Portraits of Death by Iris Compriet
Portraits of Death by Iris Compriet

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 the Death Industry recently.

Stouffer’s Debuts  Frozen Meals To Bring Neighbors After Death In Family (via The Onion)
When Your Loved One’s Last Wish Was ‘No Funeral’ via Modern Loss
I Got Drunk With The Funeral Industry To Find Out What Happens When We Die via Buzzfeed
6 Reasons Why We Don’t Talk About Death via legacy.com
(What to wear) Upon Greeting Death via me
Dead beautiful: Cult cosmetics to glam up the afterlife via The Daily Mail
Portraits of Death:  a unique glimpse in the life of Death via Iris Compriet
If These Bones Could Talk: The Stories Human Skeletons Can Tell via NPR
Inside Out Offers Important Lessons for Grieving Children and Adults via What’s Your Grief
Why dying at home is not all it’s cracked up to be via The Caregiver Space
Six Final Resting Places for Your Loved Ones’ Ashes via Dirge Mag

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15 Sep
2015

hushed & dim

categories: music

hushed & dim from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

A new 8tracks mix : hushed & dim by ghoulnextdoor.
image: LI HUI

I can’t deal with a great deal of noise early in the morning. No talk radio, no teevee, nothing discordant or jarring as I ease my way quietly into the day. Here is a hushed, gentle playlist for earliest morning shadows.

Track list: The Words Under The Wood, Orla Wren | Tears of Unicorn, Masayoshi Fujita | Du er mit lys, Autumna | Nest Of Autumn (Featuring Sophie Hutchings), Hior Chronik | Only In The Dark, Ben Lukas Boysen | Hvönn, Veroníque Vaka  | Tell Me Your Secret, Fellirium  |  harbor​:​hums, Twincities  | our bodies draped in moss and cloud, Sublamp  | Kompleta, Stefan Wesołowski |  Matilda (album version), Oskar Schuster | Bring the Light,  Abby Gundersen

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I received two Stitch Fix boxes in August…I’m not quite sure how that happened.  Probably something in my settings that I should correct.  I really don’t need this many clothes. I am seriously all stocked up.  And more importantly than that, in talking with my therapist yesterday, we have come to the conclusion that I might be developing a bit of an internet spending addiction (more on that some other time) and I really need to be more mindful of these things.  But that’s depressing, and I don’t want to talk about that right at this moment. Instead: clothes!  This post will be fairly image heavy and light on the wordiness, by the way.  I’m feeling lazy.

stylecards

FIX 9 -Early August

Fix #9 had some interesting and unexpected pieces – definitely things that I would never have chosen for myself, and strangely enough, it was one of the oddest things in the bunch that I loved the most.

First up, the Pixley Penni V-Neck top, size L. I had pinned this; I sort of dig the funky print. Really soft. Slightly tight across the hips. I’ll deal with it. KEPTPIXLEYPENNI

 

The Amour Vert Alesandro V-neck blouse. $118. And silk. For someone who barely leaves the house, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Though I strangely don’t hate the hearts. RETURNED.AmourVert

 

The Pixley Polly tie waist tunic. I love the idea of tunics, but the reality is that they don’t do much for my shape. RETURNED.PIXLEYPOLLY

 

The RD Style Carlotta mixed material knit top was super cute, but unfortunately too tight on me to be flattering. RETURNED.Carlotta

 

The Staccato Amaryllis poncho was the surprise sleeper hit of the box. I was sure I was going to hate it. And I pretty much did until I put it on. Now I inexplicably love it. My fella said it looked kind of awesome. I feel like I should be waving smudge sticks around or teaching a pottery class. I’m cool with that. KEPT.Staccato

 

FIX 10 – late August

This one had some nice pieces in it too, and an awesome note from my stylist.

