Archive of ‘ars moriendi’ category

Links Of The Dead {October 2018}

artist: Billelis

artist: Billelis

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {October 2017} | {October 2016}

💀 Miyu Kojima Creates Miniature Replicas of Lonely Deaths
💀 Why I read books about death and you should too
💀 ‘It’s a day you can’t do again’ — meet the funeral stylists
💀 A 16th-Century Manual on How to Die, and What it Teaches Us About Life
💀 Arrangements, or, the visual tendencies that occur on the periphery of funerals
💀 Death around the world in ten objects
💀 The Cucumber Horses and Eggplant Cows That Welcome Back the Dead
💀 Skeletons must not be sold as Hallowe’en props, doctors warned
💀 How death disappeared from Halloween

Links Of The Dead {September 2018}

26bones13-superJumbo

image: Felipe Ribon / Musée des Arts Décoratifs

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {September 2017} | {September 2016}

💀 I will be plastinated when I die
💀 Do Animals Experience Grief?
💀 A Baroness, Her Skulls and a Macabre Exhibition
💀 Talking Out Loud To A Dead Loved One Is Actually Good For You
💀 A dying woman calls emergency services, is callously told ‘everyone’ dies
💀 Care And Feeding Of Your Grieving Person
💀 How to Talk to a Grieving Customer
💀 Sarah Chavez On Death Positivity, Grief, & Intersectional Feminism
💀 Morbid Anatomy will explore mortality with Green-Wood Cemetery exhibition
💀 “My father is dying, and suddenly a show I never cared about has become vital”: This Is Us Is My Grief Counselor

Links Of The Dead {August 2018}

Herbarium II By Igor Baranov

Herbarium II By Igor Baranov

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {August 2017} | {August 2016}

💀 Science Friday: Tech Changes The Face Of Death
💀 Death in the Afternoon – A podcast about all things mortal
💀 How This Doctor Is Bringing Human Connection Back to End-of-Life Care
💀 Germany returns skulls of Namibian genocide victims
💀 Emmett Till Was Killed 63 Years Ago. These Black Boys Feel His Legacy Every Day
💀 Writing Your Own Eulogy: The grandest form of working backward
💀 Nothingness, Acceptance, Resurrection: Creating a Second Life
💀 Why Do We Give Our Pets Death With Dignity but Not Ourselves?
💀 How To Care For Your Grieving Friend
💀 Scented Prayers: Copal & the Day of the Dead
💀 7 Human Body Parts That Were Once Used as Medicine
💀 Mourning And Instagramming The Death Of A Pet
💀 This month The Grave Girl talks buying funeral antiques and visiting Seneca Cemetery
💀 Aretha’s last ride: The vintage hearse that carried Rosa Parks will now bear the Queen of Soul

Links Of The Dead {July 2018}

Skull Collection I by Dimitri Tsykalov

Skull Collection I by Dimitri Tsykalov

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {July 2017} | {July 2016}

💀 Megan Devine Shares Thoughftful Insights On How To Help A Grieving Friend

💀 Funeral ads banned by Transport For London over ‘widespread offence’

💀 191 Years After His Death, the Poet William Blake Is Getting a New Tombstone

💀 The crime scene investigator’s ‘murder bag’ was created because of this horrific murder

💀 Dead gorgeous: ancient sarcophagus held mirror, cosmetics

💀 The Mystery of End-of-Life Rallies

💀 Putting death on the school timetable

💀 A Dreamer’s impossible dilemma: where to die?

