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Adventures of an Undertaker

Date: 03-27-10
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Tom Jokinen

Ian Punnett was joined by journalist Tom Jokinen (book link), who revealed what he learned about the funeral industry and our changing death rituals working as an undertaker-in-training.

According to Jokinen, cremation is fast replacing traditional earth burials as the preferred method for the disposition of remains, and not only because of cost issues. On Vancouver Island, for instance, more than 90% of families opt to have their departed loved ones cremated, Jokinen explained, noting cultural norms and lack of space as the reasons. Cemetery space is at a premium in Europe as well. There burial plots are leased for a specific period, typically 15 years, after which time the family must pay again or the body is disinterred and the land reused, he continued.

Jokinen described the first time he cremated a body. "It's not just like popping a cake in the oven," he said. The cremation furnace, or retort, must be constantly monitored to ensure the organic matter burns cleanly and produces as little smoke as possible. Pacemakers and defibrillators must be removed from bodies beforehand to avoid damaging the retort, he added. The cremation process produces a small amount of sterile minerals, known as cremains, as well as a green plastic-like substance, which Jokinen playfully referred to as the soul.

Families typically put cremains in an urn or take them to someplace special, such as a sports stadium, for scattering, he said. Still others have their deceased's ashes put into jewelry, exploded in fireworks, and even packed into shot gun shells. Jokinen mentioned other technologies poised to replace cremation, including a process that uses an alkaline solution to dissolve bodies called resummation, and a technique in Sweden where corpses are disposed of by freeze drying.

Related Articles

Ian Punnett's Blog Post 3/27/10

Ian Punnett's Blog Post 3/27/10

I hate not remembering things. I had saved a name from my FB messages from somebody that I was going to give a shout out to but now I can’t find it and I think I erased the message.

So, if you sent me a request to mention you by name on the air and I said I would, then this message is for you, you special person you, that’s right, I said you. There’s only special, unforgettable person I could be talking about and that’s you--whatever your name is.

If you are inclined to think that prayers matter even for a stranger, I want to ask you to pray for my friend, Steve Konrad, the program director of the local C2C affiliate in the Twin Cities, a guy I have known and worked with for almost fifteen years who was riding in the passing lane on a highway on his motorcycle when a truck in front of him dropped a mattress off the back onto the roadway. The SUV in front of him swerved to miss it but Steve had nowhere to go. He was wearing his helmet but he suffered head trauma nonetheless and some broken bones and although he shows no signs of permanent brain damage, he has yet to wake up from the accident. I can’t stop thinking about him. He would have loved to have been at the exhibition game today held at the new home of the Twins, Target Field, a state of the art ballpark and emphasis on “art.” Really cool looking without being so artsy that it’s already dated.

Steve’s wife and kids have put a radio by his bed and I just know that he’s listening from time to time and taking mental notes like any good radio programmer. I look forward to our next aircheck session, Steve, as always.

In fact, I napped this afternoon before the show and Steve was in my dream and he was fine. A little dazed and confused, kept saying, “What happened there?” but he was a100%. If Steve or anybody else I knew had died this week, I would be unable to do this show tonight on this creative and informative book, “Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training.”

As it is, I apologize in advance if you have lost a loved one and you find this subject upsetting. I so get why. Then again, facing death is something that we all must do and knowing everything about the funeral industry can only help you make good, economical, informed decisions when it comes to honoring the dead. I hope this show accomplishes that.

At least when it comes to Dick Giodarno who has died, he was 77. As a comic book fan, Giodarno is known for many things, primarily for his work Batman re-creator Neal Adams and for his work on Green Arrow and Green Lantern, the movie version of which DC Comics is putting the finishing touches on this year.

In 1980, after a stint away from DC, Giordano returned and quickly became Executive Editor and helped relaunch Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash as well as the Justice League of America and later, Teen Titans. Giordano also had a hand in the creation of the “Vertigo” imprint which lead to some pretty famous comics and graphic novels Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

And that is a career that anybody could be proud of. Although I don’t know anything about his funeral arrangements, as respect as he was, some of the biggest names in the world of comics would be there--with Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Flash as the pallbearers.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Saturday March 27, 2010

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