Musical Nostalgia

Followers of my blog know that I love Western classical music. My blog category Music has 16 posts about Bach, Mozart, Chopin and others. But that doesn’t mean I am not interested in other kinds of music πŸ˜‰ .

My interest in “pop music” started in the late sixties when I was studying in Amsterdam. Those were exciting years, there was an atmosphere of optimism that a new era had arrived. Flower Power, Hippies, May 68, Woodstock

It influenced me. Although I remained basically a “nerd”, I did grow my hair, took part in anti Vietnam war demonstrations, wore a ban-the-bomb necklace and watched the Maagdenhuis riots (from a safe distance haha). Here are two photos , illustrating how I changed πŸ™‚

Soft drugs were getting popular in those days, I was too shy to experiment with them, but I liked the relaxed atmosphere of Melkweg and Paradiso, where regularly concerts were given by underground bands, playing psychedelic music. Often liquid light shows were given during a concert, on a huge screen above the stage. This YouTube clip gives an impression.

In those days I started to buy LP records of bands and singers I liked and I still have them. Most of them are not really playable anymore, but nowadays you can listen to most of these albums on YouTube.

I have taken pictures of a number of these LP-covers and present them here with some information. Clicking on the album title links to the full album on YouTube, and when you click on the cover , a song from that album will be played .

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan (debut album) (1962)

The times, they are a-changin’ (1964)

Bringing it all back home (1965)

The Mamas & The Papas

The Mamas & The Papas Deliver (1967)

Country Joe and The Fish

I feel like I’m fixin’ to die (1967)

Jefferson Airplane

Surrealistic Pillow (1967)

Pearls Before Swine

One Nation Underground (1967)

Balaklava (1968)

Pink Floyd

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)

Van Morrison

Astral Weeks (1968)

Dr John the Nighttripper

Gris Gris (1968)

The Flying Burrito Brothers

The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969)

The Flying Burrito Bros (1971)

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

The Soft Machine

Volume Two (1969)

Neil Young

Everybody knows this is nowhere (1969)

After the Gold Rush 1970

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

DΓ©ja Vu (1970)

The Band

Stage Fright (1970)

Cahoots (1971)

David Bowie

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

The Cure

Boys don’t cry (1980)


Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980)

Talking Heads

Remain in Light (1980)

Naked (1986)

Joe Jackson

Night and Day (1982)


More UB40 Music (1983) compilation

Rat in the Kitchen (1986)

Most of the LP records (18) are from the period 1967 -1972. I still think back with nostalgia to that period of my life. Here is a video from the Woodstock festival in 1969, with Country Joe singing I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die . It gives a good impression of the atmosphere in those years.

In 1969 I was doing research for my thesis, but also I went on holidays to Morocco, my first “exotic” destination, an unforgettable experience. One year later , in Rotterdam the Kralingse Bos festival was held, with the Jefferson Airplane, Soft Machine, Country Joe, Pink Floyd and many others. Did I go? No, because I thought I might not fit in.

Maybe I was right, but until this day I regret that I didn’t go.


Most of you will know the constellation of Orion. Here is an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright reddish star, forming the left shoulder of the Hunter, is called Betelgeuse. Recently this star has been in the news, because there were indications that it might explode in the (near) future.

With the present level of light pollution, it is often difficult to observe the colors of stars, and you will see only the brightest. Of course a star closer to the Sun will look brighter than a star many hundreds of lightyears away. Taking the distance into account, astronomers can determine the intrinsic brightness of a star, called the luminosity. When you plot the luminosity of stars against their color, you get the diagram below. It’s called the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, named after the two astronomers who created it around 1910.

As you see, the diagram has a lot of structure and it has helped astronomers a lot to understand how stars evolve. The vertical axis gives the luminosity, in units of the Solar luminosity, while the horizontal axis gives the surface temperature of the star, which is directly related to its color. Notice that the temperature decreases from left to right.

The position of some well-known stars is indicated. Of course our Sun, a yellowish star. Betelgeuse can be found in the upper right corner. it has a luminosity of ~ 100.000 times the Sun ! It is a so-called Red Supergiant Star. A giant star, it’s size is about 900 times the size of the Sun. If it would replace the Sun, we would be swallowed, it would extend to the orbit of Jupiter. The reddish color means that its surface temperature is about 3000K

There are also Blue Supergiant Stars. An example is Rigel, also in Orion (his right leg) with a surface temperature of 11000 K. And there exist White Dwarf Stars, with a size 0.1-0.01 times the Sun, and Giant Stars.

Along the diagonal in the HR diagram you will find the Main Sequence Stars. Most stars are located in this band. Here is a plot of 23000 individual stars in the HR diagram

To understand what will happen in the (near) future to Betelgeuse, I must explain a bit about how stars are formed and how they evolve. Stars are born when clouds of interstellar matter (mainly hydrogen and helium) contract as a result of their own gravity. This contraction increases the temperature in the interior of the cloud until the core becomes so hot ( about 15 million Kelvin) that fusion of hydrogen becomes possible. The energy and radiation from this fusion stops the gravitational contraction, a star is born! Here is a very simplified picture of the fusion process.

Let’s look at the star nearest to us, our Sun, It was born about 4.6 billion years ago, and its total lifetime is estimated to be around 10 billion year, so at the moment it is about halfway its life. Here is a sketch, the fusion takes place in the core, the radiation is transported to the surface (photosphere), resulting for the Sun in a surface temperature of about 5800 K and an orange color.

For a heavier star than the Sun, the inward pressure due to its gravity is stronger, so the counter pressure of the fusion in the core must also be stronger to create a balance. Here are some of the effects:

  • The star is bigger and brighter
  • Its core temperature is higher, the “burning” of hydrogen faster
  • The surface temperature is higher, the color more blueish/whitish
  • The lifetime of the star will be shorter

Here is an example: Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Its mass is two times the mass of the Sun. Compared to the Sun, its radius is 1.7 times larger, its luminosity 25 times larger, its surface temperature is almost 10.000 Kelvin and its lifetime is only about 240 million years. Heavier stars will live even shorter.

We can now explain the Main Sequence in the HR diagram. It is the location of all “normal” stars, who are burning hydrogen in their core. At the lower right we find the low-mass stars, sometimes called red dwarfs , who burn their hydrogen so slowly that their lifetime is many hundred billions of years, longer than the current age of the Universe! At the top left, high-mass stars burn their hydrogen so fast, that in spite of their large mass they have lifetimes of only a few million(!) years.

What happens after the hydrogen fuel in the stellar core is exhausted? That depends on the mass of the star. We will concentrate in this post on the high mass stars (more than 8-10 solar masses), because Betelgeuse is one of them.

In these massive stars, after all hydrogen in the core has been fused into helium, gravitation will contract the core further, raising its temperature, until helium starts fusing into carbon. At the same time the outer layers of the star expand dramatically, while cooling. The star enters its (red) supergiant phase.

The triple-alpha process, as it is called, generates less energy than the hydrogen fusion. Three helium nuclei fuse into on carbon nucleus. Another simplified image.

When the core has fused into carbon, the process repeats. Gravitation contracts the core, its temperature increases , and another fusion process starts, leading to a neon core. Next an oxygen core, a silicon core and finally an iron core. Here is a sketch. A few comments. Notice the difference in scale. The outer layers of the red giant extend to the orbit of Jupiter, whereas the core has about the size of Earth! As you see, the central core is surrounded by layers of lower temperature where still fusion of hydrogen helium, etcetera is going on. It’s like the layers of an onion.

The red supergiant phase doesn’t last long, astronomically speaking, the energy of these fusion processes is much less than the hydrogen fusion. Here is an estimate of the time spent in each of the phases for a star of 25 solar masses. Notice the columns for temperature and density.

