Sunday, 8 January 2012

We all want to change the world

When I was 9, I saw something amazing on the TV. I wasn't alone as millions saw what I saw and a good proportion had their mouths open in amazement. The occasion was the appearance of David Bowie on Top Of The Pops singing "Starman". It was unlike anything else I had ever seen and much stranger than T Rex or The Osmonds. Much weirder than The Osmonds. It was mybrother who came back with Bowie LPs but I sneaked a listen.

Bowie is 65 today and sort of resting on his laurels. He changed the world his way nearly forty years ago and his alien spawn still pop up from time to time. Could Lady Gaga be taken seriously without the precedent of the Thin White Duke?
Elvis (left) in an early recording studio

Bowie himself could not have done what he did without Elvis Presley, also born this day. I go with John Lennon's summation: Presley died when he went in the army, or at least his radical rock n roll did. 1956 Presley is a bit like 1976-7 punk/new wave, the impact must have been shocking.
Stephen Hawking in 1963

Shock does not belong entirely to the arts world. In 1988 a science book tipped the cosy world of arts and humanities on its head for a while because it became fashionable. Plenty claimed to have begun A Brief History Of Time even if many said they never finished it. They should have persisted because the book had an inspirational core: we can understand the strangeness that is the Universe.
If you haven't read it yet, do so

The book's authour turned 70 today although he missed the celebration through ill health. Then again, ill health is something that envelopes everything Stephen Hawking does. His dgenerative nerve disease has left him remarkably psychologically unscarred but robbed him of so much that the rest of us take for granted. But we should be thankful that the disease, and the oothers that have afflicted him throughout his life, have spared him and his mind to allow him to be iconoclastic enough to bring us his vibrant and wonderful ideas. Where is his Nobel Prize? So happy birthday to Bowie and Hawking - both happily still with us. And raise a glass to Elvis, though steer clear of the cheeseburgers. Not so healthy.

PS. And happy birthday to Dr Oliver Cheesman. Anyone working on insect population dynamics must be a genius,

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