Monthly Archives: April 2012

In an alternate universe, John lives, and the Beatles sing on

What if, in 1976 — six years after their breakup — the Beatles had actually accepted producer Lorne Michaels’ jokey invitation to get back together and perform on Saturday Night Live? Blogger MightyGodKing takes this as a starting point and imagines a mind-bending alternate timeline in which the Beatles reunite; John survives (for a good while longer); new albums are made (and sell in the millions); and Ringo is, crucially, much more than he seems (and hints at the unintended consequences of time travel). Some choice events:

December 14, 1980. Having “had a sit back” (Ringo) after [the new album] Eventually’s staggering success and taken time to concentrate on their own projects and personal lives, the Beatles make their first televised appearance as a group since the SNL reunion, appearing on The Muppet Show. (Lennon leaves New York for the first time in six months to do the gig, eventually spending the entire month of December in England.) The episode is the highest rated episode of The Muppet Show in the show’s history and the most watched television program of the entire year, beating even the news coverage of the 1980 American presidential election. The undisputed highlight of the episode is the “battle of the bands” between the Beatles and the Electric Mayhem (although Starr says his duet with Fozzie the Bear remains his personal favorite moment). Jim Henson would later say that the Beatles episode “rejuvenated” his joy in working on the show, which by that point he had begun to feel was growing stale: the show continues for another seven seasons.

January 7th, 1981. Lennon, Harrison and Starr attend the funeral of a New Yorker named Mark David Chapman, who committed suicide in mid-December and whose apartment, after the fact, was revealed to be a shrine to the Beatles. “I just felt, you know, responsible somehow, like he died because of us,” says Starr, although he refuses to articulate further on this point. Harrison agrees: “it’s amazing to think how great an impact we can have sometimes. You just want it so that you don’t have this kind of impact.” Lennon says nothing.

1983. The Beatles announce their first tour in thirteen years, but likewise announce that [Michael] Jackson will be going on tour with them as a one gigantic mega-concert event. The “Startin’ Something Again” tour plays packed stadiums and larger venues around the world for eleven months straight – the smallest concert played is 240,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, and the tour closes with a free concert in Central Park with an estimated crowd of one point three million people.

January 5th, 1984. Jackson and McCartney are filming a commercial for Pepsi when pyrotechnicians accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. Jackson is rushed to the hospital with severe burns, but dies of shock in the ambulance before he can be treated. The Beatles attend his funeral en masse. “He changed things,” says Lennon, “and that’s something I don’t say lightly.” Starr is especially saddened, saying “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Harrison says nothing. McCartney promises that Michael Jackson’s legacy “will not be forgotten” and pledges to make sure of this, although he is unspecific as to details.

2002-3. John Lennon, having never abandoned peace activism (his 1991 re-recording of “Give Peace A Chance” before the first Gulf War sparked much controversy), begins harshly criticizing the American buildup to war in Iraq, calling it a “pack of lies.” After the first round of peace protests are largely ignored by the media, Lennon goes on The Late Show With David Letterman and launches into a tirade, visibly furious that the protests were ignored. “Half a million fucking people in New York saying “we don’t want a war” and CNN doesn’t say a damn thing.” The soundbite becomes a flashpoint for debate over the war. Sean Hannity calls for Lennon’s deportation. Lennon offers to come on any show opposing his viewpoint: he receives no response.

Much more here. It’s an extremely well-imagined (and ultimately melancholy) bit of wish fulfillment, and as a Beatles fan it really makes me want to tear my hair out that I don’t live in this universe. There should have been more. There should have been so much more.

(Image from The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. Thanks to commenter Paul W. at FlickFilosopher for the link.)


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Why stereotypes need to die, cont’d: Hollywood and African men


Andrew Revkin adds:

The tendency to focus on the grim side of any issue, or group, goes far beyond the movies, of course. […] The bottom line, for me, is that there is a great opportunity for nonprofit groups, university communication and journalism programs and creative individuals to step in to the gap left by Hollywood and the media and find ways to tell the up side of the human story. This is one such attempt. What else is out there?

