pastpersistent

the past in pop culture

The Birds Are Angry

The Birds

The Birds (Photo credit: edu_fon)

With the NSA around, who needs fiction any more? Using Angry Birds to spy on people? Priceless! It’s the perfect mash-up of time wasting app with full on 1950s paranoia. Rovio married to Hitchcock. In The Birds, we never do find out why those birds are so angry at Tippie Hedren nor is it clear in the game what the swine have done to merit such hatred. All we know is that the threat is constant.

Some see a neo-Cold War conspiracy in Angry Birds. The game’s designers say they were inspired by the threat of a swine flu epidemic back in ’09. As it turns out, the birds are now the bigger problem. Even just this week avian flu has returned to the headlines with new quarantines of bird markets in China and the first human death from the virus recorded in North America. Are the pigs going to get angry, too? (This is not a facetious question if you live in Texas, by the way. After a dramatic rise in the feral hog population, the ravaging swine have invaded suburban areas causing fears of an aporkalypse.)

Pigs just don’t seem to have the same existential charge as birds though. Pigs, after all, are mammals like ourselves. Birds might be warm blooded but they’re still reptiles descended from the dinosaurs. It’s hard enough to know what your cat thinks of you—good luck with the birds.

We all like watching the sea gulls at the seashore but just try eating a hotdog there. Crows can also be creepy. Why else would a group of them be termed a murder? Just a few days ago a sea gull and a crow got together to attack some peace doves released by the Pope. Birds have a pecking order, too. Just ask Amazon. Its delivery drones are getting taken down by hawks who aren’t accustomed to sharing the skies.

The drones are fighting back though. Or rather, the U.S. Army is. Now it’s making its drones look less like drones and more like birds. Soon it will be equipping its troops with flocks of them. What’s that at your bird feeder, you ask? The beady-eyed character with a sharp beak and no interest in seeds? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just the latest technology coming soon to a location very near you. Promise.

 

 

 

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Some Say in Ice

Endurance final sinking in Antarctica

Endurance final sinking in Antarctica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fairy tales are timeless, aren’t they? If Disney’s box office busting Frozen seems timely in view of the polar vortex then surely that’s just coincidence. Of course, fairy tales are also cautionary or at least they used to be. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen that inspired Frozen had a queen who meant to kill and the original stories that the Brothers Grimm gathered frequently included mutilation, sex out of wedlock, and murder most foul.

In Frozen, Olaf the snowman sings of summer without realizing that melting means an existential crisis. It’s the joke of the movie and also its hint of menace. What happens to said snowman? Let’s just say here that according to the ever reliable Urban Dictionary “Disneyfication” means “to remove the sharp edges and darkness that is life.”

Not that happy endings never happen. Just yesterday the Russian ship the Akademik Shokalskiy that had spent the holidays mired in Antarctic pack ice and the Chinese icebreaker that tried to go to its rescue made it out to open water. Things didn’t always go so well on polar expeditions. In 1915, when Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance got stuck and then crushed by Antarctic pack ice, he and five of his men trekked 800 miles to get help rescuing the rest of the stranded crew. Before setting off, Shackleton reached in his pocket and threw a handful of gold coins in the snow. They would be of no use.

Now, by contrast, cost is at issue in the rescue of the Akademik Shokalskiy since no fewer than three ships needed to come to its aid and thus couldn’t do their actual work of supporting polar research. Still, for fans of Disneyfication, climate change deniers have made merry with the thought that the scientists aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy found more rather than less ice on their expedition. Perhaps they should read the message in a bottle left by an American geologist in 1954 in the Canadian arctic. Recently rediscovered, it served its intended purpose as a measurement for the near disappearance of a glacier that has dwindled by over a hundred meters.

Robert Frost debated whether the earth ought to end in fire or ice. The journalists based in Australia covering the Antarctic rescue contretemps can get a first row seat at that debate. The island continent faces a devastating heat wave even as the polar vortex crushes the northern climes with punishingly low temperatures. Will Heat Miser and Snow Miser become the new Ali versus Frazier? To paraphrase the ever quotable Mohammed Ali, that showdown will be a killer and a thriller and a chiller. Let’s hope Olaf stays home.

