Performativity · Technology · Videos

How Your Great-Grandchildren Could Talk to You Decades after Your Death

Humans have sought immortality since at least the 22nd century B.C., if the ancient story “Epic of Gilgamesh” is any indication. And if we’re looking for biological immortality, we might have to keep looking. But if you don’t mind living a virtual life, immortality might be yours for the taking.

Our new digital lives have opened up countless ways for us to express thoughts and share ideas, particularly on social media. While you’re busy posting your latest selfie, something much more meaningful is happening. With each photo you take or message you write, technology is slowly capturing digital artifacts of your life. Artifacts that someday not too far from now might be reassembled into your virtual avatar.

Instead of flipping through photo albums, imagine if your great-grandchildren walk over to the latest voice-controlled computer of their day and say, “I want to talk to grandma.” In just seconds, a “virtual you” is projected into the room ready for a quick conversation. Your thoughts, stories, favorite phrases and even mannerisms are all correct. Sounds far-fetched, but not as much as you might think.

In fact, there are several companies who promise to collect your digital content and create a virtual you, including Eterni.me, LifeNaut and LIVESON.

Read full article by HuffPost HERE

Science · Social/Politics · Vital-Edible-Health

Death Is Not Final

If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?

Human-ities · Social/Politics · Vital-Edible-Health

Long Lives Made Humans Human

The fundamental structure of human populations has changed exactly twice in evolutionary history. The second time was in the past 150 years, when the average lifespan doubled in most parts of the world. The first time was in the Paleolithic, probably around 30,000 years ago. That’s when old people were basically invented.

Throughout hominid history, it was exceedingly rare for individuals to live more than 30 years. Paleoanthropologists can examine teeth to estimate how old a hominid was when it died, based on which teeth are erupted, how worn down they are, and the amount of a tissue called dentin. Anthropologist Rachel Caspari of Central Michigan University used teeth to identify the ratio of old to young people in Australopithecenes from 3 million to 1.5 million years ago, early Homo species from 2 million to 500,000 years ago, and Neanderthals from 130,000 years ago. Old people—old here means older than 30 (sorry)—were a vanishingly small part of the population. When she looked at modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, though, she found the ratio reversed—there were twice as many adults who died after age 30 as those who died young.

Excerpt from an article written by Laura Helmuth at Slate. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities

Letting Go

In 1968, a letter to The British Medical Journal titled “Not Allowed to Die” described the ordeal of a retired 68-year-old doctor admitted to “an overseas hospital” (almost certainly in America) with metastatic stomach cancer. After much of his stomach was surgically removed and a blood clot cleared from his lung, he asked that “no further steps be taken to prolong his life, for the pain of his cancer was now more than he would needlessly continue to endure.” Two weeks later the unfortunate doctor had a heart attack in the hospital. His heart was shocked and restarted five times in a single night; morning found him in a persistent vegetative state. His body remained alive for another three weeks.

That hellish situation, rare in the rest of the world, is all too common in this country. Although most of us claim no desire to die with a tube down our throat and on a ventilator, the fact is, as Katy Butler reminds us in “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” a fifth of American deaths now take place in intensive care, where 10 days of futile flailing can cost as much as $323,000, as it did for one California man.

Butler’s introduction to the surreal world of health “care” at the end of life was precipitated by the sudden illness of her father, a native of South Africa. Jeffrey Butler lost his arm while serving in World War II. He married, earned a Ph.D. from Oxford and settled into academic life in the United States. He was a charismatic father, the sort who would “stand in our bedroom doorways and say good night to my two brothers and me quoting Horatio’s farewell to the dying Hamlet: ‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!’ ” At 79 he was active and enjoying retirement when he suffered a stroke. Soon after hospitalization a “discharge planner” told the family that Jeffrey had to be immediately transferred to a neurological rehabilitation facility. “Only later would I understand the rush,” Butler writes. “The hospital was losing money on him with every passing day. Out of $20,228 in services performed and billed, Medicare would reimburse Middlesex Memorial only $6,559, a lump sum based on the severity of my father’s stroke diagnosis.”

Excerpt from an article written by ABRAHAM VERGHESE at the NYT. Continue THERE

Science · Vital-Edible-Health

The Eye, the Brain, and What happens during Death Experience

Scout motto is “be prepared,” but it’s hard to be prepared for death, be it our own or a loved one’s. Too much is unknown about what dying feels like or what, if anything, happens after you die to ever feel truly ready. However, we do know a bit about the process that occurs in the days and hours leading up to a natural death, and knowing what’s going on may be helpful in a loved one’s last moments.

