Death + Humor Death + Popular Culture Death + the Web

Dumb Ways to Die Wins Big at Cannes Festival of Creativity

In November 2012 we posted about Dumb Ways to Die, an Australian train company’s public safety campaign video. The video just won top awards at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. You can read more about the award from the Guardian: Cannes Lions: Dumb Ways to Die scoops top award.

If you missed it last time, definitely check it out!

Death + Humor Death + Popular Culture Death + the Web

Dumb Ways to Die…the Public Service Announcement

Dumb Ways to Die
by John Mescall for Metro Trains Melbourne (2012)


Dumb Ways to Die: Australian rail company’s public safety warning video
The Guardian (November 29, 2012)

There are many reasons to admire Australians, especially their collective love for all things dark, sinister, and macabre.

But always with a smile. And maybe a Foster’s. Possibly a wombat.

So the Dumb Ways to Die song and video by John Mescall for Metro Trains Melbourne comes as little surprise:

The animated ditty is also something of an internet phenomena, and the Death Reference Desk has been following its rapid ascent.

Watch Mescall explain the idea for Dumb Ways to Die:

You can also watch the song with the lyrics underneath (not available in all countries):

Hat tip to Charles Darwin.

Death + Humor Death + Popular Culture

Bristol City Council Plans for Zombie Attack

When Zombies Attack! Bristol City Council Ready for Undead Invasion
Local authority reveals ‘top secret’ plan outlining self-defence strategies should zombies invade
Steven Morris, The Guardian (July 8, 2011)

We’ll always have England!

I live and work in Bath, which is a mere 11 miles or so from Bristol. It is safe to say that I have slept better this entire week knowing that Bristol has a Contingency Plan for Handling Zombie Outbreaks in Bristol.

Zombie specialists will of course know that Bristol’s plan is part of a concerted effort by concerned citizens to know what exactly local councils have planned when the undead strike.

We here at the Death Reference Desk have been following these various Zombie developments. You can read those stories here.

And while it’s true that these Council plans are delivered with a wink and nudge a person can never be too prepared.

As long as Bristol has Stokes Croft, the possibility of Zombie attack is imminent.

Indeed, I bet we’ll see Zombies in Stokes Croft before we ever see a Tescos.

Death + Humor Death + Popular Culture

CDC Prepares Citizens for Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse
Ali S. Khan, CDC Public Health Matters Blog (May 16, 2011)

Ah, zombies — irrepressible, insatiable, instantly recognizable… and the ultimate marketing tool! Librarians most recently squeeeee!ed over a comic book of zombies and information literacy.

Apparently the delicious braaaaaaaaaaaaaaains of someone (or someone’s kid) from the Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness went ding ding ding! when the rag-tag crew of AMC’s The Walking Dead journeyed to the CDC in hopes of salvation from the zombie plague. Of course, the CDC ended up exploderating, but that’s just fiction… right? Right?

The CDC is taking no chances, unleashing on the internets a guide to Zombie Apocalypse Emergency Preparedness, which (conveniently!) works in a pinch for other natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. I guess tornados and the swelling Mississippi taking out the South just isn’t sexy enough to get people to rustle up an emergency food, water and first aid kit.

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency. emergency.cdc.govWe at DeathRef applaud their efforts. (Dude! It’s the CDC!). But oh, dear hearts — don’t put “Social Media” in the title. We know what you’re trying to do. You’re almost there. Your constant reminders that zombie contingency plans also work for earthquakes quite nearly get in the way of the gag, but we suspect there were stuffy dinosaur overlords in heated board meetings that needed ample assurance this was relevant, useful and no joke.

Overall, well done.

Death + Crime Death + the Web

Stay Classy, AccuQuote and CNN

In the wake of Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, leaving among the dead a federal judge and a 9-year-old, with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition among the many wounded, life insurance company AccuQuote reminds surfers of CNN that our family’s future is uncertain (even if widowhood turns women into FOXES… part of the threat of death, perhaps?)… especially with that unknown person of interest still on the loose.

