A 39-year-old widow and mother of three young children describes her difficulties getting into online dating. I didn’t get choked up until the last few paragraphs because I am a tough guy.
Julie and I had a grownup talk yesterday about planning for death.
And then we watched one of our favorite TV shows where they killed off one of our favorite characters.
He took more than one episode to die. There was much weeping by his girlfriend, played by an actress who is a very good cryer.
So I’m feeling emo now.
What does it feel like to be really old knowing death is imminent? (Quora via The Huffington Post)
Living Alone and Liking It. Sometimes. (Death, Sex & Money podcast with Anna Sale)
Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan is the bisexual Iranian-American Woody Allen (Death, Sex & Money podcast with Anna Sale)
Sierra was the target of a flood of graphic death threats over her blog about web design. Yes, that’s right — web design.
Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything podcast:
In 2007 writer, programmer, and horse trainer Kathy Sierra quit the internet because of misogynist hate trolling. She stayed off the social web for 7 years but last year she came back to see what Twitter was like. She tells us why she only lasted a few weeks and her theory about why so many women are targets online. Plus Danielle Keats Citron explains how we could use the law to drain the cesspool.
The Death, Sex, & Money podcast, hosted by Anna Sale, interviews Caleb Wilde, a 33-year-old sixth-generation funeral director in the small town of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. He blogs at “Confessions of a Funeral Director.”
“It’s overexposed me to death, and it’s created burnout and depression,” Wilde says. “At the same time, it’s allowed me to see beautiful aspects of humanity: compassion, empathy, tolerance. A close experience with death changes us. It changes all aspects of our being.”
On the Death, Sex, & Money podcast:
When Burstyn was 18, she got on a Greyhound bus going from Detroit to Dallas. She had 50 cents in her pocket and a hunch that she could find work as a model. The actress and director, known for her roles in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Exorcist, and Requiem For a Dream, says she’d never do that now. But back then, she didn’t doubt herself.
It wasn’t the only risk she took as a young woman. At 18, she’d already gotten pregnant and had an illegal abortion. By her mid-20s, determined not to just get by on her looks, she left Hollywood to study acting with Lee Strasberg. In her mid-40s, after leaving an abusive marriage, she starred as a newly single mom in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. The role was based in part on her own life, and it won her an Oscar.
Now, at 81, she told me she is most proud of her relationship with her son, whom she adopted at birth. “I really think of myself as a work in progress,” Burstyn told me as we sat in wicker furniture in her Manhattan bedroom. “I know I’m a successful actress, but I don’t feel I’m necessarily a successful person.”
Whitney Joiner talks to Anna Sales at the Death, Sex & Money podcast:
Whitney Joiner was 13 when her father Joe told her he was HIV-positive. He said he hoped to see her graduate from high school. Five months later, he was dead. It was rural Kentucky in 1992, and Whitney and her family thought it was best to keep quiet.
Whitney never learned how her father contracted the disease. After his funeral, her mother heard from a mutual friend that he’d secretly gone to gay clubs. As a teenager, Whitney had wondered if he were gay. She’d even asked him, but he denied it. His denial was a relief at the time. Now, she wishes she had more answers.
Science is just beginning to figure it out, writes Jennie Dear at The Atlantic:
“Roughly from the last two weeks until the last breath, somewhere in that interval, people become too sick, or too drowsy, or too unconscious, to tell us what they’re experiencing,” says Margaret Campbell, a professor of nursing at Wayne State University who has worked in palliative care for decades. The way death is talked about tends to be based on what family, friends, and medical professionals see, rather than accounts of what dying actually feels like.
James Hallenbeck, a palliative-care specialist at Stanford University, often compares dying to black holes. “We can see the effect of black holes, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look inside them. They exert an increasingly strong gravitational pull the closer one gets to them. As one passes the ‘event horizon,’ apparently the laws of physics begin to change.”
What does dying feel like? Despite a growing body of research about death, the actual, physical experience of dying—the last few days or moments—remains shrouded in mystery. Medicine is just beginning to peek beyond the horizon.
