The Fitful Flog

August 19, 2007

The Voices of the Quick and the Dead

I was thinking, this past week, of how I used to go visit my buddy, Jackson and his family in Maine, back when I was in college. They lived in this crazy old saltbox on the Damariscotta peninsula that their family had occupied — not continuously — for 250 years.

Jackson’s family was haunted. The ghosts they had were peculiar to their family and it took me a long time to get used to it. Family members who had died would continue to come to functions and holiday dinners for years after their deaths and they’d keep coming for as long as a living member of the family could remember them. Not always — Great Aunt Sadie had died of an apoplexy during the Panic of 1857 and she and I talked for an hour during my first visit. I thought her a bit deaf, but it never occurred to me that there was anything else amiss.

They were unusually corporeal for ghosts, I thought. You never saw them arrive. You’d walk into the kitchen and one of them would be making tea and then you’d find another in the parlor, knitting or doing crosswords. (I still have somewhere a pair of socks Great Aunt Sadie finished that first time I visited. I don’t wear them, something about the yarn, very itchy.)

The thing was, their speaking was stilted. They couldn’t generate new speech. Everything they said was a repetition of what they had said in life, or, more precisely, what the living members remembered them having said in life. The ghosts would say whatever was closest within their repertoire to what would be an appropriate contribution to the conversation and the living would say, oh, yes, of course, as though the ghosts were crazy or retarded or maybe just a little senile.

This struck me most forcefully during a visit in 1983 or 1984. It was three in the morning and I was sitting in their vast, flagstoned kitchen, drinking a glass of seltzer. Bad dream. Jackson’s Dad came in and poured himself a glass and started yacking about this and that and I was thinking him an impossibly tedious old jackass when it struck me that he was repeating everything he’d said to me the last time I’d been there. And then I remembered Jackson leaving town to go to his funeral the year before.

Jackson’s Dad was frustrated — he was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t following. He kept saying the same things, over and over, stressing one word or another. I was in my early twenties and wasn’t very good at picking up on tonal or facial cues. Never did get it.

Young@Heart's Mostly Live

I guess this was on my mind this week because we just went to a CD release party for one of our favorite groups, the Young@Heart Chorus. Every time we see them, there are one or two new faces and one or two fewer of the old faces. Sort of like Spinal Tap.

Young@Heart is one of Northampton’s lesser known treasures. Well, lesser known around here — they’ve been beloved in Europe for years. They just made a documentary that won two Golden Rose awards at the Rose d’Or Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. I recommend it highly. (I’m in the balcony during the concert portion, stage right. You can’t see me, but I’m there.)

The Chorus is made up of older folks, 70 years old and up. They sing rock and roll songs and they do it with gusto. Gusto and bravura. First time I saw them, I thought it was some elaborate trick to get seniors to raise their elbows above their ears. (For abstruse medical reasons, seniors must always be raising their elbows above their ears.) But that’s not it. Well, not all of it. And it’s not that they love rock and roll — most of them dislike it very much — it’s that they like having something important to do.

At the party, we learned that Lillian Hall, the 93-year-old singer of the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go, had passed on. She’ll be missed.

But the show goes on. Visit the YouTubes.

Coldplay’s Fix You

The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated

David Bowie’s Golden Years

Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive / Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive

Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere

Bob Dylan’s Forever Young

Right, right. Origami content. By all means. A model I’ve been trying to fold since I made the five-pointed one, back in the early 90s. Everything about it is more complicated. Requires absurd amounts of accuracy.

7 Pointed Puff Star

The Seven Pointed Puff Star (unimproved) Crease Pattern.

3 Responses to “The Voices of the Quick and the Dead”

  1. 1
    Lesly Says:

    hi, all the creations are so beautifull, can you tell me were can I got the seven pointed puff star Tato? please!!! thanx. And maybe the procedure of how can i make it plese.

  2. 2
    oschene Says:

    Hi, Lesly — I’m afraid there are no step-by-step instructions for this one. There is a crease pattern, linked under the photo. The procedure was long and complicated, as I recall.

  3. 3
    Janna Says:

    Hi, I found one for the 9-pointed-star, that might get you on the path. Though this is also very complicated…and challenging! I would like to find someone to help me puzzle through. Though no luck so far.

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