Happy Halloween! In honor of the Days of the Dead, here are some of my favorite necro-brands:
Hollywood Forever was founded in 1899 as Hollywood Memorial Park and became the burial ground of choice for Tinseltown celebrities (Cecil B. deMille, Marion Davies, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin are interred there). By the late 20th century the graveyard had fallen into disrepair; it was bought in 1998 by Forever Enterprises, a family funeral business in--honest to God--Creve Coeur ("heartbreak"), Missouri. Brent and Tyler Cassity, the 20-something brothers who owned Forever, had hit on a concept that was destined for Hollywood: recording and storing digitized tributes to the deceased. Today, Hollywood Forever's "LifeStory theaters" and "Lifestories™ kiosks" also screen live worldwide webcasts of funeral services. And the Forever Network includes Forever Network Studios and Forever Fernwood in Marin County, California, which sounds like where all the stars of the 1970s show Fernwood 2Night are reposing, but isn't. Listen to an NPR interview with Tyler Cassity that was originally broadcast on Halloween 2000.
Promessa Organic only sounds like a non-dairy breakfast spread. In fact it's a Swedish company that's developing "an environmentally friendly form of burial that takes full consideration of the biological realities to which a corpse is subjected." You have to admire a death brand that comes right out and says corpse. Here--look at some illustrations (100% safe for work).
Peternity: the name says it all, doesn't it? This is where you get your engravable yard statues, your custom engraved glasswork, and your pet memorial urns. Perhaps inspired by Hollywood Forever, Peternity also offers virtual pet memorials.
Nick Carr of Rough Type calls YouDeparted "kind of a social network for the dead." "While you're still alive, you set up a profile page on the site, including text, pictures, and videos, and then after you croak the URL is released to your family or friends," Carr writes. While you're still on this side you can get involved in the site's blog, "Before You Depart."
(Carr clearly digs this stuff. At the end of his YouDeparted post he writes:
You have to think, though, that there are other opportunities along these lines. Second Life, for instance, could offer its members, for a nominal fee, the ability to have their avatars turn into ghosts after they pass away. The ghosts would just randomly float around the virtual world for eternity. They could call the service Third Life.
I'm guessing that Respectance--"an interactive community for sharing memories"--was coined from "respect" and "observance," but that doesn't make me like the name any better. And those horizontally scrolling tribute photos on the home page make me reach for the Dramamine. (No disrespect.) A Respectance blog post by co-founder Richard Derks talks reverently about "emosocial media," characterized by "relevance and connection." A commenter named James cut to the chase: "Your emo social media meme sounds sucky to me ... Nice try, but drop the emo dudes." (Hat tip to Lauren K.)
On the other hand, forget the tributes to friends and family. What about tributes to me? That's what Story of My Life™ (tagline: "Keep Your Story Forever") is all about. That, and finding many places to insert the ™ symbol. And Capitalizing a Lot of Letters. And committing reckless prose, thus:
If the only two inevitables are death and taxes, Story of My Life™ is jumping feet first into the fire by helping you to write all of the different Stories that make up your Life, and enriching them with videos and pictures while securely storing and making them accessible - forever.
"Feet first into the fire"? Keep doing that and you won't be writing your Story much longer.
For a bracing antidote, visit BlueLips, the best name and the most engaging concept I encountered in my morbid meanderings. Just take a look at the left-hand navigation, which truly has something for everyone: casket furniture, coffin gems jewelry, "deadly divorce" (a coffin for your wedding ring), toe tags, and a "rare Jessica Mitford mug."
And finally, good news from Trifac, Inc.: The Montreal jewelry company is diversifying into funeral products, including hair reliquaries with mythopoetic names like Ishtar, Lotus, Lumen, and, yes, Hymen ("from the deity who celebrated weddings").