“Travelling to funerals was once an important family rite, but with greater secularity and a mobile population increasingly disconnected from original hometowns, watching a funeral online can seem better than not going at all.” Thus writes Times reporter Laura M. Holson in a front-page story in this Tuesday’s paper (“For Funerals Too Far, Mourners Gather on the Web,” NYT, 1/25/11). Event by Wire, Funeral One and Service Corporation International, the company that controls “2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries, including the venerable Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan,” represent some of America’s hearty entrepreneurial spirit harnessed to this effort to add a cybernetic dimension to the mourning process. It’s all so simple when you read the Times piece, it almost no longer makes sense to attend a funeral at all. For busy Americans who already multitask around the clock, funeral attendance may turn out to be just one more app on their iPhones. “Two weeks ago a friend of Ronald Rich, a volunteer firefighter in Wallace, N.C., died unexpectedly,” Holson goes on to explain in her Times piece. “When Mr. Rich called the mother of his friend to say he could not make the eight-hour drive to the funeral because a snowstorm threatened to close roads, he said the mother offered to send an e-mail invitation so he could watch the service online.” But the question is, will those who avail themselves of these funeral webcasts simultaneously pay their bills, check their Facebook accounts, and go into seedy chat rooms with dominatrixes who tantalizingly offer to shove their stiletto heels into their mouths and listen to the Dead Kennedys, all while friends and family members are being eulogized?
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]