The Pixley Greenwich striped top with elbow patches, which is was soft and comfortable and the elbow patches are kind of fun… But I already have several striped tops, so I don’t think I need another. But I kept it anyway and did a huge closet purge after.  Turns out all of my other striped tops were a million years old, some of them even had holes in them.  Jeez. KEPT.PIXLEYGREENWICH

 

The Renèe C maxiskirt, which is indeed very colorful as per my stylist’s commentary. It’s not that I think I’ll never wear it, I am actually trying to work some color into my wardrobe. Just…not those colors. Also,  I just don’t think I actually have anything to wear with it. Also, I am good at buying maxi skirts on my own. RETURNED Maxifull

 

The Le Lis Maude Floral dress. This is really lovely, it truly is. Unfortunately my bum always hikes up my skirts by a few inches, so this feels too short. Worn with a random scarf over my shoulders, because I don’t really do sleeveless. RETURNED.MAUDEfull

 

The Skies Are Blue Suzanne A-line dress. I really love this, it’s so soft and the print is quasi floral/botanical something or other and it’s really quite perfect. If I am being honest, I think I like this so much because the pattern reminds me of a china plate. Worn with The Renèe C space dyed cardi from a previous fix because again, I don’t do sleeveless. I don’t know that it is actually the most flattering thing in the world, but it could be the angle, or the cardigan. Or maybe just my lumpy bod. That’s okay, I still kept it. KEPT.Suzanne

 

And look at this amazing frock! The Everly Peter dress vaguely reminds me of something from the 1990s. I didn’t have a pair of stompy Doc Martens to wear with it, so I paired it with leggings and some Frye boots. Probably…not how I would normally wear this.  Also, I imagine it needs a belt or something to define my waist a little bit. Why do I always love the things that make me look like I am wearing a sack?  Ah, well. KEPT.

PETER
Interested in seeing my previous Fixes?
{Fix 1  |  Fix 2  |  Fix 3  |  Fix 4  |  Fix 5 & 6  |  Fix 8 }

Interested in your own?  Please use my referral code!

 

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4250954

 

DEATH CAFE ORLANDO

Greetings! Please join us at Orlando’s 3rd Death Cafe on Saturday November 7th, 2PM for an open group discussion on all things death related. This event will be held at a private location (Orlando area) and will be RSVP only. The address and directions will be shared with the attendees closer to the event.
While death is inevitable, discussions about it are often taboo in American culture. We intend to open up the conversation on death in a respectful and friendly atmosphere where people can express their views about death & dying and share engaging, thought provoking and life affirming conversation. Bring your questions and stories, your curiosity and experiences, but most of all – an open mind …and an appetite for cake and delicious treats!

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4 Sep
2015

fripperies

 

Folks who have been following my tumblr for awhile probably remember my Friday Fripperies – a slew of posts every Friday featuring gorgeous (and usually pretty spendy) needful things.  This was actually a carry-over from my LiveJournal days, believe it or not!

I was never really happy with that format…I didn’t really like the items spread out over 8-10 posts throughout the day. And eventually, due to life things and busy-ness, I stopped with the fripperies posts altogether – although, believe you me, I never ceased mentally collecting the beautiful things!

In an effort to continue with the tradition of Friday Fripperies, I have moved them over to a blog format, and I think we’ll be very happy here!  See below for item details and links to the frips that I am currently swooning over.

1. Muchacha octopus moccasins from zozo.jp // 2. Niello moon and stars bracelet // 3. Waxed canvas tote from Peg & Awl // 4. Lonely high-waisted brief and long-line bra // 5. Rituel de Fille’s Night Visions collection

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00-Richard-Avedon-Nadja-Auermann-Mr-mrs-comfort24

Greet death
with your hands in your pockets,
slouched back, cool,
collected, and confident.
Wear a hint of a grin
and a dash of cologne.
Say What took you so long?
Say You’re behind the times, man.
Say Dead is the new black.
Coffin is the new condo.
Pallor is the new tan.
La vida muerta.

-“How To Greet Death“, Gabriel Gadfly (excerpt)

In Gabriel Gadfly’s How To Greet Death (one of my very favorite poems), it is suggested that in the event that you should meet your maker, wear a hint of a grin and a dash of cologne; another stanza adds in a pair of your father’s cufflinks and your mother’s wedding band.

Not bad, but I think we can do better.

Getting outfitted for the last moments of one’s life is an intensely personal business, but I think that to begin and end with every mother’s insistence of a clean pair of underwear is doing yourself a great disservice and perhaps selling yourself a bit short. If you’re indeed rendezvousing with the Grim Reaper, leave a lasting last impression as make your exodus!  Of course, do include the clean underwear, as well.

See below for a handful of ensembles to leave Death gasping and goggle-eyed as you shuffle (or skip, or meander, or leap, or whatever your manner of leave-taking may be) off this mortal coil. [EDIT: individual item information is unfortunately no longer available for any of these sets.]

