Not About Tim Russert June 13, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Perennial Obit Thread Discussion

Just so that we can leave the Russert Obit Thread somewhat more lacking in noise, I suggest that we move all discussions on pet-peeves, ponies, and poignancy about obit-threads in general over here.
posted by Navelgazer to Etiquette/Policy at 3:41 PM (109 comments total)

I'll say that, personally, I don't mind them, and they're some of the best use of the site for discussion instead of content. I know that people have a problem with that, but at the same time, in the sea of periods in the discussion, you'll find a lot of links to great stuff that the OP wouldn't likely have found themselves.

Obit threads are far from my favorite thing on Metafilter, and whenever I hear about a shocking death, this is the first place I come, not because I want to be the first to post the thread, but because I can be sure that one is already up, and that I can read people's first impressions of the matter, and see MeFi actually treat a thread sort of as community property.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:45 PM on June 13, 2008


.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:46 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ha! I knew this was coming. Oh Metafilter, I love you for being so predictable.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:50 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


.
posted by ericb at 3:53 PM on June 13, 2008


Not About Tim Russert

This comment is not about obituary threads.
posted by dersins at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2008


FAMOUS PERSON DIES --> THIN AND RUSHED OBIT THREAD BLITZED TO THE FRONT PAGE TO BE THE FIRST TO REPORT THE NEWS ---> . ---> POSITIVE COMMENTS ------> COMMENTS CRITICAL OF THE DEPARTED -----> COMMENTS CRITICAL OF OBIT THREADS ------ COMMENTS CRITICAL OF THE COMMENTS CRITICAL OF THE OBIT THREADS ----> META.

Did I miss anything?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I find the mawkish sentimentality the obit threads bring out, and the uncritical adulation lavished on the deceased, to be really off-putting, and surprising from a group of intelligent members like Metafilter has.

The sentiment of half the comments on the Russert thread seemed to be that, whatever you thought of his journalism, Russert was a celebrity, and therefore, they're going to miss him. Such herd-mentality thinking is really noxious.
posted by jayder at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Did I miss anything?

You forgot ugly, lazy and disrespectful. Go fix me a turkey pot pie.
posted by dersins at 3:57 PM on June 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


Whatever criticism of Tim Russert in that thread remains about the quality (or lack thereof) of his journalism, and is not so much a criticism of him as a human being. Insofar as the discussion has been intelligent and respectful, if critical, that's about the best situation as one could hope, no?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2008


Paris Hilton is a celebrity too. I'm pretty sure the people who say they're going to miss him actually kind of liked him, jaydar.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:00 PM on June 13, 2008


I WILL DANCE ON YOUR GRAVES "."ISTS !
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm okay with honest opinions of the man, I'm just asking that issues about the quality of the post itself air themselves out here instead of there.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:01 PM on June 13, 2008


Russert was a celebrity, and therefore, they're going to miss him. Such herd-mentality thinking is really noxious.

You don't have to have a personal know-you-in-RL connection to miss someone though. I miss Frank Zappa and I didn't know the guy. I miss Steve Cisler (and made a decent obit post that went well if I do say so myself) and we hardly knew each other. What I find strange is taking a dump in a thread like that just you find it irksome. Do people not think that doing that is going to just fuck it all up? Does anyone even care about that sort of thing, just spreading the annoyance around instead of just letting it stop with you? I'm pretty mucn in the "blarg Tim Russert" camp but I just stayed the hell out of the obit thread. It was ridiculously simple.

More to the point, while I understand why people might be annoyed at obit threads, however they manage to go, I don't understand why they feel justified in being jerks in them. It's like the "omg typo" people in AskMe who just can't help themselves telling someone they spelled its wrong. But, my eternal quest for that answer keeps me sticking around here, so there's that.

I'd like people to be jerks less. Then again I'd also like people to make an effort with obit threads and that seems to not really mostly happen either.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The sentiment of half the comments on the Russert thread seemed to be that, whatever you thought of his journalism, Russert was a celebrity, and therefore, they're going to miss him. Such herd-mentality thinking is really noxious."

What an absolutely moronic conclusion to derive from the respectful mourning of people who have watched his show every week for literally years and came to count on the man almost as a permanent fixture in their lives, to suggest that they were blinded by the aura of celebrity. Really, I find your comment noxious.
posted by misha at 4:08 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's like the "omg typo" people in AskMe who just can't help themselves telling someone they spelled its wrong.

Can we just get those guys ruthlessly deleted anywhere on MeFi?
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on June 13, 2008


Spelled its what wrong?
posted by timeistight at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'd also like people to make an effort with obit threads

Yep. And I think the quick deletion of an atrociously lame obit post like the one swift made (single link to a news story, nothing whatsoever about the person who's life is supposedly worth noting) - with a reason something like, "Please make at least a little effort to craft a worthwhile obituary post, thanks" - would go a long way towards setting a better tone in those threads.

A long, long way.
posted by mediareport at 4:29 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Roffle. Posting a real expression in an obit thread? For some people, civility is a real challenge when others open up or show the least bit of sentimentality.
posted by cowbellemoo at 4:33 PM on June 13, 2008


Nothing stops you from adding links and background information in the comments, mediareport.

