The Week in Death: Dec 3-9 :1/2 QUOTE OF THE DAY ``We continue to share with our remotest

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The Week in Death: Dec 3-9 :1/2 QUOTE OF THE DAY ``We continue to share with our remotest ancestors the most tangled and evasive attitudes about death, despite the great distance we have come in understanding some of the profound aspects of biology. We have as much distaste for talking about personal death as for thinking about it; it is an indelicacy, like talking in mixed company about venereal disease or abortion in the old days.'' --Lewis Thomas ``I mean, the people who worry about being remembered are guys like Reagan, Bush. . . . I don't care.'' --Frank Zappa ``...We remember such mass murderers as Howard Unruh in Camden, N.J., in 1949 and Charles Whitman in the tower at the University of Texas in 1966 because they were relatively exceptional. The clumsy weapons of their times required sharpshooters for such jobs, as well as the time and opportunity to reload. Today's arsenal demands no particular skill or vantage or even much of an impetus. Any nitwit can do it, erasing people like zapping TV channels with a remote. The lack of difficulty suggests a lack of consequences, which is one reason there are so many killings among teenagers. Sociopaths are by definition not much concerned with consequences. For them, a semiautomatic weapon is like a magic wand: there is barely a breath between the desire and the cataclysmic effect. '' --Luc Sante, in response to the murder of 5 and the wounding of 18 others on the Long Island Rail Road last week. =========== [some cuts] =========== FRANK ZAPPA (52), musician. Zappa's disgust for slipshod thinking fueled a career of attacking convention, expressed in lyrics that were iconoclastic, often scatological, and frequently scathing -- thank heaven he was funny, or that stuff woulda got real old real quick. His outrage against idiocy led him to take on TIPPER GORE and her Parents Music Resource Center, which wanted to affix rating labels to recorded music. He likened the measure to ``decapitation to cure dandruff,'' and his response to claims that popular music has a terrifying influence was withering: ``I wrote a song about dental floss, but did anyone's teeth get cleaner?'' Another foray into politics was in 1990, when VACLAV HAVEL appointed him Czechoslovakia's representative to the West on matters of trade, culture, and tourism. (Tourism?!?) He put out 60-plus recordings over 25 years. Unfortunately, he was best known for one-off novelty singles like ``Yellow Snow,'' ``Dancin' Fool,'' and the album ``Hot Rats,'' because knowledge thereof ``separated the real cool music guys from the pack.'' Yes, our readership includes aging ex-hippies (don't worry, they're mostly reformed). Zappa's 1988 disk ``Jazz from Hell'' won that year's Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. His band, the Mothers of Invention (later, simply called Zappa), was a breeding ground for innovative artists, including ADRIAN BELEW, STEVE VAI, and the late, very lamented LOWELL GEORGE. He also produced CAPTAIN BEEFHEART's ``Trout Mask Replica,'' one of those seminal albums that nobody listens to except bands looking for an influence because they don't have any ideas of their own to get famous with. Zappa was one of the few rockers with an understanding of music theory. He'd already won recognition as a composer, but we'll bet anyone a sawbuck that within two decades, someone will write a dissertation that proclaims Zappa a major link between whatever happened before him and wherever music goes in the titan of 20th century composition unheralded in his lifetime because of his grounding in proletarian musical idioms, Zappa bridged the gap between the logical formalism that was the last link to classical romanticism and the current blah blah blah...'' He was a brilliant guitarist, fascinated with stop/starts and precision playing, which got annoying after 15 or 20 years; he was also pretty anal retentive when it came to composition and performance (shut up and play with feeling). Zappa grew up in Baltimore, as did filmmaker JOHN WATERS -- we think we're beginning to sense a pattern here... ------ From the Apparently Endless Stream Of Studies On Mortality Department (AESOSOMD): Researchers at UC San Francisco have mutated the daf-2 gene in Caenorhabditis elegans (``Dammit, Jim, I'm just a country doctor, but I can tell you right now that's a worm.''), thereby doubling their lifespans. The mutation in daf-2 somehow affects the daf-16 gene which somehow makes the little slimies live longer. Humans ain't got neither gene. Sorry. ------ Meanwhile, some Swedes have compiled data that suggest that a 50-year-old man experiencing a lot of stress and lacking close friends or family is 3 times more likely to die by age 57 than a 50-year-old guy with emotional support, whether he's stressed out or not. Just great. As if TWIDMAN doesn't have to write a column while maintaining a real job and paying bills and trying to survive on the mean streets of New York, now we have all this ADDITIONALpressure to find some FRIENDS. Oh, JESU, where will it all END? (The Week in Death is by Brian Santo, [B.SANTO@genie.geis.com].)

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