Site of the Dead April 4, 2016 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Could I suggest that if you know some really interesting figure, you find some good info on them and post it now, before they're dead?

I don't think there's anything wrong with obituaries or with the people that post them, but I feel we're moving from "Oh shit this person we all know and love/hate died and so I've got to make an obit thread!" to "Let me use the opportunity of this lesser-known person's death to share their interesting life". That, in itself, is also great, but it seems like it's happening a whole lot lately, which is making MetaFilter decidedly morbid.

Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the posting of obits, or the "let me use this person's death as a springboard for a good post" approach. But there's also nothing wrong with writing a post about a cool person who isn't dead yet, and it's a lot less depressing, so if you know any cool living folks who you'd probably write a post about when they died, consider going ahead and writing it now instead.

(No specific examples because there isn't anything wrong with any of the individual obit threads, I'm just talking about the overall incidence/frequency)
posted by Bugbread to Etiquette/Policy at 11:53 AM (109 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

(Quick thanks to Bugbread for being patient on this; for random logistical reasons it made more sense to let this post sit for a few days since it wasn't time sensitive.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:55 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I come not to bury this thread but to praise it.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:06 PM on April 4, 2016 [47 favorites]


Over in the Gordon Korman thread, ChuraChura mentioned that Beverley Clearly is 100. 100!

That should be post-while-they're-still-around gold for anyone who's a big fan of her work.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:08 PM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


If people would just stop dying, that would be a real help.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:16 PM on April 4, 2016 [24 favorites]


A whole lot of people died of late.


Or so it seems. And we haven't even had obit threads for Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Brüggen, Egon Bahr, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Helmut Schmidt just to name a few high on my list...
posted by Namlit at 12:20 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


We'll always have Wilford Brimley, who incidentally has never been photographed with clavdivs.
posted by y2karl at 12:26 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm all in favor of celebrating the living, but:

I feel we're moving from "Oh shit this person we all know and love/hate died and so I've got to make an obit thread!" to "Let me use the opportunity of this lesser-known person's death to share their interesting life". That, in itself, is also great, but it seems like it's happening a whole lot lately, which is making MetaFilter decidedly morbid.

Surely "sharing their interesting life" is exactly the point of a good obituary, both here and in traditional media?

I've been thinking about MeFi obits for a while, and about how the "this is a bit thin" feedback loop from mods works and doesn't work. I felt the Bowie obit post was terribly thin, but a post was so badly needed as a place for Mefites to grieve and reminisce that even a thin post served that purpose.

It does often feel, too, that there's an unseemly rush to get to the first post when someone particularly notable dies -- the James Brown effect! -- and that also can lead to a "well, we've deleted three already and people are waiting for a post and this one's a bit better so we may as well stick with it" thinness.

In a way, then, it's more likely that lesser-known people get a better obit post here: there's less pressure to get a post, any post, up right now; more time for someone really interested in the subject to prepare a more detailed post.

And actually I do have specific examples in mind, because I was thinking of making a MeTa myself to appreciate NordyneDefenceDynamics' recent run of 3 excellent obit posts: Paul Daniels, Frank Sinatra Jr., Ronnie Corbett.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:27 PM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Seconding the proposal.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


And we haven't even had obit threads for Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Brüggen, Egon Bahr, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Helmut Schmidt just to name a few high on my list...

N.K Sandars died last November at the age of 101.

🎶 ... those are people who died, died ... 🎶
posted by octobersurprise at 12:31 PM on April 4, 2016


epony-fall
posted by Namlit at 12:32 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think there's also a point where people assume there's been a post previously on the person, but never end up searching for it. For example, when I was writing the obit post today on Joe Medicine Crow I had assumed there was a Previous that I could link, but I was very surprised when I couldn't find anything on the search. He gets reposted pretty regularly on Reddit's TIL subreddit so I assumed there would've been a MeFi post about him at some point.
posted by Deflagro at 12:39 PM on April 4, 2016


Okay, I'll get off my ass and finish my planned post about a certain alive-and-well 95-year-old "MAD" man (and I don't mean a '60s advertising guy; I wouldn't spend effort on anybody "sane"). One thing I've realized when researching this is that even if somebody's receiving awards at an advanced age, there's not nearly as much material available while they're still alive.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:52 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


We could start small. Instead of posts for some already or lesser known folks, we could have a MetaTalk post celebrating those around us, who were born in the last three months, and who might certainly be something someday. I have a new niece I would throw in this mix.
posted by KMB at 12:54 PM on April 4, 2016


Totally disagree that living people should feature on MetaFilter - and I, for one, think it will inevitably lead to the destruction of our dead society.

Let's face facts: we all had fun with living people while we were alive, but now that we're dead and our souls have been cast into the eternal hellfires of MetaTalk, we can't spend every moment thinking about the living. It's not like they think about us!

No, while we spend eternity being tortured by mod-demons in this dingy, grey underworld, we should welcome those newly-dead souls who have also given up their ghost.