I agree it would be nice if Metafilter showed restraint and waited for a fleshed out post for any news items (including obit posts). But deleting them until something "good enough" is posted turns the moderators into a panel of judges, which appears to be a job they don't want.
posted by Gary at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2008


yesterday, i was walking through Union Square and I saw a young guy dressed in a soiled wifebeater, a derby hat, and baggy black pants. He had a thick handlebar moustache that attached to muttunchop sideburns. Dude, I dug Gangs Of New York, too, but Jeez Louise.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Obitthreads serve a purpose. As has been pointed out in the thread in question, many times folks here have personal anecdotes and stories about the deceased, things we wouldn't find elsewhere.

It never hurts to show respect at the passing of another human, whether they were known or just well known.
posted by konolia at 4:51 PM on June 13, 2008


RIP Tim and the continuing death of objective journalism. The Olbermann's and O'Reilly's will continue to debase the craft.
posted by Mblue at 5:17 PM on June 13, 2008


What jessamyn and media report said.

Go fix me a turkey pot pie.
I didn't know they made turkey pot pie? Is there any major difference between it and chicken pot pie, aside from using turkey instead of chicken?
Which one is better, in your opinion?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:34 PM on June 13, 2008


I'm waiting for pot pot pie, myself.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on June 13, 2008


I know that MetaFilter is supposed to be about the links, but sometimes great things appear in the comments. Obit threads can work well that way, even obits for people I didn't like.
posted by RussHy at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2008


Remember the Fred Rogers obit thread. That was Best of the Web in itself.
posted by RussHy at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2008


I didn't know they made turkey pot pie?

I once had a duck pot pie with a 35-year-old bottle of red. Dessert was homemade chocolate chip ice cream topped with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar.

I haven't had sex that good, and I've had some pretty damn awesome sex.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:25 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, but I'm sure we just all miss Mr. Rogers because he was a celebrity. It's not like we knew him or anything.

(I am watching Blazing Saddles right now and missing the hell out of Madeline Kahn.)
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Twoo Dat, rtha.
posted by jonmc at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is fucking pointless to have this discussion again, and everybody posting in this thread is an asshole.

Oh shit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just finished "Blair Witch" about 5 minutes ago and I am never going in my basement again.
posted by Dizzy at 6:37 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn -- you say

I'd like people to be jerks less. Then again I'd also like people to make an effort with obit threads and that seems to not really mostly happen either.

Are you saying that people should stay out of obit threads unless they have something nice to say about the decedent?

It seems to me that, if you have an opinion about the person's legacy or contributions to their profession, even if the opinion is bad, an obit thread is an excellent place to put it. I don't think reflecting on someone's legacy is "taking a dump" in the thread --- do you?
posted by jayder at 6:44 PM on June 13, 2008


You make pot pie after you've roasted a whole bird for an earlier, more formal meal. You pick the carcass and make pot pie. It really doesn't matter if it's chicken or turkey or something else. It doesn't really vary by bird, but it does vary. In my family, it's made in a big pot with (sometimes also leftover) veggies and potatoes, and with buttermilk biscuits floating on the top which makes the crust.
posted by lampoil at 6:47 PM on June 13, 2008


I sit at my desk, pondering the lives of people who sit at their desks, casually speaking about the dead, and slaying them twice, and thrice, no, twenty or thirty times, until the person is really good and dead, dead in their hearts and in their minds, and not just dead, but vilified, crucified, splayed out on a platter for dissection, with periods interspersed, gentle, gentle periods of heartfelt people who feel a person's passing and want to mark the moment with a feeling, only to be met by someone else's issues spewing forth as a nasty remark about the dead man, but instead is a photomontage about the speaker's guts: I am afraid of dying, and thus, I must make humor about the dead man, so that I can stave off the fear of the inevitable: I too, someday, will be taking a 6 foot dirt nap alongside the rest of you blokes, so lets all pretend it isn't us, but poke fun at the guy who just bit the dust, because it will never really be us doing that thing, that death thing, that heart attack/cancer/unknown cause thing, will it?

RIP Tim R, you lived a good life.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:48 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I will have had a full life if, when I am dead, a bunch of people who've never met me post their "."s and every 5 comments or so someone points out yet another asshole thing I did when I was alive.

And if you fuckers don't, I WILL COME BACK FROM THE DEAD and MeTa your asses to complain about how I wasted $5 and countless hours of my life on this so called "community."

Everybody needs a hug except the dead.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:55 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that people should stay out of obit threads unless they have something nice to say about the decedent?

I can't speak for Jess, but for my part I'll happily say that I'd prefer that people stay out of obit threads unless they have something to say about the the decedent. If it's a substantial negative comment, cool. If it's random Who Cares shitting, that sucks; so, too, saying something about whether the thread should exist, or about the people choosing to talk about the decedent, seems like a jerk move when it's really goddam easy to close the browser or move on to another thread.