The British mystery writer weighs in:
Like most series writers, you see, I never set out to go down this path. I wrote the first Costa book as a standalone and was then asked to turn it into a series by my publisher. After which I made it up as I went along, mistakenly sometimes though I’m pleased to report the errors I committed were by no means rare.
Here, when I set out to write the Amsterdam series, are some of the pitfalls I told myself to avoid.
One of the mistakes he cites: Failing to plan for how the series will deal with the passage of time, as the years go by between books in the real world.
Different series writers handle the passage of time in different ways. Spenser and the other characters in the Robert B. Parker series aged at a rate of 1:2 for the real world for a decade or so, then it appeared they just stopped aging. In the early books, written in the 70s, Spenser referenced being a Korean war vet and an ex-boxer who once fought Jersey Joe Walcott. In the last books by Parker, written in the 2000s, those references are left out.
In the Nero Wolfe books, the characters stay exactly the same age throughout 30 years, while the outside world progresses. In the first book, Nero is in his early 40s and Archie is about 30 and they’re toasting the end of Prohibition. As the series hit its prime, Archie is enlisted in the Army during World War II — fortunately assigned to stay home in Manhattan. In the last book, Nero is in his early 40s and obsessed with Watergate, and Archie is about 30.
By the way, both the Spenser and Nero Wolfe series were continued by other writers after the original author’s death. I read one of the Spenser novels by Ace Atkins; it was pretty good. Surprisingly, it was better and more true to the characters than the later Parker novels were.
I also read one of the Robert Goldsborough Nero Wolfe novels, and found it disappointing. He had the details right, but the voice was off. For example: The book was written and set in the 80s, and the mystery revolved around some detail of personal computing technology. Archie had become a PC expert by then, and provided a clue to solve the crime. Nero Wolfe was portrayed as an antiquarian who disdained PCs.
But I thought that was precisely the opposite of the spirit of the books. Archie, as a man of action, would have disdained PCs in the early years. He’d have learned to use one, because he did Wolfe’s office work, but he would have no particular affinity for them. However, the sedentary genius Wolfe might have taken to PCs, because they are logical like he is, and he can use one while moving nothing other than his fingers and eyes.
He got his hair permed when he got out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, says longtime business partner Annette Kowalski.
“He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts. So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again,” Kowalski explains.
Before he could change it back, though, the perm became his company’s logo — Ross hated it. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” Kowalski says. “He got tired of that curly hair.”
Ross was a meticulous businessman whose every move on his TV series “The Joy of Painting,” was scripted in advance. He did three copies of every painting he did on the show. His art supply company is still in business today, more than 20 years after his death, and the show is coming to Netflix.
Kowalski discovered Ross “in the aftermath of a family tragedy.” Her oldest son was killed in a traffic accident. All she could do afterward “was lay on the house and watch television.”
She watched a painter named Bill Alexander, who was big on PBS back then. Kowalski’s husband was desperate to get her out of the house, so he signed her up for Alexander’s painting class, 900 miles away in Clearwater, Fla. But then Alexander stopped teaching and passed his classes off to an unknown protege.
“I was very disappointed,” Kowalski says. “I so wanted to paint with Bill Alexander. But my husband said, ‘Get up. Get in the car. We’re going.’ ”
It was a five-day class in a hotel conference room. At the easel upfront was a guy with a perm who went by Bob. His paintings were good, but when he started talking to the class, that’s when Kowalski knew she had met someone special.
We’re accustomed, my colleagues and I, to saying that an obituary is not about a death, but a life. This is true, but really, we’re reporters and you can’t avoid the news, which is, of course, the same news every time. That’s one thing that distinguishes writing obituaries from anything else in journalism.
Another is that we start at the end and look backward. There’s some reward in this, in the excavating we do that often unearths interesting, long-forgotten facts.
