For Alice P.

In Memory Of George Sykes

So they decided to number the days
God gave you. Lined them up and out
to a finite end, give or take the consequential
few. Days that could have swum by at
close to the speed of terror.

But, gauging the accuracy of science
and capricious life,
you paid no attention.
Death is no failure, no surprise.

Hope is an irritating thing,
doubt and desire gnawing
at the cluttered parts of your mind.
You did not succumb to it.
You just lived.

 

I originally wrote this for my Uncle George but, in keeping with the times, I am re-purposing it. No, same purpose just another time.

Creative Commons License
In Memory of George Sykes by Constantine von Hoffman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Restaurant chain learns mass-murder doesn’t make for funny advertising

drink the kool aidFor some reason The Hacienda restaurant chain thought an ironic reference to Jonestown was the basis for an ad. Billboards in South Bend, Ind., read “We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid’ and ‘To die for.” (Did someone tell them South Bend is a hot-bed of irony? They were misinformed.)

The ads were up for two weeks before the company finally got the message this wasn’t such a good idea.

“Our role is not to be controversial or even edgy. We want to be noticed – and there’s a difference,”said Jeff Leslie, vice president of sales and marketing at Hacienda, which also owns the La Senorita restaurant chain in Michigan.

Kudos to Mr. Leslie for not taking the easy way out and throwing his agency under the bus.

The article contains a great look at how this cluster frack came about:

Every year, Leslie said company leaders look at their restaurants, the economy, their customers, and the competition to determine an idea or theme to use for advertising.

This year, Hacienda decided to use “You belong.” You have a place at home, a place at work, and a place to dine, gather and celebrate at Hacienda. As they brainstormed about how people belong to clubs and teams, they discussed how an entity can develop a cult following of like-minded people.

Some people may dress alike or eat the same food or visit the same restaurant or drink the same drink – like margaritas, Leslie said.

“You start playing with headlines,” he said, “and that’s how we ended up with the outdoor board. But we are not getting the reaction we expected. It went the wrong direction, hit a nerve, and we have come to realize we should not have done this billboard. We lose the core message.”

Remember: Anyone can make a mistake but to really screw up you need a committee.

E-mail services will tell people about their STD or your death

Can’t bear to break the bad news to your last partner that you’ve given him/her/them a gift that keeps on giving?

A public health Web site called Inspot.org has put the trend of e-cards, e-mail, and e-vites to a unique purpose: the e-postcard that notifies you that a past sexual partner came down with a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

Instead of an e-card, is this called a VD-card? And yes, if you get one it is definitely too late to install virus protections.

Using what may be the ultimate drop down menu, the sender can choose from a list of sexually transmitted diseases and whether to disclose his or her name. Inspot.org will automatically send a list of local health resources to the recipient.  If you don’t remember the person’s name, what are the chances you got their email address?

And just in case that STD turns out to be terminal, another service lets you notify all your online-only acquaintances of your demise. A web site with the great name of SlightlyMorbid “lets customers create and maintain a secure list of important online friends who need to be notified in case of a crisis, or even death.”

At the most basic level, this service is designed to give people a place to consolidate their personal online contacts. Enter email addresses, handles or names if you wish, update them as needed. Once your account is set up, the site will generate a certificate with simple instructions for a trusted third party. Put the certificate with your important papers, or give it to whoever is designated to handle your affairs in an emergency. If there is an emergency, your trusted person can use those instructions to send a notification message, or trigger messages you’ve written yourself.

The one-time fee for the service ranges from $10 to $50. Premium members get to write “custom ‘last words’ messages … private email messages to each friend that you compose and store on the system in advance.” And, speaking of slightly morbid, the site offers a 20% discount for members of the military.

If you can’t think of what to give that special someone, gift memberships are offered.

Death is the hottest trend in marketing

Oddly enough, sports leads the pack in making a buck by showing how to truly be a die-hard fan.