I mean, very few of them end up here, in MetaTalk, tormented forever by Cortex, Prince of Hell. But that's because they weren't the foul, sinful heathens WE were. I mean you have to commit some SERIOUS sins to end up here, am I right? You know it!

But seriously, let's not concern ourselves with the living while we suffer endless torment. Let's just lie back, relax and think about our brothers and sisters in death, and be glad that MOST of them will never have to abandon hope to enter here. Also - can you believe the $5 cover charge for this place??? Talk about adding insult to injury. Anyway - vote #1 quidnunc kid for Satan, and that'll be one of the first things I'll change around here.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:56 PM on April 4, 2016 [48 favorites]


I've posted seven or eight pieces on living people doing interesting work, and I still find myself hesitating--it's like the excuse of an obit post offers more cover, and a random profile feels like more of a risk. In general, though, comments have been positive, with the occasional "Oh, good, thought for a minute this was an obit," which may say something about the number of obits we do see.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:29 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I like this suggestion because too many times I'll follow links in obit threads and really wish I had know about that person when they were alive. Especially if they tour or have events I can attend.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


"It does often feel, too, that there's an unseemly rush to get to the first post when someone particularly notable dies -- the James Brown effect! -- and that also can lead to a "well, we've deleted three already and people are waiting for a post and this one's a bit better so we may as well stick with it" thinness."

I sort-of wish that when it's someone in the arts, people would wait a week and assemble a really nice post about the person's body of work, and leverage the mainstream media retrospectives that come out in the days after the death, to create something more encompassing, interesting, and discussable that's about their life and work, and less about "hey this guy died I need you to know that right now." I think the high-speed race-to-post obits turn into the worst (and most depressing!) kind of newsfilter, where it's just like "Here's a thing that happened that I think you must know instantly" rather than "Hey guys, look at this cool stuff (from this guy who happens to be dead)."

Of course I have no particular ideas about how to make that happen.

"with the occasional "Oh, good, thought for a minute this was an obit," which may say something about the number of obits we do see."

Yeah, that's one of the things that make me think, "Hm, maybe we have too many obits and not enough live-person appreciations?" Whenever someone does an FPP that leads with a celebrity name, someone comments, "OH GOD I THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD FOR A SECOND!" Possibly our live:dead ratio is slightly out of balance when proper names make people think it's an obit!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:49 PM on April 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


the things that bug me about obit threads are the pointless list of dots that obscure any discussion and the refusal to have negative comments (unless it's some right-wing politician).
posted by andrewcooke at 1:58 PM on April 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


I think we often do get a good personal retrospective type post for the more off the beaten path kind of folks. It's mostly the A-listers who get the, "Holy crap, [X] died!" posts, and presumably we already have a good feel for what David Bowie was about?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:59 PM on April 4, 2016


I've also wondered when there's an obit why there wasn't a post about this amazing person when they were alive. It's likely partly that news of the death puts the person in people's minds and as mentioned above there are often a lot more (or easier to find and more current) good links after a person dies than when they're still around. I like this suggestion and I hope I and others run with it.

I felt the Bowie obit post was terribly thin, but a post was so badly needed as a place for Mefites to grieve and reminisce that even a thin post served that purpose.

I think this is part of the reason why there are so many obits here also and why they're often thin and hastily posted. I'm not saying it's really a problem or wrong, but I've read this idea many times about many people. I don't generally need a place to grieve and when I do MeFi isn't the place, but since obit posts are so badly needed for others I think it's going to be a struggle for people to wait to post the obit even if they know while posting it could be much better with more time.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:08 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


the things that bug me about obit threads are the pointless list of dots that obscure any discussion

The dots do not stop anyone commenting. I think it's a nice convention. It's a human need to show respect even if you don't have anything specific to discuss but it doesn't silence anyone who wants to add something more substantive. At a funeral some people regale the mourners with stories of the dead and some people bow their heads and offer up a thought or prayer, and neither is a more or less valid way of grieving.

This is a good, thoughtful post.
posted by billiebee at 2:22 PM on April 4, 2016 [23 favorites]


It's a human need to show respect even if you don't have anything specific to discuss

Yes, like putting hand to heart for a passing funeral procession.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:26 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dolly
posted by Oyéah at 2:48 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Yes, like putting hand to heart for a passing funeral procession.

Or like the Jewish tradition of leaving a small stone on a tombstone.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:51 PM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


pointless list of dots

I find the "." to be mostly, uh, pointless, too*. But it's a harmless convention and people like it so I'm all *shrug.* Anyway, unless the deceased had some effect on my life, I'm unlikely to comment on or even read the discussion.

*I suspect that how one feels about this has a lot to do with whether interactions here are viewed as primarily writerly or performative.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:55 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


if you know any cool living folks who you'd probably write a post about when they died, consider going ahead and writing it now instead.

I have reached the point in life where I increasingly do know a lot of really cool people, many of whom will eventually be featured on Metafilter. But of course, because I do actually *know* them, I can't post about them.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:46 PM on April 4, 2016


Famous people over 90: Henry Kissinger, Vera Lynn and some people who are actually dead.

