Today is John Lennon’s birthday. One half of the greatest songwriting teams in the history of music would have turned 78 today, if he had not been felled by a lunatic’s bullet and had survived the ravages of early old age.
78 is an interesting number with a distinctive musical element to it, for those of us of a particular age. When I was growing up, and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were standing, alone and unchallenged, at the absolute pinnacle of popular music, we had a phonograph that had four speeds — 16, 33 1/3, 45, and 78 — so you could change the revolutions per minute of the turntable depending on the kind of record you were playing. My parents actually had some old swing era records that played at 78 rpm, but of course the Beatles singles were 45s, and the Beatles albums, where the band really broke through the barriers surrounding popular music and changed music forever, were played at 33 1/3. We played those Beatles records over and over, and even though I’ve heard every song more than a thousand times — no exaggeration — they all still sound as fresh and great as they did when I first heard them on an AM radio.
I never understood why turntables had variable speeds and why different records were recorded to be played at different speeds — but still, even today, 16, 33 1/3, 45, and 78 remain almost mystical musical numbers for me. I really would have liked for John Lennon to have made it to 78; unfortunately, he never had the chance to make it to 45.
What’s the best way to avoid being laid low by the flu bug as we head into flu season? It might be that getting out of town is more effective than getting a flu shot.
A recent study has concluded that big cities have longer, “more vicious” flu seasons. One of the researchers in the study explained: “Larger cities have more organized movement patterns, and these patterns connect pockets of high population density together.” The density factor is significant given how flu is transmitted. As the researcher noted: “Flu spreads from person to person by virus-bearing moisture droplets that an infected person exhales or coughs or sneezes out. This creates what you can think of as a moving cloud of risk around an infected individual.”
“A moving cloud of risk around an infected individual,” eh? Make you want to go sit on the bus or the subway with a bunch of potentially sick strangers, doesn’t it?
None of this is a surprise to anyone who’s had kids, because it’s just the “preschool effect” writ large. Once your kids go to preschool and are exposed to a bunch of other germy, sniffling rugrats, you suddenly notice that everybody in the family, including you, is sicker than they’ve ever been before. Preschool undoubtedly helps to build up the immune system of children, because it is a living testament to the communicability of every different kind of cold, contagion, and virus. Cities, and particularly mass transit settings in cities, are like one big preschool, where that “moving cloud of risk around an infected individual” is a lot more likely to find you.
Last winter’s flu season was a particularly savage one, and is estimated to have caused 80,000 deaths and a record number of hospitalizations. If you want to avoid the bug this year, you might just want to get the heck out of town.