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Swedish surround-sound coffin set to entertain the dead

Putting the life back into death.

A Swedish designer has created a surround-sound coffin linked to a music playlist that can be updated by the living.

Music and video equipment stores owner Fredrik Hjelmquist said his hi-tech coffin would entertain the dead and provide solace for grieving friends and relatives.

The £20,000 Catacombos feature a custom built amplifier, 4G connection, an LCD to display the current song, plus a cooling system.

When asked whether a belief in life after death would encourage someone to buy his coffin, Hjelmquist told Reuters television:

We don’t know, right? But then people believe in different ways in different parts of the world. In Sweden perhaps we don’t believe in it but in many parts of the world people believe in a different way.

The Catacombo is new development in a long chain of elaborate burial practices. Neanderthal sites from 130,000 years ago were sprinkled with red ochre and offerings of food, tools and fresh flowers. The Egyptians buried their pharaohs with gold and cats. Mingqui - “spirit utensils” depicting dancers, beasts and every day objects - accompanied the deceased in early China. Vikings were buried with weapons, tools and a meal for the trip to Valhalla.

A retainer sacrifice, where the dead are buried with loved ones and slaves (ometimes by force, sometimes voluntarily), were common across many early traditions.

Fast forward a millennium, and many of us are still trying to go out in style.

Frank Sinatra was buried with a flask of Jack Daniels whiskey, Princess Diana with a set of rosary beads given to her by Mother Teresa and Dracula actor Bela Lugosi with his cape. In 1977 Californian socialite Sandra Ilene West was buried in her powder-blue Ferrari.

“I love livin’ but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good” Gene Simmons quipped when the controversial “KISS Kasket”, emblazoned with the KISS logo and pictures of the band members, was released in 2001.

Last January, the Southbank Centre, London, hosted a “Death: A Festival for the Living”. It included an exhibition of coffins both from the Ghanaian Paa Joe workshop, where death is openly celebrated, and from Nottingham company Crazy Coffins that scraps the image of the sombre British bereaved. Their designs included a ballet shoe, an electric guitar a Viking ship, an egg and a lion.

“I don’t think it’s macabre,” said Crazy Coffins director, David Crampton. “Most of the time it’s people saying ‘This is me, this is my life and I want to celebrate it.’”

Hjelmquist has of yet not sold any coffins, but there have been many inquiries from the United States, Canada and Taiwan.

He added: “Ozzy Osbourne should buy one I think, or Keith Richards. Somebody ought to do it because it is really rock n’ roll... but at the same time it’s beautiful.”

Back to our Swedish designer: he plans to be buried in one of his coffins and be serenaded in the afterlife by opera.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.