200 Oldest Living Screen Stars: Olivia de Haviland, Zsa Zsa Gabor

100 Oldest Living Rock Stars (Chuck Berry is 89)

Who's Alive and Who's Dead dot com: (Lyndon Larouche is 93)
posted by Rumple at 4:08 PM on April 4, 2016


Lyndon Larouche is 93

That's young for a reptiloid.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:14 PM on April 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Has the site considered the possibility of a deep-gray subsite just for obituaries?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:23 PM on April 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh thank goodness Larouche is still kicking. Obtuse rational follows. I keep seeing his minions hawking his wackadoddle newspaper. That's fine, a little wacko is good in the world, but if his followers started growing after his demise it could be an indicator of the growth of a cult/organization. And that crowd in power would make Trump seem Eisenhower-like.
posted by sammyo at 4:26 PM on April 4, 2016


Ok so I'll be crafting an amazing Larouche obit post. Lyndon if you're reading this please please hang in there until the December extreme post contest.
posted by sammyo at 4:28 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I want to kill everyone so all the obit threads can happen once and for all.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:04 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


the things that bug me about obit threads are the pointless list of dots that obscure any discussion

For some people I view them as ellipses which imply the decedent's influence has not yet ended. They're like planetismals formed in the wake of a planetary giant, or tiny vortices spinning off from the momentum of a greater storm.

For others, they're just a polite way of saying balls.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:05 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh thank goodness Larouche is still kicking.

Space aliens. Bioduplication. Nude conspiracies...Lyndon Larouche was right!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:06 PM on April 4, 2016


Oh man, I sooooo agree with this suggestion / request. Thanks for posting, Bugbread.

For the people saying, "but isn't that what a good obit is supposed to be, a celebration of the life lived?" - yes, and that's fine as far as it goes. And for people well known and loved by the MeFi community, that's great and appropriate and makes total sense. Like, Bowie? Totally appropriate obit thread. But introducing people via an obit is frustrating and leaves a bad taste in my mouth in a way I was having trouble articulating until MonkeyToes said upthread:

it's like the excuse of an obit post offers more cover

... yes. Yes, that is what it's like, and I think honestly it has gotten to the point where it often feels a bit emotionally manipulative. Like, I know the one specific person writing the obit is familiar with the decedent and his/her work, but when you're writing up an otherwise mostly-unknown figure it really can take on an implication of "oh wow this one really hit me in the feels and I really think you should learn about his/her great work, I mean, A PERSON DIED it's kind of the least you could do, really, to read up a little bit." I'm sure it's not exactly intentional, but I'm getting less and less sure that it's entirely accidental.

I don't know. I know there's not a clear line to be drawn between "renowned and loved among the community" and "obscure artist." But I do quite desire to learn of great artists, authors, speakers, inventors, etc., out there while they're alive and kicking so that I can get to a concert or a talk - or just appreciate the work without feeling so maudlin and morbid about the whole proceeding.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 5:14 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's fine, a little wacko is good in the world ...

Speaking of which, connoisseurs of wackiness should check out today's interview with Sean Young at Gawker (I know, I know). I love her but Lord is she nuts.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:23 PM on April 4, 2016




This is a nice thought, but it's not really all that practical. It's not like people sit around thinking of people they could make Mefi posts about and then thinking 'no, wait, he hasn't died in the last couple of days, so I should just hold off'. It's the very fact of their death that brings them top of mind to be posted about.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:09 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


True. It was just my stab at a solution to ObitFilter.

Last year in March there were roughly 7 obit threads (I may have missed one or two). This year in March there were roughly 23 obit threads (I may have missed one or two). People are always dying and bringing them to the top of people's minds, but I suspect that the deaths of Bowie, Rickman, and a few others put people into some sort of Obit Mode, where the number of obit posts is spiking even though the number of notable people deaths has not, I suspect, tripled.
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course I have no particular ideas about how to make that happen.

Increased deletion of thin and immediate obit posts would be fantastic, and the same for most of the similar breaking-news kinds of posts.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:28 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


.

(obit posts)
posted by AugustWest at 8:40 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have found the focus on death a bit depressing, I admit. Maybe we need an obituary queue? Warn people that except under unusual circumstances no more than "x" obituaries will be posted per week or month or whatever?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


It looks like the obituaries, in addition to bringing an interesting person to the forefront, are an easy entry point for people to make posts.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:31 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Semi-related (as a possible guide for posting future Obits) "Most Distinctive Obituary Euphemism for 'Died' in Each State". Dead non-Americans, you're on your own. (Greetings from the 'Succumbed' Coast)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:46 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]



posted by clavdivs at 1:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking a lot lately about some people I know and like whose obits will be coming up, and who really deserve words that measure up to the people who they are. And each time, after I spend a little while thinking about what I might say to explain how much I respect them, I realize (again!) that maybe they ought to hear those words while they're still alive to enjoy them.