When the core has become iron , no more energy can be obtained from fusion and the end of the star is near. Gravity will finally win, the core implodes into a neutron star or a black hole while the outer layers are blown away in a cataclysmic explosion. It is called a (Type II) supernova. During a couple of weeks, the supernova may outshine the galaxy it belongs to and release more energy than the Sun during its whole lifetime. If the supernova is not too far away from us, it may become the brightest star in the sky, even visible during daylight. It looks like a new star (nova = new in Latin), but actually we are watching the last throes of a dying star.

Supernovas are extremely rare, they occur about once every 50 years in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way. A few have been recorded in human history, nowadays many more have been observed in other galaxies. In 1054, Chinese astronomers observed a new star, so bright that during a few weeks it was visible during daylight. Their accurate description made it possible for modern astronomers to conclude that it was a supernova (SN1054) and to identify the Crab Nebula as the remnant of this supernova. Here is the Crab Nebula. At its center a neutron star has been found, the Crab Pulsar.

Click here for a list of supernovae that are of historical significance. The most recent one in our own Milky Way galaxy was Kepler’s Star, observed in 1604, more than 400 years ago!

Time to go back to Betelgeuse. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, it is a red supergiant star at a distance of about 640 lightyear from us. Its mass is about 12 solar masses and its estimated lifetime about 8 million year. It has fused all the hydrogen in its core and is now burning helium in its core. Here is a computer animation of how Betelgeuse might look like.

The gigantic (convection) bubbles are characteristics for this kind of stars. Our Sun has them too, but on a much smaller scale.

Betelgeuse is a variable star, it changes its brightness in a rather irregular way. Here is a graph showing the brightness of Betelgeuse between 1990 and now..

From the right part of this graph you may understand why first astronomers and later the media and the general public became so excited about Betelgeuse. Starting October 2019, the star began to fade more than usual, and by the end of January 2020 it had dropped almost a factor 3 in brightness. A very noticeable difference, here are two photos.

Could it be that this dimming was a signal that Betelgeuse was on its way to become a supernova? It would be a spectacular event, the star might become as bright as the moon and be visible in daylight for many weeks. A harmless event too, the distance of 640 lightyear is too far away. By the way, light from Betelgeuse takes 640 year to reach us, so it could have been exploded already, without us knowing it yet πŸ˜‰ .

Here is an example of a newspaper headline, in this case the Daily Mail , 23 December last year.

Not surprisingly observers from all over the world have been looking at Betelgeuse the last few months, as you can see in the graph below, notice the density of observations in the last three months :-).

I am sure it must have been a disappointment for many that the last month, the fading stopped and Betelgeuse started to become brighter again.

The last few weeks scientific papers are appearing with possible explanations for the unusual dimming. Probably it has been caused by dust. Supergiant stars regularly spew out some of their material into space, where it may condense into grainy particles, temporarily blocking the light of the star.

So, no supernova? Well, on the long term, it will. Betelgeuse is dying and will go supernova. That can happen in our lifetime, but it can also take 100.000 years or even more (see the table above with lifetimes of the various fusing phase).

I will end this post with two short paragraphs about related topics.

  1. This blog is about massive stars. Our Sun, a dwarf star, has not enough mass to become a supernova. After exhausting the hydrogen in its core (in about 5-6 billion year) , it will start fusing helium into carbon and oxygen and become a red giant star, swallowing the inner planets, Earth included. But there the fusion stops. Gravity takes over, and the Sun will end as a white dwarf.
  2. In massive stars, fusion ends when the core has become iron & nickel, because further fusion would need energy instead of releasing it. However, during the supernova explosion so much energy is released that elements heavier than iron can be created. Our Sun is a second-generation star, it was formed from an interstellar cloud that contained, besides hydrogen and helium, already material from earlier supernovae. Earth and everything in it, consists of atoms that have been formed in the interior of stars. We are Star Children, each atom in our body (except hydrogen), has been created inside a star!

