Thursday, 13 May 2021


Meaning sweetness and sharing her feast day with the apparition of Our Lady of Fรกtima, the second century saint compelled to pray to a sculpture of Jupiter which turned to dust by her faith, for which she was sentenced to be torn asunder by wild animals. Glyceria expired, however, before she could be served. Interestingly, especially in light of the minor craze that erupted a few years ago over the chance to drink the mummy juice—sewage found in Egyptian sarcophagi, the relics of Glyceria are counted among the myroblytes, those whose remains (sometimes their icons as well as their coffins) exude the holy and healing Oil of the Saints.

Saturday, 17 April 2021


cortรจge: the custom Land Rover hearse that will convey Prince Philip on his funeral procession

whiter-than-white: ultra-reflective coating (previously) could help cool the climate—via Slashdot  

eboracia: housing developer Keepmoat Holmes discovers sprawling Roman ruins in North Yorkshire  

elenctic debate: honing one’s critical thinking with the Socratic method 

emojinal rescue: the Unicode subcommittee reconvenes, heralding the coming of new glyphs  

ramshackle: illustrations of antient structures that survived the Great Fire of London before they were ultimately demolished  

pleurants: bright and bold floral urns for cremains

Wednesday, 31 March 2021


berggeschrei: Saxon princes collected, modelled miniature mountains and enjoyed miner cos-play 

#oddlysatisfying: the hypnotic and self-soothing qualities of visual ASMR  

it’s not a cult thing: an interview with the real estate agent selling this ‘sexy funeral Goth house’ in Baltimore—via Super Punch  

erard square action: a tool that measures a piano key’s up- and down-weight  

slamilton: a basketball musical of Space Jam meshed with Hamilton—see previously—that works better than it should, via Waxy  

den hรผgel hinauf: Amanda Gorman’s inspirational US presidential inaugural poem (see also) will be published in German

Sunday, 7 February 2021

one-way ticket

Via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (much more to explore here), we receive a lightly macabre update to the former dedicated rail-line in London that transported the departed and mourners from the overcrowded city out to a cemetery in Woking with news that the purpose-built Waterloo Necropolis station built in 1854 (expanded in 1901) will be transformed into a suite of flats. The seal is that of the company granted the charter to construct the grounds and arrange the logistics and transportation. Though large portions of the building were destroyed in World War II during a 1941 air raid, what remains is witness to the automation of the funerary arts with halls designed for private service and hydraulic lifts to bring the briers on to the loading docks below, a shift towards hygienic awareness (a dread cholera epidemic decades earlier had overwhelmed London’s graveyards) and separate entrances that showed that even the dead were expected to be class conscious.

Friday, 22 January 2021

land of hope and gloria

Having set forth specific detailed instructions for a funeral with military honours befitting her status and having passed away rather inconsiderately a distance from London on the Isle of Wight, the death of Victoria (previously) would have been a logistically fraught affair if it were not for her careful planning. Surrounded by her son and successor King Edward VII and grandson Wilhelm (future Prussian king and last Kaiser) and her favourite Pomeranian called Turi (see also), Victoria expired on this day in 1901, heretofore, the longest reigning British monarch. The state cortรจge travelled to Gosport with a fleet of yachts transporting the new king and mourners and Victoria was placed in her coffin, son and grandson aided by Prince Arthur, with an array of mementos from family and domestics, including a dressing gown that belonged to her departed husband Albert and a plaster cast of his hand as well as a lock of John Brown’s hair and a photograph of him that was artfully hidden from those paying last respects by carefully placed bouquet of flowers. The state funeral and procession took place 2 February.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

rip rbg

Incredibly, following a private service in the Great Hall and after lying in repose at the US Supreme Court building’s portico Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol rotunda.

Rosa Parks was accorded a similar honour when she passed away in 2005, but because she was not a public official, was said to be resting. Thirty-four men have been granted a viewing in the halls of Congress. Since the president’s 1865 assassination, all those who have lain in state have been presented on the Lincoln catafalque, a funeral bier originally constructed for the funeral services for George Washington but like the cenotaph two storeys below the Capitol known as Washington’s Tomb (unoccupied and where the caisson was customarily stored when not in use), was not implemented at the time. With the high holy day of Yom Kippur beginning at sunset on Sunday, Ginsburg won’t be lain to rest at Arlington National Cemetery until next Tuesday.

Friday, 14 August 2020

bier and bookcase

As seen advertised (right) in Harper’s classifieds in 1991 for custom-built models and then as a similar DYI concept with send-away instructions tailored for one’s measurements about two decades later after the London Design Festival in 2009—recently featured on Weird Universe and Pasa Bon! respectively—I wonder if the next iteration of furniture, shelving unit that transforms into a casket to convey one to the here-after might not be done for its reintroduction soon. What do you make of these morbid but practical design suggestions? The handles and decorative, devotional ornaments are themselves called fittings or “coffin furniture”—not to be confused with other movable furnishings that are coffin-shaped, whereas preparing the inside is called “trimming.” Having the foresight to display one’s future funerary box is certainly a conversation-piece.