I know how internet advertising works. When not random (though I doubt this is random), it’s keyword correlated, in effort to show viewers relevant content. And life insurance is definitely relevant when a sociopath murders citizens and public servants at a community forum. But c’mon, AccuQuote and CNN. Have some taste and show respect.

…Though I suppose such a censure ignores that media orgs are always selling fear, mayhem and ad space. Ugh.

Our thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy. May we see a shift in political and cultural discourse toward the sane and peaceable.

Death + Popular Culture Death + the Law

Toe Tags and Neck Holes


FDA Unveils Proposed Graphic Warning Labels for Cigarette Packs
Gardiner Harris, New York Times (November 10, 2010)

The war on tobacco has gotten just a bit splashier and “deathlier”. Graphic images designed to scare people straight will soon be gracing cigarette packaging by next summer. The images range from a corpse in a casket, a cadaver, toe-tagged feet, gravestones, a deathbed denizen and a guy blowing smoke out of a hole in his neck for good, visceral measure.

See the images here.

Graphic images on cigarette packs are nothing new. In Europe, graphic warnings such as these (and worse) have been in place for years. But now that the FDA has the authority to regulate the tobacco industry, they are going all out with introduction of a glitzy new shock and awe, “anti-advertising” campaign. On Wednesday, they unveiled 36 new warning labels, of which 9 will be chosen, to grace cigarette packaging across the U.S. However, the new effort ups the ante quite a bit from the rather sedate Surgeon General’s warning stating that “smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy.”

According to the NY Times,

Dr. Richard D. Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic, said he was hopeful the labels would save lives, though he said a higher federal tax and tougher workplace restrictions were also needed.

“The evidence is that graphic labels do make a difference in enticing smokers to stop smoking,” he said.

I say, you be the judge. Are cigarettes still the proverbial “nails in the coffin?” And if so, is showing a guy actually in a coffin enough to get you or others to quit smoking? The FDA is currently seeking public comment and so are we. We’re not blowing smoke—send us your thoughts!

Cemeteries Death + Humor Death + Popular Culture

Cemeteries: More than Just Gloom and Doom

To Attract Future Customers, Cemeteries Hold Parties to Die For
Graveyards Plan Concerts, Sky-Diving, Clowns; ‘Meet Us Before You Need Us’
Araby Williams, Wall Street Journal Multimedia Producer and
Stephanie Simon, The Wall Street Journal (August 12, 2010)

The Wall Street Journal ran this short video on cemeteries working to attract a wider audience. This isn’t a new phenomena. The Hollywood Forever cemetery in Hollywood, CA (whose website doesn’t seem to be working…) started showing films on the sides of mausoleums back in the 1990s.

In an odd twist, using cemeteries for more public events is actually in keeping with their 19th century conception.

The WSJ video does a good job of discussing these points.

Cemeteries Death + Humor Funeral Industry

Elephants? No. Leashed Dogs? Check.

No Camels, Er, Unleashed Dogs Allowed in Cemetery
Katie Mercer, The Province (March 25, 2010)

This is normally the sort of story I’d tweet, but after my columbaria tour one sweltering Vancouver Saturday, I have a soft spot in my heart for Mountain View Cemetery. In an effort to get visitors to actually read (and hopefully heed) a sign, the City of Vancouver got silly:

No elephants.
No camels.
No dogs without leashes.
Dogs with leashes = OK.

According to the Province article,

“I hope the ‘no elephants’ policy provides a gentle reminder to others to keep the leash on their dogs,” [cemetery manager Glen Hodges] added.

The cemetery is the only one in the Lower Mainland that officially allows dogs on their grounds.