It started a few years ago with the advent of coffins with sports logos on them but mere licensing wasn’t enough for one soccer/football team. Next month, the Barcelona-based Primera Liga club — aka Espanyol — will open a repository for 20,000 fans’ ashes at their new stadium Cornella-El Prat. “The columbarium will occupy 1,000 square metres over three floors in a corner section of the stadium. There will be 5,000 niches available, each capable of holding four urns.” The team expects to make $6.9 million over the next 15 years from this. As gruesome as this sounds, it has to be noted that sports teams didn’t come up with this idea. They are simply responding to demand from the fans.

It is a tribute to the marketers everywhere that an increasing number of people want their brand identity known even when they are forgotten. Thus, the Hello Kitty headstone.

Sorry, but I think Kuromi is more brand appropriate.

Coffins and urns are clearly the co-branding channel of choice here. A gentlemen in Illinois pre-ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon casket. Look closely at the picture and you will see he has a fondness for more than just PBR. This should make for an interesting discussion should he ever arrive at an AA meeting.

If you cannot find the brand of choice, contact Creative Coffins in the UK which offers a line of customized (or “bespoke”) coffins. Some of their offerings:

More after the jump…

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Caskets for someone who is a Trekkie to the death

“To boldly be buried as no one has been buried before…”

Eternal Image is a company that seems devoted to helping people get rid of excess cash when they die. When I last checked in, the maker of “brand-name funerary objects” had lines of urns and caskets with Major League Baseball logos and symbols from the Vatican Library. But, as the saying goes, that’s not all …

trek1For the millions of fans on our planet and beyond, our new line of Star Trek urns, caskets, monuments and vaults will be an important discovery indeed. After ten movies and five television series, phrases like “Live long and prosper,” “Resistance is futile” and “Space: the final frontier” have become part of our global vocabulary.

trekcasketThe urn, right, “will feature a bold design reminiscent of the 24th century styling of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet.” The casket “as been inspired by the popular ‘Photon Torpedo’ design seen in STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Kahn.” (BTW, as someone who has wept through that particular movie more times than he would care to admit, I can tell you that it’s spelled Khan.)

If tacky Trekkie isn’t your way to go, then check out the equal-but-differently tacky line of Precious Moments™ funerary objects. Death, be not un-cute…

Best line from Eternal Image’s mission statement: “We combine the power of brand-names with 21st century materials and composites that won’t rot.” How much more can you ask from a company?

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The I in CSI stands for Ikea

CSI IkeaThe purveyor of Swedish meatballs and home furnishings seems to think that nothing says comfy sleeping like a nice body outline. The Hulda Dans* quilt was apparently inspired by CSI and the other shows in the death porn genre. The heart monitor pillow covers are a nice touch. On the plus side: The victims were holding hands when they were killed.

*Has anyone started using the Ikea catalog as a source for Web 2.0 company names? There’s Polarvide, Granat, Klippan, Morrum, Glansa, Aneboda — and that’s just in the first few pages.

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Mourning in the digital age, or why I hate Facebook

Grief is taking on new shapes, forms and rituals in today’s world. There’s Cemetery 2.o,

[The] device maintains a live satellite Internet connection. Visitors to the physical memorial can view related memorials on the device display, while visitors paying their respects at any of the online memorials will recognize that their browsing is associated directly with the actual burial site.

For the generation growing up now using the Web for this is no odder than my parent’s generation posting death notices in the newspapers.

Social networking Web sites, like Facebook, MySpace and Friendster … have become an outlet for young adults to express their grief when friends die. They write messages to their dead friends, and even tell them stories of recent events.

Less noted is the little difficulties of coming across digital detritus from family and friends who have died. My Aunt Cathleen died last month and yesterday I deleted her phone number from my cell phone. That phone number — which is the only one she’d ever had during my lifetime — is no longer in use and I would see it and her name every time I went looking for a phone number. I like to remember my aunt, but seeing it that many times a day was just too much right now. I wanted an option other than delete, though. It took a long minute before I was willing to hit the button that was laden with so much finality.

Which brings me to why I hate Facebook. Actually I don’t hate it as a service or anything like that. It’s just that in January my beloved cousin Deirdre wrote “Hi Con” on my “wall” at Facebook. Deirdre, Cathleen’s daughter, died in June. There’s no way I’m removing that posting. So I cringe whenever someone suggests doing something via Facebook. In time, that will change but for now I hate Facebook.

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