 

 

 

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So, here’s my weird face wearing a few of my favorite new lipstick colors lately.  It’s taken me awhile to embrace color on my lips. Hell, it’s take me awhile to embrace my own face, let alone any sort of makeup on it. A long time ago, a jilted lover said some awfully cruel things to me, remarking, upon other things, my “fucked up mongoloid face”.  I guess it’s kind of weird looking for sure, but I don’t know that kind of language was called for.

For the longest time I shied away from lipsticks. I have crooked teeth, and a crooked smile and I don’t really like to draw attention to it. I feel my attitude has slowly been changing over the last year or two, and I don’t know exactly what to attribute this too, other than I am growing older and I am figuring what the hell, it’s the face I was stuck with, so I may as well have some fun with it.

Plus, as I may have mentioned before, I have a nervous habit of biting my lips.  Not dainty nibbles, mind you, but the sort of worried gnawing that results in ragged tears. So more often than not, I end up eating all of my lip product.  Gross.  I’ve been working on this though, and I think I am starting to have it under control.

In no particular order, here are three of my current favorites:

Kat Von D liquid lipstick in Vampira Oh my god. This red. Even the most rhodophobic amongst us (me) must acknowledge the rubeus glory of Vampira. I have never seen a more gorgeous red lipstick in my life. As far as the formula, I really love liquid lipsticks; sure, they go on slightly gloppy but they dry quickly, and matte, and they tend to stay put all day long. Or, in theory they do.  Out of the liquid lipsticks I have tried, this one has the least stay-puttage.

LA Splash Lip Couture in OG Ghoulish. I have heard this described as a “slightly pinkish ashy neutral”. Uh…I don’t know about that.  I would say it is more a “definitely grey-blue, necrotic neutral”. Very drowning victim-esque; “my lips but deader”, as EauMG might say. When I first saw this in the tube I thought it would be too similar to Limecrime Velveteen in Cashmere, but nope. I wear Cashmere quite frequently and it’s actually my favorite of all that I’ve listed here, but I just didn’t have a photo of me in it that didn’t look kind of deranged.  Cashmere is more beige, and probably a bit more wearable.  As far as formula is concerned, there is something about the LA Splash liquid lipstick that feels a little glunky.  Cashmere, though, is practically perfect.  Not glunky, stays put all day (you really have to scrub it off at night) and you barely notice you are wearing it.  My one complaint is the sickly sweet cake batter smell that all of the Limecrime Velveteens seems to have, but it fades quickly once it is dry.

Colourpop Cosmetics Lippie Stix in Feminist is a dark purple…almost black…but it ends up more like a blackberry on me, or maybe a plum… or perhaps eggplant if I were really heavy handed with it. The formula is smooth and creamy, and not at all drying.  They sell a matching lip pencil with they highly recommend pairing with it. Which I did.  And I think I might recommend it, as well.

A bonus mention goes to Teez Cosmetics Read My Lips Lipstick in Killing Me Softly, a fun, matte coral which I unexpectedly fell in love with. It’s a silly color; I feel like it’s something Minnie Castavet might have worn. Makes me want to don a tropical muumuu and gather up some cronies for a game of canasta.

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31 Aug
2015

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image (3)
Vögguvísa, a commissioned work of art by Becky Munich

Many years ago, when my sister and I were very young, my mother would sing us bedtime songs as she tucked us in for the evening.  Well, my sister really.  The little lullabye wasn’t for meant me, but I listened from the twin bed on my side of the room and was comforted by it anyway.

As my younger sibling lay sleepily, clutching a faded pink crocheted afghan in one small hand and a red wooden rooster named “Wolf” in the other, my mother crooned to her in soft, low tones:

“Well, a-hee hee hee and a-ha ha ha, and a couple of ho ho hos…”

Not much of a lullaby really.  Who knows what it meant? Harmless nonsense that she made up to send a fussy child off to dreams, most likely.

Older now, and having a lifetime of observing my mother (and yet still not really knowing the woman at all), I found myself growing vaguely uneasy the other evening, wondering what exactly she might have been thinking about as a young single mother  – and a very troubled woman -singing her children to sleep on a moonless night in the suburbs.

This came about, I suppose, due to some late night reading of an article about the somewhat horrifying nature of Icelandic lullabies.

Bíum, bíum, bambaló, Bambaló og dillidillidó. Vini mínum vagga ég í ró, en úti bídur andlit á glugga.

“Beeum, beeum, bambalow, Bambalow and dillidillidow. I rock my friend to sleep, but outside there’s a face in the window.”


