Monday, April 28, 2008

The Beatles—Five Hundred Years in the History Books?

Every age has its heroes. I suppose I never got over my hero worship of the Beatles.

I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was ten years old and, like so many other kids, I felt swept up in the excitement of their music and looks. To this day, if I am in a bookstore, I will reserve some time to scour the music section, hoping to discover another book on the Beatles that I haven’t already read. Why do I find their story so endlessly fascinating?

Of course, their music was transcendent. But what also made the Beatles special was their ability to create new cultural paradigms on a routine basis. Now that Paul is past 64, (and Ringo is headed for 70 in the year 2010), I think more and more people are beginning to look at the Beatles’ legacy in a new way.

Slowly, I think people are coming to realize that the Beatles—no less than Christopher Columbus or Albert Einstein—may represent a profound ripple in the human story.

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets

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Monday, April 21, 2008

A Classroom Full of Squares, Man

Is anyone truly hip anymore?

I asked myself this question recently, when I realized how long it’s been since anyone accused me of repressing his natural creativity or forcing him to adapt to a soulless society bent on conformity and consumerism. In fact, no one has accused me of stultifying his oneness with the universe in a long time, and I feel pretty bad about that.

For those of you who are wondering, I’m a high school teacher, so I’m supposed to belong to the oppressor class. How can I truly teach kids unless they feel that I’m violating their basic rights as human beings? Taking away their iPods and cell phones doesn’t count. Anything that can be bought in a Wal-Mart is not a major contributor to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Which leads to my next question: Does anyone out there even want to be part of a counterculture? I’m not talking about cults; I’m referring to an old fashioned, grass roots movement dedicated to rejecting the norms of mainstream society—or, put another way, smugly dismissing the majority as hopeless fools and automatons while convincing yourself that only you and your friends really “get” what it’s all about. Remember Elvis? Beatniks? Hippies? Remember how angry some people used to get over long hair? Remember how incensed adults got whenever kids yelled “You Archie Bunker!” to belittle their parents’ values?

I miss those days.

Last week, a kid in my homeroom asked me what my house was like. I told him I didn’t live in a house; I lived in a condo. He stared at me. “You don’t live in a house?” he inquired, obviously baffled. “No,” I answered. “Houses take a lot of maintenance. I prefer to do other things with my time.” “But don’t you want a lawn, man?” the kid asked. We stared at each other.

This kid’s hair was purple and green and tufted into a Mohawk cut. His nose, lip, and eyebrows were pierced.

“I’m not interested in mowing and landscaping a yard,” I explained to him. He continued to stare. “You really don’t want a house,” he repeated. “You don’t want a lawn.” I might have just revealed that I ate babies on Thanksgiving.

What’s happened to all the hip people? The far-out dudes? (Pardon the antiquated jargon; that’s why I’m so very uncool. And therefore should be an oppressor. You see my point.)

Just once, for old time’s sake, I wish someone would cast a withering look upon me and say, “You can’t hold me down, man. My consciousness is too far above yours. That’s right, dude. You’ve got no soul. They’ve taken it away from you.”

Nah. Probably wouldn’t happen. Too many sales on right now.

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets

View Donald Gallinger's official website blog: