Hello there 🙂
Welcome to issue forty seven of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.
This newsletter is free to receive, but if you’d like to support me in this odd little endeavour you can buy me a coffee 🙂
Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…
Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…
On October 12, 1969, Detroit DJ Russ Gibb started arguably the biggest conspiracy theory in rock & roll history: “Paul is dead”. Gibb was hosting his show on WKNR, when he took a call from a listener, who told him to put on the Beatles’ White Album and spin the “number nine, number nine” intro from “Revolution 9” backwards. When Gibb tried it on the air, he heard the words, “Turn me on, dead man.”
Many believed that it meant the Beatles were hiding a secret: Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash in 1966, and to spare the public from grief, the surviving Beatles replaced him with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest, identified variously as “William Campbell”, “William Shears Campbell”, or “Billy Shears”. Later, the band left messages in their music and album artwork to communicate the truth to their fans.
After the Detroit radio broadcast, people pounced on the story. Two days later, The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of Abbey Road under the headline “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light”. It was written by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour, who had listened to Gibb’s radio show.
In the article he identified various clues to McCartney’s alleged death on Beatles album covers, particularly on the Abbey Road sleeve. LaBour explained that the photo on the Abbey Road cover was a funeral procession: the Preacher (John in white), the Undertaker (Ringo in black), the Corpse (Paul), and bringing up the rear, George in blue denim was the grave-digger. LaBour later said he had invented many of the clues and was astonished when the story was picked up by newspapers across the United States.
Nevertheless, fans began whispering about other clues on Abbey Road: Paul was barefoot, out of step with the others, holding a cigarette in his right hand – but the real Paul was left-handed. The number plate of the white Volkswagen Beetle in the photo was LMW 28IF; this was identified as further ‘evidence’. “28IF” represented McCartney’s age “IF” he had still been alive (although actually, McCartney was 27 when the album was recorded and released); while “LMW” stood for “Linda McCartney weeps” or “Linda McCartney, widow”.
Theories spread like wildfire. In the 1968 song “Glass Onion”, Lennon sings “Here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul”.
The Beatles press office was inundated with calls. At first, press officer Derek Taylor brushed off the latest hoax, but the calls didn’t stop. Richard DiLello’s book The Longest Cocktail Party gives an inside account of the chaos. With Paul off the grid in Scotland, Taylor kept denying the gossip: “The Paul McCartney who wrote ‘And I Love Her’ still loves you, and is still alive, and has a lot to write. There are a thousand songs unwritten and much to do.” But in the office, he added: “We’ll start our own rumor that the public is dead from the neck up, and they’ve been using a stand-in facsimile of a brain for the past three and a half years.”
Life magazine sent reporters out to McCartney’s farm in Scotland. After throwing a bucket of water over them, Paul agreed to an interview and photos which were used for the November 9th cover story “Paul McCartney Is Still With Us”. In that interview, McCartney said: “The Beatles thing is over.”
But nobody noticed.
That’s how overblown the hysteria was — Paul could drop a bombshell like that and people missed it, because they were too busy scrutinizing his chin or jaw for proof that he was a lookalike, rather than the real deal. McCartney told Mojo in 2009, “I think the worst thing that happened was that I could see people sort of looking at me more closely: ‘Were his ears always like that?’”
By 1970, most people no longer believed Paul was dead. But for some reason, the story remained hugely popular, long after it was debunked.
The “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory has continued to inspire analysis into the 21st century, with published studies by Andru J. Reeve, Nick Kollerstrom and Brian Moriarty, among others, and both mockumentary and documentary films. Writing in 2016, Beatles biographer Steve Turner said, “the theory still has the power to flare back into life.” He cited a 2009 Wired Italia magazine article that featured analysis by two forensic research consultants who compared photographs of McCartney taken before and after his alleged death by measuring features of the skull. According to the scientists’ findings, the man shown in the post-November 1966 images was not the same.