From faces looming at windows, to desperate outlaw women throwing their babies into the waterfulls, to black black-eyed pigs in the pits hell*, it would seem that, paradoxically, Icelandic lullabies are the stuff of nightmares, tragic and terrible. Why is that? Why sing of such things to your precious wee ones?  And are Icelanders alone in their penchant for soothing their children to sleep with melancholy melodies of murder, mayhem, and madness?

In researching lullabies in different parts of the world, I unearthed an intensely interesting article from 2013, Why Are So Many Lullabies Murder Ballads? in which ethnomusicologist and UCLA lecturer Andrew Pettit, whose research has focused on lullabies from India, asserts that “you can take any song, slow it down and sing it to your kid to help them sleep.”

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in April 2013 found that live lullabies slowed infant heart rate, improved sucking behaviors that are critical for feeding, increased periods of “quiet alertness” and helped the babies sleep. Researchers followed 272 premature infants in 11 hospitals and found that the music, provided by a certified music therapist, offered stress relief for the parents too. The study concluded that “lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.”

As an explanation for the dark lullaby, it is said that “…it is that voice and the rhythm and melody of the music that the youngest babies respond to, not the content of the song. Is it the case then, that the words are as much for the parent as for the child? That the mother is singing as much to herself as to the baby? Lyrics to lullabies, Pettit said, can indeed be interpreted as a reflection of the caregiver’s emotions.”

“People have said that lullabies are the space to sing the unsung,” Pettit said. “A place to say the unsayable. You’re alone. Nobody is listening, and you can express the feelings that are not okay to express in society.”

“There is a special physical bond between mother and child in the first year of life, in which mothers feel they can sing to their child about their own fears and anxieties, but in the safety and comfort of physical togetherness,” Blythe said.

In particular, lullabies embody a mother’s fear of loss, said Joanne Loewy, lead author of the April 2013 study in Pediatrics and director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital in New York.

The article goes on and on, citing many examples from cultures all over the world in which lullabies and cradle songs are grim, macabre affairs: “…an Italian lullaby about a wolf devouring a lamb until “the skin and horns and nothing else remain.” An Andalusian lullaby about a rider who “led his horse to water but would not let him drink.” And a Turkish lullaby about a mother mourning her baby after an eagle has torn it to pieces, karmic punishment when the father fails to fulfill his vow of sacrificing three camels.” (And it would seem in the time I started writing this blog post, mentalfloss has put together a list of creepy lullabies from all over the world, as well.)

And of course here in America “…there’s “Hush Little Baby” with its broken mirrors, fallen horses and mockingbirds that won’t sing. “Rock-a-Bye Baby” ends with an uncertain prognosis — death? injury? — after a cradle containing a baby plummets from a treetop.”

Themes of separation, isolation, of fear and loss are common to all cultures and repeatedly show up in these cradle songs, and even the comments on this article offer some interesting insights:

“It seems to me people are thinking of this outside of the context. The child is warm, safe, in bed, attended by parents. The song, the lullaby, is clearly about a different child, a child that is outside of hearth and home, a child that is untended, alone – “in the tree tops”. The child is comforted in contrast to the child in the song, at the same time social values are reinforced.”

OR

“…Or it could be that being sole (or almost sole) caretaker of an infant is a very demanding job, however rewarding. For those first couple of years, you’re exhausted beyond belief, you lose nearly all privacy, your life disappears as you become the watchful eyes, ears, and lifeline of your small charge. You cannot express any sorrow or fear you have about losing yourself openly, and you surely cannot take it out on that little one whom you truly do love more than you love yourself. And so you sing words you would never say and don’t really mean, but it’s a safety valve of sorts.”

SO interesting!  I could read about this sort of thing all day…and I don’t even have children.

In Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear By Marina Warner, the author mentions studies regarding benefits of cradling a baby on the left side versus the right, with left-side cradling attributed to the placement of the heart, beating and pulsing rhythmically, lullaby-like, to pacify the infant. However, observations have shown that the preferred sound of both the fetus and the infant is the mother’s voice, not the heartbeat at all.The hypothesis takes as it’s premise the bilateral division of function in the brain where language, expression and communication are concerned: a baby’s brain, as it grows, learns to read facial expressions and to understand pitch and tonality with the right side of the brain, which is connected to the left ear and eye; by contrast, verbalization is linked to the left hemisphere and the right ear and eye. Consequently, this line of inquiry proposes that a baby cradled on the left, with the left ear and eye free will be “…absorbing facial and vocal expressiveness, independent of verbal meaning.

