Monday, May 30, 2011

Stride Gum Commercial

Stride "Urn" TV Commercial from Tom Christmann on Vimeo.

Stride lasts a ridiculously long time. No seriously. Don't believe me? Watch this commercial I helped make at JWT in New York. And if you're a judge at Cannes, please vote. :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kinkaraco awarded Eileen Fisher Grant

Kinkaraco Burial Shroud (l), Eileen Fisher Scarf (r)
Women's Clothing Designer Eileen Fisher, a long time advocate of supporting businesses that create a positive impact in the world, has awarded a grant to Green Burial Products company, Kinkaraco. "Through my own company, I've seen how the way we do business has had a positive effect on people's lives," says Fisher. "I see this grant money as encouragement to women business owners who are trying to do the same."  The program recognized 100% women-owned businesses that are innovative and produce products that foster environmental and economic heath in their communities.  Kinkaraco Green Burial Products, founded in 2005, created the first structured secular burial shroud for environmental purpose to be used without a casket.  The shroud debuted on the HBO series 'Six Feet Under' in 2005 on the green burial episode.  Founder and designer, Esmerelda Kent has been a green burial pioneer since 2004, working in California's first green cemetery.  Kinkaraco has recently launched "Mort Couture', a new line of elegant biodegradable shrouds.
Designer Eileen Fisher
The Eileen Fisher Business Grant Program for Woman Entrepreneurs was launched in 2004 with a single grant of $20,000 to commemorate the company’s 20th
anniversary. Since then, up to five grants have been awarded each year to 100%
women women-owned businesses that combine the
principles of social consciousness, sustainability, and innovation to create
new businesses or invigorate existing ones. Applications for the 2011 Women-Owned
Business Program will be accepted from March 15-May15, 2011, 11:59 P.M.
EST.  For more information about the
program or to submit an application, please visit www.eileenfisher/grants
Esmerelda Kent, Designer and Founder of Kinkaraco

Kinkaraco-Green Burial Products is headquartered in San Francisco California’s Mission District. Please visit: 
To read the July 2010 Daily undertaker interview with Esmerelda Kent, visit: 

The Shrouds of Kinkaraco: A Conversation with Esmerelda Kent

And for more on the relationship between fashion and death, visit:

Fashion and Funerals

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Death of a Heroine: Photography by Tin Sanchez

The 2009 funeral procession of Corazon Aquino, former President of the Philippines

Tin Sanchez is a copy-based Advertising Creative and Photographer in the Philippines.  For more of her moving work, visit her online portfolio.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recycling the Heat of Cremation Does Not Equal Burning the Dead as Fuel

Casket enters crematory retort

In yesterday's Miller & McCune Environment article by Justin Nobel, the same old misconception about recycling the heat of cremation was trotted out and reinforced for dramatic effect.   

"Imagine a swimming pool heated by your dead grandmother. The town council in Redditch, England, recently approved a plan that will make this possible. "

Unfortunately, the laudable and important work of harnessing the wasted heat that results from increasing numbers of cremations in the US and in Europe continues to be hindered by the idea that the dead are used as fuel.  In fact, the fuel is natural gas, used to reduce human remains into water vapor, carbon and skeletal remains.  This combustion is already taking place all over the world, and that heat contributes only to warming an already overheated planet, while only miles away, coal is burned to produce electricity.

Using the waste heat of cremation to produce electricity for heating homes in Sweden, warming swimming pools in the UK, or cooling offices in Taipei results only in a more sustainable world for the living.  By allowing the natural gas waste heat to heat the pool, we can keep  Grandmother's cremation from damaging the environment. 

For more on this subject, read:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Noted Impersonator Dies: A Meditation on Individuality

Impersonator Ted Prior in December of 2010 

It's easy to dismiss the importance of a life spent pretending to be someone else.  Ted Prior, no matter what his talents may have been, engaged them in imitating Elvis.  Having known who Elvis really was, we can see that Ted Prior was but a pale imitation of 'The King' - a knock off- a substitute for someone who at first didn't have time, and later was not able to be there.  If he didn't care to be himself, why and how should we mourn his passing?
Sometimes those of us in the western world, and Ted Prior could probably be counted in that number, put too much stock in the value of identity and individuality.  When we look at one another, are we really all that unique?  One has side burns, drives a truck and listens to country music.  Another wears dark frame glasses,  skinny pants and enjoys sushi.  What defining characteristics do we have that are not just a T-shirt slogan or a pale copy of one cultural archetype, fictional character, Pundit or marketing campaign?
Spiritually are we a pale imitation of a heavenly form - a bumbling child playing dress-up in imitation of our Gods?
When I look at the face of Ted Prior, I see a sham.  I see a loser trying vainly to be someone great, and in that way I see all of us, no matter how sophisticated or accomplished we are at our forgeries.  And when I look again, I see the beauty that we all have despite how far we fall short.  It is the beauty of our imperfect humanity, and that is how I choose to mark and pay tribute to the passing of Ted Prior.
Here is his obituary from