Words (or, yes, dots) of quiet condolence or loss are sort of an exception to the add-some-substance notion, but they're the sort of exception that is clearly not intended to piss people off or make a stink, so I don't have much of a problem with them personally. Obit threads are weirdish, no argument there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


jonmc - following hot on the heels of Blazing Saddles is Young Frankenstein! Thank you, TVLand!
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2008


Are you saying that people should stay out of obit threads unless they have something nice to say about the decedent?

Well, you know, why not? Can't you wait one lousy day after his death to go through and highlight all the stuff you don't like about the guy? For that matter, why don't you make your own friggin' post a few days later that deals with the issues that bother you, instead of lazily coming into someo other poster's obituary thread and tearing apart the deceased's life work? Is that asking too much?
posted by misha at 7:07 PM on June 13, 2008



Are you saying that people should stay out of obit threads unless they have something nice to say about the decedent?


I know you are asking me, but I'd like to take this opportunity to say "Yes."
And to also quit playing God with the relative worth of any given human soul v. another based upon ones personal petty politics which the deceased no longer give a dern about.
(I'm not addressing you in that second bit, jayder. Just adding my warm spit to the collective pitcher. I'll have the chocolate pie, please.)
posted by dawson at 7:26 PM on June 13, 2008


I like the obit posts because usually, it's the first place I learn of a famous person's death. I can usually do without the ensuing thread, except for the extremely rare personal insight someone might give, someone who might have actually known or worked with the deceased.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:27 PM on June 13, 2008


*aren't* asking me, even. damn tears in my eyes about my cat getting kidnapped.
posted by dawson at 7:28 PM on June 13, 2008


I just have a visceral reaction to those kind of negative posts in obit threads. It's like they relish one last chance to kick the guy.

You can argue all day that someone's death shouldn't make you respect them more, but... it certainly makes me respect you less.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 PM on June 13, 2008


Metafilter obit posts make me glad I'm not famous. And dead.
posted by Cyrano at 7:51 PM on June 13, 2008


I, for the most part, fucking hate obit threads.

Tim Russert was "celebrity" via some notoriety as a journalist, which it seems he was at least at one time, and a TV talking head. Are our Sunday mornings going to be that much more emotionally vapid since he's gone? No. They're not. Not unless you're an eighty-year old senescent who is upset by the tritest variance from the expected order of things. Rreally, who fucking cares. You looked up at him above your copy of the Times and your coffee, now you'll watch something else.

I can think of two obit threads on the other hand right off my head that were both notable and worthy: Fred Rogers and Gary Gygax. There were some fucking wonderful gems in those threads. Why? Because many people had some emotional resonance with them. Even if we say fuck it to their status as cultural icons, we loved Fred because he made us feel loved, special, safe as children. We loved Gygax because he enlivened our imaginations and sent us on perilous journeys within our mind's eye.

What did Russert fucking do? Interview politicians? Who gives a shit? "I loved his journalism" has the emotional resonance of a discarded brick. At least when Cronkite bites it there can be some claim of icon status, of his near universal presence in among the very few channels available during an era. He was a high priest, mediating the news to the public.

So the mods allow us to vent our frustrations in MeTa threads while shitty obit threads continue to make the Blue and we all blather our pros and cons. I think that unless someone's death is culturally or emotionally momentous (to more than just the poster) newsfilter obits should find their way into Deletionland. Tim Russert, God be with his family, it's an individual tragedy and all that, fails on those criteria.

Maybe we should have a little "Metafilter Black" button up by Projects and that stuff where nothing but obit posts live and those needing to grieve publicly can go.

/end rant

Whew. Feels better.
posted by Any Moose In a Storm at 7:57 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, we will all miss dear old user#24088.

I suppose a lot of obit thread lack content and thoroughness because of OMG! BREAKING! NEWS! OH SHI! factor. When I make a post, once a year or so, I usually take several hours to round up links, undergo anguish as to the order I should present them in, have several moments of self-doubt concerning the validity of the post, and finally hit the preview button only to discover I've done it all wrong, and have to start over because my link is the title, and the title was supposed to be my link. If I ever tried to make an obit thread, it'd have to be about someone so obscure than no one else on Metafilter had ever heard of them, or else it'd be a quadruple. There's just no way you can take a reasonable amount of time to craft a well-rounded obit post about a major celebrity, and not miss the boat.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:09 PM on June 13, 2008


On preview, sorry Slarty Bartfest, but this is still a fast-moving thread, I guess.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:13 PM on June 13, 2008


RussHy, thank you for posting the link to the Fred Rogers obit thread.
posted by headnsouth at 8:21 PM on June 13, 2008


Someday, when Bill O'Reilly passes, let us revisit this.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:24 PM on June 13, 2008


Aren't all these "why must we have obit threads?" threads pretty much interchangeable? Can't we just bump whatever the last one was up to the top of the gray and act like we already did this? Are they typically started by people who somehow believe we've never talked about this before, ever, and they're breaking new ground? And we'll all be like, "Dude, you are crazy awesome and have totally opened my eyes, I never thought about it like that"? And there will never, ever be an obit thread ever again? And if there is, people will be all like, "Clearly, you were not here when UserX was mad crazy awesome and totally opened our eyes!"? And the thread will be deleted, and in its place there will just be a big frowny face? And never again will we have an obit thread, but one day UserX will die, and people will all be like, "UserX was truly a great man. We miss him. This thread is an exception" and MetaFilter itself will go offline, because there's no point in going on? Additionally: Does anyone know who took my stapler?