💀 The Horse Skulls Hidden in the Dance Floors of Ireland

💀 The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies

💀 Flowers for the Early Medieval Dead

💀 What the Provincetown AIDS Memorial Leaves Out

💀 Natural Burials Are Rising And That’s Good For The Planet

Links Of The Dead {May 2018}

Hidden Velvet

Featured artwork: Hidden Velvet

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {May 2017} | {May 2016}

💀 What is death? Defining it is more complicated than you think, via mental floss
💀 Being A Marine Taught Me How To Kill But Not How To Handle Death, via lithub
💀 In Japan, a Buddhist Funeral Service for Robot Dogs, via national geographic
💀 Why Beans Were An Ancient Emblem Of Death, via atlas obscura
💀 Playing with death – how the ‘Goodbye-box’ helps children grieve, via death and the maiden
💀 Plan Your Dream Funeral, Ladies! via gemma correll
💀 I’m Getting Married And I Can’t Stop Thinking About Death, via luna luna magazine
💀 Netflix’s ‘End Game’ faces death head-on—and it’s not an easy watch, via the daily dot
💀 Courtney Lane Of Never Forgotten on harnessing the sentiment of hair, via haute macabre
💀 Rebecca Reeves’ Garden Of Grief, via the creeping museum

Links Of The Dead {March 2018}

Rebecca Reeves, Gone

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {March 2017} | {March 2016} | {March 2014}

💀 The London Necropolis Railway
💀 The Grave Girl on the legacy of traumatic experiences
💀 Thinking About Having a ‘Green’ Funeral? Here’s What to Know
💀 Wearing My Dying Mother’s Clothes
💀 Stuffed in a Bell Jar: A Taxidermy Piece
💀 How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death.
💀 Collector, Protector & Keeper: The Art Of Rebecca Reeves
💀 Grieving family reclaims old ways, brings son’s body home to say good-bye
💀 Sex and death in the classical world
💀 The Mysterious Seashell Graves of Comfort Cemetery
💀 My first date was at a wake, on an island off the west coast
💀 Man Says He’s Not Dead. Court Doesn’t Buy It
💀 From Yoga to Movie Nights: How Cemeteries Are Trying to Attract the Living
💀 These Women Make A Living By Singing at People’s Funerals
💀 Saving Face: Death, Necropolitics and the Hiroshima Maidens
💀 Bodies ‘Eat Themselves’ While Researchers Watch and Learn
💀 Claudia Crobatia on morbid fascinations and becoming comfortable with death through engaging with different aspects of it

{Guest Post} Stuffed in a Bell Jar: A Taxidermy Piece

Abe

“Liz T is a seaside kitchen witch who lives with her husband and his weird dog in New Jersey. A paradox of a woman, she reads the classics and poetry while guiltlessly enjoying reality TV garbage. Find her on instagram as @divebardame.

It was one of those things that you couldn’t help but keep staring at. Curiosity driven by fascination and a bit of fear.

It was the bear skin rug that sat on top of the refrigerator in my Nan and Pop’s basement in North Philadelphia. A black bear Pop had killed on a hunting trip, folded so only the head was visible, peering over whomever was grabbing a Coors Light from the fridge. The bear’s mouth drawn wide open, showing all of his teeth. A pink rubber tongue forever shaped into a soft wave. Glass eyes staring out. The eyes were probably the most unrealistic thing about the bear. If there’s one thing I have learned while dabbling in taxidermy, it is that the eyes are the key to imitating life.

I used to pet the black bear, pat him on the head. And sometimes, pinch his teeth. After Pop had passed and the neighborhood turned, we had to move Nan out of her home and into a smaller apartment in Northeast Philly. The bear lived with us for a while, folded on top of our refrigerator in our garage. I’m not sure why this bear always ended up on top of a fridge, but who were we to question tradition? He now resides with my Uncle who has the bear and other bucks mounts on his wall. Nan and Pop are gone, but that bear is still around.

Another distance family member, my aunt-by-marriage’s-brother’s -wife, (if you’re Italian, you know this just means ‘aunt’) had a massive collection of insects. Vibrant butterflies, glossy green beetles, jet black scorpions- all framed and labeled around their home. Again, this experience occurred as a child, so in reality she may have had about a dozen frames of bugs. But I still like to believe my child’s memory of there being hundreds. I loved staring at them, but even more so, I wanted to touch them. I had never seen butterflies so big and blue growing up in Pennsylvania. And even if I did, I would never be able to catch those agile things. But now here they were, right in front of me. So close and delicate, with only a pane of glass between us.

