Last Thursday, we took a trip to my daughter’s school, where we received a personal tour of class 5K’s recreation of an Egyptian tomb, including the kids’ replicas of artifacts and life-size murals. Very interesting it was, too.
I learned that, apparently, the current thinking on how the pyramids were constructed posits the use of internal ramps. The wee one had clearly internalized a great deal of learning regarding the Egyptians’ relationship with the afterlife, and I was also interested to learn something about the symbolism of the ankh, where my learning was previously limited to what I’d stumbled across in Neil Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living. [Who knew Death was so cute? My death-dealing stroke looked like this. A bunch of them. With bats. Beating the crap outta me.] Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of mortality recently, what with the whole 300/200 blood pressure in the ER and “5% chance of a good outcome” thing. Now that I’m in the hands of an excellent team of medical staff, including a physiatrist, neurologist, cardiologist and psychologist, I’m not immediately concerned about shuffling off this mortal coil, but it does make you think.
In the close aftermath of Strokefest 2012, Beth was listening to the Savage Love Podcast, one of our favorite podcasts. I’ve been familiar with Dan Savage since first stumbling across his funny and wise advice Savage Love column in the Philadelphia Weekly back in 1996. When Beth and I started dating, she, being one of the Tech Savvy At-Risk Youth that Dan is so fond of, introduced me to the podcast. It’s been quite a trip following Dan from the sarky, sweary firebrand who wanted to call his column Hey Faggot! to America’s favourite, sarky, sweary gay uncle, as featured on MTV’s Savage U, the 101 version of his column. Y’know, for kids. We even saw him on a panel at the Episcopal Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity (now, there’s a band name!) where he singularly failed to be struck by lightning, notwithstanding his best efforts. I think the openly gay head priest was quite happy.
What? Oh, yes, OK. On October 9’s podcast (episode 311), Dan received a call from a bereft young woman who had lost her boyfriend of three years and fiancee (the same guy, at least; would have been a grim coincidence, otherwise). I’ve listened to the short call a couple of times; once, because of it’s uncanny timing, and a second time in preparation for this post, and have been reduced to tears both times. Dan, bless him, quotes another old queen (the Queen, actually): “Grief is the price we pay for love,” God. Hardly bears thinking about, even if, as he mentions, the way we feel about our lovers is brought out by them, but is something within us. The ultimate advice, of course: see a bereavement counselor. Although, by all accounts [hat tip: you know who you are], they vary wildly in their utility.
Now, if the poor woman had seen watching Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, she would have been aware that death need not be the end. I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic to be able to watch it, but, in the episode “Be Right Back”, a recently bereaved and pregnant young woman makes use of a fictional online service that lets people stay in touch with the deceased. By using all of his past online communications and social media profiles, a new version of her late boyfriend is created virtually. The show also contemplates the next, experimental, phase of the service, whereby the program can be uploaded into a body made of synthetic flesh. Needless to say, it doesn’t end happily. Nevertheless, something similar is launching in the real world next month. A new Twitter app called LivesOn will use Twitter bots powered by algorithms that analyze your online behavior to learn how you speak, so it can keep on scouring the internet, favoriting tweets and posting the sort of links you like. The tagline? “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.”
DeadSocial is another “digital legacy tool”. that lets you set up a series of messages to be sent out posthumously, via Facebook and Twitter. According to its creator, who has been consulting with a doctor specializing in end-of-life care, DeadSocial “allows you to… create something of value for those who are still alive.” I should point out that this is different to DeadSocial.com, The Social Network of the Dead and those with an interest in “Gothic Rock Culture” which, rather brilliantly, allows Goths to be antisocial without leaving their bedrooms or turning down their Fields of the Nephilim albums. [Disclaimerˆ: I saw The Sisters of Mercy at Philly’s Electric Factory in 1997, and they were awesome. Andrew Eldritch even did his best to antagonize the crowd by dressing in a bright yellow silk shirt and declaring: We’re The Sisters of Mercy, and we’re a RAWK’N’ROLL BAND!] Actually, I would expect the Goth scene, close knit, sensitive and death aware as it is, to be very supportive of the bereaved. See also Alexis Petridis’s brilliant Goth For Life for a fascinating insight into the lifestyle.
