"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 6 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Ashes to ASCII


[Pull the Plug]

Given the volatile life

expectancy of the average

Internet start-up, it seems only

natural that developers are

increasingly turning their

attention to that inevitable,

last-gasp revenue pump, the Grim

Reaper. Before the death of the

web, there's death on the web:

software that helps you shut

down your system one last time;

funeral-casts featuring

superfluously live video; HTML

sim-eteries where souls, once

animate, now exist as marketing

data for aftercare



[Funeral Stuff]

At the moment, web-based funerary

applications are in their

infancy, but their future

success seems all but

guaranteed. Indeed, Time

Eternal, which has always

favored the death-merchants, has

a special dividend in store

starting around the year 2010;

that's when the first Baby

Boomers, despite decades of

aerobics classes, antioxidant

megadoses, arterial scrapes,

vigorous colonics regimens, and

facial rejuvenation programs,

will start to drop dead in

record numbers. The annual

mortality rate, currently

hovering at around 2.3 million,

will suddenly increase by at

least several hundred thousand;

the nation's undertakers, coffin

manufacturers, morticians, grief

therapists, and other sundry

entrepreneurs whose livelihoods

depend upon a healthy inventory

of corpses are already

anticipating the happy days to



Of course, the Boomers will bring

a downside with them too. After

lifetimes of no-frills

comparison-shopping at box

retail giants like Price Costco

and Wal-Mart, the great majority

of surviving spouses will

undoubtedly reject the high

margins the funeral business has

historically enjoyed. As

customers search for better

deals, the relatively

noncompetitive nature of the

business will change; some

industry mavericks are already

raising the ire of their

colleagues with their

progressive sales techniques.

One cemetery in California has

been known to offer two-for-one

plot sales. A funeral director

in Illinois hawks discount

coffins out of a barebones strip

mall location.



And just imagine how the

competition will increase when

companies that haven't

traditionally included death in

their business plan begin to

understand the opportunities

their aging clientele present:

With cradle-to-grave marketing

all the rage now, can a Pottery

Barn coffin, handcrafted by

Italian artisans in the

classical style of Etruscan

funeral caskets, be far off? Or

headstone-washed burial garb

from Levi's? And what better way

to create a stylish-to-the-end

"memory picture" than with a

little Pallor eyeshadow from Urban

Decay? Such corporate

necrophagia is bound to catch

the fancy of soon-to-expire

consumers engaged in their

final, poignant credit-card

sprees: Why pay higher prices

for stuff you've never heard of

when you can buy funeral

products from the brands that

have given your life its




Oh, well. Nothing lasts forever,

not even fantastic mark-ups on

ugly jewelry for dead people.

Funeral directors will surely

mourn the loss of such robust

revenue streams, but if anyone

knows about grief management,

they do. In the end, the river

of profit is eternal - one must

simply learn to catch its newest

currents. It was this philosophy

that helped transform a modest

sideline enterprise for

cabinet-makers into an

approximately $9 billion a year

business in the U.S. alone- and

now with Jessica Mitford gone,

and no comparable contrarian

stepping up to take her place as

industry watchdog, one imagines

the nation's undertakers may

once again give free rein to

their most unabashedly

hucksterish impulses as they

learn to capitalize on a whole

new array of digital death



Or at least one hopes...



Because right now, the nascent

death software industry is in

desperate need of

entrepreneurial vision. Sure,

cyberfunerals have a certain

appeal: It's easier to fake

attendance - and grief :'-( -

on the net. But how many people,

for example, really need a

program that helps them kill

themselves? It's sort of like

recipe databases: another

"solution" that turns what was

once a cheap and simple process

into something complicated and

expensive - technological


courtesy of St. Huck