January 2, 2012

"Taxidermist's obituary was too problematic to write."

But an article about not writing the obituary was not too much of a problem.

24 comments:

Don't Tread 2012 said...

The article reads as a bit of a pseudo-obituary, only with the naughty bits not normally associated with a standard obituary, included.

Everyone has things in their past that they shouldn't be proud of. Despite this man's failures, a standard obit could have been written. Curious, why really wasn't one written for this guy?

Omission of the bad stuff is standard for everyone else. Why not him???

John Burgess said...

I've no problem with that article. It certainly attracted more eyes than it would have as an obit. It does, as Don't Tread 2012 says, include bits not usually associated with American obituaries, though the Brits tend to be a lot more forthcoming.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't get it. They don't do obituaries for drug addicts or crummy dads?

I didn't know so many celebrities would be excluded from obituaries.

rcommal said...

Are we sure there wasn't a standard obit?

This article is about how it was problematic to write up Steig as a feature obit (though I would indeed say that this IS a feature obit, of sorts, regardless of whether it was featured in the typical fashion AS a feature[d] obit).

This doesn't necessarily mean there was no typical obit.

Signed,

One Who Has Written and/or Edited Many Obits and Obit Pages Back in the Day

Ann Althouse said...

@Freeman Apparently, by Milwaukee standards, he was interesting as a museum-quality taxidermist...

Ann Althouse said...

"This doesn't necessarily mean there was no typical obit."

Clearly, by obituary, they mean a real article, not the kind of death notice a local paper runs for everyone who dies locally.

rcommal said...

Quick OT (I understand if it gets deleted, btw):

I have to say that when I came to Althouse, I laughed when I saw the first two posts for the day--primarily because I'm feeling a bit in a gallows-humor mood, this Iowa Caucus Eve Day! (We plan on participating, so I don't really mean that as frivolously as it no doubt comes off.)

/OT

rcommal said...

Not to be deliberately annoying--truly--Althouse, but death notices and obituaries are two different things, and feature obits are a third thing.

: )

Mary Beth said...

There was a standard obit from September 2011. This paper calls them "death notices".

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

"I don't say he's a great man. Gilbert Stieg never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper, well except once when he was a hit man. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and although he did some terrible things, attention must be paid.

He's not to be allowed to be stuffed like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.
"
- Death of a Taxidermist

Kit said...

My father-in-law was featured in one of these "apparently, by Milwaukee standards" obits. He was a college chem professor who held a few patents through some work he had done with NASA. His negatives were accurately (and kindly) summed up in a quote in the article, from a sister-law, calling him a curmudgeon.

As Stieg's own daughter had come to peace with her father, so had all of my husband's brothers and sisters. It was a nice remeberance of the man.

edutcher said...

Since he enslaved falcons and promoted the hunting of defenseless animals, according to the Lefty code, he had to be slimed.

Triangle Man said...

I was initially concerned that it was Chuck Testa who had died. Nope!

John said...

"Curmudgeon" is a negative quality?

I thought we liked our curmudgeons. See all the gushing over Andy Rooney a few months back.

I have been around enough to have earned the right to be a bit of a curmudgeon. I need to work on it a bit more, though.

Hold on a second, be right back:

HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN RIGHT NOW!!!!

John Henry

EDH said...

Obituaries for Schmucks?

William said...

I don't personally know anyone who practices taxidermy. My guess, however, is that there are many flakes among their ranks and that the strangeness of this man's life is not atypical of taxidermists. Norman Bates was an amateur taxidermist. I bet Ron Paul at one time or another thought of taking up taxidermy as a hobby.

Mary Beth said...

Triangle Man, that's why I clicked the link. Other than Norman Bates, I think Testa is the only taxidermist I can name. (Yes, I know the first one is fictional.)

Chip S. said...

I just discovered that the "taxi" in "taxidermy" is from the Greek word taxis, meaning "arrangement", whereas the "taxi" in "taxicab" is from the Medieval Latin word taxa, meaning a tax or fee. (The "cab" part comes from "cabriolet".)

The rest of you probably knew that already.

Carry on.

mariner said...

Gilbert Stieg never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper, well except once when he was a hit man.

Except that he wasn't a hit man. He reported to the authorities someone's attempt to hire him as such.

David said...

Explanation of the obit selection process by the JS:

Obituaries: Amy Rabideau Silvers and other Journal Sentinel staff writers choose to write obituaries about a wide range of local people who have died. She can be reached via e-mail or 414-224-2156, or call the newsroom at 224-2318.

Choose me! No, Me! Me! Me! Choose me!

William said...

When you stop to think of all the time and money that went into the preservation of Lenin's corpse, wouldn't it have been cheaper and, in some ways, less offensive to just have him stuffed. I think if they mounted the stuffed Lenin on Roy Roger's horse, Trigger, many people would line up to see it. This would inject so much needed tourist dollars into the Russian economy.

Wally Kalbacken said...

Gil Steig is dead?

I didn't even know he was sick!

Peter said...

Mary Beth said, "There was a standard obit from September 2011. This paper calls them "death notices".

To make clear what others have pointed out, a "death notice" is a paid advertisement. Death notices are almost always bought by a funeral home (many papers will not accept them from anyone who's not in the business). The cost of the ad is usually a line item on the funeral home's bill. Everyone whose survivors pay will get a death notice, but few deceased get an obituary.


An obituary is a news article. The custom seems to be to bias obituaries toward eulogies; except for the baddest of the bad, most obituaries accent the positive and downplay the negative.

Which is why this article is more of a human interest story than an obituary.

And for what it's worth, someone at the funeral home usually writes boilerplate for the death notice ad after interviewing whoever's paying for the funeral. But if you're the one handling the "arrangements" (as this is quaintly known) and you want something more personal, you can write it yourself and insist that you won't pay unless they submit it word-for-word as you've written it.