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Into the Ordinary

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a man who goes to work and pays the bills—until he gets fired when Life Magazine goes digital. Life, it turns out, was so twentieth century. As Mitty and his colleagues act out the downsizing drama, he is finally pushed to make real the adventure dramas of his daydreams. Why? To get the girl, to get a life, and to get the job done. Mitty completes his final assignment at the magazine even if his new bosses belittle him and can him anyways.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an everyman story with a populist flair. It harks back to Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s, to Jimmy Stuart and Henry Fonda who revealed common decency and everyday principles to be heroic attributes. Except, of course, that in the 2013 version Mitty actually becomes precisely the kind of movie hero “the rest of us can only dream of becoming.”

Going to work day after day rarely looks like heroism. Running off to climb Mount Everest is something Americans totally understand. Office drones never find their true selves; the oxygen deprived on the other hand always have a good story to tell at the dinner party. Never mind those cautionary tales Jon Krakauer is so good at writing. You know, the one about how climbing Everest is mostly a matter of paying a guide and some sherpas to risk their lives for you. Or that other one about the over confident young man who had read one too many books about the wilderness and ended up starving to death in the Alaskan woods.

Funny that it’s been a century now since Charlie Chaplin made his movie debut in December, 1913. Once the biggest star in the world, Chaplin’s iconic Little Tramp persona was the ultimate little guy. In hard times he often couldn’t hold down a job but made comic magic out of being reduced to eating shoe leather. His repetitive stress injury—a mental breakdown—from working on an ever faster moving assembly line led to the best critique of modern times the screen has ever seen.

Stiller seems to throw a nod to Chaplin with a short scene in which his Mitty performs a series of neat tricks on a skateboard that his love interest just misses seeing every time. It’s the kind of small gesture that the Tramp won you over with—the bittersweet display of how an ordinary man might be special, but is rarely recognized. We like our underdogs successful, our Davids always taking down Goliaths. So here’s a New Year’s toast to the shepherds who do nothing more than mind their sheep, even if they daydream of heroism while doing it.

Ships of State

Climbing Ship Breaker

Climbing Ship Breaker (Photo credit: AdamCohn)

Plato once likened leading a nation to commanding a ship. In the new Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips, the ship he helms as the title character is a cargo freighter. As an actor, Hanks took up where Jimmy Stewart left off in the role of most decent man in America years ago. Recently he polled ahead of the President as the most trusted. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that in his turn as Phillips, Hanks manages to sound more like John F. Kennedy than the real Captain Phillips who, though born and bred in Boston, has an accent nowhere near as thick as Hanks’ impersonation.

In the Hollywood version of the true story of the Maersk Alabama, Hanks is captaining not just a ship, but a ship of state. The large and prosperous freighter loaded down with consumer goods lumbers through the waterways just off the coast of some of the world’s most impoverished countries. The small skiffs the Somali pirates use to beset the behemoth appear out of the nowhere of a deep blue sea as suddenly as the planes that approached the twin towers out of a clear September sky.

Director Paul Greengrass previously made United 93 based on the events inside the third plane of the 9/11 attacks in which the everyday heroism of its passengers forced the hijacked plane out of the sky. Here Phillips has to be heroic but doesn’t pay with his life. Instead, he finds himself freed from the all-too-human Somalis who literally have nothing to lose by an impersonal force of Navy SEALs in an outcome as inevitable as the American firepower is overwhelming. While grateful, Phillips is too decent not to see that the story is tragic and that the solution solves nothing. In the end, Hanks might not be channeling JFK but rather his predecessor Ike who made his farewell speech into a warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex that is now bigger and badder than ever.

Ships loom large in the popular imagination as microcosms of the social condition. The Costa Concordia that ran afoul of rocks off the Italian coast as its captain allegedly was distracted by his lover, a dancer from Moldova, struck a chord in a country that saw its Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi brought down by a scandal in which he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan dancer. And in a metaphor made to order for Italy where heartbreaking beauty no longer compensates for economic stagnation, the ugly remains of the cruise ship that blight one of world’s loveliest settings now represent an engineering nightmare as salvage companies work to right it so it can be stripped for scrap. Ultimately, the Costa Concordia may well end up off the coast of India or Bangladesh where barefoot ship breakers tear apart beached hulls of scrapped ships by hand, at great risk to themselves and to the ocean which will absorb the toxic residues of the engines and internal linings.

