Death

A String of Obvious Questions

Detail of framegrab from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

File under Stupid:

Green River Community College went into lockdown Monday morning after a threat was made against the school, Auburn police said.

Cmdr. Steve Stocker of the Auburn police said an unknown person made the threat to a faculty member at about 10:15 a.m., saying something to the effect that there was going to be a shooting.

(KOMO News)

Perhaps a number of factors are coincidental. We do, in our society, have a problem with misogyny that reached a dramatic height at GeekGirlCon earlier this month, when someone issued a bomb threat against the convention; apparently the mixing of females and technology is a mortal offense? And the deadly violence at Marysville-Pilchuck High School seems, ostensibly, to have been about a girl.

But we don’t really know what pushed the GRCC terror threat, and that is important to note.

Yes, we need to address misogyny, but there are also a number of other factors to consider.

The thing is that each part of the issue has a way of spilling over its banks and soaking the others. This sort of overlap causes confusion for many people; indeed, we at This Is have a good friend who is bright and rational and all of those nice things we appreciate about people, but he is by nature incapable of comprehending what guns have to do with anything.

Not that we need to campaign against guns, specifically, but it does make some sort of point to acknowledge that there are people in this world who wonder what guns have to do with mass murder by firearm. It happens. To wit, he says, “Don’t make new laws, enforce the ones we have!” But there are some laws he believes exist everywhere despite observable reality.

And, you know, it might be kind of a low blow, but he also wonders why anyone would ever prosecute someone who negligently shot his own son to death with a handgun he was prohibited by law from carrying. And while that tragedy out of Pennsylvania has seemingly little to do with what has been going on around the Seattle area of late, there is also more there than it seems.

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A Terrible Tragedy

A car is trapped underneath an overpass that collapsed while under construction in Belo Horizonte July 3, 2014. (Reuters/Ivan Alvarado)

“This is the incompetence of our authorities and our businesses. Because of the World Cup they sped everything up to finish faster. That’s why this tragedy has happened. They are not making things properly. Everyone is very angry.”

Leandro Brito

Andrew Cawthorne of Reuters brings the grim news:

An unfinished overpass collapsed in the Brazilian World Cup host city of Belo Horizonte on Thursday, killing at least one person and casting a shadow over a tournament that has suffered repeated construction accidents and delays.

The bridge, located about two miles (3 km) from the Mineirao Stadium where World Cup games are being played, collapsed as vehicles were passing on a busy road underneath.

Part of a passenger bus was crushed and another car was still trapped in the wreckage hours later.

Condolences, of course. But this tragic story will likely persist as emblematic of many Brazilians’ criticism of the effort to host the World Cup. Updates put the human toll at two dead, twenty-two injured.

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Cawthorne, Andrew. “Overpass collapses in World Cup city”. Reuters. 3 July 2014.

See also: Reuters. “Slideshow: Brazil overpass collapse”. 3 July 2014.

BBC News. “Brazil overpass collapses on bus in Belo Horizonte”. 3 July 2014.

Image credit: Detail of photograph by Ivan Alvardao (Reuters).

A Benchmark … Maybe?

The Mississippi Loser

Given the unpredictability of politics, such suggestions might seem somewhat naïve; yet one might legitimately wonder if, on the Republican side of things, you know some abstract limit has been violated when Jennifer Rubin comes out swinging:

As I’ve written previously, the far right’s reaction to Sen. Thad Cochran’s defeat of their pet tea party candidate Chris McDaniel in the Republican primary for U.S. senator from Mississippi has been unhinged and at times downright racist. Even the less hysterical voices are up in arms that Cochran’s tactics were unseemly or that the “establishment” betrayed them again.

Among the “sins” Cochran is accused of is finding African American leaders to help turn out the African American vote. (The nerve!) Unearthing egregiously offensive comments McDaniel made on his radio show (no!) and skewering McDaniel for campaign gaffes on everything from Katrina relief to support for the inane shutdown (mercy me!). The attitude that the “establishment” doesn’t have to crush the poor tea party folk every time, suggests, I guess, that there needs to be a mercy rule of the inept tea party (if they lose 10 races they get a freebie?).

I mean, really. Damn.