During the dying process, the body’s systems shut down. The dying person has less energy and begins to sleep more and more. The body is conserving the little energy it has, and as a result, needs less nourishment and sustenance. In the days (or sometimes weeks) before death, people eat and drink less. They may lose all interest in food and drink, and you shouldn’t force them to eat. In fact, pushing food or drink on a dying person could cause him or her to choke — at this point, it has become difficult to swallow and the mouth is very dry.

As the person takes in less food and drink, he or she will urinate less frequently and have fewer bowel movements. The person may also experience loss of bladder and bowel control. People who are dying may become confused, agitated or restless, which could be a result of the brain receiving less oxygen. It can be disconcerting and painful to hear a loved one so confused in his or her last days.

The skin will also show the effects of slowing circulation and less oxygen — the extremities, and later, the entire body, may be cool to the touch and may turn blue or light gray. Some skin may exhibit signs of mottling, which is reddish-blue blotchiness. As the person gets closer to death, it will become harder and harder to breathe. Respiration will be noisy and irregular; it will sometimes seem as if the person can’t breathe at all. When there’s fluid in the lungs, it can cause a sound known as the death rattle. It may be possible to alleviate the gurgling and congestion by raising the person’s head. If the dying person is experiencing pain, he or she will usually be given medications to manage it.

When we’re watching someone die, we may have a preconceived notion of how the person should handle death emotionally and spiritually. It’s important to remember that every person experiences dying differently. Some people have the need to say goodbye or to hear from another person before death, some don’t. Some people prefer to partake in religious rites, while others may remain silent until the end and pass away when everyone has left the room. Doctors and other professionals who manage end-of-life care advise loved ones to take their cues from the dying and avoid projecting their own desires or needs onto the person. They also urge loved ones to continue speaking comfortingly to a dying person — hearing may be one of the last things to go.

Clinical death occurs when the person’s heartbeat, breathing and circulation stop. Four to six minutes later, biological death occurs. That’s when brain cells begin to die from lack of oxygen, and resuscitation is impossible.

All Text via How Stuff Works. See Experiencing Death video THERE

Electrodes trigger out-of-body experience

Design

Nishinihon Tenrei Funeral Services

When I think of funeral homes I think of muted colors like blacks, whites and greys. And indeed, funerals in Japan are largely a black & white affair, with any deviation from the code being considered taboo and disrespectful. So when Tokyo-based ad agency I&S BBDO was approached by Nishinihon Tenrei to create an unconventional ad for funeral services, it understandably posed several challenges.

“The March 11th earthquake and tsunami had a traumatic effect on Japan. Issues of life and death, hope and despair, beauty and tragedy became an all too real part of people’s everyday lives,” says the agency, reflecting on how to communicate the funeral home’s new role of remembering and celebrating the beauty of a lost person’s life.

Creative director Mari Nishimura decided to create a real-size human skeleton made from pressed flowers. The striking image is both beautiful, as well as celebratory, expressing through flowers what remains after death. Text and Image via Spoon & Tamago

Art/Aesthetics · Human-ities · Photographics

Omega Suites: The Architecture of Capital Punishment by Lucinda Devlin

During the early nineties, Lucinda Devlin systematically took photographs of gas chambers, injection rooms, electric chairs and death cells in rural towns and cities in the United States. She entitled the series “Omega Suites” — alluding to the final letter of the Greek alphabet as a metaphor for the end. Seemingly an examination of the death penalty, her austere, haunting images are actually metaphors that question the culture in America, where 70 percent of citizens support the death penalty. More than 3000 Americans have been sentenced to death and are in final holding cells, where they wait an average of 10 years before being executed.
In Lucinda Devlin’s photographs, the death cell represents aspects of American society and its accompanying mentality. One image shows an electric chair in the bright yellow color of American school buses which prison officers named “Yellow Mama”. Wooden paneling and carpets lend an almost cozy atmosphere to the setting. Another electric chair placed in the center of a room represents the character of a throne amid emptiness and clinical sterility. Elsewhere, the somber cross-like stretcher used for lethal injections suggests that executions are religious rituals, replete with a celebratory audience (seated on chairs opposite).
Icy and compelling, the photographs present a clearly defined and hermetically sealed concept of the world which is characterized by taking extreme measures against the ominous — instead of attempting integration. They do so in a precise, exquisite and seductive way while intellectually repelling us.

