Thursday, September 25, 2014
Can’t Take It With You #4: Jeff Staab, Proprietor of Cremation Solutions
When it comes to grief, what’s meaningful and what’s creepy is often a matter of largely unpredictable personal preference. I recently came across a website selling 12-inch poseable action figures that are customizable to resemble a dead loved one, whose ashes you can also get sealed inside. After an initial reaction that was something along the lines of "oh HELL no" and a swift x-ing out of the browser window, a minute later I found myself back on the page, scrolling through all of the options: "Trendy Male," "Casual Female," "Male Grey Suit," "Nice Nurse," "Karate Male/Female."
I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d be capable of drawing comfort from the depths of the uncanny valley, but grief has a way of imbuing the strangest things with healing powers. Somewhere, at some point, someone has taken great solace in one of these eerie flat faces—and it’s entirely possible that one day some unrecognizable future version of myself will, too. Or maybe it will be a Cremation Crystal Companion or a custom portrait with cremains pressed into the glass or a life-sized human head custom made in the likeness of my dear departed whoever.
These things are all available for purchase from Cremation Solutions, an online store run by former funeral director Jeff Staab. Like Sarah Wambold, who you met in Can’t Take It With You #1, Staab is a funeral industry ex-pat who’s trying to forge a saner path through the wilds of death and mourning in America. It all started with Staab’s invention, a few years ago, of an urn that converts into a memorial birdhouse once the ashes are scattered; since then, he’s written widely about cremation and ash-scattering best practices on his blog, and recently began working with certified celebrants to offer personalized funeral-writing services. The goal, generally, is to find a middle path between the stuffy, expensive world of funeral homes andthe chaos of a haphazardly dumped Folgers can.
By way of this interview with Staab, I’m happy to welcome Can’t Take It With You back from an accidental summer vacation (uh, YOLO?). Are you someone whose life or work intersects with death and money in an interesting way? I’d love to hear from you.
So once I saw those poseable action figures I was like, "I need to talk to the person behind this."
Yep, that's a new thing I'm doing. I actually just sold one yesterday—Superman. Someone was getting their dad as Superman.
Was that the first one you'd sold?
Oh, no. It's the big heads I don't sell very much of. They get written about a lot, but I hardly sell any. They’re really expensive and they creep people out. They’re too real-looking, really. They look just like the person. As good as the photograph you give us—that's as real as they look. READ MORE
I've had a theory for awhile that the greatest American fashion designers must, as a rule, be born and raised outside of the United States. I don't mean "greatest" in terms of actual greatness, because that is subjective, and I'm not going to argue about whether Alexander Wang is more indicative of American fashion than Tory Burch because that's a losing game. I mean greatness in terms of which fashion designers can adequately sum up "America!" as a concept in their seasonal assortment. READ MORE
Want to make as much money from writing as successful and wealthy authors E.L. James and Danielle Steel? Looking to turn a new generation of readers on...to reading? Just very horny and need to get it onto the page before you explode? Consider, my friends, the romance novel.
One of the most popular genres on the planet, the title for your romance novel is the easiest part, and will provide you a premise upon which to build the rest of your work. Consider "The [Occupational Noun]'s [Adjective] [Noun]," as in The Prince's Saucy Wench, The Doctor's Sexy Briefcase, or The Duchess' Naughty Dubloons.
Plot is up to you, and I'm afraid that's the toughest bit. But to help you on your way to the good stuff (someone's shirt should be getting ripped roughly every 2-3 pages or you're doing it wrong), here are some sexxxxxy similes to pepper throughout your work. READ MORE
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I was obsessed with movies and television as a child. So obsessed that I’d spend hours quoting dialogue, singing Wizard of Oz songs, trying to force a British accent (alone), all while telling myself—in the A&E Biography narrator’s voice—that I was the next Judy Garland.
Actually, I liked to tell myself that Harrison Ford or Tommy Lee Jones—who would obviously eventually come to see me as a daughter —would stumble upon me during one of my Broadway renditions and pluck me from my boring suburban life, casting me in every movie they signed on for.
The A&E Biography episode went a little something like this:
“And when Harrison Ford found himself on the mean streets of Cambridge, Ontario,” the narrator would say, “and he heard the sweet notes of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ he knew he had found the next Judy Garland.”
I have no idea why either actor would be in Ontario, or why out of every child actor they’d compare me to Judy Garland, but this meet cute was merely an indicator of my delusions of grandeur —delusions necessary in sustaining any career in the arts, but especially in fueling a burgeoning acting career. Which is why, ten years later, when I asked for an agent, my parents said told me I could spread my wings and fly. READ MORE
9:51 a.m. As I approach the couch, its guardian tells me to put my coffee down. Because it’s the real couch from the show.
Rembert Browne went to the Friends pop-up museum/coffee shop/gift shop in Soho so that we don't have to. Thank you for being a friend, Rembert.
