Getting There

The Dying Art
of Passing Away

There are people who dream about impossible places they’d like to go to when they die. We too imagine someday resting in an improbable place: the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. But just so we’re clear about it, we said ‘someday,’ not now, or tomorrow, well, who knows? In any case, once we cross that threshold, we won’t give a damn.
However, even if you do, you may be still out of luck: some places have the inconvenient rule of forbidding people from dying there. Either because your wasteful body may ruin the environment, or climate won’t decompose it, or perhaps because they just don’t like you. So your choice may be as well to remain alive. Or almost, like the walking dead of Toraja. Good luck keeping your friends close, though.
As for us, we’ll never understand this drive to stay alive at all costs. Doesn’t anyone realize how everything became incredibly expensive? Besides, who wants to last longer than our loved ones? In other words, we’re fine with the expiration date that’s part of the deal of living. Oh, and we don’t need to know the day or the way either.
About those places people imagine will be throwing a red carpet, or rather, a fluffy, white-cloud rug, and a welcoming party, we’re not so sure. It’s kind of taxing to start picturing a whole new set of realities to be faced after however long we’ll spend struggling to make sense of what’s around here. Very distracting.
But so you don’t think we’re knocking anyone’s beliefs, let’s suppose that it’d all be exactly as it is in this presumable afterlife? Why would nature go to such an extent to go after each and every one of us with everything it’s got only to let it all to continue as before just under different circumstances, then what? Oh, never mind.

PLEASE DON’T DIE HERE
In Japan, there’s an island, Itsukushima, that’s considered so sacred that they don’t want no stinking likes of you there. That is, they’ll put up if you’re still talking, and especially, walking. But go drop dead somewhere else. In fact, since 1878, no one was born or has died there, and they may kill you for even trying it.
The enforcers are a group of otherwise pious priests, who spend the days in prayer at the island’s holy shrine. But all hell may break loose at even a sight of a pregnant woman, an elderly person, or someone who’s terminally ill, although it’s not clear how would they know it. It all started with the Battle of Miyajima in 1555, after which all bodies were immediately removed from the island and the spilled blood was either cleaned or disposed of. Yeah, that kind of piety has been going on for over 400 years, just so you know.
Not so strict but still a difficult place to die at is Longyearbyen in Norway. No priests are banning the dead there, though, just the weather, still cold enough to preserve bodies indefinitely. People buried a century ago look like they’ve just fallen asleep. Which, let’s face it, it’s kind of creepy. Yes, that’s changing due to the climate emergency but just in case, get the hell away from there, fast. One never knows.
Two other places prohibit people from dying there by decree. Both (more)
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Read Also:
* Dead Can Dance
* A Life, Abridged
* Ashes & Dirt

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities (Revisited)


Downtown New York
Reclaims Its Dark Glow

The glitter’s gone. The boasted safety of Alphabet City’s been taken away after sunset. And even if there’s no looting or sleazy crimes to report at this time, New York has returned to its gritty surname, if only for a, hopefully, brief time. We still remain polite, though.
Downtown has no lights, power, or hot running water right now, and even the traditional Village Halloween Parade has been canceled this year. Alas, if you’re really New Yorker, you’re used, even proud to trample tradition, and start it all over again, every once in a while.
It’s a pain, to be sure. Cold showers are no fun. Finding deli after deli surrendering to the inevitable, and closing their doors on your face is quite disheartening, if you’re a resident. And delivery from your favorite restaurant is out of question. You’re on your own, pal.
Then again, we were getting a bit too comfy with the Bloomberg world of glitzy parties, and supermodels, and unaffordable stores, so Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenient, but needed, shock to the system. And if you really remember the 1970s in the city, you’re almost dismissive.
So what? Let them enjoy Times Square, that ghastly Trump-inspired shopping mall. We’ll walk all the way there to get a decent cup of coffee, but we’re not staying. No open Duane Reade around? Good; that will teach them. Bloomingdale’s closed too? We were not planning to stop by there anytime soon, anyway.
Fine, when the wind howled and the trees began to fall, we cowered for protection just a little bit. And we looked like frightening light posts with our flashlights, wandering like the walking dead, in search for a drink Continue reading

Tale of Two Cities


Downtown New York
Reclaims Its Dark Glow

The glitter’s gone. The boasted safety of Alphabet City’s been taken away after sunset. And even if there’s no looting or sleazy crimes to report at this time, New York has returned to its gritty surname, if only for a, hopefully, brief time. We still remain polite, though.
Downtown has no lights, power, or hot running water right now, and even the traditional Village Halloween Parade has been canceled this year. Alas, if you’re really New Yorker, you’re used, even proud to trample tradition, and start it all over again, every once in a while.
It’s a pain, to be sure. Cold showers are no fun. Finding deli after deli surrendering to the inevitable, and closing their doors on your face is quite disheartening, if you’re a resident. And delivery from your favorite restaurant is out of question. You’re on your own, pal.
Then again, we were getting a bit too comfy with the Bloomberg world of glitzy parties, and supermodels, and unaffordable stores, so Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenient, but needed, shock to the system. And if you really remember the 1970s in the city, you’re almost dismissive.
So what? Let them enjoy Times Square, that ghastly Trump-inspired shopping mall. We’ll walk all the way there to get a decent cup of coffee, but we’re not staying. No open Duane Reade around? Good; that will teach them. Bloomingdale’s closed too? We were not planning to stop by there anytime soon, anyway.
Fine, when the wind howled and the trees began to fall, we cowered for protection just a little bit. And we looked like frightening light posts with our flashlights, wandering like the walking dead, in search for a drink and some conversation, since TV’s also out of question.
But we’ll toughen up. We can take it. Well, for a couple of days, top, at least. Then, it’ll be madness. But for now, silly but still argumentative New Yorkers will not give it an inch. We’ll be back, you just wait. And coming Monday, remind us to call cable, phone and ConEdison to ask for a discount.
Still, it’s kind of unfair that our Halloween got screwed. We really had a neat idea for a costume. And candy. Well well. Since kids would be smart to not wander in the dark in a night like that, we’ll have them ourselves. In bed. With no phone service. What a drag. No, we’ll not complain.
And just to prove that we’re no scrooges, here’s what we wrote last year to mark the date. You know, for the kids. Have a nice Trick or Treat; see you on the other side of this darkness. Also, our thoughts to those who’ve lost lives, belongings, homes, and a bit more of what they didn’t have with the hurricane. Help is on the way.