On a trip to Chicago, my partner and I visited a friend who took us to the Field Museum. Not only does the museum have Sue the T. Rex, the largest and most complete dinosaur ever discovered (kudos to Sue for living large and staying organized) but they also have hall after hall of preserved animal specimens, some over 100 years old. Some are beautifully displayed in glass cases. Others are shown in a scene reflecting their environment in the wild, like the notorious man-eating lions or a grizzly bear standing upon rocky terrain. If you have ever wanted to feel like a tiny, feeble speck, go stand by that grizzly. You could easily spend an entire weekend looking at every specimen just once- that’s how big this place is.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

A derpy breed of antelope at the Chicago Field Museum. Photo by my friend, Jon.

So after all of this time and admiration, I finally started a collection of my own. We have a pheasant hanging in our garage which was left by the sellers- so thanks! I also have a gorgeous black tarantula gifted to me by my very best friend. We named him Abe as she purchased him in Lincoln, Nebraska. His abdomen broke off and got kinda stuck between the sealed glass by his head, but I guess that’s part of his charm. The real Abe didn’t make it out completely unscathed either.

The next piece I want to add to my collection are these gorgeously obscure little mice dioramas made by Brooklyn Taxidermy. I first came across these little delights at a punk rock flea market in Asbury Park, NJ a few years back. The company is run by Amber Maykut, a skillfully talented taxidermist and entomologist who has worked for several museums around the country, restoring and creating gorgeous pieces. The ethically sourced mouse/mice pieces are too precious. They’re exactly the storybook imagery we grew up with- little mice in their own community, maybe living inside an old grandfather clock or a hollowed out stump in the woods. Some mice are displayed enjoying a thimble sized cup of coffee, others are calling on the cards, ready to read your fortune.

If you’re reading this and are thinking “hmm, I wouldn’t mind trying to make one of these babies myself,” you’re in luck! Brooklyn Taxidermy offers classes. Whether you’re looking for classic taxidermy pieces, quirky mice, or the more creative, crypto-zoology inspired pieces such as the jackalope, Brooklyn Taxidermy is definitely worth a gander.

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

Taxidermy Jackalope courtesy of Brooklyn Taxidermy Etsy

So is taxidermy odd and strange, even slightly depressing? I suppose so. It is, at its root, dead things. This once stunning, grandiose creature is now dead, gone. And that’s how we get to ENJOY the thing? Once it has passed and everything that makes a butterfly a butterfly, a bear a bear, a fox a fox- is now gone? I understand all of this- yes. But taxidermy extends beyond that. It creates eternal life only in death, through death. It offers accessibility: taking something so beautiful and striking, something that you could never get to see up close in person, and placing it right in front of you, larger than life. Even if it is only the shell. Which is also the part that is so quickly whisked away once death takes it. The shell is what is burned or boxed up and buried because it is “tainted” with death. Taxidermy says, “No, no. Not just yet.” and makes it possible for that magnificent something to stick around for a little while longer.

Instead of that old bear inciting an interest in hunting, I’ve grown to have an interest in collecting dead things. Not through channels of killing, for, as I’ve mentioned, the whole hunting thing has never sat well with me. And I absolutely do not support big game hunting. I believe any taxidermy that is acquired in present times should be obtained through ethical channels, once it has died on it’s own accord. That’s what I find most fascinating about taxidermy. It keeps around for us the semblance and structure of what something was, long after the spirit of what it was has dissipated.

If nothing else, it will make a great conversation starter for your next cocktail party.

Thank you, Liz! Do you have a weird or strange interest or passion or obsession that you would like to share with the readers of Unquiet Things? Are you interested in writing up a guest post about it? Please let me know! I will pay you with a knitted good for your time!