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Death on Existentialism

Death, existentialEvery now and then, I fall apart.

Oh, wait. Wrong song. Never mind.

Anyway, every now and then we all have our sentimental moments. Just ask Mary Death.

You know, it’s like, Really? Come on, kiddo, you’re not gloomy enough to have Death as a best friend. Try Cosmo and Wanda.

Then again, what are warm fuzzies to the Grim Reaper who is human enough to need them?

Guilty pleasure, maybe? Or is all pleasure guilty when you’re in that line of work?

A Celebration of (Mary) Death

“Does not Eternity appear dreadful to you…I often get thinking of it and it seems so dark to me that I almost wish there was no Eternity. To think that we must forever live and never cease to be. It seems as if Death which all so dread because it launches us upon an unknown world would be a relief to so endless a state of existense.”

Emily Dickinson

Tarpley detail

Tarpley detail‘Tis the season, indeed, for that sort of morbidly delicious humor, and since I need to update the links, anyway, we might as well add the one and only Mary Death, drawn by Matt Tarpley.

And, you know, it’s also a fine time to remind that any Emily Dickinson poem, through the magic of meter and the flexibility of the English language, can be sung to the melody of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

Mary Death logoWell, probably not every poem, as I know there is some debate over how many meters Dickinson actually used, but that’s a debate left for those who refuse to accept that Coleridge is simply the greatest poet in the English language. Or something like that. It is easy to ridicule Dickinson as the goth prototype, but more than any technical accomplishment, her chief merit seems to be the sort of baring of the soul that isn’t the in thing to do.

Emily DickinsonOf course, any joke can go too far, and the rule of thumb for Dickinson jokes is that you cross that boundary as soon as you try to make a Dickinson joke.

Anyway, yeah. Mary Death. Enjoy.

A Deadly Beaver

When tragedy becomes the stuff of legend:

In a rare incident, a beaver bit a man to death in Belarus as he was attempting to take the animal’s photograph.

Randy Suarez, 2010The victim was on a fishing trip with two friends when he stopped to snap a photo of a nearby beaver, according to Sky News. The beaver attacked the man, biting him on the thigh and severing an important artery, causing him to bleed to death.

The man, whose name was not given, reached medics 30 minutes after the attack, but was pronounced dead upon arrival, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing local media reports.

Sergei Shilinchuk, deputy head of the environmental protection committee for the city of Brest, told The Telegraph that he had never heard of a beaver killing a man before in the region.

“People have lost fingers – that’s the worst I’ve come across,” Shilinchuk said. “The beaver is not normally aggressive, but it does have big teeth and immensely powerful jaws; it can cut down a tree three feet wide.”

The obvious downside is that someone is dead. Beyond that, though, it’s not all bad news ….

• Lots of puns about dangerous beavers.

• The unfortunate beaver enthusiast has transcended mere humanity to become a minor legend.

• Unlike the eel dude in China, when you die in an absurdly ridiculous manner, you’re not around to hear your friends mock you at the pub.

Still, despite the great human temptation of indecency toward the dead, condolences all around. One would imagine that “death by beaver” is not nearly so funny as it is actually happening.
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Image credit: Randy Suarez, 2010.

Going Out In Style

Corpse on a MotorcycleIt is often said that funerals are for the living, so I’m not sure what to make of a story out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Morticians at the Marin Funeral Home paid homage to David Morales Colón, a twenty-two year old shooting victim, by arranging his body for display at the wake on his motorcycle.

No, really. If you don’t believe me, the story is up at Jalopnik, which pulled its coverage from the Guaynabo tabloid, Primera Hora.

Corpse on a Motorcycle, AgainBut no, I’m not sure what to think. I mean, part of me despises grandiose funerary rites as misguided therapeutic rituals for the survivors. But then, there’s also a part of me that wants to follow Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry, to be shot into space and allowed to decay from orbit. (See Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope”.) Given the extravagance, though, I think it would be much more fun for the living to shoot my remains out of a cannon. You know, just for the hell of it. Leave ’em laughing, that sort of thing.

So, yes, that part of me looks at the late Señor Colón on his motorcycle and thinks, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Ride on, zombie.”