I really need it back.

Thank you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:34 PM on June 13, 2008




Could we have a button at the top of obit threads that people could click instead of leaving a "." in the thread? Then we could easily tally them and see who wins the most popular dead person award.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:20 PM on June 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's just no way you can take a reasonable amount of time to craft a well-rounded obit post about a major celebrity, and not miss the boat.

You could do what the newspapers and networks do: make them in advance for every famous person, so it's ready just in case.
posted by rokusan at 9:45 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


What did Russert fucking do? Interview politicians? Who gives a shit?

What did Fred Rogers fucking do? Play with hand-puppets?
What did Gygax fucking do? Pretend to be a dwarf?

There's the very real fact here that different folks care about different things; while I agree with you that both Rogers and Gygax threads were particularly good moments in Obitfilter history, and while I wish that we'd ended up with a richer and less rushed obit post for Russert here, it's probably not a great plank to argue that because you don't care much about the particular dead person, their death doesn't count.

You were on a roll and doing your vent thing, okay, but a couple deep breaths later I hope you can acknowledge the essential subjectivity of the argument you just used to dismiss people who will miss Russert more than you will. I'm not even one of them, particularly—I wasn't a regular viewer—but sheesh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:12 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Isn't there like a 4 link minimum around here? I mean, what gives?

Oh wait, no there isn't. Moving along.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:29 PM on June 13, 2008


I'm saddened that seeing the video of Lee Perry hasn't shown you the futility of worrying about these things.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:47 PM on June 13, 2008


MattBucher said, "Just put your dot down and walk out, man."

I wish I were allowed a Front Page Post in The Blue to detail exactly why that's precisely what people should NOT do if they are so inclined.

I put my dot down and walked out cuz I honestly had nothing to contribute. I like Tim Russert. Tho not every weekend, I've seen my fair share of Meet The Press. He did his job and did it well. I didn't need to say all that. Other people already had. So I just put my dot down and walked out. Cuz I felt like it.

And y'know what? I was wrong. I shoulda said somethin'. I just left the dot cuz I thought I was being respectful. Fuck me. When the hell has an obit thread in MeFi been respectful? My God! When you think about it, it's the most DISRESPECTFUL THING we do here in MeFi! That's what's so GREAT about it!

Some jackoff celebrity dies and we all come in here and post to the same thread whatever our heart or head or left elbow thinks we should in order to capture the moment. Some people think they're saying something respectful. Some people KNOW they're saying disrespectful stuff. Regardless of our differing intentions, the truth is clear: we piss virtual urine on the virtual grave of a virtual corpse, and we walk away feeling better about ourselves.

We don't know this bastard. How dare we post as if we did? So you watched Meet The Press every Sunday. That gives you permission to mourn him? You're not his blood. You're not even his Family of Choice. He never befriended you. He took a job in which he made an effort to inform whoever might be listening about important shit in the world. That don't make you his godfather.

If someone comes in to an obit thread and they feel they should say something more, bad good or indifferent, they should feel free to do it, cuz we all have the same exact amount of credence to his death - NONE. Even if it's about the quality of the obit thread. Even if it's about donkeys and ice cream. Say what's on your mind. Why? Cuz otherwise the obit thread's nothing but a bunch of stupid dots. If you've got something to share while we're all circled around the virtual dead body of Tim Russert, speak up.

The only thing you shouldn't be able to say in an obit thread is to tell other people to shut up. Next time someone tells you to shut up, you tell them I told you to tell them to shut up. It holds just as much weight: i.e., none at all. You got something to say? Say it. Someone else doesn't like it? They can go join Mr. Russert for all I care. Or they didn't have to read the thread.

And one more thing. When I die at 58 (or sooner) from a heart attack cuz I'm as obese as Tim Russert was, I want a damned obit thread. YOU HEAR ME MATT?!? And you fuckers better leave your damned dots and you better NOT walk away saying nothin'. You fuckers better roast my virtual dead ass like we were all a bunch of old jews, or I'll come back and haunt your hard drives.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:46 AM on June 14, 2008


A short play about obituaries

(Alan, Bob, Cressida, Debbie, and Fiona are sitting at a café, discussing extraterrestrial life sources)

Alan: OMG aliens, right? This is bullshit. Just because the building blocks of life are present in meteors, doesn’t mean…

Fiona: I, for one, welcome our new amino acid building block overlords.

(Bob, Cressida and Debbie laugh)

Alan: hey look, Eric’s coming over.

Eric (out of breath): Hey everybody, I just heard some news: Tim Allen just died. He had a heart attack while at the set of his upcoming movie The Santa Clause 4: Clause and Effect. He was survived by his daughter, and was Fred Savage’s cousin-in-law. He was 55.

Debbie: Wow… I can’t believe it.

