The Beatles are forever, and it's not just the soon-to-be-ancient Baby Boomers who believe so. Witness “1,” a CD compilation of the Beatles' 27 No. 1 hits on the U.S. and United Kingdom pop charts. The CD has been in Billboard's Top 10 for 16 weeks, half that time at No. 1. Sales of the CD outstripped those of every other pop group, despite the fact that the Beatles as a band have been defunct for 30 years.
If you're wondering why all the fuss, go to theBeatles.com, a Web site that contains loads of information, trivia, and audio and video clips designed to whet your interest in running out and buying the CD. Yes, it's crass commercialism at work, but the site - badly organized, hard to read, and ergonomically awkward though it certainly is - nevertheless offers material enough to satisfy Beatles vets and neophytes alike.
Each song has its own pull-down menu with publicity photos, pictures of record jackets, labels, and advertising, information about when each song hit the top of the charts, and so on. Brief audio and video clips feature various Beatles either performing a song or talking about how it evolved.
Paul McCartney, for instance, confesses in an audio clip that “Yesterday” came to him in a dream. “I woke up one morning with the tune in my head,” he says. “I couldn't have written it, I just dreamed it.”
These features can be viewed by downloading the basic “low-tech” version. Choosing the “high-tech” version, however, expands the horizon considerably. Each of the 27 pull-down menus in the fancier version contains extra multimedia features. For instance, click on “Love Me Do” and you can play along on a “graphic piano.” “Eleanor Rigby” tests your Beatles knowledge, “Help!” pictures musical instruments in 3-D, and “Lady Madonna” invites you play a Beatles pinball machine.
April in verse
April is National Poetry Month, a time when poets, poetry lovers, and book publishers everywhere set about proselytizing the virtues of what Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously called “my craft or sullen art.” A couple of Web sites are worth investigating for the particular attention they pay to the rhymed couplets, iambic pentameters, lyrical sonnets, and sprung rhythms that soothe our mind and excite our hearts, while a cranky third site offers Scrooge-like commentary on why there shouldn't be a poetry month at all.
The most comprehensive site, at Yahoo, lets visitors search for biographies and poems of well-known writers, presents pages devoted to Poetry Month events (an online auction of rare poetry books, for example), and offers audio clips of great poets reading their own works at Poets.org. Among the better-known featured poets are Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Czeslaw Milosz, Anne Sexton, and Charles Simic.
At Knopf Publishing's site, you're invited to send in your e-mail address, and in return the company will send you a poem a day throughout April. Naturally, Knopf would be happy to sell you some of the poetry books they publish, and you might wind up wanting them to do just that: Their stable of poetic talent is truly impressive, with luminaries like Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Clampitt, Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, W.S. Merwin, James Merrill, Wallace Stevens, and Mark Strand. Click on the names and one of their poems appears.
Then there's the Web site in which Charles Bernstein has his say about why there should be no such thing as a National Poetry Month. An author, poet, and “poetic gadfly,” as one critic called him, Bernstein thinks that the only poems that get any attention during April are those that are “safe, bland, conventional, accessible, morally positive, and good for you.” Also, he maintains, the whole month is about selling poetry books rather than presenting poetry that matters - challenging, confrontational, even muckraking works that make you think.
Silence is golden
The noise level in today's society seems to escalate by the minute, requiring headphones just to keep out the racket. So maybe Brett Banfe's vow to stay silent for a full year doesn't sound so wacky after all. On a dare, the 18-year-old New Jersey student decided to keep his mouth shut for 12 months, communicating either in writing, through an interpreter, or on his Web site. In March, Brett passed the halfway mark. Will he endure? When he's not being interviewed by the Today Show and various magazines and radio shows, he keeps an online diary chronicling his progress or lack thereof.
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