But then I think about how weird it would be to just bust out with a speech that's somewhere between eulogy and wedding toast, and I...kind of shrink.

Going to be good eulogies, though.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:53 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


But then I think about how weird it would be to just bust out with a speech that's somewhere between eulogy and wedding toast, and I...kind of shrink.

Yes, this is what I was trying to get at earlier., the way that my mental model of the "Your favorite [foo] sucks" inhibits--though doesn't prevent--posting, especially when the hook of a related news event is missing.

Internal monologue: Wow, this idea is amazing! MeFi would really appreciate it, and maybe somebody will drop some inside baseball commentary! But wait, enthusiasm often gets side-eye, and maybe the thing I think is neat really...isn't? There's nothing in the news for readers to connect it with...And I will feel dumb and exposed for posting it. Oh, hell, I'm just going to put this post together and see how I feel by the time I'm done; maybe the site will be slow just then, and it'll feel like less of a risk. *Hits Post*

maybe they ought to hear those words while they're still alive to enjoy them.


My posts about David Macaulay and Robin Nagle were spur-of-the-moment because I was excited about their work. And look! There's the post on Nagle's page! And there's my post on Macaulay's TED speaker's bio, and in an interview with Macaulay! Once in a while, the appreciation reaches its inspiration. So please, by all means, make those posts about people while they are with us.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder what I would consider a "good" obit post? For all the love that well-researched and crafted megaposts get, I don't think several hundred links to the deceased's output are appropriate for an obit. For one, they are quite intimidating, for me at least, and would make me less likely to engage with the post. They also might prevent commenters from posting their own favorite links regarding the deceased, which I think is a great benefit of obit posts. Maybe an SLNYT is good enough, and we don't need to split hairs about what is or isn't a "good enough" post for a given dead person? For people where there is some kind of narrative or other special circumstances surrounding their death (like David Bowie's secrecy and final album and videos) it's important to include some of that for context, but it's going to come out in the comments anyway so, I don't know.

While I don't think any of the recent obit posts have been objectionable in the slightest, I do think we have had too many lately, and I'm not sure what the solution is.

I'll also add that the Memorial Dot is one of my favorite MeFi traditions. It is an elegant way to observe a respectful moment of silence when coming up with appropriate words might be hard.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:50 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think there's a schism between Multi-Link and Single Link Mefites, and the obits are just one expression of that.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:03 AM on April 5, 2016


Obit posts should have length inversely proportional to the notoriety of their subject. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow needs links and explanation, because so much of the value in that discussion comes from learning about the person. David Bowie doesn't, because so much of the value in that discussion comes from other MeFites sharing stories.
posted by Etrigan at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'd like to see more posts about famous people when they're born. I love getting updates in live threads.
posted by michaelh at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


it really can take on an implication of "oh wow this one really hit me in the feels and I really think you should learn about his/her great work, I mean, A PERSON DIED it's kind of the least you could do, really, to read up a little bit."

Wow, jesus. That would indeed be an awful kind of manipulation, but I really think people are just genuinely enthusiastic about celebrating brilliant people and their life works? Am I being naive?
posted by naju at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2016


I'm also not quite relating to the premise. If it's someone you've never heard of, why feel depressed about it? People die all the time. We're entering an era where the oldest Baby Boomers are starting to kick the can, actually. The birth years for the generation are 1946-1964, and Bowie was born in 1947. So this is basically never going to stop happening for the next generation or so - we can expect the deaths of major figures frequently from here on out. (Just because there's so damn many people in that generation, and also because we are largely living in a culture where Baby Boomers have been firmly canonized.) Better get used to it! It will be the least we can do to celebrate lesser-known figures who we never had a chance to post about before, using their deaths as a fond remembrance and survey of their body of work. It's not optimal, sure, but it sure is an understandable impulse to do a Final Reckoning in passing.
posted by naju at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I added some more links about Joe Medicine Crow, since some comments were a bit confused about what it means to be a War Chief in Crow society.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm also not quite relating to the premise. If it's someone you've never heard of, why feel depressed about it? People die all the time.

That's kind of the depressing part.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:08 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


How about a theme month for posts about living people? Maybe that would make it feel less weird for posters.
posted by amtho at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suspect that the deaths of Bowie, Rickman, and a few others put people into some sort of Obit Mode, where the number of obit posts is spiking even though the number of notable people deaths has not, I suspect, tripled.

A little while ago, I made a totally subjective list of famous people who passed away in 2007 (the year Antonioni and Bergman died on the same day), and a similar list for this year. Here are the names for January-March:

2007: Tillie Olsen, Robert Anton Wilson, Bam Bam Bigelow, E. Howard Hunt, Ryszard Kapuściński, Wolfgang Iser, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Sidney Sheldon, Molly Ivins, Ian Richardson, Jean Baudrillard (11 names).
2016: Pierre Boulez, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Dan Haggerty, Glenn Frey, Michel Tournier, David G. Hartwell, Marvin Minsky, Abe Vigoda, Jacques Rivette, Maurice White, Antonin Scalia, Umberto Eco, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Nancy Reagan, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Asa Briggs, Barry Hines, Garry Shandling, Jim Harrison, Patty Duke, Imre Kertész (25 names).