Having to transition from being an eccentric sitcom neighbor to a reality show housewife to any number of historical figures as filtered by intoxicated comedians would normally make for a serious case of mental whiplash, but it’s no issue for the incredibly talented and incredibly funny Tymberlee Hill. The Virginia Beach native began her career as a classically trained stage actress before making the completely accidental switch to comedy after her move to LA. A few chance performances at UCB have since led to roles as the insanely entrepreneurial Phe Phe on the Hulu exclusive The Hotwives of Orlando, as a frequent player on Comedy Central’s Drunk History, and as Casey Wilson and Ken Marino’s crazy friend on the upcoming NBC sitcom Marry Me from Happy Endings creator David Caspe.
I recently had the chance to talk to Tymberlee about her work in one of her busiest years yet, her Broadway aspirations, and why we should all be excited for next month’s premiere of Marry Me.
So, how are you? What’s going on?
Oh my gosh, well, I think everything is going on! We’ve got the show up and running. We’re shooting it non-stop. That’s what’s happening! Marry Me non-stop.
Well, in your Twitter profile you describe yourself as “the hardest working brown in the biz,” and that seems especially true of you this past year. Has it been a particularly crazy time in your career?
It has! It’s been nuts, that sort of all of a sudden, y’know... We started with Hotwives around November of last year and then we had reshoots into the new year, into 2014, which coincided with me shooting Drunk History, which coincided with me shooting Marry Me. So at one point, for like a week in March, I was shooting all three of them. READ MORE
Boyz II Men. What can I say? For me, it started in the nineties, when Stephanie Tanner chose to fuck up her “street jazz” routine to “Motown Philly” because she didn’t want to be a professional dancer. The song and choreography had me (and most sixth grade girls I knew) hooked. Stephanie had only decided 15 minutes prior that she wanted to go pro, so it was especially crazy that 22 minutes into the episode, she had changed her mind and sabotaged her recital! FYI, this is rude, and the episode should have actually focused more on: realistic dreams and the time it takes to achieve them, and not being a dick to the rest of your dance class.
But Boyz II Men wasn’t just about Jodi Sweetin (though so much of it actually should have been); it was about slow, sensual, rhythm. It was about berets and deep baritone sounds! It was about...mid-song monologues that appeared in literally half of their songs — nearly all of them on Cooleyhighharmony — and would creep up on you like a thief in the night. HEY, WHY ARE THEY TALKING AGAIN?!? THIS IS A SONG!
But, the thing is, no one ever talks about these monologues. Until now. Here we go: an unofficial ranking of Boyz II Men’s mid-song monologues. Because you need this. We need this. And I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time.
A: My natural habitat being systematically destroyed in the name of advancing civilization.
A: Technically, they count electric sheep while they're still awake, trying to drift off to sleep. Then they generally dream of naked lady androids, or of writing midterms at the local electric school they're unprepared for, while wearing electric underwear with a Batman motif.
Is Laura Jeanne:
a) The girl sharing bridesmaids duties with you who never fails to mention the reasons she should be maid of honor instead?
b) Reese Witherspoon?
Is Ronnie Walken:
a) Christopher Walken's less-scary brother?
b) Christopher Walken?
Is Henry David:
a) Your friend's boyfriend, the one with a yacht, who is sort of shitty and pretentious and once insisted you all split an $80 dollar bottle of wine at dinner because it was the only thing that would bring out the flavor in the meat and you couldn't discern it from a $12 bottle at Trader Joe's and then you vowed to never hang out with him again, but broke that promise because of, you know, the yacht?
b) Prince Harry?
Over the weekend I read Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, mostly because several of my friends had e-mailed me this review by Pooja Bhatia with the following line highlighted:
People compare Tierce to Joan Didion, maybe the doyenne of literary realism, and Mary Gaitskill, whose intense short stories have explored sex and debasement.
I mean, sold.
What happens if you strip away most of the connective tissue in this New York Times article about sexual assault in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn?
1. By day, the handsome block of Irving Place that runs between Gates and Putnam Avenues in Brooklyn projects a vibrant wholesomeness. Women push strollers past the red-brick Mount Zion Tabernacle Church; young couples tote Trader Joe’s bags past a photo gallery; and watchful neighbors walk dogs in front of Public School 56.
2. It might seem incongruous, then, that this area would be the setting of two violent crimes: A 31-year-old woman told the police that she had been sexually assaulted twice on Aug. 31, the attacks coming one hour and a block apart in the near-dawn of Sunday morning.
3. Many residents of this section of Clinton Hill said the assaults had occurred amid a broader pattern of crime that taints these blocks on the weekends.
“You come out late at night, early in the morning, you see three, four prostitutes,” said Benny Allen, 30, a youth sports coach who grew up and still lives in the area. “Two years ago, I saw a man and a woman going at it right there on that sidewalk. I had to run them off.”
4. Standing in the doorways of multifamily buildings valued at $1 million to $3 million, residents told of their encounters with prostitutes and their clients.
We can keep going:
1. wholesomeness, strollers, Trader Joe’s
2. incongruous, sexually assaulted
3. broader pattern of crime, prostitutes, "run them off."
4. $3 million, residents
The GENTRIFICATION STORY lens is so narrow and distorting that a report about sexual assault in a changing neighborhood becomes a story about a "broader pattern" of crime; just broad enough to include and implicate both the people perpetrating sexual assault and their victims. But no broader!