(via The NY Times)

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Moby-Dick and Martians

Margaret Atwood offers a reading list to visiting Martians, as a window into American politics and culture. The aliens dissect Moby-Dick:

“Holy crap!” they said. “Does this mean what we think it means?” they said.
“What do you think it means?” I said. “I’ll do the popcorn myself: you might get the wavelength wrong.”

“ ‘Moby-Dick’ is about the oil industry,” they said. “And the Ship of American State. The owners of the Pequod are rapacious and stingy religious hypocrites. The ship’s business is to butcher whales and turn them into an industrial energy product. The mates are the middle management. The harpooners, who are from races colonized by America one way or another, are supplying the expert tech labor. Elijah the prophet — from the American artist caste — foretells the Pequod’s doom, which comes about because the chief executive, Ahab, is a megalomaniac who wants to annihilate nature.

“Nature is symbolized by a big white whale, which has interfered with Ahab’s personal freedom by biting off his leg and refusing to be slaughtered and boiled. The narrator, Ishmael, represents journalists; his job is to warn America that it’s controlled by psychotics who will destroy it, because they hate the natural world and don’t grasp the fact that without it they will die. That’s enough literature for now. Can we have popcorn?”

More here. My own thoughts on Moby-Dick here.

(Image via Bookman’s Log)


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Best use of the crappy Star Wars prequels ever

DJ duo Hot Problems offers a song — and a video — for the weekend:


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“My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman”

In her inspiring letter to her daughter, Mur Lafferty links to this powerful TED talk by activist Tony Porter, who reminds us that raising up women doesn’t mean putting down men; on the contrary, liberating men from the twisted social conditioning that leads them to denigrate women is absolutely crucial to the liberation of women as well. See the whole thing:


Dar Williams, in her incredibly wise “When I Was a Boy,” puts it this way:

Men and women are allies, or should be. And the idea that men should feel threatened by feminism is ludicrous, because feminism is a win-win situation: a path not to an imbalance or reversal of power, but to a society of mutual respect among fellow human beings, who have access to the entire range of human emotion and potential. We men need to try harder, to be humble, to learn more about how to be the fiercest allies we can be to our daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, friends. We owe it not just to them, but to ourselves.

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“You’re worth a billion of them”: A writer’s advice to her daughter (and to girls everywhere)

Author and podcaster Mur Lafferty writes a must-read letter to her daughter, offering the love and support that I hope I’m giving my own:

So. The world hates you. You are considered the worst thing to be compared to. Throw like a girl. Talk like a girl. Cry like a girl. God forbid we ever be girls.

No, we wouldn’t want to take utter delight in beauty and love. We wouldn’t want to carefully watch and study something to learn. We wouldn’t want to look at the world and for just one second think that we have as many opportunities as boys. That we can play sports. Play the drums or saxophone. Play video games. Excel at science/math. * And for that second, before something or someone starts opening their shit-hole to put down little girls, we can fly.

So what can we do, dear daughter? When you get a little older, I will be honest with you and tell you — fuck ‘em. You will not change their mind by arguing, by telling them they are wrong. You change their mind by showing them how being a girl is awesome. You show them by not hiding, by not being demure. […]

You show them by being more than your looks, even if that’s all people comment on. You show them by your independence. You show them by being more than they expect to see. You show them by not taking their shit. […]

So they hate you. But fuck ‘em. Because you are a force of nature, a powerhouse of emotion and talent and stubbornness and potential.

You’re worth a billion of them.

Read the rest here.

(h/t Boing Boing; image via Jimi666)

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“Sometimes a dream almost whispers”

Steven Spielberg praises teachers, talks about how he fell into filmmaking, and offers inspirational advice:

When you have a dream, it often doesn’t come at you screaming in your face, “This is who you are, this is who you must be for the rest of your life.” Sometimes a dream almost whispers. And I’ve always said to my kids: the hardest thing to listen to — your instincts, your human personal intuition — always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to, every day of your lives, be ready to hear what whispers in your ear. It very rarely shouts. And if you can listen to the whisper, and if it tickles your heart, and it’s something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, then that is going to be what you do for the rest of your life, and we will benefit from everything you do.

(h/t AICN)

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