Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty: Author and Web design consultant Eric Meyer lost his daughter Rebecca to a brain tumor earlier this year, as mentioned previously on the Blue--or in this case the Purple. At the year's end, Facebook's Year in Review app has been sending him ghastly reminders of this recent history with an auto-populated, cheerily decorated slideshow featuring pictures of his dead daughter. Mediating on the influence of such algorithms in our lives, he writes: To call a person “thoughtless” is usually considered a slight, or an outright insult; and yet, we unleash so many literally thoughtless processes on our users, on our lives, on ourselves.
"'It really speaks to the lack of access to health insurance that's particularly predominant within the Latino community,' says Sarah de Guia, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, an advocacy group. Latinos make up 62 percent of the uninsured, she says, either because they can't afford to pay for health insurance, or because they're afraid that signing up for coverage will expose family members who aren't lawfully present in the U.S." California Whooping Cough Infections Run High Among Latino Babies, NPR. [more inside]
To usher in the discussion of Mr. Hooper’s death, Big Bird gives out pictures that he’s drawn (done by Spinney himself) to his friends on the block. Big Bird already knows about Mr. Hooper’s death but he does not understand that death is for forever. “Big Bird, don’t you remember, we told you. Mr. Hooper died. He is dead,” Maria says. “Oh, yeah. I remember. Well, I’ll give it to him when he comes back,” Big Bird replies. There’s no philosophical explanation from the other characters as to why Mr. Hooper won’t return, no afterlife, no complications of spirituality. He’s just dead. It’s blunt, but it’s true.That time on Sesame Street when they taught Big Bird about death.
Guardians of the Corpse Ways is a thorough one-stop resource for all of your canine Underworld mythological needs. Why did countless cultures associate dogs with the realm of the dead? Here's a tiny sample: "The essence of the hellhound is his intermediary position - at the border of this world and next, between life and death, hope and fear, and also (given its pairing with the dog of life) between good and evil. For this role, the dog is perfectly suited, being the domestic species par excellence, the tamed carnivore who stands midway between animal and human, savagery and civilization, nature and culture . 'The growl of the hellhound is yet another expression of this liminal position, for the growl is a halfway station between articulate speech and silence. It is a speech filled with emotion and power, but utterly lacking in reason. Like death itself, the hellhound speaks, but does not listen; acts, but never reflects or reconsiders. Driven by hunger and greed, he is insatiable and his growl is eternal in duration. In the last analysis, the hellhound is the moment of death, the great crossing over, the ultimate turning point.' " [more inside]
Ancient musical reconstruction has led to the discovery of the sounds made by Aztec "death whistles".
Kent Haruf, ‘a great writer and a great man’, dies aged 71 [The Guardian]
"Pan Macmillan, Haruf’s UK publisher, said that the novelist died on Sunday 30 November, praising his “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” which it said “reflected a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness”."
Ex-Maple Leaf coach Pat Quinn dead at 71 [Toronto Star]
"Former Toronto Maple Leaf coach and general manager Pat Quinn has died at the age of 71. Quinn died Sunday night in Vancouver after a lengthy illness, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Vancouver Giants said Monday. Quinn, who was co-owner of the WHL’s Giants, was 71.
"Grief porn enters the Facebook era" "And, like regular pornography, the internet has transformed it. Freed from the already relaxed constraints of tabloid journalism, grief porn is no longer obligated to fake newsworthiness or importance. You don't need to die in a particularly tragic way; your death doesn't need to be the occasion for punishment or law-enactment. You just need to have produced consumable, shareable content before your untimely death. Rather than a news angle allowing a writer to smuggle grief porn into a paper, a grief-porn angle allows a content creator to smuggle a shareable unit onto Facebook." An interesting essay by Kelly Conaboy, ironically on Gawker.
Marcia Strassman most famous as Mrs. Kotter, but also known for roles on M*A*S*H, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and her brief foray into music recording has died of breast cancer at 66. [more inside]
William Hughes writes movingly about the death of his partner and how it has changed how he reacts to the portrayal of death and resurrection in media.