Like the enormous container ships that span as much as four football fields in length, some cruise ships are now so large that critics wonder whether like banks deemed “too big to fail” these liners are “too big to sail.” The high seas, like high finance, require running risks in our age but ships sometimes founder, their captains can’t always be counted on, and the pirates are real.

The Manchurian Email

The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts (Photo credit: RobHannay)

In these days of the NSA, and its policy of no email left behind, some propose resistance via nonsense. An Ohio man recently designed a program called ScareMail that will add a string of computer-generated sentences containing significant NSA keywords to every email you write. In his view, if every email has something deemed “collectible” in it, then the results will become meaningless.

The sample ScareMail sentences read like nonsense: “Captain Beatty failed on his Al-Shabaab, hacking relentlessly about the fact to phish this far.” They read a lot like the train scene from The Manchurian Candidate. When Marco (Frank Sinatra) meets Rosie (Janet Leigh) on a train from Washington to New York, he’s so paranoid he can barely light a cigarette. The conversation that ensues when she hits on him hardly helps his mental state:

Rosie: Maryland’s a beautiful state.
Marco: This is Delaware.
Rosie: I know. I was one of the original Chinese workmen who laid the track on this stretch. But nonetheless, Maryland is a beautiful state. So is Ohio, for that matter.
Marco: I guess so. Columbus is a tremendous football town.

Things don’t improve much from there and, really, no one has ever agreed on whether Rosie’s words were attempts to trigger Marco into a brainwashed state (as the Queen of Hearts did for Raymond Shaw), or if she was just a pretty blonde for Sinatra to hang out with.

Either way, the non sequitur banter is precisely the kind of thing that some now urge all of us to consider when engaging in private conversations by electronic means. A literary scholar suggests we re-learn the language of beggars, thieves, and bandits who long confounded authority by making one word stand in for another. A Brazilian commentator has described her country’s “Mad Cow Protection Plan”—an effort to include nonsense language in addition to directly addressing NSA workers with holiday greetings—after Brazilians learned about data mining there.

A Dutch-Iranian filmmaker decided instead to take the cow, or rather bull, by the horns. He politely called the NSA on a number of occasions to ask for assistance in retrieving some lost emails. This was, needless to say, a reassuring exercise:

NSA: “What you’re speaking of we’re not involved in. You have no reason to be afraid.”

Caller: “I can tell everyone, my girlfriend especially, that I have nothing to worry about?”

NSA: “Have a good day.”

The filmmakers and writers of Eastern Europe used to do a marvelous job of slipping messages past the censors of their countries back in the bad old days of the Iron Curtain. Sometimes they’d deliberately place an obviously objectionable phrase or image next to one that was a sly jab at authority. The garbage got cut; the important part stayed in. It worked like a charm and meant that movies like Closely Watched Trains or Man of Marble made it to the screen.

The odd twist now is that no one seems to be worrying much about what gets said publicly. It’s our private remarks that have us going all retro-Red Scare. But then, this is a story in which one of the key figures–the director of the NSA–publicly stated that he gave “the least untruthful answer possible” in response to questions about privacy concerns. So speak up, speak out, but for safety’s sake, at least consider speaking in tongues.

Workin’ for a Living

The New Deal

The New Deal (Photo credit: Greg Foster Photography)

Labor Day honors work and workers. Maybe that seems like a truism, but it might just be truthy. As more than a few commentators have noticed, recent political rhetoric more often features “America’s small-business fetish” than concern for the conditions of work. The 2012 presidential debaters jousted about the definition of a “small business,” but only to cloak themselves in the mantle of populism. Small business owners are heroic, job creating, risk takers—which leaves one to wonder what the rest of the population is.

