Monday, June 14, 2010

Hey, Dad, do you miss us, too?

Well, if ever there were a headline that didn’t deliver, it’s this one from The NY Times last Friday:

A Well-Wired Hong Kong Offers a Link to the Dead

Here I was thinking that our friends in the East had – Hello, Central -  gone Mary Baker Eddy one better*, and had come up with the killer app.

But – disappointingly – NO.

It’s just another online memorial site, more or less.

This one’s set up by the nicely-named Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government– and available for free to those who use government facilities to bury or cremate their loved ones.  Specifically, the About Us says that the site is open to those:

  • cremated at public crematoria
  • cremains scattered in Gardens of Remembrance/ designated Hong Kong waters
  • cremains kept in public columbaria
  • buried at public cemeteries
  • buried at the Gallant Garden/ Tribute Garden

The site is all very current, with an FAQ, and a notice regarding intellectual property rights:

Unless the materials are uploaded by users themselves or explicitly specified, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the Government) is the owner of intellectual property rights in all contents, including but not limited to all texts, graphics, charts, drawings, diagrams, photographs, icons, reports, statistical data or any other format of data or materials ("Work") available on this website.

Well, that takes a bit of the condolence fun out of it for me, but, in this day and age, you really do need to worry about where your IP’s at.

It’s sounds like kind of a Facebook. Folks set up a profile for their beloved, and can vary up how public or restricted they want it to be.

Users have a choice among preset layouts and background music and can upload photos and videos to complement the profiles.

People can leave messages – Wazzup? – and can also set up reminders to alert them when the deceased’s birthday is coming up (note to self: remember to get card for Great Aunt Roseanne), or when the anniversary of someone’s death is approaching. (Do people really need reminders of this? I, like, do know when my parents died. And if  - as the years sail by, and I get older and nearer to my day of departure – if January 25th or August 14th slips by without my thinking about Al and Liz, I don’t believe that I’ll feel one scintilla of guilt.)

The Hong Kong Memorial home page is soothing and welcoming, in a TeleTubbies kind of way – green fields, blue skies, and gently wafting dandelion puffs. Like everyone who steps toe on this earth, gone, gone with the wind…

I availed myself of the search to check out an actual page.

And, while I’m nosy enough to do so, I’m not going to violate the privacy of Ms. L, even if her page is public. If you’d like, you can search on a common Chinese surname and find your own public page to gawk at. Anyway, Ms. L’s is sparsely populated, and most of what’s in there is in Chinese. (The overall site is in Chinese or English.) There’s a very nice picture of Ms. L, as well as a very nice picture (I’m guessing from one of the available templates) of a woman and child walking with umbrellas down a tree-flanked path.

Move along folks, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen on one of the many U.S. based memorial sites. And I never would have tripped over there to begin with if it hadn’t been for that come-on title in The Times article.

Still, maybe The Times, and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, know something we don’t know.

After all, the home page says:

Leave a message for your Beloved One with Memories.

Well, just in case they’re right and I’m wrong:

Dad, I was just thinking about the time you took the Big Three (Kath, me, and Tom) on a Sunday walk, and took us through the shell of an abandoned house that had been gutted by fire. I still remember when you opened one of those inner doors and the floor had fallen through to the cellar. You saved us from a plunge into oblivion! But what were you thinking? Your wife (that would be our mother) would have killed you if she knew that you were poking around a hazard zone with 3 kids under the age of 6.

Ma, remember the time I helped you paint the kitchen cabinets with paint that was supposed to produce a nice wood-grain looking finish, and we both awoke in the middle of the night and found our way into the kitchen, where we collapsed with laughter (which didn’t happen on too many occasions with you, I’ve got to admit) at how hideous it looked: a grotesque reddish-brown the color of Spanish peanut skins. The next day, we repainted those cabinets an olive-y green, which wasn’t all that great but did represent a marked improvement. (Should have stuck with the original yellow.)

Plenty more memories where those came from. If you’d like to hear more from me, just let me know.

Unlike Mary Baker Eddy, I have two working phones. Give me a holler.

___________________________________________

*Eddy was long rumored to have a telephone in her mausoleum but  Snopes has debunked this one. (Hiss, boo. Some rumors are just too good to be debunked, thank you. Here I was, all these years, thinking that maybe she really was a Christian Scientist who’d figured out a way to use modern technology to communicate to and from the great beyond.

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