Similar to my recurring ‘Death in the Movies’ feature, I feel it only appropriate to come up with a snappy title for a recurring feature on themes of death and dying in the written word!
A few weeks ago, I was approached by a reader of this blog to contribute a piece to a grassroots magazine devoted to the local art scene. This was a fantasy scenario come to life. In all of my idyllic moments in studying the past masters and beacons of culture, I’ve daydreamed of being the very same sort of Romantic iconoclast. It was actually the hinging principle of why I took two gap years from being a student to go into teaching. Really.
I spent several hours over the course of several days after seeing Get Out combing the internet for a very specific kind of think piece: one that taps into the vein of the typically cis, typically white, typically male obsession with immortality. But it wasn’t there. Or, I should say, it wasn’t in the typical death positive spaces or death and dying circles.
Admittedly, this is kind of a niche point for much of think piece culture, but this *should* be an easy hit in the death positive scene, in the TEDMed scene, in the philosophical circles, since the base conversation point (the obsession with immortality) isn’t necessarily new; Caitlin Doughty specifically uses racial and gendered language it in her ‘Ask a Mortician’ videos and, more intimately, in her memoir Smoke gets In Your Eyes, where she describes a date with a white neuroscientist PhD candidate who’s sole motivator is life-youthful-and-eternal, and exactly why that makes him the most boring and insipid kind of person.
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind. There are some fun and very privileged opportunities that I’ve been able to secure, and I’m very excited to share those here in the next coming weeks; but one of those things I can share right now is my StoryCorps session with the inimitable S. Elizabeth of Unquiet Things, Haute Macabre and, of course, Skeletor is Love fame.
But more than that, Sarah is an incredible friend and ally to me, to our local death community, and to our intersecting communities, which is exactly why I invited her to be my proctor for our local public radio station’s call for persons looking to share their stories about the wake of Pulse; this was cheekily called ‘Taking Your Pulse,’ which is a much more affable moniker than ‘Death in the Gay Den’ is, but I think it hits the same tone in terms of being reflective while still feeling the aftershocks of disbelief.
When I was in high school, I was an avid “LJer”–a person who used an early community-blogging platform known as “livejournal” which, famously, “died off” in approx. 2009 after turning over ownership to a Russian media company, SUP Media. Apparently since then, LJ servers have actually migrated from their native San Francisco California to Russia, and the LJ community (or should we more aptly state, the Zhivoy Zhurnal community) is tied very closely to an online newspaper, the Gazeta, and is largely made up of prominent political pundits who use the blogging interface for political commentary.
And that’s the way the news goes.
Things were different between approx. 2005 – 2008. The ominous Russian presence was mostly just brushed off as “pornbots” (all of which migrated with the American LJ community to Tumblr, naturally). For the rest of us, LJ was a conjoining of platforms that allowed us to vent our teen rage and to find likeminded peers who were members of niche blogging networks (communities).
This post is a slightly modified version of an essay I submit for my theology course; the name of my late priest has been censored for his privacy and for mine. If you recognize the man in the photograph or the church, and/or if you know who my parents are, and/or if you know where I am attending school, I’m imploring you NOT to make any contact that would identify myself or the content of this post.
Over the course of the terminal weeks of January and the start of February, my parents have sent me at least a dozen shipments of large boxes containing clothes, objects, memorabilia, photo books, actual books, trinkets and clippings. In one of these boxes was a tabletop font (a small, crude ceramic angel holding a baby Christ enveloped around a manger) and an envelope containing a taped together newspaper obituary, a photograph and a note written on an index card.
Every once in a while I want to use media to reaffirm or to challenge some idea about death, and so I’m using this as an opportunity to tentatively broach a recurring segment called ‘Death in the Movies’ (or books, comics, music, etc.).
In two weeks’ time, my partner and a fellow hearse hobbyist friend have been to the movies twice for two different death-related flicks in February. One was a new release in the cinema itself, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the other was Harold and Maude in the park. The rest of the month is largely TBA, with the exception of True Romance on February 14th (thematically appropriate), so I can’t rightly claim whether the theme of ‘death in the movies’ is actually a recurring theme or just a timely coincidence.
Not timely enough to anticipate the cold snap we had this past weekend, though.
This week’s entry is going to be a little bit different from the previous entries, so please, in advance, forgive the sappy, nostalgic nature of this fluff piece. Because way before I even had any designs to be in the death care field, I had A Mighty Need, and that need was to procure a hearse.
Hearses, flower coaches, ambulances and other utilitarian cars have always stood out as ‘novelty cars’ in spite of the fact that way more drivers in the states are driving pickups and sport vehicles than are actually utilizing them for their intended purpose. And, lest we ever forget, the early/mid 00s will most certainly be memorialized on one of those VH1 nostalgia countdowns as the half-decade where everyone with a median income bracket of $100K/annum put a down payment on a Hummer. (They’ll be playing this commercial when they do.)