Friday, 8 May 2020

smrt in pogreb josipa broza tita

Four days after his death in Ljubljana due to complications during surgery to correct circulation problems in his legs, the government of Yugoslavia held the largest state funeral in history for president Josip Broz Tito (*1892), drawing guests—kings, princes, presidents and ministers—from nearly every polity in the world on this day in the streets of Belgrade in 1980.
Tens of thousands filed past his casket and paid their solemn, earnest respect for two and a half days prior to arrival of the foreign dignitaries to the only leader the citizens of the independent communist county had known. Leaders and delegates in attendance were from both aligned and non-aligned countries and both sides geographically and ideologically of the Iron Curtain. Amid the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and facing re-election, the US president opted not to attend, instead sending his mother Lilian Carter with vice-president Walter Mondale. A ceremony of pomp and fanfare to celebrate the progress the Tito’s leadership had brought for the worker, the occasion was also an opportunity for building networks, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany met with his East German counterpart and Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Margaret Thatcher met with the leadership of Zambia, Italy and Romania, trying to rally international condemnation over said invasion. The leader was interned in a mausoleum in Belgrade that became known as the House of Flowers (Hiลกa cvetja, Kuฤ‡a cvijeฤ‡a, ะšัƒั›ะฐ ั†ะฒะตั›ะฐ, ะšัƒัœะฐ ะฝะฐ ั†ะฒะตัœะตั‚ะพ)—the space that was a covered garden outside of Tito’s auxiliary office internally referred to as the “flower shop.”

Wednesday, 18 September 2019


The always excellent podcast Hidden Brain boldly tackles a subject that is usually avoided or talked around in polite company if not suppressed to the point of being a social taboo: death.
Approaching the topic via the broad and non-empirical idea that fear of death drives every decision we make and informs and limits our agency with some evidence-based psychological experiments, we see that although we think we are avoiding the matter of our own mortality and legacy in not articulating it, we’re always practising terror management in one form or another, and couched as we all are in the comforts of convention, we remain unaware of these instigations until confronted with its unforgiving finality. Necessary and human as the anxiety is, we cede more power to a nebulous and unnamed fear that serves to reinforce the judgments and opinions it covertly influences. Ibidem the same source as above, we are treated to another podcast—from Vox magazine—that correlates well with the theme of memento mori but this time musically. Four close and dark notes from a Gregorian mass intoned at funerals—Dies Irรฆ, Reckoning, the Day of Wrath—still resounds and is hiding everywhere in popular culture. The same tones cue us (perhaps steel us) to something grim approaching and is sampled in scores of film and television soundscapes. Cultural hegemony being what it is, I wonder how universal these impulses and signifiers are.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

ferryman or necropolis junction

Via the always intriguing Nag on the Lake, we learn about a morbidly strange but practical rail line in operation from November 1854 until bombed during the London Blitz in World War II that was in the exclusive service of transporting the departed and their mourners to a sprawling necropolis, a convenient journey from central London but also not close enough that the graves might pose a public health hazard.
Conceived as a way to alleviate severe overcrowding in ancient urban cemeteries, the living population having doubled from the beginning to the mid seventeenth century and an outbreak of cholera completely overwhelmed the struggling funeral system, the trains going to Necropolis Junction were segregated by animate/inanimate, class and confession and travel along a picturesque route daily. After the war, the railway was not rebuilt, the scheme proving less palatable (not in keeping with due solemnity) and profitable than the backers had hoped, and the motorised hearse had already fulfilled that need.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

ashes to ashes

Rather jarringly but with the message that last rites should not be nihilistic—or pantheistic—the Vatican has issued a prohibition against the scattering of cremains to the winds or dividing the ashes among family and friends as final keepsakes.
Although Church doctrine—just since 1963—allows cremation burial is preferable and earthly remains should be deposited on consecrated grounds and the grave-goods ought not kept in an urn on the mantle. Having lived in Germany for a long time, such morbid license that’s allowable in America does seem a little strange and quite other. What do you make of all this? As many amongst us are loathe to shuffle off this amortal coil, it is an uncomfortable thing to think about how we’d like to be celebrated.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

art funรฉraire

While touring the รŽle d’Olรฉron and stopping to explore the village of Saint-Pierre, we were struck by this significant though rather mysterious monument from the Middle Ages.
This model so- called lantern of the dead (lanternes des morts oder Totenleuchte) dates from at least the 1150s appear throughout western France, and though the oldest and highest at twenty-eight meters, inland, it was not visible for great distances—mostly on the periphery of cemeteries, as this one is, probably was kept as an eternal flame or lit to recall the parish to funerary rites. No one knows for certain to their custom and origin, however.
Most presume that these free-standing spires were early dedications akin to wayside shrines (Weg- oder Bildstรถcke) that commemorate accidents or escapes on pilgrimage routes, but given their sturdiness and clean polygonal symmetries (the church of the village had similar early gothic angles), people entertain all sorts of influences (cheminรฉes sarrasines they are sometimes called perhaps as a memory from the Battle of Tours) and forgotten rituals, perhaps even originally to purpose as warning of quarantine or danger, despite the continuance of history.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