Everyone else, and that’s the vast majority, is, in the words of Huey Lewis and the News (and Garth Brooks, in the 2007 version), taking what they’re giving ‘cuz I’m working for a living. This is a pretty perky song, but let’s admit that it’s about realizing that you just can’t get ahead by waiting on a paycheck. It’s surely no coincidence that the 1982 original was pop and the newer cover is country and even in the 80s, the lyrics of Dolly Parton’s country crossover song 9 to 5 hit the theme of worker exploitation a lot harder. Country singers have kept on singing to the blue-collar class in the tradition of Woody Guthrie while recent pop, rock, and rap are a lot more likely to be about money than about work. Case in point: Bon Jovi who had the 1980s rock anthem Livin’ on a Prayer about a diner waitress and her unemployed dock worker boyfriend now leans Nashville.

Country is more likely to be about sincerity in a contemporary pop culture that favors cynicism, irony, and self-reference. T.V. and movies about work and working tend towards sarcasm, not solidarity. Two words here: The Office. Watching workers on screen these days is likely to remind one that work was the price we paid for original sin. We might roll our eyes at the fictional Mark Zuckerberg’s heartlessness in The Social Network but let’s admit the dominant notes of the movie are envy and admiration. I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad. And etc.

These are the days of the one percent and the rest. Labor Day is a day devoted to the dignity of work. Work in the abstract. Self-employed or working for the man. Work for pay, even if paltry. It’s a Gilded Age holiday, after all.

Foods of our Fathers

Foodie

Foodie (Photo credit: Sybren A. Stüvel)

Have you ever wondered if the past tasted differently? If so, you’re not alone. Indeed it’s hard not to notice the new love of all things retro in food and food preparation. In fact, there’s an entire borough of New York City so excessively devoted to the painstaking, handmade, and pre-industrial production of comestibles that the artisans there go Portlandia one better and caricature themselves. (Yes, Brooklyn, we’re talking about you. But you already know that. The message was for those who live elsewhere.)

But it’s not just in the heart of hipster heaven. No, canning and pickling, cheese making and beer brewing, coffee bean roasting and meat smoking have infiltrated the daily lives of many Americans who, just a couple of decades ago, probably never imagined that they would someday seriously consider raising chickens in the backyard of their suburban split-level. Then there are the actual foods of our fathers. Well, at least the drinks. Would you like to try George Washington’s whiskey? Come April 4th, Mt. Vernon will start selling whiskey brewed to GW’s own specifications at a distillery re-created along the lines of the original. You can also sample the Ales of the Revolution from Yards Brewing in Philadelphia: they make ales based on original recipes from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. You can almost taste the red coats coming.

We could go highbrow and suggest that this is all very Proustian. There’s nothing like the sense of smell or taste to bring back the past. Really though it’s more Pollan-ian. As in Michael Pollan who suggested in his book In Defense of Food, as one of his three rules for eating, to consume only foods that your great-grandparents would have recognized. In short, this would mean rejecting processed foods in favor of things prepared from natural ingredients. Who could argue with that? One might quibble and point out that Twinkies were first introduced in 1930 when great grandma and grandpa were around but back then, the cream-filled cake was actually made with eggs, flour and milk and stuffed with banana cream, or seasonal strawberries. It had a shelf life of just two days. Which means, of course, that it had nothing whatsoever in common with the Frankenfood presently known as Twinkie.

If only it were so simple. B.R. Meyers in The Atlantic kicked off the backlash a couple of years ago with a piece on how contemporary foodie-ism looks a lot like gluttony. Now there’s a blast from the past: one of the seven deadly sins lurking in the shadows as you hesitate over the pink Himalayan salt or the French fleur de sel. He’s probably right that our great grandparents might well have been appalled at such shenanigans as characterize foodie behavior. Meyers sure stepped on a few toes with that one but the backlash hasn’t backed off. Nor is it just about skewering the pretensions of those who treat every restaurant meal as worthy of the kind of criticism formerly reserved for European art house cinema.