Previous Guest Posts:

Planners: Rituals Of Comfort, Agents Of Change
Ten Gems Of Decadent Cinema

Links Of The Dead {February 2018}

Clare Toms Chasing Light, Seeking Light

Clare Toms “Chasing Light, Seeking Light”.
This print is part of an 8 print set sold at Static Medium to benefit those
who lost their homes in the September 2107 earthquake that ravaged Mexico.

 

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {February 2017} | {February 2016}

💀 China cracks down on funeral strippers hired to entertain mourners, attract larger crowds
💀 How death became an industry – dominated by men
💀 15 Death Positive Artists You Should Know
💀 Exploring Death Through Occultism And Art
💀 ‘Death: A Graveside Companion’ offers an outlet for your morbid curiosity
💀 When Women Channeled The Dead To Be Heard
💀 How to Preserve Your Family Memories, Letters and Trinkets
💀 Talk to Your Doctor About Your Bucket List
💀 Learning About Indonesian Ghost Culture After My Aunt’s Death

The New Faces Of Death: Interview with Megan Rosenbloom

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

(The New Faces of Death is a series I originally wrote, beginning in 2015, and which was published at Dirge. The site is no longer active or updating.)

The New Faces Of Death is a series of profiles and interviews in which we celebrate five influential women passionately involved in the Death Positivity / Death Acceptance movement. Women who seek, in different ways, to educate our repressed society regarding the various facets of death and how to cultivate a relationship with death that is liberating, humanizing – and ultimately – life-enhancing. From mourning and memory to pathology and the intricacies of the human body, from the meaning of a “good death” to The Order of the Good Death, and The Death Salon: we invite you to read further, learn much, and meet the new faces of Death.

Our first installment highlighted Sarah Troop, Executive Director of The Order of the Good Death and Social Media Editor for Death Salon, as well as, blogger, writer, at Nourishing Death and Death and the Maiden.

Next we spoke with Bess Lovejoy, a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of the bestselling Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, and is a member of The Order of the Good Death and a founding member of Death Salon.

We then focused our attention on Amber Carvaly, a California native,  and mortician and Service Director at Undertaking LA. Along with owner Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your EyesAsk A Mortician), they aim to raise awareness that families are empowered, both legally and logistically, to be involved in the care of their own dead.

Today the spotlight is on Megan Rosenbloom, the Associate Director for Collection Resources at the Norris Medical Library of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is also the director of Death Salon, and, at the time of this writing,  the resident death expert on Vice’s Entitlement podcast.

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

How did you become interested in death and how did that lead to your current role in the death industry, or as a death positive activist?

Megan Rosenbloom: I got interested in death through my interest in the history of medicine. As a medical librarian at USC, I started doing work with our rare medical books and lectures on topics like the history of sourcing bodies for anatomical learning. Thinking about the way corpses have been used for medical education got me thinking a lot about death in general  and death’s relationship with medicine. It seems to me that for a long time in history, death was the very likely result of medical interventions. Death was the end of medicine. Now death is seen as the failure of medicine, and that strikes me as a really unhealthy way to look at things. It was around this time that I met mortician Caitlin Doughty, we started Death Salon, and the rest was history…

What drew you to your particular profession?

I felt like after deciding to leave broadcast journalism that librarianship was a good fit for me because it had very similar skills and mentalities – the jack-of-all-trades kind of mindset, the ability to dig into a topic and learn about it quickly and share information with others who need it, and the desire to learn something new everyday. I didn’t plan on working in medical librarianship from the outset, but I ended up getting a medical library job because I was working in medical publishing while I was in school, and now I’m so glad I went into medical librarianship as it’s incredibly rewarding in ways I wouldn’t have imagined.

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

What do you want people to take away from the work that you do?

I hope that I can help medical students see the importance of honoring their own humanity and the humanity of their patients, even when their patients are cadavers. I hope I can help mold future physicians to have a healthier relationship with death and to be able to more humanely help their patients through the end of their lives. Specific to Death Salon, I hope to expose people to ideas that will help them make more informed decisions and bring together different thinkers and makers so they can collaborate and create.

