we all know that we don’t live forever and that we eventually die, but somehow we have this expectation that in death we will have something eternal, if only a plot of ground. the idea that our dead body is entitled to a spot forever and ever and ever seems weird to me – like, why the insistence on eternity, on forever, for our bodies? why in death are we suddenly supposed to have a piece of the earth all to ourselves forever? (and on a practical note, aren’t we going to run out of room?)
don’t get me wrong – i don’t think it’s respectful to disrupt a dead body, and even though i don’t connect with that sort of veneration, i respect people‘s grieving and I can understand how the idea of having a spot to call your own indefinitely can be appealing. it just seems like a lot of time and energy and money are spent on what happens to your body after you’re dead, and how sometimes people will ignore what’s good for them during life but obsess over what might be good for their body after they die.
anyway, in the episode of ask a mortician that i am embedding below, caitlin talks about oven crypts in new orleans and how the concept that your plot of land is yours forever – common in the western world – it’s just not something that happens everywhere, not even everywhere in the united states (where i live). as someone who is used to seeing sprawling lawns with headstones and people buried underground, and who has acknowledged the permanence of that particular spot for that resting body, it’s somewhat refreshing to know that not everybody in the world is so obsessed with the permanent resting spot for your body.
tonight, to celebrate the new year, i have my best friend over and we’re watching silly/bad/interesting/funny videos on youtube together, and i had to show him ask a mortician. we’re using my tv and searching on there and this is the first one that crops up – it’s not about death but they (she has a co-star for this one) do metaphorically slaugther the happy crappy myths about very white, very chubby, very happy santa claus.
christmas might be over but it’s never too late to hear the eerie truth and you can always set a reminder in your calendar to pull up this video and watch it before christmas next year!
soft white underbelly is a youtube video series that brings a human face and voice to folks on the margins of every day life: drug addicts, sex offenders, homeless people, folks who have lived in remote rural locations. each video is an interview with minimal questions and maximal time for the subject to share their stories and tell you about their life. there is no fancy studio set with expensive lighting – these are stark and plain, which allows the person and the life and the story to be the only thing for you to focus on.
to me, this is an amazing series that gives people a look into lives that are easy to ignore, and each interview helps you understand our lives and where we end up as a function of the choices that we make and the choices that are made for us. there’s some talk of regret, of things that might have gone differently if a different choice were made, but mostly these interviews are about how people find peace and meaning in their existences.
there’s also no judgment in these interviews. the person asking the questions simply asks and listens – maybe exclaims “wow” now and then, or prompts the speaker to talk about how a certain event felt – and clearly wants the story to be told and the person to be heard and respected as a human being. along the way, you get a glimpse into how the legal system functions, how money and privilege can change the outcome of a scenario, and how one little difference in somebody’s life can have an impact that lasts far beyond what anyone could have imagined
what I like about “mike” in particular is how forgiveness comes up, and how he struggles to distinguish between between who somebody is and something that they did, particularly when the something they did is out of character or especially hurtful. forgiveness is a really hard thing for people to understand, but i think when you start hearing peoples stories it becomes easier to understand how they could ask for forgiveness, and easier to offer it with a peaceful heart.
i’ve been a fan of the future sound of london since about 1999 when i heard “dead cities” for the first time and fell in love. “lifeforms” was the next album i bought from them (a double cd!!) and i was hooked.
this video is from when they were on chillout zone (i don’t know what that is/was – i wasn’t watching mtv in 1996) and is really freaking wild visually. the music is all from “dead cities” though most of the songs are abbreviated and/or completely reworked – samples that played together in a series in a song pop up here and there in transitions, or played in a different order or with another song. still, it’s a great chance to have a listen to them and trip out a little
the first time i heard this song i loved it – super catchy and i thought the percussion was interesting. it felt like a bunch of talented friends playing together like you could just feel their harmony – anyway, i soon found out that “interesting percussion” was a fucking tap dancer!! that made me love them even more.
here’s a video of them on letterman. i didn’t see an “official” video when i looked through youtube though i could swear i saw one years ago, so either i’m making shit up in my head (very probable) or it’s not easy to find/no longer available (also quite probable)
i used to joke that when i die, i want to be cremated and then i want my friends to have a party where someone “accidentally” tips over my urn and they have to vaccuum me up. many of my friends are appalled by this and it’s no wonder – here in the US, death is an event that’s marked with sadness, and the “right” way to have a funeral or honor a life is to do it in black clothes, soft voices, and rigid formality.
for me, death is a sad event but that doesn’t mean that honoring that person’s life has to be a sad event. i mean, i have lived a joyful life so far, and i would want my friends to honor my life by creating joy.
i’m aware that the way funeral go in this part of the world at this point in time is specific to here and now, and not how everyone does it or has done it. in fact, as you’ll find out in the video below, some funerals turn into huge parties and even include strippers – erotic funerals. i can’t say that i would opt for strippers and attempting to sexually charge a funeral, but i do appreciate the celebration and how this kind of funeral is seen as a gift to those left behind.
if you’ve never seen caitlin doughty’s “ask a mortician” series on youtube, i highly recommened it. not only is she smart and witty, she makes uncomfortable topics much easier to approach, and she has the right balance to her sense of humor to make the videos enjoyable without being creepy.
i thought that was a nice way to encourage some nuance and flexibility – to allow room for a range of possibilities. i’ve always found a lot more peace of mind when i get out of rigid black and white thinking and consider “neither” – neither black nor white but somewhere in between
it also made me think of “the beauty of gray” by live from their album mental jewelry – live were popular when i was in high school with their second album throwing copper. i had my very first boyfriend in high school and he and i shared a love of music, and he turned me on to mental jewelry which is definitely their best album (though frankly after throwing copper, they stopped being a band i wanted to listen to)
anyway, here’s that song – it’s really a lovely tune with a nice message about seeing the range between black and white instead of staying rigidly polarized
(i’m sharing the live version because it’s good and it’s fun to think of when mtv unplugged was a thing and really because ed looks cute)
what i love about this video is the style in his freestyle – he’s getting audience suggestions (and it’s a mish-mosh of things that most definitely don’t seem to fit together, though he does manage to combine harry potter and tequlia into one topic in his list) and then going off in a funny freestyle rap while also pointing at/rapping to the section of the audience where the thing he’s rapping about came from
i have a google home system and it’s hooked to my spotify account so i can just ask it to play a song and it will, so this morning when i was sipping coffee and editing video, i asked it to play “out of touch” by hall and oates.
after that song was over, it just played a selection of related music – i think there was some more hall and oates, edge of 17 (stevie nicks), and then “automatic” from the pointer sisters.
it reminded me of when i lived in boston in the early 2000s and i used to go to fritz (rest in peace) for a drink. one night i met the president of the pointer sisters fan club and took him home and fucked him. i’m sure he talked a lot about the pointer sisters (i remember him telling me the fan club was legit, he had met them) but i didn’t recall if they are actually sisters.
the answer is yes, they are sisters. sadly, june died in 2006 and bonnie died earlier this year.
and just because i’m obviously curious about random tidbits: the doobie brothers were not brothers, the everly brothers were. when it comes to sisters, aside from the pointer sisters of course, i have to mention haim, who don’t call themselves the haim sisters but they are, and they make hooky 80s influenced pop tunes with lots of vocal harmonies – sort of like 80s girl bands with today’s references and studio technology.