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Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The talking dead

Strange days indeed. Today's news, in the UK and in Belgium, is all of death; but not death as you know it. I want to mention two stories, one from my current home, and one from my future place of residence:

Budapest, Hungary:
"A renowned Hungarian theatre director with terminal cancer is to lie in state for a week while still alive so he can experience his own funeral."

Baltimore, Maryland:
The story is from a Belgian newspaper, but I will link directly to the blog in question
"I (Virginia Simmons) designed this blog to allow you to meet Vernon Lee Evans, the next person to be executed on Maryland’s death row."

As you can see on the blog, Vernon Evans' death sentence has been postponed. Peter Halasz' plans to lie in state alive still stand.

In both of these cases it is very obvious that it is the media (in the broadest sense) that allow us to experience, in close up, the deaths of these two men. Their respective motivations are, I think, clear: Evans' blog is questioning capital punishment from a human rights point of view. Halasz' plans are partly the desire of a performer to keep performing, partly the recognisable fantasy of attending your own funeral. Perhaps in dubious taste, but essentially a personal decision.

What I wonder about how these chronicles of a death foretold change the our perspective, as well as the person in question's. Does it make them feel better to know that people are watching? Do they care whether those watching are sympathetic or just voyeurs? What makes me want to go to the museum to watch this man die? Would it change my image of death? My expectations? Is it a good thing? Are either of these realistic representations of death? Most of all - what does it change?

In the cases of Vernon Evans (and again, I refer to the blog) it is obvious that his story changes people's minds about a whole range of things, and I believe that this is a good thing; moreover there is some hope in his situation. Peter Halasz on the other hand remains doomed in public viewing. Do you still want to keep looking?

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