Warner cites a “strikingly harsh” example from an old Icelandic song “Móðir mín, í kví, kví”, which may clinch the argument about the phonetic importance of lullabies and nonsense songs and nursery rhymes:

The story goes thusly…

A young woman who lived on a farm became pregnant. After giving birth to the child she set it out to die of exposure, not an uncommon act in this country before it became punishable by severe penalties. Now one day it happened that the young woman was invited to a dancing party. However, she had no good clothes, so she stayed at home in a sour mood. That evening, while milking the ewes in the fold, she complained aloud that for the want of a proper dress she could not go to the party. She had scarcely spoken when she heard the following song:

Móðir mín í kví, kví,

kvíddu ekki því, því;
ég skal ljá þér duluna mína
duluna mína að dansa í,
ég skal ljá þér duluna mína
duluna mína að dansa í.

(English) Mother mine, in the fold, fold

You need not be so sad, sad.
You can wear my castoff rags,
So you can dance,
And dance.

The young woman who had let her child die of exposure thought that she recognized its voice. She took such a fright that she lost her mind and remained insane the rest of her life.

According to Warner, it may be that passing on of distinctive sounds, singing on behalf of another, ascribing speech and babble to the infant and for the infant, transmitting cadence and language, telling the child of imaginary fates it has avoided, or sometimes of fortunes lying ahead…are some of the earliest formulators of omniscient thought near a child forming that child’s fears and longings on it’s behalf.

As for myself, who knows what fears or longings my own mother had when we were too young to know or recognize such concerns. She is no longer with us, and the opportunity to ask her these things has passed me by.  If nothing else, listening to her sing to us – whether to sleep in the evenings, or while washing our hair over an old sink in our dark basement – taught me a deep love of singing, and song, and music itself.

I wish…I wish we could have learned some of these strange, foreign lullabies together.  I think she would have appreciated the sad melodies, the grim stories, and the haunting imagery they conjure.  Maybe I’ll learn them anyway. I don’t have any children, but perhaps one day I shall sing them to my mother, a ghost who never really grew up, though she did eventually grow old and left this world in some measurement of time passed that simultaneously feels like last week and a decade ago.   I think she would love this one as much as I do.

Sofðu unga ástin mín.
Úti regnið grætur.
Mamma geymir gullin þín,
gamla leggi og völuskrín.
Við skulum ekki vaka um dimmar nætur.
Það er margt sem myrkrið veit,
minn er hugur þungur.
Oft ég svarta sandinn leit
svíða grænan engireit.
Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur.
Sofðu lengi, sofðu rótt,
seint mun best að vakna.
Mæðan kenna mun þér fljótt,
meðan hallar degi skjótt,
að mennirnir elska, missa, gráta og sakna.

Sleep, my young love.
Outside the rain is weeping.
Mummy is watching over your treasure,
an old bone and a round case.
We should not stay awake through dim nights.
There is much that darkness knows,
my mind is heavy.
Often I saw black sand
burning the green meadow.
In the glacier cracks are rumbling deep as death.
Sleep for a long time, sleep quietly,
it is best to wake up late.
Sorrow will teach you soon,
while the day is quickly decaying,
that men love, lose, cry and mourn.

Here is Damien Rice singing a not very traditional version of it, I reckon.

And lastly, I’d like to share some music from a group of young Icelandic musicians whom I stumbled across several years ago, Samaris. The first song I ever heard by them, Vögguljóð, translates as lullaby, and that is their general sounds as well: ethereal, clarinet-led electronica, conjuring images of cold nights, snow-dusted firs, blinking stars and aurora, enchanted liminal spaces. The first video is the original version of the song, and the second, I believe is the re-worked version for their album.

* RE: black eyed pigs and such:  when originally reading the article that sparked my interest in this, I was particularly intrigued by the mention of this portion of a lullaby:

Sofðu nú svínið þitt,
svartur í augum.
Farðu í fúlan pytt,
fullan af draugum

Which translates to

Sleep, you black-eyed pig.
Fall into a deep pit of ghosts.

The more I read, the less I am convinced that this is an actual traditional lullaby. In some places, it is noted as a 19th-century lullaby translated by W.H. Auden, and in others, I gather it is somehow attributed to Halldór Laxness, a beloved Icelandic author and poet. A mystery!

 

 

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