Ahead of its planned field-trips on its founding day (we all ought to arrange our own outings as well to showcase the places for which we could be expert tour-guides), Atlas Obscura features a bitter-sweet, maudlin memorial to the struggles and triumphs of the gay community with a locus in the Congressional Cemetery securing of its own special corner.
Dishonourably discharged from the US armed forces for being a homosexual (against the advice of the court-appointed psychologist), Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich, sadly in anticipation of his imminent demise from AIDS related complications, devoted himself to making a statement for the ages. Within view of the resting place of self-loathing J Edgar Hoover, whose witch-hunts perpetuated discriminatory practises, and his suspected lover, Matlovich purchased a pair of plots and designed his nameless headstone, to be etched for the silent and anonymous sufferers whom had to hide their love away. Since his funeral, Matlovich has been joined by many others in repose and symbolically in victory as well, with several military same-sex weddings, legal and wholly vetted, held before Matlovich’s grave.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


first rule – don’t talk about fight club: bacterial cock-fighting may lead to new antibiotic therapies, via Dangerous Minds

don’t pay the ferry man: mysterious figuring punting in an Australian lake dressed as an undertaker, traveling via open casket

nightmare of dishpan hands: vintage laundry shaming

disrobed, disarming: 3D printed model of the Venus de Milo allows art history scholars to guess what she might have been doing with her hands

gravity assists: a thoughtful explanation and reflection of the slingshot effect in space propulsion via BLDGBlog 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

necropolis or flying circus

Having learnt that Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen—better known as the Red Baron, the accomplished dog-fighting ace of World War I, has his final resting-place just around the corner here in Wiesbaden, I took the afternoon to investigate and explored the peaceful and expansive grounds of the Southern Cemetery (Sรผdfriedhof).

Walking down the pathways, not rushing and wanting to properly pay my respects to the graves less famous—to me, at least, I noticed that quite a few tombstones bore a pasted on, rather tasteless notice, which read something to the effect, “The lease has expired – please see the cemetery administration.” Later H confirmed to me that indeed plots in Germany are generally rented for a period of twenty years, with the option of extending. What happens to the remains, I asked, and was told that they are usually gone by then. Embalming and chemical preservatives are not used here, nor expensive time-capsule coffins, so everything has decomposed a few a couple decades. I wondered what became of the headstones, beautiful and austere markers meant to last an eternity, but did not ask.
I didn't think people took them home (though the Roman practise was genuine parlour culture, burying their dead in their houses) or stored them somewhere off-site, like winter-tyres. It seems irreverent but I suppose space is at a premium and very soon there would not be room for anything else besides the grave. I noticed that the more modern epitaphs usually bore ones profession also. The architects had the most inspired grave-sites—I wondered what it meant to carry ones job into the here-after (jenseits) and hoped that all really had been proud enough of their careers to make that sort of statement. Other beautiful monuments abounded, like this bas-relief tombstone of a cavalry unit from 1914 that depicts some of the sad and terrible equipage of the war, gas-masks and bayonets. I was unsuccessful in locating the von Richthofen plot, noting that such infamy is usually something buried itself, and wondered how the aeronaut and son of the Prussian elite ended up in far western Hessen. It turns out that the Red Baron was disinterred several times since his final battle: von Richthofen was first put to rest with a military funeral not far from where he was shoot down, near Amiens, France in 1918.
During the interbellum years, his brother attempted to bring the body back to be buried in the family crypt, but as the ancestral home now lay in Poland and convinced by Nazi authorities just then coming into power who hoped to exploit the rockstar status von Richthofen had attained through real and attributed victories, re-interred him in Berlin, with fanfare courtesy of the new government. During divided Germany, as the graveyard straddled the border, the headstone was often victim to a stray bullet fired at people as they tried to escape into West-Berlin, and in the mid-1970s a decision was made to transport the body to Wiesbaden and reunite him with the rest of his departed family. I don't want to regularly wander the necropoleis of the city as that's morbid but was glad I took the time to search it out and now that I know it literally is just around the corner, I will look around another day.

Friday, 11 March 2011


The English Daily the local features an article about a unique academy, at least in Germany, that's not too far from Bad Karma, our fair city, that specializes in training in the funerary arts. Surely there are other trade schools and apprenticeships but this sort of hybridized vocational college does not seem to be part of the European educational model of apprenticeship and rigour.

I have been by the campus--the buildings and the mock-graveyard, and it does not seem like a fly-by-night organization--I am sure it's a fine and respectable institution but it just bothers me how the exceptionalness of the place was stressed.  Death and disposition certainly are regulated by deeply personal and cultural norms as well--the climate for mourning and expression of grief as well as celebration and remembrance. Though any local mention is a bit noteworthy, the piece probably caught my attention more so because we are right now slowly making our way through the series Six Feet Under, whose method is genius, for its macrabe and morbidness and quirky professional insights into to both the business and people's attitudes towards it. This miniature diorama of the show is from a Belgian network's prime-time line-up promotion. Must see TV.