[I didn’t recall Whitby had a goth weekend, but it’s on my bucket list now. Or maybe post-bucket list. And while we’re in square brackets, follow Alexis on twitter; he’s awfully good. Anyway, back to the point: social media for the dead….] As you read this, you’re probably already intrigued or appalled. As one of the creative partners of the ad agency that is developing LivesOn notes, the idea “divides people on a gut level, before you even get to the philosophical and ethical arguments.” Personally, after my near death experience and had a little experience of how people reacted to my imminent demise, I’m in the intrigued camp. One might argue that much of this is not unlike people leaving letters to be read after they die, or, even more run of the mill, leaving messages for their loved ones in their wills.
Staying with death and ghosts for a second, we went to see another production of Macbeth this past week. After thoroughly enjoying Alan Cumming’s one-man version at the Lincoln Center outpost at the Time Warner Center, the gimmick of this show was that it was presented in the original pronunciation. In this case, “original pronunciation” referred to the language in which the play would have been staged, rather than the way the Scottish thanes of the historical Macbeth’s reign (1040–1057) would have talked. As always, the Scottish Play – Shakey’s shortest tragedy – zipped along at a good clip (almost as though Shakespeare had no great interest in the details of the totality of the historical figure’s seventeen-year reign) and was thoroughly enjoyable. The idea behind the production, and the OP movement in general, is that the audience is given the opportunity to enjoy the originally intended cadences of the verse, as well as the bard’s wordplay and punnery. The play was as understandable as usual, and, as I say, rattled along at its usual pace, although, what little we picked up in cadence and punnery was somewhat lost in the loss of suspension of disbelief, with each of the actors going for OP in their own different, idiosyncratic ways (some did, notwithstanding the production notes, seem to think they we in 11th century Scotland). Of course, Banquo did his usual ghostly dinner appearance, and the erstwhile Thane of Glamis was as freaked out as one has come to expect. One can’t help but wonder how he would have coped with the late Banquo’s tweet and facebook status updates: “U herd about Macduff?!! Was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped!!! LOL!!!”
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6 thoughts on “Old Goths Never Die”
Memory is a funny thing.
So when I was in high school, in my senior year, some of my fellow students who aspired to and had achieved their college admission of choice spent the remainder of their year doing less work than required.
And we read Macbeth and Hamlet.
Your post made me think of a moment which sticks with me 25 years later when a student, asked point blank by the teacher “how did Hamlet’s father die,” answered “he was killed in a tragic blimp accident”.
It’s funny what sticks with you. Hamlet is, forever, an enemy of the blimp. R3 and JC and MB I can take seriously, but alas, poor Hamlet, he blimped him well.
Brilliant line. No less so when one realizes it’s from The Naked Gun (I had to look that up). From now on, “to blimp” will be a verb, meaning something like, “Permanently alter a story by the insertion of an absurd detail.”
We didn’t do Hamlet in school, so until relatively recently, and the filmic/television versions of the Ian McKellen and David Tennant (natch) versions of The Dane, and outside of the stuff one picks up by being alive, my knowledge of Hamlet came mostly from Stoppard’s Rosenrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I’m reminded that, before the play’s Broadway premiere, Stoppard was asked what the play was about. He replied, “It’s about to make me very rich.” If you’ve not seen it, read it or heard it already (and I heard the recent NYC revival got a lukewarm response), I suspect you’d thoroughly enjoy Stoppard’s Arcadia. The themes include mathematics, physics, fractals, chaos theory vs. determinism (especially in the context of love and death), romanticism vs. classicism, poetry, Byron and landscape gardening. (Cooking’s not included, unless you count thermodynamics.)
I’m also reminded of a friend’s story about going to see The Plastic People of the Population at the Bowery Ballroom, in the wake of their being “big-upped” in Stoppard’s Rock and Roll. Apparently, he was propping up the bar with Ralph Lauren and another member of the great and good, when not popping out for a fly smoke. TS and my pal discussed the latter’s work as a project finance lawyer, and I’m still waiting for Stoppard’s farce about the construction of an airport in the ’70s on the outskirts of Prague. Maybe if he’d been drinking with Kundera….
Until this day, I didn’t know it was from the naked gun. Wow. That sort of blimps it for me.
this is sad