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Posts Tagged ‘Death

“I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it”*…

 

The cost of burying a loved one in America has risen faster than virtually everything else over the last 30 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just published a fascinating look at the cost of dying in the US…  The chart below shows that the price index for funerals has risen almost twice as fast as consumer prices for all other items.

Producer prices for caskets rose 230% from December 1986 through September 2017, while prices for all commodities increased 95.1%. The data is not seasonally adjusted.

As casket costs surged, the rate of cremations surpassed burials in 2015 for a second straight year, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Its data showed that the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial in 2014 was $7,181, and $6078 for a funeral with viewing and cremation.

Dig in at: “It’s gotten a whole lot more expensive to die in America.”

See also: “The 10 Companies That Control the Death Industry.”

* Mark Twain

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As we memento mori, we might spare a thought for Sir Samuel Wilks; he died on this date in 1911.  Wilks, who served as President of the Royal College of Physicians in the UK., made his mark with the publication on his Lectures on Pathological Anatomy (1863)– for which he is remembered as a founding father of clinical science and modern pathology.  He identified the visceral lesions of syphilis and improved the understanding of Addison’s, Bright’s and Hodgkin’s diseases.  As Sir Thomas Barlow observed, “ [Wilks] started the systematic and practical teaching of morbid anatomy, and for nearly thirty years Wilks represented and embodied at Guy’s Hospital the important combination of a great morbid anatomist, and a great clinical physician and teacher.”

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Written by LW

November 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps”*…

 

As we’ve noted before, 2016 seemed a bumper year for the Grim Reaper.  Jason Crease tested that perception against the data…

It’s become cliché that unusually many prominent people died in 2016. Is this true?…

Find out at “Was 2016 especially dangerous for celebrities? An empirical analysis.

[Image above: source]

* François Rabelais

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As we usher in the new, we might spare a thought for the first woman in the Western world considered to be a mathematician: Maria Gaetana Agnesi, she died this date in 1799.  While she thought and wrote broadly about natural science and philosophy, she is best remembered for her work in differential calculus– perhaps most particularly for her work on the cubic curve now know as the “witch of Agnesi.”

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Written by LW

January 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men”*…

 

In 2015, more than 1.5 million people were killed by animals. That’s a startling figure. To put it in perspective, that’s about the same number of people who died from HIV/AIDS or diabetes last year.

Some of the culprits are the usual suspects of the animal kingdom. Lions, for instance, with their incredible ability to stalk prey, are responsible for the deaths of about 100 people. Hippos, very territorial, are more dangerous, claiming about 500 lives. Crocodiles are even more deadly, killing 1,000 people.

But take a look at this interactive chart [a portion of which is excerpted above] and you might be surprised to learn that the heavyweights of the animal kingdom do the least damage. Pound for pound, a shark isn’t that scary compared with many smaller creatures on the list…

The relative numbers of people killed by different animals:  Bill Gates explains “Why I’d Rather Cuddle with a Shark than a Kissing Bug.”

* Alice Walker

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As we slather on the DEET, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Mary Mallon– “Typhoid Mary”– died of a stroke on North Brother Island, where she he had been quarantined since 1915.  She was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever… before which, she inadvertently spread typhus for years while working as a cook in the New York area.

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Written by LW

November 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens”*…

 

The life expectancy for the average woman in the United States is 81 years and 2 months. For men, it’s 76 years and 5 months. These are the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just subtract your current age from those numbers for a rough estimate of how many years you have left.

It feels accurate. It feels precise.

But people die at various ages. Life is imprecise. Otherwise, you could just plan your days all the way up to your last.

Also, life expectancy is typically quoted “from birth.” It’s the number of years a baby is expected to live the moment he or she escapes from the womb into the wondrous realities of the outside world. This is a good measure for progress in countries and is a fine wideout view, but it’s just so-so for you and me, as individuals.

The range of your life expectancy is much more interesting…

See for yourself:  toggle to your gender and age on Flowing Data‘s interactive graphic (based on data from the Social Security Administration), and see the “Years You Have Left to Live, Probably.”

* Woody Allen

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As we memento mori, we might spare a thought for Giambattista Vico; he died on this date in 1744. A political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist, Vico was one of the greatest Enlightenment thinkers. Best known for the Scienza Nuova (1725, often published in English as New Science), he famously criticized the expansion and development of modern rationalism and was an apologist for classical antiquity.

He was an important precursor of systemic and complexity thinking (as opposed to Cartesian analysis and other kinds of reductionism); and he can be credited with the first exposition of the fundamental aspects of social science, though his views did not necessarily influence the first social scientists.  Vico is often claimed to have fathered modern philosophy of history (although the term is not found in his text; Vico speaks of a “history of philosophy narrated philosophically”). While he was not strictly speaking a historicist, interest in him has been driven by historicists (like Isaiah Berlin).

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Written by LW

January 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help”*…

 

Horseshoe charm made from a fragment of German shell by a wounded Belgian soldier.

 

During (and after) World War I, British folklorist Edward Lovett made a point of collecting examples of lucky charms and amulets that soldiers had carried to war. Some of these—included in a new book about the Imperial War Museum’s World War I collections, The First World War Galleries, by Paul Cornish—are below.