Text via HERE. Images via HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Lethal Injection Chamber, Nevada State Prison, Carson City, Nevada

Lethal Injection Chamber from Witness Room, Cummins Unit, Grady, Arkansas

Lethal Injection Chamber, Texas State Prison, Huntsville, Texas

Final Holding Cell, Indiana State Prison, Michigan City, Indiana

Art/Aesthetics · Events · Photographics · Shows · Vital-Edible-Health

Death: A Self-portrait

Wellcome’s winter exhibition showcases some 300 works from a unique collection devoted to the iconography of death and our complex and contradictory attitudes towards it. Assembled by Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer based in Chicago, the collection is spectacularly diverse, including art works, historical artefacts, scientific specimens and ephemera from across the world. Rare prints by Rembrandt, Dürer and Goya will be displayed alongside anatomical drawings, war art and antique metamorphic postcards; human remains will be juxtaposed with Renaissance vanitas paintings and twentieth century installations celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead. From a group of ancient Incan skulls, to a spectacular chandelier made of 3000 plaster-cast bones by British artist Jodie Carey, this singular collection, by turns disturbing, macabre and moving, opens a window upon our enduring desire to make peace with death.

Death: A Self-portrait
15 November 2012 – 24 February 2013

Image above: Marcos Raya, Untitled (family portrait: group), 2005

Human-ities

Parasomnias: Can You Die From A Nightmare?

Doree Shafrir: It is the middle of the night, and there is something very wrong in my apartment. I leap up from my bed and rush to the closet and crouch down and throw aside my shoes, which are arranged on a rack on the floor. I know I must work quickly; I am breathing fast and hard. There — there, behind the shoes, I see it: I don’t know what it is, but it needs to come out, or I am going to die. I pull and pull and finally get it out.

But something is still wrong. I am now completely panicked, and I jump back onto my bed and lean over the half-wall that my bed is up against, overlooking the hallway. There, I see what’s causing all the problems, and I push it downward and off the wall with all my might. It shatters loudly, glass flying everywhere.

Then, finally, I wake up. My two dogs are cowering in the corner, and I put on shoes to sweep up the glass. I am confused and embarrassed, though there is no one besides the dogs there to see that I just pushed a framed poster off a wall and broke it. I clean up the glass and go back to sleep, and it is not until the morning, when I see my shoes scattered everywhere, that I look into the closet and realize that I have also ripped the TV cable completely out of the back wall of my closet.

Excerpt of an article written by Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed. Continue HERE

Paint/Illust./Mix-Media · Performativity · Videos

The Francis Bacon Opera by Stephen Crowe

An absurd comedy that explores the mind of one of the 20th century’s most controversial painters.

The Francis Bacon Opera chronicles an interview between Francis Bacon and Melvyn Bragg, as seen on an episode of the South Bank Show in 1986. Explosive opinions blend with tenderness and wit throughout the course of the conversation, as Bacon and Bragg’s inhibitions are steadily diluted by alcohol. Touching on topics ranging from art, addiction, sexuality and death, composer Stephen Crowe has used the frank and inflammatory interview word-for-word as the opera’s libretto, underpinned by a score that is as spontaneous and imaginative as his subject’s brushstrokes.

This work turns what was a discussion about art back into a work of art in its own right, fusing opera with popular culture, television and art history.

Text and Images via The Francis Bacon Opera

Human-ities · Science · Theory

What Happens to Consciousness When We Die

Where is the experience of red in your brain? The question was put to me by Deepak Chopra at his Sages and Scientists Symposium in Carlsbad, Calif., on March 3. A posse of presenters argued that the lack of a complete theory by neuroscientists regarding how neural activity translates into conscious experiences (such as redness) means that a physicalist approach is inadequate or wrong. The idea that subjective experience is a result of electrochemical activity remains a hypothesis, Chopra elaborated in an e-mail. It is as much of a speculation as the idea that consciousness is fundamental and that it causes brain activity and creates the properties and objects of the material world.

Excerpt of an article written by y Michael Shermer, at Scientific American. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry

Saheera Sharif, the founder of Mirman Baheer (upper center); Ogai Amail, a poet and member of the group (bottom left); also pictured are other members of the poets’ group.

In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn’t working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone’s screen, her face looked wan and worried. When the phone finally bleeped, Amail shrieked with joy and put on the speakerphone. A teenage girl’s voice tumbled into the room. “I’m freezing,” the girl said. Her voice was husky with cold. To make this call, she’d sneaked out of her father’s mud house without her coat.

Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means “love” in the Pashto language; muska means “smile.”)

Meena lost her fiancé last year, when a land mine exploded. According to Pashtun tradition, she must marry one of his brothers, which she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t dare protest directly, but reciting poetry to Amail allows her to speak out against her lot. When I asked how old she was, Meena responded in a proverb: “I am like a tulip in the desert. I die before I open, and the waves of desert breeze blow my petals away.” She wasn’t sure of her age but thought she was 17. “Because I am a girl, no one knows my birthday,” she said.

