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Original author: 
Josh Sanburn

Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjörk has documented frenzied consumerism, the soul-deadening effects of office life and the strange theatrics of U.S. politics, always displaying a sense of humor and a grasp of the absurd that would not be out of place in a George Saunders short story. For our feature on the increasing popularity of cremation around the country, TIME sent Tunbjörk deep into the American heartland to chronicle the goings-on at three separate crematories.

For decades, burial has been by far the most common form of disposition in the United States. Most Americans never gave it a second thought: their grandparents were buried; their great-grandparents were buried—it just made sense that they’d get buried, too, in the family plot, beside their closest relatives.

(Click here to read TIME’s special report on cremation and find out why our changing attitude toward this final rite of passage says everything about the way we live now.)

But today we’re a far different society than we were just a few decades ago. Within the next few years it’s projected that, for the first time, more Americans will get cremated than buried.

Much of the recent rise of cremation’s popularity can be credited to the Great Recession. Cremations can cost as little as a quarter as much as traditional burials. But it’s not just the price tag that makes cremation a popular alternative.

For one, we’re a much more mobile society today. We don’t buy family plots the way we used to because more of us get an education, start a family, get a job and retire far from our birthplaces. When it comes time to find a final resting place, transporting an urn is much easier than dealing with a casket.

Historically, the U.S. has been a majority Christian nation, and Christianity favors burial for a number of reasons. But Americans are becoming increasingly secular and many of us now identify as atheist, agnostic or, even if we consider ourselves religious, aren’t affiliated with a particular faith. That separation from a religion with ties to traditional burial has led to more Americans exploring other options of disposition.

Cremation has also appealed to those looking for a more eco-friendly solution than burial, which involves placing a body filled with embalming fluids on a plot of land that will need to be maintained in perpetuity. And while flame-based cremation is a more environmentally sensitive solution than traditional burial, a new breed of eco-friendly cremations is just starting to become popular. “Green cremations,” which use a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, are available in a handful of states and are outpacing flame-based cremations in the areas where they’re offered.

The practice of cremation will in all likelihood only grow as we become more mobile, secular and eco-conscious as a society. In fact, in the not too distant future, burial might well be seen as a peculiar option in light of the eminently reasonable, less expensive and environmentally sound method now so widely available—and increasingly embraced.

Click here to read TIME’s special report on cremation and find out why our changing attitude toward this final rite of passage says everything about the way we live now.

Lars Tunbjörk is a photographer based in Stockholm. He previously photographed the 2012 Iowa Caucuses for TIME

Josh Sanburn is a writer/reporter for TIME in New York. Follow him on Twitter @joshsanburn.

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Chopin - Nocturne No.21 in C-Minor Op. Posth.

Posthumously published nocturne in C minor by Frédéric Chopin. Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor, Op. posth., Lento con gran espressione, Op. P 1, No. 16, KKIVa/16, is a solo-piano piece composed by Frédéric Chopin in 1830.

Chopin dedicated this work to his older sister, Ludwika Chopin, with the statement: “To my sister Ludwika as an exercise before beginning the study of my second Concerto”. First published 26 years after the composer’s death, the piece is usually referred to as Lento con gran espressione, from its tempo marking. It is sometimes also called Reminiscence. 

(via artemisdreaming:)

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Jimi Hendrix sent the following letter to Reprise Records in September of 1968. It was essentially a set of fairly strict instructions with regard to the sleeve design of his forthcoming record, Electric Ladyland: a photo of the band surrounded by kids in Central Park, taken by Linda McCartney, was to feature on the front cover; various other black and white shots, by Eddie Kramer, were also to grace the packaging; as was a poem entitled "Letter to the room full of mirrors," also seen below.

The album was released the next month, with a sleeve that bore no resemblance to the design in his letter. Worse still, Reprise chose to use a highly controversial photo for the UK release. Hendrix was furious, later saying in an interview:

"Folks in Britain are kicking against the cover. Man, I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have put this picture on the sleeve myself but it wasn’t my decision. It’s mostly all bullshit."
Transcript follows. Images from Jimi Hendrix: An Illustrated Experience. A close-up of Jimi's sketch can be seen here.


Dear Sirs,

Here are the pictures we would like for you to use anywhere on the L.P. cover - preferably inside and back, without the white frames around some of the B/W ones, and with most of them next to each other in different sizes and mixing the color prints at different points, for instance.


Please use cover picture with us and the kids on the statue for front or BACK COVER (OUTSIDE COVER) and the other back or front side, (outside cover) Please use three good pictures of us in B/W or color.

We would like to make an apology for taking so very long to send this but we have been working very hard indeed, doing shows AND recording.

And please send the pictures back to

Jimi Hendrix Personal & Private
c/o Jeffrey & Chandler
27 EAST 37th ST. N.Y. N.Y.

After you finish with them.

Please, if you can, find a nice place and lettering for the few words I wrote named... "Letter of the room full of mirrors." on the L.P. cover.

The sketch on the other page is a rough idea of course...But please use ALL the pictures and the words - Any other drastic change from these directions would not be appropriate according to the music and our group's present stage - And the music is most important. And we have enough personal problems without having to worry about this simple yet effective layout.

Thank you.

Jimi Hendrix


Use on L.P.

Jimi Hendrix
electric lady land -

TITLE: Letter to the room full of mirrors.

4:30 - 6:00 am
Denver Cdo. Sept 2.

Let's see now... "It wasn't too long ago, but it feels like, years ago, since I've felt the warm hello of the Sun...lately things..." and then he was interrupted by the slow motion speeded up sound that sometimes cut so deep, that sound was from those chellophane typewriters...Exactly. Constantly from the south side of those carpets and but anyway Sweet Rome was on my mind. "She gave so sweetly..." And on he walked until after crowning Ethel the dog the Only Queen of ears, the sky cracked wide open and split many of his Brothers and Sisters heads all over the world apart at the approximately same... "That's law and order", said the Border Guard as his hard head weighted something like wet bread -- which to explain through brain rain as that's...well...Bro, is this here country all what much ahead?

And said the owner of the velvet horse who heard all this... "I just know that I'm going to get involved here" and slams the machine in Reverse, splitting both suns apart in doing so, probably. He got to Fantasy Fjords on the hurry up side and also can you dig... Oh Oh! watch that stick and judge your distance from that Blue Suede kick!!... (SWISSHHH KNOCK...!?!!..) Anyway...can you dig that something came by here not too terrible long at all...I was bathing my eye...just a 1000 foot above those same old tired skies know, that sound there and after that, everywhere, Bathed me to a physical. And he Blurted out the sound burnt the side of his inner wall also passing by and the liquid rainbow melted EROS all through his rooms and rooms of ears that he was hiding from Ethel the Queeny. And he thumbed a lift from his head and heads straight to anywhere to tell his woman, the world; that it was physical...GASP.

And (the chellophane begins to crattle and crake) His old lady Terra Mama, Jumps in his face and says... "What's physical?!" and he stutters, smiles, and retaliates, ah...what is music m'love? PUFF PUFF.

And they probably found out that it was.
by this time.

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I was totally amazed when I first saw the exhibition of the plastinated human body specimens. I couldn’t believe that under our skin we all look like that!

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