What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve run into about your job and to a larger extent, the death industry in general? What do you do to disabuse people of those notions – or not?

The main misconceptions about librarians in general is that they read books all day, that they don’t need advanced degrees, and that the Internet threatens our existence. In reality I sometimes WISH I could read books all day, you need a master’s degree to be a librarian, and librarians are even more useful and important in the Internet age than we were before, because there is so much more information to wade through before you can get to what you need.

In terms of Death Salon, I guess some people–especially in the beginning–thought we’re just a bunch of goth chicks who are too young to know anything about death, which is incredibly presumptuous about our life experiences and super rude. I think the people who dismiss us in this way would be very unlikely to do the same if we were an organization mostly run by men, or if we were all much older. But death is something we all benefit from interacting with regardless of our ages or backgrounds and that’s just part of what we’re proving with our Death Salon events.

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Many people find working with the dead or talking about death creepy, or macabre or morbid – how do you enroll those people into the conversation? 

I think if you’re a generally warm, approachable person and you share of yourself and listen, other people will open up, too. It is usually fairly easy to tell whether a death-related conversation is making the person uncomfortable or not. If we’re say, at a cocktail party, I might just let the conversation move along naturally to something else. However, I find that when someone finds out what I do with Death Salon, they usually have a lot of questions –so I end up talking about death at cocktail parties far more than I would expect.

Can you tell us about the death community in your area, is it welcoming and/or responsive to what you are doing?

Los Angeles has this reputation for being pink and plastic but the death community is incredibly strong here, and the people who have come to L.A.-based Death Salon events are so much more diverse than I could have ever anticipated–and I find that incredibly gratifying. I am super lucky to have such a crew of deathy writers and artists nearby, and it always seems to be growing. I really feel for the folks who have a strong interest in death and don’t know anyone else near them that feels the same way. I hope that when those people come to Death Salon, they feel welcomed into this amazing community of enthusiastic death nerds and can learn, question, and explore without feeling judgment.

What is your role, as you see it, within the Order of the Good Death, and can you tell us a little bit about what you did at this year’s Death Salon?

My main job for The Order is to run Death Salon and all that sail within her, consulting with Caitlin Dougherty and Sarah Troop for the important stuff, and handling the million little piddly things that come up along the way. Everything from as big as deciding which cities and venues and who gets to speak, to as small as managing the catering, merch, travel, and any and all logistics.

So my duties at Death Salon: Mutter Museum were pretty much everything: talking to press, wrangling our volunteers, snack mom, guest lists, putting out fires, introducing some speakers, guesting on or moderating panels, hosting Quizzo. Basically when it comes to Death Salon, you name it, my finger’s in it.

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

Photo by Elli & Polly Photography

What can we do to open up the conversation on death? To not just increase awareness of it, but to make more sense of death and dying – to allay our death anxiety.

Talk talk talk. People have to talk in order to really process. That’s why therapy exists, right? It helps to acknowledge and engage with their own thoughts and the thoughts of others – in their lives as well as from other cultures and time periods. It’s like a muscle being used: over time broaching the subject gets easier, interacting with the enormity of it gets more manageable.

How have your views on the afterlife affected your involvement in the death industry, or vice versa?

I think I have become a lot less judgmental about other people’s conceptions of an afterlife through my exposure to so many different ways of conceptualizing it. But personally, I am still of the camp that I don’t believe in an afterlife except in a vague “we are all made of star stuff” kind of way.

And lastly, what is your ideal death scenario – your dream death, a “good death” as it were?

After a long life well-lived, surrounded by friends and family with opportunities to share meaningful goodbyes, I drift peacefully away, after which either my organs will be harvested or my body will be used as a medical school cadaver. Maybe a year after my death, my remaining ashes can be scattered by loved ones in a special place that they know about but which I won’t make public for secret reasons. I would like a Little Free Library or some comparable physical legacy in my honor that people could visit and think of me, or strangers could stumble upon and wonder who I was.

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