There are only 43 names on the whole 2007 list, and already more than half that on this year's list. So I think 2016 really has been unusually rough for notable deaths.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


all the wrong people fail to die early.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I try to profile a living person every once in a great while and usually find it really satisfying. Would love to see more posters doing it.

For example: Concepcion "Connie" Picciotto, who passed away in January.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2016


I wonder what I would consider a "good" obit post?

I don’t mind the short posts. It’s to remember someone’s life. Then people can add their own thoughts and links in the comments. It’s not a definitive biography.
posted by bongo_x at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


If it's someone you've never heard of, why feel depressed about it? People die all the time.

When I read about children starving, I get depressed even if I don't know them, even though children starve all the time. Same with animals getting beaten. Same with any other suck-ass thing that happens. True, death is way more universal than those, so if the metaphor doesn't work for you, feel free to ignore it and substitute: a constant reminder of "One day you may lose your wife forever" "One day you may lose your kids forever" "One day your wife and kids may lose you forever" depresses me even though similar things could have been said for every single person throughout history. If it doesn't depress you, well, good for you, but hopefully you can grok why other people might find it depressing to hear it every day.
posted by Bugbread at 2:50 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


And to be clear, I don't mean "and therefore you must stop posting so many obits". Obviously that's what I'd like but if the community disagrees then that's cool. I just mean that I hope you can understand why some people find frequent discussion of death depressing even if you yourself don't.
posted by Bugbread at 3:02 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Notable birthdays (40, 50, 70, etc.) are a good opportunity.
posted by John Cohen at 3:03 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of posting interesting links about someone admirable without mentioning they're dead. But I admit that when someone admirable dies, it can rekindle that admiration and that's something people (including me) like to experience. Also, I know the first comment would be "they actually died yesterday" and then the dots would flood in.
posted by michaelh at 7:52 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


A little while ago, I made a totally subjective list of famous people who passed away in 2007 (the year Antonioni and Bergman died on the same day), and a similar list for this year. Here are the names for January-March:

2007: Tillie Olsen, Robert Anton Wilson, Bam Bam Bigelow, E. Howard Hunt, Ryszard Kapuściński, Wolfgang Iser, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Sidney Sheldon, Molly Ivins, Ian Richardson, Jean Baudrillard (11 names).


Also: Alice Coltrane, Anna Nicole Smith, Arthur Schlesinger, and Calvert DeForest. (Source: NYT)

But I agree it's seems that an unusually large number of important people have died so far this year.
posted by John Cohen at 8:04 PM on April 5, 2016


(Damn, I can't believe I missed Alice Coltrane.)
posted by Gerald Bostock at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2016


Merle Haggard just died...
posted by chavenet at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2016


Oh shit.
posted by bongo_x at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2016


Most of the obit threads we've done in the past few years have been love-fests. I posted the obit threads for Lemmy and Bob Casale, and did so hoping they would be love-fests. But some obit threads aren't love-fests. Some "Tramp the Dirt Down" obit threads have been posted for folks like Margaret Thatcher and Fred Phelps. So, let's not forget people of that ilk, and be sure to post some threads dedicated to recognizing people as horrible, horrible assholes while they're still alive. Why wait til they've passed away? To be the change I wanted to see in the world, I've posted a pre-obituary of Henry Kissinger.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:05 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


that seems like....not a great idea.
posted by zutalors! at 2:12 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


The first two (at least) Garry Shandling obit posts were removed for not being good enough, but I found them just as good as most obit posts for more minor celebrities or other notable individuals. It seems there's a higher bar for certain celebrities and that bar is set by how much the mods deem the deceased as being worthy of a 'good' obit.

I suggest that any obit post should be good enough to leave up, and if Mefites (including mods) think they're too thin then they can thicken them up by adding content and links in the comments.
posted by rocket88 at 2:18 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


On non-preview, I just noticed that bongo_x made the same suggestion.
posted by rocket88 at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2016


be sure to post some threads dedicated to recognizing people as horrible, horrible assholes while they're still alive

Vote #1 quidnunc kid!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nixed the Kissinger post post; kudos due for experimentation I suppose, but it feels like a weird direction to go in and can't help but read as a little stunty in context. To the extent that I think the good core of Bugbread's notional push to celebrate people's lives while they're living goes, I don't think there's a lot to be gained from extending that to essentially celebrating people presumably impending deaths.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:22 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, well, you know, that's, like, your opinion, man.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't understand where the desire for "thick" obit posts comes from. Was anyone talking about the specific links in the Scalia obit, or Bowie's, or Shandling's? You could just post "United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes at age 79" with a CNN link and the end-user impact is the same.

