Death

Two Bugs in an Office with a Severed Head

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 4 May 2016.You know, this time we don’t get to blame Adam; the white-collar rank and file would not have these problems if they had collective bargaining rights.

On the upside, the old lady was already dead; it’s not like the li’l bugger went on a spree.

Which raises another point about spree violence: Economic security might help reduce the number of incidents. So would good mental health benefits.

No, I don’t really have a plan for accomplishing all that, but, hey, if Bernie Sanders can make it this far without studying his own platform, it seems worth mentioning.

Yeah, you know, maybe I should just stick with bad puns and perverse vapidity for filler.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 4 May 2016.

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The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

(more…)

Not a Palm Tree

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 15 May 2015.

It is true that there is a certain neologism I have come to loathe for something about its lazy aptitude. Aptness. Quality or characteristic of being lazily apt. Whatever. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a buzzword I’m just sick of.

Nonetheless there are no substitutes I might suggest and, in good conscience, call funny, or, at least, entertaining.

Still, I mean, you know … no Rosie and her Five Sisters jokes for that. Autonecrophilia?

Never mind.

At any rate, once again we might give thanks unto Matt Tarpley for making an entirely different obvious joke.

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Tarpley, Matt. “Gravestone”. Mary Death. 15 May 2015.

Theological Comedy

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 22 March 2015.Follow the bouncing ball. Damn. Where’d I put the ball?

Anyway, it’s pretty simple for being so complicated: The ultimate reality is called Mysterium for a reason. With me, so far? The word is “ineffable”, which means it cannot be properly expressed, which is also ironic given the number of people you might meet who have no idea what the word means. Well, okay. Almost ironic. Metaironic. Nevermindronic?

So here’s the deal: If it cannot be expressed, any expression thereof will necessarily be inadequate.

Easy enough?

Good.

A practical example: You have finite brain capacity and function. The whole of the Universe cannot fit inside your brain; you can neither witness nor calculate its entirety in any one moment.

Now stop to consider we might search out, should we be so inclined, centuries-old debates about the nature of a monotheistic godhead and whether “infinite” is inclusive enough to contain the whole of God. Think St. Augustine on crack.

An anecdotal example: An explanation of Heaven given me at a Jesuit high school had to do with our individual selves gathered ’round God’s throne in Heaven, singing hosannas throughout eternity. No, really, can you think of anything more boring?

Still, though, Zach Weiner offers a pretty good take on what would be heavenly.

The lesson, however, is this: In the end, by the totality of the godhead―to infinity, and beyond!―there is no experiential difference ‘twixt being one with God and simply being dead.

If you run it to earth, that’s what you find.

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Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 22 March 2015.

A Worrisome Tingling Sensation

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 20 March 2015.

If your Death Sense is tingling, it probably isn’t good news. But what is good news is a handy list of Mary Death episodes to click, read, and enjoy:

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 17 March 2015.“True Form” (10 March 2015)

“Lost” (13 March 2015)

“Going on an Adventure” (17 March 2015)

“Where’s Waldo?” (20 March 2015)

“Some Answers, More Questions!” (24 March 2015)

“Exit” (27 March 2015)

“Game Time” (31 March 2015)

“Where To?” (1 April 2015)

“Stories” (3 April 2015)

No, really, that’s all a an ongoing story arc, and includes the beginning of a spinoff. Everybody say, “Thank you, Mr. Tarpley!”

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Image note: Top―Detail of “Where’s Waldo?”, 20 March 2015. Right―Detail of “Going on an Adventure”, 17 March 2015.

Update: Added “Stories” (3 April 2015), on 7 April 2015.

A Note on … Something

Detail of cartoon by Matt Bors, 4 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.Maybe you don’t really want to know. Or think about it. Or … or … er … ah … right.

Nor would we blame you.

Who knows, maybe someone will attempt a posthumous baptism.

Oh, right. Don’t really want to … something, something.

Something.

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Bors, Matt. “Captain’s Log. Spock’s dead. The cartoons … are bad”. Daily Kos. 4 March 2015.

One of the Few Times We Get to Say ‘Zombie Jesus’

Jesus CHUD?

Each year we hear all manner of stupid blithering about how there is some sort of “War on Christmas”, which as we all know simply translates to a rejection of religious supremacism, but the conservatives can’t acknowledge that because, well, they’re the religious supremacists. Whatever. But, you know, what about when Christmas declares war on America?

A suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio has ordered one resident to remove a
zombie-themed nativity scene from his property, local TV station WLWT reported Tuesday night.

Jasen Dixon, a Sycamore Township man who manages a haunted house in Indiana, built the manger scene with zombie-like figures standing in for Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and the three wise men.

But town officials following up on two anonymous complaints found that Dixon’s handmade nativity scene violated zoning codes.

(Thompson)

It’s actually almost funny, because it is an expected coincidence of political assertions and outcomes. That is to say, it’s kind of like TRAP laws, only presumably by accident. You know, a small-government conservatism coinciding with an intrustive governmental action using bureaucratic regulations to stop something Christians might object to.

No, seriously, this allegedly isn’t censorship of content, but, rather, a square-footage issue. As well as a procedural irony we can certainly enjoy that virtually renders the issue moot.

Welcome to Middle America.

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Thompson, Catherine. “Ohio Town Orders Man To Take Down Zombie Nativity Scene”. Talking Points Memo Livewire. 24 December 2014.

A Reminder: Funerals Are for the Living

Transgender pride

“I am disgusted. A great and dear friend’s mom went to the funeral today. It was not closed casket. They cut her hair, suit on. How can they bury her as Geoff when she legally changed her name. So very sad. Jen you will be missed and people who know you know that you are at peace.”

Stacy Dee Hudson

Sometimes it bears reminding that funerals are rituals performed for the sake of the living.

James Nichols reports:

In a depressing reminder of the times in which we live and how far we still have to go to reach equality for everyone in the LGBT community, a Twin Falls, Idaho, transgender woman was presented as male in an open-casket funeral service this week.

Jennifer Gable, 32, reportedly died suddenly of a brain aneurysm while working at Wells Fargo Bank on Oct. 9. At her funeral, Gable, who legally changed her name in 2007, was reportedly not referred to as Jennifer once.

Additionally, the late Gable’s family cut her hair short and presented her wearing a suit and her obituary reportedly skipped the decade of her life she spent transitioning to live authentically as Jennifer.

There is no question, even from afar, that the proposition of refusing one’s own child’s identity in order to present them after death as something and someone other than who they really were is cruel beyond measure. It is selfish and hateful and ultimately stupid.

But it is also, such as things are, what funerals are for.

Not hatred and stupid, selfish cruelty per se, but the dead are either with God and thus otherwise preoccupied, suffering eternal punishment and thus otherwise preoccupied, or simply dead in a fucking box in the ground, in which case how their families abuse them at the memorial service just flat doesn’t matter to them.

Funerals and memorials are for the living.

That Jennifer Gable’s family apparently chose to celebrate their own desperate hatred? That is what it is. Call it what you want. But it is what they chose to celebrate, and such rituals and ceremonies are not for the dead. They are for the living.

In which case the best advice is to simply remember your friends for who they were, so that at least someone in this world still loves them.

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Nichols, James. “Jennifer Gable, Transgender Woman, Presented As Man At Her Funeral”. The Huffington Post. 24 November 2014.

Corpse Trafficking

‘Tis a grim headline, to be certain: “11 People Arrested for Supplying Dead Unmarried Men with Dead Brides”. To the other, there is always a little more to a story than we might glean from such a brief statement. Charles Mudede does, in fact, offer some fine insight into the custom of ghost brides

Though the practice is very old and maintained mostly by people who live in rural China, it is by no means barbaric. Indeed, because civilization only begins when the living live with their dead—meaning, when the living are settled rather than nomadic, we can see in the ghost marriage something like the deep and wonderfully twisted roots of the modern urban consciousness.

The city is about a very close relationship between inhabitants who are made of matter and those made from the faintest stuff of memories—ghosts. Inhabited and uninhabited buildings, rooms, hallways, staircases are all haunted by those lost in the past of those buildings, rooms, hallways, and staircases. You can only remove ghosts by demolishing a building. This is why it is utterly ridiculous to fear ghosts in the forests. What is there to haunt? Trees? Moose? Mud? What nonsense. Humans are the haunted animal. Humans live in houses, apartments, castles, and the cities of their dead.

—except it is unclear that general perceptions of diverse death cults are so problematic insofar as it’s one thing for families to get together and marry a dead daughter to a dead son, as such, but quite another to go stealing corpses in order to facilitate the custom.

Which, in turn, raises a perverse question about human rights after death.

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Mudede, Charles. “11 People Arrested for Supplying Dead Unmarried Men with Dead Brides”. Slog. 31 October 2014.