Lovett was a contemporary folklorist, collecting and analyzing material from his own city of London instead of working with archives or in other countries. Most active during the 1910s and 1920s, Lovett worked at a bank by day, gathering examples of amulets, charms, and talismans in his free time.Lovett was interested in seeing how country folklore lived on in working-class parts of London. He investigated the use of such charms to cure illnesses, wish ill upon enemies, or attract good luck. You can see some of his larger collection online through this Wellcome Library digital exhibition.

The charms Lovett collected from soldiers were sometimes fashioned from materials with some significance to their owners: bog oak or Connemara marble, carried by Irishmen as mementos of home; [or as in the photo above] bits of armaments that could have killed the bearer, but didn’t.

Take in more talismans at “The Lucky Charms Soldiers Carried Into WWI.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)

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As we rub our rabbit’s feet, we might spare a thought for George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India; he died on this date in 1936.   In a statement, the King’s physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, reported that the King’s last words were “How stands the Empire?”  But in his diary, uncovered much later, Dawson recalls a less elegant end:  The physician confessed in his memoir that he prescribed the fast-failing King a fatal sedative so that his death would be announced in the Tory morning papers (and opposed to the afternoon tabloids).  George’s actual last words, as a nurse approached with the morphine- and cocaine-filled syringe, were God damn you, you’re going to kill me!”

George V

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Written by LW

January 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens”*…

 

From Sunbelt seekers and snowbird retirees to economic immigrants and political refugees, folks flock to southern Florida.  And many of them chose to return home– if not during their lives, then afterwards…  So it’s no surprise that the Miami area is the U.S. capital of corpse repatriation:

The transnational city is a place to die for. Ironically, however, once established in the transnational city, few envision staying there until their last breath. For many, it is a temporary venue, whether as a place of exile, a springboard for upward mobility, or a playground until new opportunities beckon. Few imagine dying there and, as the moment draws near, many make plans to go home.

In the transnational city, which is home to a disproportionate number of the foreign-born and expatriates, death and repatriation are a steady business. The bodies of an estimated 20 percent of South Florida’s deceased are shipped out, more than from any other region in the USA. Most of the HRs (industry shorthand for human remains) going abroad depart from Miami International Airport. According to the CEO of Pierson, a leader in this business since 1964, around 80 percent of business is international, with the company shipping to a range of foreign destinations across Central and South America and a number of European countries as well…

Read more about this last arc in the circle of life (and find out what it costs) at “Miami Is the #1 Airport in America for Shipping Dead Foreigners.”

[TotH to friend PH for the pointer]

* Woody Allen

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As we wonder if there’s a discount fare, we might recall that it was on this date in 1914 that “Little Willie,” the first prototype of the British Mark I tank– thus, the first completed tank prototype in the world– rolled out of the shop.  It weighed 14 tons, required rear steering wheels (so got stuck in trenches), and managed only two miles per hour; still, it was the first step toward a technology that revolutionized battlefields.

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Written by LW

September 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague”*…

 

In order to see the appeal of the forthcoming Morbid Anatomy Museum, you have to understand the death-centric collection—think skeletons, taxidermy, medical oddities— as neither kitschy nor creepy.

“I like to think about how our attitudes about things have changed; and in particular our attitudes about death, because I think that is the most fertile thing to examine,” says Joanna Ebenstein, the founder of the Morbid Anatomy Library, which is the basis of the museum. “The way we think about death now, these images seem completely inappropriate. It seems voyeuristic and wrong and horrible. But I would argue, in some ways, that they were dealing with grief in ways that we don’t really have a capability with any longer because we think it’s so inappropriate.”…

“It really speaks to how much we’ve changed as people that this could become exotic and other. It never was before; there was never a period in history where death was so other than now.” Confronting that chasm is, in part, the purpose of the museum…

The Morbid Anatomy Museum opens in Brooklyn next month, when it will feature its permanent collection (sampled in the photo above), a 2500-volume library, a lecture series, classes (e.g., taxidermy), and special exhibits (like Water Potter’s “Kitten Wedding,” from the 1890s, pictured below).

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Read more at “Coming Soon to Brooklyn: The Morbid Anatomy Museum.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we memento mori, we might we might send rebellious birthday greetings to Jean Vigo; he was born on this date in 1905.  The son of Catalan anarchists, Vigo migrated to Paris and became a film maker.  A founder (with Jean Renoir) of “poetic realism” in film, Vigo is best remembered for two films, both hugely impactful on French and world cinema: Zéro de conduite (1933) and L’Atalante (1934).  The former– a tale of rebellious school boys– was the inspiration for Lindsay Anderson’s marvelous If…; the latter– the story of a marriage falling apart, then healing– was chosen as the 10th-greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound’s 1962 poll, and as the 6th-best in its 1992 poll.  He’s widely considered the “grandfather” of the French New Wave, on whom he had an enormous influence.

Writing of Vigo’s death in The New York Times, film critic Andrew Johnston judged: “The ranks of the great film directors are short on Keatses and Shelleys, young artists cut off in their prime, leaving behind a handful of great works that suggest what might have been. But one who qualifies is Jean Vigo, the French director who died of tuberculosis at age 29 in 1934.”

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Written by LW

April 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

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