Alan: I can’t believe this, he was such a funny guy. I loved his comedy special, and I used to watch Home Improvement every day. In a weird way, he kind of reminds me of my father, because my dad was really masculine in a similar way, and was always trying to do his own construction and hurting himself. Before my parents got divorced, Home Improvement served as this kind of pressure valve for the family. We would all watch it after dinner, and whatever tension between my parents was temporarily released by laughing at characters just like them.

Cressida raises her glass, looks down, says nothing.

Fiona
: Tim Allen was a jerk. His show was incredibly anti-feminist, he got busted for dealing coke and driving drunk, and once when my brother saw him at a Whole Foods and asked for his autograph, he just laughed an walked away. (furiously writes on a piece of paper) Here’s the address of a blog someone wrote about what a dick he was.

Alan: Ooh, wait, (starts writing on the same pad), here’s the ISBN of a really interesting series of essays about how Home Improvement typified American family dynamics and satirized it at the same time. The idea is that it unwittingly provided critical discourse about parental gender roles in middle America.

Debbie: Thanks for this, both of you, I really didn’t know anything about him, if I had send this on the news today I wouldn’t have thought much of it. It sounds strange, but I’m glad I was here to learn about his death.

Bob: Oh shut up already. This is all bullshit.

Debbie
: What?

Bob: I hate it when we talk about dead people.

Alan: Why?

Bob: First of all, when a celebrity dies, someone always comes up and just blurts it out.

Eric: Yeah, I just heard from a friend. He called me on my way here.

Bob: Well, you could have done some research about it first. When you tell me someone dies, I want details that your average news story doesn’t contain. I want you to seek out interesting essays about the person, dig up old writings most have forgotten about, find a diverse range of reflections about the deceased.

Cressida: But that’s what just happened, Bob. Alan and Fiona did that.

Bob: Eric should have done that.

Cressida: He didn’t have time. When he heard about it he wanted to share it with us, because he knows, like we all do, that as a group we usually have opinions and sources that he couldn’t have found on his own. And when someone dies it’s natural to tell others quite quickly.

Bob: You’re one to talk.

Cressida: Why?

Bob: When you heard about his death, what did you do? What was that? That minute gesture? If you have something to say, say it, otherwise don’t bother.

Cressida: I didn’t know much about Tim Allen, not enough to say something deep about him. I think that it’s respectful to recognize someone when they die, and so I made that gesture. It’s my way of publicly recognizing him, and my mourning him despite my only knowing of him in a general way, without taking up too much space.

Bob: It’s inappropriate. Why clog up the discussion? I don’t have time to look at your little gesture. I’m busy. I like what Alan and Fiona did, that’s productive, but your little gestures are a waste of time. And so is our discussion of Tim Allen in the first place. This is a research group we’re a part of; we get together to present interesting findings about science, culture, and human events and discuss their relevance and significance. And sometimes we talk about sci-fi novels and neutering our cats. Discussing Tim Allen isn’t what we do here.

Alan: It’s what we all wanted to do when we heard about his death. It was a significant event, whether you like it or not. Even if he was just a sitcom star, a good many of us were affected by him in a meaningful way, and so as a community it is a relevant topic.

Bob: This isn’t a discussion group about celebrities.

Fiona: Nor is this a discussion group about how we do discussion. That’s Meta. Meta group meets elsewhere and you know it. So don’t bring this up while we’re discussing someone’s death.

Bob: Well I’m going to the Meta discussion group tomorrow and I’m going to talk about what bullshit this is.

Alan: Go ahead, but if we hear about someone’s death again, we’re going to do the same thing. Next time just step out of the conversation, and it will be easier for everyone.
posted by farishta at 2:31 AM on June 14, 2008 [33 favorites]


Would obituaries be less objectionable if they were put in metatalk, perhaps?

I'd rather see them here, but I'm completely sure I don't "get" the full Meta thang...
posted by taff at 3:20 AM on June 14, 2008


Aren't all these "why must we have obit threads?" threads pretty much interchangeable?

Yes. I had that thought when this one appeared, and nothing in it has changed my mind about that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on June 14, 2008


I WILL DANCE ON YOUR GRAVES "."ISTS !

And you won't leave no period, neither.

Clearly, I need to watch more TV so I know who people are when they die. "Oh, so and so was the greatest..." Really, then why is this the first I'm hearing of them? To paraphrase a previous deletion reason: "Your favorite thing no longer has any new things."

Remember the questions about gig-filter, and "can I announce a live performance on projects?"... that kind of stuff? The answer has always been, if it's not sufficiently "on the web" then it's a no go. So unless you're linking to some contribution of theirs that is actually on the web, I don't see how it flies.

I think I've said enough about ObitFilter in the past. Life belongs to the living. Why should the web be any different?
posted by Eideteker at 4:23 AM on June 14, 2008


Obituaries should be held to the same standards as other posts, that's all I'm saying.

What would be nice is if instead of pissing in the thread, or shitting in it, or vomiting in it, is if we could just assign it a letter grade. Just comment "B+" or "C" in the thread, and leave. Except then people might think you're commenting on the person in question, so maybe you should put down TWO grades: "A- guy, C+ FPP" just to be clear.
posted by Eideteker at 4:32 AM on June 14, 2008


"Oh, so and so was the greatest..." Really, then why is this the first I'm hearing of them?

