You Once Belonged

50 Years Ago Today, 
Beatles Called it Quits

It was the last time they played together but no one knew it then. Their first public performance in over three years. And yes, it’s now been half a century ago. If they used to make us feel forever young, now they date us. But so does life.
It’s likely that great part of the living today wasn’t around then yet. And countless who were, have already ended their journey. For those in between, though, what a feeling having had The Beatles around to create the soundtrack of our early dreams.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, were concluding one of the most recounted musical trajectories of all times. And way before their century was over too, they’d inscribed their names at the heart of an entire generation.
They were as important for their times as any band will ever be, possibly without peers. Art was then as vital as it ever was, but popular music had ascended to heights of relevance no other artistic manifestation could have in such a short span.
What felt like a long and defining trajectory feels now like happenstance, when musicianship and popular expression reached critical mass. And changed the times. Or so it felt. More than the memory, what remains now, and still counts, is their music.
It was great while it lasted, and you know, it felt really good indeed. Now it’s a half proud feeling of having paid attention to, and
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experienced, something we still gladly enjoy and find meaningful ways to relate to, after all those years.
The Rooftop Concert, an impromptu 42-minute session of just a few songs, became their sign-off to the role of ‘Beatles,’ to the obligation of being on top forever, and to the era. It was also their entry into what could have been, had it not happened.
In the end, it may appear that those businessmen who complained about ‘the noise,’ won over the moment. The world is as grey and cold as it was at 3 Savile Row, London, on Jan. 30, 1969. But only if you can’t listen to their music. They tell another, much better, story.

The Drone, the Bug & the Beat

Bottle-Loving Beetle, a Non-Stop
Beatle & the Beetle’s Real Father

What’s in a name? Much before early rock bands named themselves after insects, or what sounded like it, someone imagined a bug-shaped ‘people’s car,’ and even earlier in Australia, a certain beetle species was already wrongly accused of hitting the beer bottle too often.
But as Volkswagen ended this month production of the beloved ‘Fuca,’ as it was known in Brazil, some thought of crying, while others brought up that it’d outlived even the Nazis (well, at least, those Nazis). Thank goodness then that beetles, and the Beatle, are still going strong.
It’ll be a quick tour through completely different universes, where dreams get crushed by dictators, nature is forced to adapt, and human creativity is bounded only by prejudice. In the end, though, all three stories have something for everyone, for this is, after all, Thursday, and we’re not about to spoil your carefully laid out plans for the weekend.

For a long time, most people who saw the Julodimorpha saudersii, known as the Buprestid (jewel) beetle infesting empty brown beer bottles, thought it was all about booze, the alcohol, or at least, the sugar left inside. Few noticed then that it wasn’t just any bottle, but only those with an indentation at the bottom that caused the buzz.
But it took Australian entomologists David Rentz and Daryll Gwynne to find out the truth about the misguided love story. It turns out that the males would ‘love long time’ the bottles, thinking they were mating and preserving their species, because the glass resembles the females’ shiny wings.
For that 1983 research, Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies (the particular kind of beer bottle) For Females, they received the 2011 Ig Noble award for Biology. It made a lot of sense, as it fulfills the Improbable Research premise of entertaining and educate. There was fear that such silly drive would harm the species, but so far, they’re doing just fine.
You may say that love knows no barriers, and all that. But the most appropriate cliche, if there was ever one, would be the old, not everything that shines, etc. They will learn it. At least, be grateful Professors Rentz and Gwynne have cleared the species’ good name, lest not think that just because they’re Australians, well, you know.

In the early 1930s, Josef Ganz, a Jewish engineer from Frankfurt, changed the history of the automobile by creating the first small family-car, the Maikäfer (May Bug in German). Its design was a triumph of ingenuity and anticipated in years the many Sedans that started getting mass-produced after WWII.
It was, though, a personal disaster for Ganz. He became a target for the Nazis and had to flee Germany, only to see his original concept stolen and given to Ferdinand Porsche to develop into what Hitler called, seven years later, the ‘people’s car,’ an effective piece of propaganda for the mass murderer’s regime.
According to Paul Schilperoord‘s The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz – The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen, while Ganz was being hunted down, arrested and almost assassinated by the Gestapo, his (more)
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Continue reading

Every Man

Nobody Told Us That There
Would Be Days Like These

Four years for now, some of us will complete the four decades that separate us from John Lennon’s last birthday, on Oct. 9, 1980. His life had been so intense up to that day, that the same length of time following it seem now warped and much emptier in comparison.
In his last two months, the man was full of hope, ready for a comeback that’d be only partially realized. Whether his best work was really behind him there’s no way of knowing, but since then, we’ve been badly missing whatever was that only he could’ve delivered.
And he has indeed given us plenty, enough to keep us busy going over it even now, so many years later. Just like a post we’ve published four years ago, about a particular moment in 1967, that wouldn’t have had such an imprint on all of us hadn’t been for him.
Like another way of marking a date that still holds us under its spell. Even without knowing that the next two months were his final countdown, John lived his life with the intensity that only those who know they’ve got just this one chance to do it, really do it.
He’d have been 76, this time around. Instead, he’ll never age a day older than 40. Amazing to learn that many born since then consider him a friend, and his songs, a guide to live intensely and grow wiser. Happy Birthday, John. Thanks for everything.