It seems like a fig leaf to cover up the notion that "MetaFilter isn't NewsFilter", except when it is.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I understand the sentiment here, but isn't it possible that there are posts about interesting people on a pretty frequent basis, and only the relatively recent glut of obits has made it seem otherwise? I'm mostly just bummed about a call for more topic-first posts, I feel like so much of the signaling around here favors that (like how the first ten comments of a megapost are usually variants on "great post") and it makes the continued existence of "check out this weird thing I found"-type FPPs seem fragile.
posted by invitapriore at 2:30 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think there's sort of a mixing up of a couple different things:

1. Careless rush-to-be-first obits seem disrespectful. Now, something that has the feel of "hey, I heard somewhere that x died, FIRST!!!" is basically gonna get deleted, period, but something that feels like it is shades of that—or even, to an extent, the vague concern that that could/will happen especially with high-profile surprise deaths—plays into how a lot of people view obit post construction.

2. Similarly, quick obit posts esp. for celebrity type deaths sometimes end up getting built around gossipy sources (TMZ would be the canonical example here) that can make the whole thing feel sort of gross and scoopish and like a sideshow. Something to avoid as a pretty general rule.

3. People often feel like someone with a rich life or body of work deserves to have that shown off in their obit post, and to fail to do so is a slight or a sign of disrespect.

4. A lot of folks just generally associate a more substantially constructed post as a good way to do a post, and so transfer that to their expectations of obit posts as well.

5. For less hugely famous or contemporary figures, news of their death may in fact be more of a touchstone than sufficiently culturally-loaded post material in its own right, and so putting together a substantial post about their work or history feels legitimately necessary to establish that it's not just literally an obituary notice for a handful of people to nod at and not otherwise get much out of.

I think that all stews together in complicated ways, where there's no clear single universal standard for what an obit post needs to be or should be, from post to post. But different folks are going to vary in their general expectations across the spectrum of death-related posts.

I'll say that from an administrative perspective, I think (1) is pretty important just because it's important for posting sensibilities in general, (2) is an issue for similar reasons and also because it is just kinda gross in general, and 3-5 are much more variable based on the specific situation.

For a really famous figure, where a detailed conversation is likely to happen no matter what, I don't see a big problem with a simple-but-not-rushed/lazy post—I basically agree that David Bowie having died is about the only invariant necessary part of a post because the guy was huge—but those are at the same time the figures about whom arguments about whether the obit was done right seem most likely to flare up. Weird bit of irony there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:41 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm right there with you on the "celebrate people's lives and accomplishments while they're alive" deal and try to practice it when I can, in some trivial fashion.

But in most cases, if someone did put together a post celebrating a living person and that living person bit the dust a few months later, there would still be a whole lot of life-celebrating and remembering going on in the obit post. Because that's one thing people do when someone they like dies.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:37 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to understand this as being a call for more FPPs about still-living people, in which case, sure, I don't agree that there's a problem, but having more FPPs about cool stuff is always cool... but if it's instead going to be used for criticizing obit FPPs, then, well, screw that.
posted by Shmuel510 at 5:19 PM on April 6, 2016


Shmuel510: "I've been trying to understand this as being a call for more FPPs about still-living people, in which case, sure, I don't agree that there's a problem, but having more FPPs about cool stuff is always cool... but if it's instead going to be used for criticizing obit FPPs, then, well, screw that."

Yeah, I was a bit too positive in my framing, I suspect. My main impetus definitely was "let's have less obit threads," but I figured providing a positive alternative would be better than just saying "You guys, stop doing what you're doing!" But regardless of my own objectives, this thread has not been an outpouring of a consensus of "Yes, there are too many obit threads, let's stop posting them," so it doesn't make sense at all to go into an obit thread and tell people to stop because we've discussed the issue in MeTa. Maybe the comment wasn't flagged enough for mods to notice?
posted by Bugbread at 5:31 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


My personal issue with posting about interesting people I know - and this is actually an issue whether the person is alive or dead - is that a lot of the people I do want to post about on here are either people I know directly or people I know second/third hand because we run in the same small communities, and posting about them would break the self-link rule. For example, I really want to do a post about Nisha Ayub and all her awesomeness, especially since I think she's getting massively overlooked by the wider LGBTQ press, but she works for an organization that I have a semi-close relationship with because I've fundraised for them.
posted by divabat at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2016


I don't understand where the desire for "thick" obit posts comes from.

From actually caring so much about the person that you want to see a wealth of information about (or content by) the person on the occasion of their death.
posted by John Cohen at 8:54 PM on April 6, 2016


If you want to talk about disrespectful, comments complaining about the framing of obituary posts in the Merle Haggard post does it for me.
posted by bongo_x at 9:55 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm no post framer but in thread, dang, it's like I don't want to read that per say, referencing the frame work of said post infers disrespect to afterformentioned deceased when in all likelyhood the big who-ha is just a differention of semantic techniques comparable to journalistic endeavors.

