Another kind of history (1)

Somewhat contrary to what many students would say today, I have always liked history. I also like archaeological sites, museums, golden oldies and such “ancient” things. Exactly why I haven’t the faintest idea. Maybe I had good history teachers. Maybe I went to school when knowing your history was considered important. Maybe it were those late 1950’s National Geographic magazines that I discovered in my father’s bookcase. Maybe I’m just getting old!

Nonetheless, as I turned 50 today, I had this sudden urge to delve into the past to see what, if anything at all, happened on 26 October.  Thanks to Google, I did manage to find quite a few bits of trivia on my birthdate. Some of it nice, others sad and others raise even more questions.  Below is my Top 10 list of events that in one way or other have colored this day in history, with my thoughts in brackets in blue, and in chronological order:

  • October 26, 1861: The Pony Express officially ceased operations.  (I wonder what the gentlemen who began the original ‘fast mail service’ then would say if they were to see what the industry has morphed into today?  Just 30 years ago, when I was I was in secondary school, I had absolutely no use of Pos Laju, Pos Ekspres, and etc. yet today I use them regularly.  BTW: what has happened to the humble aerogramme?!)
  • October 26, 1863: The Football Association forms in England, standardizing soccer.  (More than a hundred years later and with the cooperation of the Football League, the FA would help Britain conquer the world again – this time through world of football and its products such as the FA Cup, Road to Wembley and BPL. When once I had to argue with my mother as to whether to watch the single miserable 3 month delayed (true!!) Star Soccer featured game or the Hindi/Tamil movies that RTM telecast simultaneously on RTM 1 and 2 on Saturdays, now I have unlimited “live” access to at least 3 EPL games on one Saturday, not counting the early and Sunday kickoffs!  But – they say too much of a good thing may be bad.  I think I’m beginning to believe it now.) 
  • October 26, 1951: The Conservative Party led by Winston Churchill has won the general elections in Britain. (Although just 6 years earlier, he had been unceremoniously defeated at the polls – and that too after leading Britain from being almost obliterated to victory in WWII. What’s that they say – ‘You can’t keep a good man down?’  Looking at the world today and the type of leaders it has spawned, where are they? – the colosal figures, who in all truth, despite their warts and faults, almost always could be counted upon to come through for the common good?)
  • October 26, 1959:  The first photographs of the far side of the moon are seen on Earth when the Soviet satellite, Lunik III transmits them back through radio signals. (A little less than 20 years later, the rock group Pink Floyd would release its standout ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album – which happens to be my favorite PF record, and one which has given me many, many hours of listening pleasure. Many younger people would not agree with me, but they don’t make ’em like they used to anymore, do they?)
  • October 26, 1965: The Beatles receive MBE’s at Buckingham Palace. (I finally watched “Estet” – the 2010 Mamat Khalid movie – where David Arumugam’s character – Uncle Aru, in one scene, mutters to himself : ‘Orang mau nyanyi tadak peluang nyanyi, orang tak boleh nyanyi boleh jadi penyanyi, kita hari-hari duduk sini susun kacang! How true! Isn’t it almost criminal how we give away our best talents to other countries who snap them up in glee at our expense?)
  • October 26, 1970: The political comic strip Doonesbury appears in newspapers for the first time. Newspaper editors were confused – was it to appear in the funny pages or editorial section? (Taking a look at our own MSM [mainstream newspapers], I am asking the same question today – just looking at the front page headlines, I can’t help thinking but they’re a joke! Basic common sense will tell that at the rate they are falling and failing, these MSM’s will one day have to close shop due to the sheer popularity of the Internet and alternative sources of information. But for some strange reason, those in charge of these MSM’s fail to see it.  Maybe they’re doing democracy in Malaysia a big favor actually! )
  • October 26, 1979:  The President of Korea, Park Chung Hee and five others are killed by his own Intelligence chief. (While we have been thankfully free from such violent attacks on national leaders, unfortunately Malaysia has become synonymous for character assassinations – especially in the political scene, one in particular that has been running almost non-stop for 13 years now. Once, we were role models for newly independent countries. We had dignity and status, even though we may not have been as materially developed as now. Morally and ethically though, we seem to have gone in reverse. Isn’t it enough already or are we content to free fall into an abyss that we may not be able to come out of quickly enough?)  
  • October 26, 1984: Surgeons give a 14 day old girl, known only as Baby Fae, the heart of a young baboon.  She survived only for 20 days after the operation but it was still considered a breakthrough in heart transplants. (I remember this story quite well – I was 23 then and had just moved away from home a few months before.  Back then, we had no choice but to rely on our good old MSM for the daily updates!  I read about and in a sense journeyed with Baby Fae for awhile as she fought her battle. I wondered what her parents were going through. Today however, this biblical verse comes to mind – ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ – [Ezekiel: 36:26]. If only we would listen to God’s voice, irrespective of our individual faiths and beliefs – I can’t help but thinking ‘wouldn’t this world be a better place’? )
  • October 26, 2007: Apple’s OS X “Leopard” version is released. (We sort of knew already that Steve Jobs was on borrowed time, but that he would die so quickly earlier this month still came as a shock. He did however, in the three and half years he had, manage to come up with the mother of all smartphones – the iconic iPhone and an actual functioning tablet – the iPad.  He may not have been the friendliest person to have around you, or the best manager, but I ask myself – how am I using the ‘borrowed’ time I have left?)
  • October 26, 2009: Yahoo!! discontinues its free web hosting service Geocities, ten years after purchasing it from its creators. (Remember good old Geocities back in the 90’s? Everyone who wanted a free domain and hosting – this was the best and cheapest solution. Sadly, it has gone the way of the dinosaur in a very short time – as new technologies evolve and change the world as we know it.  How about me, and us?  The failure to embrace change will only make us go the way  of the dinosaur, dodo and just a couple of years ago, Geocities too. This prayer, which one priest gave me a long time ago helps put things into perspective for me: ‘God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’).

So, enough said I think of history for now, lest it gets boring!  It’s amazing what a few clicks on the keyboard and the help of a certain Mr. Google can throw up. I think, if we personalize things as they happen, as in this short history of my birthdate, maybe it would help us reflect a bit more about ourselves, and help us understand how to live and what is really important in our lives. It may not be what we think they are!

Below, for the uninitiated, an introduction to Pink Floyd, and for the already inducted, a sure sweet trip down memory lane and something to ponder about from one man who dared to dream: 

“You see things as they are and you say, ‘Why?’ but I dream things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?'”  – Robert F. Kennedy

 

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