The Piscean

Love You
Too, George

Stanley Kubrick gave 2001 an aura of futurism. Terrorists turned it into the eve of destruction. But to millions around the world, the first year of the millennium also marks a sad Beatles milestone: George Harrison died at 58, 13 years ago today.
Growing up along two of the age’s most famous people, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the self-deprecating Liverpudlian left an indelible legacy of songs and inspiration. Given his diminished status during the group’s heyday, he’s also the one whose recognition has arguably grown the most since.
His able fingertips are all over the Beatles’ ouevre but none of George’s mates matched the intensity of his personal journey towards spirituality and inner peace. Not quite the ‘quiet one‘ tabloids used to call him, he remained private, nonetheless, and navigated relatively unscathed the usual trappings of the rockstar lifestyle.
Screenshot from 2014-11-29 03:14:07He’s remembered for his music and fierce loyalty to his friends. Refusing to be pigeonholed as a talented musician, even though he influenced generations of guitar players, turned out to be a wise decision. While fame was never his choice, it allowed him the freedom to tend to his other passion: his garden.
After all those years ago, the going has been considerably rougher. George Harrison, however, did make it all a bit more bearable to us. If you have a moment today, listen to one of his songs and consider ways you may be giving something back to the world. You’ll be glad you did.

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Dear John,

You Are Me &
We’re All Together

The other day, when 400,000 people marched in front of your New York City home, I couldn’t help it but think how much you would’ve enjoyed seeing so many taking the streets for a cause – this time to fight Climate Change – just like you, marching against the war.
It also helped that it was the International Peace Day, but what was particularly poignant about Sept. 21st was to realize that many in the crowd had probably been there before, on a cold December night of 1980, to mourn your assassination on the steps of the Dakota building.
You would’ve been 74 today, and almost certainly, equally as engaged in progressive causes as you were some forty years ago. And that’s what makes us so sad, that we can no longer hear your voice, and how much the crowd misses the guidance of people like you, and Pete Seeger, to name a like-minded artist.
The fact is, even at that time, such head-first dive into political activism and explicit protesting was not what many musicians considered the best way to go about seeking change. Bob Dylan comes to mind as another influential star who, like many of your contemporaries, was just not into singing songs, carrying slogans, and parading for peace.
But while they may have been a tad too concerned about the impact that an explicit anti-establishment attitude would’ve had on their careers, you were simply not in the same level of showbiz calculation. To you, it seemed only natural to be part of what the people in the streets were protesting about, warts and criticism notwithstanding.

And there were a lot of put-downs about your over-exposure to the media, your peace and bed-in campaigns, your stunts which, to a small segment of the intelligentsia, were perceived as opportunistic and self-promoting. Never mind that your efforts, as off-the-kilt as they were, became somewhat effective.
In perspective, all that fiery anti-war poster and newspaper ad placing, your tireless advocating and support of people such as Angela Davis, John Sinclair, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, are now an inextricably part of the historical record about mass movements that helped put an end to the Vietnam War.
You should’ve seen how many young, high-school kids were there too, possibly making that beautiful Sunday Continue reading

Would You?

They Asked Us, Please, Please Me
& We Were All So Pleased to Oblige

It was half a century ago – Sgt. Pepper still a cultural revolution away – when The Beatles released their first album. Despite how fast it was recorded, and the band almost total anonymity outside the U.K., it became a landmark of pop and rock music like no other.
Please Please Me, an almost live recording of their Cavern Club act in Liverpool, had already the combination of originals, classic American rock, and songs by composers outside their immediate realm of influence, that marked their early output. And, of course, those vocals.
By then, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison had already honed their performing skills, and the late addition of Ringo Starr seemed to have only helped usher their meteoric rise. The album shot up to #1 in both sides of the Atlantic, and within three years, they were indeed more popular than you-know-who.
At this stage, they were still better as a cover band than at writing their own material, as most of the songwriters they’ve used, including Carole King and Burt Bacharach, were already established household names in the U.S. That was not to last, as we all know how it turned out.
However, Lennon and McCartney’s I Saw Her Standing There, the title song (released earlier as a single), and Love Me Do owed nothing to the Continue reading

Awaiting On You All

Who’d Be
70 Today

The Beatle who, up to his last years, didn’t know he was older than he’d thought, is being celebrated today in a quiet way as he would’ve liked it.

The last of his closest mates to reach his seventh decade, the fact that George Harrison‘s passed away years ago, in 2001, is irrelevant to his continued presence and influence, just like it is with John Lennon.
As their physical imprints in this world recede, their legacies stand up and complement each other, in ways that were not quite so evident during their lifetime.
We bet that something similar is already happening with the still very much alive Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, just like the four of them are bound to be remembered outside the powerful myth of the Beatles as a group.
But what’s the most enduring about George Harrison now, as ever, is still his music, as he’s changed the cultural landscape of his time by sheer intuition and the depth of his artistic talent.
Even without resorting to the easy labels attached to his personality and accomplishments, something will always remain mysterious and baffling about George Harrison.
Perhaps, that has to do with his experimental approach to life, just like he happened upon his own birth certificate, and realized that he’d been born in Feb. 24, not on the 25th, as most bios of his still show.
So what? You wouldn’t have heard it as such a big deal if it’d come from the man himself, who’s spent great part of his life (more)

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learning the healthy art of being ready when the journey ends, and it’s time to accept the inevitability.
That was the task he took at heart, and we’re glad he’d a chance to fully prepare himself for it, unlike the coward twist of fate that befell Lennon. And that’s why today feels as if he’s still around.
He’d probably spend it tending to his garden, and possibly enjoying his dear ones, just like many of us would’ve consider spending our own precious moments. Happy Birthday, old friend, we’d tell him; my, your Gardenias are looking particularly sharp this afternoon.