It is the photonic reference to mnemonic markers of grief so to say that still beckons, we memorialize and at various times satire ensues, quelled by the fact that we bury the dead in "our" own way, moving on when possible with some cognition of happy and fruitful times the very husk of good deeds remembered and the knowledge passed on for eons.

Up the game, last level.
posted by clavdivs at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2016


From actually caring so much about the person that you want to see a wealth of information about (or content by) the person on the occasion of their death.

And fair enough, but I don't see any reason why that needs to be at the top of the post, rather than coming in the comments.
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:06 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Finally, I show you how to make a NotAnObit post about a live person (I hope)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:34 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Nixed the Kissinger post

Gotta love "I don't feel like "Kissinger: Not Dead Yet" is really a great basis for a post."

"You can't take him like that. It's against regulations!"

"Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long."
posted by octobersurprise at 5:53 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't feel like "Kissiinger: Not Dead Yet" is really a great basis for a post. -- cortex

So you're saying Is Rupert Murdoch Dead won't make a good SL post?

I think the Kissinger post actually goes a ways toward pointing out why the idea of "posting[ing] it now, before they're dead" and not waiting until they die, really doesn't work that great. There's no hook. What's Kissinger done of note lately? So anything you do to write about these people will feel shoehorned or gimmicky.

When I worked for a newspaper we kept big fat files of notable people and reviewed them at least annually. The pagination system held a rough draft obit for these people and we had writers that were tasked with knowing these subjects. So when they died the copy was reviewed to make sure basic biographical facts hadn't changed (like in the Murdoch example his latest wife would be added in). Then the obit when online, usually within an hour of the person dying. The copy would perhaps be updated and fleshed out later and for print.

Occasionally this would be surreal, as you would see a rough draft printed out, or see a writer working on the obit, and you would be all, "Man, I didn't know X died." Sometimes I would go days before my reality would get adjusted. Luckily I never embarrassed myself online or not by making a mistake based on something I'd seen, but I know there were at least once or twice where I would see a person of note late on TV and I'd have to adjust my thought.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:56 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think the Kissinger post actually goes a ways toward pointing out why the idea of "posting[ing] it now, before they're dead" and not waiting until they die, really doesn't work that great. There's no hook. What's Kissinger done of note lately?

With the caveat I mentioned above, that it's dying that brings these people top of mind to be posted about, I think that for lots of the somewhat less famous people who get obits, a post that was just about them would be plenty of hooky enough. Most everyone's heard of Kissinger, so he's not the best example, but if someone was to do a post about some awesome journalist or physicist or similar, "here's an awesome person you may not know about" is enough to hang a post on, in the same way that "here's some cool art to look at" is enough to hang a post on, even if the artist isn't currently getting a major showing or hasn't just sold for a record price at auction.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:46 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Could I suggest that if you know some really interesting figure, you find some good info on them and post it now, before they're dead?

The Chef Who Saved My Life is exactly this kind of thing. Great reading.
posted by gwint at 7:58 AM on April 7, 2016


I was upset by the nixing of one of the early Garry Shandling obit posts because I had put together a comment with several links that I thought captured his best moments only to find that I couldn't post it because a mod had decided "we can do better than this".
Now I'm wary to post anything other than a dot because why bother if the post is going to be deleted?
posted by rocket88 at 9:07 AM on April 7, 2016


No-one objects you transplant a comment from a deleted thread to the one that survives. And I think if the FPP is deleted after you hit the "Post" button the page gives you the HTML of your comment back for easy cut-and-paste. If it doesn't, perhaps it should.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 AM on April 7, 2016


My personal issue with posting about interesting people I know - and this is actually an issue whether the person is alive or dead - is that a lot of the people I do want to post about on here are either people I know directly or people I know second/third hand because we run in the same small communities, and posting about them would break the self-link rule.
Well, I personally don't think "second/third hand because we run in the same small communities" would break the self-link rule. (Moderators, please clarify) Of course, dropping some links here about Very Interesting People you'd like to FPP but can't would bring them to the attention of someone who can, like this semi-forgotten show-biz legend who helped me define my "Wendell" identity 40 years ago when he was doing a weekend radio show. Maybe it's borderline (since there's nothing on the Web directly linking him to me, unlike this guy), but I don't want to chance it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2016


We appreciate it when people are conscientious about avoiding friends-linking. It does have the unfortunate side-effect that sometimes people who are in niche communities can't post about interesting stuff their nichey colleagues are doing, which is a bummer, but so far we've felt like it's worth it to try to keep it pretty bright-line there.

People can always double-check with us at the contact form if there's a question about a specific case. Our rule of thumb is, if you know the person well enough that they might reasonably say "thanks for the linkage" or "oh hey, nice to see you linking my thing, how have you been", those are too close.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2016


But there's also nothing wrong with writing a post about a cool person who isn't dead yet, and it's a lot less depressing, so if you know any cool living folks who you'd probably write a post about when they died, consider going ahead and writing it now instead.