Because human experience, even human pop cultural experience, even yet American broadcast media experience, is so broad and overloaded and varied that it'd be silly to expect everyone to pay attention to everything within that scope, and so it's perfectly possible for one set of people to be very familiar with a given person while another set of people are wholly unfamiliar with that person?
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2008


I don't mind obit threads as long as people are okay with irreverence. It annoys me when, amidst an interesting, if critical, discussion of the subject, someone pipes up with a "how dare you speak ill of the dead" comment. I mean, they're dead. They ain't gonna care. We might as well be honest with ourselves and others.

Granted, a funeral, or some other place where the subject's close friends and family is likely to be present is no place for irreverence. But a site like MeFi? Fair game.

Besides, a thread that's all dots and "oh how I am so upset" is boring as crap and there's no real reason for me to read it.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:23 AM on June 14, 2008


This is truly sad. He was one of the only journalist that I genuinely liked. I guess because that's what he was. One of the few true journalists.
posted by noriyori at 7:15 PM on June 13


While we're cataloging what we hate about obitfilter, let me add -- the hyperbole. One of the "few true journalists"?
posted by jayder at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2008


I think that obitfilter threads should feature polls, using John McLaughlin's phrasing - "On a scale of 0 to 10 - with 0 representing total suckitude and 10 representing Aristotelian greatitude - how fine of a journalist was Tim Russert?
posted by lukemeister at 9:30 AM on June 14, 2008


Perhaps the problem with obitfilter is that at its best, it's earnest news, and at our worst, metafilter is scurrilous opinion.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:34 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I die, I would hope that my friends and family wouldn't have my funeral in the middle of a major highway intersection.

Which is to say, being respectful of the dead is important (and I think the Russert thread has shown that). But this is a community blog -- don't post obitfilter and then expect everyone to not think that Your Favorite Dead Person Sucked. I mean, c'mon -- Russert was a polarizing figure in many ways, and it's worthwhile to offer condolences but also to think a little bit about what made him as popular as he was.
posted by bardic at 9:54 AM on June 14, 2008


Jessamyn: "I'm pretty mucn in the 'blarg Tim Russert' camp but I just stayed the hell out of the obit thread. It was ridiculously simple."

God dammit, Jess! SEE!!??? This right here is what I'm talking about! Go in there and blarg it up! Otherwise all we have is a bunch of cute little doilies on a table and people standing around going oh isn't that sweet a bunch of cute little doilies on a table.

We need people to crash the party. Tell us what they think about those doilies. Tell us how much those doilies suck. They suck the life out of the room. Those doilies should be used as toilet paper. We should shit on those doilies.

To be honest, we of MeFi have failed in our service to humanity when the mother of a famous person can't read her child's MeFi obit thread without wanting all our heads on a pike!

I can't believe people still discuss the concept of 'being respectful of the dead' for a MeFi obit thread. As I have said proudly over and over again, the very act of making a MeFi obit thread is insensitive and disrespectful. No matter how you word it. You could be the head speech writer for Martha Stewart. I don't care. You can't make an obit thread that respects the dead. You can't make an obit thread that does anything to the dead. Why? Because they're fucking dead, that's why.

If an obit thread "goes well" that means someone somewhere didn't go in there and blarg it up. That means we as a community have FAILED IN OUR DUTY to describe the world as it is from our multiple points of view. It's a virtual roast. That's what it is. That's what it should be. That's what it's gonna be even after Jessamyn figures out how to prove me wrong. It's The Blue. Do ANY of you dress up in a suit and tie and wear a black band around your arm before you post to The Blue? No you do not. Quit pretending we're not all in our freaking underwear here! Okay I got sweats on today but sometimes I'm in my underwear - and so are you! Some of you post naked. Don't deny it.

If any of you post here in a suit and tie I don't wanna know cuz that's fucking gross.

Quit pretending MeFi is something sacred and respectful. MeFi is a lot of things. Wonderful. Informative. Fun. Entertaining. Stupid Silly. Wild. Insert half the adjectives in the english language here.

It's never sacred and if it's ever respectful it's cuz you and I have failed in our duties as MeFites!

We look at the world we live in and we call them as we see them. That's with stuff alive or dead. Makes no difference.

It's The Blue. I'm proud of this place and I don't even have the right to be. You should be too, but not cuz we're being respectful of the world. MeFi is great cuz it's the one place people can describe the world as it is for them. There's enough censorship in humanity as it is. We don't need more of it. We need less.

So blarg it the fuck up. For Christ's sake! Tim Russert loved the first ammendment. He'd have wanted it that way. SCREAM FIRE IN A MOVIE THEATER FOR TIM FUCKING RUSSERT!
posted by ZachsMind at 10:26 AM on June 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


We have duties now? Don't wanna.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2008


Dude. Chill a bit. Seriously.
posted by Dizzy at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2008


some rather shitty commenters ruined a thread will news value to at least me. I learned of his death here.
posted by krautland at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gold star for farishta. He has summed up all of my feelings about Obit-threads in a nutshell.
* Immediate notification without padding.
* Solemn respect.
* Helpful anecdotes.
* A bit of respectful disrespect.
* No whining about why we do this.