There are lots of Elvis Presley impersonators, but probably the most popular in the Jersey shore resorts was Ted Prior.  He would show up at a casino one night, the back room of a Red Lobster the next, wherever Elvis' fans might be ensconced.
He was particularly popular in Ocean City, where he took part in the festivals, parades and other events for which the family resort is famous.
Ted Prior died yesterday of the cancer he had been battling since last fall. He was 68 and lived in Galloway Township, Atlantic County.  His death was announced by his manager, Neil Regina, who wrote on Ted's Facebook page:  "The stars in heaven will be much brighter and the music in rock and roll heaven will be much sweeter with him on lead vocal."
Ted's streak of nearly 10,000 performances over 50 years ended when he was forced  to miss a New Year's Eve show in Ocean City. He said the medication he was taking made him too weak to perform.  Ted's career path was set when, at the age of 14, he picked up a guitar he didn't know how to play at a party and began to sing. A friend yelled out, "Hey, Ted, you sound just like Elvis."
He took guitar lessons and gradually transformed himself into Elvis. He insisted that he was not an Elvis "impersonator." He preferred to think of himself as an Elvis "performer."

Funeral in Biar

Funeral from Juan Rayos on Vimeo.
"Pequeño homenaje en memoria de mi tía Mari, que falleció coincidiendo con las fiestas de Moros y Cristinanos de Biar (Alicante). Tuvo el mejor funeral que podía imaginar, rodeada de sus amigos y familiares, en unas fechas tan señaladas para ella y el pueblo de Biar.

A small tribute in memory of my aunt Mari, who died at the same time as the well know festivity of “Moros y Cristianos of Biar" (Alicante). It was the best funeral she could ever imagine, surrounded by her friends and family, on such special dates both for her and for the people of Biar."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trimming the State Budget with Cremation

Chain Gang Burial

Cremation, once considered by a majority of Americans to be a punishment worse than death itself, has now been embraced so widely that in many areas of the United States it is the prevalent form of disposition.  A recent post, Buried by a Chain Gang, highlighted the incongruity of indigent people being accorded  a level of care and ceremony in their state sponsored burials that many wealthy Americans have chosen to do without.  This window of incongruity is, however, closing fast.

Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chaffee's recent proposal to cremate the indigent persons in the state's care and custody is a step that will inevitably be taken all over the United States.  States have historically borne the ultimate responsibility to provide the minimum level of a dignified disposition for those who die under their  auspices, and now that our culture's conception of a dignified disposition has been lowered, the treatment of the indigent will drop accordingly

Exceptions will be made for those whose religious beliefs prohibit cremation, but elected officials will not be able to justify for long the provision of a higher level of death care for prisoners than what is selected by the majority of their constituents.  Again, it is not as though the indigent wards of the state have enjoyed fancy funerals; they are and have been provided with the cheapest possible direct burials that can be performed.  It's just that society's standards have dropped even lower. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Death's Grim Harvest: 1901 Obituary of My Great Grandfather, Austin McNally


The hand of death has been busy among our citizens the past week and with deep feelings of regret we chronicle the departure of several old and honored friends who have answered the final summons and gone to that bourne whence no traveler returns.
St. Martin's Catholic Church, Cascade, Iowa

Here is the text of my Great-Grandfather's 1901 obituary.  Austin McNally was an undertaker, and a hardware store proprietor in Cascade Iowa at the end of the nineteenth century.  The obituary is remarkable compared to modern obituaries in its length and use of flowery phrases, and also in its account of the emotional effects of death on the family and community.  I hope you will find it as interesting as I have:

Cascade mourns the loss of a respected and honored citizen in the death of Austin McNally.  A citizen and business man who was identified with the welfare and advancement of this community since the day of his location in the town twenty-on years ago.  Always a leading factor in every public movement and a staunch advocate of every enterprise that tended to turn the wheels of progress, Mr. McNally’s death is a public loss and the keen sorrow that befalls his bereaved family descends alike upon the community.  Genial, whole souled, and generous – Austin McNally was known and held in high respect by all his fellow citizens.  His friends were numberless and expressions of sorrow and regret on account of his demise are common on every hand.  Years of daily intercourse with the public as a business man had widened his acquaintanceship until he was known far and wide, and his retirement after his sickness befell him was an innovation to those who expected to see his familiar form in his usual place of business, and now that death has removed him from the scene of life’s activity the thought is a sad one to his numerous friends that he is no more among them.  Mr. McNally’s illness, which culminated in his death last Sunday afternoon, December 15, at 3:00 o’clock, dated from the 20th of last July, when he was seized with a serious attack of kidney trouble, which subsequently developed cancer of the kidneys.  Skilled physicians, both local and others, were consulted, and beyond a temporary relief failed to affect a permanent cure of the malevolent disease.  After treatment here, with a view to securing the benefit of hospital treatment he was removed to the sanitarium at Anamosa on the 25th day of September last.  The change for a time seemed beneficial and some improvement was noted in his condition, so that on November 9 he was brought home again.  From that time t o the last hours of the deceased his condition was more or less changeable, though from day to day it was evident that the malignant disease was gradually consuming the vital spark of life.  The final depressing attack which ended in his death began on Friday last and continued to be very discouraging the succeeding day, and Sunday, in the afternoon of which Mr. McNally breathed his last, surrounded by the members of his family.  

Main Street, Cascade
Austin McNally was born in Washington township, Jones county in what was then known as the territory of Iowa on the 24th day of May 1843.  His parents Mr. and Mrs. Thos. McNally were among the early settlers of the county, having settled there the year before Austin was born.  The latter’s boyhood and manhood were passed upon the old homestead farm and for sixteen years after attaining his majority he assisted in the material development of his father’s estate.  He continued to live there until his marriage to Miss Mary Quigley, of Anamosa, which took place at the above town April 20, 1880.  In December, 1880, Mr. McNally came to Cascade and opened a hardware store and undertaking establishment, which business he followed almost uninterruptedly for twenty-one years, or until the first of last October, when the business was sold to Devaney & Son.

Early in the 80’s Mr. McNally associated in the undertaking business with S.B. Beatty, but continued under his own name his hardware concern, and in order to take care of the latter properly he built a fine new store building, which was completed in the fall of 1896 and is still owned by his estate.  Always popular and liberal in his dealings he enjoyed an immense trade in the hardware line.  In 1898, when Mr. Beatty sold out and removed to Cedar Rapids the undertaking department was included in the sale and Mr. McNally retired from that branch of business until last year, when he again added it to his business, taking as a partner P.A. Koob, who had served his apprenticeship with himself and Mr. Beatty.

St. Martin's Catholic Church

Mr. McNally, always a public spirited citizen, served his town in the capacity of alderman and was a member of the town board during the period when Cascade made several important additions to its municipal improvements, principally the construction and installation of the water works system, in which purchase and establishment, he was an important factor.  Politically, Mr. McNally was a consistent and unswerving democrat.  He was a member of St. Martin’s Branch R. C. M. Protective Association and an honorary member of St. Gonzaga’s court, Catholic Order of Foresters.  He was a devout Catholic and a God-fearing man whose last earthly days were consoled by the faith of his fathers and the grace-giving sacraments of his religion.
Besides his sorrow-stricken wife he leaves behind a family of five daughters and one son, namely; Bessie, Mae, Irene, Genevieve, Evelyn and Harry.  Four children died in infancy.  He is also survived by his brothers Robert and James McNally of Richland and Washington Townships, and sisters Miss Ann McNally of Washington Township, and Mrs. James Lynch.
The funeral took place at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning from the residence to St. Martin’s church, and was attended by the R.C.M.P. Society and Catholic Order of Foresters, whose members marched in advance of the funeral cortege, followed by many fellow citizens and friends of the deceased.  Solemn High Mass was celebrated with Rev. J. J. Brogan of Placid, celebrant: Rev. L. Roche, pastor, deacon, and Rev. J. Kelly of Gary Owen, sub-deacon.  Rev. L. Roche delivered a very touching address, and referred feelingly to the deceased to whose character as a man and citizen he paid high tribute.  At the conclusion of the services the remains were conveyed to the Catholic cemetery and laid to rest.  The floral offerings were very beautiful and were contributed by the Catholic societies, the Protective society, the Foresters, and the Dubuque Casket Co.
The pall-bearers were: James A. Hayes, James McCue, T.H. McQuillen, J.C. Devlin, T.D. Fagan and P.L. Devaney.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bird Songs at Charlie Parker's Grave

Thanks to Plastic Sax Blog for this clip of Birds singing at Charlie Parker's Grave in Lincoln Cemetery
Related Posts with Thumbnails

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.