And then what happens when that person dies? Won't there be an obit update post with a (previously)? I don't think there's any way to decrease the number of obit posts. People want to talk about dead people.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:12 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


And then what happens when that person dies? Won't there be an obit update post with a (previously)? I don't think there's any way to decrease the number of obit posts.

At least you are decreasing the ratio of obit posts to non-obit posts, and making great posts, if the most recent "nobits" are anything to go by.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:34 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I realize that this is a total non-starter logistically, unless people want to use a section of the wiki this way, I guess, but it's kind of too bad that we can't do what newspapers do and pre-write obits for people so that there's something substantial to post when they die.

But really, tell the people you think are cool or interesting that they're cool or interesting before they go. If they ever run across it, they'll appreciate it a lot.
posted by MsMolly at 7:46 PM on April 7, 2016


Bunch of people getting old all at once. My dad remarked on that when he noticed significantly less WW1 vets at a parade and observed that it was going to be his generation who would slowly vanish from the parade ground next. Death snaking limbs of smoke all around us.

I'd suggest Bill Nelson before he goes.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:36 PM on April 7, 2016


Most newspapers have a writer on staff who prepares obituaries in advance for famous personages. Perhaps it's time for us to begin doing the same.

Obitfilter would be a place where elaborate celebratory posts could be written with all but the final details left out for any and all persons of note. Each one would be a collaborative masterpiece assembled using Wiki-style editing and a firm ban on autobiography. When the celebrity does die, the post can be quickly sent to the front page with a quick addendum on the known causes.

Bonus: we can write each other's MeFi obits, for when we all kick it. (Please include my Auden parody when my time comes.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:30 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


ALAS POOR BILLY, ANOTHER PANACEA HATH PASSED. [More Inside]

A philosopher, anotherpanacea left a lasting legacy with his magnum opus: the great philosophical question of "What should I put in my lunchbox?" In his passing and with the authoring of this obituary, MetaFilter's Own J. Miller also achieved his final goal in life of being referenced as "Metafilter's Own." His time as a MeFite was truly life changing for him. As a community we saw him come to the horrific realization about the presence of bovine secretions in his ice cream and then later take up arms against the bourgeois conception of actually-existing pants.

Registered on April 30th, 2006, his passing came as a shock on April 7th, 2016 as he was just 23 days short of celebrating his 10th birthday. 10 years man! TEN! YEARS! Ten. TEN YEARS! As of this writing, 13,207 MeFites have lauded anotherpanacea as being their favorite thing of all time.

His final request, in true Star-Burn's fashion, was that his Auden parody be included in his obituary.

.
posted by Deflagro at 7:17 AM on April 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Woah.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:25 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah I pretty much went to your Activity page, clicked on a few random pages in the middle and grabbed the most out of context comments possible. That's how most people write obituaries, right?
posted by Deflagro at 7:29 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Bravo, sir. Bravo.
posted by billiebee at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heh. I actually thought we were only allowed to write biographical posts about deceased people.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:23 PM on April 8, 2016


I'm really not seeing anything broken here. Obit posts are the equivalent of a spontaneous candlelight vigil in the town square. People don't want to read Kissinger's Wikipedia page when he dies and if they do, they can always go over to some kind of community edited web page featuring the highlights of Kissinger's life. Not exactly sure where you'd find that but I'm sure it exists. Mefi does conversation well and obit threads are where people want to gather and talk about Dick Cheney's legacy and his impact on them and the world when his cold black soul rejects a second warm beating heart. Yeah you're free to make a post about the ways David Byrne changed the world right now, but few non- Byrne fans are going to dive into it unless he dies and all of sudden everyone is going to talk about all the ways he was important to society and the impact he had personally on them and that's a way more interesting thread to read through. So let the obit process happen naturally, let us dance of the grave of fascists and let us remember the pioneers who allowed us to be weird in the moment we all make that realization, while the body is still warm. This is the Internet and it's not going to be hard to find a complete list of Mr. T videos and I don't think we need to wait for some nerd to compile those clips in one place and keep us from expressing our grief at the passing of the world's most well known fake Mandingo in the moment we need to.

I mean, who would have read the Betamax thread if it didn't start with the news that Betamax had just drawn its final agonal breath.

In conclusion, death is good, alive is so over.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:24 AM on April 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fine, fine, I'll write up that post on Susan Baker that I've been meaning to for ages.
posted by Hactar at 1:02 PM on April 15, 2016


i was just trying to find a good link on ali smith. she's been mentioned in a couple of posts, but never really featured, and i think she's worth it. maybe when her next book comes out...
posted by andrewcooke at 1:26 PM on April 15, 2016


Well, now that I think about it, I guess I did such a post in a way. But then, later on, he died -- a fact about which I still feel sad.

As for obituary posts, I have posted some. And no doubt will post more. Part of it is from getting older and watching people who meant something pass beyond the pale. And always thinking each time about how many people will remember me and how. One feels those bony fingers hovering above one's shoulder.
posted by y2karl at 2:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


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