Thank you.
posted by ColdChef at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jess DOES say Blarggh a lot! I never noticed it before today.

And obitfilters? I'm okay with them. I know Metafilter is supposed to be about the links, but, you know, I was never asked if it should be about the links, and I never voted that it should be about the links, and I come for the discussion sometimes. When someone dies that had an impact on my life, sometimes I want to talk about it. Not so easy to do on CNN.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on June 14, 2008


For my memorial service, I left strict instructions that they were to have a roast, followed by a wake. First, everybody stood up and told insulting or irreverent stories about me. Then, everybody got drunk. The plan was, when everybody was good and hammered and feeling re-affirmed, I was going to slip in the side door and mow them all down, screaming, "Thought I couldn't hear you, didn't you, bitches?! Next time you want to talk shit about somebody, you better check the goddamn coffin, first, huh?! Oh, right! There ain't going to be a next time!" Unfortunately, I forgot that I asked to be cremated. So I guess the joke was on me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:41 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


ZachsMind, go back and read this sucker by cortex.

Nobody's telling you you have to praise Tim Russert (or whoever). Go ahead and criticize him. Either way, you're on topic.

The problem is people who just stomp around going THIS POST IS DUMB WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS GUY. That's a derail.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:43 AM on June 14, 2008


For my part the '.' in obit threads isn't really for the decendent. The person passing, usually some celebrity but not always, represents a part of our collective consciousness. Their passing illuminates the truth that we are all aging, and what is our collective consciousness will not survive into the next generation. So the . is for all of us, or at least the people who read the thread. Someone mentioned Cronkite upthread. Cronkite leaving CBS news would merit a ., because even though he isn't dead, what he means to us, the face and voice of news, was dead the day he quit.

Tim Russert represented something, a source of new or opinion, for better or for wrose, that we all recognize. That he has died means that he will no longer be part of the context of our lives, and someone new will be.

This is posts about the shuttering or ending of institutions also earns a . from many people.

The dot doesn't mean R.I.P. It means the disappearance of a familiar part of our world, or the world of your fellow mefites who continue living, and that is something worth lamenting, even if you didn't care at all about the person dying.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:35 PM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dizzy: "Dude. Chill a bit. Seriously."

No I won't you can't make me! Nyeah!


NebulaWindPhone: "ZachsMind, go back and read this sucker by cortex."

No I won't you can't make me! Nyeah!

...and the proper spelling of blarg is actually "bleargh" it's from the latin blearghnar which means "to invent language when no other word will do." Where's Tony Randall when I really need him?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:30 PM on June 14, 2008


Blarg.
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2008


The . .'s for you.
posted by dosterm at 4:02 PM on June 14, 2008


This:

lazily coming into some other poster's obituary thread and tearing apart the deceased's life work

is a ridiculous mischaracterization of the generally thoughtful criticisms of Russert's "life work" in that thread. Are madamjujujive's comments "lazy...tearing apart"? Yeah, riiiight. And come on - the most lazy thing in that thread was the original post itself. Since at least some of the mods obviously believe MeFi obit threads are generally ok places for thoughtful criticism of the post's subject (no one, including me, is arguing in defense of insulting dumps in the blue, obit thread or otherwise), it's clearly the folks here equating thoughtful links and criticism with rudeness who have a bizarre conception of what MeFi posts are supposed to be.

And again, if the original post had been a thoughtful look at the man's life, pro and con, the discussion as it evolved wouldn't have upset the overly sensitive souls among us so much. Hagiographic hit-and-run news posts are the worst possible way to start the conversation, and expecting only hagiographic comments or silence about a public figure in response is far more rude to members than any thoughtful critical look at a dead person's "life work" can ever be.

Jesus, NBC devoted its *entire* news show that night to idolizing Russert. If MeFi's not the place for a thoughtful counter to that, nowhere is.
posted by mediareport at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


krautland: some rather shitty commenters ruined a thread [with] news value to at least me

Are you making any sort of distinction between the thoughtful critical comments and those you find "ruined" that thread for you? I'm really trying to understand the folks who are seeing such "shitty" behavior in that thread, and it would help if someone would point out the specific comments you found most horrendous, and maybe also pointed out the critical comments you found to be acceptable, if in fact you feel there were any.

And if you don't feel that any of the critical comments in that thread were acceptable, well, that's useful information, too, so feel free to note that. Thanks in advance.
posted by mediareport at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2008


Where's Tony Randall when I really need him?

He, too, is dead. 100% dead. R.I.P.
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2008


Eh, the only way you can expect bigwig pols to keep coming back on your show is to lob them softballs. It's a tough balance, because they hang themselves with their own ropes in subtle ways. It wouldn't really do to come out with guns blazing because very soon they would reject offers to appear on your show. Hard to judge the guy to harshly.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2008


You can if you are a partisan blowhard who only sees the world in black and white.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:50 PM on June 14, 2008


There's softballs, and then there's sucking up. Jon Stewart manages to get bigwig pols to keep coming back without sucking up.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:54 PM on June 14, 2008


When was the last time Stewart had anyone cabinet level or higher, not to mention POTUS, of an active administration on his show. Sure, Stewart can get tools like Musharraf on his show so he can plug his book. And others like McCain come on because of the coolness demographic. But anyways--this probably ought to go in the obit thread.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2008


He, too, is dead. 100% dead. R.I.P.

