I've now done more than 300 presentations in my career, more than 200 of which have been about the Beatles. But last night's "From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America" at the Ironwood library in Phoniex, AZ was the first in which I left my computer power cord behind!
I realized about 2 minutes after leaving the house that I had forgotten my notes and so I turned around and went back to collect them. But that wasn't the only thing I forgot, and I didn't realize it until I arrived at the library and tried to plug in my laptop.
The battery was at 23%, and the estimated remaining battery life was 67 minutes. But for some reason this particular computer shuts down at 6%, which meant it really only had 17% (about 45 minutes) remaining.
This particular library was not far from home - only about 15 minutes - and so normally I would have driven back to retrieve the plug. But normally I would have arrived a full hour before the start time to set up. In this case, however, the library had an event in the program room that ran until 6pm, meaning my normal prep time was limited to 30 minutes instead of 60 minutes. Thus, I didn't have time to go get it.
So we pulled out a library laptop as a back-up for when my own died. And while it wasn't perfect (the second computer didn't have OpenOffice installed, and we couldn't install it due to security reasons, so I had to create a low-quality PDF of my original slide show which cannot embed audio or video clips, then put that PDF on a thumb drive, and transfer it to the second laptop), it did more or less work. The picture quality was poor, and I had to exit the slideshow and manually play the clips, but overall the transition went about as smoothly as could be expected, given the less than ideal situation.
Importantly, I didn't let the problems interfere with the quality of the presentation. I've done enough of these programs that I've learned how to maintain composure, even when things go wrong, and still deliver a high-quality product.
The audience last night was the best I've had so far in Arizona, and they asked some really great questions. One was about the correlation between history and technology since I talked about how Kennedy embraced television, the technology that came of age at the time he was running for office. And indeed, history and technological advancement are inextricably intertwined. As machines grow progressively more sophisticated and accessible, they help capture what life is like at that time, documenting the actions and atmosphere of the time.
In 2016, television is still a major component life, but the internet has supplanted TV as the primary communications medium. Popular social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are unique to the last decade, making them the contemporary equivalent of what television was to the late 1950s and early 1960s. It's no surprise, then, to find current politicians embracing these new social media the same way Kennedy embraced television more than a half century ago.
Similarly, technology and specifically MUSIC history are also strongly related. The electric guitar was invented in the 1931, but it didn't become popular right away. Why not? In part because electricity wasn't very common or accessible in 1931. The electric guitar wouldn't reach mainstream popularity until the 50s, when electricity became a standard technological component of life. Not coincidentally, it was around the same time that the new musical genre Rock 'n' Roll, a genre particularly well-suited to the use of the newly accessible electric guitar, exploded in popularity.
So both history and music - and, indeed, life and culture in general - are strongly tied to technological advancement. That has proven true in the past, and no doubt it will continue to be true far into the future.
JOHN (Aaron's father and travelling companion on this tour):
People don't mean to be rude, do they?
Let's go back to March 12, an unusually warm but still pleasant day in Burleson, Tex. A Beatles tribute band named Me and My Monkey -- mimicking the John Lennon song"Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey," on THE BEATLES album, aka THE WHITE ALBUM -- played a set before and after Aaron's lecture titled "The Beatles: Band of the Sixties." Both the concert and the lecture were in the city's Recreation Center gymnasium.
The first set was well attended. A woman carting around an energetic 6 year old had sat through the music and continued through part of Aaron's talk, which featured chord comparisons, recording tricks and influences on the band as well as their history. The woman walked out of the gym with the youngster before the end of the talk. I was outside the gym watching the table with Aaron's books and CDs for sale. She saw me and walked over with, I could tell, an inquiry.
"Aaron, who's giving the presentation," I explained, pointing inside the gym, "is my son, and these are books he's written about the Beatles and copies of a CD he's recorded."
She nodded then slowly said, "Let me ask you something." Lowering her voice for some reason, she continued: "When does the music start again?"
(Out comes the mental pen and paper to create Reminder #1: Everyone has his or her own likes and dislikes, and is not as enamored with our son's thorough research, engaging speaking voice and exciting topic as we are.)
I tried not to take her question personally, so my answer was inflection neutral. "He'll be done in about five minutes, then the band returns," I said.
"Oh good," she offered as an insult follow-up, then was startled to discover the child had escaped her grip for the lure of a climbing rock in the center's lobby. She turned to catch up to him but first explained about the lecture, "I already know all that stuff."
(Reminder #2: Not everyone knows what he or she is talking about.)
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.