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Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel laureate novelist, 1927-2014

Novelist Gabriel García Márquez, whose One Hundred Years of Solitude "established him as a giant of 20th-century literature," died today at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

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Dead man who wasn't now is

Remember Walter Williams, the 78-year old who last month was pronounced dead and then found to be alive and kicking, literally, inside a body bag? He died on Thursday. (The Clarion-Ledger) David 7

Devotees froze dead guru

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After Indian guru Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) died in January of a suspected heart attack, his followers let his body sit a week before finally putting him in a freezer. Spiritual cryonics!

"He is not dead," spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC. "Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back."

Yoshitoshi Kanemaki's memento morae

Japanese sculptor Yoshitoshi Kanemak chisels strange, life-sized twins from blocks of wood. This bony conjoined brother is the least of the horrors. Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1972, he graduated from Tama Art University in 1999. His current exhibit, featuring these works, is "mementomori", at the Elsa Art Gallery in Taipei, Taiwan.

Dead man wasn't

ResurrectttttWalter Williams, 87, of Lexington, Mississippi was pronounced dead on Wednesday night. The coroner came to his home, did the paperwork, put him in a body bag, and transferred him to a funeral home. But then...

“We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking,” (coroner Dexter) Howard said. “He also began to do a little breathing.”

One possibility is that Williams's defibrillator fired up his heart after it had stopped. In any case, Williams is currently awake and talking in his hospital bed.

‘Dead man’ kicks his way out of body bag at funeral home

Custom gravestone "wraps"

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French firm Funeral Concept creates custom crypts wrapped in glossy art of your design. My immediate thought is that marketers may be interested in these monuments as a new form of advertising! After all, I'm sure people will be dying for them. (via Vice)

A moving long read about a medical school dissection class

Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has put together an amazing four-part story about medical students entering a human dissection lab for the first time. Interweaving the stories of the students, their teachers, and people who have chosen to donate their bodies to science, the series really gives you a sense of how emotionally intense the experience can be for students, and how it brings together all these different lives. Powerful stuff. Maggie 4

Poor white women and a public health mystery

Over the past 18 years the life expectancy for white women who didn't finish high school has dropped precipitously. Today, those women can expect to die five years earlier than their counterparts a generation ago. It's one of the biggest magnitude losses in life expectancy ever recorded, and nobody knows what's causing it. At the American Prospect, Monica Potts reports on scientists efforts to untangle the knot of correlations at the heart of this public health mystery and tells the story of one woman, Crystal Wilson, whose life and death mirrors the statistics. Maggie 84

Are you dead yet? Letter sent to pensioners to confirm existence

From the BBC: "A letter sent to about 4,000 retired people in Jersey asking if they still exist has been described as offensive by some of those who received it. ... The department said it wanted to make sure money was not paid into the accounts of people who had died." [via Arbroath] Rob 16

A moving account of how hospitals negotiate complicated cases of patient rights

Yesterday, a story about human experimentation spurred an interesting discussion in the comments about patient rights — can somebody who is dying make the informed decision to accept a treatment that could lead to them dying sooner? At Scientific American today, an HIV doctor has written a moving account of dealing with a very similar question, as one of his patients made the choice to refuse food, and her family and doctors were faced with the task of deciding whether or not to feed her through a stomach tube. Maggie 4

Anonymous funeral director explains the big con behind the industry, coffins, and embalming


An anonymous commenter who identifies her/himself as a funeral director has posted a magnificent rant to a Reddit thread, explaining all the ways that funeral directors con bereaved families into paying for things they don't need, like $5000 painted plywood boxes and "barbaric," environmentally degrading "mutilation" (embalming), which are often described as legal requirements (they aren't). The post is full of great intel and advice, including mention of the FTC funeral rule, which sets out your rights in clear, simple language. I didn't know that US law requires funeral directors to accept your own coffin, which you can get at your local big-box discount store or have delivered from a variety of sellers through Amazon.

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Death masks of famous scientists

This is Isaac Newton's face, frozen in plaster and wax. It's one of two death masks owned by the Royal Society. (The other preserves the face of mathematician, physicist, and early-20th-century science communicator James Hopwood Jeans.) Why take plaster casts of the faces of the dead? The tradition dates back to the pre-photography era where, if you wanted to see what a person actually looked like, a cast (whether of their face in life, or death) was the most accurate way to do it.

The Royal Society has more on the history of death masks, and pictures of the two they own.

The Coffinmaker, a mini-documentary

Marcus Daly of Vashon Island, Washington, is a carpenter who specializes in handcrafted wooden coffins. One of his design principles is that the coffin needs to be easily carried. "The Coffinmaker" (via the Smithsonian In Motion Video Contest)

The blue glow of death

Nematode worms glow blue as they die — in fact, scientists can watch the blue glow spread throughout a worm's body in the hours before its death. And the glow begins in the intestine. Maggie 2

Life, death, and the people we love the most

Margaret Pabst Battin is a philosopher and right-to-die activist who firmly believes that the concepts of autonomy and mercy demand that we, as a society, allow the sick, the old, and the infirm to decide, for themselves, how and when and where they will die. In 2008, her husband, Brooke Hopkins, barely survived a bicycle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, on a pacemaker, and frequently sick. At The New York Times Magazine, Robin Henig tells the moving, beautiful, and sad story of a couple struggling in real life with questions that had, previously, been mostly theoretical. At the heart of it is a big, messy question: What happens if you do, sometimes, really want to die ... but the people who love you aren't ready to let go just yet? Maggie 1