ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Daily Archive: 15/10/2017



October 2017



What I’m Reading – October 15, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

California Fires

““It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Already among the most destructive in the state’s history, the fires have claimed 23 lives, obliterated 3,500 homes and businesses and caused more than 20,000 to evacuate. They have also scorched some of the finest wineries in the country.” How to Help California’s Wildfire Victims (by Jessica Kwong for Newsweek)

“The 57-year-old, as well as another maintenance worker, and several residents and their family members describe a frantic, disorganized, and late-deployed effort to evacuate the sprawling Varenna complex, which houses 400 senior citizens across several buildings, just before the fast-approaching flames swept through the premises.” Workers Say A California Retirement Community Left Its Elderly Residents Behind During The Fire (by Brianna Sacks for Buzzfeed)

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Action

“Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday in Kentucky that he plans to sign a proposed rule tomorrow repealing the plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, according to the Associated Press.” EPA head announces plan to eliminate Obama’s signature climate policy (by Yvette Cabrera for Think Progress)


“Meanwhile, psychologist John Gartner started a petition on for “mental health professionals” (with no method to determine if their status as mental health professionals extended beyond self-appointment on the internet) to declare Trump mentally unfit to be president. So far, it’s received more than 60,000 signatures. As much as I wish Trump weren’t president, slapping him with lazy e-diagnoses is not the way to get there. This obsession with his mental state is not only irrelevant to the current political situation, but endangers the acceptance and treatment of people with mental illness.” Let’s Stop Calling Donald Trump “Crazy” (by Alexandra Mendez-Diez for Buzzfeed)

Sexual Assault

“The story, however, is complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. Their allegations corroborate and overlap with the Times’s revelations, and also include far more serious claims.” From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories (by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker)

“Everyone is having their say about Harvey Weinstein. But nobody has put in their 2 cents (2 pence?) quite like Emma Thompson. She’s just telling it like it is — bluntly, eloquently, and honestly. BBC Newsnight has been releasing quotes and clips from tonight’s interview with her, and they are FIRE.” All Hail Emma Thompson (via Pajiba)

Racism / Colorism

“Cosmetics companies in other countries aren’t under the same legal obligation as they are in the US to reveal their full ingredient lists, but most over-the-counter products — which are rarely labeled as skin bleachers — include some ingredient that could lighten your skin, even in the US. Those active ingredients vary from things you’d find in the kitchen to something like hydroquinone, which is only allowed in very low levels for nonprescription skin care. (Prescription skin lighteners can include more of that active ingredient.)” Some Of Your Fave Skin Care Companies Sell Skin Lightening Products (by Scaachi Koul for Buzzfeed)



October 2017



From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in death and mourning rituals from around the world.

In a nutshell: Author and funeral home owner Caitlin Doughty follows up her bestseller “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” with a look at different funeral and mourning rituals in an attempt to get those in some parts of the West who may be in denial about death to think about it differently.

Line that sticks with me: I’m going to cheat here and offer two:
1. “Cailin, can you smile a little, you look so dour.” “This is a human head. I don’t need pictures of me grinning with a severed human head.”
2. It’s a lovely thought, and a tree may grow from the soil provided, but after the 1,800 degree cremation process, the remaining bones are reduced to inorganic, basic carbon.”

Why I chose it: I love her first book and have since attended the Death Salon that her organization hosted in Seattle. She’s delightful in person, and her personality really comes through in her writing.

Review: This is one of those books that I didn’t want to put down. I started it late last night, and read almost a third of it before forcing myself to go to sleep. I then read it at the gym, on my walk to get errands, and finally finished it off while eating lunch.

Ms. Doughty is interested in helping those of us who might be living in a state of denial around death come to terms with the reality that everybody dies. Some folks are more privileged in this way than in others; people who have either personally experienced loss or have seen death in their community may have an all-too-familiar relationship with the concept of death, while others have only experienced death as part of the end of a very long life of a beloved great grandparent.

But, as we all know, we will all die. If you watch the Good Place, the most recent episode (”Existential Crisis”) shows what can happen when this concept first solidifies in a person’s mind. But in many cultures around the world, death is a part of life, and Ms. Doughty travels to learn more about these practices. Like the rituals of those who live in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and participate in the Torajan funeral, where individuals are removed from their ‘resting place’ by family members and cleaned and redressed on a regular basis. Or in La Paz, where ñatitas (human skulls) are displayed in some homes where individuals can come and make offerings to receive assistance in areas of their lives.

Back in the U.S., Ms. Doughty also looks at some alternatives to the traditional US cremation or burial, such as open-air funeral-pyre-style cremation, or recomposition (e.g., composting human remains).

As I said, I found this to be a fascinating read. Ms. Doughty is extremely respectful as she learns about other cultures – she isn’t there as a tourist, or as someone interesting in making a judgment. She is genuinely interested in learning from those who do it better than we do, in an attempt to figure out how to improve what’s going on at home.