***

All Hallows’ Eve

Last Rites For Halloween:
Candy Slaves & Ole Zombies

The origin of the bloodiest of all popular holidays is pagan. But church soon got into the action. It celebrates the dead and the dark side of the human experience, and the first frost in the Northern Hemisphere.
For sure, it’s a healthy and playful way to cope with the fact that the mysteries of the great beyond are usually fully disclosed, or not, only to those unable to report back to us.
Pretty much all ancient cultures had a day or time of the year dedicated to the diseased and the spooky, and even a place to do so, from the Celtics to the people who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids and everything else we hardly know much about these days.
The fact that now most celebrations congeal around the same time of Continue reading

Open Gait

If You Are How You Walk,
We May Be Watching You

‘Tis is the season for zombies, those ghouls born out of the desperate imagination of Caribbean tribes about to be enslaved by even worse demons, 17th century European human traders.
But if the overkill of the prefab undead by the contemporary entertainment industry is not enough to make you sick silly, you may still think that the way they walk is kind of funny.
Well, brace yourself, for there are other fears to be had that no walker can instill on you: the dread that your own gait may unwittingly reveal something very dirty about yourself.
I’M NOT A CROOK!
Using a system called Plantar Pressure Imaging, a Japan’s Shinshu University Continue reading

All Hallows’ Eve

Last Rites For Halloween:
Candy Slaves & Ole Zombies

The origin of the bloodiest of all popular holidays is pagan. But church soon got into the action. It celebrates the dead and the dark side of the human experience, and the first frost in the Northern Hemisphere.
For sure, it’s a healthy and playful way to cope with the fact that the mysteries of the great beyond are usually fully disclosed, or not, only to those unable to report back to us.
Pretty much all ancient cultures had a day or time of the year dedicated to the diseased and the spooky, and even a place to do so, from the Celtics to the people who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids and everything else we hardly know much about these days.
The fact that now most celebrations congeal around the same time of the year, regardless of the hemisphere, may have a lot to do with primitive religion, which successfully inserted itself in many holly dates and cults to superior beings that pagans used to mark and worship.
It was a clever and effective form of domination, exemplified, for example, in the fact that to this day, many Catholic Church saints are loosely based in pre-Christian figures.
We could get here into demonology and the changing depictions and characterization of Satan, for example, or Lucifer and all that, but why Continue reading

Bovine Inspiration

No Laughing Cows: When Herds
Go Mad & Burst With Pee Power

What would you do if you’d found a cow’s heart at your doorstep? Or if you were under attack by an angry bovine? Worse yet, what if the burger you’ve just ate had been grown in a Dutch lab? These are but just a few surprisingly news about the world of livestock, dear reader, and we bet you didn’t expect it to be so exciting.
Or sinister. That heart was found on Valentine’s Day. Mad outbursts in the countryside? They’re more common than you think and more people are killed by cows in the U.S. than by any other animal. Oh, and so you know, it takes just one cow, regardless if it’s a mad one, to supply the energy needed to heat up 19 houses.
Most of us carry on with the business of our lives never thinking for a moment that we may have the wrong ideas about the animals that surround us. Specially the ones that people also consider meals.
Take your neighbor and his cellphone, for example. Just kidding. Choose the cow, instead. Is there another animal whose public image is more identified with passivity and pastoral bliss? That is, until one visits a slaughterhouse, of course.
Still, how can anyone be prepared to find a gory package at the entrance of their home, as Scott Fleming of Portland did? Or what’s the odds for someone sashaying through the fields of the lord to be suddenly trampled to death by a formerly perfectly reasonable bovine? Continue reading

Zombie 101

Go Back to School Where
Edgar Allan Poe Is Buried

JUST IN: Hundreds marked Poe’s birthday this year but their hopes of seeing the mysterious “Toaster” to come back once again to the writer’s graveside were dashed: once again, he or she hasn’t showed up, breaking perhaps for good a 60-year-old tradition.

What about taking a course where you get to watch classic horror flicks and read comic books? That’s what part of University of Baltimore’s English 333 is about, a study on zombies and their appeal, being taught by author and museum curator Arnold Blumberg.
No one is quite sure why the lore of the undead holds such a grip on popular imagination, but movies and literature certainly have a lot to do with it. The class in Baltimore is just the latest addition to such a quasi-discipline. Chicago’s Columbia College and Iowa’s Simpson College have been teaching related classes for years.
So if rotten flesh and tales of people coming back “to get you” are your thing, sort of, go ahead and sign up. As a bone, er, bonus, you can take a walk on the same street where Poe collapsed in 1849 and even visit his grave. After all, some do consider “The Fall of the House of Usher” a precursor of this ghoulish sub-genre.