Taiping, 20-24 February 2020

In a recent post, I reported about a trip to Kuala Selangor with our UK friend Rodney. He had also never visited Taiping, my 2nd hometown.! A good reason to plan a short trip, only 3D2N, because he was flying back to UK on 24 February. A bit too short for me, so I booked 2 nights in Furama for Aric and Rodney, and two more nights for me. Therefore this report is in two parts πŸ™‚

We started early on 20 February, because our first destination was Penang. Rodney’s longtime Malaysian partner, Keng, had passed away in the UK, a few months earlier and Rodney had brought his ashes to scatter them in the sea near Penang, where Keng was born. We had offered to help and support him.

On our way North we had breakfast in Tanjung Malim. We had half-boiled eggs with ice coffee, where the ice was made of coffee in the shape of a heart, so it would not dilute the coffee, while melting. A clever trick.

Traffic was smooth, we reached Penang in time to have lunch at the Taman Emas restaurant we had visited before, with good char kuey teow and assam laksa.

We continued to Teluk Bahang near the northwestern tip of Penang Island, where Aric had, with the help of a friend, booked a boat.

We had bought yellow and white chrysanthemum flowers to scatter with the ashes.

It was a simple, moving farewell ceremony.

The road ends here. There used to be a restaurant here, aptly named The End of the World.

From Teluk Bahang we drove back to Taiping, where we arrived in hotel Furama around 4 pm. After a short rest we walked to the nearby Lake Gardens. Usually it rains in the afternoon in Taiping, but this time it was beautiful weather. We enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere.

A few more pictures. Top right flowers of the Rain Trees (Samanea Saman) that border the Lake. Bottom left the fruits of the Cannon Ball Tree, not all Taipingites may be aware that a few of these strange trees are growing in the Lake Gardens.

The sunset was very nice. Look at this picture, isn’t it beautiful? The Lake Gardens are fascinating, any time of the day.

Compare it with this video. The famous Chinese Pagoda Bridge in the Lake Gardens has been recently decorated with gaudy LED-lights. Many people are happy with it, personally I think it doesn’t go well with the atmosphere of the Lake Gardens. Feel free to comment.

After this long day we had our dinner at the outdoor food court of Prima. With beer, satay, rojak, otak otak and other delicacies.

The next morning we started with breakfast in a small hawker center near my hotel, often called the Circus Ground by locals, because in earlier days circus shows were given here. The grassy field in the center is surrounded by palm trees and recently “decorated” with “I Love Taiping”. Hmm. We had delicious Chee Cheong Fun in the stall of my friend Mr Tong, 4th (!) generation owner.

Our morning program was to visit the Ayer Hitam waterfall, near Batu Kurau, the rural backyard of Taiping. My last visit was three years ago, it is a 45 minute drive from town. Approaching the trail head, I got a bit worried because quite a lot of development had taken place, a new resort was still under construction. Notice the concrete reinforcement of the river slopes!

The road ends at a small water catchment where we parked our car. Fortunately the trail was still unspoiled, although I noticed some work going on to widen the trail.

It is only a 20 minutes walk on a clear, partly cemented trail, to have a view of the waterfall. From there a small trail brings you in a few minutes down to the base of the fall.

A short video of the impressive and still pristine waterfall. Better don’t wait too long to visit this fall, before “development” takes over.

It was an easy half-day trip, we were back in town for lunch at the Yut Sun restaurant in Jalan Pasar. Of course we had the famous Hainanese Chicken Chop πŸ™‚ .

After a long rest in our hotel, we drove to Kuala Sepetang (former Port Weld). It has become quite touristic, but when you cross the river on a pedestrian bridge to the other side, it is still quite unspoiled. From the bridge you have a good view of the fishing village.

We walked the (only) street until the end, to a big Taoist temple, the Shang Di temple, dedicated to the Emperor of Heaven. Recently built, maybe because the villagers have more income these days? Richly decorated with a huge statue of the Dragon Turtle.

Beautiful tile tableaus, illustrating the dangers of the sea and the importance of paying respect to the gods.

We stayed quite some time at a jetty, watching the sunset and the traffic on the river. Very relaxing.

On our way back to Taiping we stopped in Matang for dinner. There are a few popular seafood restaurants in this small village. We chose the Light House Seafood restaurant where we had a nice seafood porridge.

Almost back in our hotel we came across a Hindu procession. A chariot was pulled by two impressive buffalos. Asking which deity was venerated, I was told that it was Shiva Lingam. I leave it to the reader to find out what a lingam is πŸ™‚ .

Of course I had to show Rodney the mural of Amelia Earhart, the famous American aviator, commemorating that she had landed In Taiping on 20 June 1937 to refuel. A beautiful mural, only problem is that she never did! Read more in my two posts Amelia Earhart and Taiping and Amelia and Taiping (Part Two) .

The next morning we decided to have our breakfast in Casual Market. But before walking there, we first made a detour to have a look at a bungalow, a few hundred meter from the hotel.

Why? Mr Foo, working at Furama and, like me, interested in Taiping and its history, had told me about this bungalow, that until a few months ago it was almost completely invisible because of “jungle” surrounding it. Now the land had been cleared and a beautiful bungalow had come into view. Abandoned, but still in good condition. Built in 1932.

Here is a close-up of the bungalow and a screenshot from Google Street View, taken last year. You can just see part of the roof. An interesting discovery, I know more about its history, but will keep that for another post.

We didn’t take my usual route to Casual Market and passed on our way a small Chinese temple, which I had never noticed before. Notice that the “deities” are wearing a songkok! It is a so-called Datuk Kong temple. A mixture of Chinese folk religion with Malay influences, there are many of them in Malaysia. The right picture shows the Peace Hotel, opposite the Casual Market. Built in 1928, it has a rich history. Nowadays there are food stalls on the ground floor.

Stairs lead up to the first floor. As far as I know that is the domain of the ladies of the night πŸ™‚ . I climbed up to have a look, didn’t meet any ladies, but the wooden interior was nice.

Casual Market is another favourite food court of mine. There are two popular stalls with Char Keow Teow, this time I chose the fishball version.

After our breakfast I showed Rodney and Aric a few of the heritage sites of Taiping, both the positive and the negative ones. Here is the Central Market of Taiping, an iconic building (1884/85).

There are several separate sections. Left a stall in the pork market, I wonder how old this stall is. Right the fish market.

Front view of the Market. Good news, there are plans (and funds!) to restore the market in its old glory (not like Pasar Seni in KL, I hope).

Taiping has many famous schools. This is Saint Georgius Institute (SGI), one of them.

To be honest, it is the mixture of restoration and decay that attracts me in my 2nd hometown… πŸ™‚ . Left the attractive restoration of the Ceylon Association Building. Right the remains of the Rest House.

The government buildings next to the Rest House are still easily accessible. Am I too negative in suspecting that the authorities leave it like this, hoping that drug addicts who are still staying there, will cause a fire one of these days that will destroy the whole building? See my detailed reports Taiping Bandar Warisan and Taiping, October 2019 . Don’t worry , I did not climb up to the first floor πŸ™‚ .

Two more pictures. A nice mural and the skeleton of what once must have been a nice house. As I wrote, the mixture of development and decay attracts me.

After this morning visit of Taping, Aric and Rodney drove back to KL.

The second part of my stay. A nice lotus flower at the entrance of Furama and a picture of me and a huge tree, around the corner of the hotel.

In the afternoon I visited with my friend Halim two quite different kinds of graveyards. First the large Prestavest cemetery in Tupai. I thought that these huge rows of tombs were graves, but the space is too small, they are rest places for the urns of cremated people!

