Thursday, July 19, 2012


I'm reading about death during the Civil War right now.

"The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined. The Civil War's rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II.  A similar rate, about 2 percent, in the United States today would mean six million fatalities.  As the new southern nation struggled for survival against a wealthier and more populous enemy, its death toll reflected the disproportionate strain on its human capital.  Confederate men died at a rate three times that of their Yankee counterparts; one in five white southern men of military age did not survive the Civil War."

-Drew Gilpin Faust, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War"

And that's not including civilian deaths.  The Civil War changed how Americans, and by extension, the world, viewed death.  It forever altered the landscape of how we approach and deal with death.  More soon...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

27 Club Uber Suicide Club & Club 66

It never seemed odd or mystical, revelational for some musicians to die at 27.  I had always called the age 27, "The Age of disillusionment."  The age where your childhood and your adulthood begin to mingle and clash.  My friend Stephanie Shaw once said when I was 29 turning 30, "Thirty is the best age."  It was a great age.  Here are a couple sites I found today, one that rationalizes how an idea can be made popular with very little evidence behind it, once placed next to other "coincidental" ages of rock deaths.  People just like the number 27.  It's a 3 thing.  But noone is going to talk about a musician dying at 3, 6, or 9.  Here is also a picture of the newest 27 Club Amy Winehouse, whom I never heard of until she became part of this club that is about as illusional as my theory about the age of disillusionment.  And here is a picture of Bob Welch, who now belongs to the Suicide Club and the 66 Club.  Psychology Today.   A list of other rock death ages.  This is in response to John Szmanski & Peter Sebastian's post The 27 Club which now has 27,000 hits.  Good Work!  Also in the comments for that post there was also a reference to Saturn Returns, which is a more cosmic description of what I touch on briefly here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to be less me when I die.

I was moments away from responding to a recent comment that was made on a post by Rachel Claff: Capsula Mundi.  The commentator was intrigued by the possibility of a human (dead) body being planted as a bulb for a future tree.  I must admit I am intrigued too, and may have to research to see if this approach has remained, or has become a viable option. (Because as we will see later in this post, the reality of a usable process and the propagating of it as a good idea do not always mean the same thing.)   I was going to make another comment about another biodegradable idea that was introduced many years ago involving turning the human body into compost (corpse to compost, cryomation) called Promession, named by the swedish biologist who conceived the process, Susanne Wiigh Masak .  I read about it in an entertaining book on death called Stiff.  I was going to suggest this as an alternative to being buried in fetal position in a bulb.  (Sidenote: I admit to thinking about death more than the average person, but sadly I do not ever think of more pragmatic aspects of death, like what someone should do with my decomposing body once I die. Or, who will pay my half of the mortgage once I'm gone, or who will legally receive my dwindling musical royalties once I'm too dead to do anything with them.) Anyway, I wanted to check up on this Promession process before responding, and through some quick studying I realized the process has not yet been released to the public, which I thought was odd since many of the articles made it sound like it was a done deal.  Articles written more than 12 years ago.  Then I read this statement by one of the franchises, Promessa UK, which states they are separating from the Mothership Promessa, I'm assuming due to lack of progress or perhaps a divergence in profit-making potentials.  The site that hosts this statement has a fundamental problem with the process, it lacks "soul."  But I am one of those that believes that the body is just a shell once dead.  I have not settled on my beliefs about the soul itself, but if I were my soul I wouldn't hang out for too long in my post-flatulent decomposing host, where I'd have to share the diminishing space with millions of ravenous microorganisms.  I'd like to read more recent articles about what is exactly going on with cryomation, but I don't speak the language of the Mothership Promessa.  Obviously I have more studying to do before I die.  I'll have to get on that... Oh look, Bunny!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Philosophy of Death by Shelly Kagan

The Philosophy of Death lectures by Shelly Kagan
I have always been fascinated with death. I used to (and still) have gothic friends. I always admired the ones that had a humor to their commitment to their interpretation of death, but my fascination for death was very different from most of theirs. For some reason or another many gothics become fascinated with "living death." And ultimately my interest has more to do with trying to remove all false perceptions I have of my own immortality, to face death without fear, so that I can attempt to live more honestly. A life that I feel can be richer, perhaps in ways that are not always pleasant, but more involved - knowing, for real, that this IS THIS, and this life that I know to be "me" pretty much is ONLY THIS for now. I fell upon these lectures by Shelly Kagan. It is amazing what you can watch for free on the internet. And this is basically a whole semester's course in the study of death... for FREE. This man frustrated me on many points, but I gotta give him his due. He carries you on the journey, giving you (at leas an illusory) chance to claim otherwise than he believes. He spends about half the lectures ruling out the possibility of a soul and focuses in on a physicalist point of view. This building of his argument is the most fascinating of the lectures, and continues through about half. When we as listeners grow to accept his physicalist point of view (for the sake of questioning) He then proceeds to figure out what makes death "bad," and what is a quality life, and why do we want such a thing? The lectures are about an hour each. I suggest giving them a try, instead of watching one of those sitcom's each night, or the endless amount of Cat videos on youtube, I see the allure of the aforementioned modes of entertainment, but I recommend bypassing those for awhile and buckle your seatbelt and allow this man to erase the existence of the soul. (Although, since I have also been listening to Existential philosophy, I am more skeptical to believe that being rational means that it is true.)

I also think he sits like a hippie.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dead Weight

One day Luke and I went to Home Depot in an I-Go car to pick up--something--for the show. On the walk to the car we arrived at an interesting question: how much does all the death weigh? How much would all of the remnants of all the dead humans weigh? As far as I know it is an impossible question to answer. We might not have been at the Home Depot when the question was posed. It is years later now, but often when FEAR comes to mind, this unanswered question comes with it, so tonight I did a little research and came up with a few, rough, rough, rough, estimates.

The first number I found is an estimate of the number of homo sapiens that have ever walked the earth. 106,000,000,000. (

106,000,000,000 people. Ever. Ok. Ok?

The next number I figured I'd need is the average weight of those homo sapiens over time. After perusing a few sites and google books, I came up with roughly 173 pounds. So if we multilpy the two figures we find that if all of the 106,000,000,000 stood on a scale, they would weigh 18,338,000,000,000 pounds.

The problem is that I have found no way of estimating how much of that might still be around in a form that you could objectively say is part of a dead homo sapiens.

So we get guess-y.

If we assume that all of the organic bits are gone from most of the bodies, we are left with only the skeleton, which weighs 6 or 7% of one's total body weight. That comes out to about 11.25 pounds of the average body weight for homo sapiens. If all those bones are still around in some form, no matter how broken down they may be, to dust for instance, than that leaves us with 1,191,970,000,000.

We are left with One Trillion One-Hundred-Ninety-One Billion pounds of death.


These calculations began in my mind as a pile that somewhat resembles this one:

Which is of a landfill in Mexico City which, according to the article it comes from, is very large and unmanaged.