Maybe you believe that Paul died on November 9, 1966, maybe you don’t.
However, something major did (perhaps) happen to the Beatles that day. The actual date, is disputed, but John Lennon later recalled November 9, 1966 as the date when he first met Yoko Ono…
Moar serendipitous finds:
This is absolutely incredibly work from Erin Vincent.
Silicon Valley startup Sanas’ goal is to make call centre workers sound white and American, no matter what country they’re actually from.
Sanas president Marty Sarim said:
“We don’t foresee anything bad coming out of this”
Dear reader, I have no words…
“Its new images of Jupiter, were captured in infrared light by JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which is why this massive gas giant appears more eerily spectral than previous optical images that burst with color. Because humans cannot see infrared light, these composite shots have been adjusted by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt into a visible-light palette, with brighter spots generally indicating regions at higher altitudes.”
“One of the most perplexing and vexing of mild human afflictions is the hiccup, or as it is medically known, the singultus. Through the years, many (ineffective) remedies have been suggested, from holding your breath to scaring yourself. But a larger question remained unresolved: why do humans have these involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, which produce uncontrollable funny noises at irregular and inconvenient times?
Now, University of Chicago anatomist, Neil Shubin, has provided the world with an explanation in his book Your Inner Fish. As described in the Guardian:
“Hiccups are triggered by electric signals generated in the brain stem. Amphibian brain stems emit similar signals, which control the regular motion of their gills. Our brain stems, inherited from amphibian ancestors, still spurt out odd signals producing hiccups that are, according to Shubin, essentially the same phenomenon as gill breathing.”
This is atavism, or evolutionary throwback activity, at work. Luckily, you do eventually stop trying to breathe through your gills when it dawns on your brain that you are actually a modern human, not a prehistoric fish.”
In a remote Nevada valley, artist Michael Heizer’s megasculpture is finally revealed.
You might also like:
- Why are there so few women in animation?
- Relativity for Children (& also for adults)
- A study finds that working in VR isn’t very pleasant
Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now
This fortnight I read Notes to Self by Emilie Pine, a collection of personal essays about the aspects of her life which are hardest to talk about: alcoholism, infertility, identity, and more.
“I am afraid of being the disruptive woman. And of not being disruptive enough.”
It’s brilliant. Go get your mitts on a copy.
I also read The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight, the very strange, but true story of British psychiatrist John Barker.
After a national disaster Barker became intrigued by people who apparently had visions of the event before it happened. Could he collate those visions? And if he could, might he be able to prevent these disasters from happening? He went on to create a network of hundreds of correspondents, from bank clerks to ballet teachers, and amongst them found two unnervingly gifted “percipients”. The pair predicted plane crashes, assassinations and international incidents, with uncanny accuracy. They even predicted Barker’s own death.
Clearly this one won’t be for everyone, but I found the book fascinating. Also, my friend Diana and I have tickets to see Sam Knight talk about this book at the Marlborough Literature Festival in October, which I’m very excited about.
Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching
Better Call Saul, (Netflix) – completed it, mate. I thought it was good, but not quite as good as lots of other people seem to think it was. That said, it is worth your time, unlike a lot of the junk which seems to be pervading all the major streaming platforms at the moment.
Part IV: What I’ve been up to…
This fortnight has flown by. I had a lovely time at my friend Mary’s birthday and got to catch up with a bunch of wonderful women that I haven’t seen in forever. I also went to a Gretchen Peters gig with my Dad which was ace, and the support act was Kim Richey who is brilliant.
I managed to submit a short story which I’m not 100% happy with, (but done is better than perfect, friends), plus I’ve been having a wonderful time prepping my WTS Training Course with Areej.
I still need to judge my entries for the Global Content Awards(!), prep for a talk I’m giving at MKGO in October (more details soon), oh and there’s this too:
On October 5th I’ll be running a training course in Brighton. It will be lovely. You can find more details about the course, and book your spot here.
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