Triskadekaphobia

Happy Friday the 13th!

The fear of 13 is widespread in Western culture. There are a number of reasons for it, ranging from 'traditional' to 'specious'. A lot of high-rise construction projects still pander to it by skipping 13 when they number the floors -- it's especially common in Las Vegas, where Lady Luck still holds court on a daily basis. Wikipedia has a decent article on the phenomenon of triskadekaphobia here.

Other cultures fear other numbers. In Japan, 4 and 9 are held to be unlucky. The character for 4 can be read shi, which is also a reading belonging to the character for death, and the character for 9 can be read as ku, which also belongs to one of the characters for pain. Both 4 and 9 obviously have alternate readings, the tendency for euphemism being nearly universal among human cultures, which are usually used when counting: ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyuu, juu, from one to ten.

Personally, I've always held 9 to be a lucky number, or at least a fortunate number in the sense that if I was fortunate enough to get a key number or ticket number or PIN that added and reduced to 9 I could usually remember the damn thing. My birthday is 9/9, you see -- I learned my times tables early, and I still think the 'magic nines' tricks are ridiculously fun to play with.

Oddly, I made it all the way to college before I found out John Lennon felt the same way. I thought it was a charming coincidence, and the resulting research binge also netted me two of his three books. In His Own Write has been in print since I started looking, and I see that now there is also a combined edition with A Spaniard in the Works, but when I was looking last, the second was quite out of print and had been so for some time. A dear friend of mine found and gave me a first-printing US edition -- not worth all that much money, I don't think, but of some historical and sentimental significance. They are both full of poetry and other cheery nonsense. The farther you read, the more convinced you become that he's gotten absolutely filthy, but you can't prove it because by that point he's not using real words anymore.

If you'd prefer to see what the non-nonsense part of his brain was like, I would recommend getting Skywriting by Word of Mouth instead. It contains the only non-silly piece of writing I've ever seen from him -- he is perfectly cogent, lucid, incisive, and very stabby in an essay that outlines why he wants the press to leave his wife alone.

If you're young enough or reclusive enough to not be familiar with his solo work and want to know what all the fuss is about, try Lennon Legend - The Very Best of John Lennon. The DVD edition has a load of video clips for the songs; some are documentary-style footage of the newsworthy stuff he did, like the bed-in in Amsterdam and the peace rallies at which huge crowds would sing "Give Peace A Chance", and some are the original music videos distributed at the time of the single's release. It's rather illuminating. Lennon is one of those people who often looks rather gawky and awkward in photos, but much more charismatic in motion. His style of dress alternates between 'some random guy' and 'complete lunatic', and he was uncommonly trusting of his fans, who were also largely uncommonly courteous to him. Some of the bits look impossible now -- one of the music video clips is of him, long since a smash-hit superstar and dressed like it in heeled boots and a hat with a giant feather in it, wandering around in Central Park sans bodyguards and not being mobbed by hundreds of people.

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