Posts Tagged: death

A History of the Last Meal, and the "Intimate Relationship Between Food and Death"

Via Longreads, a piece by Brent Cunningham at Lapham's Quarterly that had me at hello:

In January 1985, Pizza Hut aired a commercial in South Carolina that featured a condemned prisoner ordering delivery for his last meal.

The essay covers many angles of this alternately compassionate, perverse and titillating idea—the paradox of "marking the end of a life with the stuff that sustains it," the plain fact that "eating and dying are universal and densely symbolic human processes." There's of course a lot of great history: in Rome, gladiators were feasted well on the night before the arena, and the Aztecs, as part of a [...]


Queens in History: Tomyris

Today the oldish-and-witchy Tumblr The English Ladye highlights Queen Tomyris, pictured, who reigned in Central Asia around 530 B.C. and apparently "defeated and killed the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great during his invasion and attempted conquest of her country." She also apparently "had his corpse beheaded and then crucified," and then "shoved his head into a wineskin filled with human blood." Furthermore, "She was reportedly quoted as saying, 'I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall.' " (!)

There's also a type of moth named after her (moth No. 25), although it's not yet clear to me why. Unless these [...]


Paging Clyde Bruckman

You may be a totally normal person, and therefore not sit around worrying about how you are going to die. But, as a super, super-pale person who spent one stupid summer in high school blissfully baking herself in a tanning bed at her gym while they piped in Train's "Drops of Jupiter," I have, for whatever reason, become convinced I'm going to get skin cancer.

My dad, who likes to be weird and mysterious, has been claiming for years that "the means of his death have been made known to him" (idk, in a dream, or something?), so he's not concerned about it at all, and my mom is terrified [...]


Bones, Ghosts, and Paul Koudounaris

A Q&A with author, photographer, and ossuary expert Paul Koudounaris. I understand your great grandfather was a grave robber?

My family is Greek and they lived in Alexandria back when it was a Greek town. At that point there was a trade in mummy dust, which they called mummia, which was thought to be a cure all. Louis XIV actually used to carry mummia in a pouch and snort little bits of it. The problem was that by the late 19th century they didn’t have a bunch of old Egyptian mummies to dig up anymore. Instead, when criminals were executed, people would steal their bodies and take them to the [...]


"World Is Suddener Than We Fancy": Seamus Heaney Dies at 74

At 74, after a short illness, the Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is dead. He is survived by his wife and three children, and by his plainspoken, incandescent body of work. "I like a touch of rough and readiness in the language," he once told the Paris Review. "Something in words that makes you realize all over again what Louis MacNeice means when he says 'world is suddener than we fancy.'"

In the long poem "From Station Island," his famous lines:

Your obligation is not discharged by any common rite. What you must do must be done on your own

So get back [...]


Imagining What You Think Is the Unimaginable

The Rumpus conducted this interview with (the tremendous) Aleksander Hemon prior to the events in Boston, but, as the interview touches on his own experience of "unimaginable" loss (a child, to cancer), it really resonates today.

Hemon: This is a culture that continuously, consistently refuses to deal with the fact of death, on so many levels. From zombie and vampire movies, to the insane amount of death you can see at any moment on television or in the movie theaters, which makes it unreal, to the steady supply and pool of dreadful clichés when people talk about death. When the children in [Newtown] were killed and Obama [...]


Mourning Jewelry Curator Sarah Nehama on Death and Keepsakes

Jeweler Sarah Nehama co-curated the mourning jewelry exhibition that's currently on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society, with the MHS's Anne Bentley (it's free, go!), and put together the accompanying book, In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry (it's $35 and filled with beautiful photographs of old jewelry, and old paintings, and old documents, and … deep breaths, deep breaths). I emailed Sarah to ask if she'd be up for answering some questions about it, which she was kind enough to do.

Sarah! The show looks great. Do you wear any mourning jewelry regularly?

I often wear items from my collection. Some only rarely if [...]


Is Great-Grandma R. Kelly?!

“Rest in peace, Gram. So happy you’re finally home. We love you!” read my Aunt Patty’s Facebook post. I was sitting in LaGuardia airport with my cousin, Shauna. I read it aloud to her.

We were confused. We had buried “Gram,” my great-grandmother, in 1987. I remember all the funerals I went to as a kid because Gram was on the Irish side of my family, and at Irish funerals I made approximately zero dollars simply for showing up. This was in direct contrast to funerals I attended for the Italian side of my family. At those, every relative I said hello to told me what a beautiful young woman [...]


Writing About Dead Family Members

"I walked in and he gave me one of his looks, dropping his jaw and crossing his eyes as he rolled them back in their sockets. It was a look he assumed in all kinds of situations but that always meant the same thing: can you believe this?" —The Guardian excerpts a section from John Jeremiah Sullivan's 'Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son' (out March 14 … in the UK, and — updated to include — out about eight years ago here in America. Sorry about that. Still a good read!).



"The report on nearly three million people found that those whose B.M.I. ranked them as overweight had less risk of dying than people of normal weight." —Science abstract reporting cures the problem of death for all time.