Garden of Curiosities #1: Recommendations, Asteroids, and the Handel/Hendrix House
What I'm reading, watching, and listening to—along with a quirky story of how two musical geniuses are linked across the centuries in one London flat.
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Every so often, I’ll write a post that I call The Garden of Curiosities. It will combine something quirky and interesting that’s worth knowing with my recommendations for the best stuff that I’ve been reading, watching, or listening to recently. The internet and media landscape is a crowded place, so hopefully this will help you save time and find some gems.
In this installment, I’ll discuss a near miss we all just had with an asteroid and explore a little known link between two musical geniuses, Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel. But I’ll also let you know what intellectual and entertaining delights I’ve recently devoured with great pleasure, from movies and TV shows, to books, articles, and podcasts. Let’s get started.
A Bus-Sized Asteroid Just Missed the Earth
A few days ago, an amateur astronomer operating out of Crimea named Gennadiy Borisov saw something unusual in the skies. It turned out to be an asteroid on a trajectory to get pretty close to Earth. Borisov did some quick calculations and realized it would get very close to Earth. And, he realized, this wouldn’t be in the distant future. It would be within a few days.
In fact, the asteroid came within 2,200 miles of Earth about 11 hours ago, which is closer to Earth than some man-made satellites. It was, in a cosmic sense, an extremely close shave. However, this asteroid, which is now named BU 2023, is only about the size of a small bus, so even if it had hit the Earth, it wouldn’t have wiped us out. (For comparison, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago is thought to have been between six and nine miles wide, so a lot bigger than a bus).
Nonetheless, the fact that the asteroid was only discovered a few days before it nearly hit our planet is an important reminder: the universe is an amazing, wondrous, awe-inspiring, maddeningly complex place—and we understand almost none of it.
Handel & Hendrix in London
When I was an undergraduate, my parents moved to London, where they lived for several years. As a result, I would often spend spring breaks during my university years flying from Minnesota to visit them. For my cultural education, they seemed particularly keen on booking tickets for me to attend a soporific harpsichord concert on the same day I arrived, haggard and jet lagged, at a place called Handel House.
This, I assure you, is a wonderful place for a concert, but it is most certainly not a venue that is well-suited for a fatigued transatlantic traveler. The concerts take place in a tiny room. It’s a magical space to listen to Handel’s music, because it’s the same room in which he composed many of his works. However, because the room is tiny, and because there are only a few dozen people in it during the concert, my dozing off was rather conspicuous.
This is what the concert venue looks like:
However, what’s astonishing about this venue isn’t just that it’s a space where a musical genius once lived.
By complete coincidence, it’s where two musical geniuses once lived.
In the summer of 1723, Handel moved into the flat that is now Number 25, Brook Street in London. It was brand new, so he was the first person to live there. Handel had his instruments in the house, and composed many of his greatest works there. In total, he spent 36 years in the house. It is therefore one of the most important residences in the history of Western classical music. (You can watch a video of the history of the house here).
Two and a half centuries later, in the summer of 1968—a year of immense social and political upheaval in the United States—Jimi Hendrix decided to spend some time in London. His girlfriend at the time found him a flat at Number 23, Brook Street. Hendrix moved in that July, and spent time living there off and on for nearly a year. Many of Hendrix’s photoshoots from that pivotal part of his career took place in the flat, a residence that shared a wall with Handel’s flat almost 250 years earlier. (Hendrix died in London in 1970, at a hotel).
The Handel House museum, which is now known as “Handel & Hendrix in London,” is currently closed for renovations, but will reopen to visitors in May. It’s one of the most musically important residences in the world, two world-changing artistic geniuses separated by two centuries, but by only one wall.
Here is the residence, and you can see the two “Blue Plaques,” which signify that they lived there, side by side. If you’re ever in London, be sure to pay it a visit!
Here are my recommendations of movies, TV shows, books, articles, and podcasts that I’ve recently enjoyed. I hope some of you find enjoyment in them, too.
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