More seriously, the anti-foodie faction has pointed out that not only is it classist to blame the poor for their poor taste in food, it’s delusional to think that returning to the foods of our fathers is a possible solution to the problems of obesity, epidemic diabetes and other nutritional ills of the first world countries. The argument runs, in short, that while it might not be a mortal sin to advocate eating fresh, well-prepared, locally sourced food, it isn’t a scalable approach to changing the diets of the majority of the population who regularly eat processed, mass produced and fast foods and depend on their low prices. This, instead, might require re-engineering the way foods are processed to improve their nutritional profiles and for this to happen, foodies have to stop with the ad hominem attacks on the junk food industries. For their part, the foodie defense claims that any recent improvements to the quality of fast food are a result of “trickle down gastronomics”—a case of the elites leading by example. If Marie Antoinette were around today, we have to imagine that the peasants would be asked to eat whole wheat chocolate zucchini cake. Let’s see how that works out for her.

We’ll Always Have Paris

Official logo of the French Republic, used exc...

Official logo of the French Republic, used exclusively by its government and prefectures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time to wave the red, white and blue. Bastille Day is here and France is honoring the start of its revolution back in 1789. France remembers its founding values on this day: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Although they don’t always like to admit it, the United States and France go way back and it’s no coincidence that they share the colors of revolutionary republicanism on their national emblems.

Americans prefer to think of themselves as having a historical monopoly on the values of liberty, equality and brotherhood of man. But we’re happy to concede to France a monopoly on the values of romance and style. We’re a lot like the Owen Wilson character in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris who would rather spend time in the Paris of the writers and the artists of the lost generation living on in perpetuity, a 1920s without end. Paris is the romantic capital of our dreams. When the actual France intrudes on this pleasant reverie, we get a little testy. This might account for the recent flurry of features on the supposed malaise of modern France.

Liberté? Hey, France is spying on its citizens’ telecommunications, too. And things aren’t getting any better for the Roma people in France under Socialist president Francois Hollande. They still face forcible expulsion and unchecked harassment. As for other immigrants, let’s not even get started on the ongoing head scarf controversy.

Égalité? Didn’t you read the news about the plight of French youth who face record high levels of unemployment and bleak future prospects? Some say the best advice to give les jeunes is to get out while they can. Others express doubt about the real usefulness of the bac, the famously meritocratic exit exam all French high school students must pass if they hope to proceed to university studies or a decent job. Yet it lumbers on, deeply entrenched by a massive administrative structure, reminding one that France is the country that invented bureaucracy.

Fraternité? Does the word sororité even exist? Well, yes, it does but nobody really uses it and the internet will redirect you to the American English word sorority if you even try. We care a lot about how French women look and the fact that, supposedly, they don’t get fat or dress like slobs. France’s national symbol is of course the lovely Marianne whose representation has been modeled on a series of famous French actresses from Catherine Deneuve to Laetitia Casta. Disagreements over casting for the figure usually revolve around the appropriate bust size for the partially bared revolutionary lady.

Civil liberties, immigration policy, high stakes testing, women’s rights? In case any of the foregoing sounds familiar, it may be because the real issue is that France and the U.S. have more in common than they’d care to admit. You can’t even count on fine food any more. In another body blow to American romanticizing of French reality, it turns out that more and more French restaurants are serving frozen ratatouille microwaved to order.

So wake up Owen Wilson. You’re living in the past. Since this is a holiday, though, let’s try and look on the bright side. Its economy is showing a few glimmers of recovery. With two female candidates in the running, in 2014 Paris will have a woman as mayor for the first time in its history. The French intervention in Mali has been judged a modest success and African troops who served there will lead the way in today’s Bastille Day parade. Its under-20 soccer team—as diverse in its makeup as all French national teams since the 1990s—just won the World Cup, its film culture remains vibrant, and, frankly, despite the contretemps about the microwaving, its food still rocks. As Americans well know, living up to the ideals of a republic has never been easy. You must remember this.

Free Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela's Prison Cell

Nelson Mandela’s Prison Cell (Photo credit: Mark H)

Twenty one years in captivity / Are you so blind that you cannot see? / Are you so deaf that you cannot hear? / Are you so dumb that you cannot speak? / I’m begging you to free Nelson Mandela.

When The Specials recorded that song back in 1983, Mandela still had seven more years of imprisonment to go. It was a good thing that unlike many political protest songs, it had a beat you could dance to because its cause wasn’t going to be resolved any time soon.

