Bill Maher is in trouble. Again, or now, I don't know. I think he has been in trouble before over things he has said. But, here's the thing: We come to know and appreciate people for their outlandish viewpoints and even celebrate them for it. Except: When that viewpoint opposes what we think or want to hear. Then, it's offensive all of a sudden, and they are punished by the very people that accepted them for being outlandish. In fact, you can only be outlandish to the point that it offends some people. After that, you're on your own. It's a strange place. Ask Kathy Griffin.
"This is America. We have the freedom of speech in America. And, you'd better say what you're supposed to say."
- Tom Smothers, 1967
- Tom Smothers, 1967
This week is the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album. While I appreciate the occasion, it is yet another even-numbered anniversary that somehow has more significance than others. Why wasn't the 49th anniversary a big deal last year? Because we love even numbers, and nobody ever made money selling "49th Anniversary" merchandise - and, isn't that what it's all about? OK, let's get beyond that.
For me, the album wasn't a big deal, and for years I struggled with it. After all, I heard so many people talking about what a grand leap it was musically, and how influential it was. For me, it was not only not their best album, but I didn't get why it was so highly acclaimed, since the original release wasn't a huge deal to a kid who, at that time had every Beatles' album, Monkees' album, and boxes full of 45s. As a nine-year-old, I was musically precocious.
Why wasn't it a big deal? Only now do I realize why. My father died in May of 1967. It's probably for that reason that the wind was knocked out of my sails, and this monumental thing that happened a month later would pass by the wayside as a speck in the timeline of my life.
Sometimes, you have to be there - or wish you were not.
Which led me to think about the things that we believe, or believed that we saw happen, or otherwise. Thousands of people say they were at the game where Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points. It in fact, happened at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania; where the attendance was 4,124. I'd guess that many people believed that they were there because they heard the game on the radio or placed themselves in the game for whatever reason occurred in their mind.
I have seen photos of things that happened in my childhood, and believe that I remember those instances, even though I cannot tell (beyond the shadow of a doubt) that I remember the incident or the photograph of the incident as etched in my memory. What is it that separates our memories from the re-telling or re-imaging of them? Can we be sure that we actually remember those things, or just the recreations of them?
Do people think that they saw The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February of 1964 because they saw video of it later, or were they actually there? Their first appearance drew 73 million viewers, but I'd guess that there are five times that many who would testify to seeing it live - including me, as a barely 6-year-old child. The only thing I can use to back up my testimony is the picture sleeve 45 of "I Saw Her Standing There" that was purchased during that time. So, I'm not exactly gilding the lily here.
Moreover, in those days, there was no DVR, OnDemand, or other ability to "binge watch" stuff. You either had to see it live or miss it altogether. Hence, the millions of people who would stay home for Milton Berle or Sid Casear in the early days of television. You either saw it live or never saw it. Imagine that, Millennials. [brains exploding]
So, perhaps my memories have merit? Perhaps I really did see those early Ed Sullivan shows, the Gemini rocket launches, the John Kennedy funeral procession, and perhaps I'm right when I believe that my grammar school teacher wheeled a TV into our schoolroom to watch coverage of Bobby Kennedy's assassination? It was June 5, 1968 which was a Wednesday - so...
I'll go on believing that, because otherwise, I'm living a lie - and nobody wants to do that.