I start the music, take his hands and start leading him, swaying them back and forth. And he lets go of me. He's gonna wing it as he was prone to do when he was younger. Breathing on his own for the last time, Geoffrey Holder, eyes closed, performs his last solo to Bill Evans playing Fauré's Pavane. From his deathbed. The arms take flight, his beautiful hands articulate through the air, with grace. I whisper "shoulders" and they go into an undulating shimmy, rolling like waves. His Geoffrey Holder head gently rocks back and forth as he stretches out his right arm to deliver his trademark finger gesture, which once meant "you can't afford this" and now is a subtle manifestation of pure human spirit and infinite wisdom. His musical timing still impeccable, bouncing off the notes, as if playing his own duet with Evan's piano. Come the finale, he doesn't lift himself off the bed as he planned; instead, one last gentle rock of the torso, crosses his arms and turns his head to the side in a pose worthy of Pavlova. All with a faint, gentile smile.Leo Holder talks about his father's last dance.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, ‘Baby Doc’ of Haiti, Dies at 63: [New York Times]
"Jean-Claude Duvalier, a former president of Haiti known as Baby Doc who ruled the country with a bloody brutality and then shocked the country anew with a sudden return from a 25-year exile in 2011, died on Saturday."
Five years ago this month, African-American lesbian Mitrice Richardson disappeared after being released from Los Angeles County Sheriff custody in Malibu in the middle of the night. A year later, her body was discovered; the initial investigation, was later found to be flawed. In 2011, her parents settled a lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff's Department. Her family maintains a website, Bring Mitrice Justice. A documentary, Lost Compassion, is in progress.
Alison Atkin is a Ph.D. student in osteoarchaeology at the University of Sheffield, studying plague cemeteries. Her research is presented in this quirky, hand-drawn poster. Don't miss GIFs of the interactive panels at her blog, Deathsplanation.
How to Know When it’s Time to Euthanize Your Dog
The most important thing to be alert for is The Look. It’s capitalized because it is a Real Thing. At some point near the end of its life, your dog will make eye contact with you. There will be something about that particular eye contact that you will recognize when you see it. Your dog will tell you, as clearly as if they had it notarized, that they are ready to go.At Dear Prudence, Pet Euthanasia and Can I Lie About It?
...the subject of euthanizing her has come up at home and briefly in the vet’s office. Is this wrong? And if we decide to go down this path, am I obligated to be honest about why she was put down when relatives and friends ask?
(1)I still remember the first time I smelled brain. It was my grandfather, cracking open the skulls of squirrels he’d killed. They’d scamper down the sides of pecans and live oaks among the Louisiana timbers where I grew up, enter his sights—then, oblivion. (2) At 21, he started sweeping the floors in a morgue in New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish. When he assisted with his first autopsy, his stomach proved as unflinching as his curiosity. In the late 1980s, he became one of the country’s youngest medicolegal death investigators, logging 7,000 autopsies and 3,000 next-of-kin notifications around New Orleans, then Atlanta. (3) Morgan relates gruesome tales of true crime scene experiences while weaving in parallels from his own (often dark) adolescence in Louisiana. After so many years of performing autopsies and doing one of the most horrific and traumatic—and generally unrecognized—jobs, Morgan was diagnosed with severe PTSD and forced into retirement from fieldwork. (Warning: Very disturbing photos in the first and third links. Very detailed talk of murder, suicide, and prostitution)
NOLA bounce artist and rapper Nicky Da B is dead. Nicki was best known for his colorful, aggressively infectious music and videos, including Hot Potato Style (previously), Express Yourself with Diplo (previously), and his collaboration with photographer Clayton Cubitt Go Loko (NSFW, strobe and flashes warning)
"There's something different about being told you’re dying when you’re 10 years old: You’re not a grown-up, but you’ve thought about what you’ll be like when you’re 30, when you’re old. You’re not a baby anymore — you know what cancer is. People start feeding you pills and poking you with needles. You make a bucket list your mother worries she won’t be able to help you complete. You want to get your ear pierced, but you can’t risk the infection. You know what sex is, but you’re told you’re not ready. You want to try new things, but you need permission first. You never lose hope for a miracle, because you’re still a kid, and kids aren’t supposed to die." Ethan Alexander Arbelo-Maldonado: Little Man and the Pursuit of Happiness [more inside]
On July 2, 2014, Hannah Richell's husband Matt was killed in a surfing accident at Bronte beach. [more inside]
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
When the Bough Breaks. "Children often can’t tell detectives what happened to them. But their injuries always tell a story. The essence of a child abuse investigation is determining the plausibility of an adult’s story, given the child’s condition. Could the child have sustained the injuries by falling off a bed, tumbling down stairs, or any number of accidents that parents routinely describe? Or does the story fail to account for the injuries?" A profile of Sergeant Brenda Nichols, the head of the Dallas Police Department’s Child Abuse Squad, and one of her cases. (SFW, but the article contains graphic descriptions of child abuse that some readers may find disturbing.)