Hmm, I wonder about leashed camels…

The sign was designed by cemetery booster and civic historian John Atkin, who in small-world coincidental fashion was my tour guide last summer. For those in Vancouver he recommends an upcoming, day-long forum at Mountain View on April 24: The Final Disposition: De-Mystifying Death, Funerals, Cemeteries & Ceremonies. From the cemetery’s homepage:

A forum designed to address practical and philosophical matters on dying and death. Discussion begins with hospice care and continues with the role of funeral homes and cemeteries. Alternative options such as green burial and the importance of ritual and ceremony will end the day.

Wish I were there!

Funeral Industry

“From Guns to Our Guest,” Warns Funeral Home Billboard

Funeral Director’s Billboards: “Don’t End Up Here”
Elizabeth Schubert , 13WHAM, Rochester, New York (March 26, 2010)

A funeral director in Rochester, New York, counteracts the community sadness and frustration of clients brought to his services through violence with a series of billboards in English and Spanish. The message couldn’t be more direct: “Stop the guns, drugs and violence, or be our next guest.”

From the article,

Hemphill put up the billboards because he’s tired of violence. “This is the last stop. Either you’re going to be in jail, or you’re going to be in a funeral home. You can be a guest, seeing the friend, or you can be the one laid out.”

Whether actually effective in preventing deaths or gaining customers who are charmed or appreciative of the efforts, such PSA-style PR certainly gets funeral homes attention (see also the similar Don’t Drink and Drive and Don’t Text and Drive campaigns).

Death + Humor Funeral Industry

Sexy Coffin Calendar Showdown!

Coffin Calendars Are a Sexy Hit
New Poland Express (October 16, 2009)

via Trendhunter Magazine, “Controversial Casket Calendars”

Last October DeathRef tweeted about Italian coffin maker CofaniFunebri, which created a coffin product catalog featuring scantily clad goths. (This did not make the Death Reference Desk proper — while fine with being a sexy goth coffin calendar tweeter, I was reluctant to become a sexy goth coffin calendar blogger.)

Hesitation, begone! This is officially a post-worthy trend, which I initially missed but to which Trendhunter (appropriately enough) just alerted me. Not about to be outdone, Poland’s largest coffin manufacturer, Lindner, came out with its own sexy model, coffin-humping calendar. Hey, guys, don’t you know there’s a crisis going on? And perhaps it’s because of declining casket sales that marketing teams are getting creative (read: skanky) with outreach initiatives.

In response to criticism about the appropriateness of such a venture, the Lindner managing director, Barthosz Linder, says:

I don’t believe that sex alongside death is shocking and offends people who have just lost someone close to them. I produce coffins. I could produce furniture or something else. But I don’t. And this is a good coffin. I decided on such advertising because I wanted people to know about our brand. That’s it.

And about ripping off the Italians? What say you to that, Mr. Lindner?

The idea for this calendar is mine. Although I admit that I was inspired by an Italian calendar. There, a company does the same thing, but I thought, ‘Well, our Polish girls are prettier, and our coffins are better. … So we can do better.’

This is the part where I’d say, “You be the judge!” if I didn’t suspect you had better things to do. But if not, you can check out the full CofaniFunebri calendar here and see teaser pages from the Lindner calendar here, which boasts of “12 beautiful coffins [and] marvelous pictures of 12 beautiful Polish girls in magic landscapes.”

Death + Humor

Dead Drunk Funeral Freebies for NYE

Free Funerals for Drunk Drivers
Jerry Carnes, 11Alive (December 29, 2009)

A public awareness campaign for drunk driving meets cheeky morbidity in Rome, Georgia. Here citizens can sign a contract at McGuire, Jennings and Miller Funeral Home stating they intend to drive after drinking or doing drugs on New Year’s Eve. Those who die will receive a free funeral, including a casket, grave site, body preparation and limousine (and perhaps a pre-revelry visit from the police?).

Unfortunately the offer is not extended to those killed by impaired drivers — nor has anyone taken them up on the offer. We guess it’s the thought (and publicity) that counts.

Have a happy and safe New Year’s, everybody!
<3 Death Ref