributes primarily on cars of people with Latin American backgrounds. Trips around the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles freeways, however, turned up other backgrounds as well. “In Loving Memory of Rocco DeJoseph” read one decal on the back of a blue Saturn, positioned next to a decal proclaiming “Italian Princess.”

Those who study the way societies process death see the decals as yet another iteration of an increasingly mobile and transient America. “We try to keep track of our dead,” said Thomas Lynch, an undertaker and poet in Milford, Mich., who has written two books on the culture of death. “We’re the only species that does. There’s a need to name the loss, to give it some texture.” The decals, Mr. Lynch said, are “bringing the cemetery to the freeway.”

Gary M. Laderman, director of the graduate division of religion at Emory University in Atlanta and the author of two books on funeral customs, said the decals bring a do-it-yourself mentality to memorializing death. “It’s part of the post-60’s consumer empowerment, where everything can get caught up in commercialization,” Professor Laderman said. “Before, it was left to the funeral home. Now you take the production into your own hands and have it your way.”

In Southern California, where so much of life is conducted in cars, many people say it makes sense for death to be reflected there too.

Leanne Fuller, the girlfriend of Ernie Zamorez, said decals were the most efficient way to get word out about his death. “He had friends from high school who didn’t hear anything in the news, and they see the car and know he died,” she said, adding that she will keep the decal on her Honda Civic until it falls off.


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