Every Upworthy video ever in just over two minutes. (SLYT)
Ever wonder what it feels like to be old? "I am the same age as Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood. In Dog-years that is really really ancient..."
On Sunday, July 13th 2014, Africa's Nobel Laureates in Literature balanced the eternal dance of life and death. On that day, Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka celebrated his 80th birthday with Presidents and paeans, even as South African author Nadine Gordimer passed away that night at age 90. Each, in their own way with words, took on the challenge of race and colour.
Lana Del Rey: Why a Death-Obsessed Pop Siren Is Perfect for Late-Stage Capitalist America (mirrored at Salon.com)
Lana Del Rey is pushing the envelope, and here's her message, delivered with a languid pout: 21st-century America is a rotting corpse, deadlocked culturally, economically, and politically. Since there's nothing we can do about it, let's enjoy ourselves as the body-politic disintegrates, perhaps by savoring some toothsome bites of the past: candy-colored Super 8 films, juicy jazz tunes and clips of sultry screen sirens. The future is a retrospective.
All of this echoes the ancient danse macabre, the dance of death, the motif that sprang out of the medieval horrors of war and the plague. It's a plea for fevered amusement while you've still got time.
It’s been five years since my best friend from high school died, but her death happens over and over online.
"Now that aunt #6 was dead, we could be a hand. If we are a hand, my grandmother is the cupped palm at the center of her five remaining children. If we are a hand, my mother is the thumb, and the other fingers are her brothers and sisters.... Mamá is the thumb, and I am her fingernail."
The Morbid Anatomy Museum, a treasure trove of pathological and funereal curiosities, antique medical models, and anatomical art pledged to "exploring the intersections of death, beauty, and that which falls between the cracks," has opened its doors to the public in Gowanus, Brooklyn. [more inside]
Charlie Barsotti, one of the great cartoonists, passed away. Charlie drew close to fourteen hundred cartoons for The New Yorker over the years, beginning in the nineteen-sixties and continuing right through last week’s issue.
Many more here. Previously.
Many more here. Previously.
What hospitals can learn from flight safety measures. After his wife died due to a mistake during a very simple procedure, Martin Bromiley decided to use his pilot experience to examine how such mistakes can be avoided in the future. It involves changing the whole hierarchy of the hospital environment.
“Hindus are, on average, richer and more educated than Muslims. But oddly, the child mortality rate for Hindus is much higher. All observable factors say Hindus should fare better, but they don't. Economists refer to this as the Muslim mortality puzzle. In a new study, researchers believe that they may have found a solution to the puzzle. And, surprisingly, the solution lies in a single factor – open defecation.” [more inside]
Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou 1928 - 2014
War robots are now so real that "87 countries sat down at a United Nations-convened conference from May 13th to the 15th to discuss banning the things." A country on the forefront of development is Russia. They have announced that armed roaming robots would be standing guard over 5 ballistic missile bases, and there are plans for a new military robot laboratory. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said "We have to conduct battles without any contact so that our boys do not die, and for that it is necessary to use war robots." Defense experts say within 10 years nearly every country will have robotic weapons, mass produced and exported by countries like the US, China and Russia.
This is a collection of Francisco "Puree Tomatoes" Taccir's blog posts from Myspace and Friendster from 2005 – 2010. Tomatoes was a writer, artist, and addict who was born on February 26. 1977. He died on October 10, 2010 from a heroin overdose. [more inside]
Given word that he has a few months left to live, a man with lung cancer decides to throw a wake at the New Orleans jazz fest. Everyone at the party wore nametags with brief descriptions of their backgrounds. The honoree of the night, Louis Misko, wore one that was, like the man himself, abrupt and unflinching: "The Louis," said the message written in red marker. "Soon to be deceased." Gaunt, but smiling, Misko circulated through the crowd, relishing conversation with his guests at Pascal's Manale restaurant, most of whom he expected never to see again. He was holding his own memorial, in advance of his death from lung cancer.
Bob Hoskins, legendary British actor, has died aged 71. He is perhaps best known for his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (clip), Hook (clip), Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday, where he delivered one of the best movie endings ever. [more inside]
Ken Tanaka and David Ury’s ‘Everybody Dies’. A book about death.
Post-operative Check: "It's okay that you don't remember me. My name is Shara, and I'm part of the surgical team. I'm checking to see how you're doing after your surgery. Do you know where you are right now?" [more inside]
How Americans Die - a visual tour through surprising trends in mortality among Americans in the last several decades