But it’s melancholy, too. We had a movie made about us recently, a documentary called “Obit,” and in it my former deskmate Doug Martin, who effected his own exit from the obit business a couple of years ago, made a comment of encapsulating rue. He often admired the people he wrote about, he said, but he never got to meet them.
He never had to come up with a story idea and hardly ever left the office.
Dana Liebelson and Ryan J. Reilly investigate jailhouse suicides and other deaths for the Huffington Post:
Suicide has been the leading cause of death in jails in every year since 2000, according to the latest Justice Department data. This is not the case in prisons, where inmates are more likely to die of cancer, heart and liver disease. There’s a reason for this difference. People land in jail right after they’ve been arrested. They’re often angry, desperate or afraid. They may be intoxicated or have psychiatric conditions that officers have no way of knowing about.
The experts we spoke with emphasized that entering jail is an instantly dehumanizing process. “You get clothes that don’t fit you, you get strip-searched, you lose any semblance of privacy, you don’t get to make many decisions that we all take for granted,” said Jeffrey Metzner, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado in Denver who specializes in inmate mental health. “I don’t think most of us realize just how frightening that experience is,” added Steve J. Martin, a corrections expert who is monitoring reforms at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York City. “You have a total and absolute loss—immediate loss—of control over your being, over your physical being.”
Under these circumstances, people can deteriorate at an alarming speed. About two weeks after Bland’s death, 20-year-old Brissa Lopez was arrested for allegedly fighting with her boyfriend, and arrived at a Texas jail around 4:47 a.m. She was “very cooperative” and “chuckled as she removed her tongue and lip ring,” according to a sergeant who admitted her. Staff checked on her at 6:15 a.m. Some 40 minutes later, she was found hanging from a fire alarm cage by a bedsheet.
Birds & Bees [This American Life/podcast]:
Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex – including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.
No kidding, I had my heart in my mouth listening to the final segment. I was walking the dog in the park in the afternoon around people and I nearly had tears in my eyes for this:
About that Farm Upstate
While it’s hard to explain to kids how babies come into the world, it might be harder to explain that people leave the world too — especially to a kid whose mom or dad or brother or sister has died. There are grief counseling centers all over the U.S. that cater specifically to children. Reporter Jonathan Goldstein visited one in Salt Lake City.
Particularly beautiful and sad: Kids who learn, and learn to accept, that their father or a sibling committed suicide.
Body in yard-sale freezer freaks out N.C. woman. But then she recognized the foot. [Yanang Wang – The Washington Post]
Death Rides My Cockpit – Pulp Covers
This is apparently a real obituary.
Jane Little, said to be the longest serving orchestra musician in the world, debuted on bass in Atlanta in 1945, age 16. She played the bass in that orchestra for 71 years.
‘An amazing way to go’: Jane Little, world’s longest-serving orchestra musician, collapses and dies performing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ – Geoff Edgers and Fred Barbash, The Washington Post
‘If you try to get your hands on time,’ said the physicist Julian Barbour, ‘it’s always slipping through your fingers. People are sure that it’s there but they can’t get hold of it. Now my feeling is that they can’t get hold of it because it isn’t there at all.’ He and many other physicists see each individual moment as a whole, complete and existing in its own right. We live in a succession of ‘Nows’.
There is no death, only a series of eternal ‘nows’ [Bob Berman – Aeon]
Normally, I’d be saddened when a dog that looks this sweet is put down, but I can’t bring myself to feel that in this case. Not that I blame the dog. She was just being a dog. Still, for me to be saddened by this dog’s death seems disrespectful to that baby and family. Irrational, but that’s how I feel.
We’re relatively new to owning dogs and I don’t know a lot but I do know this: Dogs are animals. They are predators. I am often amazed at the sheer strength of Minnie’s jaws, as she sits there quietly and peacefully working on a chew toy while we sit on the couch together.
Sometimes little kids will come up to us at the park and say, “Mister, can I pet your dog?” My answer is always no. Minnie doesn’t get much exposure to people other than me and Julie. I don’t want something bad to happen.