Wednesday, June 09, 2004


June 9th, 2004

in 1803, President John Adams received a communique from Napoleon of France that the territory of Louisiana was available for purchase to the United States. After much deliberation, Adams turned down Napoleon's offer, feeling America needed no further territory to the west.

in 1866, President Lincoln of the United States of America pulled all Union troops north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Jefferson Davis pulled Confederate troops south of that border, and the uneasy cold war of the 2 Americas began.

in 1912, Carla Lambert, after a 6-month absence from the public eye, returned to the front pages with news that she had adopted a young baby boy. The boy's name, Thomas Edison Lambert, practically confirmed the rumors that she and Thomas Edison were having an affair.

in 1947, [CENSORED].

in 1964, Comrade President Gus Hall received the Communist Party's full endorsement for reelection. Comrade Hall had taken over from former President Rosenberg when Rosenberg was assassinated in Dallas the year before.

in 1984, John Lennon, an obscure musician who had once been in a band with international sensation Pete Best, writes a tell-all book about Best, detailing their crazy life in Hamburg, Germany, and their rough-and-tumble beginnings in Liverpool, England. The book, I Want To Tell You, is an international best-seller.

in 1990, Fascists are swept from power in Italy, and Germany sends troops in. The overburdened Nazis, besieged on every front, will lose power by the fall, but not without hundreds of thousands of casualties.

in 2000, the forces of galactic justice begin sifting the rubble of earth's solar system to ensure that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is truly gone.


Barry Ritholtz said...

here's the problem with the "John Lennon, Pete Best" entry: Alt-history works best when it reflects a different timeline which occurs thru either some stroke of luck, a twist of fate, a decison made (or not made) -- which ends up having long term consequences.

RFK not being assasinated due to a stroke of luck (i.e., Grier seeing light reflect off of the gun barrel) creates a possible alternative timeline.

But Lennon -- unlike Pete Best -- was a talented and charismatic musician. For that alt-history to have developed, factual changes must be made, talents imbued, reality changed. Best was a lousy drummer, not a great singer, never a good songwriter.

The entry isn't alt-history, its alt-Universe. It's a "What if we were silicon base instead of carbon? kind of thing.

Robbie Taylor said...

That's a valid point. I do feel that the John Lennon in our timeline was a masterfully talented and charistmatic individual, but here's where I differ from you - in our timeline, John Lennon and the Beatles got a big break. They were discovered by Brian Epstein, who was willing to promote them with all his heart and soul. Epstein got them to the attention of George Martin, whose musical genius and willingness to experiment really sparked all of the Beatles. Up until their union with Martin, they were not a terribly inventive group - it is only after this point that they become the geniuses we remember in our timeline.

In the Best-as-superstar timeline posited, it is Best who gets the breaks, Best whose talent is cultivated and nurtured, and the rest of the Beatles are left behind to obscurity.

Your point of alternate history VS alternate universe is, to me, not a valid distinction. My viewpoint, only, of course. But, as I see it, in the splitting off that creates the alternate universe, you get an alternate history, and vice versa. To me, they are one and the same. I would be interested if you can provide a distinction between the two for me.

Thanks for the comments!

Barry Ritholtz said...

What I'm really saying is that I cannot imagine any timline where Pete Best is a superstar. Its a matter of inate talent, of which he, unfortunately, did not have in great abundance.

Imagine various battles where a shift in the weather impacts the outcome. What if a sudden storm disrupted the D-Day invasion, already postponed due to the weather? Then the Germans get wind of it? That creates the kind of alternative timeline which is intriguing to think about.

Is a legitimate alternative timeline one where my mailman Bob turns out to be a brilliant painter, who ends up being lauded by the masses in the future, with shows and paintings? What if he has no talent in THIS timeline . . . ?

Robbie Taylor said...

I have 2 comments on this, which are separate arguments, so I'll make them separately.

1. You are going by the assumption that people become international superstars by being inherently talented and that inherently talented people always become noticed by virtue of their talent. Au contraire. It's not always the most talented that rises to the top, even in entertainment, but quite often the most connected. Many very talented people languish in obscurity while very mediocre talents are lauded across the world. My favorite example of this is Richard Harris as Arthur in Camelot. The man couldn't carry a tune if it had handles, but they cast him in the role anyway, because he was already famous.

2. Since the first mention of this timeline is the 1962 breakout of Best's first album, we don't know exactly what moment the split occurred. It is quite possible to nurture talent, and the Best of this timeline might have applied himself more determinedly than the Best of our own. The other Beatles of that timeline might have been less determined. Therefore, he is the one who rises above the others, rather than the one who is left behind. To use your mailman example, it's quite possible that, if he had been determined from childhood to paint, and applied himself to it with all his might, that he could very well be a famous painter one day.

Thanks for the comments - there is history behind each of the events listed, but it's good for me to explain them out sometimes, (although I might not want to every time).

On just a personal note - I have entries on aliens landing, a creature getting the solar system destroyed to prevent its release, and communists controlling American politics - and it's PETE BEST that you can't suspend disbelief on?!?! :D

NotSomeOther Jon said...

"You are going by the assumption that people become international superstars by being inherently talented and that inherently talented people always become noticed by virtue of their talent."

Milli Vanilli, anyone?

"It is quite possible to nurture talent, and the Best of this timeline might have applied himself more determinedly than the Best of our own. The other Beatles of that timeline might have been less determined."

I think a more realistic timeline would be where both were determined, setting up a rivalry between the two groups. Joel Achenbach, in his book "Why Things Are" (insert side plug here- an extremely good read, IMHO) notes that while one cannot discount timing and talent, perhaps the most overlooked factor in the Beatles' success was that almost no one worked harder, or were more determined, to achieve it than they. And while it is true that hard work and determination alone are not always enough for success, it is hard to believe that the Beatles wouldn't have gained some large degree of success when you combine them with their obvious talent (and this is from someone who regards them as vastly overrated. For example, in a recent "Rolling Stones" list of the top 500 rock albums, the first, third, fifth, and tenth albums [and this is just the top ten] are by the Beatles. While I won't deny their greatness, that's a bit too much to stomach.)

TIAH Editor says we'd like to move you off the blog, if you're browsing the archives - and most people are - more than half of them are already on the new site. We need to be sure the new web site accomodates your archive browsing needs because we don't want to lose any readers. Please supply any feedback or comments by email to the Editor and please note the blogger site is shutting on December 1st.