So it is an elaborate (and very expensive!) version of the traditional columbarium, where we also had a look. The caretaker must have thought that we were potential “customers” πŸ™‚ Nice statues of the Buddha give the place a serene atmosphere.

There was still time to visit the tomb of Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang. He was a Malay nobleman who supposedly (accidentally) discovered tin in the Taiping region. The tombs are well kept, but from his fort nothing remains.

On our way back we enjoyed assam laksa in a roadside stall near Bukit Gantang.

The next day I had breakfast with my friend George. He introduced me to Taiping, many years ago. He suggested the Ee Ee Fatt 128 coffee shop in Tupai. I had Chee Cheong Fun again, not bad, although I still prefer Mr Tong’s πŸ™‚

After breakfast we visited the Botanical Gardens of Taiping next to the Lake Gardens. I had been there when it was still under construction and wondered why to create a botanical garden, with the beautiful Penang one so nearby. Better a botanical garden than a new residential area, my friend Yeap said, and I think he was right πŸ™‚ .

The garden is still under construction,, many trees and palms have been planted already, and there are several scenic spots.

Here is an example, a Fan Palm. I have enlarged the name tag, because I am wondering who has designed the format. Why is the name Taman Botani Perak so dominating? The name of the plant, PALAS KIPAS should be on top in large capitals. Below it, in a slightly smaller font, the Common name : Fan Palm, the Official name, Licuala grandis, the Family name, Arecaceae . Missing the country of origin, Vanuatu. Last lines, in a small font, plant id number, planting date and Taman Botani Perak. Why not Taman Botani Taiping, by the way?

Not yet many flowering shrubs, I found a few.

Next to the Botanical Garden, but now separated from it, one of the oldest heritage sites of Taiping can be found, the communal tomb of the Hai San. The Hai San and the Ghee Hin were two Chinese factions, fighting each other in the Larut wars.

For lunch George and I were invited by Girlie and Yeoh, two other Taiping friends.

I still had some energy left for another trip to the Ayer Hitam waterfall, this time with Halim. Two times the same waterfall? As access is so easy, I had sent a WhatsApp message to my Taiping Heritage friends, if they were interested to join me for another visit. But only Halim responded.

Left the start of the trail, right one of the several sheds where locals stay during the durian season, to guard the king of fruits.

Halim had never visited this fall before and, being an adventurous guy, suggested that we should come back another time and camp overnight. An attractive idea, but I feel a bit too old for it.

Walking back, I found this ginger flower, an  Etlingera coccinea , one of my favourites. It looks like the flower just grows from the earth.

We passed again the new resort, Chalet Latip D’Ayer Hitam and had a chat with the people working there. Modern, colorful design, but I have my reservations about building the chalets so close to the river that you have to reinforce the river banks with concrete.

An beautiful old-fashioned Malay house that reminded Halim of his younger years .

In Batu Kurau we had a teh tarik and apom balik. Batu Kurau has a volunteer fire brigade, the stall was next to it, and our table in front of the “bomba” truck. Fortunately no fire alarm went of during our stay.

Taiping is famous because of its Lake Gardens, so neighbouring Kamunting also wanted one. A nice try, but they can not compete. This is the most interesting part, a lotus pond, crossed by a bridge. Two metal towers at both ends of the bridge. No idea if they ever had a function.

Next morning I had breakfast with Yeap in Lian Thong , soft-boiled eggs on toast, named roti goyang in Malay, “shaking toast” Do I have to explain the name? Later, Yeap picked me up from Furama to bring me to the station, but first we had lunch in the restaurant, that is part of the Ceylon Association building. Nice Tom Yam fried rice. During our lunch a lady joined us, a friend of Yeap, but also a karaoke partner of my friend George. Proving once again that Taiping is a very small world πŸ™‚ .

Waiting for the train back to KL. One of the reasons that I feel so at home in Taiping, is the hospitality of its inhabitants. Will go back soon πŸ™‚