In cosmic terms, all lives are but a blink of an eye. In human terms, Mandela has had a particularly long life. He was born in 1918, the year the Great War ended. He became an activist in the African National Congress during the middle of World War II. His anti-apartheid activism and increasing militancy led to his arrest and trial in South Africa in 1962 on charges of sabotage and conspiracy. At the age of 44, he went to prison. For the next 20 years on Robben Island, and for seven more at two other prisons, Mandela devoted himself to transcending the divisive struggle over apartheid. Ultimately, he imagined and then led the way to a multi-racial government of which he became the first president at age 76 in 1994.

However dramatic the outcomes, the long arc of Mandela’s political activism and organization that brought apartheid to an end took place remarkably slowly. Try to imagine being a reporter assigned the Mandela beat in 1962 when he was allowed just one visitor and one letter every six months. And for twenty years, not a single photograph of Mandela appeared in the press. What a sad Instagram page that would be.

We like to watch events in real time these days and expect constant updates. From the hunt for the Boston bombers to the asylum seeking NSA leaker, the drama of the day requires refreshing the webpage minute by minute. It’s not just us. The New York Times recently reported that one of the things that drove Snowden to flee for Russia was the realization that he would be deprived of a computer if jailed by the Hong Kong authorities. Waiting for new news ain’t easy. At the time of this writing, the where’s Snowden watchers are already beginning to despair as they start another week spent trapped in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. They have likened Snowden’s overly long layover to Tom Hanks’s stateless refugee character in The Terminal and their own fate to Waiting for Godot. Existential crisis? Hardly.

We will know the time of Mandela’s death almost to the minute. Before posting this, that will be the last fact checked. Whenever it comes, it will be the final fact of a long trajectory, notable not for its instantaneity but its profundity.

Back in the USSR

Edward Snowden stencil by Eclair Acuda Banders...

Edward Snowden stencil by Eclair Acuda Bandersnatch (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Edward Snowden was just six when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and with it, more than three long decades of a Cold War. But he’s managed to revive the good old fashioned game of Kremlinology. Unnamed sources trade in rumors of lights going off or on the upper floors of embassies, the police cordon off a plane carrying no one special, and politicians split hairs over double speak. Any wonder that ever since Snowden George Orwell’s 1984 is selling like hotcakes on Amazon?

Vast shadowy networks of surveillance, espionage and double crosses—whether or not what Snowden uncovered merits the word Orwellian, his story sure reads like a novel, although maybe John le Carré should get the nod on that one. His most famous character, British spy Alec Leamas, could have told Snowden a thing or two about “the expediency of temporary alliances.” And as The Spy who Came in from the Cold, Leamas might have posed the rhetorical question, “What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs?”

As much as Cold War nostalgia lurks in the shadows of the Snowden story, back in the day no one took comfort in what now look like the ideological certainties and clearly drawn lines of the US:USSR faceoff. Sure, songs like 99 Luftballoons and Russians (in which Sting hoped the Russians loved their children, too) still sound sweet but the existential fear that the world might end via mutually assured destruction was anything but. Those songs were hits right around the time Snowden was born. Back then Ronald Reagan was in full swing and a guy by the name of Mikhail Gorbachev was just about to become General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev introduced a little policy known as glasnost, defined in English as “openness.” At the time it meant that the Soviets would allow open discussion of political issues, freer dissemination of information, and more government transparency. This new openness ultimately helped bring down the Soviet Union although it’s debatable how much this reduced corruption and repression in Russia. Now, the word has been re-purposed. It’s currently used as the name of a computer diagnostic about the effects of an ISP on traffic flow (a “glasnost test”). It also survives as Glasnost: The Game in which the goal of each player is to disarm as many countries as possible. The most disarmament wins.

Can openness save the world or is the glasnost of Snowden and Assange just another game of mirrors? In short, are we back in the USSR? Paul McCartney first wrote that song in 1968 for the Beatles’ White Album but he remained persona non grata in the Soviet Union all the way until the end. He finally got to sing it in Moscow’s Red Square in 2003. The crowd loved it. This week, it sounds remarkably fresh.

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR, yeah
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone

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