Excerpt of an article written by ELIZA GRISWOLD, NYT. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Technology

Mummified Bodies and Glowing Computer Screens. Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.

Yvette Vickers, a former Playboy playmate and B-movie star, best known for her role in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, would have been 83 last August, but nobody knows exactly how old she was when she died. According to the Los Angeles coroner’s report, she lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actress, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in her mailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers’s body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space.

The Los Angeles Times posted a story headlined “Mummified Body of Former Playboy Playmate Yvette Vickers Found in Her Benedict Canyon Home,” which quickly went viral. Within two weeks, by Technorati’s count, Vickers’s lonesome death was already the subject of 16,057 Facebook posts and 881 tweets. She had long been a horror-movie icon, a symbol of Hollywood’s capacity to exploit our most basic fears in the silliest ways; now she was an icon of a new and different kind of horror: our growing fear of loneliness. Certainly she received much more attention in death than she did in the final years of her life. With no children, no religious group, and no immediate social circle of any kind, she had begun, as an elderly woman, to look elsewhere for companionship. Savage later told Los Angeles magazine that she had searched Vickers’s phone bills for clues about the life that led to such an end. In the months before her grotesque death, Vickers had made calls not to friends or family but to distant fans who had found her through fan conventions and Internet sites.

Excerpt of an article written by Stephen Marche, The Atlantic. Continue HERE
Above Image: Phillip Toledano.
Title of this post by Katie Fahey.

Film/Video/New Media · Human-ities · Philosophy

Werner Herzog on death, danger and the end of the world

Steve Rose talks to Werner Herzog about a new documentary on capital punishment, Into the Abyss.

Some years ago, Werner Herzog was on an internal flight somewhere in Colorado and the plane’s landing gear wouldn’t come down. They would have to make an emergency landing. The runway was covered in foam and flanked by scores of fire engines. “We were ordered to crouch down with our faces on our knees and hold our legs,” says Herzog, “and I refused to do it.” The stewardess was very upset, the co-pilot came out from the cabin and ordered him to do as he was told. “I said, ‘If we perish I want to see what’s coming at me, and if we survive, I want to see it as well. I’m not posing a danger to anyone by not being in this shitty, undignified position.'” In the end, the plane landed normally. Herzog was banned from the airline for life but, he laughs, it went bust two years later anyway.Herzog tells this story to illustrate how he’ll face anything that’s thrown at him, as if that was ever in any doubt. Now approaching his 70th birthday, the German film-maker has assumed legendary status for facing things others wouldn’t. He’s lived a life packed with intrepid movie shoots, far-flung locations and general high-stakes film-making. He has a biography too dense to summarize. But his tale also confirms the suspicion that he’s helplessly drawn to danger and death. Or vice versa.

Continue interview by Steve Rose at the Guardian

A different interview:

Part 2, Part 3

Human-ities · Theory

Freud’s Radical Talking

Death is supposed to be an event proclaimed but once, and yet some deaths, curiously enough, need to be affirmed again and again, as if there were a risk that the interred will crawl back up into the world of the living if fresh handfuls of dirt are not tossed on their graves. One such member of the living dead, accompanying the likes of God and Karl Marx, is Sigmund Freud. How often one hears, thanks recently to the fetishization of neuroscience, that psychoanalysis is now bunk, irrelevant, its method decadent and “dangerous,” as the recent David Cronenberg film, “A Dangerous Method,” informs us.

Over the years, the “talking cure” — so dubbed by Bertha Pappenheim, a.k.a. “Anna O.,” who became Freud’s first psychoanalytic case study — has received quite a bit of ridicule and reworking. With countless children and adults taking behavior-altering drugs, many are again tolling the bell for psychoanalysis. Who wouldn’t choose fast-acting pills over many years on the couch, health insurance companies most of all? Perhaps, after surviving scandal, revision and pop characterization, drugs and money will definitively put old Sigmund to rest.

If psychoanalysis were simply a way of “curing” certain individuals of socially unwanted behavior, then I would have no problem with its disappearance. Similarly, if psychoanalysis were just a way for wealthy individuals to talk to one another about their lackluster existences, it might as well continue on its way to the dustbin of history. And if, God forbid, psychoanalysis has devolved into just another addition to the theory toolkit of academics in the humanities, someone ought to put it out of its misery now.

Excerpt of an article by BENJAMIN Y. FONG at NYT. Continue HERE