You know who else died recently? James Brown.

.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:06 PM on June 14, 2008


Wait, Tim Allen is dead?

.
posted by mimo at 5:40 PM on June 14, 2008


Deforrest Kelly is dead, as is John Belushi and Alan Hale.
posted by Dizzy at 5:51 PM on June 14, 2008


As are my grammar skills this fine evening.
posted by Dizzy at 5:52 PM on June 14, 2008


Abe Vigoda however is still alive.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on June 14, 2008


How can they tell?
posted by Dizzy at 6:35 PM on June 14, 2008


Deforrest Kelly is dead, as is John Belushi

There's a "He's dead, Jim/I wish it was Jim" twofer joke in there somewhere.

I'm blanking on Alan Hale, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:44 PM on June 14, 2008


ALAN HALE NO LONGER
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:45 PM on June 14, 2008


Gilligan's lover, AKA "The Skipper".
And if you ask me who Gilligan is I will fall down dead because I'm obviously so friggin old.
posted by Dizzy at 6:51 PM on June 14, 2008


Oh, I knew who he was(Though I'm more familiar with his work in Hang 'Em High and duster TV shows than Gilligan's Island), I just couldn't think of a hook to make light of his demise until after I posted my first comment.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:14 PM on June 14, 2008


The worst things is, is, Johnny Cash is dead. And John ritter, who had the double misfortune to die on the same day. Sorta like C.S. Lewis dying the day JFK was shot. He had a secretary named Lincoln you know.
posted by dawson at 8:46 PM on June 14, 2008


Not as dead as these cigarettes.
posted by Artw at 9:01 PM on June 14, 2008


i like his potatoes
posted by Eideteker at 9:31 PM on June 14, 2008


The worst things is, is, Johnny Cash is dead.

There's a definite especial sadness to musical heroes dying. I take solace in the fact that (considering the risks musicians seem to run with cocaine, alcohol, and occasionally opiates and suicide) Bob Dylan, Ringo, McCartney and Brian Wilson are still alive. (I'm of the opinion that if Lennon hadn't been shot there would have been a Beatles reunion before Harrison died, which may or may not have been a good thing.) I'd take even more solace in the fact that Bruce Springsteen is still alive but dude seems somehow innately immune to self-destructive rockstar behavior so I don't really give him any credit.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2008


So the . is for all of us, or at least the people who read the thread. Someone mentioned Cronkite upthread. Cronkite leaving CBS news would merit a ., because even though he isn't dead, what he means to us, the face and voice of news, was dead the day he quit.

Oh, what fresh flavour of slaphappy horseshit is this?

Here, let me counterpoint: people drop fucking dots in obit threads because they don't have anything to say or they're too inarticulate to say it, but they want people (for whatever reason) to think the death of whoever died somehow had some sort of impact on them. It's driveby rubberneck Grief Lite™ and it's the sort of debased self-regarding faux humanity that the internet has reduced us to.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:12 PM on June 14, 2008


Springsteen, as highly venerated as he is, is still not appreciated enough. In perhaps 50-70 years....he is the quintessential rock star singer song writer social conscience folkie. He, Townes Van Zandt and Dr. Dylan are the holy trinity of music that moves and matters over the the past 50 years.
(I'm not counting the old blues men here, cause that's a different genre.)
Of course this is my opinion, but my opinion is the best in the civilized world.
And Hank Sr is in a class of his own.
posted by dawson at 11:31 PM on June 14, 2008


He, Townes Van Zandt and Dr. Dylan are the holy trinity of music that moves and matters over the the past 50 years.

Wot, no Phil Ochs?
posted by nasreddin at 4:16 AM on June 15, 2008


Wot, no Phil Ochs?

V difficult, this whole text-based sarcasm thingy.
posted by Wolof at 4:34 AM on June 15, 2008


When was the last time Stewart had anyone cabinet level or higher, not to mention POTUS, of an active administration on his show.

If you have to let Cheney or Bush go unchallenged when they lie to your face so they will come back, just what is the point of having them on in the first place? It's not to serve some Higher Journalistic Purpose; it's to be able to say Cheney and Bush are on your show. That's not doing me any good as a viewer.

I disagree that this should be in the obit thread. People who have more respect for Russert than I do don't need me interrupting their expressions of that respect to tell them they're wrong.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Springsteen, as highly venerated as he is, is still not appreciated enough.

Your favourite rock star sucks.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:50 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, he does suck. If you have something boring to say, why not wail it so people think you're really heartfelt? Yeah, that's it! Now have your big showtunesy band play really loud so they can't hear what you're saying.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2008


Ha! you spelled favorite wrong, limey!
posted by Mister_A at 6:56 AM on June 16, 2008


.
posted by homunculus at 11:10 PM on June 27, 2008


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