Friday, October 28, 2005

My Obituary

If I could have my preference, I would want my obituary written by the staff of the New York Times. Seriously, these people write great obituaries. However, my textbook suggests that I should try writing my own obituary as a ways to accept my own mortality. Looking at my syllabus, it's not going to be a class assignment, but I am going to write the obituary I wish could be published, though I suspect my surviving relatives would have a fit if it was used. Of course, "Cosmic Siren" would be replaced with my real name and the specific information filled in.

Cosmic Siren Dead at Last

After ___ years of surviving many things through sheer luck and stubborness, _________ resident Cosmic Siren finally died on ____________ at ____ from ___________________.

A very serious and responsible child, Cosmic didn't find her true path in life until her late thirties. At which time, the very proper and quiet persona she had up until then presented to the rest of humanity was unceremoniously peeled away and replaced with an eccentric intensity and a determination to bring the healing of art to those who would otherwise overlook it.

Her achievements include raising two wonderful children, archetypal symbolism research, books on a range of subjects, and various other things.

In addition to her children, she is survived by ____ siblings and unnumbered minions. She will be missed, if only because she made life just a little more interesting by her presence.

Death, Grief and Bereavement homework.

Yes, I am back in school again. My Death, Grief and Bereavement module starts October 31st. Here's my first essay for the class.

Obituary Content Comparisons

When I started this assignment, I had the preconceived notion that the likelihood of an obituary being death denying would be less for a larger metropolis than it would for smaller urban areas. I was quite surprised to find out I was wrong. I was also wrong in my assumption that staff-written obituaries would be more death accepting than those written by someone who knew the deceased person personally. I compared six different newspaper sites and it is my suspicion that the degree of death accepting language depends more on regional culture than anything else.

The first two newspapers I compared were the NY and LA Times. The NY Times obituaries ( were obviously staff written. The short obituaries were focused on the factual statistic information in death accepting language with a title giving identifying phrase (either occupation or a defining achievement) of deceased linked to a longer, more detailed summary of their achievements while alive. They were the type of obituaries I expected see from an internationally read newspaper. The LA Times obituaries ( were probably staff written and while factual about death and time of it, they were somewhat death denying in that they avoided using the words death and died in titles, which were often preceded by the euphemism “passings“. The longer description were shorter than the NY Times full obituaries. Exceptions were made for military deaths, where the word “killed” and “dies” did make it into the obituary titles. Apparently military deaths are supposed to be accepted bluntly, while civilian deaths are to be handled carefully.

The next two newspapers I compared were The Oklahoman and The Dallas Morning News. The Oklahoman obituaries ( were usually written by someone who personally knew the deceased and sent to the paper. Most of these obituaries gave vital statistics, genealogical (parents, surviving family) and memorial service information. Occassionally some personal information of the decease was printed. Almost all of them were death accepting in their language, perhaps due to their brevity. In stark contrast, the staff written obituaries of The Dallas Morning News ( were definitely death denying in that they focused more on the human interest element. Readers were presented with the wonderful qualities of the deceased person, with the information about the actual death worked into either the middle or the end.

The last two newspapers I compared were from smaller cities: Norman, Oklahoma, and San Marcos, Texas. Both papers used non-staff written obituaries and unlike the obituaries in the Oklahoman, there did not appear to be a size limit to the obituaries submitted. The information presented varied by individual obituary. Some were just the date and time of death and city of residence of the decease. Others were short life histories. However, the obituaries of The Norman Transcript ( were more death accepting than those of The San Marcos Daily Record (, which were mostly death denying or acceptance soften with soothing adjectives.

The content of the staff written obituaries were probably dictated by either the newspaper's or editor's philosophies philosophies. Whether or not they accurately depict the general cultural approach to death is not clear. However, the submitted obituaries, especially those that were not limited in length showed more of a cultural angle in how the information was presented.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Schizophrenics Better at Discerning Illusions

Schizophrenics Better at Discerning Illusions

Optical illusions that fool most people don't seem to trick those who suffer from schizophrenia, concludes a study published in the latest issue of Current Biology. The success may actually be linked to a weakness in a brain mechanism called contextual processing, which is responsible for picking out relevant sensory information from the barrage of stimuli a person constantly experiences. If that's the case, it may explain why some schizophrenics misunderstand other people's actions in the context of a situation or feel paranoia or persecution.

In other news, I start going back to school October 31st.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Change a setting

You'll now have to do the "type the letters in the box to verify" thing.

Been getting spambots. Ironically, the first entry they hit was one on scams.

Fruit Bowls

Margaret Dorfman

Margaret Dorfman makes her delicate parchment bowls by hand from over 35 different types of fresh fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are cured for several days and then pressed, dried and aged into paper-thin, translucent vessels. She calls her pieces Fruit and Vegetable Parchment because their texture and translucency call to mind the skin parchments of medieval Europe. As each bowl is carefully hand-shaped and formed, so each is unique.